A loaded week of college football will wrap up with a strong slate of prime-time action. Depending on how the earlier games play out, most notably the Iron Bowl clash between Alabama and Auburn, the late games could take on an even greater level of importance.
These type of weeks, with multiple high-impact games involving two ranked teams, have been too few and far between. Luckily, it seems like the season is going to end on a high note between this week and the conference championships, before the bowl-game participants are decided.
With that in mind, let's examine three teams currently ranked inside the top 10 of the BCS rankings that will solidify that standing with marquee victories on Saturday night.
They just have to hope chaos reigns elsewhere around the country.
No. 5 Missouri Tigers
Missouri possesses one of the toughest offenses in the nation to defend. That's because they can grind out a lot of yards on the ground, and the moment a defense puts extra players in the box, quarterback James Franklin can beat them over the top, usually to L'Damian Washington or Dorial Green-Beckham.
For Texas A&M, the Tigers' opponent this week, that dynamic attack is a major problem. In the Aggies' three losses this season, which all came against ranked foes, they are giving up an average of nearly 43 points per game. Very rarely is that good enough to beat an elite opponent.
Texas A&M can score in bunches as well thanks to reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. But its inability to get key stops against top teams has been a major problem all season and that's unlikely to change tonight.
Prediction: Missouri 38, Texas A&M 34
No. 8 Stanford Cardinal
If Stanford falls short of the national title game, and it would take several miracles for it to make the leap at this point, it will look back on this season with frustration. The Cardinal won the big games it needed to but let two winnable games slip through their grasp against Utah and USC.
They can't worry about that now, though. Rival Notre Dame is waiting in the regular-season finale. The Irish's wins over Arizona State and the aforementioned Trojans look much better now than they did at the time. Although they haven't been able to play that well all season, it shows what Notre Dame is capable of.
The game plan for Stanford should be simple: Get the ball in wide receiver Ty Montgomery's hands as often as possible after his monster five-touchdown performance last week and let him take advantage of a Notre Dame defense that's struggled against ranked teams. If the Cardinal do that, they win.
Prediction: Stanford 35, Notre Dame 21
No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina's chances are heavily dependent on which version of its defense shows up against Clemson. Will it be the one that allowed 41 points to Georgia earlier in the season or the one which kept high-powered Missouri to just 24 points in a two-overtime thriller?
The answer likely decides the game.
Of course, that puts the onus on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to have a dominant performance. Teams have done their best this year to limit his impact by running away from him and using a lot of short drops to get the ball out quick. Tajh Boyd and the Tigers won't be any different.
Assuming Clowney and the Gamecocks' defense is able to make at least a few key plays, the offense should handle the rest. Connor Shaw has been terrific at protecting the ball, and Mike Davis is a force on the ground, which should allow South Carolina to rack up some points.
Prediction: South Carolina 31, Clemson 28
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