College Football Preview, Week 11: Stanford Hosts Oregon In Crucial Pac-12 Showdown

Alabama and LSU stole the show last weekend, but there are plenty of solid match-ups taking place in this weekend's slate of college football games, such as Oregon and Stanford.

WEEK 10 REVIEW

Normally in this space we discuss the games from the previous week of college football, and while the Alabama-LSU rock fight is certainly something worth discussing, that and all other college sports stories seem small compared to the goings on in Happy Valley this week. 

The news of the sexual abuse scandal against former Penn St. defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky rocked the college football world and has quickly spiraled into one of the most damning controversies that the sport has ever seen.  Suddenly, it seems that pay for play and free tattoo's don't seem like such a big deal.  Ultimately in situations like this, there's almost always collateral damage when it comes to making sure that any and all people who are even perceived to have been involved.  That was the case last night when the legendary Joe Paterno was relieved of his duties as the head coach at the University after 46 consecutive years on the job.  He wasn't let go for any criminal wrong doing, he was let go for failing to do the right thing morally. 

Rather than get into the nauseating details of what Sandusky did and what should end up happening to him should he be found guilty (suffice it to say that a chair and 50,000+ volts would be involved), I'd rather discuss the reaction to the events of last night by the local media and the student body.

For those unaware, State College, PA is in a very rural area of central Pennsylvania, nearly four hours west of Philadelphia and three hours east of Pittsburgh.  The folks at Penn St. live in their own little bubble, almost blissfully unaware of the realities of the outside world.  Joe Paterno was held up as the greatest hero in the world in Happy Valley and could have run for mayor at anytime he chose.  His reputation of molding and raising kids into adults, graduating his players, and keeping his program clean speaks for it self.  So, when news broke of his dismissal from the job, the reaction from the local media and the community at large was first of shock and then outrage.  During a hastily arranged press conference of the Board of Trustees at the University, the local media assaulted the board members with questions about whether or not it was "fair" to fire a man who had been at his job as long as Paterno.  Meanwhile, outside the students mobilized in a bizarre riot/protest of the move that saw television trucks flipped over and obscenities flung in the direction of the riot police and anyone within ear shot.

Watching the scene from outside the bubble of the central Pennsylvania campus, it was disturbing.  The idea that the students would be flipping cars in support of Paterno and the local media questioning whether it was fair to fire the man seemed to be ignoring the fact that the victims in this, the 10 year old boy and others, were being forgotten. And that is why the Board did the right thing in letting Paterno go now.

In no way should he have been allowed to coach the Nittany Lions final home game this Saturday against Nebraska.  The game would have been the final one at Beaver Stadium for the legendary Paterno (who preemptively announced his retirement earlier this week), and would have touched off an outpouring of love and support that, to a nation television audience, would have seemed like a celebration at the expense of these children who were abused by a man who disturbingly remained on campus up until a week ago.  I can say without hesitation that is NOT a message that Penn St. wants to send in front of a huge audience in light of what has gone on.  In fact, if the school is smart, there will be absolutely no mention of Paterno anywhere in the stadium Saturday, signs bearing his likeness should be confiscated, and any show of support by the students should be prevented by security.  Ideally, given the students idiotic behavior, they wouldn't be allowed to attend the game on Saturday.  Voicing your displeasure is one thing, but flipping over cars and setting fires is not considered "peaceful assembly", and the response of the University should reflect that.

ESPN will have coverage of the Penn St./Nebraska game and I'm curious to see how they handle the broadcast.  Under no circumstances should this be any type of a celebration of Paterno's career or his life.  The window to do that has come and gone and will seem only to be in bad taste.  The sole focus of the broadcast should be on the football field and any mention of Paterno should be in connection to the scandal.  The legendary coach will get his send off moment somewhere down the line, but Saturday is not the time.

All games are on Saturday November 12 unless otherwise noted. All times are listed as EST.

MAIN EVENT

No. 7 Oregon Ducks (8-1) @ No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (9-0) - 8:00 p.m. (ABC)

It gets no bigger in the Pac-12 than this.  Stanford sits undefeated and in the top five, while only likely needing a loss by Oklahoma St. in the "Bedlam" game against rival Oklahoma to find itself potentially in the National Championship Game.  Standing in their way are the Ducks.  After losing their season opener to LSU (no shame in that), the Ducks have looked alternately shaky and brilliant while running off eight consecutive wins.  When these teams met last year in Eugene, Stanford came out of the gates hitting on all cylinders and leading at one point 21-3.  The Ducks, as they're known to do, exploded in the second half as their blistering pace wore the Cardinal down and they pulled away for a 52-31 win.  Given what we've seen this year, I think it's far to say that this Oregon team is not as good as last years national runner up.  LaMichael James has been banged up throughout the year, Darron Thomas has regressed somewhat, and the defense isn't quite what it was either.  That being said, they can still put up points in a big hurry and will absolutely test the conditioning and depth of the Cardinal defense.  That Cardinal defense is going to need to be vastly improved from what was on display against USC two weeks ago in the Coliseum.  Up front, it starts with linebacker Jarek Lancaster who will be called upon to help stop the run that is so critical to the Oregon attack.  The secondary, which was torched by Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley will also need to be much better.  Too often they were beaten deep and over the middle of the field.  The primary culprits being Michael Thomas and Johnson Bademosi.  Obviously the Cardinal will be able to score behind Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and running back Stepfan Taylor, but as with the USC game, I'm curious if they can keep the Ducks off the board.

