2012 Week 10 Weekend Preview

November 1, 2012

Last weekend was rough for both Mike and I in the prediction game. After Notre Dame had wrapped up its statement win Saturday night against Oklahoma, both of us sat at 2-3. Such is life near the end of the regular season, when upsets are shocking and big games would be better off predicted by flipping a coin.

This week my friend Kevin Cox joins the highly esteemed group of guest prognosticators on Around The Corn. Things are getting heated as there are only five weeks left in the season and the overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 21-9

Guest Prognosticators: 22-8

Those of you who remember my November predictions from last year know that I tend to live and die with upsets as the regular season comes to a close. Clearly, my wishful thinking will be a factor once again this season in determining the prediction game winner.

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

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#16 Texas A&M at #15 Mississippi State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Mississippi State rode into Tuscaloosa last Saturday with a shot at taking down the vaunted Crimson Tide offense, and rode out of the college town that night with little to show for their efforts. The Bulldogs were bloodied and bullied by Alabama’s powerful offense, but now must dust themselves off if they want to avoid losing two straight. Texas A&M, with a very powerful offense of their own led by freshman phenom quarterback Johnny Manziel, visits Starkville this weekend looking to stay in the hunt for a possible BCS bowl in its first SEC season.

While the Aggies and Bulldogs are rubbing shoulders in the AP poll, each team has taken a very different path to get there. Texas A&M, thanks to Manziel and an offense that ranks third in the nation in points scored per game, have been recognized as a threat to take down any opponent it faces (and almost has, as its two losses are by a combined eight points). Mississippi State on the other hand has flown under the radar for most of the season, primarily because of a weak schedule prior to the Alabama game. However, before last weekend the Bulldogs had taken care of business thanks to a strong defensive presence.

If Dan Mullen’s squad wants to stop the losing streak at one, a total team effort is necessary. Texas A&M was held under 20 points in both of its losses, but the Aggies aren’t terrible defensively and can win a low scoring affair as well as an offensive shootout. Mississippi State cannot afford to come out flat on offense, or we could witness what would amount to a replay of last weekend’s beating. More than likely, the Aggies will be able to find a way to score a lot of points if they can hold onto the ball.

My Pick: 34-27 Texas A&M

Kevin’s Take: A strong run game will allow the Aggies to wear down the opposing defense in the 4th quarter.  It will be a tough game and a fun one to watch at noon to kick off another great Saturday for college football fans.

Texas A&M 21-17

#23 Texas at #18 Texas Tech (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

It isn’t often that Texas Tech comes into this in-state rivalry ranked ahead of the Longhorns, but that is the case for the 2012 edition. The Red Raiders were pasted by Kansas State last Saturday, but coming back with a vengeance after a big loss didn’t seem like a huge task last time it happened (after losing 41-20 to Oklahoma on October 6th, Texas Tech beat West Virginia 49-14 the next week). Hopefully for Texas Tech fans, the trend will continue against a Texas squad that whipped the Red Raiders in Austin last season.

I think that Tommy Tuberville’s team has a good chance to keep the Longhorns in check on Saturday afternoon. While there is some concern that Texas Tech’s defensive numbers during the first half of the year were a result of playing poor competition and have since come back down to Earth, Texas isn’t exactly instilling fear in opposing offensive coordinators, either. In addition, Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege still looked decent in the team’s loss last weekend and should have a solid game against a Texas defense that is wildly inconsistent against the pass.

The teams appear to be relatively evenly matched, but this game could come down to the running game. Texas loves to get things going on offense on the ground, but the Red Raiders are one of the better squads in the Big 12 at stopping the run. On the other side, Texas Tech could really cause some headaches for Texas by utilizing the run effectively, allowing Doege to work against a more honest defense. I think that is what will happen, and Texas Tech will remain in contention for the Big 12 title for at least another week.

My Pick: 44-41 Texas Tech

Kevin’s Take: Texas has made some improvements lately but I think they are one year away from being a BCS game contender.  This game will prove that.

Texas Tech 24-17

#4 Oregon at #17 Southern California (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

This game was supposed to be the Pac-12’s marquee matchup this season. Is it still? Well, arguably yes. Looking back and ahead at Oregon’s remaining schedule, the Trojans and possibly Oregon State are the only teams who are built to give the Ducks a run for their money. However, USC is going to need to play better defense and be far more disciplined than they were last weekend against Arizona, or they’ll see another “L” on their schedule come late Saturday night.

Many people want to cite the offense for USC’s struggles this season, but the defense hasn’t made things any easier. The Trojans still average 35 points per game on offense, but have a nasty habit of letting teams back into the game when they could be putting the nail in the proverbial coffin. Some of the blame can be attributed to turnovers that the offense commits, but allowing a team that was shut out by Oregon to score 26 points over the final 19 minutes has to fall at least partly on the defense. If USC wants any shot at beating the Ducks, they will need to limit quick scores.

