College football fans have had Week 10 circled on their calendar
since the preseason. Two titanic tilts are on the docket as the Alabama
Crimson Tide visit the LSU Tigers in a clash for SEC supremacy while the Oregon Ducks visit the USC Trojans to battle for control of the Pac-12.
Here's a preview of this week's most important college football contests:
This is the game that college football observers have pointed to
throughout the offseason, and who could possibly blame them? Alabama and
LSU played the most-hyped regular season game of 2011, and while
neither the Crimson Tide nor the Tigers scored a single touchdown, they
played an overtime game that boosted television ratings in prime time
and generated endless discussion in the ensuing weeks, while other
national championship contenders faltered.
When late November
arrived, Alabama — despite being on the short end of that 9-6 decision
against LSU — found itself in position to gain a rematch in the BCS
national championship game. Oklahoma State, No. 3 in the rankings — one spot behind Alabama — throttled rival
Oklahoma in its regular-season finale to state its case, but the Tide were able to edge out the Cowboys in the regular season's final poll by just a few decimal points.
and LSU renewed their SEC West rivalry in early January, this time for
the national championship. Alabama played with more of the precision
that had been lacking in the regular season. The Crimson Tide scored
only one touchdown, but had kicked five field goals for a 15-0 lead before they cracked the end zone
late in the fourth quarter. A 21-0 win gave head coach Nick Saban his second national championship in the past three seasons at Alabama, his third national title overall. Saban's first championship was won at — you guessed it — LSU
Saban's duel with LSU coach Les Miles is just one of
many intriguing subplots in this contest. The Tide have the better
team, but they must play in Baton Rouge, La. Death Valley — as the Tiger's home field has been pleasantly nicknamed
— is considered by some to be the most difficult road environment in
all of college football. LSU's offense has been dormant for most of the
season; the Bayou Bengals will have to awaken on that side of the ball
in order to win this game. However, since this game means everything to
the players involved, it could well be the case that LSU will play the one brilliant game that it has been unable to produce in September and October.
In the shadows of Alabama and LSU's showdown in Louisiana, Week 10's
other huge game will take place in Los Angeles, starting roughly one
hour earlier. In many ways, this game is a West Coast parallel of the
SEC West contest in that one team (Oregon, like Alabama) has been strong
all season long, while the other (USC, like LSU) has struggled to find a
consistent rhythm and a dominant persona.
All eyes in this game will focus on USC quarterback Matt Barkley,
who has been shaky under center in 2012. Barkley has not displayed the
accuracy or pocket presence that most college football observers were
expecting before his senior campaign began. USC will have to score at
least 35 points, and probably more, to outpace Oregon's turbocharged
offense. Barkley will have to max out his offensive potential, as this game very well could define his career at USC.
This game will have a lot to say about the ACC Coastal Division champion for 2012 and the division's representative in the ACC championship game. Those are two different things, because North Carolina could win the Coastal yet not play in the ACC title game due to NCAA sanctions.
The Hokies have been a massive disappointment this season as losses
in four of their last six have really taken the wind out of their sails.
Normally, they own the ACC but they've been brutal this year.
That opens the door for the Hurricanes but they've also been a downer
as they head into this contest losers of three straight. Given the
decline of both programs, this game won't have as much luster as the
brand names might suggest.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are in the driver's seat in the Big Ten
Legends division as their conference record of 3-1 — and win over
Michigan last week — puts them in good shape. With games against Penn
State, Iowa and Minnesota left, it's reasonable to think that this is
Nebraska's toughest remaining test.
For the Spartans, this is a do-or-die game in terms of the Big Ten race.
If they are able to beat Nebraska and pull them back to the pack, it
will put them just one game out of first place with winnable games
against Northwestern and Minnesota remaining. The Spartans are better
than their 5-4 record might indicate as their last three losses have
come by a combined six points.