Things are really heating up in college football.
After this past week, it seemed as if Texas A&M had contributed to the self-cannibalization of the SEC by handily defeating the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Tide's loss—coupled with the Louisville Cardinals getting their first loss—left the BCS standings with three unbeaten teams sitting atop the the list: Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Week 12 brings forth only a few intriguing matchups, as many ranked teams are facing fluff competition this week.
Five teams could fall from their perch this week.
No. 18 USC Trojans
Once thought to be a heavyweight contender for the BCS National Championship, the Trojans are treading thin ice and Lane Kiffin's seat seems to be getting hot.
They enter their Week 12 matchup with crosstown rival UCLA Bruins with three losses (to Stanford, Arizona and Oregon). Another loss could remove them from the top-25 entirely.
UCLA is looking for revenge. It'd be foolish to think that last year's 50-0 loss wasn't still on their minds. New head coach Jim Mora wasn't even coaching when they were blown out last year, and he is sure to use it to aid in motivating his team.
Only four times this season has USC managed to hold its opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. In their three losses, they gave up an absurd amount of yards on the ground; 202 to Stanford, 219 to Arizona and 426 to Oregon.
Their defense will be tested again this week, as the Bruins have the third best running game in the Pac-12, averaging nearly 211 yards in each game. They also rank 22nd nationally in scoring with over 37 points per game.
Prediction: UCLA wins a close game by running roughshod on the Trojan defense.
No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners travel to Mountaineer Field to face an unranked West Virginia squad.
Early in the year, this was once circled on the calendar as the game that could determine the victor of the Big 12 Conference. With only three weeks left and Kansas State undefeated, that is but a distant memory.
After five weeks of video game statistics, senior quarterback Geno Smith lost traction in the Heisman race with three straight mediocre performances in consecutive losses. Last week, while WVU may have gotten their fourth loss in a row, Smith broke out of his funk and tallied up 36 completions for 364 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Statistically, the Sooners appear to be the better team, but a home victory over Oklahoma would give West Virginia six wins—thus making them bowl eligible. If winning at home isn't motivation enough, the opportunity to play in a bowl game should be.
Expect a high scoring, close and competitive game between these new Big 12 rivals.
Prediction: Sooners win a close one.
No. 11 Clemson Tigers
The Tigers host the scrappy North Carolina State Wolfpack. The Pack have four losses on the year, but have faced tougher opponents.
Three losses came at the hands of teams that have at some point in the year been ranked: Tennessee, Miami and North Carolina.
The Tigers may have only one loss, but their schedule has been fairly tame. Their only tests this year have been Florida State (a loss) and Georgia Tech (who they beat in the fourth quarter).
They share three common opponents thus far in the 2012 season: Maryland, Wake Forest and Florida State. Coincidentally, the Tigers only loss came at the hands of the Seminoles—who the Pack defeated.
Defensively, these teams rank closely (30th and 33rd) in points allowed. However, the Wolfpack is far superior at applying pressure against opposing quarterbacks, with 10 more sacks this season than the Tigers.
Expect the Pack to get after Clemson QB Tajh Boyd.
Prediction: Wolfpack win.
No. 2 Oregon Ducks
The Ducks welcome the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal to Autzen Stadium Saturday in a matchup that could determine who will go on to face the South Division winner in the Pac-12 Championship game.
The Ducks are the nation's most explosive offense, averaging a sizzling 54.8 points per game.
The Cardinal, while facing a challenge, should be prepared. They have 12th best defense, allowing an average of only 17.2 points to opposing teams.
Their two losses this season were hard fought battles, a trap game loss by four at the Washington Huskies and an overtime loss to undefeated Notre Dame—both games they could have won.
Their common opponents, with the exception being Washington, have been victories for both squads.
Both teams have balanced offensive attacks, though Oregon's speed has enabled their running game to amass almost twice as many rushing yards as Stanford. In contrast, Stanford leads the nation in tackles for loss and sacks.
Where this game will be most likely be won will be in the trenches. The team that can impose their will at the line of scrimmage, whether Oregon's run blocking or Stanford's aggressive defense.
The Cardinal ranks No. 101 in passing yards given up, which could bode well for Oregon freshman QB Marcus Mariota—if he can stay upright. On the flip-side, while the Ducks have a beastly offense, their defense is falling apart. This week, they suffered yet another devastating injury with the loss of defensive back Avery Patterson.
This game is too close to call. Expect a great game between two Pac-12 powerhouses.
Prediction: Great game, enjoy.
No. 1 Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats face a tough in-conference foe as they go into Waco, Texas to face the Baylor Bears.
KSU plays a bend-but-don't-break type of defense. They rank 14th nationally in points allowed—giving up only 17.7 per contest, but they give up a lot of passing yards (2,512 total).
Against one of only seven teams to score more points than them, the Wildcats cannot afford to be broken.
Senior QB Collin Klein, Heisman hopeful, is drawing comparisons to Tim Tebow for his running prowess, but has (at times) had passing performances that were less than stellar, if not mediocre.
The Bears season has been disappointing, with a 4-5 record and three straight ranked opponents to close the season, they are hoping for a breakthrough with aspirations of becoming bowl eligible.
They have been close, bearing close losses against quality opponents like West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma.
This could be a trap game for the newly No. 1 ranked Kansas State Wildcats. The Bears are just the right mix of hungry and desperate necessary to push the Cats to the brink.
Prediction: K-State's defense is due to break eventually and Baylor is due a big win. Bears by a field goal.
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