11/22/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak
What a difference a week makes.
By virtue of last week's win over then #1 Mississippi State, Alabama holds the top spot in the NCAA Football playoff race. Oregon remains at #2 after a bye week, Florida State stays at #3, and Mississippi State falls to #4. TCU, who was fourth last week, is on the outside looking in at #5 after a less than impressive win over Kansas last week. Let's see what's on the schedule for this week's "Big Four".
#1 Alabama vs. Western Carolina
Again, what a difference a week makes. A week after defeating the top team in the country, Alabama takes quite a step down in competition, as they host FCS Western Carolina. Usually a game that comes between a huge win and a battle versus your biggest rival could be a recipe for a let down, but that's doubtful in this case. Despite being 7 and 4 overall, the Catamounts have gone 0 and 51 all time versus Division-I (FBS) teams. The 9 and 1 Crimson Tide will be hoping to blow Western Carolina out early so they can rest their starters in the second half. Alabama will close the regular season at home next week in the traditional "Iron Bowl" battle against rival and 16th ranked Auburn. With a win in that game, the Crimson Tide will have a spot in the SEC Championship game. Alabama has won all 5 of their home games this season. These teams last met in 2012, with the Crimson Tide winning 49 to 0.
#2 Oregon vs. Colorado
Complacency could be the only thing that sidetracks the Ducks this week. At 9 and 1, Oregon has already clinched a spot in the Pac 12 title game. This game comes between a week off for the Ducks and their regular season finale, the annual "Civil War" battle against rival Oregon State. The Ducks rank 3rd in the nation in scoring, averaging 46 points per game. They'll face a Colorado defense that's ranked 120th, giving up an average of 38.6 points against per contest. Oregon has won 5 games in a row since a stunning loss at home to Arizona on October 2nd. After starting the season 2 and 2, Colorado has lost their past 6 games and are winless in Pac-12 play. The Ducks will be without TE Pharaoh Brown, who suffered a season ending injury in their win over Utah two weeks ago. Oregon may also be without center Hroniss Grasu and defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who were also injured in the Utah game. Colorado may have to play without starting QB Sefo Liiufau, who sustained a concussion in the Buffaloes last game, a loss to Arizona on November 8th. Oregon has outscored Colorado 172 to 32 in the past 3 meetings between these teams.
#3 Florida State vs. Boston College
Despite facing criticism all season of not being as good as last years National Championship team, and maybe not deserving of it's ranking, the Seminoles are a perfect 10 and 0 for the second season in a row, and have won 26 games in a row. Boston College comes in at 6 and 4, and have already defeated one Top-10 team this season, when they beat USC back in Week-3. The Eagles rank 12th in college football in rushing, averaging 264 yards per game on the ground. Florida State's rushing defense ranks 105th, giving up an average of 128.3 yards against per game. Boston College actually held a 14 point lead going into the 2nd quarter in last years game, before Florida State came back to win 48 to 34. Florida State controls their own destiny being the only undefeated team in the Top-4. The Seminoles finish the regular season at home next week against Florida, then will play in the ACC Championship game.
#4 Mississippi State vs. Vanderbilt
Despite last weeks loss to Alabama, Mississippi State still controls their own destiny in getting into the four-team championship tournament. Next week will be the Egg Bowl versus rival Mississippi. But this week, 3 and 7 Vanderbilt come to town. The Commodores are 0 and 6 in the SEC, while the Bulldogs have won all six of their home games. Vanderbilt has struggled on both sides of the ball this season, ranking 107th in passing yards per game, 113th in rushing yards per game and 119th in points scored, while ranking 102nd in points against. The Commodores have scored less than 20 points in 6 of their 7 losses. Mississippi State has scored 30 or more points in 8 of their 9 wins. The Bulldogs rank 15th in the nation in scoring (37.8 points per game) and 16th in points against (20.2 points against per game). This is the first meeting between these schools since 2009 and Mississippi State has won the past 2 games between them.
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