It’s amazing. The top dog in the Southeastern Conference – heck, the top dog in the entire country – gets its comeuppance one week and suddenly a nation of college football followers receives a reprieve from getting hit over the head with the reality that the SEC is helmet and shoulders above every other circuit.
In short, the best league this side of Sunday play won’t be taking centerstage for a weekend. It’s slate is pretty paltry. In its top-billing place, well, it ain’t much more than paltry, either.
But at least a pair of Pac-12 powerhouses will square off Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., when No. 2 Oregon (10-0, 7-0 conference) hosts No. 13 Stanford (8-2, 6-1). That, clearly, is the highlight game of Week 12 in the 2012 campaign.
It may, however, not be the best contest between quality opponents. Look for that “honor” to fall to Big East frontrunner Rutgers – hey, the 22nd-ranked Scarlet Knights are 8-1, 4-0 in the conference, and tough as nails across the board – facing underrated and unranked, but dangerous Cincinnati. The host Bearcats are 7-2 (3-1 Big East) and very easily could be unbeaten at this point, if not for some sloppy ballhanding.
They made a switch at quarterback last week against Temple, and looked very sharp. Then again, what team, regardless of quarterback, hasn’t looked very sharp against the Owls in the past month?
Still, senior Brendon Kay, making his first career start, seemed to be a stabilizing influence for Cincy’s potent attack and, with picture-perfect TD passes of 75 and 65 yards, showed the kind of big-play potential the squad feared it might be missing with sitting his predecessor, Munchie Legaux.
The Knights will counter with the Big East’s best RB in Jawan Jamison, its best defender in LB Khasheem Greene and the most physical squad, top to bottom, in the conference.
The matchup should make for a very entertaining Saturday afternoon at Nippert Stadium, and possibly a logjam atop the conference standings when the final whistle blows.
As for Stanford-Oregon, well, considering the Ducks still possess that high-octane, no let-up offense and the Cardinal no longer has Andrew Luck barking out signals … and got blown out in this matchup last season in its own stadium, the vibe here isn’t that payback will be happening in any shape or form. Oregon, with a very good defense and two Heisman candidates (QB Marcus Mariota and RB Kenjon Barner) on offense, smells a national title, and it’s good enough to get it.
In other top 25 games of note:
No. 1 Kansas State (10-0, 7-0 Big 12) at Baylor (4-5, 1-5) – If the Bears somehow could muster the same kind of outburst they had against West Virginia earlier this season, this one could be interesting. Only problem is, they aren’t facing West Virginia’s defense this time around.
Wake Forest (5-5) at No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0) – Doesn’t it seem like every game is a trap game for the Irish? That hasn’t mattered so far as they’ve weathered the storm or rushed right through it with ease in keeping their own national-title hopes alive.
No. 18 Southern Cal (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) at No. 17 UCLA (8-2, 5-2) – The pregame drumline cadence by the Trojans’ marching band might be the highlight to this one. Shame is, they’re both good, quality teams … with little to play for, aside from pride. Plus, USC might be looking ahead to Notre Dame next week.
No. 23 Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) at No. 24 Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2) – Aside from the alums and stat psychos, does anyone care about either of these teams at this point? Not if they appreciate the concept of defense, that’s for sure.
No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) at West Virginia (5-4, 2-4) – Just a funny feeling that an upset might be in the works here. The Mountaineers, with former Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith at the helm, certainly are capable.
N.C. State (6-4, 3-3 ACC) at No. 11 Clemson (9-1, 6-1) – Just a funny feeling, part 2, that an upset might be in the works here. With skilled signal-caller Mike Glennon in what seems to be his eighth year donning the Pack’s gear, State appears dangerous enough to at least put a scare into the Tigers.