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2011 NCAA College Football – Week 10 Preview

LSU and Alabama face off this week with a a potential BCS title shot on the line.
Chris Graythen, Getty Images

After two weeks of hype and buildup, we finally get the game most college football fans have been waiting for all year–#1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama. And while that is understandably the marquee game of the weekend, there are several other key matchups this weekend, including another top 10 game in the SEC, to serve as appetizers before Saturday night’s main feast. Here all the highlights from this upcoming week in the AP Top 25.

#1 Louisiana State (8-0) at #2 Alabama (8-0)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 8:00 PM ET on CBS]

How good are these two defenses? Alabama ranks first in the nation in scoring defense (6.9 points per game), has pitched two shutouts and has not allowed a second-half point in any game since September 24th.  LSU, meanwhile, ranks third in the nation with 11.5 points per game and has not allowed more than one touchdown in any SEC game this year. However, the Tigers and Crimson Tide can also put up points on offense, with both averaging more than 39 points per game. Each team relies on strong running games and efficient, if unspectacular, quarterback play, so expect a good old fashioned SEC slugfest that will be decided in the trenches. This is the first regular season #1 vs. #2 matchup in SEC history and first in the FBS since 2006.

#17 Kansas State (7-1) at #3 Oklahoma State (8-0)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 8:00 PM ET on ABC/ESPN2]

Kansas State gave up 505 passing yards to Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones last week. And things don’t get much easier for the Wildcats with a trip to Stillwater for a date with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. The Cowboys offense has been unstoppable this season, with a suddenly surging run game (RB Joseph Randle has rushed for 290 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two weeks) to go along with their already potent aerial attack (fourth in the nation in passing). An OSU win would move them to 9-0, matching the team’s best start in history (1945).

#4 Stanford (8-0) at Oregon State (2-6)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC]

Stanford needed triple overtime to extend its nation’s-best 16-game winning streak last weekend, but remained on a collision course for next week’s battle with #6 Oregon. This week, the Cardinal face an Oregon State team that, while certainly still struggling, has shown signs of life, going 2-2 in the last month after an 0-4 start. However, the Beavers defense is giving up almost 30 points per game and will be going against the Andrew Luck for Heisman campaign and a Cardinal offense that ranks third in the nation in scoring and has put up less than 40 points just once this season.

#5 Boise State (7-0) at UNLV (2-5)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10:30 PM ET on CBSSN]

The Broncos struggled to defend Air Force’s triple-option offense in their last game, but should have no such problems with a dreadful UNLV team that ranks near the bottom in almost every offensive and defensive category. With a win, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore will pass former Texas signal caller Colt McCoy to become the NCAA career leader in victories (currently tied at 45).

#6 Oregon (7-1) at Washington (6-2)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10:30 PM ET on Fox Sports Net]

Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas is expected to get the start after being benched in the second half of the Ducks’ game last week against Washington State. Running back LaMichael James, who played sparingly last week, is expected to be back at full strength for a Ducks’ offense that ranks fourth nationally in both rushing offense and scoring. However, while Oregon’s potent offense will certainly be the focal point, Washington has shown it can put up some points of its own, scoring 30-plus points in seven games this year — a first since the Huskies’ 2000 Rose Bowl team. Washington running back Chris Polk leads the Pac-12 in rushing and scored five touchdowns in the Huskies’ win last week over Arizona.

Texas A&M (5-3) at #7 Oklahoma (7-1)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC/ESPN2]

The Big 12 features some of the nation’s top offenses, and this one could be another shootout as the Sooners (second in the nation in total offense) look to start a new home winning streak against the Aggies (seventh in total offense). Oklahoma had been riding a 39-game home winning streak before falling two weeks ago to Texas Tech. A&M will have to get its run game going and milk the clock if it wants to pull off another upset — the Aggies have the worst pass defense in the country (318.3 yards per game) and are going against an OU passing game that ranks #2 in the nation (398.1 yards per game). The Sooners will be without leading rusher Dominique Whaley, who will miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken leg on the first play of last week’s game at Kansas State.

#10 South Carolina (7-1) at #8 Arkansas (7-1)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7:15 PM ET on ESPN]

Both teams have shown flashes of greatness, but also their share of problems in recent weeks. Arkansas needed an 11-point fourth quarter comeback — including a 94-yard fumble return touchdown — to beat Vanderbilt last week. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has thrown for just 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions the last two weeks. It will be a contrast in styles as the Gamecocks bring in the third-best defense (after LSU and Alabama) in the SEC, while Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson leads the conference in passing and has thrown a school-record 176 consecutive passes without an interception.

Northwestern (3-5) at #9 Nebraska (7-1)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network]

Nebraska’s defense finally played up to coach Bo Pelini’s standards last week, holding Michigan State to just 187 yards and three points. The defense will look to keep its momentum going this week against the second-ranked passing offense in the Big Ten. Northwestern has a much more difficult task, with its defense (ranked 95th nationally in run defense) trying to stop the Cornhuskers’ powerful ground game. Nebraska ranks ninth in the nation in rushing offense and running back Rex Burkhead has scored six touchdowns in the Huskers’ last three games.

