Week 11 was one of the most memorable three-day stretches in recent college football history. With three clashes between teams with BCS bowl aspirations—and featuring three teams with BCS title aspirations—one can only picture last Thursday and Saturday as the creator and destroyer of marriages, wholly depending on your team's outcome.
Week 12? Umm, well, not so much.
If you like clarity in your college football soup, this Saturday is for you. Only two matchups of BCS Top 25 teams are on the slate. The Week 12 schedule looks like a much-needed breather after the fusillade of top-tier contests a week ago, a welcome reprieve to repair those aforementioned shattered homes.
In essence, not all that much should change. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State have each been given opponents they should have no trouble with. That should put our top three teams in the BCS rankings in something of a holding pattern when things should get [looks at Week 13 schedule], umm...hey, at least Week 14 will be fun, you guys!
With that in mind, let's take a step away from our triad atop the BCS rankings and focus on matchups that may actually have some long-term bearing this weekend.
|2||Florida State (9-0)||.962|
|3||Ohio State (9-0)||.893|
|10||South Carolina (7-2)||.558|
|11||Texas A&M (8-2)||.547|
|12||Oklahoma State (8-1)||.467|
|14||Fresno State (9-0)||.432|
|15||Northern Illinois (9-0)||.351|
|16||Michigan State (8-1)||.342|
|19||Arizona State (7-2)||.283|
|23||Miami (Fla.) (7-2)||.147|
Texas Tech vs. No. 5 Baylor
Say it with me: Traaaaaaaap gaaaaaaame. We're but a mere couple weeks removed from Texas Tech-Baylor seeming like it would decide the Big 12 championship and possibly propel one or the other into the national championship conversation. The Bears have entered that talk by themselves, thank you, right as the Red Raiders have gotten thrown off their own pirate ship.
Texas Tech has gotten the money dance done to it in each of the last three weeks, losing by a combined seven touchdowns. Last week, it was Kansas State—yes, the same Wildcats team that opened their season losing to North Dakota State—whooping the Red Raiders 49-26.
Meanwhile, Baylor's once-flimsy resume has only gotten stronger. The Bears throttled Oklahoma 41-12 last Thursday despite a slow start, with quarterback Bryce Petty creeping his way into the Heisman conversation. Petty is by far the nation's most efficient passer with a 210.6 rating, a 21-1 touchdown-to-interception rate and is averaging more than 13 yards per attempt.
Art Briles is developing quite the reputation as a quarterback creator, but Petty is currently rivaling anything Robert Griffin III did at Baylor. Petty is not a great runner but he's a smart one, picking the right moments to take off, forcing opposing defenses to give him just enough respect.
With the Bears also boasting a seemingly never-ending stable of running backs able to break off 80-yard runs, this matchup seems cut and dried. Baylor has the momentum. Baylor has the quarterback. Baylor has the revered head coach. Baylor has the almost four-touchdown advantage in the spread, per Vegas Insider.
Call this a gut feeling if you so choose, but Texas Tech has the tools to stay in a shootout with Baylor. The Red Raiders are leading the nation in passing for the 73rd straight season (note: NOT an official stat) and are as dangerous as ever when they're humming. Davis Webb is talented, even if he's inconsistent. The Bears' slow start against Oklahoma and their less-than-stellar performance against Kansas State prove that they're not quite infallible.
They're also plagued with injuries. Tevin Reese is out, and both Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are hampered. Even if Baylor doesn't get upset, I see a closer-than-expected game that reignites some of the "Is Baylor for real?" conversation.
No. 25 Georgia at No. 7 Auburn
Well, this is awkward. If someone would have said that Georgia-Auburn would consist of the 25th-ranked team in the nation against the seventh-ranked team in the preseason, it would have only been proper to congratulate the Tigers on rejoining the rankings after such a tumultuous 2012 campaign. For Gus Malzahn to build his program back to No. 25 is pretty impressive. I mean, the Tigers don't stand a chance against what we could only assume is senior leader Aaron Murray's push for a BCS bowl berth, but it's a noble cause.
And that, folks, is some cliche about the game being decided on the field or something. Because we all know by now that our preseason assumptions would have been for naught, as it's Auburn knocking on the proverbial BCS door while Mark Richt's Bulldogs are one of the most disappointing teams in the nation.
The Tigers, led by Malzahn's revamped offense, are third in the nation in rushing. Tre Mason has already passed the 1,000-yard plateau and has 16 touchdowns, while quarterback Nick Marshall is actually nipping at his heels. Marshall has been an inconsistent enigma as a passer, at times looking Air Force-esque in his putridity and at other instances looking adequate. Only three times has Malzahn asked Marshall to attempt 20 or more passes, and it might be interesting to see whether the Tigers should go with a dual-quarterback system with freshman Jeremy Johnson.
For all the disappointment pervading through Athens, Georgia has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Murray looks more like a "college quarterback" every time I watch his film—the arm strength just isn't adequate—but he's one of the most decorated signal-callers in Bulldogs history for a reason. Todd Gurley has looked strong since returning to the lineup.
The key to this game will be Georgia's defense. The Bulldogs have given up 30 or more points against every ranked team they've faced this season, even in wins over LSU and South Carolina. Their secondary is a work in progress at best and has been the biggest reason they rank 78th in the FBS in points allowed per game at 28.8.
However, Georgia has actually been adept at stopping the run. Opposing teams are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, and this is a top-20 unit in terms of overall yardage and yards per game. Should the Bulldogs' run-stopping ways continue, Marshall will be forced to pass. And I'm not sure that's such a good thing.
No. 12 Oklahoma State at No. 24 Texas
"It's the return of the Mack, once again, return of the Mack, top of the world, return of the Mack"...Brown?
Amid the horrified cries of Longhorns nation for their longtime coach's job—and some pretty juicy Nick Saban rumors—Mack Brown has quietly returned his team to national prominence. Texas rejoined the Top 25 for the first time since its loss to BYU this week and is currently tied with Baylor as the only undefeated Big 12 teams remaining.
And, to be honest, I'm still not exactly sure how the Longhorns have done it. Duct tape, I guess? Case McCoy is still as shaky as he's ever been under center, boasting four straight games with an interception coming into Saturday. Johnathan Gray has been consistently solid running the ball, but hardly spectacular; he has just two 100-yard games.
It's been Texas' defense that has shined. After giving up 40 points in each of its two losses, the Longhorns went five straight games holding opponents to 30 or fewer before last week's 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia. Also, for holding itself together despite non-elite talent at a lot of spots, plenty of credit should go to Brown.
All that fun and optimism should stop here.
The Cowboys are in the top 20 in both points scored and points allowed, which one could say is a byproduct of their conference, if only Texas wasn't also a Big 12 school. Their offense is also held together a bit flimsily by the not-so-great Clint Chelf under center and an uninspiring running game, but Mike Gundy's system has helped keep the unit thriving. Oklahoma State has averaged just under 50 points over its past three contests, wins that included a 52-34 rout of the aforementioned Red Raiders.
Things are not always as they may seem, but this one seems rather obvious. Oklahoma State's defense is excellent, its offense pretty good and its coach not under massive scrutiny. We're about to hit the point where the return of the Mack returns to the hot seat of the moment.
OK, sorry. I'll stop now. Oklahoma State wins.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: