There's a notion that LSU-Alabama, hyped as the game of the year last year and looking like this year's most anticipated regular-season game too, might be overrated.
Last year's 9-6 LSU win in the regular season brought on a mind-numbing circular argument between fans who thought it was a dull punt-fest vs. those who dismissed the dissenters as simpletons who couldn't appreciate defensive football. Then the argument continued after Alabama won the BCS Championship Game -- though it was harder for anyone to defend that 21-0 snoozer.
The hype may not be so strong this year, considering LSU already has a loss. The argument can be made that Florida is the second-best team in the SEC since it beat LSU (and Georgia will argue it's second since it beat Florida, and South Carolina will argue it's second since it beat Georgia, and LSU will argue it's second since it beat South Carolina ... so good luck figuring it out). But there still is plenty of hype, and that hype is probably more hope that the game is great (ESPN The Magazine is sending 43 staff members to cover the game, which seems like a wee bit of overkill) than an analytical response that this is truly the best game of the college football season. Alabama is about an 8.5- or 9-point favorite.
[Pat Forde: LSU eyeing redemption against Alabama]
Still, it's No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU, and we imagine most college football fans will be in front of a television at 8 p.m. ET to watch.
We know what we're getting already, right? Alabama leads the nation in yards allowed and LSU is third. Alabama leads the nation in points allowed and LSU is ninth. The two teams are 1-2 in pass efficiency defense. LSU is allowing less than 3 yards per rush. Alabama is allowing less than 2 yards per rush.
You get the point.
This won't be a 9-6 game again (we think, anyway), but points should be hard to come by and it should be a clinic in defensive football.
It will also be emotional in Baton Rouge, which is a big reason this is one of the marquee games of the season.
LSU remembers losing the national title game last year, and it's rare for a team to get a shot at revenge in that situation.
"It's a game I've personally been waiting for since I walked off the carpet," LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry told TigerBait.com. "I feel this is our national championship. I've been waiting for these guys for so long. They're a great team that stepped up really big in the national championship game."
The Crimson Tide are chasing an undefeated season and history, and know that to get there they have to contend with an irate LSU team and about 92,000 charged up fans.
"I don't know the crowd that well besides that they hate us, of course, and that they're going to be loud," Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood told TideSports.com. "I'm pretty sure they hate us because of what happened last year. I'm sure they have us circled on their calendar and have all kinds of pictures and stuff up. I'm pretty sure they have some motivation going."
[Related: 2011 Alabama or 2012 Alabama, who would win?]
So we know we'll be getting a physical battle between a pair of teams that will put everything they have into this game. Will it live up to the hype? We shall see.
Here's the rest of what to watch in Week 10:
• This was supposed to be a week with two game of the year candidates. Then USC lost last week at Arizona.
USC-Oregon (7 p.m. ET) should still be a great game, but the underachieving Trojans have taken some of the luster off of it. USC was supposed to be in the national title game this season, but instead it is 6-2 and ranked 18th in the nation. That's not embarrassing, just a disappointment. USC can regain some of the respect it had early in the season with an upset this week. And the thing about underachievers is they have the ability to turn it on and be great for one afternoon.
The Ducks are 8-0 with eight blowout wins. Their closest win was 17 points, against Fresno State in a game that wasn't even as competitive as the final score makes it seem. What Oregon needs is a marquee win. The Ducks' best wins this season are against Arizona, Washington and Arizona State -- nothing that will get the pollsters or computers too excited. In their final four games they have chances for big wins against USC, Stanford and Oregon State, and then the Pac-12 Championship Game to end the season, so if Oregon can win out it will have a great argument for a spot in the BCS title game. Right now Alabama, Kansas State and Notre Dame are ahead of the Ducks in the BCS standings. Oregon needs an impressive performance this week to begin to move up.
