Top 25 Preview Capsules

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Associated Press

Posted on October 24, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 24 at 1:06 PM

Tennessee (4-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0), 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Line: Alabama by 28 1/2.

Series record: Alabama leads 49-38-7.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

This is Alabama's last game before a showdown with No. 13 LSU in two weeks. Tennessee is fresh from a major upset of No. 20 South Carolina, but a win over the rival Crimson Tide would make a much bigger statement for Butch Jones' team.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama's defensive front against Tennessee's offensive line. Led by nose guard Brandon Ivory and linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Tide barely budges against opposing running games, allowing 98.3 yards per game. Tackles Antonio Richardson and Ja'Wuan James lead Tennessee's formidable group of blockers, who have allowed eight sacks while paving the way for Rajion Neal and the running game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tennessee: QB Justin Worley. Worley is coming off solid performances against Georgia and South Carolina and wasn't intercepted in either game. He'll have to deal with a pass rush led by freshman A'Shawn Robinson and get something going in the passing game, perhaps with emerging freshman WR Marquez North.

Alabama: S Landon Collins. The sophomore moved to free safety to fill in during Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's suspension. Now, he's back at his normal position with the season-ending knee injury to starting strong safety Vinnie Sunseri. Collins, the team's No. 3 tackler, was one of the Tide's top recruits two years ago and has been a wrecking ball on special teams.

FACTS & FIGURES

Alabama has won the last six meetings in this traditional rivalry by an average margin of 34.0-10.8.Tennessee has scored 17 or fewer points in the last nine meetings. ... The Vols snapped a 19-game losing streak to ranked teams with the victory over the Gamecocks on Michael Palardy's last-play, 19-yard field goal. ... AJ McCarron, who is 32-2 as a starting quarterback, could move into a second-place tie on the school's all-time wins list with Jeff Rutledge. Jay Barker (35-2-1) holds the Alabama victory mark among quarterbacks. ... Tennessee has a winning record through seven games for the first time since 2007, also a 4-3 start.

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No. 12 UCLA (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at No. 2 Oregon (7-0, 4-0), 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: Oregon by 23.

Series record: UCLA leads 39-26-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Oregon is the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12 but faces its toughest tough two-week stretch with ranked opponents in No. 12 UCLA and No. 9 Stanford. While the Ducks are ranked No. 2 in the AP Top 25, they're ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings behind Florida State. The Bruins hope to rebound from a 24-10 loss at Stanford last weekend, their first of the season.

KEY MATCHUP

Oregon's hyperdrive offense against UCLA's defense. The Ducks rank second nationally with an average of 643 yards of total offense and 332.4 yards rushing. QB Marcus Mariota is responsible for 363.4 yards of total offense a game. The Bruins rank in the middle of the conference in rushing defense, allowing opponents six rushing touchdowns and an average of 147 yards per game on the ground.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

UCLA: QB Brett Hundley, who completed 24 of 39 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown last weekend against Stanford, but also threw two interceptions — including one with a little more than 2 minutes remaining that led to a Stanford touchdown

Oregon: RB De'Anthony Thomas, who is expected to return against UCLA after missing the last three games. Thomas injured his right ankle after he slipped on the opening kickoff of Oregon's 55-16 victory over California on Sept. 28. The junior, who was considered a Heisman candidate before the season started, has rushed 338 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Ducks hosted the Bruins in the 2011 Pac-12 Championship Game, winning 49-31, but the two teams haven't met in a regular season conference game since 2010. ... UCLA last beat the Ducks in 2007, winning 16-0 at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks were ranked No. 9 at the time. The last time the Bruins won at Autzen Stadium was in 2004. ... Mariota needs 141 more rushing yards this season to match Jeremiah Masoli's Oregon quarterback record of 1,386 set in the 2008-09 season. ... Mariota has not thrown an interception in 197 attempts this season, and has an ongoing Pac-12 record with 265 passes without an interception, dating back to last season's loss against Stanford.

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N.C. State (3-3, 0-3 ACC) at No. 3 Florida State (6-0, 4-0), 3:30 p.m. EDT (ABC)

Line: Florida State by 27 ½.

Series record: Florida State 22-11.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Florida State was ranked No. 2 overall in the 2013 BCS standings this week. A possible birth in the national championship game is at stake every week for the Seminoles. They not only need to win, but do so impressively. The Wolfpack are looking for their first ACC win and a third victory against Florida State in the last four seasons.

KEY MATCHUP

The Wolfpack have allowed the second-most sacks (18) in the ACC. The Seminoles' defensive line is coming off its best game of the season and the front seven accounted for three of the four sacks against Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. N.C. State quarterback Brandon Mitchell returns from a broken left foot suffered in the season opener and could use as much help from the offensive line as possible. Florida State has one of the best collections of defensive backs in the country with Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks, Jalen Ramsey and P.J. Williams. Mitchell will already have a challenge without constant pressure up front.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

N.C. State WR Bryan Underwood leads the Wolfpack with 357 yards receiving and his 13 career touchdown receptions are tied for 10th in school history. His 30 catches are a team-high.

