I don’t think that I’m overstating this, but this is the biggest week of college football so far this season. BCS Bowl hopes will be boosted or dashed. Conference titles will be won and lost. More importantly, pride is on the line as many schools face off against their most heated rivals. I missed out on that part of the season, being a Bowling Green graduate. When you get embarrassed on national TV like we did a week back, you try to just put the football team in the back of your mind and focus on basketball and on our campus that means women’s basketball. Seriously. Year in and year out the Lady Falcons are one of the top mid-majors in college basketball. But enough alma mater compensation. Let’s start talking turkey, and I don’t mean leftovers…yet.
#21 Arizona @ #1 Oregon
Bad news for the Wildcats here. The seniors remember the last time they were in line for a spot in the BCS title game. That Thursday night game where Dennis Dixon blew out his knee and Oregon was dropped out of the top 10. Granted, I’m sure you remember last year’s double overtime thriller in Tuscon. Nick Foles is back after missing a few games due to injury, but you’re still struggling and coming off back-to-back losses to Stanford and USC. Good news: you’re defensive unit is very solid. They rank 14th in rushing defense, 45th in passing D, and 12th in scoring defense (18 ppg). The downside there is that you’re facing the top scoring offense (50.7 ppg), the 6th best rush offense, and the defense only allows 17 ppg. The Ducks are the front-runner for the national title and it’s going to take a monumental effort for the upset.
#2 Auburn @ #11 Alabama
The Tigers actually come into this year’s Iron Bowl as the underdog as the clouds of suspicion swirl around Cam Newton. Auburn brings the 3rd best rushing attack into Tuscaloosa to face the #22 ranked rush defense. If Auburn has a weakness, its in the secondary and you can bet the Greg McElroy will try to capitalize on it. Don’t forget, this is a Tide squad with defending Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram having a quieter year. But he’s been sharing time with freshman stud Trent Richardson (who’s a more powerful version of Ingram). Ingram was shut down in last year’s win and would love to put his mark on this rivalry. Auburn is on a 2-game winning streak, its longest since losing 6 straight from 2002-2007.
#4 Boise State @ #19 Nevada
The Broncos BCS Title Game hopes ride on Friday night’s showdown. Boise is on a 10-game winning streak and this is the last remaining test on their schedule with 4-7 Utah State next week and no other close game this year, aside from the opener against Virginia Tech. Kellen Moore passed for a career high 5 TD’s in last year’s game. But this game will likely be won or lost in the trenches, cliched as that statement is. Nevada boasts the nation’s 4th best rushing offense, running for 306 yards a game. RB Vai Taua has already rushed for 1,250 yards and QB Colin Kaepernick added 1,045 yards. The Broncos boast the top rushing defense in the county, only allowing 72 yards a game, but they haven’t faced a rushing attack like this. If the Wolfpack can establish the ground game, Boise State could find themselves on the outside looking in on the BCS.
Michigan @ #8 Ohio State
This is the BIGGEST rivalry in college football. I don’t care what anyone else says. Auburn-Alabama, Harvard-Yale, USC-UCLA, nothing compares. Back in the day, this game used to cost me sex (although I should have expected it, dating a Michigan fan as I was). Normally, I try to be as even as I can in my analysis, but I can’t do that here. So, let me tell you why the Buckeyes will roll on Saturday. Terrell Pryor. He’s improves as a passer and his number show that this season. Michigan’s secondary is almost non-existent. Their pass defense is ranked 111th, allowing 263 yards a game. They gave up 381 yards to Dayne Crist and Notre Dame and 480 yards to Ben Chappell at Indiana. Denard Robinson probably saved them in those games, but he’ll try to run against the #3 rushing defense, only allowing 86 yards a game. He’s been decent as a passer too, but is looking at the best secondary he’s seen all season (#5, 155 ypg). Everything here points to good ole Rich Rod going 0-3 against the Buckeyes, and that’s not a healthy career move for a Michigan coach.
