College Football Week 14: Previews and Predictions for the Top 10 Games
The Big Ten and Pac-12 Championship games are already set for next week, but the ACC and SEC Championship matchups are still to be determined.
The stakes in the Iron Bowl couldn't be any higher, as the winner of the Alabama-Auburn game takes the SEC West Division title and heads to Atlanta to play either Missouri or South Carolina.
Missouri has had a magical season and is just one win away from winning the SEC East Division title. Unfortunately, the Tigers play a Texas A&M team led by former Heisman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
A loss for Gary Pinkel's squad would put the ol' ball coach and South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game. A loss against in-state rival Clemson would not affect the Gamecocks chances of making the conference title game because of the non-conference game factor.
In the ACC, David Cutcliffe and his Duke Blue Devils need a win over North Carolina to win the ACC Coastal Division and face Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.
Other rivalry games in Week 14, include “The Game” between Ohio State and Michigan, UCLA at USC and Notre Dame at Stanford.
With just one week before we see teams battle it out for conference titles and BCS bids, here are the top 10 games to watch this week:
No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan
No. 3 Ohio State @ Michigan, Noon ET, ABC
Ohio State is still trying to prove week in, week out that it's deserving of a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. A convincing win over Michigan will still likely not be enough to jump into a No. 2 spot, but a loss would eliminate the Buckeyes’ chances altogether.
Junior quarterback Braxton Miller continues to give defenses problems through the air and on the ground, while senior running back Carlos Hyde has become a force to be reckoned with in the backfield. After missing the first three games of the season, Hyde has already rushed for 1,064 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns.
The Ohio State offense is currently averaging 314.7 rushing yards per game (fifth in the country) and scoring 48.7 points per game (third in the country). The defense led by linebacker Ryan Shazier has allowed only 18.4 points per game as well.
Michigan has had a disappointing season since starting off 5-0. The Wolverines have lost four of their last six games by an average of 8.3 points.
Devin Gardner and the offense have had trouble getting into the end zone. Even though the offense was able to score two touchdowns in the first half last week against Iowa, it was shut out in the second half.
While the Wolverines have averaged just 16.8 points in the month of November, the defense has had the task of creating turnovers to put the offense in scoring position and keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.
In November, the Michigan defense has averaged two turnovers per game and held opponents to 22.3 points per game.
The Buckeyes have been rolling over opponents, while the Wolverines have struggled and lost to opponents far less superior than Ohio State. If Michigan can’t establish a successful passing game in the first half, things could get ugly early at “The Big House.”
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 17
No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 Auburn
No. 1 Alabama @ No. 4 Auburn, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
It will be the first time these two teams will play in an Iron Bowl that decides the division and who goes to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
The offense led by senior quarterback AJ McCarron hasn’t necessarily started out strong in its past three games, but it hasn’t needed to with one of the best defenses in the country.
It’s not to say the Crimson Tide are struggling on offense, as they averaged 39.7 points per game this season with the help from McCarron and 1,000-yard rusher T.J. Yeldon.
The defense, led by physical linebacker C.J. Mosley, is first in the country in points against with 9.3 and third in the country in total yards per game with 263.9.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn knows this rivalry all too well, as he coached in this historic game from 2009-2011. A team expected to go .500 this season is now in position to not only win the division but also dethrone a two-time defending BCS champion.
The Tiger offense continues to be one of the best rushing teams in the country. Junior quarterback Nick Marshall has been solid under center this season, as he’s rushed for 823 yards and accounted for 18 total touchdowns. Marshall also has been able to make the big plays with his arm when the game has been on the line.
Junior running back Tre Mason has been basically unstoppable this season. Mason has rushed for over 1,000 yards for a second straight year and is tied for fourth in country with 17 rushing touchdowns.
While the Auburn offense racks up an impressive 320.3 rushing yards per game and 39.0 points per game, the defense has had trouble defending the pass and keeping opponents off the scoreboard.
Alabama has been a team destined to win the SEC for a second consecutive year and Auburn has been on a mission to prove its worthy of national attention.
For the Tigers to pull off the upset, they need to be able to establish a running game and be able to at least contain the weapons on Alabama’s offense. Auburn is going to play tough and keep the game close, but in the end, won’t be able to hold off the Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 24
No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina
No. 6 Clemson @ No. 10 South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Both teams are fighting for BCS bowl bids at the moment.
South Carolina is in a tougher situation, though. It has to defeat Clemson for a fifth year in a row to stay in the Top 10 and needs Missouri to lose to Texas A&M to advance to the SEC Championship Game next week.
Clemson’s only blemish this season was a 51-14 beatdown at home to Florida State on Oct. 19. Other than that, the Tigers have run the table.
Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd continues to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country with 3,248 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes.
Boyd’s main target, junior Sammy Watkins, has been electric this season after a going through a rough 2012 campaign. Watkins has over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this season, while senior running back Roderick McDowell has rushed for 845 yards and scored six touchdowns.
The most valuable player to South Carolina has been senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who has thrown for 1,983, 20 touchdowns and just one interception. The Gamecock rushing attack led by 1,000-yard rusher Mike Davis, who is still questionable with a shoulder injury, is putting up 211.2 rushing yards per game.
A South Carolina defense led by Jadeveon Clowney, who missed last week's game with a right-foot injury, will look to shut down Clemson’s explosive offense for a second consecutive year. The Tiger offense was held to just 138 passing yards and 17 points last season.
The battle of the Palmetto State will be a tight game for the most part, but Steve Spurrier and company will knock off Clemson.
It will be the first time in this rivalry where South Carolina will have ever won five straight games.
