A question arose this week from ESPN and its affiliates about how Alabama would fare against the like's of an NFL cellar dweller. Say Alabama vs. Jacksonville or Kansas City? Granted, I think that Nick Saban is superior in the college game with putting together a balanced football team, but I don't think the Tide would be able to hang. But, what I do know is that Alabama doesn't look like they will be giving up their No. 1 ranking in the country anytime soon. Beating LSU in death valley on Saturday night can further cement their claim to repeat as national champions again this year.
#1 Alabama at #5 LSU
LSU is seeking revenge on Saturday after being embarrassed by Alabama 21-0 in the national championship game last year. Both teams represent the cream of the crop in both the SEC and the nation, and have a combined three losses between them over the past two seasons. At the skill positions, Alabama looks like they have an advantage with A.J. McCarron at quarterback, T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy at running back and Amari Cooper at wideout. They pride themselves at being balanced on both sides of the ball, and play with a tenacity that is almost unmatched. LSU will have to come out and play its best game of the year behind its home crowd, and Zach Mettenberger will have to keep mistakes to a minimum. LSU isn't the same team that Alabama faced last year, and has taken a hit by losing Jordan Jefferson, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu in the offseason. Alabama leads LSU in almost every statistical category, and Les Miles will need to pull some tricks out of his sleeve if he plans on beating his archrival Nick Saban. Look for the game to be close in the first half, but after a Saban halftime speech the Tide will run away in the 2nd half from the Tigers.
#24 Oklahoma State at #2 Kansas State
Another week, another tough Big 12 test for Bill Snyder and his Kansas State Wildcats. They haven't exactly caught a break, and the high scoring Oklahoma State Cowboys are coming to town on Saturday. Both teams average 44 points per game and Oklahoma State in first in the country in yards per game. Last season Kansas State almost pulled off the upset against the then #3 ranked Cowboys but fell short. This year Oklahoma State is looking to spoil the Wildcats national championship aspirations. The Cowboys defense started off shaky to start the season giving up 40+ points to Texas and Arizona. But their past three games they have keep the opposition under 20 points, and look to try and contain Heisman contender Collin Klein. Klein leads the Big 12 in many statistical categories, and has been giving defensive coordinators a headache in trying to plan for him. His passing game has came into form, and when he needs to use his legs it usually works out as he's rushed for 16 touchdowns on the season. Look for Kansas State to get revenge for last season's failed upset bid as they continue their quest for post season championship hopes.
#4 Oregon at #17 USC
Chip Kelly and his high octane offense are traveling to the Coliseum to take on the USC Trojans in what was supposedly to be a showcase of the top two Pac-12 teams. But USC fell early in the season to Stanford and then lost a heart breaker at Arizona last weekend and will look to rebound at home and salvage their season. Oregon boasts the top scoring offensive unit in the nation, averaging 53 points a game. Freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has been outstanding, and it helps that he has Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas in the backfield. USC and Oregon's defensive units both allow 19 points per game, and USC also possesses play-makers on offense as well. Marqise Lee caught 16 passes for 345 yards last weekend against Arizona, and coupled with Robert Woods they make up probably the best wide receiver tandem in the nation. Matt Barkley hasn't been the Heisman trophy winner we all expected at times, but nonetheless has performed well thus far. The Trojans allowed 222 yards rushing last weekend at Arizona and will need to tighten up its run defense if they have any chance of beating Oregon on Saturday. Barkley will be relied on to have a career-defining day through the air to keep USC close, and it should be an exciting game. Look for Oregon to get off to their signature fast start, but USC will keep it close and claw their way back as the game progresses.
#16 Texas A&M at #15 Mississippi State
This game could be summed up as the showdown between the junior heavyweights in the SEC. Texas A&M tried to knock off LSU at home a few weeks ago but fell short while Mississippi State was embarrassed last weekend against Alabama. Both teams are still holding out hope that they can make it to the SEC championship game in Atlanta, and the Bulldogs are looking to get back on track after their first loss last week. A&M features one of the top offenses in the country behind freshman sensation Johnny Manziel who poses a threat with his legs and through the air. Dan Mullen will have his hands full again, and needs defensive veterans Cameron Lawrence and Johnathan Banks to step up. The Aggies are averaging an astounding 542 yards per game, and almost 46 points per contest. If LSU knocks off Alabama on Saturday, one of these two teams could still find themselves in the conference championship game. Look for Manziel to continue a stellar season at quarterback under Kevin Sumlin and lead the Aggies over a convincing win at Mississippi State on Saturday.
Pittsburgh at #3 Notre Dame
This game has lost its luster over the years, as these two programs with rich history have hit speed bumps with recruiting and coaching changes. But Notre Dame is back on top again and Pittsburgh is still searching for its identity as a football program. Pitt has had a coaching carousel in the past 15 months with three different coaches that have been through, and three starters were charged with assault on Thursday stemming from a fight. Traveling to South Bend to face arguably one of the toughest defenses in the country will prove to be a pretty stout test for first year coach Paul Chryst. Pitt proves superior to Notre Dame offensively on paper, but is no match defensively and will have a hard time keeping the game close. The past four contests between these two programs has been decided by six points or less, so there is a chance that this could still be closer than previously thought. Notre Dame is looking to keep steamrolling through their schedule and have a chance at a berth in the national championship. They are off to their best start since 2002 behind Heisman candidate Manti Te'o, and are only allowing 10 points per contest. Look for the Fighting Irish to continue their dominance this season against an over matched Panthers team.