Top 25 Preview Capsules

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FRIDAY:

No. 17 UCLA (9-3, 6-3, Pac-12) at No. 8 Stanford (10-2, 8-1), 8 p.m. (Fox)

Line: Stanford by 8 ½.

Series Record: UCLA leads 35-45-3.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Everything both programs have worked for all year: the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl. The loser will likely land in the Alamo Bowl as No. 6 Oregon (11-1, 8-1), with its only loss coming against North Division rival Stanford, is expected to take the conference's other BCS spot.

KEY MATCHUP

UCLA's run offense vs. Stanford's run defense. Stanford leads the nation is rushing defense (71.3 yards), sacks (4.4) and tackles for loss (9.2) per game. The Cardinal held Doak Walker Award finalist and UCLA's career rushing leader, Johnathan Franklin, to 73 rushing yards in a 35-17 victory over the Bruins in the regular-season finale last week.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

UCLA: QB Brett Hundley. The redshirt freshman quarterback has to be better — and get rid of the ball faster —than he did in the first go-around against Stanford. Hundley completed 20 of 38 passes for 261 yards and a TD with one interception while being sacked seven times.

Stanford: RB Stepfan Taylor. The senior is 35 yards shy of Darrin Nelson's school-rushing record of 4,169 yards. Taylor ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns last weekend at UCLA.

FACTS & FIGURES

Stanford and UCLA are the first opponents in major college football to play a regular-season finale and conference title game in consecutive weeks. ... Stanford has won four straight against the Bruins. ... Rain is forecast for most of Friday at Stanford Stadium, easing up slightly in the evening. ... Stanford has won eight straight and 19 of the past 20 home games. ... UCLA is going for its first conference championship since 1998, while Stanford is searching for its first league title since 1999. ... This is the second annual Pac-12 championship game. UCLA, with lame duck coach Rick Neuheisel, lost 49-31 at Oregon in last season's inaugural game.

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No. 18 Kent State (11-1) vs. No. 19 Northern Illinois (11-1) at Detroit, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Line: Northern Illinois by 6.

Series Record: Northern Illinois leads 16-7.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

How about a spot in the Orange Bowl? As crazy as it sounds, the winner of this game could end up in a BCS bowl if it can crack the top 16 of the BCS rankings. Right now Kent State is at No. 17 and Northern Illinois is at No. 21.

KEY MATCHUP

Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch against Kent State's defense. Lynch does everything for the Huskies on offense. He's thrown for 23 touchdowns and run for 16, and the Golden Flashes will have to keep him under control.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Kent State: RBs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. Archer has rushed for 1,337 yards, Durham for 1,176. Each has 14 touchdowns, and their success allows quarterback Spencer Keith to be more of a facilitator. Archer also excels as a kick returner.

Northern Illinois: WR Martel Moore is Lynch's top target. He has 67 catches for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.

FACTS & FIGURES: Kent State ranks second among major college teams with a plus-20 turnover margin. ... The two teams didn't play each other during the regular season. Northern Illinois won their 2011 meeting 40-10. ... Northern Illinois has won 16 straight against MAC opponents, including its victory over Ohio in last year's title game. ... The Golden Flashes are seeking their first MAC crown since 1972. Northern Illinois won its first since 1983 last season. ... Lynch needs 92 yards to break the major college mark for most yards rushing by a quarterback in a season.

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SATURDAY

No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) vs. No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1), 4 p.m. (CBS)

Line: Alabama by 7.

Series record: Alabama leads 36-25-4.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

This is, in essence, a national semifinal game. The winner is assured of moving on face top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS championship game at Miami on Jan. 7. Alabama is the defending national champion but would like a double title this season. A year ago, the Crimson Tide finished No. 1 without even making the SEC final. Georgia is trying to win its first SEC crown since 2005 and make up for a disappointing performance in last year's title game, a 42-10 loss to LSU.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama's defensive front, which has helped the Tide lead the nation in points allowed and total defense, against Georgia's offensive line. The Bulldogs will have to find a way to give QB Aaron Murray enough time to throw and create running lanes for freshman backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. It won't be easy with a youthful line that includes a freshman (right tackle John Theus) and a sophomore (center David Andrews).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Georgia: LB Jarvis Jones is a finalist for numerous national awards, including the Nagurski, Lombardi, Butkus and Bednarik trophies. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound junior creates all sorts of havoc in the Bulldogs' 3-4 scheme, whether it's rushing the passer or dropping back into coverage. Despite missing two games with nagging injuries, he leads the team with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles behind the line.

Alabama: QB A.J. McCarron ranks second nationally in passing efficiency (just behind Murray) and guides the Crimson Tide's balanced offense with an experienced, steady hand. He has completed more than two-thirds of his passes with just two interceptions, both in the loss to Texas A&M. If he can avoid major mistakes, Alabama will likely find itself in good shape to play for its third national title in four years.

