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Tony's Top 10: Bama's D gets huge test as Johnny Football comes to town

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There are four Saturdays left in the regular season. There are four undefeated teams at the top of the BCS standings. A lot of people are projecting BCS Armageddon, which is defined as having more than two undefeated teams from the big boy conferences after Championship Saturday (Think Auburn, 2004).

But history tells us otherwise. History tells us that over the past decade only twice has an undefeated team from one of the Big Six conferences been left out of the national championship game. That was the aforementioned Auburn team and Cincinnati, the 2009 Big East champs.

What that tells us is that we're not done with the surprises.

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Here's Tony's Top 10 for the second Saturday in November:

Bama's D vs. Johnny Football

After Alabama dodged a huge bullet by scoring late to win at LSU, the question must be asked: Will the No. 1 Crimson Tide come out flat when Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M come to Tuscaloosa? LSU gave the Aggies the blueprint for beating Alabama last Saturday when the Tigers ran 85 offensive plays, almost 30 more than Alabama's average on defense in its first eight games. LSU had a time of possession advantage of almost 19 minutes. In short, the Alabama defense was gassed. Look for Texas A&M to really pick up the tempo with Manziel, who is averaging an incredible 383 yards of total offense. If the Aggies can get to 80 plays then they have a shot. But there is a caveat. Texas A&M has to get to 80 plays without turning the ball over.

Wither Collin Klein?

On Tuesday Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he expects quarterback Collin Klein, who suffered an apparent head injury last week against Oklahoma State, will be able to play on Saturday against TCU. It's fair to say that the Wildcats need him if they are going to stay undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the BCS. This is certainly not a vintage defense for TCU, which is used to being in the top five and is instead No. 25 in the nation in total defense. Still the Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 in rushing defense and are third in the Big 12 in total defense. Klein is responsible for 285 yards of Kansas State's 439 yards of total offense per game.

A tribute to Coach Royal

You can criticize Mack Brown all you want (although it should be noted that the man has averaged 10 wins a year at Texas). But you can never say that Mack Brown doesn't have class. The godfather of Texas football, Darrell K. Royal, passed away this week at the age of 88. And on Saturday, at the stadium that bears his name, Texas will honor Royal by lining up in the wishbone formation for its first play against Iowa State. Texas will wear his initials, DKR, on their helmets. When Mack Brown got to Texas in 1998, the first thing he did was embrace the legacy of Darrell Royal, who was the Longhorns' head coach from 1957-76. Brown told Royal that Texas needed him to be a part of the program. He encouraged Royal to come to practice on a regular basis. And when Brown lost his father seven years ago Royal filled that void. It will be an emotional day in Austin.

Is there some magic left in the Holy War?

The last time Notre Dame started 9-0 (1993), the Irish played Boston College in their 10th game. Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 after beating Florida State in the "Game of the Century." But unranked BC got a 41-yard field goal in the closing seconds to win 41-39. It cost Notre Dame a shot at the national championship, which went to Florida State. Some 19 years later Notre Dame is again in middle of a national championship chase as the Fighting Irish (9-0) go to struggling Boston College (2-7). Do the Eagles have a little more magic in them? Probably not. Notre Dame dodged its bullet last week when Pittsburgh missed a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime and then lost 29-26 in the third overtime. Notre Dame, ranked No. 4 in the BCS, is going to need some help to get into the top two and the BCS championship game. That's because the schedule that once looked so daunting (Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Oklahoma, USC) isn't quite as strong.

Is this Gene Chizik's last SEC home game?

There's bad and there's historically bad. And historically bad will often get your fired. The last time Auburn was 0-6 in the SEC (1980), Doug Barfield was fired and Pat Dye became head coach. Dye would win four SEC championships. Two years after winning a national championship in 2010, coach Gene Chizik is 0-6 in the SEC. It is Auburn's worst conference mark since 1998, the year Terry Bowden was forced out at midseason and the Tigers finished 1-7. Auburn has never finished 0-8 in the SEC but on Saturday the Tigers have to play No. 5 Georgia, which needs a win to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship. Auburn's last SEC game is at No. 1 Alabama.

Has LSU finally found a quarterback?

Lost in the mega-disappointment of last week's crushing 21-17 loss to Alabama is the fact that LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger played the best game of his college football career. Mettenberger, who had been less than stellar for the Tigers to that point, completed 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown. And he played his best when it counted as 14 of those completions and 202 of those yards came in the second half. If LSU could have hung on, all the stories would have been about him instead of AJ McCarron. So now LSU fans, who still want a big time bowl trip, want to know if last week was an aberration or if Mettenberger has indeed grown up and can give LSU a real vertical passing game. He should be able to do it against a Mississippi State team that started 7-0 but has struggled the last two weeks as the schedule got tougher against Alabama (38-7) and Texas A&M (38-13).

Ryan Nassib vs. Teddy Ballgame

Ryan Nassib of Syracuse leads the Big East and is 11th nationally in passing with 308 yards per game. But the defense isn't giving him nearly enough support as it is sixth in the Big East in scoring (26.11 ypg). The Syracuse defense doesn't figure to get better against Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, one of a handful of quarterbacks in the country completing 70 percent of his passing attempts. He spreads the ball around, having completed passes to seven or more receivers in each of his nine games this season. Last week against Temple he threw for 324 yards and a career-high five touchdowns and didn't play in the fourth quarter. On the season he has 2,434 yards passing with 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Beavers still have a lot on the line

Despite a 20-17 loss to Washington on Oct. 27, Oregon State (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) can still win the Pac-12 South and get to the Rose Bowl if it can run the table, which would include a win over No. 2 Oregon. It's not going to be easy. First Oregon State has to win at Stanford (7-2, 5-1) in a game where neither team can settle on a quarterback. Stanford coach David Shaw is going to go with redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan because the Josh Nunes-for-Andrew Luck switch simply hasn't worked. Cody Vaz will get the start for Oregon State because Sean Mannion continues to struggle since coming back from an injury on Oct. 27. He threw four interceptions in the loss to Washington. Vaz returned last week against Arizona State and threw three touchdown passes in a 36-26 win.

Nebraska is on upset alert

Penn State is arguably the third-best team in the Big Ten (behind Ohio State and Nebraska) and that, in and of itself, means Bill O'Brien should be that league's coach of the year. The Nittany Lions can't win the Legends Division or go to the Big Ten championship game. But they can rain on Nebraska's hopes in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers have won three straight since a blowout loss to Ohio State. They have the tiebreaker over Michigan and Northwestern in the Legends Division. In short, they control their own destiny. But an interesting thing has happened at Penn State. Thanks to O'Brien, a quarterbacks coach of the first order, Matt McGloin has grown up. In his last seven games McGloin has completed 64 percent of his passes. This season he has thrown 18 touchdown passes with only three interceptions.

Will Robinson return for Michigan?

Michigan began the season as a top-10 team and the solid pick to win the Big Ten championship. The Wolverines (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) enter the second Saturday in November pretty much needing to win their last three games against Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State just to have a chance at catching Nebraska in the Legends Division. A big part of Saturday's game with Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) in the Big House is whether or not quarterback Denard Robinson returns to the lineup. Robinson (elbow) sat out last week's game with Minnesota while Devin Gardner completed 12 of 18 passes for 234 yards. But it will be hard for Michigan to win out without him. Whoever plays quarterback against Northwestern should be able to throw it a little bit. The Wildcats are 107th nationally against the pass, giving up 272.44 yards per game.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show Tuesday at 9 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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