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Alabama at Auburn is top game in Week 14 of college football

  • By Chase Goodbread, Dan Greenspan and Mike Huguenin NFL.com
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On a weekend filled with major rivalry games, none will have as much on the line as Saturday's showdown between SEC rivals Alabama and Auburn. For the Crimson Tide, a win secures their spot in the SEC title game and keeps them in the driver's seat for the BCS championship game. An Auburn win would give the Tigers a strong case to play for the national title, as well.

Alabama features two major awards finalists in QB AJ McCarron (Maxwell, Davey O'Brien) and LB C.J. Mosley (Bednarik, Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski). Auburn counters with pass rusher Dee Ford, who is third in the SEC with eight sacks and is No. 28 on Gil Brandt's Hot 100, and a run-heavy offensive attack powered by QB Nick Marshall and RB Tre Mason.

Also on a busy weekend slate are Clemson at South Carolina, Texas A&M at Missouri and UCLA at USC.

Here are our top 10 games of Week 14.

10. Fresno State at San Jose State, Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

The skinny: Two of the nation's best senior quarterbacks will be on view in Fresno State's Derek Carr (6 feet 3, 218 pounds) and San Jose's David Fales (6-3, 220). Carr has six 400-yard games this season, and Fales has four. Carr is receiving some Heisman attention, but more important, Fresno is a strong contender for a BCS bid -- if it can remain unbeaten. There are two wide receivers to keep an eye on: Fresno third-year sophomore Davante Adams (6-2, 212) and San Jose senior Chandler Jones (5-11, 180). Adams has excellent size and good speed; Jones is a technician who always seems to be open. San Jose State has the game's best defensive player in senior CB Bene Benwikere (6-0, 190). Fresno State senior OT Austin Wentworth (6-5, 306) should be a third-day draft pick. Expect a lot of points and a ton of passes. (UPDATE: Fales outduels Carr in San Jose State's 62-52 win over Fresno State.)

9. Florida State at Florida, Saturday, noon ET, ESPN

The skinny: Florida State is on track to play for the national title; Florida is finishing up its worst season since 1979, when it was 0-10-1. FSU QB Jameis Winston (6-4, 228) is a Heisman favorite, and he has a plethora of talented players with whom to work, among them junior TB Devonta Freeman (5-9, 203), junior WR Rashad Greene (6-0, 180), junior TE Nick O'Leary (6-3, 248) and junior OT Cameron Erving (6-6, 320). Those guys will be going up against a battered Florida defense; to keep this close, Florida must get some big plays from DE Dante Fowler Jr. (6-3, 266) and talented CBs Vernon Hargreaves III (5-11, 192), Louchiez Purifoy (6-0, 190) and Marcus Roberson (6-0, 195). This could be the final college game for Purifoy and Roberson; reports have both juniors leaning toward entering the draft. FSU's defense should have no trouble shutting down Florida's popgun offense, which lacks playmakers. FSU senior CB Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 190) is one of the nation's best, and senior LBs Christian Jones (6-4, 235) and Telvin Smith (6-3, 218) are prime NFL prospects. Junior DT Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 296) is a stud, too.

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8. Oregon State at Oregon, Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

The skinny: The Civil War lost much of its luster over the past month, but the battle between Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks and Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is still top notch. With quarterback Sean Mannion falling back into bad habits and throwing 10 interceptions in his last three games, Ekpre-Olomu (5-10, 185) will want to take away Cooks on screens and other easy pass plays that could get Mannion back into a rhythm. In what might be his final game at Autzen Stadium, versatile but undersized junior De'Anthony Thomas is expected to be the featured running back for Oregon after rising sophomore Byron Marshall hurt his ankle in the crushing loss at Arizona. (UPDATE: Marcus Mariota led a last-minute winning drive for the Ducks in a 36-35 win over Oregon State.)

7. Arizona at Arizona State, Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

The skinny: If this year's Territorial Cup showdown is anything like last season's, expect a lot of offense and a lot of late-game drama. Sun Devils running back Marion Grice (156 rushing yards, three touchdowns last season in a 41-34 ASU triumph) is questionable with a leg injury, but there are no such concerns about his Wildcat counterpart Ka'Deem Carey, coming off a signature performance against Oregon. Carey's school-record 48 carries for 206 yards and four touchdowns showed the junior has endurance and toughness to match his speed and elusiveness. Carey will have to highlight all those attributes to get past defensive tackle Will Sutton. With a win, ASU will host Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game Dec. 7.