#5 LSU @ #12 Arkansas
Let me first say something about the SEC West. This is got to be the toughest division in all of football, pros included. #2 Auburn sits on top, but with #5 LSU, #11 Alabama, #12 Arkansas, and #25 Mississippi State, the division slate has just been a murderers’ row. If there’s one safe call about this game, it’s that it will be close. The last 5 meetings have been separated by just 2.6 points. In that stretch is 2 overtime games, including the triple overtime thriller in 2007. The Tigers have lost 2 of the last three. LSU has made another season of close games with 7 of their 11 games decided within one score. The offense is based on the ground with Stephan Ridley and Jordan Jefferson. However, Jefferson is coming off a career-high 254 passing yards. It’s the defense that’s anchored this squad with the 5th ranked unit, allowing 286 total yards a game and only 151 ypg through the air. Ryan Mallet and the Hogs’ passing attack averages 340 ypg. The defense is solid overall but is weaker against the rush, allowing 162 ypg. The numbers and history say that this will take all 60 minutes, and probably more to be decided.
#13 Oklahoma @ #9 Oklahoma State
It’s been awhile since Oklahoma was the lower-ranked team coming into Bedlam. But this Cowboy squad boasts the nation’s best offense behind Kendall Hunter (132 rush yards a game, #5) and QB Brandon Weeden, and Justin Blackmon (156 receiving yards a game, #1). The rush defense is solid, but the secondary is porous, allowing 258 yards a game. Oklahoma will exploit that. Landry Jones has his own marquee receiver to his in Ryan Broyles (119 ypg, #3) and running back DeMarco Murray (89 rush ypg). While the Sooners D is good, it’s not the dominant squad we’re used to seeing from a Bob Stoops team. This has shootout written all over it, not something that’s new to recent Bedlam games.
#18 South Carolina @ Clemson
South Carolina has locked up their first trip to the SEC Title game. Now they look to take the battle of the Palmetto State, after losing 10 of the last 13 against the Tigers. The heart of this team is up front in the rush D, 7th best in the country allowing 96 yards a game. The secondary is much weaker, ranked 106th. Luckily for them, passing has not been Clemson’s strong suit this year. The offense has been average and the numbers point to an average defense, but that unit has stepped up and only allowed 17 points a game. As much as Clemson will try, this will still likely be the Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore show in Death Valley.
BYU @ #20 Utah
This is the last Holy War in the Mountain West. The Cougars faceplanted after an opening weekend win over Washington, struggling to 4 straight losses but have turned it around and are now on a 4-game winning streak. Nothing in the numbers really sticks out about this BYU squad. Top 40 pass attack, scoring defense, top 20 passing D, 77th overall offense. This is really a team lacking a star, so their recent success is inspiring, although their 4 wins have come against teams that have a combined 9 wins. The Utes have lost 2 of the last 3 Holy Wars, including last year’s OT loss. In face, 11 of the last 13 games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Utah is a similar starless team, but the rushing defense stands out (10th, 107 ypg) on the defensive side of the ball and the offense puts up points (37 ppg, #13).
Florida @ #22 Florida State
The Gators have dominated this series recently and are riding a 6-game win streak. However, this is not the same caliber Florida team that’s won 2 national championships in the last 4 years. The defense, not the explosive offense, has been winning games and the offense has struggled to get out of the gate (early close games against Miami, USF, Vandy, and Appalachian St.). The bright spot is in the secondary, a unit that’s ranked 13th in the nation, allowing 168 ypg. Christian Ponder and the Seminoles will have their work cut out for them with that, as they sport the 30rd best pass offense, relying on 183 ypg through the air. The rush defense has been dominant but the secondary has been burned on the big plays a few too many times. Jimbo Fisher will look to stop their recent skid to cap off his first regular season and could wrap up an ACC Atlantic title as well.
#23 North Carolina State @ Maryland
The Wolfpack have been a pleasant surprise in the ACC and will know that they got to their first ACC title game with a win. They are powered by Russell Wilson and his 3,000+ passing yards and 24-13 ratio. The rush defense has been good (124 ypg allowed) and the pass D is bending but not breaking for the most part (21 ppg allowed). Maryland’s offense has been stagnant at times, but have got it done on defense. Especially when it comes to turnovers, with a +1 turnover ratio ranked 9th nationally. Bad news for the Terps: they’re 1-4 in their last 5 home finales and have dropped the last 2.
