Massive games for Gus, Mack, Muschamp and Cut headline the Top Ten Matchups of Week 12
1. Mark Richt vs. Gus Malzahn - For Georgia, it's a chance to save a stumbling season and win its way back into the SEC East championship picture, with some help from the folks in Columbia West. You know about the struggles of Todd Grantham's defense this year, but did you know the Bulldogs have scored six points in the second half of their last two SEC games? For Auburn, this game is about surviving and getting through to the next game, when Alabama comes to Jordan-Hare with the SEC West on the line.
2. Mike Gundy vs. Mack Brown - It's come to this in the Big 12. Oklahoma State travels to Texas for the right to win official challenger status to undefeated Baylor. The ground game will be key here. Can Oklahoma State crank up a ground game that ran for 623 yards and 10 scores in defeats of Iowa State and Texas Tech but took a week off against Kansas? And can Texas run the ball and take necessary heat off Case McCoy against the Big 12's second-ranked rush defense without the versatile Johnathan Gray?
3. The Michigan State defensive staff vs. the Nebraska offensive staff - Pat Narduzzi's defense has played as well as any unit (offense or defense) in the country thus far. Now it's time to prove it. The top-ranked Spartans defense has faced opposing offenses ranked 111th, 123rd, (FCS), 69th, 77th, 8th, 122nd, 56th and 84th. The No. 8 outlier? It was Indiana, and they hit the Spartans for 28 points in a 42-28 final score.
4. Ed Orgeron vs. David Shaw - College GameDay and ESPN's Saturday Night Football are parked at the LA Coliseum to get an up close view of Ed Orgeron's Magical Mystery Tour after a 4-1 start. What will he have to show them against the best team on the Trojans' schedule?
5. Will Muschamp vs. Steve Spurrier - This game will always be interesting for as long as Florida sponsors a football team and Steve Spurrier is coaching somewhere else. This time, Spurrier can hand Florida its sixth defeat for the first time since 1987 - with Florida State still left on the schedule. Spurrier does have interest in this game beyond sticking his wet finger in his alma mater's ear, though. A win Saturday means South Carolina wins the SEC East and heads to Atlanta, if Auburn beats Georgia and Texas A&M beats Missouri.
6. Al Golden vs. David Cutcliffe - Two teams among the four tied atop the ACC Coastal standings, all scratching and clawing for the right to be a four-touchdown underdog to Florida State in the ACC title game. Who are you taking, the team on the five-game winning streak, or the team that hasn't won a game by more than four points since Oct. 5 and lost its last two games by a cumulative 82-38? Did you know the former was Duke and the latter was Miami?
7. Kliff Kingsbury vs. Art Briles - It wasn't a secret that the sledding got much tougher for Texas Tech after its 7-0 start, but the Red Raiders' last three losses have gotten progressively worse. There was the hard-fought 38-30 loss at Oklahoma and the 52-34 setback against Oklahoma State where Kingsbury's team fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to climb out of a 21-0 hole. And then there was last week's game against Kansas State, where the Wildcats scored touchdowns on every one of their first half drives en route to a 49-26 blowout. Most (but not all) of that goes away if Texas Tech finds a way to do something Baylor's last 12 opponents haven't done.
8. Brady Hoke vs. Pat Fitzgerald - The football might as well be a hot potato. Michigan hopes to avoid its fourth loss in five games after a 5-0 start, while Northwestern works to halt its own five-game losing streak after a 4-0 start.
9. Tony Levine vs. Charlie Strong - A month ago, this looked like one of Louisville's few shots at a respectable opponent on Louisville's darkly-light path to a national title appearance. Now it's turned into a knockout game as two teams vie to stay within shouting distance of George O'Leary's seemingly unstoppable Central Florida squad.
10. Steve Sarkisian vs. Jim Mora - After a fantastic September followed by a crummy October, Washington has put some distance (and wins) between themselves and their three-game losing streak earlier this season. It'd take something of a collapse for Sarkisian to fall back into the three-year cycle that dubbed him Seven Win Steve, and the only way that collapse happens is if Washington's Pac-12 road struggles continue. The Huskies are 2-8 in their last 10 conference road trips, and those two wins came over last year's Cal and Colorado teams. They're both breaking in new head coaches this season for a reason. What does UCLA have to gain? Only a showdown versus Arizona State with the Bruins' third straight trip to the Pac-12 title game on the line.