The 'Iron Bowl' and the Top Ten Must-See College Football Games in Week 13

Joe FaviaCorrespondent IINovember 24, 2010

The 'Iron Bowl' and the Top Ten Must-See College Football Games in Week 13

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Last weekend we saw some teams in the top ten in the rankings get tested, and they all passed.

    Whether or not that will continue is a big question that will be again be put to the test this weekend. With inter-conference battles and in-state bitter rivalries on tap, this weekend will undoubtedly feature some of the best college football to be found all season long.

    In last weekends edition of the top ten games of the week, I correctly picked Wisconsin and N.C. State to hold on big time conference match-ups. Danny V was dead on in taking Texas A&M to beat Nebraska, and the Buckeyes to win an important game against the Hawkeyes.

    With this weekend's games crossing the Thanksgiving holiday into the weekend, there will be much to be thankful for, for many college football fans. Bowl games and conferences titles will be won, and for the others, the promise of tomorrow and next season will help to uplift their spirits.

    So enjoy the time spent with family and friends and lets watch some football!

No. 17 Texas A&M Aggies at Texas Longhorns

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    X-FACTOR:

    Texas wide receiver James Kirkendoll is coming off a good game against Florida Atlantic, and going up against the 97th ranked pass defense of Texas A&M might be the only edge the Longhorns have over the Aggies. They need to take advantage of it. If they can get Kirkendoll the ball early and often it could open the flood gates for the Longhorn offense.

    Matchup to watch:

    Texas has the 11th ranked pass defense and they will be tested by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Aggies11th ranked pass offense. Wide receivers Ryan Swope, Jeff Fuller, and Uzoma Nwachukwu have been as reliable as a trio of wideouts as I have seen in America, however the Longhorns secondary is still pretty solid.


    Why Texas can win:

    Garrett Gilbert is coming off a game in which he built up his confidence where he threw for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. If he can light up the suspect Aggies pass defense, then the Longhorns have a chance to pull of the slight upset. Having the game in Austin will make up the difference of getting smoked, to keeping it competitive. Only ranked 66th in the nation, Texas has to be able to run the ball better.

    The Longhorns are trying to get momentum going into next season in which the ESPN contract begins. They do not want to be somewhat of a continuing laughing stock on national television like Notre Dame. Do not expect the Longhorns to go quietly into the night in this one.

    Why A&M can win:

    They are one of the hottest teams in the nation, and they were lighting up the scoreboards before the Nebraska game. They defeated the Huskers because of how well their defense played up front. They did all the little things, avoiding giving up the big play. Not many big name players on defense outside of Von Miller and Michael Hodges. Those two have helped the Aggies a lot, but at the end of the day Ryan Tannehill has been the hottest quarterbacks in the Big 12.

    Though the Aggies will not have the home field advantage like they had last week in the 9-6 victory over Nebraska, they will have a better team this season, and a real chance to move into the top 15 with a win.

     


    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: A&M 31 TEXAS 30

    JFAV's Pick: TEXAS 20 A&M 19

No. 23 North Carolina State Wolfpack at Maryland Terrapins

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    X-FACTOR:

    North Carolina State running back Mustafa Greene has been the workhorse for the Pack this year. If they can run the ball effectively without needing much from Russell Wilson in the ground game, then a big edge goes to State.

    Matchup to Watch:

    N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving against Terps running backs Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett.

     It is crucial for the Terps to be able to run the ball as well. This game lacks stud playmakers but the Terps have Torrey Smith and the Pack have George Bryan, Owen Spencer, and Jarvis Williams. However, it will clearly come down whether or not Irving and that linebacking core can bottle up the ground game of the Terps.

    Why NCST can win:

    Russell Wilson has been amazing this season and although the future is bright, so is the present. The Pack are going to the ACC Title Game if they can pull this one out, but as usual the game will be in the hands of QB Russell Wilson.

     If he can somehow throw up a hail mary pass on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line (threw it at the 15) and have it caught similar to Montana to Clark, then maybe it is destiny for NCST to reach the the title game. This is going to be a big game for the Wolfpack program. If they can get the win they will be one step closer from making a BCS game which no one could have expected at season's start.


