Top 25 Games to Watch: Week 14

The following 71 teams are bowl eligible, having 6 wins or more: Air Force, Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, BYU, Boise State, California, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Florida International, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Marshall, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ohio University, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Temple, Toledo, Tulsa, UCLA, Utah, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

5 teams are a win away from being bowl eligible: Connecticut, Hawaii, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and Syracuse.  I’ll preview matchups involving Top 25 teams and try to offer some insight regarding the games to watch. All hype scores are out of 10.

#23 West Virginia (8-3) (4-2 Big East) @ South Florida (5-6) (1-5 Big 12)

Where to find the game: Thursday, December 1st at 8:00 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN 3D/ESPN3.

Series: Tied 3-3.

West Virginia: Offense 16th (Rushing 101st; Passing 6th); Defense 25th (Rushing 49th; Passing 30th).

South Florida: Offense 30th (Rushing 32nd; Passing 39th); Defense 34th (Rushing 14th; Passing 83rd).

Both teams have a lot on the line come Thursday night. West Virginia is playing for a spot in the BCS, through the Big East’s automatic bid. West Virginia needs to win, and needs Cincinnati to defeat Connecticut. South Florida needs to defeat West Virginia in order to be bowl eligible. West Virginia is led by QB Geno Smith (3741 passing yards, 65.0% completion, and 25 passing TDs), WRs Stedmon Bailey (1117 receiving yards, 18.6/catch, and 11 receiving TDs) and Tavon Austin (1009 receiving yards, 12.3/catch, and 4 receiving TDs), and RB Dustin Garrison (655 rushing yards, 5.5/carry, and 5 rushing TDs). South Florida is led by RBs Darrell Scott (722 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) and Demetris Murray (469 rushing yards, 4.3/carry, and 8 rushing TDs) and WR Sterling Griffin (493 receiving yards, 12.3/catch, and 2 receiving TDs). The Bulls might be without QB BJ Daniels (2378 passing yards, 60.4% completion, 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) come Thursday; Daniels did not play in the loss to Louisville. The consensus says this game is a tossup; West Virginia is a slight favorite. A key matchup to look for is West Virginia’s passing offense against South Florida’s pass defense. Assuming West Virginia can exploit that matchup, they will have at least a share of the Big East title.

Game hype grade: 5.

#9 Oregon (10-2) (8-1 PAC-12) vs. UCLA (6-6) (5-4 PAC-12)

Where to find the game: Friday, December 2nd at 8:00 PM EST on FOX.

Series: UCLA leads 39-25.

Oregon: Offense 6th (Rushing 5th; Passing 68th); Defense 64th (Rushing 47th; Passing 91st).

UCLA: Offense 56th (Rushing 29th; Passing 81st); Defense 84th (Rushing 81st; Passing 68th).

USC’s loss is UCLA’s gain. Yes, the Trojan knocked off the Bruins in the Battle for Los Angeles last week, 50-0. But the Bruins get the last laugh, as they will represent the PAC-12 South in the inaugural PAC-12 Championship. QB Darron Thomas (2274 passing yards, 62.1% completion, and 27 passing TDs), freshman RB/WR De’Anthony Thomas (558 receiving yards, 14.0/catch, and 14 total TDs), RBs LaMichael James (1427 rushing yards, 7.2/carry, and 14 rushing TDs) and Kenjon Barner (830 rushing yards, 6.5/carry, and 11 rushing TDs) remain the major leaders for Oregon, with WR Lavasier Tuinei (421 receiving yards, 11.4/catch, and 8 receiving TDs) contributing. QB Kevin Prince (1463 passing yards, 58.6% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 7 INTs), RBs Johnathan Franklin (912 rushing yards, 6.1/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) and Derrick Coleman (643 rushing yards, 5.1/carry, and 11 rushing TDs), and WR Nelson Rosario (1008 receiving yards, 18.3/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) lead UCLA offensively. A loss for UCLA means the Bruins will need to petition for a waiver to attend a bowl game; that petition is likely to be approved. UCLA enters the game as greater than a four-touchdown underdog. The question isn’t whether UCLA will lose, but whether they can cover the points. The spread will be close, the game – not so much.

Game hype grade: 2.

