College Football Week 11 Predictions: Last-Second Breakdowns for Top 25 Clashes
Had enough of college football yet this season?
Well, that's the way it should be.
Week 10 of the 2012-13 college-football campaign featured some thrilling games, including Alabama's harrowing 21-17 victory over LSU, Oregon's shootout with USC, Notre Dame's narrow triple-overtime victory over Pittsburgh, TCU's double-overtime upset of West Virginia and Nebraska's close call in East Lansing.
Wow, what a mouthful. Did I cover everything?
After Florida State's nail-biter against Virginia Tech on Thursday, we have three delightful Top 25 matchups in store for us on Saturday.
Oregon State heads into Stanford, Texas A&M visits Alabama and LSU hosts Mississippi State.
Here's a look at the key to each game.
No. 11 Oregon State at No. 14 Stanford
Key to the Game: Stanford Passing Game vs. Oregon State Pass Defense
Both teams have formidable run defenses, so this game will likely come down to the passing games.
Of course, both Stanford and Oregon State have solid pass defenses as well, both tied for 24th in the nation in yards allowed per attempt, via CFBStats.com.
I'm more concerned about Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, though. Yes, he excelled replacing Josh Nunes last week against Colorado, but, then again, that was Colorado, a team that is allowing 46.2 points per game this season (worst in the FBS).
Oregon State boasts a defense that has notched 12 interceptions this season behind star senior cornerback Jordan Poyer.
Plus, Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz has more to work with in the receiving corps with Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton.
Kevin Hogan will hold Stanford's destiny in his hands on Saturday. He needs to have an out-of-this-world performance.
No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama
Key to the Game: Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama Defense
I rarely single out one player as a "key to the game," but, let's face it, Johnny Manziel is incredibly important to the Aggies' success.
After the freshman dual-threat's inexperience showed against LSU on Oct. 20, Manziel faces a similar opponent in Alabama. The Crimson Tide just got done defeating LSU in a 21-17 thriller.
Manziel not only rushed for just 27 yards on 17 carries against LSU, he also averaged 4.6 yards per pass attempt while tossing three interceptions (no touchdowns).
Now he heads into Tuscaloosa against the No. 1 team in the nation.
Manziel has generally been fantastic for Texas A&M this season, especially given he's a freshman. The question is, will he learn from his mistakes against LSU?
No. 21 Mississippi State at No. 7 LSU
Key to the Game: Mississippi State Run Defense vs. LSU Rushing Attack
We've seen Mississippi State get rocked to the tune of a combined 540 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground against Texas A&M and Alabama the past two weeks.
LSU is averaging 200.7 rushing yards per game, 29th in the nation.
Get my drift?
On top of that, the Bulldogs' offense has stalled the past two weeks, scoring a combined 20 points.
If Mississippi State can't contain LSU's rushing attack, it could be yet another long day for the sliding Bulldogs.
I ultimately see Oregon State, Alabama and LSU emerging victorious.
I think Kevin Hogan's inexperience will show against the Beavers, Alabama will be able to contain Johnny Manziel and LSU's rushing attack will be too much for Mississippi State.
What will it mean in the Pac-12 and SEC races?
Well, even if Stanford loses to Oregon State, the Cardinal still have a shot against Oregon the following week (key words: "a shot").
Oregon will likely beat Cal this week, pushing the Ducks' conference record to 7-0.
With a win against Stanford, Oregon State could conceivably emerge to the forefront with wins over Cal and Oregon the following two weeks.
In the SEC, a loss to Alabama takes Texas A&M out of contention in the SEC West.
Even if LSU wins its next three games against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas and Alabama loses its remaining two SEC games against Texas A&M and Auburn, Alabama wins the tie-breaker after defeating LSU last week.