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What to Watch For: The Fall of Auburn and the Rise of Syracuse?

Could Syracuse actually win the Big East? (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli, File)

As the regular season nears the finish line, the overall bowl picture becomes clearer by the week. Last week we witnessed Alabama, Utah and Oklahoma all see their potential BCS bowl game bids get shattered. However, this weekend should be an uneventful one for college football, minus a couple of conference games by the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the land. Still, it is college football and anything can happen.

With that said, let’s explore some things to watch for on Saturday.

Auburn Distracted or Motivated?

By this time you all know the situation brewing in Auburn regarding star QB Cameron Newton. We have seen multiple reports surface almost daily, whether it’s of him cheating at the University Florida or his father soliciting money for his signature of intent. In the midst of the reports, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has said time and time again that Newton will start Saturday against Georgia.

Still, will the recent allegations effect Newton and Auburn’s play?

Doubtful. If anything, look for Newton and Co. to come out with a big chip on their shoulders and take it to Georgia. It’s too early to tell if any of these allegations did indeed happen to Newton, but nonetheless, he should be a man on a mission at the Plains this weekend.

Now, to the game itself. Georgia is essentially out of the race in the mediocre East, but would love nothing more than to derail Auburn’s national championship hopes. Ever since WR A.J Green came back from his suspension, QB Aaron Murray has settled in nicely and Georgia has played well.

Meanwhile, Auburn knows that if they can win their remaining two games (plus the SEC title game) that they will play for one of the two spots in Arizona.

With LSU breathing down Auburn’s neck, look for them to capitalize and clinch the SEC West this weekend.

Don’t Look Now: Syracuse and the Big East

For those hardcore Big East fans out there, don’t look now, but Syracuse (yes, that Syracuse) is in good position to sneak past Pittsburgh as the best team in the Big East. Despite losing to the Panthers earlier in the season, Syracuse has rallied off nice wins against South Florida and West Virginia. In the past ‘Cuse has struggled, barely winning any games during the Greg Robinson era.

Now under second year coach Doug Marrone, the “Orange” will look to end the season with a winning record for the first since the Donovan McNabb days — Ok, 2001. Still, a very long time.

Syracuse plays Rutgers on Saturday before rounding out the season against Connecticut and Boston College.

Who Wants to Win the East? Anyone …. anyone?

To say South Carolina and Florida have had disappointing seasons may be a harsh understatement. For the Urban Meyer-led Gators, fans across the world wondered how the team would fair without Mr. Do Everything, Tim Tebow. Unfortunately for Florida, it wasn’t just Tebow the Gators lost. Meyer saw his defense lose the majority of its starters as guys like Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunnigham and Major Wright are all now employed by the NFL. For Florida, 2010 has been a rebuilding year.

Although there have been some bright spots (Trey Burton), there have been darker shadows (Chris Rainey, losing three games in a row, etc.) Meanwhile, in Columbus, S.C., Steve Spurrier saw his team fend off the then No. 1 team in the country — Alabama — in dominating fashion only to fall flat on their faces the following week against Kentucky. After yet another poor showing last week against Arkansas, the Gamecocks will look to change things around in a playoff-type contest in Gainesville.

The winner of the game will most likely represent the weak SEC East in the SEC championship game, where they’ll most likely play Auburn.

Who’s on Upset Alert?

On paper it’s an uneventful weekend, like I opened with. But, you never know in college football.

No. 12 Alabama vs. No. 19 Mississippi State: I’m probably putting too much stock into Dan Mullen’s bulldogs, but don’t sleep on them on Saturday. Alabama’s coming off a heart-break defeat that saw their BCS bowl hopes fly out the window last weekend in Baton Rouge. What’s this mean? They’ll either come out firing or lackadaisical. I’m going with the latter.

Mullen and his boys, upset Alabama 24-23.

No. 3 TCU vs. San Diego State: Call me crazy, but I see this happening. San Diego State’s not a bad football team, as they beat a ranked Air Force team earlier in the year and should have beaten Missouri. This time, they find a way to win.

No more TCU national title talk, 31-28.

*** Blow Out Alert ***

Oregon continues to roll, 61-14 over California. It won’t even be close.

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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