    Why Maryland can win:

    They were able to run the ball against a solid FSU run defense (17th in nation), so why would the Terps not be able to run the ball against a Wolfpack defense that is only 20th in the nation against the run?

    Danny O’Brien needs to have the game of his life and they will come out victoriously if a few secondary guys step up such as Adrian Cannon, Will Yeatman, and Ronnie Tyler.

    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: MARYLAND 24 NCST 23

    JFAV's Pick: N.C. STATE 34  MARYLAND 14

Michigan Wolverines at No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes

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    X-FACTOR:

    The Michigan defense has been just brutal with a capital "B". They would make a great toy commercial where the announcer quickly shouts, “Tackling optional.” If they can somehow come away with a few turnovers, this offense is good enough to put some points on the board against the Buckeyes defense.

    Matchup to watch:

    Brian Rolle and Ross Homan against Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith. The Michigan backfield may get past the Buckeyes front four, but those linebackers from The Ohio State University will swarming into the backfield with reckless abandon.

    Why Michigan can win:  

    They are finally going bowling, and they need a signature win to help Rich Rod and the boys from Ann Arbor. However, their defense is god awful and they just cannot make tackles behind the line of scrimmage with consistency. The Badgers backs were getting untouched going to the third level. That is never a good sign, so expect similar results in the second half for Daniel Boom Herron.

    Michigan and Rich-Rod need this game in the worst possible way. Jim Tressel is gaining more and more momentum in the "Big Game", and perhaps Roy Roundtree or Denard Robinson will have follow in the footsteps of Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson and Tim Biakabatuka.

    Why Ohio State can win:

    This Buckeyes team may seem overrated to some, however they are a legit top ten and have a shot of reaching a BCS Bowl over a team like Stanford if they have a good showing against the Wolverines. Their defense has been pretty darn good up front, meanwhile their secondary has been absolutely tremendous as well. They rank 5th against the pass and 3rd against the run.

    Although they have not played against stellar competition at certain points in the season, they have been one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten and even the nation since losing to the Badgers. If the Buckeyes get out early than it could be another sad and depressing drive up north for the people of Ann Arbor.

    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: OHIO STATE 42 MICHIGAN 21

    JFAV's Pick: OHIO STATE 38  MICHIGAN 28

No. 10 Michigan State Spartans at Penn State Nittany Lions

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    X-FACTOR:

    B.J Cunningham has had a solid season as a junior, but with Mark Dell drawing most of the attention from the Nittany Lions secondary there is no doubting that somebody else will have to step up in the passin game for Kirk Cousins.

    Matchup to Watch:

    Edwin Baker against the Penn State front seven. PSU is known as Linebacker U, however MSU has been very productive with the way their offensive line has played.

    Why Michigan State can win:

    Sparty has been one of the most balanced teams in the Big Ten as they rank 41st in rushing offense and 39th in passing offense. If Edwin Baker can continue to run downhill, the offense will be just fine early on. However, they must have Cousins play an outstanding game since they have been limited early in ball games the past few weeks. If they stumble early on like they did against Purdue, then this game could get ugly.

    Some still do not believe in the legitamacy of the Spartans since their beatdown by the Iowa Hawkeyes. They need more style points to gain voters confidence and this would be the game to do it.


    Why PSU can win:

    Matt McGloin has been excelling as the quarterback position for the Nittany Lions, and when Royster is running for yards, their offense is nearly unstoppable. It has been an unproductive year for Royster, though the past month he has improved. PSU ranks 58th in passing offense and only 71st in rushing offense. Expect them to put together one of their best offensive performances of the season now that Joe Pa says he will coach in 2011.

    If the Nittany Lions can play spoiler it could and should put the Nittany Lions in a very nice New Year's Day bowl; which no one could have thought possible at the beginning of the season.

    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: Penn State 27 Michigan State 24

    JFAV's Pick: Michigan State 24  Penn State 21

No. 21 Arizona Wildcats at No. 1 Oregon Ducks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    X-FACTOR:

    LaMichael James did not have a big game against Cal two weeks ago, so it is imperative he goes wild in this one. Kenjon Barner also needs to help in the ground game because they need the run to set up the pass.

    Matchup to Watch:

    Brook Reed and Ricky Elmore against Oregon offensive tackles, Bo Thran and C.E. Kaiser. If the Cats can get pressure on the Ducks quarterback Derron Thomas, then it could turn into a route.

    Why Arizona can win:

    Arizona has a chance if they control the line of scrimmage and be able to methodically move the ball against this quick Ducks defense. The Ducks are ranked 25th in the nation against the run and you know that Mike Stoops will want to have Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby running with a head full of steam. Nick Foles will be looking for Juron Criner early and often because it is safe to assume that Oregon will get their share of points, so it is a must Foles is able to pass the ball at will.

    The Cats' have shown all season that they can win big games at home, but on the road it is a different story. Many Ducks fans recall their hopes and dreams were shattered a few years ago by the Wildcats when Dennis Dixon went down. Arizona is going to be coming for you Derron Thomas.

    Why Oregon can win:

    They are the more talented team, but Derron Thomas has been able to get the job done when it matters most. He has been able to fire the ball on target to Jeff Maehl. If Maehl can burn the Cats 45th ranked pass defense, there will be plenty of opportunities for DJ Davis and Lavasier Tuinei. There is way too much on the line for this Ducks team to fall on their faces.

    Oregon is in position to control their own destiny. They cannot be caught looking ahead to the 'Civil War' with Oregon State or they will lose to this Arizona team.

    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: OREGON 38 ARIZONA 28

    JFAV's Pick: OREGON 49  ARIZONA 31

Florida Gators at No. 22 Florida State Seminoles

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    X-FACTOR:

    FSU corner and kick returner Greg Reid. If the Noles want to win the game ultimately, they better be able to get a big play or two from Greg Reid in the kicking game, as well as, make a big play on defense.

    Matchup of the Game:

    FSU defensive end Brandon Jenkins and Markus White against Florida left tackle and right tackles Xavier Nixon and Mike Gilbert. The Noles lead the nation in sacks yet they have not have many sacks the past few weeks. Coming off two sacks against the Terps, they must be able to do the same against UF.

    Why Florida can win:

    The Gators have won six straight meetings and have not lost in Tallahassee since 2002. Majority of those teams that beat the Noles were BCS Title contenders and this is not exactly a great Gators team. A reason why this team has struggled is besides being ranked 70th in the nation for passing offense has been the defense.

     By no means is it a bad defense as it still is very good. Being ranked 35th against the run is something the Gators are not accustomed to. In their primetime games this season, they have not fared well against good offensive lines. FSU will give them issues up front. However, the bigger reason why they are still a good team is because they still possess plenty of speed with Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, and Deonte Thompson. That set of skill players need to be on the top of their game in order to pull the so called upset off.

    The Gators are looking to rebound off of the lose to South Carolina and what better way to make themselves feel better than to spoil the Noles' ACC chances.

    Why Florida State can win:

    This is a 3:30 PM ET kick-off in which they will be scoreboard watching to see if they will be playing in the ACC Title Game depending on if the Terps can beat the Wolfpack. I am sure they will not lose interest in this rivalry game though. The Noles want to finally beat the Gators and if not now, then I ask when? The Noles have not defeated the Gators since Chris Rix won in Gainesville back in 2003. Senior quarterback Christian Ponder has taken some beatdowns from Florida and is now in his final home game in Tally.

    He has some good options in Bert Reed, Taiwan Easterling, Rodney Smith, and Willie Haulstead (concussion-questionable/should play). Jermaine Thomas is back expected to start at RB but they also have RB’s Ty Jones and Chris Thompson who is a speed demon himself. FSU is as balanced as they have been the past ten years and in large part due to the smart decisions Ponder has made. Look for a nail biter that may come down to the Noles receiving core making plays against a very good Gators secondary.

    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: FLORIDA STATE 28  FLORIDA 24

    JFAV's Pick: FLORIDA 31  FLORIDA STATE 27

No. 4 Boise State Broncos at No. 19 Nevada Wolfpack

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    X-FACTOR:

    Dylan from Iowa wrote: Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. This win should be enough to put Boise over TCU.

    That is beautiful poetry for the people of Idaho as if this were to come to pass it could launch the Broncos to the title game with a Auburn slip against Bama'.

    Can you teach me how to Dougie? Doug Martin has been keeping the opposition honest as he has been running all over them averaging 200 YPG which ranks 20th in the nation.

    Matchup of the Game:

    Nevada quarterback Colin Kapernick against the Boise State linebacker Winston Venable. Venable has been used as a nickel back as well as a linebacker now that Bryan Hout is out until January. Winston, (brother of Will who starts for the Padres) is a ferocious tackler that is willing to give up his body on nearly every play. He comes in and makes bone jarring hits similar to SEC linebackers. He may not be giving two cents for how good the Wolfpack rushing offense has been this year (4th in nation).

    Why Nevada can win: 

    Nevada has ran the ball on everybody and minus their lone loss to Hawaii, this Wolfpack team has been simply amazing against the opposition. Vai Taua and Lampford Mark are two bulldozers that have just ran rushod combining for over 200 yards last week against New Mexico State. If they can run against arguably the best front four in college football, then there is a glimmer of hope for Nevada to pull off the upset. At least until they get on defense against Kellen Moore.

    This matchup is the last hope for the people that want to see the Broncos lose this season. Expect alot of people to be cheering on the Wolfpack in full force for this one, and if they can finally beat Boise State who has owned them over the last decade than it would be a program changing moment.

    Why Boise State can win:

    Kellen Moore and this offense (20th in rushing & fifth in passing) is without a doubt for me the most balanced team in America. Besides having a stout front four, and an underrated linebacking core there is not much left for Boise State to impress us with besides beating up Nevada and obliterating Utah State. They have a secondary that makes plays when it needs to (7th against the pass).

     Jeron Johnson and Brandyn Thompson will be first Team All-WAC. There is a good chance eight or nine players are on that 1st Team All-WAC Defense. It seems there are still way too many haters out there to realize how fast these Smurf Turfs really are. They beat up a very good Hokies squad that all of a sudden is playing like a top ten team. Nevada is a legit top 25 challenge and if Boise State can win in Reno by double figures, then it could be smooth sailing if they get a little help from the 'Sabanator'.


    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: BOISE STATE 45  NEVADA 21

    JFAV's Pick: BOISE STATE 42  NEVADA 35

No. 5 Louisiana State Tigers at No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    X-FACTOR:

    Enough with Knile Davis because I keep having him as my X factor, and yet he keeps running for 200 yards and three touchdowns it seems every week. So let’s go with DJ Williams since he can rip apart the middle and of that defense as well as making a few one handed grabs down the sidelines against guys like Kelvin Sheppard and Ryan Baker.

    Matchup of the Game:

    Razorbacks wide receivers core against LSU secondary led by All-American Patrick Peterson.

    This matchup is arguably one of the most electrifying, entertaining matchups all season to look forward to. Even without Greg Childs, you could make a case for Pig Suey having the best receiving core in the nation and the same can be said for the LSU secondary. LSU has the fourth ranked pass defense and Arkansas has the third ranked pass offense, something has to give here.

    Why LSU can win:

    LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson beat Bama in large part because of his defense but he avoided making the crucial mistakes that you need to not make. LSU has had many NFL backs that have come and gone through the years, and Steven Ridley may be the next as he taken this offense and carried them on his back as of late. Although it was against Lousiana-Monroe and Ole Miss, Ridley has now rush for 5 touchdowns the past two weeks!

    Les Miles has been known to win the big ones (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/511290-bcs-rankings-power-ranking-les-miles-10-greatest-wins), and it would be quite the victory to go to Little Rock, and come out with the 'W'.

    Dylan from Iowa says he wants whatever there drinking in Arkansas thinking they can make a BCS bowl. I tend to agree.

    Why Arkansas can win:

    If Ryan Mallett never got hurt against Auburn, who knows what happens in that game and if he would have played more in the following game against Ole Miss, his numbers would look that more dazzling. Still, over 3,000 yards and 27-9 TD/INT ratio is not too shabby. 

    Did I mention his completion percentage is a staggering 67.2%? He has one of the best supporting casts in the nation and with a defense that has been flying all over the place making the crucial plays when it matters most will be the reason why the Razorbacks take home “The Boot”.



    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: ARKANSAS 31  LSU 27

    JFAV's Pick: LSU 24  ARKANSAS 17

No. 13 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    X-FACTOR:

    Roy Finch comes into this game on the blip radar as nobody even knows who this kid is still. This future All-American reached paydirt against the Baylor Bears, and expect to get similar results against the 44th ranked rushing defense that the Cowboys have.

