The 10 things we’re buzzing about as the Big East continues to court Villanova:
• A mountain of a game: Championship week has come early in the Mountain West, where TCU and Utah will stage a de facto title game on Saturday in Salt Lake City. And while the Horned Frogs would surely like to give the Pac-12-bound Utes a parting gift to remember, this one’s about quite a bit more than league bragging rights. For the winner, a cozy spot among the BCS title-game contenders awaits; for the loser, the harsh reality that one-loss teams from non-AQ conferences don’t even get to sniff the big games. Utah fans know this, which means The MUSS will be making quite a fuss when Gary Patterson’s squad comes a calling. But Andy Dalton and TCU are used to playing in pressure situations and aren’t likely to be flustered by a false start penalty or two. We’re about to find out if the same is true for Dalton’s counterpart, Jordan Wynn. The Utes rank third nationally with 45.3 points scored per game, but have yet to face a defense like TCU’s, which leads the country in total defense (217.3 yards per) and scoring defense (8.7 points per) and will pursue Wynn relentlessly.
• Bama’s back: There’s nothing easy about Alabama’s remaining schedule, which features dates against ranked SEC foes LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn — all of which will be coming off byes. (Thank the football gods for that Week 12 breather against Georgia State!) But if the Tide can win out, they’ll likely enter the SEC title game with a national championship berth on the line. Things are already starting to go Alabama’s way. Without even playing, the Tide moved up to No. 5 in the AP and No. 6 in the BCS thanks to losses from previously undefeated Michigan State and Missouri. Now, the Tide need things to go their way on the field. Patrick Peterson is one of the few cornerbacks in the country who can lock down a receiver like Julio Jones, but the threat of Alabama’s passing attack should give Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson some room to run. Alabama only needs a couple of scores, because that’s all LSU’s paltry offense is capable of matching.
• Pac-10 pecking order: It doesn’t look like Oregon’s going to stumble any time soon, but that doesn’t mean Arizona and Stanford are going to stop trying to win the Pac-10. The Wildcats and Cardinal are tied for second in the league standings (7-1 overall, 4-1 Pac-10) heading into their Saturday meeting, but the ‘Cats have a distinct advantage: They’ve yet to play the Ducks. If Arizona beats Stanford — which lost to Oregon, 52-31, on Oct. 2 — it could be playing for its first Rose Bowl berth when it heads to Autzen on Nov. 26. Of course, beating Stanford is no small task. The Cardinal are off to their best start in 40 years behind presumptive No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck and the nation’s fifth-ranked scoring offense (42.4 points per game). The ‘Cats get an offensive boost this weekend with the return of starter Nick Foles, but have been winning behind a defense that’s allowing just 14.4 points per game. Here’s the rub: Stanford’s defense isn’t exactly a slouch. In a 41-0 win over Washington last weekend, the Huskies never advanced beyond the Cardinal 42-yard line.