6. Notre Dame at Stanford, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox

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The skinny: Stanford will play in the Pac-12 championship game next week; this is the regular-season finale for the Irish. Stanford loves to run the ball, and senior TB Tyler Gaffney runs behind a physical line headed by two juniors: G David Yankey (6-5, 313) and OT Cam Fleming (6-6, 318). Junior WR Ty Montgomery (6-2, 215) is a big-play threat on offense and as a return man. Defensively, the Cardinal has one of the best front sevens in the nation. Senior LBs Trent Murphy (6-6, 251) and Shayne Skov (6-3, 245) are the standouts; Murphy leads the nation with 13 sacks. Notre Dame must produce on the ground if it is to have a shot at the upset; true freshman TB Tarean Folston (5-9, 207) needs more carries. OT Zack Martin (6-4, 308) and G Chris Watt (6-3, 321) are standouts on the offensive line. Senior WR T.J. Jones (5-11, 195) could have success against Stanford's corners. The Irish need a big game from junior DE Stephon Tuitt (6-6, 311), who has been inconsistent this season but remains a prime pro prospect. Speedy LB Jaylen Smith (6-2, 230) has been one of the best true freshmen in the nation.

5. Ohio State at Michigan, Saturday, noon ET, ABC

The skinny: Conventional wisdom suggests the Buckeyes will dominate the punchless Wolverines. But this is one of the best rivalries in the nation, so perhaps Michigan rises up and plays well. Michigan's rushing attack has been atrocious, putting a ton of pressure on senior WR Jeremy Gallon (5-8, 184) to make some big plays. He should spend a lot of his day against Buckeyes junior CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 192), who hasn't played all that well this fall but remains an elite athlete. While the Wolverines' offense has had numerous issues, senior OTs Taylor Lewan (6-8, 315) and Michael Schofield (6-7, 304) have played well. Ohio State has a nice group of defensive ends: sophomores Noah Spence (6-3, 252) and Adolphus Washington (6-4, 295) and true freshman Joey Bosa (6-6, 275). Michigan junior DE Frank Clark (6-2, 273) must provide consistent pressure on Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller (6-2, 215); Clark will be going against star Buckeyes senior OT Jack Mewhort (6-6, 308). Michigan's defense has been steady this season, but it will have a tough task in trying to slow Ohio State's diversified offense. Senior TB Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235) has had a big season and improved his draft stock.

4. UCLA at USC, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

The skinny: It could be wide receiver Marqise Lee's last game at the Coliseum, but USC fans might be more interested in lobbying for interim head coach Ed Orgeron to keep the job rather than breaking out the "one more year" chants to try to sway the dynamic junior. UCLA will need its pass rush, especially senior outside linebacker Anthony Barr, to get pressure and give a banged-up secondary a chance to hold Lee and sophomore Nelson Agholor in check. Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley has taken a step back from his fine redshirt freshman campaign, and his pocket presence has been an issue. Hundley has been sacked 31 times this season, nine against Arizona State last week. Against a USC defense that has 33 sacks -- six from sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams -- Hundley's internal clock must be perfectly wound.

3. Texas A&M at Missouri, Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: What could be Johnny Manziel's final regular-season college game gets a primetime stage against Mizzou, which will come after him with two of the SEC's best pass-rushing prospects in Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. How those two ends fare against Aggies offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Matthews will be a four-way battle of NFL futures. Another top matchup to watch: Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines against A&M star receiver Mike Evans. Evans, as he does against every cornerback, will have a huge size advantage at 6-5. But Gaines practices daily against 6-6 Mizzou receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, so he knows a thing or two about defending a tall assignment. If you see a little more vigor from Missouri on display in this game, it's for good reason. A Tigers win secures the SEC East title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game against the Alabama-Auburn winner. A Texas A&M win would send South Carolina to the SEC title game.

2. Clemson at South Carolina, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The skinny: One of the more interesting dynamics here will involve four impressive NFL prospects: South Carolina defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, and Clemson's passing connection of quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins. Clowney and Quarles will look to disrupt the pocket and, by extension, disrupt Boyd's production through the air. Of course, you might remember back in July, Clowney said Boyd was scared of the Gamecocks' defensive line. Meanwhile, Gamecocks cornerback Vic Hampton could be playing his last regular-season game head to head against Watkins, if he chooses to enter the draft early. Another intriguing prospect, Clemson pass rusher Vic Beasley, will look to rebound from his late-season struggles. He'll look to do it against Gamecocks left tackle Corey Robinson, who is among a deep and elite crop of left tackle talents in the SEC this year.

1. Alabama at Auburn, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The skinny: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron plays his final regular-season game against a hostile Auburn crowd with plenty on the line. It's in games like this that McCarron's game-management skills -- proper check-offs, pre-snap reads, etc. -- make a major difference for Alabama. Crimson Tide left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio working against Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford should provide a stern test for both. Ford likes to beat offensive tackles around the edge with speed and power, and Kouandjio typically swallows that type of rush. Although Auburn won't throw much, keep an eye on Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson, a fast-rising underclassman, working against Alabama's pass rushers. Auburn won't throw much. The annual Iron Bowl has especially high stakes this season, with the winner qualifying for the SEC Championship Game as the winner of the SEC West. Plenty of juice on both sides for this one.

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