• Colorado hosts Stanford this week (2 p.m. ET) and the Buffaloes are likely to get smashed again, but it allows us to bring up something that got some attention this week, and LostLettermen.com wrote about: the Colorado Curse. Every FBS team that has beaten Colorado has lost the following week. That list includes Colorado State, Fresno State, UCLA, Arizona State and USC. Last week, Oregon beat Colorado. Will the Ducks keep that odd streak going? Or can they wash the Colorado stink off them and beat USC to snap the string?
• It seems odd that Texas is still in the BCS standings, considering it has been a long time since there has been any positive news about the Longhorns. But they are No. 23 in those BCS standings, and play this week at fellow 6-2 team Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. ET). Texas is coming off a shockingly close win at Kansas last week, had to endorse quarterback David Ash as this week's starter after he was yanked against the Jayhawks and now head coach Mack Brown is looking over defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's shoulder. At least we can relive the memory of one of the best regular-season games of the last 10 years -- Texas Tech's last-second win against Texas in 2008:
• TCU plays at West Virginia (3 p.m. ET) in a game that seemed like it might be threatened by a blizzard that was a spinoff of Hurricane Sandy, but the forecast is calling
for temperatures in the mid-40s and sunny skies. TCU is flying in late, and will get to the hotel about 10 p.m. on Friday night.
Since it seems that bad weather won't be the biggest story of this game, we can see if Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith can start to resurrect his season. A 143-yard, two-interception effort against Kansas State is a bad look for the one-time runaway Heisman Trophy contender. We still think Smith can get back in the Heisman race (and that he'll be a great franchise quarterback on the next level), but we're hoping we see the Smith from the first five weeks of the season pretty soon. TCU's Gary Patterson is a fantastic defensive mind, and it will be interesting to see what he does to slow down Smith this week.
• Texas A&M and Mississippi State square off (12 p.m. ET) in a game between the 16th and 17th-ranked teams in the AP poll. The biggest question might be how the Bulldogs
react to their first loss. Alabama simply steamrolled previously undefeated Mississippi State 38-7, but coach Dan Mullen said his team had to move on quickly, according to BulldogBlitz.com:
"It's been a while since we've lost here and I think once they got through that initial shock and got back to what we are as a team which is a team who works hard and plays with relentless effort, I think we've had one of our better weeks of practice this season," Mullen said. "Our leaders have really stepped up and done a good job this week."
Texas A&M seems to be a team on the rise as freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel continues to impress. Kevin Sumlin's high-tempo spread attack has been a hit in the SEC, and former Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal told AggieSports.com that he's not surprised by Sumlin's quick success:
"Coming into the SEC, I figured their offense would be a problem for the opposition because they don't see a lot of offenses like this," McNeal said. "In the SEC, they try to beat you up front. With this fast paced offense in your first year, it catches a lot of teams off guard. You see it on film, but you don't get the full grasp until you face it in real speed. And then it is too late."
• Syracuse is suddenly and surprisingly a contender in the Big East. The Orange are 3-1 in the conference. Hints of their future success could be seen in the nonconference season, when they lost by one to a tough Northwestern team and played competitively in a loss against USC. Conference wins against Pitt, UConn and South Florida have Syracuse in the mix in the Big East.
The Orange can validate their start at Cincinnati (12 p.m. ET). The Bearcats have to get better play out of quarterback Munchie Legaux, who has thrown five interceptions in Cincinnati's last two games. Coach Butch Jones had to announce that Legaux was still his starter and defend him this week, which is a sign that things are not going well in Cincinnati.
• Notre Dame is riding high after a big upset against Oklahoma last week, and hosts Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET). The Panthers will allow three key players, who were charged with assault and conspiracy this week, to play. The university put out a statement saying the players will remain active participants in the program as it gathers more information.
