Another week of college football, and yet another shake-up at the top of the national rankings. In games that ended in thrilling fashion, both LSU and California were tripped up as there seems to be no team that wants a berth in the BCS national title game. After the Tigers' win over Florida, a lot of the experts had already penciled LSU into the championship game, but as this season continues to demonstrate, the teams at the top better come to play every single week or their stay will be short-lived. For California, it was an even tougher loss as the Bears were on the verge of a comeback that at worst would have sent their game with Oregon State into overtime, but a quarterback scramble that ended in-bounds would run out the clock, putting an abrupt halt to Calís shot at earning the #1 ranking.
This upcoming weekend's action features yet another couple of top-notch SEC battles as Florida will see if they can do what LSU could not by earning a win at Kentucky, while LSU needs to rebound quickly as surging Auburn pays a visit to Tiger Stadium. Another interesting contest will demonstrate if South Florida is ready to handle their new found fame as the Bulls head to dangerous Rutgers for a Thursday night game. Letís breakdown this weekends top games and see what is in store for the 3rd Saturday of October.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Florida at Kentucky
Kentucky enters this game off of one of the biggest wins in program history, a 43-37 three-overtime thriller over top-ranked LSU. The Wildcats came back from a 13 point 2nd half deficit against the top-rated defense in the nation to earn their shot at the historic win in the overtime session. Florida is currently on a 2 game losing skid, with tough losses to Auburn and LSU by a combined 7 points. After winning their initial 3 games in blowout fashion, the Gators have been brought back down to earth and now face another huge challenge in a Kentucky program that is sky high at the moment. Kentucky has not defeated Florida since 1986, losing 20 straight in the series, but this year's group of Wildcats is not interested in the past with a potential dream season in their sights. Time to detail how these two SEC East rivals matchup on both sides of the football.
Florida will attack the Wildcat defense with Tim Tebow through the air and Tim Tebow on the ground. Tebow ranks 8th in the nation in total offense, and he continues to be the Gators' main all-around offensive threat, an area that has become a bit of concern half-way through the season as additional weapons must emerge. One area that Kentucky will give up chunks of yardage is on the ground, so expect to see plenty of quarterback draws in this one. When Florida does decide to throw, the main target all season has been wide receiver Percy Harvin, who leads the team with 513 yards through the air. Kentucky has played well defending the pass so far this season, and the UK defensive staff will work their game plan to force Tebow to the air and into the Cats' main strength. Keep an eye on UK linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has a great nose for the football, and is likely to spend his afternoon playing shadow with Tebow with the goal of keeping his damage to a minimum.
For Kentucky, their offensive game plan is centered on their star quarterback Andre Woodson, who has a great receiving corps to work with, and he has been able to spread the ball around the field to his top weapons in Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson, and Dicky Lyons. The Florida defenders cannot focus solely on the Wildcat passing game as running back Rafael Little, when healthy, ranks 17th in the nation in yardage on the ground at 114 yards per game. In terms of the Gator defense, the strength of this unit is a front wall that does not yield much yardage on the ground, making it all the more likely that Woodson will have to carry the UK offense in this one. The Gators will need to find a way to get into the Kentucky backfield to hurry Woodson, so expect to see additional blitzing as the Florida base defensive package has not had great success in reaching the opposing quarterback. A secret weapon for Kentucky could be tight end Jacob Tammme, who has become Woodsonís security blanket in the middle of the field, and if Florida pays too much attention to the receiving corps, Tamme will make them pay.