Florida State: Linebacker Christian Jones had his best game of the season against Clemson when the coaching staff moved him to defensive end. Seven tackles were a season-high and he recorded his first sack of the year. The position switch allowed Jones to focus on rushing the passer, something Florida State needed.

FACTS & FIGURES

N.C. State has won two of three since coach Jimbo Fisher took over the Seminoles — the best success rate of any ACC team. ... Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will return for a game at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since he retired in 2009 and plant the spear at midfield during pregame ceremonies. ... First-year coach Dave Doeren signed nine of the 10 Florida natives on the N.C. State roster.

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Penn State (4-2, 1-1) at No. 4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0), 8 p.m. (ABC)

Line: Ohio State by 14.5.

Series Record: Ohio State leads, 14-13.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Penn State is 12-6 under head coach Bill O'Brien, but this would qualify as their signature victory. The Buckeyes have won 19 in a row under second-year coach Urban Meyer and need to win to remain in the thick of talk about Leaders Division, Big Ten and national championship talk.

KEY MATCHUP

Penn State freshman QB Christian Hackenberg against Ohio State's defense. The Buckeyes are coming off a 34-24 win over Iowa in which the defense didn't play particularly well. So the defensive unit should be angry and motivated. Hackenberg has been spectacular so far for the Nittany Lions, leading the Big Ten in completions and passing yards per game (279). He'll face some heat. How will he respond?

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Penn State: WR Allen Robinson, 10th in the nation with 7.2 receptions per game, is Hackenberg's favorite target. RB Bill Belton, Lions' leading rusher, can take some of the pressure off Hackenberg. DT DaQuan Jones leads the Big Ten with 8.5 tackles for loss.

Ohio State: QB Braxton Miller is coming off one of his best games in three years as a starter (22 for 27, 222 yards and two TDs, rushing for 102 yards). LB Ryan Shazier leader of the defense, with CB Bradley Roby (ejected from Iowa game for targeting but available to play vs. Penn State).

FACTS & FIGURES: The Nittany Lions won the last meeting in Columbus, 20-14, in 2011. ... Ohio State's 19-game win streak is longest in nation; only once before (1967-69, 22 in a row) have the Buckeyes had a longer streak. ... O'Brien was offensive coordinator and Ohio State DL coach Mike Vrabel an OLB/DL from 2007-2010 with New England Patriots. ... Teams have alternated wins in the last five meetings. ... Penn State is 15-9 the week after a bye. ... Four key Buckeyes are from Pennsylvania: WR Corey Brown (Upper Darby), FS Corey Brown (Monroeville), RB Jordan Hall (Jeannette) and DE Noah Spence (Harrisburg). ... Only Ohioan on PSU roster: freshman WR Luke Vadas (Hunting Valley).

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No. 20 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Line: Missouri by 3.

Series Record: Missouri leads 2-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Missouri is seeking its first 8-0 start since Dan Devine-coached 11-0 team in 1960. The Tigers have vaulted 20 places in the poll the last two weeks with consecutive wins over Top 25 teams for the first time since 1976. Beating No. 5 Georgia on the road was the signature win of coach Gary Pinkel's 13 seasons, followed by a convincing win at home over No. 22 Florida last week. South Carolina is the Tigers' third straight Top 25 opponent, but is coming off a 23-21 loss at Tennessee. A victory keeps the Gamecocks in the SEC East race.

KEY MATCHUP

South Carolina defense vs. QB Maty Mauk & Co. Last week's 36-point total was Missouri's season low, and it was accomplished against one of the nation's top defenses. A trio of running backs can lessen Mauk's responsibility — Russell Hansbrough (391 yards, 7.5-yard average), Henry Josey (358, 5.5) and Marcus Murphy (350, 8.8). The Gamecocks will need more offensive production. They managed 1 5 yards in the fourth quarter last week after QB Connor Shaw sprained his left knee.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

South Carolina: QB Dylan Thompson likely starts in place of Shaw, who may need more recovery time. His TD pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds to go decided a 33-28 Outback Bowl win over Michigan in January. Shaw threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns last year against Missouri.

Missouri: DL Michael Sam had three sacks last week and was named SEC defensive player of week. He leads the SEC with nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

FACTS & FIGURES

Missouri is the first SEC team to beat Georgia and Florida in consecutive weeks since Tennessee in 1992. ... Missouri faces three straight Top 25 foes for the first time since 2009. ... Missouri is seeking first 4-0 start in conference play since 5-0 start in 1968 in the Big Eight. ... Shaw was 20 for 21 in last year's meeting, a school record for accuracy.

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