That will help against a Fighting Irish team that has given up just seven touchdowns, the lowest total in FBS. Notre Dame is one of the more interesting teams in the nation, now firmly in the BCS title mix and with a player who could make some history. Linebacker Manti Te'o is a legitimate Heisman contender. No linebacker has finished in the top 5 since Brian Bosworth in 1986, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, and no purely defensive player has ever won the award. Michigan's Charles Woodson won in 1997 but played some offense and returned punts, which helped him edge out Peyton Manning.
But why not Te'o? He has been every bit of an impact at his position as Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, the frontrunner for the award. And in the history of college football, it seems silly that voters have never believed a purely defensive player has been worthy of being named the sport's most outstanding player:
"When you look at a guy that you want to have that trophy, you want to see the guy making a play that people can point to and say, 'Wow, that play won the game or sparked the team,' " former Notre Dame receiver and Heisman winner Tim Brown told the Sun-Times. "When you look at Manti, he's done that several times."
• Notre Dame will have its eyes on Kansas State as the Wildcats host Oklahoma State (8 p.m. ET). Kansas State is second in the BCS standings, one spot ahead of Notre Dame, and rightfully so. The Wildcats have been great this year and are now within four games of an undefeated regular season.
Last year Oklahoma State was two games from an undefeated regular season, and perhaps a spot in the BCS Championship Game, when it went to Iowa State and was upset 37-31. Oklahoma State is just 5-2, but the Cowboys are still ranked 24th in the BCS standings and capable of pulling off the same kind of upset that toppled their own hopes last year.
• Auburn plays New Mexico State (12:30 p.m. ET) and we cringe to think what Tigers fans will do if they can't beat the 1-7 Aggies, who are much worse off than the 1-7 Tigers. We know Alabama fans are rooting for Auburn coach Gene Chizik to save his job (this was tweeted to us by @SmackApparel):
• Boise State's last major hurdle to a Mountain West title, before it leaves the conference for the Big East, probably comes this week against San Diego State (10:30 p.m. ET). Boise State is alone
atop the conference at 4-0, and only three teams have one loss. Of those three teams, Fresno State already lost to Boise, Air Force doesn't play Boise, and so that leaves San Diego State. The Aztecs looked shaky early in the season but have rallied well, probably because Rocky Long is an excellent and underrated coach.
We expect Boise State to win and take control of the conference, which is a pretty impressive feat. The Broncos lost a pair of first-round picks in running back Doug Martin and defensive end Shea McClellin -- who are both doing well in the NFL -- and the NCAA's all-time leader in wins for a starting quarterback, Kellen Moore. There were other talented players who graduated too. And yet, Boise State keeps winning games -- and presumably, championships.
• Clemson travels to face Duke (7 p.m. ET) in an intriguing ACC game. Clemson has quietly been winning every week since its only loss of the season to Florida State, and no opponent has come within two touchdowns since the Seminoles game. Duke is 6-3, with three conference wins, but faces some questions after last week's 48-7 blowout to Florida State. Was that just Florida State's dominance showing up, or is Duke incapable of competing with truly elite teams? We should have an answer this week.
• Oregon State tries to get back on track against Arizona State (10:30 p.m. ET). The Beavers' dream of a perfect season died last week against Washington, and now they have a quarterback controversy. Sean Mannion, who was rusty in his return from knee surgery, is out, and Cody Vaz is back in. It will be interesting to see if Oregon State just picks right back up with Vaz, or if there will be a hangover from last week's defeat.
• Nebraska plays Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET), and we'll be honest, this isn't a very exciting matchup. But it was either this, or leave the Big Ten completely off What to Watch this week. There is not one game in the conference this week between two teams with a winning record in league play. Do you fancy Illinois-Ohio State? Is Michigan-Minnesota a must-see game? What about Penn State-Purdue or Iowa-Indiana?
[Dan Wetzel: Hoosiers on track for BCS bowl -- seriously]
The best thing that can happen for the Big Ten is for this season to end and the teams in the conference regroup and reload. At least it should be the best college basketball conference in America.
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