Tony's Top 10: Saban is all but unbeatable in rematch games


Believe it or not, there are some big games going on other than the one in Tuscaloosa. So here is our Top 10 for the Game of the Century week.

1. History says go with Saban in rematch: Beating Alabama coach Nick Saban once is tough enough. Saban is 44-5 since the start of the 2008 season. Beating him twice in a row has proven next to impossible. The last coach to beat Saban in back-to-back games was Steve Spurrier, who won in 2000 (41-9) and 2001 (44-15) when he was at Florida and Saban was at LSU. Since then Saban is 12-0 against coaches who have beaten him the previous year. This season Saban might get a chance to avenge all three losses from 2010. The first comes against Les Miles in Saturday's Game of the Century with LSU in Tuscaloosa. On Nov. 26 Alabama goes to Auburn. Gene Chizik's team rallied from a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa last season. If Alabama gets to the SEC Championship Game and faces South Carolina and Spurrier, Saban can avenge a 35-21 loss last season in Columbia when the Crimson Tide were No. 1. Pregame: LSU-Alabama

2. Spurrier must find yet another way to win ugly: Last season South Carolina simply was not ready for what Arkansas could do and the Gamecocks were destroyed 41-20 in Columbia. Despite the loss South Carolina still went on to win the SEC East and advance to the conference title game vs. Auburn. This season it doesn't have that margin of error. The Gamecocks cannot afford a loss at Fayetteville -- their third consecutive SEC game on the road -- and stay in control of the East. So Spurrier has to find a formula to win that relies on his defense, which is ranked No. 6 nationally (266.13 ypg) and just enough offense without running back Marcus Lattimore. Arkansas is third in the SEC at 36.88 points per game. South Carolina is giving up only 17.3 points per game. Pregame: South Carolina-Arkansas

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3. This is not your grandfather's Vanderbilt: New Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has sent out the word: The Commodores are not backing down from anybody. They didn't back down after a close 33-28 loss to Georgia on Oct. 15, when Franklin accused Bulldogs player Shawn Williams of dirty play in his postgame talk with coach Mark Richt. "We're not going to sit back and take stuff from anybody," Franklin said after the game. "No one. Those days are long gone and they are never coming back. Ever." Last week the Commodores were up 28-20 and going in to make it 35-20 when Zac Stacy fumbled and Jerry Franklin returned it 94 yards for a touchdown. Arkansas won 31-28. So a word of warning to the Florida Gators, who are on a four-game losing streak as they host the Commodores. You can't push these guys around. Vanderbilt has won in Gainesville only once in its history (1945).

4. Is Wisconsin going to pack it in against Purdue? On Oct. 22 we were talking about a Wisconsin team capable of going 13-0 and getting in the mix for a national championship. After two straight losses to Michigan State (37-31) and Ohio State (33-29) on Hail Mary passes, the Badgers will be fortunate to win the Big Ten Leaders Division. Wisconsin (6-2, 2-2) must win its final four games vs. Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Penn State, then has to hope Penn State (5-0) loses twice in order to win the division. Quarterback Russell Wilson said the Badgers will press on, a lesson he learned from his father. "No matter what's going on in your life, no matter what's going on in the situation during the game, or during the season, you've just got to keep pushing and keep working," he told reporters this week.

5. For Michigan, it's all about the D: Quarterback Denard Robinson is a marvelous player and without him Michigan does not beat Notre Dame way back on Sept. 10. But there is no mystery to why the Wolverines are 7-1 and still in the hunt for the Legends Division crown. A year ago Michigan gave up 35.2 points per game, which was 110th in the country. This season, under the direction of head coach Brady Hoke and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the Wolverines are allowing only 14.6 points per game. Michigan is tied for first in the NCAA with 12 fumbles recovered. The Wolverines go on the road for two consecutive games starting this Saturday at Iowa, which is coming off a 22-21 loss to Minnesota. Here is the stat that concerns Iowa coach Kirk Fertenz: His defense ranks 67th nationally against the run (163.6 ypg). Michigan is ninth in rushing at 245.4 per game. Minnesota ran for 178 yards last week. "We just aren't getting it done," Ferentz said of his rushing defense. Pregame: Michigan-Iowa

6. Can the Texas A&M secondary hold Landry Jones to less than 505?: If Oklahoma can't win the national championship, they certainly can win the rest of the their games, go to the Fiesta Bowl and give Landry Jones the opportunity to set a bunch of records that will never, ever be broken. We got a taste of that last week when Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns and just destroyed previously unbeaten Kansas State. This week Jones gets to feast on a Texas A&M secondary that has already allowed three quarterbacks -- Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), and Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) -- to set school records against them this season. Texas A&M is dead last in pass defense, giving up 318.25 yards per game. Pregame: Texas A&M-Oklahoma

7. Has Kansas State been exposed? A week ago Kansas State and Bill Snyder were being hailed as a team where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The Wildcats were 7-0 and suddenly a dark horse to win the Big 12. But then a very mad Oklahoma team (upset the week before by Texas Tech) came into Bill Snyder Family Stadium and rolled up 690 yards against the Big 12's No. 1 defense in a 58-17 trip to the woodshed. Now Kansas State visits No. 3 Oklahoma State (8-0), which is averaging 49.88 points and 373.3 yards passing per game. Snyder knows he has his work cut out for him this week in Stillwater. "A loss is a loss and to me the worse it is the more repair you have to do," he said. Snyder's best hope is that his team responds to its loss the way Oklahoma responded after losing to Texas Tech. Pregame: Kansas State-Oklahoma State

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8. Case Keenum closes in on more history: It's reasonable to assume Houston quarterback Case Keenum won't match last week's nine touchdown passes against Ricewhen the Cougars (8-0) go to Birmingham to play UAB. But if Keenum, who threw for 534 yards against the Owls, stays vertical, he will need just 267 yards passing to break Timmy Chang's record of 17,072 career passing yards. He should have that before halftime.

9. Notre Dame plays before its smallest house in 56 years: Jim Grobe has accomplished a lot in his 11 years at Wake Forest, including the 2006 ACC championship. But one of the biggest moments in the school's football history will take place Saturday night when Notre Dame visits BB&T Field (capacity 31,500). It will be the smallest venue in which Notre Dame has played since 1945 when it played before 23,000 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Wake Forest's largest home crowd ever was 37,623 against North Carolina in 2004. Look for that record to be broken, and don't be surprised if the Deacons take the Irish to the wire.

10. Can West Virginia build on last week's bounce back against Rutgers? It looked like West Virginia was coming apart at the seams two Fridays ago when the Mountaineers were dominated at Syracuse 49-23. But West Virginia shook off the effects of a slow start in the snow at Rutgers and came back to win 41-31. Now West Virginia (6-2, 2-1 Big East) has to win at home against Louisville to keep pace with Cincinnati (6-1, 2-0). West Virginia controls its destiny as it plays at Cincinnati on Nov. 12 and faces Pittsburgh (4-4, 2-1) at home on Nov. 25.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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