WEEK FOURTEEN - Top 25 Preview (Part II)

You know there is going to be a shakeup somewhere this week. The holidays seem to bring out the worst in top ranked teams, and if last year is any indication, the schools that now seem most likely to play for the National Title game won't even be in the picture by Sunday.

Two schools in the thick of the national title picture must hit the road to face ranked opponents - could disaster strike there? Who is safe? Who is going to fall? Here is Pikes Picks' guide to the top ranked schools most likely to lose this weekend. Keep in mind though, chaos rules this time of year, so these are only our best guesses.

Texas A&M (4-7) at #2 Texas (10-1)
(Thursday, 7 pm, ESPN)
Chance of Shakeup: 5%
A&M has won the last two meetings, but this is a different year. Texas has only really played one bad half all season, and the Aggies are struggling. Mike Sherman didn't inherit a lot of talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Expect Colt McCoy and the Longhorns to light up the scoreboard early as they cruise to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Brian Orakpo is back from injury and looking to hit double figures in sacks. Knowing Will Muschamp will be around for a while will certainly energize the rest of the defense and they'll shut down the Aggies.
J.Pike's Pick: Texas 48, Texas A&M 13
H.Simons' Pick: Texas 35, Texas A&M 14

Notre Dame (6-5) at #5 USC (9-1)
(Saturday, 7 pm, ESPN)
Chance of Shakeup: 5%
As it turns out, Charlie Weis doesn't give Notre Dame a "schematic advantage" over everybody they face. In fact, Notre Dame holds very little advantage over even the least imposing opponents - other than in the arrogance department. USC is looking to stay alive in the BCS race, and this should be nothing more than a scrimmage. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen has yet to show any improvement as he continues to throw ill-advised passes that lead to interceptions. USC's imposing defense will have a field day forcing turnovers. This one will be over early.
J.Pike's Pick: USC 45, Notre Dame 12

#4 Florida (10-1) at #20 Florida State (8-3)
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, ABC)
Chance of Shakeup: 25%
Florida has built up some momentum down the stretch, but did the detour against The Citadel last weekend knock them off course? I know the Gators took care of business early, but did they lose their feel for playing actual opponents in the process? Florida State is improving, and the defense will slow down the Gators overrated offense. However, the speed on the Gator defense is unmatched anywhere in the country. Brandon Spikes and company will make Christian Ponder ponder his decision to attend Florida State University. Look for Florida's defense and special teams to combine to score as many points as either offense in this game.
J.Pike's Pick: Florida 34, Florida State 17

#3 Oklahoma (10-1) at #11 Oklahoma State (9-2)
(Saturday, 7 pm, ABC)
Chance of Shakeup: 35%
Bedlam. Oklahoma State would love nothing more than to ruin the Sooners dreams of another National Title game appearance. They have more tools to accomplish the feat than Texas Tech did, too, but is that really saying much? Running back Kendall Hunter and tight end Brandon Pettigrew are two dynamic weapons that can mix things up against an Oklahoma defense that will surely be playing with inflated egos after their dominating performance against the one-dimensional Red Raiders. For Oklahoma State to pull the upset, they are going to have to handle their emotions, get Hunter going on the ground early, and hit Pettigrew or receiver Dez Bryant deep for a big play or two. It is all possible, but I'm picking the Sooners.
J.Pike's Pick: Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 27

Baylor (4-7) at #7 Texas Tech (10-1)
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, Versus)
Chance of Shakeup: 40%
Texas Tech is finished, and they still need two more losses to fill the "Mike Leach Quota" for the year. Against Oklahoma last week, Leach reverted to his old self by going for it on fourth down twice in the early going, essentially assuring that his team would be blown out of the building. Now one of Leach's top proteges comes to town with a hot shot freshman quartebrack named Robert Griffin and all the knowledge necessary to land another knockout punch on the reeling Red Raiders.
J.Pike's Pick: Baylor 41, Texas Tech 35

Auburn (5-6) at #1 Alabama (11-0)
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, CBS)
Chance of Shakeup: 50%
Auburn has had a terrible season, but they aren't nearly as bad as their record would lead you to believe. The defense is actually quite good. They rank 10th nationally in points allowed, giving up only 16.4 per game. Believe me - when Sen'Derrick Marks wants to track you down, he'll get you. Marks should be healthy for the Iron Bowl after sitting out the last two games with an ankle injury. Alabama has proven to be inconsistent offensively all year, so Marks and pass rusher Antonio Coleman could make a big difference. The player I expect to make the biggest difference though is a player former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin never gave a chance - quarterback Kodi Burns. Burns has been getting better every week since Franklin got fired. His athleticism gives the offense a dimension the Tigers never had under Chris Todd. Burns is also much more confident in the pocket than Todd, which means he'll make fewer stupid mistakes than Todd did. In a rivalry game that is always hard fought and low scoring, I look for Kodi Burns to make the difference with his improvisation skills. Auburn salvages their season with a huge upset win.
J.Pike's Pick: Auburn 17, Alabama 13

No comments: