By Casey Keefe
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#3 TCU @ #5 Utah: Although this matchup doesn’t scream prestige or history, make no mistake, this is by far the biggest game of week 10. The Mountain West Conference is on the line, but that’s not all that is at stake. A BCS birth and maybe even a spot in the national title game is what would await the winner presuming they’d end up running the table.
Neither of these teams are used to close games. TCU averages 41 points per game, while only letting up 9 points a contest. Utah’s numbers are similar – 45 points per game and 14 points allowed. We’ll see two tough, gritty quarterbacks – Andy Dalton of TCU and Jordan Wynn of Utah. We’ll also see deep rushing attacks. Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker provide a 1-2 punch for TCU, while Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata form a double-threat for the Utes.
Despite all the firepower on offense, it’ll be whichever defense plays better that will end up putting a decisive staple on this game. The Utes have a solid defensive unit, but they’re nowhere near as stingy as the Horned Frogs who have the #1 ranked defense in the entire country. They’ve allowed just 16 points over their last 5 games. No, they haven’t faced an offense as prolific as the one they’ll face on Saturday, but I expect them to pressure Wynn, contain Wide and Asiata and force a turnover or two.
TCU is 0-3 all-time at Utah. They’ll be facing a raucous home crowd and a Utes team desperate to avenge their 55-28 defeat at the hands of these very same Horned Frogs last year. It’ll be a close game filled with excitement, but in the end the difference will be the strength of TCU’s defense and the masterful coaching of Gary Patterson… Prediction: TCU
#6 Alabama @ #10 LSU: Talent-wise, Alabama is the best team in the country. They had a slip up earlier in the season against South Carolina but they’ve catapulted themselves right back into the national title race. The road gets EXTREMELY tough for the Tide, starting this week against LSU.
We all know how dynamic and dangerous ‘Bama’s offense is, powered by quarterback Greg McElroy and the two-headed monster running game of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. LSU has a very good defense, so they should be able to stay toe-to-toe with the Tide’s offense. This will not be the case on the other side of the ball.
Les Miles has been running a two-quarterback system with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, and let’s just say the experiment isn’t going so well. The Tigers have the worst passing attack in the SEC. They will be no match for the Tide’s defense. That’ll be the biggest difference in this game. As tough as LSU’s defense is, ‘Bama will be able to score on them in spots – that’s not the case with the Tiger’s offense.
The nail in the coffin factor for me is that we are talking about a Nick Saban team that is coming off a bye week. Saban teams have been lethal off byes. They’ve spent the past two weeks thinking about nothing but finding a way to beat this LSU team – which means the Tigers have no shot… Prediction: Alabama
#15 Arizona @ #13 Stanford: This is an enormous battle in the Pac 10. Stanford is a legitimate BCS contender, whereas Arizona actually controls their own destiny for the conference crown. They would have to of course go through Oregon, but first things first, the Stanford Cardinal.
A big question in this game is if Arizona quarterback Nick Foles will indeed play, and if he does, how healthy will he be? Foles is a dangerous quarterback and was just starting to hit his stride before he was sidelined with a knee injury. Backup Matt Scott is more than capable, but Foles is the guy that needs to be on the field if the Wildcats are to win.
Stanford’s offense is phenomenal, averaging 467 yards and 42 points per game. They are of course led by all-world quarterback Andrew Luck who will most likely be the #1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. They’ll be going up against a solid defense that is capable of being dominant though stretches, but doesn’t always play with the consistency you’d like. The unit will need to play the game of their lives if they’re to hold Luck and company down. In the end, I doubt that will happen.
Arizona should be able to put some points up on the board and it wouldn’t surprise me if the defense has their moments – but it won’t be enough. Luck has another big stage to showcase himself for the Heisman voters, and I think he’ll come through… Prediction: Stanford
#18 Arkansas @ #19 South Carolina: This is a huge game for both teams, especially South Carolina who can take a stronghold of the SEC East with a win. They’ll be welcoming in an Arkansas Razorback team that has an offense as prolific as just about anyone.
An X-factor in this game is the Gamecock’s loss of cornerback Chris Culliver who suffered a torn pectoral muscle. His absence deals another blow to a secondary which is already in dire trouble. They have the worst pass defense in the SEC and allow 260 yards through the air per game. The defense as a whole is by far the biggest weakness of this South Carolina team.
Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks have been going through their own injury problems, losing wide receiver Greg Childs for the entire season. The rest of the receiving core is filled with guys who are banged up. Even with that the case, I think Mallett will find a way to have a field day on the Gamecocks secondary, especially with the loss of Culliver.
Arkansas will score their points – it’ll be up South Carolina to keep up with them. We know the Gamecocks have their share of weapons, none bigger than dual-threat quarterback Stephen Garcia. This offense however can be a little too careless at times for my liking. If Garcia has a lapse in judgment Arkansas will make him pay. With the amount of points Mallett will be putting up, Garcia will need to have his mistake-free A+ game – which is just asking too much… Prediction: Arkansas
- Great news out of the Big East. The conference is looking to expand to 10 teams and add a possible conference championship game, which is always a brilliant idea. One of the two new teams will most likely be Villanova, which perennially has one of the best FCS programs in the country. As far as the other spot, the list of possibilities include ECU, Temple, Central Florida and TCU. It goes without saying that TCU is far and away the best option. Forget geography and the fact that they’d most likely only be joining for football – if you’re a mid-level conference like the Big East, it’s an absolute no brainer to go as hard as you can after TCU. They would provide a MAJOR boost to the conference… If the Big East ends up bringing in Villanova and TCU, and adds a championship game, the conference will be better than ever.
- The two top offenses in the Big 12 match up this weekend in Stillwater. #21 Baylor takes on #17 Oklahoma State. Who would have thought that this was going to be a critical showdown at this point in the season? We’ll see two of the best quarterbacks in the country – both with different skill sets – Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma’s State Brandon Weeden. Whichever QB plays better will decide this game.
- Boise State faces their toughest opponent in weeks when they host Hawaii who is just outside of the top 25. The Broncos have taken hits in the BCS polls the past couple weeks. They need to continue to win, but also win big, with major style points. Kellen Moore and company know this, so don’t expect the Broncos to take any prisoners come Saturday.
- The top two teams in the land, Oregon and Auburn face cupcake opponents this week. The Ducks will host the utterly disappointing Huskies of Washington. Meanwhile, Auburn for some reason or another faces Chattanooga at Jordan-Hare. It’s safe to say that both these teams will remain unscathed when the dust settles.
Check back on Monday for my recap of all the weekend action.
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