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Tony's Top 10: After surreal week, Penn State still has a game to play

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Tony's Top 10 for what will go down as one of the more surreal, difficult weeks for college football in a long, long time:

1. A football game will be played at Penn State on Saturday: Will anybody care? Should anybody care? Lost in all the turmoil at Penn State -- and the abrupt firing of coach Joe Paterno this week -- is the fact that the Nittany Lions have (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) lost only one time this year (to No. 3 Alabama) and could still win the Big Ten Leaders Division. There simply is no way of knowing what the atmosphere will be like when Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) arrives at Beaver Stadium. Will Penn State fans sit on their hands? Will they boo? Will they treat it like another game? Will the fans be afraid to cheer? How many no-shows will there be? Will the Penn State players be mad or will they simply be shell-shocked from the events of this week? How in the hell do you coach this game if you're Tom Bradley? This much we know: Nebraska is going to be in a foul mood after getting beat at home last week by Northwestern. Pregame: Nebraska-Penn State

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2. You gotta give the Ducks credit -- They don't waste time: Time of possession is probably the most overrated stat in college football. Case in point: The Oregon Ducks. Oregon is No. 120 -- or dead last -- in the nation in time of possession, averaging 23:52 per game. But Chip Kelly's team makes the most of its time on the field as the Ducks average 46 points (No. 5) and 510 yards (No. 7) per game. That's why Saturday night's trip to Stanford is such a fascinating matchup. The best way -- and perhaps the only way -- to beat a team like Oregon, is to play smash mouth and hold on to the ball and limit the number of possessions they get. Stanford can certainly do that, but you know this one is going to be wild. Two years ago Stanford won 52-31 at home. Last year at Autzen Stadium, Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead, then Oregon just put its foot on the gas for a 52-31 triumph. If No. 4 Stanford wins, I expect them to jump over No. 3 Alabama in the next BCS standings. Pregame: Oregon-Stanford

3. Auburn has history on its side against Georgia: It is one of the more interesting anomalies in college football. Georgia-Auburn is the oldest continuous rivalry in the South as the teams began play in 1892. For years the game bounced around from Atlanta to Macon to Montgomery and Savannah. From 1916 to 1958, the game was played every year but one in Columbus, Ga., which is located near the Alabama-Georgia state line. But since the game went home and home in 1959, the visiting team has won 31 of 52 games. Georgia coach Mark Richt has won three of his five home games against Auburn and entertains the Tigers again on Saturday with a lot on the line. If Georgia beats Auburn, the Bulldogs will come within one victory (over Kentucky) of winning the SEC East. Pregame: Auburn-Georgia

4. Florida State is setting up for a strong finish: Florida State was picked in just about everybody's preseason top 10. Head coach Jimbo Fisher made a calculated decision this summer to embrace the expectations instead of downplaying them. "We want to be good at Florida State and, given our history, we expect to be good," Fisher said. Injuries -- particularly to quarterback E.J. Manuel -- put the Seminoles into a three-game tailspin with losses to No. 1 (at the time) Oklahoma, Clemson, and Wake Forest. Manuel finally got healthy and now Florida State (6-3, 4-2) is on a nice little four-game run as Miami (Fla.) (5-4, 3-3) comes to Doak Campbell Stadium. The goal at Florida State is clear: Win out, which would include a victory over the hated Gators, and finish at 10-3, setting the table nicely for next season.

5. The Bearcats are eyeing another trip to the BCS: When Brian Kelly left Cincinnati after two BCS appearances, there were not a whole lot of people who thought the Bearcats would be going back to one of the big bowls anytime soon. But in Butch Jones' second year running the show, Cincinnati (7-1, 3-0) is ranked No. 23 and on top in the Big East. They have won six straight games since their only loss (at Tennessee on Sept. 10) and obviously control their own destiny for the conference championship. If Cincinnati falls behind during Saturday's matchup at home with West Virginia, don't expect the Bearcats to panic. They have overcome deficits of 9, 10, and 10 points to win against Louisville, South Florida, and Pittsburgh over their last three games. West Virginia leads the all-times series 15-3-1, but the Bearcats have won two of the last three.

