Coming off a 26-20 upset of then-No. 3 Oregon, Stanford looks to ride its momentum Saturday, when it visits USC in the marquee game in Week 12 of college football.
The Cardinal, which shot up to No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, hammered the Ducks at the line of scrimmage, led by running back Tyler Gaffney's 157 yards on 45 carries, part of Stanford's 274-yard day on the ground.
The rejuvenated Trojans have won four of their last five games under interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
Two big SEC matchups are also on the Week 12 slate: Red-hot RB Desmond Roland and Oklahoma State visit Texas, and Georgia takes on Auburn, which has emerged as the top threat to Alabama in the SEC.
Here are our top 10 games on the Week 12 slate.
10. Houston at Louisville, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The skinny: Both already have lost to Central Florida in AAC play, so the winner of this game will be in good shape to finish second in the league. Whee! Louisville junior Teddy Bridgewater (6-foot-3, 198 pounds), the most pro-ready of the draft-eligible quarterbacks, will be throwing against a Houston defense that is tied for the national lead with 18 interceptions. Louisville junior WR DeVante Parker (6-3, 209) is a dangerous deep threat, but the most talented wide receiver in this game will be Houston sophomore Deontay Greenberry (6-3, 198), who has 70 receptions and nine touchdown catches. Louisville has one of the best safety duos in the nation in FS Calvin Pryor (6-2, 208) and SS Hakeem Smith (6-1, 179). The Cardinals also have two good pass-rushing ends in senior Marcus Smith (6-3, 260), a converted quarterback who leads the nation with 10.5 sacks, and junior Lorenzo Mauldin (6-4, 243), who has 7.5 sacks. Houston true freshman QB John O'Korn (6-4, 205) is a star on the rise; he has 23 TDs and six interceptions.
9. Florida at South Carolina, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The skinny: A reeling Florida squad has little more to play for than pride, but the Gators' NFL draft prospects have plenty of individual motivation to finish the season strong. Cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson are reportedly leaning toward declaring their intentions to apply for early entry in the 2014 NFL Draft. They'll face one of the SEC's top receivers in Bruce Ellington. Meanwhile, Gamecocks star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney should feast on a makeshift Florida offensive line beset by injuries, especially at the tackle position. If Clowney doesn't break loose with a big statistical performance against Florida, he won't do it at all. A more competitive battle could be found on the inside with Florida interior linemen Jonotthan Harrison and John Halapio battling defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.
8. Alabama at Mississippi State, Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
The skinny: The best matchup here will be Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson, one of the nation's best at his position, against Alabama's constant rotation of interior defensive linemen. Defensively, MSU safety Nickoe Whitley will have his hands full with standout freshman tight end O.J. Howard, along with a stiff challenge in run support against Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon. Watch Bulldogs linebacker Benardrick McKinney and defensive end Chris Jones, two of the SEC's best young talents, against future NFL players Anthony Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio on the Alabama offensive line.
7. Washington at UCLA, Friday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The skinny: With the Bruins' running backs banged up, linebacker Myles Jack could be in line for more work to build on his spotlight-grabbing performance against Arizona, where the true freshman rushed for 120 yards and one touchdown on six carries. Whether Jack can handle double duty and still stay productive against the Huskies' up-tempo offense and strong collection of skill players, including running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, will be a delicate balancing act for Jim Mora and his coaching staff. (UPDATE: Jack scored four touchdowns as UCLA defeated Washington 41-31.)
6. Georgia Tech at Clemson, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The skinny: Clemson still has a legitimate shot at a BCS at-large berth, and those hopes would take a hit if the Tigers lose. Clemson's offense should have success behind senior QB Tajh Boyd (6-2, 225) and junior WR Sammy Watkins (6-1, 205); Boyd has thrown for 2,620 yards and 20 TDs, and Watkins has 66 receptions and seven TD catches. Clemson's run defense has been OK, and it will be tested by Tech's triple-option offense. Clemson beat Tech, 47-31, last season but allowed seven runs of at least 20 yards; Clemson has allowed just 13 runs of 20 yards this season. Two premier pass rushers will be on view. Clemson junior DE Vic Beasley (6-2, 235) is tied for second in the nation with 10 sacks, and Tech senior DE Jeremiah Attaochu (6-3, 242) has six. It seemingly has taken Attaochu a while to get acclimated at end after moving from outside linebacker in the spring. While Attaochu will have ample opportunity to rush the passer, this game will provide Beasley a chance to show scouts how stout he can be against the run. It also will give Tech FS Jemea Thomas (5-10, 195) a chance to show off his coverage skills. Tech coach Paul Johnson hinted this week that the Yellow Jackets could use Thomas on Watkins. (UPDATE: Boyd was 20-of-26 passing for 340 yards and four TDs as the Tigers beat Georgia Tech 55-31.)
