bruces1g's Football Blog
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Its Rivals Week and that means that passions and emotions will be running high as bragging rights are at stakes for many fans. This is the week when you can truly say that records go out the window as some teams are playing for nothing more than pride and the chance to wreck their bitter rival's season.

On a personal note, I apologize for a lack of a week 12 posting.  Unfortunately their was a death in the family that took priority. Also, I would like to thank all who offered prayers, condolences and support.

On to the picks. As always, the picks are in order of kickoff times.

Alabama at Auburn: The Crimson Tide travels to the Loveliest Village On The Plains for the 2009 Iron Bowl.  Not only will this be an intense game because of the rivalry but there will be a very hostile crowd awaiting the Tide. The Tigers have not had the best of seasons and a win - and spoiling of Bama's championship hopes - would be the perfect way to right the year. This makes the Tigers a very dangerous team and Bama fans hoping to avoid the nightmare of "Punt, Bama, Punt".

Auburn is bringing in a high-powered offense: 3rd in the conference in scoring and total offense. For all of the criticism, I think that QB Chris Todd has played well this season and Ben Tate is as good as any running back in the SEC.  This season the Tigers have scored an average of 34 points per game.

If the Tigers have a glaring weakness it is on the defensive side of the ball. Their D has been less than the normal hard-nosed, stingy defenses that AU has traditionally fielded. We are used to seeing Tiger defenses ranked in the top-tier of the nation, not the bottom half.

Bama's offense has been hot and cold this season. They started off well, then fell into mediocrity, and have been hot the past couple of weeks. Mark Ingram has been the one constant on the offensive side of the ball. And while we have all criticized the inconsistency of the rest of the offense this season, it is worth noting that it has been good enough to post an 11-0 record.

But the real strength of this year's Alabama team is undoubtedly the defense. Ranked 1st in the nation in total defense and 2nd in scoring defense, it is a fast and brutal unit that has throttled every offense they have faced. This is bad news for Auburn.

For the Tigers to win this game, their offense is going to have to outscore Bama and I just don't see them being able to move up and down the field on Bama's defense. I think the AU defense will see a very big dose of Ingram as Bama will pound on them relentlessly. I look for the Tigers to play with a lot of heart and emotion and keep it close early, but in the end Bama's depth will just be too much.

Clemson at South Carolina:  In this 107th meeting between to teams, it is the Tigers that have everything to lose. If Clemson takes care of SC and then Georgia Tech, the ACC champion has a berth in the Orange Bowl. Lose one or both of these games and they could be traveling to Atlanta (Chik-fil-A Bowl) or even plummet so far as the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are sitting at 6-5 and are playing mostly for state bragging rights.

C. J. Spiller is a legitimate Heisman candidate and the Tiger's most potent weapon. Whether he is taking a hand-off or catching passes out of the backfield, Spiller has exhibited the kind of talent that will see him playing on Sundays.  QB Kyle Parker is not the highest rated QB in the nation (128.8) but he has thrown for over 2000 yards this season.  Couple this with a decent defense and I think Clemson wins the Palmetto Bowl.

Ole Miss at Mississippi State: Prior to this past weekend, I would have probably picked the Bulldogs for the minor upset. However, after watching Bama and Arkansas shred the Bulldog's defense, what had been their strength this year, I am not so sure that they are going to be able to stop the Rebs attack. The Ole Miss offense was pretty effective against a very tough LSU defense last week, and I don't think that MSU is the same caliber defense.  I think Snead and McCluster will have a big day and win the Egg Bowl.

Florida State at Florida: This could very well be Bobby Bowden's Swan Song and I am afraid it is going to be more like a weak croak. Bringing a freshman QB, in only his second start, to The Swamp to face one of the best defenses in the nation is a recipe for disaster. This is not to mention that Tebow will have a banner day against a very poor FSU defense on what will be his final lovefest with the Gator fans.  I think Bowden and Andrews should  have hung up the whistles last season and this is now like watching a terminally ill patient struggle in the final hours. Even if the Gators are guilty of looking ahead to Dec 5, they still should easily win this one.

Arkansas at LSU: This may be the toughest game to pick this week. Les Miles looked like he was coaching at the Pee-Wee level last week in what had to be the bonehead play of the year. Not to mention Jefferson probably blew his Mensa consideration with that spike. Meanwhile, the Hogs put a serious beatdown on MSU as Ryan Mallett looked the part of one of the conference's best QBs.