#6 Houston (12-0) (8-0 C-USA) vs. #24 Southern Miss (10-2) (6-2 C-USA)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 12:00 PM EST on ABC.

Series: Southern Miss leads 8-5.

Houston: Offense 1st (Rushing 55th; Passing 1st); Defense 60th (Rushing 77th; Passing 44th).

Southern Miss: Offense 15th (Rushing 24th; Passing 32nd); Defense 26th (Rushing 20th; Passing 55th).

Before their bye week, the Cougars had three wins by a touchdown or less; since their bye week, the closest game for Houston has been a 30-point victory over SMU. Now, the final step between Houston and a BCS bowl is the Conference USA Championship Game. Houston is led by Heisman candidate QB Case Keenum (4726 passing yards, 73.2% completion, and 43 passing TDs), RBs Michael Hayes (657 rushing yards, 5.4/carry, and 9 rushing TDs), and Charles Sims (750 rushing yards, 7.9/carry, and 9 rushing TDs), and WRs Patrick Edwards (1496 receiving yards, 20.2/catch, and 18 receiving TDs) and Tyron Carrier (873 receiving yards, 10.5/catch, and 5 receiving TDs). Southern Miss is led by QB Austin Davis (3052 passing yards, 62.6% completion, 24 passing TDs, but 10 INTs), RBs Jamal Woodyard (653 rushing yards, 6.4/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) and Kendrick Hardy (426 rushing yards, 5.9/carry, and 2 rushing TDs), and WRs Ryan Balentine (718 receiving yards, 15.6/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) and Kelvin Bolden (641 receiving yards, 12.1/catch, and 6 receiving TDs). Southern Miss’s losses were to UAB and Marshall, who are a combined 9-15. Southern Miss may be able to keep this one close, but will struggle to slow down Houston’s passing attack.

Game hype grade: 5.

#11 Kansas State (9-2) (6-2 Big 12) vs. Iowa State (6-5) (3-5 Big 12)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 12:30 PM EST.

Series: Iowa State leads 49-41-4.

Kansas State: Offense 97th (Rushing 30th; Passing 109th); Defense 76th (Rushing 27th; Passing 108th).

Iowa State: Offense 55th (Rushing 37th; Passing 71st); Defense 102nd (Rushing 98th; Passing 82nd).

With a win over Iowa State and Oklahoma defeating Oklahoma State, Kansas State would share in the Big 12 title. Ultimately, Kansas State would be the odd team out, as both of their losses have come to the Oklahoma schools; they would also be the odd team out of a BCS bowl game, but would likely bolster their chances to play in the Cotton Bowl, the top bowl tie in for the Big 12, outside of the BCS. Kansas State has forced 17 interceptions (tied for 6th in NCAA). The Wildcats have been led offensively by dual threat QB Collin Klein (2600 total yards, 58.5% completion, and 36 total TDs). RB John Hubert (813 rushing yards, 4.7/carry, and 2 rushing TDs), and WR Chris Harper (536 receiving yards, 13.7/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) have chipped in. QB Jared Barnett (1025 passing yards, 50.0% completion, 5 passing TDs, but 5 INTs) has replaced QB Steele Jantz (1322 passing yards, 53.9% completion, 10 passing TDs, but 9 INTs) under center. RB James White (660 rushing yards, 4.6/carry, and 8 rushing TDs) and WR Darius Reynolds (599 receiving yards, 16.2/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) have led the Cyclone offense. Kansas State hasn’t won at least 10 games since 2004; Iowa State is looking to win at least 7 games this season for the second time in three years (last time was 2004-2005 seasons). Iowa State surprised Iowa and Oklahoma State so far this year, but neither of those teams excelled on the defensive side of the ball. Expect Kansas State to control the game defensively, forcing at least one Jared Barnett turnover.

Game hype grade: 2.

#18 TCU (9-2) (6-0 MWC) vs. UNLV (2-9) (1-5 MWC)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 2:30 PM EST on Versus.

Series: TCU leads 8-1.

TCU: Offense 27th (Rushing 20th; Passing 55th); Defense 45th (Rushing 31st; Passing 71st).

UNLV: Offense 114th (Rushing 47th; Passing 118th); Defense 106th (Rushing 100th; Passing 97th).

