For the past eight weeks, the guys here at Crystal Ball Run have been looking into our crystal ball (no, seriously, we actually went to Costco and bought an actual Crystal Ball. Needless to say, it’s awesome) and telling you exactly how the 2012 college football season will play out. Week-by-week, game-by-game we’ve got the answers to all the questions you’re asking, and even a few you might not be.
But regardless of what’s happened in our look ahead so far, what we already know is this: Regardless of what has happened through the first nine weeks, what the entire season could likely come down to is Week 10, and two of the biggest matchups of the college football regular season. Yes, we already know LSU and Alabama will play that day, but did you also know that Oregon travels to USC as well? According to our Crystal Ball, that’s four undefeated teams, playing for the right to get poll position on the way to Miami for the BCS title game.
So who’ll win those two showdowns plus two of Week 10’s other biggest games?
Let’s take a look.
Oklahoma State at Kansas State
As easy as it is to forget now, one of the most entertaining games of the 2011 college football season was when Kansas State traveled to Oklahoma State on November 5 of last year. While LSU and Alabama were field goal-ing each other to death, on the same night halfway across the country, the Wildcats and Pokes combined for 97 points in a thrilling Oklahoma State win. Up until that point, it was the toughest test the undefeated Cowboys had before getting tripped up later in the year at Iowa State.
In 2012 though, things will be much tougher for the Pokes. Our Crystal Ball has already tipped us off to a narrow Week 5 loss to Texas in Austin, and we know that by the time these two teams get together on November 5, it’ll be Kansas State who’ll be looking for revenge. They’ll also be desperately trying to wrap up a home win after a tough loss to West Virginia two weeks before.
But can Kansas State exorcise their November 2011 demons and one-up Oklahoma State in the “Little Apple?” The answer is “absolutely,” and the reason is “Collin Klein.”
The Kansas State senior may not be a “traditional” but there’s nothing untraditional about the way he puts down his shoulder, picks up yards and leads his team. Against Oklahoma State he just does that, finishing the night with 145 yards on the ground and three scores. A late Wes Lunt interception toss seals the deal in Manhattan.
The 2012 showdown between the two doesn’t quite provide the dramatics of 2011, but it was a plenty epic game none the less. This time, it’s Kansas State which comes out on top.
Kansas State 38, Oklahoma State 30
TCU at West Virginia:
Staying in the Big XII, could there be a more interesting matchup all season than the battle of the conference’s two newest teams, TCU and West Virginia? The answer is “not really” as while Oklahoma and Texas have the name cache, it’s the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers who’ve got the fascinating contrast in both style and culture.
And in their first matchup as members of the Big XII brotherhood, it’s actually the new-age West Virginia offense that has the edge early. In the first half Dana Holgorsen pulls out his entire bag of tricks, Geno Smith tosses three touchdowns, and for all intents and purposes, the rout is on in Morgantown.
But as Lee Corso would say--- (wait a second, I’m not going to actually quote Lee Corso, am I?)---- “Not so fast my friends!!” Because while Holgorsen looked like the genius in the first half, it’s that purple visor wearing fool Gary Patterson who controls the second half.
That’s right, after doing nothing right for the first 30 minutes of the game, the Horned Frogs buckle down on defense and use a ground-controlled running game to get the edge in the second 30 minutes. For all the hype surrounding quarterbacks Smith and Casey Pachall, it’s actually Matthew Tucker and Wayman James who are the stars on this Saturday, as each runs in a touchdown, allowing the Horned Frogs to tie things up in the second half. Meanwhile, the West Virginia offense- which was unstoppable in half No. 1- simply can’t get on the field. Smith, who threw three touchdown passes in the first two quarters only throws three passes in the third.
And in the fourth? Well, it’s the unsung Pachall who is the true difference. He game isn’t always pretty (neither are his hair and tattoos, actually), but he is effective, and when he takes TCU down the field for a final score with just under three minutes to go, it proves to be the difference in the game. Holgorsen (sitting on the sideline with a pile of crushed Red Bulls by his side, by the way) can only sit back and helplessly watch.
From down by double digits in the first half to an epic road victory, TCU wins the first of many classic games with their new Big XII brothers.
TCU 41, West Virginia 35
Oregon at USC:
While the buzz this Saturday will be down on the Bayou in Baton Rouge, a game of equal importance will be played nearly 3,000 miles away. Like Alabama and LSU, Oregon and USC will each be undefeated and ranked in the top five. A win here will propel one team to the driver’s seat of the BCS National Championship race. And for the loser, well, it’ll be a long Sunday looking over the BCS standings.
And interestingly, once the game does kick off, the 2012 matchup between the two West Coast powers looks a like their epic 2011 matchup in Eugene… only the exact opposite. While USC jumped out to an early lead at Autzen Stadium last November, it’s actually Oregon which gets off to a white hot start at the LA Coliseum this time around. The Ducks first half is highlighted by a late, De’Anthony Thomas touchdown run, in which he breaks one tackle at the line of scrimmage and goes 45 yards untouched from there.
However, much like 2011, the hometown team- in this case, the Trojans- goes on a second half run to get back into the game. Matt Barkley hits Robert Woods for a touchdown on the opening drive of the second 30 minutes, and the stops that USC couldn’t get in the first half on defense all of a sudden come much easier after intermission.
In the end though, the difference in this game has nothing to do with the Heisman favorite Barkley or the dynamic Woods, but instead, the guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in Los Angeles this year: Silas Redd.
The Penn State transfer- who, up to this point had spent most of the season playing in Curtis McNeal’s shadow- returns to his Nittany Lions roots as the bell cow of the offense. It seems like every set of downs he gets the ball for three or four carries in a row, and Oregon’s talented, but worn down defense can do little to stop him. A late Redd touchdown run caps a 13-play 83-yard drive, giving the Trojans a three point lead which they won’t relinquish.
In the end it doesn’t matter where you start, but where you finish.
And in 2012, USC-Oregon finishes a lot like it did in 2011:With a wild, three point ‘SC win.
USC 31, Oregon 28
Alabama at LSU:
Frankly, what needs to be said about this one which we haven’t discussed already? Last year these two teams played in “The Game of the Century,” then followed it up four months later by deciding the BCS National Championship. What could they possibly have in store for an encore in 2012?
Well for starters, how about plenty more good football.
From the beginning, the 2012 version of this matchup takes on much of the same form as the epic November 2011 clash. Three and outs are the norm, and the busiest guys on the field are the punters, each of which needs an IV by halftime.
Speaking of halftime, it’s shortly after halftime that LSU strikes first, with a 37-yard Drew Alleman field goal (actually, maybe we shouldn’t have used the word “strikes,” but you get the point). He follows it up right before the start of the fourth quarter with a 25-yarder as well.
And in the fourth? Well, it’s certainly not the high-scoring affair that we had earlier in the day with USC and Oregon, but we do get at least one touchdown when Alfred Blue punches in a three-yard run with a little over six minutes to go. It marks the first touchdown between these teams in seven regular season quarters, and the exclamation to an LSU win.
In the end, the result in Baton Rouge is much the same as it was last November, with LSU getting a low-scoring, but highly entertaining win.
Now the next question: Will we get a rematch in Miami?
You’ll have to keep reading “The Crystal Ball” to find out.
LSU 13, Alabama 3
For all his opinions, analysis and articles on college football, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.