#11 Clemson (8-1) BYE

Clemson has a week off to recover from their loss to Georgia Tech. The Tigers will return to action next week against Wake Forest.

#12 Virginia Tech (8-1) BYE

The Hokies overcame a sloppy performance to get by Duke last week. They now have a week to prepare for next Thursday night’s game at #22 Georgia Tech.

#13 Michigan (7-1) at Iowa (5-3)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPN]

Iowa is looking to rebound from its inexplicable loss to Minnesota, but it won’t be an easy task with Denard Robinson and the Wolverines coming to town. Robinson leads the league, averaging over 300 yards in total offense, and is now complemented by a defense that ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense. Iowa’s offense has averaged over 39 points per game at home this year, but none of those games have been against an FBS team with a winning record. An Iowa win would give the Hawkeyes their first-ever three-game winning streak against Michigan.

#14 Houston (8-0) at Alabama-Birmingham (1-7)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 PM ET on CBSSN]

Case Keenum threw for 534 yards and nine touchdowns last week. So what can he do for an encore this week against a UAB defense that ranks 108th nationally in passing and 112th in scoring? He needs just 267 passing yards to set break former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang’s record for career passing yards. And a 300-yard effort would be the 35th of his career, breaking an NCAA record set by BYU signal caller Ty Detmer.

Minnesota (2-6) at #15 Michigan State (6-2)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:00 PM ET on Big Ten Network]

Minnesota upset Iowa last week to get its first conference win, but it will be difficult to keep that momentum going with a road trip to East Lansing. The Spartans are coming off a disappointing 24-3 loss to Nebraska, but still boast one of the nation’s top defenses (#6 nationally in scoring, #2 in total defense). It might be a long day for the Minnesota offense, which ranks 113th in the nation in total yards and 108th in scoring.

#16 Penn State (8-1) BYE

The Nittany Lions are the only Big Ten team still undefeated in conference play and have a week off to prepare for their big game against #9 Nebraska.

New Mexico State (3-5) at #18 Georgia (6-2)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:30 PM on ESPN Gameplan]

Due to a combination of suspensions and injury, the Bulldogs will be without their top three rushing threats. Only two running backs with any game experience are available, and they have combined for just 12 carries for 34 yards. However, Georgia’s talent gap and strong play from quarterback Aaron Murray (18 touchdowns, eight interceptions this year) should still be enough to handle a New Mexico State team that ranks 108th in the nation in total defense and just gave up a school-record 683 yards to Nevada last week.

Purdue (4-4) at #19 Wisconsin (6-2)

[Saturday, Nov 5 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC/ESPN2]

After losing back-to-back games on long last-second touchdown passes, the Badgers will try to rebound against Purdue squad that has lost two of its last three and are 0-3 on the road this season. The Boilermakers have lost 13 straight road games against Top 25 teams.

#20 Arizona State (6-2) at UCLA (4-4)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 PM ET on Versus]

Both schools control their own fate in the Pac-12 title chase, but the Bruins will need to get an improved showing from their defense (89th nationally in total defense, 92nd in scoring defense) if they want to pull off an upset. The Sun Devils offense has been held to less than 35 points just twice this season. UCLA has won five of the last six matchups against ASU at home.

#21 Southern Cal (6-2) at Colorado (1-8)

[Friday, Nov. 4 at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN]

After falling in a controversial triple overtime loss to Stanford, USC should have a chance to work out some frustrations against a struggling and injury-riddled Colorado team that is hoping to avoid its first seven-game losing streak since 1980.  Colorado ranks 93rd in scoring defense and has lost its last six games by an average of over 27 points per game. They’ll be going against USC’s offensive tandem of quarterback Matt Barkley, who has thrown for 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in his last four games, and wide receiver Robert Woods, who is averaging 123.9 yards per game.

#22 Georgia Tech (7-2) BYE

The Yellow Jackets have a week to savor their upset of Clemson before returning to action on Thursday night with another tough game versus Virginia Tech.

#23 Cincinnati (6-1) at Pittsburgh (4-4)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPNU]

The Bearcats are ranked for the first time since 2009 thanks in large part to a potent offense that ranks #11 in the nation in scoring.  Pittsburgh’s success will likely hinge on their offensive line. The Panthers will be without leading rusher Ray Graham (958 of the team’s 1,202 rushing yards this season), who is out for the season after suffering a knee injury against Connecticut. So Pitt will not only need to find holes for a new running back against the nation’s second-ranked run defense, but also protect quarterback Tino Sunseri, who threw for a career-high 419 yards last week. Sunseri has already been sacked an FBS-worst 34 times this season and will be facing a Bearcats defense that has recorded 20 sacks in the last five games.

Louisville (4-4) at #24 West Virginia (6-2)

[Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:00 PM ET on MASN, SNY]

Louisville will take the Big East’s top defense (#12 nationally) to Morgantown and try to slow down the conference’s top offense (13th in the nation). Louisville’s defense will have to steal the show for the Cardinals to pull off the road upset; their offense ranks 103rd nationally in yardage and 113th in scoring. West Virginia has won four straight over Louisville.

#25 Auburn (6-3) BYE

The defending national champs will be back in action next week at #18 Georgia.

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