TCU’s victory over Boise State not only snapped the Broncos’ home winning streak, all but assuring the Horned Frogs their third straight Mountain West Title. TCU’s 34-10 victory over Colorado State two weeks ago clinched the Mountain West title for TCU. QB Casey Pachall (2530 passing yards, 67.8% completion, and 24 passing TDs), RBs Waymon James (786 rushing yards, 8.0/carry, and 4 rushing TDs) and Matthew Tucker (629 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 10 rushing TDs), and WR Josh Boyce (903 receiving yards, 16.4/catch, and 9 receiving TDs) lead the Horned Frogs. The Rebels are led by QB Caleb Herring (1004 passing yards, 54.9% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 6 INTs), RBs Dionza Bradford (604 rushing yards, 4.8/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) and Tim Cornett (646 rushing yards, 5.9/carry, and 7 rushing TDs), and WR Phillip Payne (507 receiving yards, 11.8/catch, and 7 receiving TDs). TCU has won 27 of their last 28 conference games, including 23 straight. Expect TCU to extend that streak to 24 straight, over the lowly Runnin’ Rebels.

Game hype grade: 1.

#17 Baylor (8-3) (5-3 Big 12) vs. #22 Texas (7-4) (4-4 Big 12)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 3:30 PM EST on ABC.

Series: Texas leads 72-23-5.

Baylor: Offense 2nd (Rushing 17th; Passing 5th); Defense 114th (Rushing 102nd; Passing 107th).

Texas: Offense 59th (Rushing 21st; Passing 96th); Defense 9th (Rushing 7th; Passing 35th).

From 1993-2009, Texas dominated this series, winning 16 of the 17 meetings. In fact, from 1999-2005, Texas shutout Baylor four times, outscoring the Bears 362-38 in 7 meetings. Last year was a different story, as Baylor visited Austin and defeated Texas, 30-22, snapping a 12 game losing streak. Robert Griffin III (3678 passing yards, 612 rushing yards, 72.6% completion, and 41 total TDs) has led the Baylor offense, with RB Terrence Ganaway (1195 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 14 rushing TDs) and WR Kendall Wright (1406 receiving yards, 14.8/catch, and 12 receiving TDs). The Longhorn offense has been led by RBs Malcolm Brown (707 rushing yards, 4.4/carry, and 5 rushing TDs), Joe Bergeron (454 rushing yards, 6.6/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) and Foswhitt Whittaker (386 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 6 rushing TDs), and WRs Mike Davis (561 receiving yards, 14.0/catch, and 1 receiving TD) and Jaxon Shipley (472 receiving yards, 13.1/catch, and 3 receiving TDs). Baylor’s last home win over Texas was in 1997. Las Vegas seems to think this game will be close. If RG III takes over, considering Texas’s lack of a passing game, it won’t be.

Game hype grade: 4.

#1 LSU (12-0) (8-0 SEC) vs. #14 Georgia (10-2) (7-1 SEC) (@ Atlanta, GA)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 4:00 PM EST on CBS.

Series: LSU leads 15-12-1.

LSU: Offense 62nd (Rushing 18th; Passing 100th); Defense 2nd (Rushing 4th; Passing 6th).

Georgia: Offense 34th (Rushing 36th; Passing 47th); Defense 5th (Rushing 6th; Passing 11th).

The last time Georgia was in the SEC Championship game, they knocked off #3 LSU, 34-14, in 2005; Georgia was ranked #13 at the time. Prior to that, the teams met in the SEC Championship in 2003, with then-#3 LSU knocking off then-#5 Georgia 34-13. CB Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger, has led the Tigers defensively, (3 Fumble Recoveries, 2 INTs, 3 TDs), as has CB Morris Claiborne (5 INTs, 477 KR yards, 28.0/return, and 1 KR TD). Offensively, LSU has been led by RBs Spencer Ware (687 rushing yards, 4.1/carry, and 8 rushing TDs), Michael Ford (721 rushing yards, 6.2/carry, and 7 rushing TDs), and Alfred Blue (445 receiving yards, 6.4/carry, and 6 rushing TDs), and WR Rueben Randle (889 receiving yards, 18.5/catch, and 8 receiving TDs). Georgia is led by QB Aaron Murray (2698 passing yards, 61.0% completion, and 32 passing TDs). RB Isaiah Crowell (832 rushing yards, 4.8/carry, and 5 rushing TDs), WR Malcolm Mitchell (582 receiving yards, 17.1/catch, and 4 receiving TDs), and TE Orson Charles (530 receiving yards, 13.3/catch, and 5 receiving TDs). Both teams have a lot on the line. LSU is virtually guaranteed a BCS bowl appearance; a BCS National Title appearance is on the line for the Tigers. Georgia is looking to make a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2007, when they defeated Hawaii, 41-10, in the Sugar Bowl. LSU is nearly a two touchdown favorite, but don’t be surprised is this one is a bit closer, as Georgia’s defense is pretty good.