5. Texas Tech vs. Baylor (at Arlington, Texas), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox
The skinny: The Texas Tech run defense picked a bad time to fall apart -- it must now face the dominant Baylor ground game, which is averaging 295 yards per game. Top backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin went down with injuries against Oklahoma, but redshirt freshman Shock Linwood stepped in and rushed for 182 yards. Seastrunk is the more likely of the two veterans to play this week, but with Linwood (5-8, 200) ready to roll, defensive end Kerry Hyder and the Red Raiders will have to play their best game of the season to reverse a three-game losing streak.
4. Michigan State at Nebraska, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional/ESPN2
The skinny: A huge game in the Big Ten Legends Division; a Michigan State victory basically locks up the division title for the Spartans, and the Huskers would put themselves in good shape to wear the crown with a win. Michigan State has the best defense in the Big Ten and one of the best in the nation. Senior LBs Denicos Allen (5-11, 218) and Max Bullough (6-3, 245), senior CB Darqueze Dennard (5-11, 197), senior SS Isaiah Lewis (5-10, 208) and third-year sophomore DE Shilique Calhoun (6-4, 250) are big-timers. Their main goal will be to clamp down on Nebraska junior TB Ameer Abdullah (5-9, 190), the Big Ten's leading rusher at 134.8 yards per game. WRs Quincy Enunwa (6-2, 225) and Kenny Bell (6-1, 185) will put pressure on Michigan State's secondary. Nebraska third-year sophomore DE Randy Gregory (6-6, 255) is tied with Calhoun for the Big Ten lead with 6.5 sacks; he has excellent speed off the edge and is a big-play guy. No one else on Nebraska's defense -- or anyone on Michigan State's offense -- really stands out.
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3. Georgia at Auburn, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The skinny: Both teams are still alive with hopes of reaching the SEC Championship game, so the stakes here will be high. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray, a highly regarded senior, will be pressured by Auburn defensive end Dee Ford (seven sacks), who figures to be a pass-rushing linebacker at the NFL level. One of the SEC's best young left tackles, Auburn's Greg Robinson, will get a nice test from a variety of Georgia pass rushers. Georgia cornerback Damian Swann doesn't figure to be tested much in coverage against an Auburn offense that doesn't throw much, but if his run support skills are less than sharp, the Tigers will expose that all day with a dangerous perimeter rushing attack.
2. Oklahoma State at Texas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox
The skinny: Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed are terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, combining for 27 tackles for loss with 14 sacks between the two Texas defensive ends. They will have to stay in attacking mode, as the Longhorns play without injured defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee) for the first time against an inconsistent Oklahoma State offense that will want to force-feed the ball to running back Desmond Roland. Roland has rushed for 359 yards and eight touchdowns in three games since seizing the starting job. The one-on-one battle between UT deep-threat wide receiver Mike Davis and OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert should be as good as it gets.
1. Stanford at USC, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The skinny: As its 26-20 win over Oregon proved, Stanford is just too dominant on the line of scrimmage for teams to dictate games on their terms. USC is going to have to manufacture a couple of big plays in the passing game with wide receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to break a four-game losing streak in the series, a tough task with Cardinal linebackers Trent Murphy (10 sacks) and Shayne Skov (3.5 sacks, six hurries) bearing down on opposing quarterbacks. But just as critical will be the play of the Trojans defensive line. Against the Ducks, Stanford was 14 of 21 on third down, with running back Tyler Gaffney churning out short-yardage conversions over and over again. The front line of George Uko, Antwaun Woods and sophomore standout end Leonard Williams, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, will have to hold tough against an offensive line that looks to have five future NFL draft picks.
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