On paper, I would easily say that LSU has much better talent that the Hogs. However, to use the old cliche, games are not played on paper. In the past three weeks, the Tigers have lost two games and struggled in the one that they won. I can't quite figure this LSU team out, but I do know that something isn't quite right on the bayou. I think Arkansas picks up a win in Baton Rouge.

Tennessee at Kentucky: The second toughest pick of the week, the Wildcats are riding a three game hot streak and a big win over Georgia into this game. They are going to need all the positive mojo they can muster in order to break the Vols 24-game winning streak in The Border War. Kentucky is using their triple threat of Hartline/Locke/Cobb to maximum advantage now that all three are fairly healthy at the same time. The question is whether or not their very pedestrian defense can stop a good Tennessee rushing attack. While neither team has been over-powering on either side of the ball,  I think the Vols might have an edge in talent and a better defense. Make it 25 in a row.

Georgia vs Georgia Tech:
I have tried to think of positives for the Bulldogs that would allow them to be competitive in this game and I just can't think of anything.  Tech's rushing attack is going to gut-punch a terrible Dawgs defense and pummel them for a ton of yards. I don't look for the Dawgs offense to fair much better either as QB Cox had a real problem last week distinguishing between his wide receivers and the opponents DBs. A porous offensive line and an anemic rushing game are their other issues. Sorry Dawgs fans, but this one is going to be ugly.

Now for the Next Best Three. I am going to stick with the Rivalry Week theme and choose some long-running feuds.

Pitt at West Virginia:
Pitt is cruising toward a big showdown with Cincy Dec 5, but will they get caught looking ahead? The Panthers are bringing a #8 ranking into the game known as the Backyard Brawl and certainly have the most to lose in a defeat. Pitt has looked strong this season with freshman RB Dion Lewis leading the Big East in rushing as well as having the best defense in the conference. QB Stull is also having a good season, throwing for more than 2100 yards and sporting a 159.4 QB rating.

WVU has had their moments this season, even taking Cincy to the wire a couple of weeks ago. Their primary weapon, Noel Devine, had his ankle hurt in that game, but has had a week to heal up. If the Mountaineers are going to have any chance Devine has got to have is "A" game.  Playing in Morgantown, this game should be close, but I think the Pitt Panthers come away with the win.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma:
Talk about your reversals of fortune. Just last season, Oklahoma was playing this game in preparation for a Big 12 championship and BCS championship game. Now, it is Oklahoma State that is looking for a BCS bowl invite and OU just hoping to get 7 wins. Cowboys QB Zac Robinson is expected to return as starter this week, but 26 year-old sophomore Brandon Weeden proved that he is quite capable of stepping in if needed.

Oklahoma has fallen a long way this year. While looking strong at home, the Sooners have been down-right pathetic on the road. They lose QB Bradford, TE Gresham and have to contend with an offensive line that has played badly all season. Their defense has played very well at times this season, but have had to contend with a mistake-prone offense often putting them in bad positions.

I think I am going to have to go with Okie State for the win. But I would not be surprised if the Sooners win another in the Bedlam Series.

UCLA vs USC: Another case of "my, how the mighty have fallen".  USC has lost two of their last three in very humbling fashion.  The 55-21 beatdown administered by Stanford might have been the worst defeat for the program in a decade. Certainly it was the most pathetic game I can remember the Trojans playing in a long time.

UCLA can't decide whether it wants to win or lose. The Bruins started the season with a 3 game streak, then stumbled through 5 straight losses, and now have another three game streak going. An offense that ranks 89th in the NCAA is a good reason why the Bruins are only 6-5.

Rick Neuheisel has predicted there will be a day when UCLA will beat the Trojans. Unfortunately for him, this isn't the year. I think that the Trojans man-up and play to their talent level for the home crowd.

And that is how I see Rivalry week playing out. In this whacky season, it will be interesting to see if there are any big upsets that change the BCS landscape.

As always, feel free to disagree or point out the error of my logic, but respect  the rule of no cheap smack without something to back it up.  Bring some facts. Bring some substance to your position. Demonstrate your football knowledge rather than lack of class.

Next week will feature a more detailed breakdown of the conference championship games.

For more Big 10 action and a different slant on other games, be sure to check Norka's excellent "The Big 10 and Next Best 3" blog.

To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.

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