Game hype grade: 7.

#7 Boise State (10-1) (5-1 MWC) vs. New Mexico (1-10) (1-5 MWC)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 6:00 PM EST.

Series: Boise State leads 2-0.

Boise State: Offense 11th (Rushing 39th; Passing 13th); Defense 21st (Rushing 29th; Passing 33rd).

New Mexico: Offense 111th (Rushing 98th; Passing 92nd); Defense 117th (Rushing 119th; Passing 67th).

Boise State hasn’t lost two conference games in one season since 2001, when they went 6-2 in the WAC. This could be the Broncos’ first, and only, season in the Mountain West, as serious discussions are taking place about adding Boise State to the Big East. Boise State has been led by QB Kellen Moore (3194 passing yards, 73.1% completion, and 38 passing TDs), who has targets such as WRs Matt Miller (585 receiving yards, 11.0/catch, and 8 receiving TDs) and Tyler Shoemaker (853 receiving yards, 16.4/catch, and 14 receiving TDs). RBs Doug Martin (1038 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 13 rushing TDs) and D.J. Harper (525 rushing yards, 5.0/carry, and 8 rushing TDs) help on the ground. The Lobos are led by QB B.R. Holbrook (1345 passing yards, 60.1% completion, 4 passing TDs, but 7 INTs), RB Crusoe Gongbay (483 rushing yards, 4.8/carry, and 5 rushing TDs), and WR Deon Long (713 receiving yards, 18.3/catch, and 4 receiving TDs). Boise State is at the mercy of the BSC bowl games to select them as an at large candidate; despite the Broncos finishing, presumably, in the top 12 in the BCS standings and finishing ahead of at least one BCS automatic qualifier (Big East Championship), Boise State did not meet the third criterion to be an automatic qualifier – winning their own conference. The loss to TCU costs them a $17+ million payout, likely sending them to the Poinsettia Bowl. Till then, Kellen Moore and his team will have one more chance to pad stats in the regular season. Expect Boise to run up the score on New Mexico.

Game hype grade: 1.

#3 Oklahoma State (10-1) (7-1 Big 12) vs. #10 Oklahoma (9-2) (6-2 Big 12)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 8:00 PM EST on ABC.

Series: Oklahoma leads 82-16-7.

Oklahoma State: Offense 3rd (Rushing 57th; Passing 2nd); Defense 107th (Rushing 93rd; Passing 102nd).

Oklahoma: Offense 4th (Rushing 42nd; Passing 3rd); Defense 52nd (Rushing 31st; Passing 87th).

The Bedlam Game has been one sided, as of late. Oklahoma has won eight straight meetings over rival Oklahoma State, dating back to 2003. Oklahoma State nearly snapped that streak last year, with a 47-41 loss in Norman. The Pokes are led by QB Brandon Weeden (4111 passing yards, 73.0% completion, 34 passing TDs, but 12 INTs), WR Justin Blackmon (1241 receiving yards, 12.0/catch, and 15 receiving TDs), and RB Joseph Randle (1042 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 21 rushing TDs). The Sooners have been led by QB Landry Jones (4052 passing yards, 64.1% completion, 28 passing TDs, but 12 INTs), RB Roy Finch (536 rushing yards, 5.6/carry, and 3 rushing TDs), and WRs Jaz Reynolds (692 receiving yards, 17.7/catch, and 5 receiving TDs), and Kenny Stills (755 receiving yards, 14.5/catch, and 8 receiving TDs). Oklahoma will be without RB Dominique Whaley (627 rushing yards, 5.5/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and WR Ryan Broyles (1157 receiving yards, 13.9/catch, and 10 receiving TDs) for the rest of the season, lost to injuries. This year, the teams are meeting in Stillwater. A BCS bowl game is on the line, with the winner grabbing the Big 12 Title. Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy, as both a player and a coach, has never defeated Oklahoma. The Cowboys are favored by a field goal, so this one should be close. Oklahoma State’s defense has been suspect, but Oklahoma is missing a few weapons. Will the Cowboys make their first BCS bowl game, even if they lose?

