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Week 12 Pickoff: Stanford-USC, Michigan State-Nebraska; more

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Nelson Agholor (15) and USC have won three games in a row entering this week's clash with Stanford.

Can Ed Orgeron and USC continue their late-season push against Stanford? Will Auburn take down Georgia to keep its BCS dreams alive? Which team will gain the upper hand in a pivotal Big Ten Legends Division clash?

My picks for all of this week's top games are below. For more Week 12 preview coverage, check out the Mailbag, Andy Staples' Walkthrough, Lars Anderson's feature on Auburn's turnaround and Martin Rickman's breakdown of Texas' recent Big 12 surge.

Friday, Nov. 15
 
9 p.m. ET (ESPN2) Washington (6-3) at No. 13 UCLA (7-2)
Since losing three straight to ranked foes Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State, Washington has rolled off consecutive routs of lowly Cal and Colorado. The Huskies are definitely healthier than the Bruins. But coach Steve Sarkisian's teams have yet to win a big game on the road. UCLA will slow star tailback Bishop Sankey, while Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley will deliver a strong performance.
 
Saturday, Nov. 16
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2) Syracuse (5-4) at No. 2 Florida State (9-0)
The Orange have allowed a combined 13 points in their last three ACC wins. Yet they lost 56-0 at Georgia Tech on Oct. 19. Jameis Winston and the 'Noles are in the business of scoring 35 first-quarter points against overmatched conference foes. Syracuse's defense will put up a little resistance early, but its 88th-ranked scoring offense (24.6 points per game) won't hang around for long.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2) No. 14 Michigan State (8-1) at Nebraska (7-2)
Michigan State's conservative, ball-control offense does not lend itself to blowouts, but this is a mismatch. The Spartans' historically dominant defense (210.2 yards per game) will feast on Nebraska quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III, while Michigan State will run all day on the Huskers' defense. The only question is whether Mark Dantonio will allow quarterback Connor Cook to throw downfield.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU) No. 24 Miami (7-2) at Duke (7-2)
Is this the biggest game at Wallace Wade Stadium since it hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl? The Blue Devils have won five straight and can put themselves in position to win the ACC Coastal. The Hurricanes have dropped their last two. But while Miami is struggling, it still has the more talented team, and its defense should cause problems for Duke's sputtering offense.
 
3:30 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1) at No. 23 Texas (7-2)
Texas lost tailback Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley to season-ending injuries last week. The Longhorns have two other talented backs (Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron), and Desmond Jackson filled in nicely for Whaley against West Virginia. But Oklahoma State's recently improved power-running game and propensity for creating turnovers (23) don't bode well for the 'Horns.
 
7 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 4 Baylor (8-0) vs. Texas Tech (7-3)
Kliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders, once 7-0, have dropped three straight. Now they must face the nation's most potent offense. Texas Tech's 23rd-ranked scoring offense (37.8 points per game) is the most formidable unit Baylor's defense has yet to face, and Bears' backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin have been limited by injuries. Kingsbury's team will keep it interesting for a half.
 
7 p.m. ET (ESPN2) Florida (4-5) at No. 11 South Carolina (7-2)
Think Florida hit its low point with last week's home loss to Vanderbilt? Not quite. This week, leading tackler Antonio Morrison (knee) became the latest Gators star to be ruled out for the season. Quarterback Tyler Murphy will likely miss this game with a shoulder injury, meaning Skyler Mornhinweg is set to make his first career start. The Gamecocks should dominate Florida on both sides of the ball.
 
7 p.m. ET (ESPNU) Houston (7-2) at No. 19 Louisville (8-1)
Houston came within seven yards of knocking off UCF last week and putting itself in position to possibly win the AAC. Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater must contend with a Cougars' defense that's tied for the national lead with 18 interceptions. But Louisville's formidable pass rush (32 sacks, third nationally) could cause a long night for freshman quarterback John O'Korn.
 
7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 1 Alabama (9-0) at Mississippi State (4-5)
Is this a possible trap game for Alabama? Only if you think the Bulldogs are "probably the best 4-5 team in the country," as Nick Saban said this week. (I'll take Utah.) Quarterback Dak Prescott, who has made Mississippi State's offense more dynamic, is questionable with an elbow injury. The Bulldogs' defense ranks 81st nationally against the pass (7.4 yards per attempt). Cue AJ McCarron.
 
8 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 5 Stanford (8-1) at USC (7-3)
The Coliseum will be sold out, and Ed Orgeron's boys are on fire (winning four of their last five). The Trojans' top-20 defense could slow Stanford workhorse Tyler Gaffney (116.8 yards per game). But Shayne Skov and the Cardinal field a suffocating pass rush. They'll cause problems for USC quarterback Cody Kessler and help minimize potential damage by the Trojans' stud receivers.
 
9:30 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network) Oregon State (6-3) at No. 21 Arizona State (7-2)
Reality has set in the past two games for Oregon State, which got off to a 4-0 Pac-12 start by beating foes that currently hold a combined three league wins. Quarterback Sean Mannion and wideout Brandin Cooks remain dangerous, but they shouldn't be able to scorch Arizona State's top-20 pass defense. Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly is averaging 301.4 passing yards per game at home.
 
*UPSET SPECIAL*
 
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) Georgia (6-3) at No. 7 Auburn (9-1)
This one is difficult to read because injury-plagued Georgia has so many key players either questionable or limited. However, with running back Todd Gurley, the Dawgs' offense could have a field day against Auburn's 66th-ranked defense. The Tigers run the ball spectacularly (320 yards per game), but Georgia is more susceptible to the pass. Aaron Murray will outduel Nick Marshall.
 
Record Last Week: 8-6               Record This Season: 86-37
 
Staples' Midweek Update: Week 12
Andy Staples looks ahead to the biggest storylines entering Week 12 of the 2013 season.

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