2013 NCAAF Week 14 Weekend Preview

November 28, 2013

I’m not going to talk about my lead in the head-to-head prediction game until the regular season is over. Bad things seem to happen when I do.

If you want the rundown thus far, here are the overall records:

K. Becks: 44-21

Guests: 39-26

In other news, it’s Rivalry Week! One of the best college football weekends of the year is upon us, and there are some great matchups that everyone should watch if they don’t have a 20-page paper to write by this Monday (and if you do and have already started, you’re not excused, either).

This week, my brother Kevin will attempt to help the guests close the gap in the prediction game. With so many games that could go either way, this week should be very interesting with regards to both the national title picture and the BCS bowl picture in general.

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

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

You can’t call something as simple as “The Game” unless it has enough history, tradition and hate between opposing squads that everyone who has paid attention to college football will know what you’re talking about. This game fits the bill, and although I won’t open the can of worms about which rivalry is the greatest in all of sports, it’s safe to say that Ohio State-Michigan would be on the shortlist. These two teams will renew their rivalry at noon on Saturday, and despite the struggles one team has endured this season, expect a hard fought battle.

I saw an interesting visual on Eleven Warriors earlier this week. It compared former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s record with Arizona with the overall record of the Wolverines under current hard coach Brady Hoke. The overall records are the same, but Rich Rod has clearly outperformed Hoke when it comes to the big games. While these statistics are interesting, it doesn’t take into account the two biggest reasons for it happening. The first is that Rodriguez’s system was doomed to fail in the Big Ten. The second is that Hoke is left to work with a team made up of former Rodriguez recruits. Rich Rod may not be as terrible a coach as Michigan fans would like to believe, but his system was as terrible as it looked, at least in Ann Arbor.

It may not have looked like that was an analysis of the topic at hand, but try reading it again. Michigan doesn’t have the players on either side of the ball to match up with the Buckeyes in this game. Brady Hoke has the ability to get his players up for this game, and that will keep the Wolverines in it, but it won’t be enough to overcome a lack of Big Ten talent. Ohio State will run through Michigan’s defensive front and probably get the older Buckeye crowd to shed a tear of remembrance of “the good ‘ole days”. Expect Carlos Hyde to have a monster day en route to capping off another perfect regular season.

My Pick: 35-23 Ohio State

Kevin’s Take: Ohio State 34-24

#1 Alabama at #4 Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The college football world will be focused on the state of Alabama on Saturday afternoon for the annual Iron Bowl. This is the first time in the game’s 77-year history that the outcome will decide who makes it to the SEC title game a week later. Perhaps more importantly, the outcome of this game will have a monumental effect on the national title picture. Strap yourselves in, because based on the offensive style of both teams, smash mouth football will be the name of the game.

Not many people would have predicted this back in August, but the Auburn Tigers have the SEC’s No. 1 rushing offense. Led by head coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers employ a run first offensive style that has been nearly impossible to stop this season. What is more impressive is that while Auburn runs the ball 29 more times per game on average than it passes, the Tigers can still score in a hurry. The task for Alabama, therefore, will be more a matter of answering each time the Tigers put points on the board rather than obsessing over stopping the run. Luckily for the Crimson Tide faithful, Alabama actually averages more points per contest (39.7) than its rival (39.0 PPG for Auburn).

Georgia nearly (and should have) knocked Auburn out of contention last weekend, and the Bulldogs don’t have a defense that compares favorably with Alabama’s. In order for the Tigers to win this game, they will probably need some magic through the air as well, because at some point the Crimson Tide are going to figure out how to stop the run. Since that isn’t Auburn’s game at all, I just don’t know if Coach Malzahn’s squad has what it takes to adapt so quickly against the No. 1 team in the nation. I believe Auburn’s surprising and impressive run ends here.

My Pick: 38-30 Alabama

Kevin’s Take: Alabama 41-20

#6 Clemson at #10 South Carolina (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Clemson and South Carolina may very well be playing for a BCS bowl game slot this weekend. Both the Tigers and the Gamecocks could find themselves in one of college football’s elite holiday contests with a win, but only the Gamecocks have a way to back into one with a loss. This is a rivalry which has sparked national interest the past few years and will do so again on Saturday.

Clemson has definitely been the more consistent team in 2013, proving more than enough times that its offense is capable of putting up a lot of points to counter a defense that is less than stellar. But as inconsistent as South Carolina has been this season, the Gamecocks appear to step up when it matters most. Close games against teams like Florida don’t look all that great, but the ability to pull through against Missouri and Central Florida has its merits now. Steve Spurrier’s squad isn’t going to blow anyone away offensively (well, anyone in FBS), but no one is going to do that to them, either. The SEC’s third ranked defense knows what it is going up against when it takes on the Tigers Saturday evening.