    Matchup of the Game:

    Oklahoma is ranked 58th against the pass and the Pokes are second in the nation at threading the needle. Justin Blackmon has been a first All-American and is a Heisman candidate because he has just blown by the competition. Quinton Carter has been a beast all year and freshmen Tony Jefferson has been a beast at the nickel back. They will need to put together their best defensive performance or else they will get torched by Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys receiving core.

    Why OKST can win:

    The Cowboys are averaging nearly 200 yards rushing per game and nearly 400 yards passing per game. Their high-octane, explosive offense has made it rain against every team in the Big 12, as only Nebraska were able to slow them down just enough to defeat them. Brandon Weeden is an old Chris Weinke type of quarterback since he is 27 years old.

    Oklahoma State is prove they are in fact the cream of the crop in the Big 12 and they will solidify my feelings that it is fact with a win over the rival Sooners.

    Why OU can win:

    Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray, and Ryan Broyles are arguably the best trio of stars behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Kendall Hunter, and Justin Blackmon. The Sooners are only 76th in the nation at running the ball. Some of the blame may go to Murray dancing to much or not having solid backups behind Murray, however the O-Line deserves a lot of the blame.

    They are not opening any holes for the likes of Murray and Finch to do anything. I still believe that Kevin Wilson (OC) and specifically Brent Venable (DC) will put together a gameplan with big game Bob that will enable the Sooners to pull away late in this game at Boone Pickens Stadium.

    .

    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: OKLAHOMA 35  OKLAHOMA STATE 34

    JFAV's Pick: OKLAHOMA STATE 48 OKLAHOMA 45

No. 2 Auburn Tigers at No. 11 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    X-FACTOR:

    Trent Richarson has not played in the past two weeks, but he needs to have a big game for the Tide. Greg McElroy can take advantage of the Tigers pass defense (100th), but for that to happen they need to be able to run the ball against All-American NT Nick Failey.

    Matchup of the Game:

    Julio Jones, Marquis Maze, and Darius Hanks against the secondary of Auburn will be the crucial matchup that I am dying to watch.

    However, my true matchup to look for is whether or not McElory will have the time to throw the ball downfield. Offensive guard Barrett Jones is out and if the Tide cannot protect against the likes of Fairley, Carter, Equae, Goggans, Blanc, and Clayton then it will be tough sledding for the Tide.

    Why Auburn can win:

    Because every time Danny V pick's against them they make me look like I am clueless. On paper, this Auburn is easily a top five talent-wise team in the nation when healthy. Cam Newton has carried them on their backs for stretches, but Onterrio McCalebb and Michael Dyer in the backfield have been the best one-two punch in the nation I must say.  The legit reason for the success for this team has been the play of this top five OL that Auburn has. Center Ryan Pugh and Tackle Lee Ziemba have both played like 1st team All-SEC linemen.

    Auburn is a team of destiny and has battled adversity on the field and off. Cam Newton is the righful winner of the Heisman Trophy and will prove it this weekend. The Crimson Tide fateful will not be singing "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" after this ball game. JFAV likes the Tigers by a touchdown.

    Why Alabama can win:

    Nick Saban is known for winning the national primetime games because he prepares and plays the “us versus world mentality” better than anybody around. Sure, Alabama is a household name but that is not he sees it with his team. Kirby Smart won the Broyles Award (top assistant/coordinator in nation) last season as the defensive coordinator and he will need to come up with some type of solution to slow down Cam Newton. He has been the most dominating player in the nation and it has not even been close quite frankly. The defensive line is led by nose tackle Marcell Dareus and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

    They have a few studs in the secondary as well led by Robert Lester and Mark Barron. Barron is one of the most physical corners in the nation so look for him to come up in the box to try and bottle up Newton and the running game. This game very well should be a shoot out as the team with the ball last for a full possession may win this one.

    Danny V picks Bama' to march the field and win on a field goal in an instant classic. John D from Chicago says that football karma is going to catch up with Auburn this weekend to end the title hopes of Newton & company.


    FINAL SCORE:

    Danny V's Pick: ALABAMA 31  AUBURN 30

    JFAV's Pick: AUBURN 34 ALABAMA 27