The Sweep

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Loaded with NFL prospects like safety Taylor Mays (above), USC's defense has punished its opponents all season long.
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Here are 10 things I'm buzzing about at the outset of Week 12:

1. There's no denying it: Today's slate of games is dreadful. The day features exactly one matchup between Top 25 foes, No. 24 South Carolina at No. 3 Florida, and the Gators are 22-point favorites. Two of top-five teams (No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 5 Oklahoma) are sitting on the couch. And lastly, ABC's primetime, Musburger-Herbstreit tilt is ... Boston College at Florida State. Yikes!

But in the chaotic world of college football, nothing ever goes as planned. As soon as we utter the words "slow Saturday" -- KAZAAM! The title race takes another unimaginable turn. Contenders, beware.

2. Since 1912, South Carolina has traveled to Gainesville 11 times. And 11 times, the Gamecocks have left in defeat. South Carolina nearly prevailed in its last trip -- Steve Spurrier's initial return to The Swamp -- but Jarvis Moss took matters into his own hands. Literally. Head Ball Coach is back in town. Can he derail Florida's title train this time around? Although I did open this file with a warning to all contenders, I think the Gators are safe. With the way Florida has dismantled its last five opponents, expect to see Spurrier doing a whole lot of this.

3. There's a buzz going around that Charlie Weis could be out of a job if Notre Dame loses to Navy for the second straight year. This seems highly irrational due to the enormity of Weis' potential buyout, but it's easy to see why some folks are jumping to such extremes with the fourth-year coach. After all, Weis' biggest win to date is a 34-31 loss to USC in 2005.

4. Just how dominant is USC's defense? If an opponent reaches the end zone once, the Trojans are officially underperforming. The Men of Troy easily lead the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 6.7 points per game. (In nine games, USC has allowed a grand total of seven touchdowns.) And this defense has a bone to pick with a certain Stanford Cardinal. One year ago, QB Tavita Pritchard braved the Coliseum and slew the Trojan beast in his first collegiate start. Godspeed, Tavita. Payback's a mother.

5. What's the No. 1 team in all the land up to this Saturday? Alabama hosts Mississippi State tonight in Tuscaloosa. On the surface, this seems like an easy win for the Tide, but don't forget that Sly Croom's Bulldogs have beaten 'Bama in each of the past two seasons. Then again, Alabama has more wins (72) against Mississippi State than any other opponent.

6. Anybody fiendin' for some absurd aerial action? Get your fix at 12:30 p.m. on FSN.  Texas' Colt McCoy and Kansas' Todd Reesing could both produce Playstation numbers, as the Jayhawks and Longhorns feature two of the worst pass defenses in America. Bombs away!

7. Jacquizz and Jahvid? Jah Mon! One season after Oregon State prevented Cal from obtaining the No. 1 ranking, the Golden Bears look to stymie the Beavers' trip to Pasadena. But to me, the game's most intriguing subplot is a matchup between the Pac-10's two best running backs: Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Cal's Jahvid Best. Rodgers and Best have different body types and running styles, but both players thrive by consistently finding the cutback lanes.

8. There's no joy in Aggieland, as Texas A&M holds a 4-6 mark in Mike Sherman's debut season. A&M fans had to gasp when they saw their Aggies as 8.5-point underdogs -- to 3-7 Baylor! Truth be told, that line is a bit curious: Shouldn't Baylor be a double-digit favorite? Bears freshman QB Robert Griffin is going to run circles around the nation's 112th-ranked rush defense.

9. The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe takes place today, and I must say, I'm intrigued. Who cares if Wisconsin is one of the year's biggest busts and Minnesota's stumbling to the finish line? This rivalry game has more than enough venom to hold my attention today. Word on the street is Badgers coach Bret Bielema and Golden Gophers coach Tim Brewster aren't too fond of each other. After last year's physically charged game -- which Wisconsin won 41-34 -- Bielema proclaimed, "You want a rivalry? You got one." Look for another rugged bout in Camp Randall Stadium. Mr. Bunyan would be proud.

10. With a win over 2-8 Iowa State, Missouri can lock up a second consecutive Big 12 North title. And we can refine this season's biggest remaining question: What happens if the North champion (Missouri) pulls off a shocker in the Big 12 title game?

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