UNDERCARD

No. 10 Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1) @ No. 21 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2) - Thu. 11/10, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Georgia Tech is back in the Top 25 after an impressive win over previously undefeated Clemson a few weeks back and is looking to take down another highly rated team Thursday night when they welcome in the Hokies of Virginia Tech.  This has been one of the more fascinating rivalries in the ACC since Paul Johnson arrived on the Jackets sideline.  The Hokies have won two of the three meetings, but the largest margin of victory has only been a touchdown.  Johnson meanwhile has run up a perfect home record against ranked teams during his tenure (including over the Hokies in 2009).  After struggling in losses to Virginia and Miami, quarterback Tevin Washington finally got the triple option offense humming again in the win over Clemson and will need to be equally sharp in this one.  Bud Fosters defense has been among the best in the country this year and will likely provide a more potent front than the Clemson defense which had been struggling in the weeks leading up to the game.  Led by linebackers Bruce Taylor and Tariq Edwards, the defense has surrendered less than 20 points in each of its last three contests and will be prepared for the option.  Offensively, the Hokies haven't been great, but quarterback Logan Thomas has improved incrementally over the course of the year, and they can still run the ball behind the nations leading rusher David Wilson.

No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2) @ No. 12 Penn St. Nittany Lions (8-1) - 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Putting aside all the drama going on in Happy Valley, this is a huge football game for Penn St.  They've yet to beat a really good team this year, and were dominated during their one real step up in class (a loss to Alabama).  Nebraska meanwhile has been wildly erratic and suffered a mind numbing home loss to Northwestern last week after having ended the giant beating ways of Michigan St. the week before.  The Cornhuskers will be in a foul mood after that loss and will look to re-legitimize themselves against a highly ranked (if not highly overrated) Nittany Lions squad that is faced with a wide array of distractions.  From a football standpoint, this looks like something of a mismatch.  Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead form one of the best 1-2 punches in college football and should be able to rack up big yards on the ground against the Nittany Lions.  The question will be whether Penn St. can get their offense in gear behind quarterback Matt McGloin and running back Silas Redd. The Lions offense is the lowest rated among any team in the Top 15 (350 yards per game).

UPSET SPECIAL (RECORD: 4-6)

Texas A&M Aggies (5-4) @ No. 14 Kansas St. Wildcats (7-2) - 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

This is another week in which there's really no game that stands out as an obvious pick for an upset within the Top 25, so we'll take a little bit of a shot in the dark here.  The Wildcats are coming off consecutive losses to the Oklahoma schools in which their (at the time) highly rated defense was shredded for huge yardage and points.  After struggling the run the ball against Oklahoma, they were able to get their offense back on track against the Cowboys last week, so the Sooners game may have been something of anomaly.  However, their opponents this week, the Aggies, have a deceptive record in that three of their four losses are the come from ahead to lose variety.  They held double digit leads over No. 2 Oklahoma St., No. 8 Arkansas, and unranked Missouri before losing all of them in excruciating fashion, so this is a team that is capable of at least hanging with the big boys, and there's no evidence to suggest the Wildcats are among those "big boys".  Offense has rarely been the problem for the Aggies as they've scored at least 30 in all but two games this year behind quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running backs Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray.  Their issue has been defense, particularly in the second half.  The Aggies are well overdue for a close win over a good team, look for them to get it this week in Manhattan.

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

North Carolina St. Wolfpack (5-4) @ Boston College Eagles (2-7) - 12:30 p.m. (ACC Network/Raycom)

The final game on the schedule for the Eagles that looks like a possible win.  Former head coach Tom O'Brien's club has yet to beat a quality team this season and was beaten even more mercilessly by Florida St. than the Eagles were last week.  Don't be fooled by the winning record, this is a game Boston College can win.  If the Eagles can avoid turnovers (Rolandan Finch has 4 fumbles in two games) and if they can get something productive out of the quarterback position (both Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig will likely see action), they should be in position to win this game in the fourth quarter.  If not, you might as well book them for 2-10 with road trips to Notre Dame and Miami still to come.

UMass Minutemen (5-4) @ Maine Black Bears (7-2) -- 12:30 p.m.

Rhode Island Rams (3-6) @ James Madison Duke (5-4) -- 3:00 p.m.

New Hampshire Wildcats (7-2) @ Towson Tigers (7-2) -- 3:30 p.m.

Pennsylvania Quakers (5-3) @ Harvard Crimson (7-1) -- 12:00 p.m.

Yale Bulldogs (4-4) @ Princeton Tigers (1-7) -- 12:00 p.m.

Dartmouth Big Green (3-5) @ Brown Bears (7-1) -- 12:30 p.m.

Duquesne Dukes (7-2) @ Sacred Heart Pioneers (5-4) -- 12:00 p.m.

Lafayette Leopards (4-5) @ Holy Cross Crusaders (4-5) -- 12:00 p.m.

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