FACTS & FIGURES

Alabama has won 22 SEC championships, more than any other school. ... Georgia is appearing in the SEC championship game for the fifth time in Mark Richt's 12 years as coach. The Bulldogs are 2-2, winning titles in 2002 and '05, while losing in '03 and a year ago. ... Alabama's Nick Saban is the only coach to win three BCS titles and the first to accomplish the feat at different schools. ... Both teams have suffered heavy losses in the receiving corps. Georgia's Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown went down with season-ending knee injuries, each while leading the team in receptions. Alabama lost deep threat Kenny Bell to a broken leg in last week's victory over Auburn. DeAndrew White went down earlier with a season-ending knee injury. ... Murray may be the nation's top-rated passer, but he struggled against Georgia's two toughest opponents: 11 of 31 for 109 yards in the loss to South Carolina; 12 of 24 for 150 yards with three interceptions in a win over Florida. ... Gurley is only the second true freshman in Georgia history to rush for 1,000 yards and is one away from tying the school mark for touchdowns by a first-year player — Herschel Walker's 15 scores in 1980.

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No. 23 Texas (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) at No. 7 Kansas State (10-1, 7-1), 8 p.m. (ABC)

Line: Kansas State by 10½.

Series Record: Kansas State leads 7-5.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Kansas State can claim its second Big 12 title and earn the league's automatic BCS bowl berth by beating the Longhorns, something they've done four straight times. In fact, the Wildcats could have both wrapped up by kickoff if Oklahoma loses to TCU earlier in the day. Texas, meanwhile, is playing for pride — and a better bowl destination — after losing to the Horned Frogs last week.

KEY MATCHUP

Kansas State QB Collin Klein against the Texas defense. Klein should have plenty of Heisman Trophy voters watching one of the final games of the regular season. He'll be out to prove that a disastrous performance in a loss to Baylor two weeks ago, which knocked Kansas State from the BCS title game, was merely an aberration during a remarkable senior season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Texas: QB Case McCoy, who started five times last season, is getting his first start of the year in place of David Ash, who is listed as questionable with a rib injury. McCoy has come on in relief of Ash twice this season, including last week in a 20-13 loss to the Horned Frogs.

Kansas State: LB Arthur Brown will be among the seniors playing his final home game. The native of Wichita started his career at Miami before transferring to Kansas State, and has become one of the nation's best inside linebackers.

FACTS & FIGURES

Kansas State has won six of the last eight meetings with Texas, and is 3-1 against the Longhorns in Manhattan. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 opponent with an overall winning record against Texas. ... The Wildcats have only won two previous conference championships: the 2003 Big 12 title and the 1934 Big Six title. ... The Longhorns had won four straight before losing to TCU, and have won five straight on the road. ... Kansas State is a nation-leading plus-19 in turnover margin. ... Texas allowed an average of 35 points its first seven games. It's allowed 16.5 over its past four games. ...Klein holds school records for career rushing touchdowns (53) and total touchdowns (81). He can tie Ell Roberson for the second-most wins (22) by a starter under coach Bill Snyder by beating the Longhorns. ... WR Tyler Lockett is second nationally with a 34.5-yard average on kickoff returns. ... Texas DE Alex Okafor and Kansas State DE Meshak Williams are the only two players in the Big 12 with at least eight sacks and three forced fumbles. ... Texas is 70-24 on the road since the 1999 season.

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No. 12 Oklahoma (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) at TCU (7-4, 4-4), noon (ESPN)

Line: Oklahoma by 6½

Series Record: Oklahoma leads 7-4

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Oklahoma can clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title with a win, and then would go to a BCS game if Kansas State loses to Texas on later Saturday night. The Sooners are seeking their 11th 10-win season under coach Bob Stoops. Bowl-eligible TCU is looking for its first Big 12 home victory, and trying to reach at least eight wins for the eighth consecutive season.

KEY MATCHUP

The high-scoring big-play Oklahoma offense vs. the Big 12's top defense. The Sooners lead the league with 46 points a game, and have scored 101 the last two games They have gained 514 yards per game, one of five Big 12 teams average more than 500 yards. TCU is giving up a league-best 324 total yards per game, and 23 points a game, which is No. 2 overall.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oklahoma: DB Tony Jefferson is second in the Big 12 with a team-high 105 tackles, two behind the Big 12 lead. He is trying to become the first Sooners player ever to lead the Big 12 in tackles. He is 16 tackles shy of the school's single-season record for tackles by a defensive back.

TCU: True freshman DE Devonte Fields leads the Big 12 with nine sacks, though he has only one the past four games. His 17½ tackles for losses are also best in the league.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Sooners gave up 49 and 48 points in their last two games — and won both of them. ... Sooners QB Landry Jones has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine TDs the past two games. ... TCU CB Jason Verrett is the Big 12 leader with six interceptions and 19 passes defended. ... Oklahoma was scheduled to play at TCU this season even before the Frogs joined the Big 12. It was going to be the return game of a home-and-home series that started with TCU's 35-10 loss in Norman four years ago.

 
 
 

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