Notre Dame is 11-0 for the first time since 1989 and know they are just one game away from a national-title shot. The Fighting Irish have risen to the top thanks to a defense that is tied with Alabama for first in scoring defense, allowing just 10.1 points per game
The Ducks are riding a school-record 14-game winning streak and can clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game with a win this weekend. Oregon’s high-powered offense leads the nation in scoring and has become a case of "pick your poison"—running back Kenjon Barner is fourth in the nation in rushing, but when he was knocked out of last week’s game, quarterback Marcus Mariota responded with 377 passing yards and a school-record six touchdowns. They’ll be tested, however, by a Stanford defense that leads the nation in rush defense and is giving up a conference-low 320.7 total yards per game. Stanford’s Kevin Hogan will be making his second career start for the Cardinal after throwing for 254 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over then-#13 Oregon State. Oregon has won nine of the last 10 over the Cardinal.
Last year, these two teams gave us the two most anticipated games of the year, and this season isn't much different. Alabama and LSU boast two of the top defenses in the game, ranking first and third, respectively, in total defense. The Crimson Tide have a slight edge on offense, with quarterback A.J. McCarron leading the nation in pass efficiency. However, while Alabama has blown away the opposition by an average of over 37 points per game, they have played just one ranked team and aren't as battle-tested as an LSU squad that is playing its fourth consecutive ranked opponent and has had a bye week to prepare.
This week’s rankings will look very different when the new AP Poll comes out following a Saturday full of upsets. Four Top Ten teams fell this week and five ranked teams suffered their first losses of the season. Meanwhile, Collin Klein and Manti T’eo boosted their Heisman chances while Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame continued to make their case for a shot in the national title game.
After steamrolling through its first seven opponents, the Crimson Tide now gets to the meat of its schedule with a three-game stretch vs. #13 Mississippi State, at #6 LSU and vs. #22 Texas A&M. Thus far, Alabama hasn’t really been challenged, outscoring its opponents by almost 33 points per game. The Tide defense has been as good as we’ve seen in years, ranking first in almost all defensive categories. But while the defense understandably gets the publicity, the Alabama offense has been no slouch either, scoring 40+ in five of seven games this year. Quarterback A.J. McCarron leads the nation in pass efficiency and the offense ranks 14th nationally in scoring.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron threw for a career-high 306 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Crimson Tide to their third straight win over Tennessee, the longest such streak in this series since 1992. Alabama’s defense continued its dominance, holding the Vols to just 79 rushing yards and limiting Tyler Bray, the SEC’s second-leading passer, to just 184 passing yards and two interceptions.
After rushing for just 71 total yards in the Tigers’ six previous games, freshman running back Jeremy Hill exploded for 124 yards and two touchdowns to lead LSU to its first home conference win of the year. South Carolina actually led 14-10 with less than 11 minutes to play in the game before LSU rattled off 13 unanswered points in the game's next six minutes.
While there aren't as many marquee games as last week, we have several intriguing matchups to look forward to this weekend. Saturday features four games between ranked opponents, including one top 10 game in the SEC. Additionally, 14 of the 22 ranked teams in action this weekend are playing road or neutral-site games. So this could be another weekend to be on upset alert.
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