Game of the week
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Alabama at LSU
Its the teams third meeting in 12 months, and all of them have been earth-moving important. The outcome will strengthen Alabamas hold on the perception that the Tide is the nations best team, or muddle the national championship picture. Bama quarterback AJ McCarron (18 touchdowns, no interceptions) has been cool as a cucumber all season and has wonderful weapons in freshmen running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper. Will counterpart Zach Mettenberger be ready for his biggest game? Hes thrown one touchdown pass in SEC play this season.
Others to watch
Oregon at Southern California
Until last years Rose Bowl, the criticism of Oregon was failure in big games: the Rose Bowl for 2009, the BCS title game for 2010, the LSU opener in 2011. But winning last seasons Rose Bowl against Wisconsin marked a pivot point and the Ducks can make it a trend by beating the Trojans and improving their BCS standing. USC quarterback Matt Barkley remains in the Heisman race and could be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft, but Oregon redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota is just as important for making his team go. The Trojans shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties in last weeks loss to Arizona and are among the nations most penalized teams.
Oklahoma State at Kansas State
Its beyond time to give the Wildcats offensive line credit for this outstanding season. How many times has Collin Klein run into the end zone through a gaping hole? Three seniors moved on from last seasons team, but this squad, led by center B.J. Finney, is playing as well as any group in the nation this side of Alabama. It shows in the stats. K-State leads the Big 12 in scoring at 44.4 points per game (Oklahoma State is second at 44.3) and has a league-best 30 rushing touchdowns.
Nebraska at Michigan State
The Cornhuskers defensive players found the symbolic blackshirts hanging in their lockers after the Northwestern victory two weeks ago, but they decided not to wear them. A year earlier, after the blackshirts were handed out, Nebraska lost. This time, the patience paid off. The Huskers played well in last weeks victory over Michigan and the blackshirts were unpacked. Nebraska has the edge on the competition in the Big Ten Legends Division, and Saturdays game at East Lansing looms as the most difficult remaining on the slate.
On the horizon
Oregon State at Stanford
The weekend has an undercard feel, with games like this
Mississippi State at LSU
Kansas State at TCU
Gary Patterson faces his alma mater for the first time.