6. Clemson can clinch the ACC Atlantic against Wake Forest: Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC) has had a week off since losing its only game of the season to Georgia Tech on Oct. 29. The Tigers have more talent than anyone in the ACC and are still the strong favorite to win the championship and reach the Orange Bowl. But Clemson had better be careful against Wake Forest, which had Notre Dame on the ropes last week before letting them escape, 24-17. Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2 ACC) has already beaten Florida State this season and is known as a pretty tough out around the conference. Wake Forest has not, however, won at Clemson's Death Valley since 1998. They have been outscored 205-73 in those five games. Pregame: Wake Forest-Clemson

7. Michigan State is on lockdown for Hawkeyes: Michigan' surprising loss to Iowa last week has put Michigan State (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) in control of its destiny as they go to Kinnick Stadium to face the Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2). Michigan State, however, has lost eight straight at Iowa City and, due to a scheduling quirk, has to play there two years in a row. Last season the Spartans only lost once and that was a 37-6 to Iowa. The loss kept Michigan State out of a BCS bowl, forcing them to the Capital One Bowl to get stomped by Alabama. Michigan State will certainly be favored in its last two games with Indiana and Northwestern, so this could be the last big stumbling block between the Spartans and a trip to Indianapolis. Big game? You betcha. Coach Mark Dantonio has banned his players from talking to the media this week. Pregame: Michigan State-Iowa

8. Hey Texas Tech! Say hello to Joseph Randle: No. 2 Oklahoma State(9-0) is finding out that life is a little different with the knowledge that if you win the rest of your games, you'll get to play for the crystal football (BCS National championship). Oklahoma State won a wild shootout with Kansas State (52-45) last week and after Alabama's loss to LSU has achieved the highest rank in school history. Now the Cowboys, who are averaging 50.1 points per game, go to Lubbock to face a Texas Tech team that also scores points in bunches -— at least until the past two weeks. Since Texas Tech stunned No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 22, the Red Raiders can't seem to get out of their own shadow with losses to Iowa State (41-7) and Texas (52-20). I think you can surmise that those two teams found something in their film study as collectively they rushed for 807 yards. So don't be surprised if it's a big day for OSU's Randle, who is third in the Big 12 in rushing (101 ypg). I bet you the he'll lead the conference in rushing after this game. Pregame: Oklahoma State-Texas Tech

9. There's a lot on the line for Boise State: Here is the deal if you're No. 5 Boise State (8-0). You remember last season's overtime loss to Nevada and what it cost you. Because Boise lost that one game, the Broncos did not play in a BCS bowl and landed in the always crowd-pleasing Las Vegas Bowl. If Boise is going to lose this season, chances are it will be to TCU on Saturday in Bronco Stadium. And if Boise loses to TCU, the Broncos will certainly miss out on BCS Bowl and they may -- if certain things fall into place -- lose a chance to play for the BCS national championship. The game will also probably decide the Mountain West championship. There has been no fooling around this week for the boys who play on the blue rug. One other note: Kellen Moore is now college football's all-time winner as a starting quarterback at 46-2. If he stays healthy Moore will get five more starts and can finish his college career at 51-2. I feel confident in saying no one will touch that record. Pregame: TCu-Boise State

10. Can the Gamecocks find a way to win one more game? Steve Spurrier has certainly had his share of drama in his seventh season at South Carolina. Spurrier has dismissed his quarterback, Stephen Garcia. On Oct. 15, he lost his best offensive player in running back Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury. He had a well-publicized dustup with one of the local columnists. But here we are in mid-November and South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) has a chance to go back to the SEC Championship game as his old team, the Florida Gators (5-4, 3-4) come to Columbia. Spurrier needs some help. His team must beat Florida early in the day (Noon ET) and then scramble for their televisions to watch Georgia play Auburn. If the Gamecocks win and Georgia loses, South Carolina wins the division. If Georgia wins, the Bulldogs must still beat Kentucky (1-4 SEC) next week in Athens. Pregame: Florida-South Carolina

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. 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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