The tables have turned a bit in recent weeks as the Kentucky Wildcats have jumped in front of Florida in the national rankings, a scenario that seemed extremely unlikely at the beginning of this season. The key for Kentuckyís resurgence is the combination of a dynamic offense and a defensive unit that has improved enough to allow the Cat playmakers to find ways to win games. A Kentucky win sets up the Wildcats to make a run at the SEC East division title, while Florida needs this one if they hope to have any shot at defending their SEC conference championship. This has all the makings of a great game, with Florida needing to pull out all the stops to win this one on the road in Lexington. Expect to see Tim Tebow all over the field, using his legs more than his arm to keep the Kentucky offense off the field. In the end, the Gators may be able to get back on track and put an end to their 2 game losing streak with a big win on the road.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
South Florida at Rutgers
The college football world has been turned upside down as this South Florida program in its 11th year of existence has quickly become a major contender in the national title chase. For Rutgers it has been a bit of a tough start to their year as they ended a two game losing streak last weekend by pounding overmatched Syracuse. Leading the Bulls is their all-purpose quarterback Matt Grothe, who leads the team in both rushing and passing, generating 245 yards of offense per game. Expect to see plenty of Grothe on the ground in this one as Rutgers has been vulnerable to the opposition's running game so far this season. When Rutgers has the ball, there should be no surprises as Ray Rice will get plenty of carries in an effort to control the ball. A best case scenario has Rice running well early to open the passing lanes for the top-notch pass catching duo of Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt as they work against an excellent Bull secondary which ranks 15th in the country in passing yards allowed per game. A win puts South Florida in the Big East driver's seat, as this is their biggest road challenge left on the schedule, while a Rutgers victory puts the Knights right back into the conference championship chase.
Auburn at LSU
The schedule gauntlet continues for LSU, as they now have to rebound after their tough 3 overtime loss to Kentucky, just a week after the Tigers great comeback win over Florida. Auburn has really stepped up their game in recent weeks, winning 4 straight, including 3 in SEC play after starting the year at 1-2. One thing that should not be expected in this game is a lot of downfield passing as LSU ranks 88th in the nation in passing offense while Auburn is even worse at 105th. What fans will see is a defensive slugfest between 2 of the top 10 defenses in the entire nation, units loaded with playmakers that fly to the football. Where LSU does have an advantage is in their rushing game as the combination of Jacob Hester and Keiland Williams have stepped up their game as quarterback Matt Flynn continues to struggle. Both groups of Tigers will look to stay on the ground as long as possible, running straight forward in basic offensive sets. The winner is likely to be the team whose offensive line is capable of winning the war in the trenches and providing just enough room for their running backs to work downfield.
Michigan at Illinois
Michigan has rebounded nicely from its disastrous start as the Wolverines have now won 5 straight games, including 3 consecutive in Big 10 play. Illinois stubbed their toe this past weekend after a 3-0 conference start, as the Illini could just not get their offense moving in a 10-6 loss at Iowa. The key question for Michigan remains the status of their star running back Mike Hart, the #1 back in the nation as he averages an eye popping 154 yards on the ground per game. Hart was injured last week versus Purdue, but early reports have him as expected to play, and if he is able to go at near 100%, he remains the focus of the Michigan game plan. Illinois has done well this season in defending against the rush, so this sets up as a matchup of strength versus strength. Illinois will continue their same offensive game plan, which revolves around star running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Arrelious Benn. Mendenhall will be fed the ball early and often to soften up the Michigan defense, and then it will be Bennís time to step up and work the ball downfield. Both of these teams still control their own destiny in the Big 10 race, with Ohio State still remaining later in the season in what is shaping up to be a great conference championship chase.
Texas Tech at Missouri
If you want to see a game featuring offensive fireworks, make time to watch this one on Saturday. Over their last 3 meetings, these two schools have averaged 81 points per game, with Missouri earning the most recent win, a 38-21 triumph last season. Missouri continues to rely on their dual threat behind center in quarterback Chase Daniel, who is 5th in the nation in total offense. Expect to see Daniel running the ball a great deal in this one along with running back Tony Temple, as Texas Tech has not done well in slowing the run, giving up 163 yards per game. As their usual standard, Tech leads the nation in passing offense as quarterback Graham Harrell is the best in the country at churning out yardage at 445 yards per game. Harrell has one of the top freshman in the nation as his disposal in wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who already this season has caught 78 passes for 1,244 yards. Missouri needs a win to keep their North division title hopes in sight after they lost last week to Oklahoma, while Texas Tech will look for their 3rd straight Big 12 win after they lost their opener to Oklahoma State.
