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November 2, 2011

Viewer's guide: More than LSU-Alabama

Believe it or not, there's more to this week than Alabama-LSU.

The showdown in Tuscaloosa overshadows every other game this week, but there are a handful of important matchups worthy of attention.

A second top 10-matchup in the SEC kicks 45 minutes before Alabama-LSU when South Carolina visits Arkansas. The Razorbacks have struggled in the past two weeks against two of the weaker teams in the SEC, while South Carolina is hoping its second game without star tailback Marcus Lattimore goes as well as its first.

[Forde-Yard Dash: Pat Forde's take on college football]

In the Big 12, unbeaten Oklahoma State plays host to one-loss Kansas State, which returned to earth with a 58-17 loss to Oklahoma last week. In the Pac-12, Washington gets another chance at a top team, this time at home, when rival Oregon visits. The Ducks, meanwhile, are hoping to get back into the national championship conversation after moving up to No. 8 in the BCS standings.

Here's a look at the top televised matchups in Week 10.

All times Eastern.

WEEK 10 VIEWER'S GUIDE
SATURDAY

LOUISVILLE AT WEST VIRGINIA
When: Noon, Big East syndication/Sportsnet New York/MASN/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Mike Gleason play-by-play, John Congemi analyst
The line: West Virginia by 13.5
Why you should watch: A handful of games this season have had underlying conference-realignment storylines, but this game features the freshest wounds. The Big 12 invited West Virginia to replace Missouri but considered Louisville as well. That's now a battle to be played out by administrators (and apparently lawyers). On the field, this game won't approach the 2006 meeting, when both were undefeated at kickoff, but this is an important game in the Big East race. Both are chasing Cincinnati, which defeated Louisville 25-16 on Oct. 15. Louisville's offense slowly is getting better with freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater gaining more experience and C Mario Benavides returning from injury. West Virginia's normally stout defense, though, has been a mixed bag. The Mountaineers allowed 49 points to Syracuse on Oct. 21 (Louisville beat the Orange last week) and 31 in the first half against Rutgers last week. But WVU shut out Rutgers in the second half and forced three second-half turnovers for a 41-31 win.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT ARKANSAS
When: 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst
The line: Arkansas by 4
Why you should watch: South Carolina and Arkansas provides a sort of SEC undercard to Alabama-LSU. These one-loss teams are in the BCS top 10, with Arkansas at No. 7 and South Carolina at No. 9. But both seem much more fragile than you'd expect. Arkansas trailed Vanderbilt at the start of the fourth quarter last week before winning by three and trailed Ole Miss at halftime two weeks ago before rallying in the second half; Ole Miss and Vandy had the ball with a chance to win in the final minute. All the while, Hogs QB Tyler Wilson has been taking hits, and Vanderbilt sacked him three times. That doesn't bode well against a defensive front that includes Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. South Carolina has allowed only three offensive touchdowns, including just one on the ground, in its past five games. The Gamecocks' concerns are on offense. Freshman Brandon Wilds rushed for 137 yards on 28 carries last week in replacement duty for Lattimore, but the offense was hardly explosive in a 14-3 win over Tennessee.

LSU AT ALABAMA
When: 8 p.m., CBS
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst
The line: Alabama by 5
Why you should watch: What can be said about this game that hasn't been said already? The last time a No. 1 team faced a No. 2 outside of a bowl game or a conference championship game was top-ranked Ohio State's 42-39 win over Michigan in 2006. Don't expect as many points in this one. The story will be the defenses. Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense and pass efficiency defense; LSU is in the top five in all four categories. Points should be especially difficult to come by in the first half, as each team has allowed only three first half-touchdowns. LSU has allowed one first-half touchdown in SEC play. Meanwhile, Alabama has allowed a grand total of three points in the second quarter this season. One of the storylines of the game could be LSU's passing attack. Since QB Jordan Jefferson returned from a suspension, he and starter Jarrett Lee have combined to go 40-of-57 for 580 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the past three games. The teams have split the four meetings since Nick Saban took over at Alabama.

KANSAS STATE AT OKLAHOMA STATE
When: 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
The line: Oklahoma State by 21
Why you should watch: Kansas State may have been a charmed team in opening 7-0. But the schedule has toughened. A week after losing 58-17 at home to Oklahoma, K-State travels to undefeated Oklahoma State. The Sooners passed for 520 yards and five touchdowns against the Wildcats. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State proved it has more than a passing attack by rushing for 327 yards and five touchdowns against Baylor. Oklahoma State's defense is getting gouged to the tune of 456.0 yards per game, but the Cowboys have a knack of forcing critical turnovers. K-State's offense isn't flashy and the Wildcats are careful with the ball. Kansas State has the fewest turnovers in the Big 12 (eight) and Oklahoma State's defense leads the Big 12 in takeaways at 29 - a dozen more than the next-most in the Big 12, which happens to be K-State's 17.

OREGON AT WASHINGTON
When: 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
Broadcasters: Craig Bolerjack play-by-play, Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis analysts
The line: Oregon by 15
Why you should watch: Washington got a dose of reality when the Huskies lost 65-21 at Stanford two weeks ago. Now, Washington faces another top-10 team in Oregon, but this matchup is in Seattle. Oregon QB Darron Thomas returned to the lineup last week despite a balky knee before he was spelled by Bryan Bennett, who has been effective in limited duty. TB LaMichael James returned after missing two games with an elbow injury, but he carried just 13 times for a season-low 53 yards. Washington's offense is potent behind QB Keith Price and TB Chris Polk, who accounted for 244 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns in last week's victory over Arizona. But Washington's defense has surrendered at least 400 yards to every FBS opponent it has faced this season. Oregon has won seven in a row in the series.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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