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Tony's Top 10: Expect Tide, Stanford, RG III to deliver big messages

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OK, let's see if we have this straight. There are two weeks to go in the regular season and we are just as clueless now as we were when things started on Sept. 1. All of the top three spots in the BCS standings are occupied by the SEC's Western Division (LSU, Alabama, Arkansas). While LSU secured a spot in the SEC championship with a 41-17 win over Arkansas on Saturday, two of those three could play for the BCS national title. Two of them might actually get into the big game but No. 4 Oklahoma State (10-1) might have something to say about that.

The powers that be who developed the BCS hoped that in most years we would get down to the last Saturday of the regular season with just about everything still on the line.

Mission accomplished.

Let's get on with Tony's Top 10:

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1. It's payback time for Alabama: The sweetest feeling in the annual Alabama-Auburn game is when the winner uses it as a springboard to a national championship. The winner of this game the past two seasons has gone on to go undefeated and hoist the crystal football.

But never forget: The second sweetest feeling in the Iron Bowl is to knock your state rival out of a chance to win the national championship. Alabama almost did it last year at Bryant-Denny Stadium as the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 24-0 lead at halftime. But Cam Newton led the biggest comeback ever in the series and Auburn won 28-27 on the way to the BCS title.

Now Auburn (7-4) gets its shot on Saturday when No. 2 Alabama (10-1) comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Alabama is hoping for a rematch with LSU in the big game on Jan. 9 and to avenge last season's gut-wrenching loss. Auburn can put an end to that discussion once and for all. Pregame: Alabama-Auburn

2. Logan Thomas gets his wish: The Virginia Tech quarterback was pretty outspoken last week. He wanted Virginia to win at Florida State so that the Hokies' trip to Charlottesville on Saturday would be a winner-take-all for the ACC Coastal. Well, Thomas got his wish as the Cavaliers (8-3, 5-2) won 14-13 in Tallahassee and will host No. 5 Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1) for a berth against Clemson in the ACC championship game in Charlotte. Virginia Tech, which has won seven straight against Virginia by an average margin of 20.4 points, will be trying to put itself in position to win its fifth ACC title since joining the conference in 2004. Pregame: Virginia Tech-Virginia

3. Do you think Stanford will try to make a point against Notre Dame? Why yes we do. Stanford coach David Shaw simply does not understand why the Cardinal (10-1) is ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings and said as much during his weekly press briefing. He looked at the four one-loss teams ahead of Stanford (Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech) and wonders who the Cardinal made mad or failed to impress. He finally concluded that the BCS is "flawed." He sounded like a man who just might have to make a point when Notre Dame (8-3) comes to Palo Alto on Saturday. And another thing, Shaw asks: How could anybody say that Andrew Luck is slipping in the Heisman race? Look for Luck to put up some big numbers and for Stanford to win as big as possible. Pregame: Notre Dame-Stanford

4. Will the Ducks be excited about the Civil War? They should be. Oregon lost a lot last week when it lost to USC. The Ducks had their 21-game home winning streak snapped. The loss probably ended any hope of playing for the national championship. Running back LaMichael James, who was the nation's leading rusher, was surging to the top of the Heisman polls. But there is still a lot to play for as Oregon State (3-8) arrives at Autzen Stadium. A win clinches the Pac-12's Northern Division for Oregon and gives the Ducks a spot in the first conference championship game. Oregon will host that game against UCLA, Utah, or Arizona State. The Ducks will be heavily favored to win and that will put them in the Rose Bowl. Lay an egg and lose to Mike Riley's team and Stanford would go to Pasadena. Pregame: Oregon State-Oregon

5. South Carolina goes for a piece of history: South Carolina has been playing football since 1892. In that long and colorful history, the Gamecocks have won 10 games in a season only once (1984). But if South Carolina can beat state rival Clemson at home they will finish 10-2. It will be yet another first in the seven-year reign of Steve Spurrier as coach. Last week the Gamecocks beat The Citadel to post back-to-back nine win seasons, another first in school history. South Carolina is also looking to win its third straight over the Tigers for the first time since 1968-70. Clemson (9-2) has already clinched a spot in next week's ACC championship game against either Virginia or Virginia Tech. Pregame: Clemson-South Carolina

6. Georgia tries for its 10th straight win: When Georgia started the season 0-2 against two pretty good teams (Boise State and South Carolina), it appeared that Mark Richt's 11th season as the Bulldogs' coach might be his last. But now Georgia has won nine straight and has already locked up a spot in the Dec. 3 SEC championship game. But first the Bulldogs have to take care of their state rival in Georgia Tech (8-3), which could make their season by ending Georgia's winning streak. Georgia has not won 10 straight games since 1982, Herschel Walker's final season with the Bulldogs. Georgia will wear a special decal on its helmet to honor Larry Munson, who was the voice of the Bulldogs for 43 seasons (1966-2008). He died on Sunday at the age of 89. Pregame: Georgia-Georgia Tech

7. Michigan can still get a BCS at-large bid: Michigan State has already locked up the Legends Division and a spot in the Big Ten championship game. But Michigan (9-2) still has a shot at a BCS at-large bid if the Wolverines can beat Ohio State (6-5) in The Big House. In order to qualify for an at-large bid, a team must win at least nine games and be ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. Michigan is ranked No. 15 in the BCS going into Saturday.

There are four at-large bids available. It's a pretty good bet that the SEC will get one. If No. 8 Houston (11-0) of Conference USA runs the table it will get one. The Pac-12 will probably get one if Oregon wins the conference championship and Stanford finishes (11-1). So Michigan or somebody from the Big Ten or Big 12 could be in the mix as well. A historical note: Six of Michigan's last seven head coaches (Rich Rodriguez was the exception) have beaten Ohio State in their first meeting. Brady Hoke, you are on the clock. Pregame: Ohio State Michigan

8. Penn State tries to make history without Joe Pa: Penn State (9-2, 6-1) will play its third game without Coach Joe Paterno and there is a whole lot on the line when the Nittany Lions go to Camp Randall Stadium to play Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2). The winner of the game will represent the Leaders Division in the first Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3. This one comes down to whether or not Penn State, which is No. 8 nationally in total defense (287.36 ypg) and No. 3 in scoring defense (13.0 ppg) can keep Russell Wilson and the Wisconsin offense in check. The Badgers lead the Big Ten and are fifth nationally in scoring at 44.82 ppg. Pregame: Penn State-Wisconsin

9. It's going to be stat-padding time for RG III: Baylor's Robert Griffin III made a big push for the Heisman Trophy last week when he threw for 476 yards in a stunning 45-38 win over Oklahoma. Griffin currently leads the nation in total offense with an average of 412 yards per game. On Saturday Griffin will go against a Texas Tech defense that is 113th nationally in points allowed (36.82 ppg). In Texas Tech's current four-game losing streak since beating Oklahoma on Oct. 22, the Red Raiders have given up 190 points.

10. USC can't play in the Pac-12 championship game. But it can decide who does: Southern California can't go to a bowl because of NCAA probation. But it is having a big impact on the postseason of a lot of other teams in the Pac-12. The Trojans (9-2) all but knocked Oregon out of the national championship race by beating the Ducks last week. Saturday it has a chance to knock cross-town rival UCLA out of the Pac-12 championship game. If UCLA (6-5, 5-3) beats the Trojans the Bruins tie for the South Division title and clinch a berth in the championship game. If USC wins, the Bruins are at the mercy of a bunch of tiebreakers also involving Arizona State (6-5, 4-4) and Utah (7-4, 4-4). Pregame:USC-UCLA

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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