Michigan State at Ohio State
The return of Ohio State to the top ranking in the nation has been a major surprise after the Buckeyes lost substantial talent to graduation from last yearís Big 10 championship team. Michigan State is off to a 5-2 start under new head coach Mark Dantonio, but the Spartans have lost 2 tough Big 10 games to Wisconsin and Northwestern, both in high scoring battles. For Ohio State, the game plan is simple: rely on the nationís top-rated defense to shut down the opposition, and then have their workmanlike offense control the clock. In their 3 conference wins so far, Ohio State has given up a total of 21 points, while scoring 111, continuing the early season trend in which the Buckeyes have not yet received a major challenge. For the Spartans, their offense is focused around the running back combination of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick, who lead the nationís 9th rated rushing attack. This game will feature a matchup of strength versus strength as the Ohio State rush defense is ranked 2nd in the nation, yielding only 63 yards per game. Ohio State has won 5 straight in this series and enters this game as a solid favorite, but MSU features enough talent to make this a dangerous contest.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Virginia at Maryland - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Since an opening weekend loss to Wyoming, Virginia has reeled off 6 straight wins and is now 3-0 in conference play. Maryland is 1-1 in the conference, and has played much better in recent weeks, earning wins over Rutgers and Georgia Tech.
Tennessee at Alabama - Saturday 11:30 AM CDT
Since beginning the year in impressive fashion at 3-0, Alabama has struggled to a 2-2 mark, including recent tighter than expected wins over Houston and Mississippi. Tennessee controls their own destiny in SEC East play, and this Volunteer bunch seems to be playing at a higher level since the calendar turned to October.
Kansas State at Oklahoma State - Saturday 6:05 PM CDT
Oklahoma State is playing much improved football since the beginning of the season, and is a 1-point loss to Texas A&M away from leading the Big 12 South division. Kansas State rebounded nicely from their disappointing loss to in-state rival Kansas by thumping Colorado, so get ready for offensive fireworks in this one.
Kansas at Colorado - Saturday 4:30 PM CDT
Kansas continues to pile up the tremendous offensive stats, ranking 2nd in the nation in scoring offense after hanging 58 on Baylor this past weekend and improving to 2-0 in Big 12 action. Meanwhile, Colorado was brought back to the pack by Kansas State as the Buffs fell to 2-1 in conference play.
Louisville at Connecticut - Friday 7:00 PM CDT
Louisville enters this game off a huge road win this past weekend as the Cardinals ended Cincinnatiís unbeaten run with their best all-around performance of the season. UConn is looking to get back on track after suffering their lone loss so far, a tough 17-16 defeat at Virginia.
California at UCLA - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
California will need to overcome the disappointment of falling a field goal short against Oregon State, and failing to earn the school's 1st top-ranking since 1951. UCLA is almost impossible to figure out, as bad losses to Utah and Notre Dame surround two big Pac-10 wins over Washington and Oregon State. Keep an eye on which Bruin team takes the field.
USC at Notre Dame - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
It is still USC at Notre Dame, even though this one has lost a lot of its normal luster as Notre Dame continues to struggle and USC seemingly is on the ropes every weekend. The Trojans enter this one banged up and having major problems on the offensive side of the ball, while the Irish are playing better but still remain unable to get their offense on track.
Miami at Florida State - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Both of these teams are fighting for their ACC championship lives after both lost last weekend and now stand at 1-2 in conference play. The winner stays in the hunt, while the loser will have to shift their focus to earning a post-season bid.
Mississippi State at West Virginia - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
This is a game that is dangerous for West Virginia as the Mountaineers head out of conference in mid-October to take on a much improved Bulldog program. MSU will be looking for revenge after last yearís 42-14 shellacking at home, a game in which WVU ran wild all game long.