Jesse Beals/Icon SMI
Here are 10 things I'm buzzing about at the outset of Week 11:
1. Another week, another can't-miss clash in the Big 12. If you're looking for someone who truly has the pulse of the nation's best conference, look elsewhere. My grand predictions for the conference's marquee matchups have fallen flat here, here and here. But, I guess you're already reading ... So what's my verdict on Texas Tech-Oklahoma State? The Pokes prevail in a shootout, 45-38, thanks to the best offensive trio you've barely heard about: QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant. In other words, bet the farm on Tech.
2. On the verge of Saban Bowl II in Baton Rouge, I think it's time to dig up an old LSU favorite, The Ballad of Nick Saban. Of course, this catchy tune ends with last year's 7-6 campaign. And things in Tuscaloosa have changed quite a bit since then -- Saban's squad is 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. So what will be the next verse in Nick's ballad? Although it seems like everyone is predicting the Tigers will successfully defend Death Valley, I'm going to side with the Tide. John Parker Wilson will get his day in the sun, burning LSU's inexperienced secondary for a pair of throwing scores.
3. Nate Longshore or Kevin Riley? That's the question in Berkeley, where Jeff Tedford's back to his favorite game, musical quarterbacks. Like much of the Cal fan base, I'm partial to the mobile, gutsy Riley. But that's irrelevant. Neither Cal singal-caller will lead the Bears to win at USC. Not against this Trojan defense. Over the last five games, Pete Carroll's bunch has outscored its opponents 207-27. Look for the Trojans to earn some style points in this one. Fortunately for tortured Golden Bear faithful, this ABC primetime shellacking will only be broadcast to 18 percent of the country. (The other 82 percent get Texas Tech-Okie State.)
4. It's hard to imagine Iowa hanging with Penn State. Yes, the Hawkeyes boast a steady ground game -- paced by vastly underrated RB Shonn Greene -- and a stout defense. But so do the Nittany Lions. (In fact, Penn State is adequately superior in both aspects.) It's statement time for PSU, and the stage is set in Iowa City.
5. I'm definitely ashamed of my aforementioned Big 12 incompetence, but when it comes to the ACC, I refuse to be held accountable for false forecasting. Why? Because this conference is literally impossible to predict. Need evidence? Today's four intra-conference games have a combined point spread of 14.5 points.
6. Terry Bowden didn't seem too upset when Clemson canned his brother, claiming Tommy "deserved" to be fired in his weekly Yahoo.com blog. And let's be honest -- Papa Bowden probably didn't lose too much sleep, either. After all, Bobby had lost three straight and four of five to Tommy. Papa B hosts the Dabo Swinney-led Tigers in Doak Campbell Stadium today. Will the 'Noles regain their edge over Clemson now that Tommy isn't on the opposing sideline? I'm going to say ... maybe (see: No. 5).
7. Can Vanderbilt snap a 17-game losing streak to Florida? Well, a win clinches the SEC East for the Gators, so I can't see them falling into this trap. Here's a better question: Who will gain more yards, Vandy or Percy Harvin? Don't snicker -- Percy fell just 32 yards short of the 'Dores last season.
8. Notre Dame enters today as a 3.5-point underdog to Boston College in the 18th installment of the "Holy War." Having written that sentence, I'm suddenly struck with a question: Is gambling a sin? According to BibleStudy.org, "The modern words 'gambling' and 'lottery' are not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous scriptures that denounce the principles behind gambling and lotteries." Eh, semantics. I'll take ND and the points.
9. After a slow start to the season, LeSean "Shady" McCoy has run wild since late September. Pitt's sophomore running back has rushed for at least 142 yards in each of the last five games, scoring 10 touchdowns during the past four. He will be tested today, as Louisville's giving up just 91.6 rushing yards per game (ninth nationally). Or maybe he won't -- McCoy racked up 180 total yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals last season.
10. Just how bad is Washington? Playing at home, the Huskies are 14.5-point underdogs to a 2-6 team (Arizona State). Meanwhile, Washington State is hosting Arizona -- and getting 41 points. Tickets still available for the 101st Apple Cup ...