Prediction: South Carolina 30, Clemson 21
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 5 Missouri
No. 21 Texas A&M @ No. 5 Missouri, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Johnny Manziel could be out of Heisman contention after struggling at LSU last week, but a big performance against highly ranked Missouri could at least give him a chance to be invited back to New York.
The pass-catch tandem of Manziel and dangerous wide receiver Mike Evans could present problems to a Missouri defense that has struggled to defend the pass.
Unfortunately, the Aggie ground attack could be in trouble against a Tiger defense led by a tough defensive line consisting of Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Missouri is giving up only 113.2 rushing yards per game (12th in the country).
A critical matchup in this game will be quarterback James Franklin and the Missouri offense against the Texas A&M defense.
The Aggie defense is giving up 460.1 yards per game and 31.2 points per game. It's something Franklin, along with running back Henry Josey and wide receivers L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, could take advantage of.
After a rough outing in Baton Rouge last week, Texas A&M will bounce back with a big road win.
Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Missouri 21
No. 22 UCLA at No. 23 USC
No. 22 UCLA @ No. 23 USC, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Before Arizona State escaped Pasadena with a 38-33 win over UCLA, this matchup assumed to have heavy implications with the Pac-12 South Division title on the line.
The Bruins would love nothing more than to take down the Trojans for a second consecutive year, but this is a critical game in Ed Orgeron getting the head coaching job.
UCLA lost a big game to stay in the division race, and it will be interesting to see how the Bruins bounce back.
There is going to be a big emphasis on the UCLA offense. Starting quarterback Brett Hundley will be a threat mostly with his arm, as he will try get his main target Shaquelle Evans the ball. In the backfield, UCLA will look to physical running back Myles Jack to cause problems for a physical USC defense that’s only allowing 121.6 rushing yards per game.
The Trojan offense, led by sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler, will have its own challenge of scoring on a physical Bruin defense led by star linebacker Anthony Barr. Weapons Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor will look to be big playmakers in the passing game against a UCLA defense giving up 225.4 passing yards per game.
Expect a close defensive game between these two in-city rivals and for USC to come away with win No. 10 of the season.
Prediction: USC 28, UCLA 24
The Other Five
Minnesota @ No. 11 Michigan State, 12 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Michigan State locked up the Big Ten Legends Division last week, meaning there is no division title up for grabs.
The Gophers will continue to rely heavily on their running game with David Cobb (1,010 rushing yards and seven TDs), but it could be rather difficult to gain yards on the ground against the toughest defense in the country.
With a defense only surrendering 236.3 total yards per game and 12.5 points per game, along with an offense that continues to improve with quarterback Connor Cook under center and running back Jeremy Langford in the backfield, the Gophers are going to have its hands full against Sparty.
Prediction: Michigan State 35, Minnesota 17
No. 24 Duke @ North Carolina, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Duke is playing to go to the ACC Championship, that's all you need to know. Sixth-year head coach David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils are in a rare position to win 10 games and a Coastal Division title. For a program that's basically been in the cellar of the ACC Conference for years, it's a chance to revive Duke football.
Nothing, of course, would make the Tar Heels disappointing season better than to trip up Duke and ruin its ACC title hopes. The Blue Devils, though, are on a role and the country should see them playing in Charlotte next week.
Prediction: Duke 34, North Carolina 26
No. 9 Baylor @ TCU, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Baylor was manhandled at Oklahoma State 49-17 last week, and now the nation will find out what this team is made of, as it travels to Fort Worth to take on a TCU Horned Frog squad that's struggled to win this season.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Art Briles’ Bears sleepwalk in the first half. Whether the offense and quarterback Bryce Petty are clicking or not, they should be able to put up enough points to win, especially since the TCU offense has only averaged 23.9 points per game this season.
Baylor will get the job done and be hoping for a win over Texas and an Oklahoma State loss to win the the automatic BCS Bowl birth.
Prediction: Baylor 38, TCU 17
No. 25 Notre Dame @ No. 8 Stanford, 7 p.m. ET, FOX
This is a big game every year, whether there is a BCS bid on the line or not.
Stanford already clinched the Pac-12 North Division last week and a date with Arizona State on Dec. 7 for the Pac-12 Conference, but the Cardinal will be seeking revenge against the Fighting Irish after losing last season's game in South Bend on a questionable call.
The Stanford offense, led by quarterback Kevin Hogan and 1,000-yard rusher Tyler Gaffney, will try to wear down Notre Dame’s defense on the ground, as well as through the air with speedy wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
The Fighting Irish must be successful through the air and avoid turning the ball over, if it wants any chance of winning this one.
Prediction: Stanford 28, Notre Dame 17
Arizona @ No. 12 Arizona State, 9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
Last Saturday, Arizona upset No. 5 Oregon 42-16, and Arizona State clinched its first Pac-12 South Division title in school history. With both in-state rivals heading into Saturday’s contest riding high, bragging rights are up for grabs, and Arizona State needs a win in order to host the Pac-12 Championship Game against Stanford.
There shouldn’t be any worries about teams not being able to put points up in this one. Arizona’s B.J. Denker (2,066 passing yards and 25 total TDs) and Ka’Deem Carey (1,559 rushing yards and 17 total TDs) could present problems for Will Sutton and the Arizona State defense.
The Sun Devil offense, though, has its weapons as well with quarterback Taylor Kelly (3,063 passing yards and 33 total TDs), running back Marion Grice (996 rushing yards and 20 total TDs) and wide receiver Jaelen Strong (925 receiving yards and six TDs).
The Wildcats have defeated the Sun Devils the past two times in Tempe, but that streak ends Saturday night, as Arizona State pulls off the win in a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Arizona State 45, Arizona 37
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