West Virginia @ Pittsburgh
The Backyard Brawl will once again impact the Big East title race. This has been a very close rivalry with the last 3 games decided by 4 points or less and don’t forget that Pitt knocked WVU out of the 2007 BCS Title game with a last minute win. The story in Morgantown has been the defense all year. 4th in scoring and rushing defense and 8th in pass defense, they do not give up the big plays. The problem is that they offense doesn’t really make them either. It’s much the same story at Pitt, as Dion Lewis hasn’t had the sophomore season that was expected. The defensive units are highly ranked (rushing: 16th, scoring: 19th, passing: 20th), and save the Miami blowout early in the year, has kept Pitt in every game this year. This could be a game of turnovers in as much as the team that commits them will lose.
Notre Dame @ USC
This game has lost a bit of luster this year since USC really isn’t playing for anything but pride. But in one of the country’s more heated rivalries, that’s usually enough. The Trojans have dominated the last 8 years, and this young team is hoping to continue that. The offense has the firepower to overcome an average Irish defense. They’ve been scoring 32 ppg and Matt Barkley has matured into a more complete quarterback throughout his sophomore season. The Irish don’t really run the ball, and when they do it’s been by committee and just enough to keep the defense honest. The offense really runs through Dayne Crist and he’s been effective. This is a rejuvenated Irish squad after their upset of Utah 2 weeks ago and hope to end their current losing streak to bring the Jeweled Shillelagh back to South Bend.
Georgia Tech @ Georgia
I nominate this rivalry for the game with the best title: Clean, Old Fashioned Hate. Both of these teams are having down years though, so this one’s gonna be for pride. The visitor has won the last three, although the Jackets have not found much success away from Bobby Dodd Stadium (1-3). The Bulldogs have been the opposite, going 4-1 between the hedges. The Jackets will run the ball, like they always do, as the top rushing team in the nation averaging 391 yards a game. That hasn’t translated into points though (27 ppg) and the defense has been burned a few too many times (25 ppg allowed). Georgia is hoping to get to 6-6 and salvage a bowl, as Mark Richt’s job is likely on the line here. They’ll look to get the ball in the hands of all-SEC receiver A.J. Green. The defense is better than GT’s (22 ppg allowed) and the offense is’t getting to the promised land more (33 ppg). I’d like to say more, but all my stats sites are down.
So with all of that said, let’s look at how the Bang staff sees the weekend shaking out. Casey has a very comfortable lead at the moment with a 7 game lead over TJ and 14 games in front of Armando. There’s one week left in the regular season, so this title seems all but wrapped up for him, that is me. The bowl season is a brand new competition, so that postseason is anyone’s game.
|#21 Arizona vs. #1 Oregon||Oregon||Oregon||Oregon|
|#2 Auburn @ #11 Alabama||Auburn||Auburn||Alabama|
|#4 Boise State @ #19 Nevada||Nevada||Boise St.||Boise St.|
|Michigan @ #8 Ohio State||Ohio St.||Ohio St.||Ohio St.|
|#5 LSU @ #12 Arkansas||LSU||Arkansas||LSU|
|#13 Oklahoma @ #9 Oklahoma State||Oklahoma||Oklahoma St.||Oklahoma|
|#18 South Carolina @ Clemson||South Carolina||South Carolina||South Carolina|
|BYU @ #20 Utah||BYU||Utah||Utah|
|Florida @ #22 Florida State||Florida||Florida St.||Florida St.|
|#23 North Carolina State @ Maryland||NC St.||NC St.||NC St.|
|West Virginia @ Pittsburgh||WVU||Pitt||Pitt|
|Notre Dame @ USC||USC||USC||Notre Dame|
|Georgia Tech @ Georgia||Georgia||Georgia||Georgia|