College Football: Today’s Top 25 previews

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2011

Associated Press
Todayís Top 25 previews …
AUBURN, Ala. ó Tailback Trent Richardson isn’t among those assuming No. 2 Alabama will just roll over its biggest rival on the way to a possible national title shot.
He knows Auburn has heard such talk, too.
The Crimson Tide is a three-touchdown favorite going into Saturday’s meeting at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the defending champion Tigers have barely put up a fight against their last few highly ranked opponents.
Plus, Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) has everything to gain, the Tigers (7-4, 4-3) nothing to lose. All that makes Richardson wary.
“It’s going to make them more dangerous because everyone counted them out,” he said. “You can’t look at them like we’re going to whip them because they have nothing to lose. They’re going out there throwing every punch they can.”
This is clearly not the same Auburn team that could be losing on all the scorecards and suddenly start slamming home roundhouses last season. There’s no Cam Newton to dig the Tigers out of a 24-point hole as he did in the 2010 Iron Bowl. No Nick Fairley to smash opposing ballcarriers and quarterbacks.
No chance? Probably not if they let the Tide score the game’s first 24 points again.
“This year we’re not going to spot anybody 24,” Tigers tailback Mike Dyer vowed. “We’re going to play Auburn football.”
No. 4 Stanford (10-1) vs. No. 22 Notre Dame (8-3)
Stanford will make its final case for a BCS bowl berth and stay in the hunt for a slim shot at a national title if a couple teams ahead in the polls should slip. Notre Dame is looking to top last season’s win total and show some real progress over a ranked opponent in coach Brian Kelly’s second season.
No. 7 Boise State (9-1, 4-1) vs. Wyoming (7-3, 4-1)
Second place in the Mountain West is on the line. For the Broncos, a win is the only way to bolster a bowl resume that took a major hit with a loss to TCU two weeks ago.
No. 9 Oregon (9-2, 7-1) vs. Oregon State (3-8, 3-5)
With a victory, Oregon will clinch the Pac-12 North Division and host the inaugural conference championship game. A victory there and the Ducks will go to the Rose Bowl. The Beavers are not bowl eligible for the second straight season. Oregon has scored more than 500 total points for the second straight year.
No. 10 USC (9-2, 6-2) vs. UCLA (6-5, 5-3)
UCLA could reclaim the Victory Bell, clinch a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 title game and solidify coach Rick Neuheisel’s shaky job status with a win over the Trojans, who are among the nation’s most impressive teams in the second half of their bowl-banned season. But as usual in recent years, the Bruins are heavy underdogs in the game they’ve lost in 11 of the past 12 meetings.
No. 11 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) at Northwestern (6-5, 3-4)
Michigan State has already clinched the Legends Division title and a berth in the first league championship game. The Spartans want 10 wins.
No. 12 Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2) vs. Iowa State (6-4, 3-4)
Oklahoma needs a victory to stay alive in the race for the Big 12 championship and set up what’s essentially the conference title game next week in the Bedlam rivalry game.
No. 13 Georgia (9-2) at No. 25 Georgia Tech (8-3)
State pride, for the most part. Georgia already has clinched a spot in the SEC championship game. GT could bolster its bowl credentials with its first win in the series since 2008. Georgia Tech leads the ACC in scoring with 36.5 points a game. Both schools will be making their 15th straight bowl appearances, tied for the fourth-longest streak in the country. Georgia Tech A-back Roddy Jones is expected to make his 51st career start, which would break the school record he currently shares with Recardo Wimbush.
No. 15 Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2) at No. 20 Penn State (9-2, 6-1)
The winner clinches the Big Ten Leaders division and a chance to play in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State. Wisconsin is playing for a shot at the Rose Bowl after its season was derailed by back-to-back losses at Michigan State and Ohio State. For Penn State, it’s a chance to salvage something on the field after their season has been dwarfed by an unimaginable scandal.
No. 17 Michigan (9-2, 5-2) vs. Ohio State (6-5, 3-4)
If the Wolverines win, they might get the bonus of playing in a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2006 season. The Buckeyes’ seniors don’t want to be the ones who finally lost to Michigan and the first team to finish the regular season 6-6 with five Big Ten losses since 1999.
No. 21 Baylor (7-3, 4-3) vs. Texas Tech (5-6, 2-6)
Baylor, coming off a 45-38 victory over then-No. 5 Oklahoma, can reach eight wins for the first time since 1991 with a victory over the Red Raiders, and get to five Big 12 wins for the first time. Baylor QB Robert Griffin has thrown for 3,572 yards and 33 touchdowns.