Games to Watch - Week 11
Games to Watch - Week 11
Games to Watch - Week 11
By Chris David
Thursday - TCU at Utah
The Mountain West takes center stage on Thursday when No. 11 TCU battles No. 10 Utah in a crucial clash. The winner will not only put a strong grip on the conference title, but a possible BCS berth as well. The Utes and QB Brian Johnson (1,480 yards, 66%) remain unbeaten after nine games but the school hasn't faced a team comparable to TCU, who enters this battle with the best scoring offense (36.6 PPG) and defense (10.8) in the conference. The Horned Frogs defense has also racked up 34 sacks and own a turnover margin of plus-15, which is ranked third nationally. TCU isn't all about defense either, evidenced by scoring outputs of 32, 54 and 44 points in their last three victories. QB Andy Dalton (1,473 yards) can air it out to a solid group of receivers or pull it down and run. The sophomore gunslinger has played smart this season and has only been picked off twice, compared to eight times by Utah's Johnson. Turnovers always play a factor on the gridiron and the visitor has a big edge in that department.
Utah has won two straight against TCU, including a 27-20 victory last year in Fort Worth. Dalton was picked off four times in the setback, which would make most believe that the TCU signal caller has had this game circled on his calendar for over a year. The 'under' has cashed in four of the last five meetings. Utah has seen the 'over' go 7-1 this year, while TCU has a total ledger of 4-4. The Horned Frogs have gone 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS on the road this season, with the lone loss (35-10) coming against Oklahoma. Considering what the Sooners have done to people this season, giving up 35 in Norman is actually a pretty darn good job. Utah has gone 4-0 ATS in its last four instances as a home underdog.
Alabama at LSU
A perfect 12-0 regular season for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide is within reach but a tough road test at LSU on Saturday is on tap. The Tide's strength has been their defense and running game, both of which showed up in last week's 35-0 blowout against Arkansas State. Glen Coffee (894 yards, 7 TDs) has helped 'Bama lead the SEC in rushing (205 YPG). QB John Parker Wilson (1,412 yards, 8 TDs) hasn't been spectacular but certainly not shaky. Defensively, Saban's unit is ranked fourth nationally in total yards (251 YPG) and those numbers could get better against an inconsistent LSU offense. The Tigers' inability to pass (55%, 11 interceptions) has hurt the attack and has put more pressure on RB Charles Scott (889 yards, 11 TDs). Even if LSU wins this game, the Crimson Tide can still earn a trip to the SEC Championship by winning their final two contests.
This series has been all about LSU in recent years, watching the Tigers win five in a row against the Crimson Tide. Last year, LSU rallied past Alabama 41-34 by scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes. Wilson had three touchdown passes for 'Bama in the losing effort. Alabama has been a beast outside of Tuscaloosa this season, going 4-0 both SU and ATS. The Tide's defense has helped the 'under' go 6-3. LSU and head coach Les Miles haven't treated gamblers well this season, mustering up a dismal 2-5 ledger against the number. The Tigers have watched the 'over' go 4-1 in their conference battles this season.
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Texas Tech went from being the hunter to the hunted after the squad from Lubbock knocked off top-ranked Texas 39-33 last Saturday at home. This week, Oklahoma State invades the Northern Texas with hopes of stealing a victory against the Red Raiders. Everybody knows about the Texas Tech offense (559 YPG, 47 PPG) but not many are aware that the defense (349 YPG) is ranked first in the Big 12. The Red Raiders dangerous dup of QB Graham Harrell (3,621 yards, 30 TDS) and WR Michael Crabtree (70 catches, 921 yards, 15 TDs) put on a show against the Longhorns last week and have been impossible to cover this year. Oklahoma State boasts playmakers too, led by QB Zac Robinson (25 total touchdowns), RB Kendall Hunter (1,220 yards) and WR Dez Bryant (15 TDs). The Big 12 South will get a little clearer after this contest but at the end of the day, both the Cowboys and Red Raiders will need to get past Oklahoma in upcoming weeks.
Last year, Oklahoma State held off Texas Tech 49-45 from Stillwater in a game that featured a combined 1,310 yards of total offense. Robinson posted 327 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, while Harrell (646 yards, 5 TDs) and Crabtree (14 catches, 237 yards, 3 TDs) both lit up the box score as well. The home team has won six straight in this series but the Cowboys have covered three in a row. The total has gone 3-3 during this stretch. Oklahoma State is the only school that has been perfect against the spread (8-0) this year. Last week's victory against Texas was the only game that Texas Tech (1-2 ATS) covered at home this season. Things don't get any easier for the Red Raiders, with a road trip to Oklahoma planned in two weeks after this game.
California at Southern California
The Pac 10 only has two teams listed in the latest AP Top 25 poll and if No. 7 USC defeats No. 21 California on Saturday at the Coliseum, it's fair to say that the conference will only have one school ranked. The Golden Bears enter this game with a pair of home wins over UCLA (41-20) and Oregon (26-16) but now face the daunting task of facing Southern Cal's incredible defense. The unit (211 YPG, 7.3 PPG) is ranked first nationally and they've allowed just 20 points in their last five games after giving up 27 points to Oregon State in its only loss on Sept. 25. Pete Carroll and Troy also own the best offense (460 YPG) in the conference, which continues to improve behind QB Mark Sanchez (1,884 yards, 22 TDs). Head coach Jeff Tedford has only defeated USC once in six tries and it appears that he should drop to 1-for-7 after this weekend.
USC has won four in a row against Cal, including a 24-17 victory at Berkeley last season. The Trojans have covered three of the four during this run, while the 'under' has produced an eye opening 4-0 run. The Bears haven't been able to score more than 17 points in any of the four games during their recent skid. Cal has struggled on the road (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) this season and the lone victory came against a hapless Washington State (66-3) squad. Southern California has absolutely dominated teams in Los Angeles this year, outscoring opponents 163-13, which has translated into a 4-0 SU and 3-0-1 ATS ledger.
Other Games to Watch
Georgia Tech at North Carolina
The Coastal Division in the ACC is still up for grabs but the winner between the Yellow Jackets and Tar Heels should definitely clear up the picture. Georgia Tech has won nine of the past 10 meetings against UNC and is a surprisingly solid 2-1 both SU and ATS on the road this year. The Heels have been plagued by injuries by head coach Butch Davis should be ready Saturday after having a week off.
Penn State at Iowa
Penn State appears to be three games away from earning a trip to the BCS Championship and only one of those contests is the road, this Saturday at Iowa. The Hawkeyes were on a roll before last week's 27-24 setback at Illinois. Can Kirk Ferentz and company regroup at home and spoil the Nittany Lions' title plans?
Cincinnati at West Virginia
After losing two in a row back in September, West Virginia has ripped off five straight double-digit wins. The Big East title appears to be in grasp for the Mountaineers but they'll have to get past a feisty Cincinnati squad that just knocked off South Florida with its aggressive defense. The winner will of this battle will surely become a big factor in the conference race.