I’ve seen enough of both teams to feel confident in a very difficult game to predict. Clemson is going to put some points on the board, but in order to beat the Gamecocks on the road the Tigers will have to play extremely well offensively. Just a few key stops will be the advantage South Carolina needs to win this game. I think they get those stops, and the Gamecocks keep their BCS bowl hopes alive the right way.

My Pick: 30-28 South Carolina

Kevin’s Take: South Carolina 24-20

#19 Texas A&M at #5 Missouri (Saturday, 7:45 PM ET)

This game is more of an artificial rivalry at this point, but if the two schools continue to produce quality football teams, it could develop into something special. Missouri has already punched its ticket to the SEC title game, but would love to cap off the regular season with a victory over Johnny Manziel and the Aggies. Texas A&M is coming off of a humbling loss at the hands of LSU last weekend, but Kevin Sumlin’s team doesn’t get a break against the Tigers. Gary Pinkel’s squad hasn’t pulled any punches this season and definitely won’t this Saturday.

The Aggies were at a loss offensively against LSU and not surprisingly let the Tigers run all over them on defense. This has been a recurring theme for Texas A&M all year, as Coach Sumlin’s squad has struggled to stop all of the SEC teams that can run the ball effectively. Unfortunately for the Aggies, this week’s Tigers run the ball well, too. Missouri is second to Auburn in the SEC in rushing yards per game, and knows full well that if it can get things going on the ground that success will follow. Expect Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy to get a lot of carries and try to wear down Texas A&M’s defensive front.

Unless the Aggies can stop Missouri’s run game, it won’t matter what cards Johnny Manziel has up his sleeve. One of the takeaways from last weekend as a whole is that defense still wins championships, and without it you can’t run the table. Texas A&M was hardly a national title contender in August thanks to the porous defense it has, but a loss on Saturday relegates the team to a mediocre 8-4 squad hanging onto a Top 25 ranking. Who would have thought?

My Pick: 33-28 Missouri

Kevin’s Take: Missouri 49-42

#22 UCLA at #23 Southern California (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Neither team may be vying for a national title spot (or even a spot in the Pac-12 title game), but it is still nice to see both Los Angeles schools in the Top 25 entering the Crosstown Rivalry. Both UCLA and USC have shown flashes of brilliance at various points throughout the year, but the key to victory in this one will be to string all of those flashes together for 60-minutes. Both teams can score at will, but is an offensive shootout really inevitable? We’ll just have to find out.

Ever since Ed Orgeron took the reigns as head coach of the Trojans, USC’s offense has shown the country the kind of explosiveness that people expected from the team since last season. Now, Orgeron has the chance to make a solid case for being the head coach long term with a win over the hated Bruins. In order to do that USC’s defense, which gives up a Pac-12 best 336.6 yards per game, needs to come through in a big way. The second, third and fourth best defenses in the Pac-12 have already managed to beat the Bruins. If the Trojans can keep Brett Hundley from carving up the secondary, then USC has the upper hand in this matchup.

The Trojans can score at will, but there is no reason to turn this one into a barnburner. UCLA has a much better shot in a high scoring affair, so USC would be better off attempting to keep the Bruins’ offense off the field and managing the clock. If this game is under 60 points total, USC wins. Over that mark, and it’s either team’s game.

My Pick: 31-23 Southern California

Kevin’s Take: UCLA 38-30

5 Games to Flip To

Bowling Green at Buffalo (Friday, 1:30 PM ET)

The battle for the MAC East Division comes down to a day-after-Thanksgiving special.

Minnesota at #11 Michigan State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Michigan State has already booked its trip to the Big Ten title game, but Minnesota would love a chance to get to 10 wins on the season. A victory in this game is a must for the Golden Gophers to keep that goal in reach.

#24 Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Tar Heels are a different team with Marquise Williams at quarterback, so Duke cannot sleep on its 6-5 rivals and expect to waltz into the ACC title game.

#25 Notre Dame at #8 Stanford (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

It’s hard to see Notre Dame shocking the Cardinal at home, but this one is still worth keeping an eye on.

Arizona at #13 Arizona State (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)

The battle for the Territorial Cup got more interesting with Arizona’s beatdown of Oregon last weekend, but it would have been interesting regardless thanks to two explosive offenses.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Kevin did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

– K. Becks

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