2011 NCAAF Week 13 Weekend Preview

November 23, 2011

This past weekend in college football was without a doubt my favorite of the entire season thus far. As someone who is vocally pushing for a playoff in college football, there is nothing better than when a bunch of top ranked teams lose and the BCS picture becomes chaotic and unpredictable. I love all the controversy that has arisen as a result and I can only hope that more is on the way before the regular season concludes. Looking at the lineup of games for Week 13, I am optimistic that more shocking results are on the horizon.

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more games to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#8 Houston at Tulsa (Friday, 12 PM ET)

Last week, Houston faced their toughest test of the season up to that point when they went up against SMU. They took care of business against the Mustangs, but now have to face their true toughest test of the season, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Not only does a loss take the Cougars out of BCS bowl contention, but it would cost them an appearance in the Conference USA title game as well. Judging by the offensive statistics of these two teams, it’s pretty safe to say that there will be tons of scoring in this game.

Like it was for SMU last weekend, the goal for Tulsa should simply be to try to contain Case Keenum and the Cougar offense. Unlike SMU, Tulsa is capable of putting up 50 points or more if they need to, but Houston’s defense hasn’t budged much this season, either. Therefore, the chances of Tulsa putting up that many points are slim. With this said, the Golden Hurricane will need to hold Houston to less than 50 points and hope that quarterback G.J. Kinne has the game of his life if they want to pull off this huge upset. It can be done, but Houston is having a magical season and it would surprise me if their defense didn’t show up in this one.

My Pick: 44-28 Houston

#3 Arkansas at LSU (Friday, 3:30 PM ET)

Much like the LSU/Alabama game that was played about a month ago, this game has huge implications regarding both the national title race and SEC West division picture. If LSU wins, they are the outright SEC West champion and will head to Atlanta to play Georgia in the SEC title game. If Arkansas wins, then a potential three-way tie could ensue if Alabama were to beat Auburn on Saturday. In that scenario, Alabama would play in the SEC title game by way of being ranked higher in the BCS standings, although there is a chance that Arkansas would still play for the national title. Yea, I know…weird.

After watching the LSU/Alabama game, I am convinced that the 9-6 “defensive struggle” was more a result of the poor play of the offenses than it was the dominating play of the defenses. Jarrett Lee did not do LSU any favors by throwing two interceptions, and AJ McCarron could not complete passes when Alabama was on LSU’s side of the field. With this said, I think that the play of Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson could be the X-factor in this game. Wilson is having an extremely good year, and didn’t even play all that badly in Arkansas’ lone loss to Alabama. This much is clear to me: if LSU wants to win this game, they are going to have to score more than nine points. Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas offense will make sure of that.

My Pick: 34-31 Arkansas

#2 Alabama at Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Alabama will have the luxury of knowing exactly how the SEC West battle will play out if they take care of business against Auburn on Saturday. The bad side to that is, Auburn will know as well, and nothing would be sweeter for the Tigers than to spoil the Tide’s dreams of potentially playing for yet another national title. This is one of those rivalries where you can throw out the records, because both teams will throw their best punch no matter what.

Auburn does not match up well against Alabama this year. The Auburn offense is predicated on establishing the run game led by running back Michael Dyer. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Alabama’s rush defense is the best in the nation and the Crimson Tide have one of the more feared linebacking corps in the nation as well. Alabama is going to have their way with Auburn on defense if they come out with a standard offensive game plan, so they may need some tricks up their sleeve to keep this game interesting. If not, Alabama’s defense combined with its own powerful rushing attack could turn this game into an ugly one. However, considering that it’s a rivalry game, I’ll keep my predicted score a little closer than I would if it were just a normal game.

My Pick: 34-20 Alabama

#6 Virginia Tech at #24 Virginia (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that this game would mean so much? Virginia coach Mike London has been the mastermind of arguably the most surprising team of the season, and has his squad in position to lock up a spot in the ACC title game if they can beat their in-state rivals at home. As for Virginia Tech, regardless of what may be said about their schedule, the fact is that Frank Beamer always seems to have his team in position to grab a BCS bowl bid. However, if things fall the right way and Virginia Tech can manage to win this game and the ACC title game, they may not just be thinking about any old BCS bowl.

Both of these teams prefer to punish defenses with a solid rushing attack, although Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has shown the ability to help the Hokies through the air as well. However, the team that is better able to impose their will in the ground game should be the team that comes away with the win. Last week North Carolina was able to get things going in the first half against the Hokies, but couldn’t sustain their productivity and lost by a field goal. If Virginia is able to keep things close by doing what they do best on offense, they have a defense capable of coming up big in the 4th quarter. Virginia Tech has been a solid team on the road the past couple of years, but Virginia doesn’t get a lot of chances like this. Expect a hard fought game that will come down to special teams.

My Pick: 20-17 Virginia

#22 Notre Dame at #4 Stanford (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Notre Dame has quietly crawled back into the Top 25 (depending on which poll you consult), but do not think for a second that they are contending for a BCS bowl bid. That ship sailed weeks ago, but the Fighting Irish do have a chance to put Stanford’s BCS hopes out of reach as well if they can upset the Cardinal in Palo Alto.

Notre Dame seems to have improved on defense, although it is hard to tell because they haven’t really gone up against any offensive juggernauts since falling to Michigan in Week 2. However, if Notre Dame wants a shot at beating Stanford on Saturday night, their improved defense best be reality and not just a result of their schedule. Andrew Luck and Stanford still have a glimmer of hope that complete choas occurs during the last two weeks of the season and they get a shot at playing for the national championship. With that said, expect Stanford’s offense to be in top form against the Fighting Irish. The Cardinal were already embarrassed once this season, and this senior laden bunch won’t let that happen again.

My Pick: 38-27 Stanford

5 More to Flip To

Texas at Texas A&M (Thursday, 8 PM ET)

If you’re not interested in the Battle of the Harbaughs, the Lone Star Showdown can be your after Thanksgiving meal treat.

Ohio State at #17 Michigan (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Urban Meyer was the head coach at Utah the last time Michigan won this rivalry game…

#13 Georgia at #25 Georgia Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in the nation, and will look to extend their winning streak into double-digits with a win over their in-state rivals.

#20 Penn State at #15 Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This one will decide which team will represent the Leaders Division in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game.

#18 Clemson at #14 South Carolina (Saturday, 7:45 PM ET)

Clemson will look to put the pieces back together against a South Carolina team that has been able to piece together a consistent winner since losing both Marcus Lattimore and Stephen Garcia.

– K. Becks

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