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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 6:38 PM

Could you hear that collective sigh of relief coming from Tuscaloosa this past week?

No doubt the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide said their prayers following last week's thrilling 21-17 non-cover win at LSU and now the focus turns to defending another quarterback who's coming of age quickly.

Last week it was the ever-improving Zach Mettenberger; This week the Tide's gotta slow down Johnny Manziel and the $64,000 question is will that Tide defense that was so gassed by early fourth quarter last week be effective for a whole 60 minutes here against the guy they call "Johnny Football"?

That's the numero uno matchup to watch this weekend but let's check out three of the nation's top teams here:

TEXAS A&M (7-2) at #1 ALABAMA (9-0) -3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Las Vegas oddsmakers have not flinched when it comes to the Tide: Nick Saban's crew is a solid two-touchdown betting favorite for this SEC clash -and why not considering that 'Bama has won eight of its nine games by a minimum of 19 points with last week's four-point win in "Death Valley" the exception to the rule.

The Tide's major focus on "D" here is to keep Manziel contained in a box-like area -the energetic redshirt frosh beats most defense with off-the-edge moves that develop into monster-sized gains plus he's been more accurate that you might have thought this year.

The game plan for Alabama: Play lots of nickel defenses so that A&M's wide outs -especially WR Ryan Swope -don't have time to execute their routes and pressure Manziel off the corners so that Alabama's inside LBs can "clean up".

Now that Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has led that glorious touchdown drive -the 72-yarder capped by his scoring run was epic stuff as we all known by now -he's not only back in the Heisman Trophy conversation but he will have the moxie to make it happen should this game be close come the final frame.

Spread Note -Alabama is just 5-4 ATS (against the spread) this year but the Crimson Tide's a spiffy 11-4 vig-wise in all conference games dating back to the start of last year.

#2 KANSAS STATE (9-0) at TCU (6-3) -7 p.m. ET, Fox
 If Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder isn't elected into the college Hall of Fame five minutes after he retires (the next time for good!) than some folks weren't paying close attention!

Snyder's work with this above average team has been terrific and did you know that K-State has won seven games by twin-figure margins and the road wins at Oklahoma and West Virginia still remain two of the sport's biggest results this year... agree?

Now in this key clash in Fort Worth,  we'll see if do-it-all QB Collin Klein -yes, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner these days no matter what folks in Eugene or Tuscaloosa or South Bend happen to say -can navigate his way with those ever-so-patient inside runs plus remember he's got a wide out in Tyler Lockett who averaged close to 30 yards a catch in last weekend's 44-30 win against 7 ½-point pup Oklahoma State.

If the Klein-to-Lockett tandem thrives here against a TCU defense that has yielded 56, 36 and 38 points in its last three games -and when has a Gary Patterson-coached defense been so generous in recent years? -than K-State's quest to get to its first-ever national championship game stays alive.
Spread Note -Kansas State's covered eight of its first nine games this season (the lone spread setback came in a 35-21 win against four-TD dog North Texas way back on Sept. 15th) and overall the 'Cats are 24-7 against the odds in all conference games the past three-plus seasons.

#3 NOTRE DAME (9-0) at BOSTON COLLEGE (2-7) -8 p.m. ET, ABC
It's safe to say that the "Luck of the Irish" has been on display for much of this current campaign: Not to say Notre Dame hasn't played top-flight ball as the road win at Oklahoma still remains the season's second-biggest game (behind last week's Alabama at LSU result, of course) but Brian Kelly's club did need a missed 33-yard field goal in the second overtime of last week's wild 29-26 triple-OT win against 16 ½-point dog Pittsburgh and don't forget that goal-line "stand" in the 20-13 OT win against Stanford a few weeks back (video replay guy be damned!).

While Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o continues to be a top three member in this year's Heisman Trophy chase, it's the Irish offense that is expected to divide-and-conquer a bad Boston College defense with QB Everett Golson looking for more vertical action here -remember that BC has yielded 40+ plus in three games this season and soon-to-be-fired head coach Frank Spaziani hasn't a clue how to handle this veritable slew of quality Notre Dame running backs.
But a word to ND's Cierre Wood: You better hold onto the ball in the red zone or else the hot-headed Kelly is gonna sit you on one of those heated benches here!

Spread Note -Notre Dame is just 5-4 ATS this season and as double-digit betting favorites in the Kelly Era the Irish is cumulative 6-7-2 against Mr. Vig. Not great, right?

NOTE: Lots of key NFL Week 10 matchups coming your way in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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