Game of the week
Alabama at Auburn
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It took a miraculous victory over Georgia, but Auburn has arrived at the Iron Bowl with an SEC championship at stake. The winner goes to the conference title game, and if it’s the Crimson Tide, the league’s national championship hopes remain alive. The Tigers’ path has obstacles, like undefeated Florida State and Ohio State. Auburn is the SEC’s top running team, but that plays into Bama’s defensive strength. The Tigers will need to step up the passing game with quarterback Nick Marshall. Nobody in college football over the last few years has been better at big-game hunting than the Tide. Alabama’s offensive line has developed nicely over the season and allows the Tide to dominate second halves. As it will on Saturday.
USC over UCLA
The Pac-12 title game is set and neither of these teams are there, but this one drips with intrigue, especially on the Trojans’ side. Does a victory put more pressure on USC athletic director Pat Haden to remove the interim-coach title from Ed Orgeron? The Bruins have split their last six games and have fallen from the top 25. Southern California has won five straight and will make it six.
Others to watch
The Gamecocks have the momentum in the series, but Clemson has more on the line. The Tigers are part of the one-loss group that line up behind the undefeated teams, hoping enough havoc occurs to get into the national title hunt. Failing that, Clemson looms as an attractive at-large selection for a BCS (probably Orange) bowl. South Carolina will scoreboard watch. Playing at the same time is Missouri against Texas A If Mizzou falls, the Gamecocks go to the SEC title game.
Ohio State at Michigan
Is this rivalry strong enough to deliver a shocker? It has happened before. An average Michigan team (by Wolverines standards) took out undefeated Buckeyes teams three times in the 1990s, including the great 1996 team that appeared headed to the national title. But the Wolverines have lost four of six and have rushed for a total of 130 yards in the last four games.
Arizona at Arizona State
The Pac-12 championship game is set — Sun Devils vs. Stanford. But this game is for home field. If Arizona State beats its in-state rival, the Pac-12 title game will be played in Tempe. Lose, and the game is at Stanford.
On the horizon: Dec. 7
Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Big Ten championship
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Pokes take Big 12 with Bedlam victory
Florida State is there. Opponent unknown until Saturday
Missouri or South Carolina vs. Alabama or Auburn
Heisman trophy poll
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama
3. Andre Williams, Boston College