Rivalry Weekend Predictions
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Rivalry week is here. This is the week where things get a little more serious than normal. Injury reports are checked daily, the weather webpage at the stadium has been added to your favorites list, your gameday attire is being cleaned a day earlier in the week than usual, and the dog has on the team collar. You get my point...Rivalry week is what it is all about, folks - it is stress and excitement rolled into one big turkey-stuffed emotional roller coaster. Here are my picks for the games of week 13....
* All rankings BCS, all times EST
#7 LSU at Arkansas - 2:30 - CBS - The Razorbacks are a program in disarray, playing out the season with a coach who we all already know will not be around after this game (John L. Smith). LSU, meanwhile, is the same ole solid defense, great athletes, very lucky, average offense, LSU. It would be very unreasonable to think Arkansas will pull some kind of uspet here, so I will take LSU to win at home. The only good thing in this game for Arkansas is that it marks the end to one of the oddest stretches in program history with the firing of Bobby Petrino and the one-year misery of Smith. The Hogs need to go out and hire a proven, stable coach after this. LSU, 30-7.
#25 Washington at Washington State - 3:30 - FOX - I honestly thought that WSU first-year head man Mike Leach would post a better record than the 2-9 mark he has coming into this game. But, there it is. Not only that, but Leach has led the Cougars to become one of the worst offenses in America (111th nationally in points for at under 20 ppg). His defense sucks, too, giving up over 34 ppg, which isn't in the nation's top 100, either. I was thinking early on that I may predict a stunning upset here. But after reaserching all of this, I have to go with the visiting Huskies, who enter already bowl-eligible. Washington plays defense quite well, giving up just 23 ppg. I will take the visitors for their eighth win of 2012. Washington, 30-17.
Arizona State at #24 Arizona - 10:00 - ESPN - Speaking of first-year head coaches, we now look at a game that features two of those. Rich Rodriguez, who is guiding Arizona in year one, has the Wildcats at 7-4, bowl-eligible, and scoring over 37 ppg. A win over ASU tomorrow and they might name the town after him! Meanwhile, his counterpart in this contest - Todd Graham - has the Sun Devils at 6-5, also bowl-eligible, and also scoring in the high 30's every time out (36 ppg). The similarities here are obvious for the two programs. In this one, I will stick to my guns and predict a win by the home squad. These two teams seem to be in good hands for the next few years to come. Arizona, 36-33.
Georgia Tech at #3 Georgia - noon - ESPN - There is something fishy about this game but I cannot put my finger on it. Of the four ACC-SEC rivalry games on the day, this is clearly the game where the SEC team has to be picked, right? After all, the game is in Athens. After all, UGA has won three straight. After all, UGA is ranked in the top five in the land while GT isn't even receiving votes in either of the major polls...And that is what makes it fishy. Do you think by chance UGA is overlooking their foe from up the road? Do you think the Dawgs are focused on the SECCG and the MNC instead of the Jackets? I get the feeling they might be....I am still going to pick the home team here because I think they are the better squad, but I'm telling you folks right now a GT team that has won three in-a-row and has scored 110 points in the last two games is not going to just roll over and die. Georgia, 30-28.
#19 Michigan at Ohio State - noon - ABC - The Buckeyes go for the perfect season on Saturday, hosting rival Michigan in The Horseshoe. But perfect may need an asterisk beside it as OSU cannot play for anything else after this game. Probation has them on house arrest after this contest, but after they stomp Michigan to go unbetaten, Buckeye fans wll get a bit of satisfaction none-the-less. First-year coach Urban Meyer came in and took a good bunch of talent, cleaned up a mess, and made it into a force to be reckoned with. He will do the same next year as QB Braxton Miller will be back...Sorry UM fans, didn't mean to make this whole capsule about Ohio State, but all probation talk aside they are the much better team and should whip your Wolverines Saturday. Ohio State, 33-19.
Virginia at Virginia Tech - noon - ESPNU - Well, it is tough to get overly excited about a game that features a team that is 4-7 (UVA) and a team that is 5-6 (VT), but here it is as part of rivalry weekend. In the state of Virginia, this game is still quite important, however. Hokie fans have a close eye on Beamer and have to wonder if he is slipping as he ages. Cavalier fans have to wonder how Mike London's second team can show such improvement one week (whipping NC State in Raleigh, 33-6) and look so much like mediocre UVA teams of the past other weeks ( losing six straight games in weeks three through eight). In this one, I wll pick VT to finally, finally put togther a complete game and to defend home turf and qualify for a bowl all at the same time (the thought of VT being bowl-eligible this season makes one think there are too many bowls). Virginia Tech, 30-24.
#5 Oregon at #15 Oregon State - 3:00 - Pac-12 Network - This is the last capsule I typed in this article because it was the hardest game for me to make a selection on. I know that Oregon has the nation's most prolific offense (54.8 ppg), but Oregon State has made their living this year on defense. This is a classic rivalry game where one school boasts the D and the other boats the O...So who to pick? I know OSU is at home, and I almost always go with the home team when I cannot deicde, but I am going to go with the Ducks this time. I want to see this Marcus Mariota guy (2,371 yards passing, 29 TDs and three rushing TDs, six interceptions) have a big game and create a debate bewteen himself and "Johnny Football" over who is the nation's top freshman. Oregon, 35-27.
Auburn at #2 Alabama - 3:30 - CBS - Usually, this is one of the absolute hardest games of the season to predict. No matter the records coming into the game, Auburn always more than holds their own with the Tide, winning 15 of the last 26 meetings (41-34, Tide, all time). But this year, the game is a little bit easier for me to take a stab at. Let's face it, the Tigers have had a miserable season that will go down as one of their most unfocused, ununified efforts ever. So in this game, with Alabama at home, with a ton to play for, and a much better team, I have to pick the Crimson Tide to win and to win convincingly. Yes, in college football anything can happen, but Auburn just doesn't have it together this year. Alabama, 40-13.
#4 Florida at #10 Florida State - 3:30 - ABC regional - With the success of the SEC, and the Gators as well, over the last however many years, it is surprising to folks that FSU has won the last two games in this rivalry. The reason it is surprising? Because before that UF won five in-a-row...All of that goes out the window when UF hits the Doak Campbell Stadium turf Saturday afternoon. Florida is ranked third in the nation in points allowed (and I thought FSU was supposed to be the squad with the great D), while the Noles are just two spots back in that same category! With FSU averaging 43 ppg scored to UF's 25, I will give the edge to the Seminoles. I know Florida has played a tougher slate, but with home-field advantage and a defense to match that of the Gators, I will go with FSU. Florida State, 27-21.
#21 Oklahoma State at #13 Oklahoma - 3:30 - ESPN - As usual, both of these teams can score (both averaging over 41 ppg coming in). The difference - I think - is that OU at least tries to play a little defense. The Sooner defense is better than OSU's (well maybe, they gave up 49 a week ago to West Virginia) and with this being a home game, I will stick to my usual act of picking the home squad. These rivalry games are incredibly hard to predict, but in this one, most signs point to an OU win. Senior QB Landry Jones for OU - who seems like he has been there forever - has thrown for 3,245 yards and 24 TDs in 2012 - not bad. Oklahoma, 39-31.
#8 Stanford at #17 UCLA - 6:30 - FOX - I have a great amount of respect for what Jim Mora has done in his first season as coach of the Bruins. But that said, I think they hit their third loss when they host Stanford Saturday evening. The Cardinal play football the right way: defense first (tenth nationally in points against). I think the Cardinal will slow down the UCLA offense and gain their tenth victory of the season, setting up for a very nice bowl. Again, I think UCLA is a team on the rise and will go places under Mora, but I also think Stanford is one of the better teams in college football. An interesting note in this game is that if Stanford wins they would host the Bruins six days later in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Stanford, 24-20.
#12 South Carolina at #11 Clemson - 7:15 - ESPN - In the long and hateful history of this in-state rivalry game, this is the biggest of them yet, ranking-wise. The game features a high-profile offense (Clemson) against a high-profile defense (South Carolina) in what is sure to be a battle royale. The teams have been nationally ranked coming into this game many times before - but never at the same time such as this. This year, with both at the edge of the BCS top 10, the game takes a step up in intensity...All eyes are on QB Tajh Boyd of Clemson against a very talented USC defense led by DL Jadeveon Clowney. Honestly, that is a huge chunk of the game. If Clowney and crew get in Boyd's face, the Clemson offense may sputter. If not, Boyd may lead CU to a point eruption...On the flip side, Gamecock QB Connor Shaw is dangerous with his feet, and with his arm. He is very good at picking up third downs by scrambling, and that could be a Tiger nightmare. If Shaw puts together long drives and burns clock - keeping Boyd, Nuk Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington on the sideline - USC could be in good shape...Another thing to watch is the kicking game with the punt and kickoff returns. The Tigers must keep the ball away from South Carolina's Ace Sanders, who is deadly at what he does. Kicking away from him is imperative. For Clemson, Watkins and crew are yet to bring one back to the house - just something to keep in mind...In this one, there is no way I can pick against Clemson. It is a toss-up type of game, and it is in our home stadium at night. The weather is supposed to be ideal, and I cannot wait to spend the day with friends and family having a great time. At 6:45 I will head to my seat to be amongst what will surely be one of the loudest, most inspired Death Valley crowds to fill the stands in years. The Tigers will be playing with a chip on their shoulder as the Gamecocks have won three straight. Beyond that, CU is more than tired of hearing the ACC argument about why they own a good record. Basically, Clemson feels disrespected by South Carolina, and more particularly, by their coach, Steve Spurrier...Folks, fasten your safety belts, this is going to be a good one! Clemson, 31-26.
Mississippi State at Ole Miss - 7:00 - ESPNU - With several SEC head coaching jobs open (Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee), Hugh Freeze's name keeps popping up on message boards throughout the South. That means he has done a good job in his first season. The Rebels, though, are not quite qualified for a bowl, and that would be a major plus. A win here would take care of that aspect, and I think they pull the upset to get it done. I am not sold on MSU, and feel like their record has a lot to do with racking up wins over so-so teams (when they played a tough stretch they went 0-3). In this one, the scenery will be nice in Oxford on a beautiful fall day, and the final score will please the home folks. Mississippi, 28-20.
#1 Notre Dame at USC - 8:00 - ABC - Two programs that America either loves to love or loves to hate square off in LA with national title implications once more on the line as the Trojans can knock the Irish from playing for a crystal football. This all-time series runs deep with games that would make an impact for who is #1 at year's end, and this version is no different. One thing that will damper the excitement is that QB Matt Barkley will not play for USC. He has his arm in a sling from a sprained shoulder and will watch from the sidelines. His backup is a freshman, Max Wittek, who has thrown nine career passes (he did complete eight of those, for the record). Wittek will have to become a veteran instantly as ND linebacker Manti Te'o and crew will be after him. I would love to see USC pull an upset here to really shake things up, but I think ND will get after the young QB and win going away. Notre Dame, 27-10.
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