Tony's Top 10: Can Pokes hang with Bears? Will Manziel get revenge?
James Franklin returns for Mizzou, but can he shake off the rust to keep the Tigers' SEC East hopes alive. Also, can Johnny Manziel redeem himself against LSU?
Our Ten Burning Questions for the Saturday before Thanksgiving:
Can Oklahoma State play with Baylor for 60 minutes?
Texas Tech got off to a 20-7 lead last week on the mighty Bears, which got the country buzzing. But the buzz didn't last very long. By the end of the first quarter Baylor had taken a 21-20 lead and the Bears never looked back. They outscored the Red Raiders 56-14 to close out the game.
Now No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) gets its turn. It seems like a lifetime ago (Sept. 28 in fact) that the Cowboys went to West Virginia and lost their only game to date. They are playing a lot better now and showed it last week when QB Clint Chelf ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more in a 38-13 win at Texas, Mack Brown's worst home loss ever.
I like Baylor in this game not because of the offense, which leads the nation with 61.2 points per game, but because of the Bears' defense.
Baylor's offense leads the nation with only 17 three-and-outs the entire season. But the Baylor defense is also No. 2 in the nation in forcing three-and-outs with an average of 6.78 per game.
Baylor is No. 1 in scoring offense and No. 7 in scoring defense (17.4 ppg). Only one other team, Florida State, is top in both those categories.
Can Johnny Football get some redemption against LSU?
A year ago the eventual Heisman Trophy winner had his worst game of the season against LSU in College Station. He completed 29 of 56 passes for 273 yards, but he was intercepted three times and sacked three times in a 24-19 loss. Manziel, who was leading the SEC in rushing at the time, ran the ball 17 times but was held to only 27 yards.
Now Manziel and the Aggies (8-2, 4-2 SEC) get another shot. A win in Baton Rouge could keep their hopes alive for an at-large BCS bid. And, if Manziel can have another monster day on the CBS game of the week (3:30 p.m. ET), he could impress a lot of Heisman voters to make him only the second two-time winner.
This LSU defense isn't close to the 2012 model and Manziel, who is averaging over 392 yards of total offense per game (No. 2 nationally) has significantly improved as a pocket passer from a year ago.
Is Missouri QB James Franklin ready for prime time again?
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has consistently said that when quarterback James Franklin was physically ready to play again he would again be the starter. Well, he's back and just in time for Missouri's two most important games of the season.
The Tigers (9-1, 6-1 SEC) must win their final two games at Ole Miss on Saturday and at home against Texas A&M on Nov. 30 to capture the SEC East title. Lose just one and South Carolina goes to Atlanta. Backup Maty Mauk has played well in Franklin's place but Missouri is more dynamic with Franklin, who was completing 67.7 percent of his passes (14 TD, 3 interceptions) when he was injured (shoulder) against Georgia on Oct. 12. Missouri will face a hot quarterback in Bo Wallace, who has completed 73.3 percent of his passes for 1,211 yards in his last four games.
Will Aaron Murray make NCAA history in his final home game?
He will if he stays vertical. The Georgia quarterback almost pulled off a comeback for the ages last week at Auburn, rallying the Bulldogs from a 37-17 deficit to a 38-37 lead with 1:49 left. But Auburn got a miracle play to win 43-38. Now Murray, the SEC's all-time leader in passing yards (12,983) and touchdowns thrown (117), has one more big record to set in his final game Between The Hedges.
Murray, who already has one degree and is working on a second, is already the only quarterback in SEC history to post three consecutive seasons with at least 3,000 yards in passing. With 108 yards against Kentucky he will pass that mark for the fourth consecutive season. Only two other quarterbacks in FBS history have done that -- Hawaii's Timmy Chang and Boise State's Kellen Moore.
How many carries will BC's Andre Williams get at Maryland?
Boston College (6-4, 3-3) has won three straight games to qualify for a bowl in its first season under Steve Addazio. There is no mystery here. Boston College has hitched its wagon to Andre Williams and will ride the big fella as far as he can carry them. Last week he set school records with a staggering 42 carries for 339 yards in a 38-21 win over N.C. State. In the previous two games with Virginia Tech and New Mexico State, Williams carried it a total of 63 times. He easily leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,810 on a mind-blowing 288 carries. That's an average of 6.28 yards per carry. Note: Maryland is No. 4 in the ACC in rushing defense, giving up 139.8 ypg.
Does Minnesota have another miracle left in them?
Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten), winners of six straight, is a double-digit favorite at home on Saturday against Minnesota (8-2, 4-2), winners of four straight. The Badgers, whose only conference loss was to State" data-canon="Ohio Bobcats" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> by a touchdown, are hoping to get to 10-2 and grab an at-large spot in a BCS Bowl.
Minnesota is one of the most heart-warming stories in college football. Since Oct. 5 the Gophers have played without head coach Jerry Kill on the sidelines. He has a history of seizures and since his last episode has watched the games from the press box while his staff manages the day to day operations of the team. Minnesota's goal is to get to a New Year's Day Bowl, something it hasn't done since 1962.
Can UCLA's Brett Hundley keep his hot streak going?
Earlier this season UCLA lost back-to-back games to Stanford (24-10) and Oregon (42-14) when quarterback Brett Hundley struggled. He threw two interceptions against Stanford and completed only 13 of 19 for 64 yards and two interceptions against Oregon. Since then the Bruins have won three straight and Hundley has completed 70 percent of his passes (63 of 90). And because of injuries, Hundley has become UCLA's leading rusher.
Now UCLA (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) hosts Arizona State (9-1, 6-1) in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the Pac-12 South. If UCLA wins the Bruins can clinch by beating USC next week. If Arizona State wins, the Sun Devils clinch because they would own the tiebreakers with UCLA and USC. ASU plays Arizona next week.
Statistical note and the reason I picked Arizona State: The Sun Devils are playing their best defense of the season, allowing and average of just 282.8 yards in their last five games.
Can Vandy pull off the ultimate trifecta?
Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-4 SEC) has already qualified for its third straight bowl game, a first for the school. But on Saturday they have a chance to put the perfect exclamation point on another good season under James Franklin. If Vanderbilt can win at state rival Tennessee (4-6, 1-5), not only will it mark the second straight win over the Volunteers, something that hasn't happened since 1925-26, it would also mark the first time in Vanderbilt history that the Commodores have beaten Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee in the same season. Tennessee must win to keep hope alive of going to a bowl under first-year coach Butch Jones.
Can Idaho hold Florida State under 60 — in the first half?
Let's put Idaho (1-9), Florida State's opponent, into some kind of perspective: There are 10 teams in FBS with either nine or 10 losses. Idaho, now an independent, is by far the worst of them, giving up 40 or more points eight times his season. So there are really only two questions about this game: How quickly will Florida State get to 60? How many possessions before QB Jameis Winston is done for the day? The answer to both questions should come before halftime.
Can Duke even make more history?
These are giddy times for the football program at Duke (8-2, 4-2 ACC). The Blue Devils dominated Miami last week and now control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal. Win at Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5) on Saturday and at North Carolina (5-5, 4-3) next week and this Duke team will go where no ever Blue Devil team has gone before. First, they would qualify for the ACC Championship game in Charlotte. That has never happened. Secondly, this would become the first Duke team to ever win 10 games in a season. The record for wins in a season is nine, and it hasn't been done since Wallace Wade's final season in 1941, when the Blue Devils played in the Rose Bowl (Historical note: That Rose Bowl was played on Duke's campus because President Roosevelt didn't want large gatherings of people on the West Coast after the bombings of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941).
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