Can Gurley keep Georgia's slim SEC title hopes alive?
As the college football season winds down, look for teams and players to start putting together some special performances.
For one team, a visit from a Top Five opponent should be enough motivation to play some top-notch football. For another, a favorable matchup can only mean a sensational stat line. And for one player, a recent setback will fuel what is likely to be his best performance of the season.
All of this and more make up what should be a very exciting Week 12 schedule.
Here are five particular performances that will stand out more than others.
Can anyone slow down Williams (left)?
Week 12 Matchup: North Carolina State (3-6) at Boston College (5-4), Nov. 16, 12:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3
Andre Williams is arguably one of the best running backs in the nation.
Through nine games, the senior has rushed for 1,471 yards and 12 touchdowns on 246 carries. That includes racking up at least 140 yards on the ground in five of the Eagles’ last six games.
He currently leads the nation in yards and attempts.
This weekend, things should only get easier against a questionable Wolfpack run defense.
Thus far, the unit has given up an average of 155.4 rushing yards per game. Furthermore, North Carolina State has given up 16 touchdowns on the ground while conceding a generous 4.7 yards per carry.
And this is the defense that is supposed to slow down a running back on a tear?
The Blue Devils have made believers out of their fans this season.
Week 12 Matchup: No. 23 Miami (7-2) at Duke (7-2), Nov. 16, 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Nobody in their right minds would have predicted that the Blue Devils would be in the running for a division title this late in the season.
But that’s exactly what the team has done. Duke has won five games in a row and has recorded the most wins in school history since 1994, when the team won eight.
Expect the Blue Devils to match that mark against a struggling Hurricanes team Saturday.
After playing some solid defense over the first couple games, the Miami defense has fallen apart lately. In fact, the unit has conceded 83 points over the last two games.
It doesn’t help that the offense has been pretty stagnant as of late, failing to top 30 points in four straight games. Not to mention, the Hurricanes lost leading rusher Duke Johnson for the remainder of the season in a demoralizing 41-14 loss to Florida State on Nov. 2.
Against a Duke defense that has forced 12 turnovers in the last four games, don’t expect Miami’s offense to turn it around.
Bridgewater is still putting up numbers.
Week 12 Matchup: Houston (7-2) at No. 20 Louisville (8-1), Nov. 16, 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Although their BCS title hopes are gone, the Cardinals have still been playing at a high level. That can be especially said about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Through nine games, the junior has thrown for 2,845 yards, 24 touchdowns and three interceptions on 71.4 percent passing. That includes throwing for more than 280 yards in all but two games.
He may not still be a contender for this year’s Heisman Trophy, but Bridgewater is easily one of the top passers in all of college football.
This weekend, don’t expect the Cougars secondary to do much to disrupt Louisville’s passing attack.
Thus far, the unit has ranked No. 117 in the nation (277.6 YPG). Houston has given up 11 passing touchdowns and conceded 7.3 yards per attempt.
Expecting anything but big numbers from Bridgewater on Saturday would be foolish.
Gurley (right) will be back to his old tricks again this weekend.
Week 12 Matchup: No. 25 Georgia (6-3) at No. 7 Auburn (9-1), Nov. 16, 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
After rushing for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley was considered one of the best freshmen in all of college period. This year, through the team’s first four games, the sophomore was considered one of the best running backs. Period.
Unfortunately, an injury put a damper on both Gurley’s and Georgia’s season—the team lost two of three without its star back.
Since returning, Gurley has slowly crept toward his earlier success. He has rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in two games. Gurley has also caught six passes for 99 yards and a score.
Against the Tigers, expect the Tarboro, N.C., native to explode.
Through 10 games, Auburn has given up an average of 156.8 yards per game. That includes allowing 13 touchdowns on the ground and conceding a generous 4.23 yards per carry.
With a questionable pass defense that will have its hands tied with Aaron Murray, the Tigers won’t be able to allocate enough defenders in the box to slow down Gurley.
That could pose a serious threat to Auburn’s SEC title hopes.
Mariota (left) will look to put his sloppy performance last weekend in the past.
Week 12 Matchup: Utah (4-5) at No. 6 Oregon (8-1), Nov. 16, 4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1
The Ducks BCS title hopes are all but over and quarterback Marcus Mariota has lost a lot of ground in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Could there be anymore motivation for Mariota to put on the performance of his career this weekend?
Through nine games, the sophomore has thrown for 2,531 yards, 22 touchdowns and no interceptions on 63.3 percent passing. He has also added another 495 yards and nine scores on the ground.
Last weekend, Mariota was held without a touchdown through three quarters. Furthermore, he was limited to negative rushing yards for the first time in his career.
That should all change against a Utes defense that ranks No. 84 against the pass (239.9 YPG). Not to mention, the unit has picked off only two passes all year.
It won’t be pretty.
Will the Trojans be up to the task this weekend?
Week 12 Matchup: No. 4 Stanford (8-1) at USC (7-3), Nov. 16, 8 p.m. ET on ABC
Ever since firing head coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojans have been on a roll.
The team has won three straight and four of five under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. That includes rediscovering its defensive prowess and developing an offensive identity.
Fresh off a 499-yard, 62-point performance against Cal, the offense is in good shape. Quarterback Cody Kessler put together one of his best showings of the season—14-of-17, 170 yards, 2 TDs—and the rushing attack combined for 256 yards and four touchdowns.
As for the defense, the unit recently shut down quarterback Sean Mannion and the Oregon State offense. USC held the Beavers to just 369 yards of total offense and picked off three of Mannion’s passes, including one that was taken back for six.
The Cardinal will be the Trojans toughest test under Orgeron.
Then again, Stanford has already proven to slip up away from home, losing to unranked Utah earlier in the season.
Backed by its home fans, on prime-time TV and with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance, expect USC to put together one of its best performances of the season.
But will it be enough to slow down the Cardinal?
Hyde has made it look easy lately.
Week 12 Matchup: No. 3 Ohio State (9-0) at Illinois (3-6), Nov. 16, noon ET on ESPN
The Buckeyes are just three wins away from securing back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. The team is already 9-0 and its remaining three opponents have a combined record of 13-14.
A lot of that success has been thanks to the play of running back Carlos Hyde.
Ever since returning from suspension, the senior has rushed for 701 yards and seven touchdowns in six games. That includes topping the century mark in each of the last four contests.
Against an Illini run defense that ranks as one of the nation’s worst, expect that success to continue.
Thus far, the unit ranks No. 117 against the run (239.6 YPG). Illinois has given up 23 touchdowns on the ground while conceding a generous 5.51 yards per carry.
Hyde must be licking his lips heading into this one.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.