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College Football 2013: 5 Big Questions for Week 11

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Another exciting week of college football gets an early start with two huge games on Thursday night. Here’s what to watch for this week:

Is This the Best Thursday Night of Football Ever?

Thursday nights have seen plenty of good matchups over the years, but never before has there been a Thursday night quite like this one. The two games on tap both have major national-title implications. First, No. 10 Oklahoma goes on the road to challenge the high-octane offense of No. 6 Baylor. And less than three hours later, No. 3 Oregon will look to keep its national-championship hopes alive on the road at No. 5 Stanford. That’s two Top 10 matchups on a Thursday night. Get your popcorn ready.

Can Stanford Play Spoiler Again?

Last year, Stanford ended then-No. 2 Oregon’s national-title hopes with a 17-14 overtime win over the Ducks in Eugene. This year, the Cardinal hope to knock off the Ducks again, this time in front of their home crowd. Oregon is second in the nation in scoring and has put up at least 42 points in every game this year. But they were in a similar situation coming into last year’s game, in which Stanford held them nearly 36 points below their season average. However, the memories of last year’s loss haven’t dampened the Ducks’ swagger. Earlier this week, Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas fanned the flames with his statement that the Ducks “should at least put up 40” on the Cardinal. Stanford has given up just 22 total points in its last two games and, with their own national-title hopes likely gone, the next best thing for Cardinal fans would be to knock off Oregon and put a big dent in Marcus Mariota’s Heisman campaign.

Can Oklahoma Slow Down Baylor?

After being gashed by spread offenses last season, Oklahoma switched to a 3-3-5 defensive formation, which has given the Sooners’ defense a big boost. O.U. now ranks 10th in the nation in total defense, giving up just 314.3 yards per game. However, they’ll face the toughest test imaginable this week against an insane Baylor offense that leads the nation, averaging a staggering 718.4 yards and 63.9 points per game. Baylor is just 1-21 all time against the Sooners, with that one win coming two years ago when then-QB Robert Griffin III engineered a last-minute drive. After taking a step back in recent weeks (giving up 36 to Texas and 30 to Texas Tech), the Oklahoma defense will need to come up big in this one to avoid their second-ever loss to the Bears.

Which Big Name Team Can Rebound in the Big Ten?

Michigan’s offense fell flat in last week’s showdown with No. 17 Michigan State, managing just two field goals and rushing for minus-48 yards. This week, they’ll look to rebound and remain in Big Ten-title contention with a home matchup against a Nebraska defense that has shown improvement in recent weeks but has still been prone to giving up big plays. For Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, the stakes are even higher. Despite the excitement surrounding last week’s thrilling Hail Mary victory over Northwestern, Pelini is still very much on the hot seat among Cornhusker fans. With back-to-back games coming up against Michigan and Michigan State, Nebraska has very little margin for error if they hope to salvage any of the high hopes the Husker faithful had coming into this season. With the Big Ten expanding to 14 teams next year, this is the last time these two schools will meet in the regular season until 2018.

Can LSU Challenge Alabama?

While it may not be as hyped as some recent LSU/’Bama matchups, there is still a lot riding on this week’s game. Although Alabama was able to overcome a regular season loss and still make it to the title game in the last two years, the number of still-unbeaten teams remaining could mean that staying undefeated will be required for the Crimson Tide to win their third straight BCS crown. And with their own title hopes gone, Les Miles and LSU would love nothing more than to be the team that ends Alabama’s run. The last three regular season meetings between these two have all been decided by four points or less. Thanks to the resurgence of starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers rank 16th nationally in scoring. But he will have to have the best game of his career against one of the nation’s best defenses for LSU to pull off the road upset.

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