The final weekend of the regular season is sure to be filled with drama. Texas must clear one more hurdle (Nebraska's stingy defense) to secure a spot in the national title game. Cincinnati must stave off upset-minded Pitt to earn its second straight BCS berth. Georgia Tech must stop the bleeding -- and Clemson's C.J. Spiller.
But for all that intrigue, the SEC Championship Game is the main attraction. It's No. 1 vs. No. 2; the final stop on a season-long collision course. And, oh yeah, the winner earns a trip to Pasadena.
Three and Out
1. Florida's lack of a deep threat could cost the Gators. This Florida squad sorely misses Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, both of whom could stretch the field. Receivers Riley Cooper and Deonte Thompson and tight end Aaron Hernandez have shown flashes, but have combined for just five receptions of 40 yards or longer (half of last season's team haul).
Florida has overcome that weakness by riding the run, but considering Alabama allows just 77 rushing yards per game, the Gators will have to keep the Tide honest. To do that, they'll turn to their most dynamic pass-catcher, Hernandez, a wideout in a tight end's body who will draw a linebacker or safety.
2. Don't discount Greg McElroy's confidence boost. The Iron Bowl may have been uncomfortably close for the Tide, but it gave Alabama's signal-caller a chance to carry his team. With the running game struggling, McElroy orchestrated the game-winning drive, his most impressive performance since the season-opener against Virginia Tech.
Some are speculating "The Drive" (apologies, John Elway) allowed McElroy to become a big-time quarterback. We'll find out if that's true Saturday, when McElroy goes against a Florida defense sure to load up on the run and dare him to beat it.
3. One Heisman candidate will get a boost.Tim Tebow could still join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winner. Mark Ingram could still become the first Heisman winner in Alabama history. This game will provide each a chance to help his cause and distance himself from the other.
Ingram registered his worst performance of the year last week, running for 30 yards against Auburn and sustaining a hip bruise. Tebow, meanwhile, has picked up steam of late (16 touchdowns in his last five games), but hasn't yet delivered a defining game.
One game can't win a Heisman, but with the implications so high, and the opposing defenses so strong (both squads are top-three units nationally), this one could be a huge boost.
Each week I'll feature the best prediction or trash talk on the week's featured matchup. Follow me to make your entry and check out the pairing for next week's Game of the Week.
FLA over BAMA: Not that God's necessarily on Tebow's side vs. Crimson Tide, but he does have a good track record vs. Red Sea.-- @TimCary
Not much separates these two contenders. They both boast elite defenses and lean on potent running games, but Alabama has gamebreaking wideout Julio Jones and he could be the difference. But if he's not, the chip Alabama's carrying on its shoulder should be. Alabama 27, Florida 21.
This column, by definition, seeks to highlight the prime matchup each week of the season. But it doesn't feel quite right to shine all the light on the SEC title game when so many other teams are still battling for BCS berths. In that spirit, we present four more mini breakdowns:
1. For the Roses: The Ducks and Beavers have played 112 Civil Wars, but this is the first time the winner is assured a Rose Bowl berth.
2. Not two of a kind: While Oregon was a preseason darling, Oregon State has risen from 4-3 to within one win of the conference crown.
3. Run, baby, run: While Oregon boasts the league's No. 2 pass defense and Oregon State the No. 1 rush defense, this will be an offensive battle, and running backs LaMichael James and Jacquizz Rodgers will be the main attractions.
The pick: The Beavers hope Rodgers can help them exact payback after giving up 65 points last year, but James, QB Jeremiah Masoli and the potent Ducks attack should prevail again. Oregon 31, Oregon State 27.
1. Domino effect: If Texas wins, it's title-game bound. If it loses ... well, things would get interesting. The Fiesta would take Nebraska, TCU could sniff the title game and Texas could knock Boise from the final at-large spot.
2. Heisman Showcase, II: Colt McCoy has firmly reinserted himself in the race, and Ndamukong Suh, though unlikely to win, remains alive. Suh could secure an invite to New York by introducing McCoy to the turf a few times.
3. Bouncing back: Texas' normally stout D struggled last week, but Nebraska's methodical offense won't test it the way A&M's aerial attack did.
The pick: Texas has come this far. After last season's heartbreak, it'll seal the deal and punch its ticket to Pasadena. Texas 31, Nebraska 17.
1. For the crown: The winner of the default title game will make big bowl money, but the loser could miss the Gator (which is eyeing West Virginia) and fall to the Meineke or Papajohns.com Bowl.
2. Pressuring Pike: Cincinnati wants a shootout. It's daring teams to keep up. Just ask UConn, which tried to go toe-to-toe and gave up 711 yards. The Panthers can't match that pace, so their best hope is to get to Tony Pike with their front four.
3. The Kelly factor: The Cincy coach is the presumptive favorite for the Notre Dame job, and his players know it. Try though they may, the Bearcats can't keep this distraction at arm's length.
The pick: Pitt boasts an elite back, capable quarterback and a D that can supply pressure. But that just means the Panthers will keep it close. Cincinnati 28, Pitt 24.
1. Tuning in, tuning out: The SEC robbed this contest of much of its luster, as each team is coming off a loss to an SEC squad. While they look to turn the page, most of the nation will tune out.
2. POY faceoff: Tech back Jonathan Dwyer, last year's ACC player of the year, will face off against Clemson back C.J. Spiller, this year's honoree. Spiller, an all-everything speedster, bested Dwyer, the downhill runner, when the teams met earlier this year. For Clemson to win, he'll have to do so again.
3. Stop right there: Tech's rushing attack is fierce, and few teams can stop it. But Clemson boasts the one thing that can limit it: dominant interior linemen (Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson).
The pick: With the focus on the run, big-play receiving threat Demaryius Thomas could steal Tech the victory. Georgia Tech 28, Clemson 20.