It would be easy to say that USC will be looking to take out their frustration over last weekend on the Ducks, but Oregon has a reason to play with a chip on its shoulder as well. A convincing win over the Trojans would be just what the doctor ordered for Chip Kelly’s squad, which has been losing ground in the BCS standings to teams like Kansas State and Notre Dame despite being undefeated as well. While USC certainly gives Oregon fans reason to be wary, I think that the Ducks are up to the challenge of defeating the Men of Troy in The Coliseum.

My Pick: 37-31 Oregon

Kevin’s Take: Oregon’s offense will once again play with speed and confidence.  Matt Barkely will have a huge game statistically for the Trojans, but late turnovers will kill USC’s chances.  I am being modest in this prediction.  Part of me thinks that Oregon will score 60 points…or 70!

Oregon 48-21

#24 Oklahoma State at #2 Kansas State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The top two teams in the Big 12 in terms of points scored per game face off on Saturday night in Manhattan, but the bigger story might be the possibility of a Heisman clinching performance. Last season Robert Griffin III had to wait until later in November for the pundits to proclaim that the trophy was his to lose, but Kansas State’s Colin Klein may be able to feel good about his chances even earlier with a strong performance in this game. No one has been able to stop him thus far, but surprisingly enough Oklahoma State may pose the greatest threat to do so since Oklahoma.

In addition to having the best offense in the conference, the Wildcats also boast the best defense, holding opponents to just over 17 points per game. It seems unlikely that Oklahoma State will be able to force a shootout with Bill Snyder’s team (Kansas State has given up over 21 points just once this season), so it will have to try to find a way to slow down the offense. That also seems unlikely, as Kansas State appears to be improving on offense every week, but the Cowboys do have one thing working in their favor. Unlike last season, Oklahoma State relies on playing solid straight up defense rather than relying on turnovers to bail them out of defensive struggles. Since Kansas State rarely turns the ball over, it seems as though this is the only way to beat them.

Oklahoma State cannot get behind early like it did last weekend against TCU. If it does, then the pro-Wildcats crowd will eat the Cowboys alive, and it will be a miserable night. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, I think this is what will ultimately happen. Kansas State is one of the most disciplined teams other than the armed forces academies that I have seen in years, and they simply get the job done.

My Pick: 37-21 Kansas State

Kevin’s Take: The pressure is on for Kansas St.  A late 4th quarter touchdown will allow them to prevail in this match up and keep their campaign to face Alabama in the title game alive.

Kansas State 17-10

#1 Alabama at #5 LSU (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

It’s nice not to have to hear about this game being the labeled the “Game of the Century”, although it is still a huge game with clear national title implications. LSU can cause a mess this weekend by shutting down the Crimson Tide at home, propelling itself firmly into the title discussion but also possibly taking the conference out of the driver’s seat. This game is also Alabama’s last road test of the season, which makes it seem like this is a do or die weekend for fans that want to see the Crimson Tide lose.

Don’t look now, but Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron is quietly making a case for why he should be the Heisman Trophy favorite. McCarron doesn’t light up the scoreboard with a ton of passing yards, but is extremely efficient and has yet to throw an interception this season. That could all change on Saturday night, however, as the Crimson Tide offense takes on the best defense it will face faced this season. Second only to Alabama in the SEC, the Tigers have caused opposing quarterbacks problems this season by forcing 13 interceptions. It is imperative that LSU makes life difficult for McCarron, otherwise the Alabama offense could look just as good as it has against every other team this season.

My concerns with Alabama lie with how prepared they are to engage in what should be a very tough, close football game. LSU has already played (and beaten) South Carolina and Texas A&M in close games, while playing Florida tough on the road in its only loss this season. Alabama has been largely uncontested this season, and its best opponent  to date is a Mississippi State squad that hadn’t played a ranked team prior to the Crimson Tide. LSU may have some trouble on offense in this game, but they are a gritty team and the experience with close games will keep them in it. If the Tigers can manage to scrounge together at least 17 points, I think they win this game.

My Pick: 19-14 LSU

Kevin’s Take: The Alabama football team consists of a bunch men playing against a bunch of boys in this match.  Alabama physically dominates on both sides of the line and wins big.

Alabama 28-3

5 More to Flip To

#12 Oklahoma at Iowa State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

With the Sooners out of national title contention, will they suffer a hangover effect after last weekend’s loss? If so, Iowa State can take advantage at home.

#20 Nebraska at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Nebraska controls its own destiny in the Big Ten Legends Division, but things get tougher for the Cornhuskers if they lose in East Lansing.

#13 Clemson at Duke (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

How will Duke respond after being pounded by Florida State on the road last weekend?

#22 Arizona at UCLA (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

There is the potential for this game to produce the most points of any this weekend. If you like offense, this is the game to watch.

San Diego State at #19 Boise State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

Haters beware: if Boise State wins out, they’ll almost surely qualify for a BCS bowl. San Diego State poses the greatest threat to that scenario.

– K. Becks

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