Game hype grade:  8.

#5 Virginia Tech (11-1) (7-1 ACC) vs. #20 Clemson (9-3) (6-2 ACC) (@ Charlotte, NC)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 8:00 PM EST on ESPN/ESPN3.

Series: Clemson leads 17-12-1.

Virginia Tech: Offense 36th (Rushing 26th; Passing 67th); Defense 12th (Rushing 9th; Passing 40th).

Clemson: Offense 29th (Rushing 67th; Passing 17th); Defense 63rd (Rushing 92nd; Passing 28th).

Since starting the season 8-0, and knocking off Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg, Clemson has lost three of their last four games, being outscored by their opponents by a total of 130-74. Virginia Tech is led by QB Logan Thomas (2338 passing yards, 60.4% completion, 16 passing TDs, but 7 INTs), RBs David Wilson (1442 rushing yards, 6.2/carry, and 7 rushing TDs) and Josh Oglesby (308 rushing yards, 3.9/carry, and 6 rushing TDs). Clemson has been led by QB Tajh Boyd (3255 passing yards, 61.5% completion, and 27 passing TDs), WR/KR Sammy Watkins (1034 receiving yards, 15.2/catch, and 10 receiving TDs), and RB Andre Ellington (871 rushing yards, 4.8/carry, and 9 rushing TDs). Virginia Tech has dominated the ACC, which began the ACC Championship in 2005. In the six ACC Championships to date, Virginia Tech has appeared in four, winning three of them. Only Boston College, Florida State, and Georgia Tech have had multiple appearances in the title game; Virginia Tech is the only team with multiple ACC titles. Clemson routed Virginia Tech earlier this year; expect this one to be much closer, and with a different result, as these teams are going in opposite directions.

Game hype grade: 7.

#13 Michigan State (10-2) (6-2 Big Ten) vs. #15 Wisconsin (10-2) (6-2 Big Ten) (@ Indianapolis, IN)

Where to find the game: Saturday, December 3rd at 8:17 PM EST on FOX.

Series: Michigan State leads 30-20.

Michigan State: Offense 64th (Rushing 78th; Passing 46th); Defense 3rd (Rushing 11th; Passing 8th).

Wisconsin: Offense 12th (Rushing 10th; Passing 63rd); Defense 7th (Rushing 44th; Passing 3rd).

Last year, Wisconsin qualified for the Rose Bowl by virtue of winning a tiebreaker with Ohio State and Michigan State. The Sugar Bowl then proceeded to select Ohio State over Michigan State, much to the dismay of Spartan fans. Ohio State won their first bowl game over a SEC opponent, Arkansas, 31-26 (since vacated). Michigan State lost to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, 49-7. Senior QB Kirk Cousins (2735 passing yards, 64.3% completion, and 21 passing TDs) RBs Edwin Baker (624 rushing yards, 4.0/carry, and 4 rushing TDs) and Le’Veon Bell (794 rushing yards, 5.4/carry, and 10 rushing TDs), and WR BJ Cunningham (1125 receiving yards, 16.8/catch, and 9 receiving TDs) lead the Spartans offensively. Wisconsin is led by QB Russell Wilson (2692 passing yards, 72.7% completion, and 33 total TDs), RB Montee Ball (1622 rushing yards, 6.5/carry, and 29 rushing TDs), and WRs Jared Abbrederis (749 receiving yards, 15.6/catch, and 6 receiving TDs) and Nick Toon (788 receiving yards, 15.2/catch, and 9 receiving TDs). Each team can play-up revenge as a theme: Michigan State beat Wisconsin head-up last year, yet still did not make a BCS bowl game; Wisconsin has lost two straight to Michigan State, losing on a last second Hail Mary earlier this year, in East Lansing. Wisconsin is nearly a ten-point favorite; expect this one to be a bit closer, though.

Game hype grade: 9.


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