The turnover at the top of the college football landscape continues on a weekly basis as top ten teams South Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky stumbled this past weekend. The #2 slot in the national rankings has been an especially bad omen, as for a 3rd consecutive week, the team in that slot has been defeated, with USF being the latest victim. As the season heads into the 9th week of action, there still are 5 undefeated teams remaining in Ohio State, Boston College, Arizona State, Kansas, and Hawaii, with 4 of these teams having highlighted games coming up this weekend.
The headliner of this weekend’s action will actually occur on Thursday night as Boston College faces its toughest test of the season on the road at Virginia Tech in a huge ACC game. A couple of other key games to focus on are top-ranked Ohio State heading to Penn State and a key battle in the Big East with West Virginia paying a visit to Rutgers. Not to be left out, a great game is also on tap out west in the Pac-10 as USC heads north to take on the Ducks of Oregon. Time for a detailed preview of the best games on the schedule in the last weekend of October.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Boston College at Virginia Tech
The Eagles of BC have moved all the way up to #2 in the latest BCS rankings and have set themselves up for a run at a berth in the national championship game. BC has played an interesting schedule so far this season, as they opened the year winning 3 straight conference games before heading out of the ACC in their last 4 games, with the toughest game of the 4 being a 27-14 win at Notre Dame. At the same time, Virginia Tech has rebounded nicely from their week #2 pasting at the hands of LSU to win 5 straight games, including 3 within the ACC. Tech is thrilled to have this game within the friendly confines of Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, where they have lost only once in their past 12 games as VT is focused on earning revenge for last season's 22-3 thumping at the hands of BC at Chestnut Hill. Let’s see how these two ACC rivals stack up in the weekends highlight matchup.
For Virginia Tech, the story this season has been centered on their defense and special teams, as the offense has struggled to maintain any level of consistency. The Hokies rank 112th overall in total offense, being just as ineffective on the ground as they are through the air as the Tech front wall has struggled to open holes for the ground game and protecting the passer. Tech quarterbacks have been on the run all year long, having been sacked 24 times, which ranks 109th in the nation and clearly demonstrates the line's overall struggles. The Eagles lead the nation in rush defense, so Tech running back Branden Ore is likely to have to make his own holes if the Hokies are going to gain substantial yardage on the ground. Where Tech must find more success is through the air, and that will require either of their two quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor or Sean Glennon, to improve on their current passing efficiency rating. With the stellar play of their other units, Tech does not need to have a great offense to win this one, but they do require a solid effort that limits mistakes and does not provide easy scoring opportunities for Boston College.
The main man for the BC offense all season has been their Heisman candidate at quarterback in Matt Ryan, who directs the nation’s 8th best passing offense. Ryan is off to a great start this year, already throwing for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns as he does a fine job spreading the ball around the field to a variety of receivers. Ryan will need help from his offensive line as the Hokies rank 5th in the nation in sacks, and they will unleash defensive end Chris Ellis and linebacker Xavier Adibi to chase him all night long. An area of concern for BC is a rushing game that has not been able to churn out yardage against the better defenses on their schedule, as Andre Callender rushed for a total of 103 yards in their games versus Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. BC has survived against lesser competition without a great ground game, but Tech will overwhelm the Eagles if they are unable to slow down the Tech defenders with the threat of a rushing attack.
This game has all the makings of a defensive slugfest with special teams potentially playing a key role in the outcome. Tech has always played tremendous on the punt block and return game, and those units have single handedly been able to win games in the past when the Hokie offense has struggled. There remain major questions surrounding how good this BC team really is, especially with their last 4 non-conference games being against Division 1 foes with a combined 8-15 record. The Eagles have a chance on primetime national television to show they deserve their #2 national ranking by winning a huge game in hostile territory. The winner of this contest moves to 4-0 in ACC play and takes a major step towards earning a spot in the conference championship game. In the end, the Hokie defense may do enough to contain the BC offense and get a key special teams play that shifts the momentum as yet again the #2 team in the land could be knocked from its perch.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
USC at Oregon
Oregon is about a yard away from being undefeated and in position to play for the national championship, as Cameron Colvin fumbled out of the endzone late in the 4th quarter in their loss to California. Since that game, the Ducks have rebounded in a big way by putting 108 points on the board in their wins over Washington and Washington State, moving into a 3rd place tie with USC in the Pac-10 at 3-1. USC has been nowhere near as dominant as expected before the season began, especially on offense where recent injuries have slowed what was expected to be an explosive unit. Oregon will attack SC’s 3rd ranked defense with the combination of quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jonathan Stewart, who together account for 441 yards per game of total offense. Dixon has also accounted for 23 touchdowns, 7 of which have come on the ground, as he is almost impossible to stop due to his superior athleticism. Expect the SC game plan to be centered on their array of running backs in the hopes of controlling the ball and the time of possession to keep the powerful Duck offense off the field. The winner of this game still will control their own destiny in the league as both still have to play the current league leaders in Arizona State and UCLA.
Ohio State at Penn State
The top-ranked Buckeyes have yet to receive a real serious challenge this season, with last Saturday’s win over Michigan State their toughest battle, but it was a game that OSU controlled for the majority of the time. Penn State has come back after losing their initial 2 conference games to win 3 straight, including a pair of impressive wins at home over Iowa and Wisconsin. For Ohio State, their defense has been the story so far this season, ranking 1st in the nation in total defense and scoring defense as they only give up 7.9 points per game. Penn State will have to try to find room to run with their running back combination of Rodney Kinlaw and Evan Royster, and the Lions may try to open up the running lanes by working the pass early with Anthony Morelli. The key for the Lions all season has been the turnover battle as in their 2 losses, PSU lost 6 turnovers, which turned winnable games into heartbreaking losses. Ohio State is 2-5 at Penn State in Big 10 play, but this Buckeye team is on a roll and a win at always tough Happy Valley sets OSU up for not only a 2nd consecutive Big 10 championship but yet another shot at a national title.
West Virginia at Rutgers
Rutgers enter this contest off one of the biggest wins in their program's history as the Scarlet Knights held off a late South Florida rally to beat the #2 ranked Bulls, 30-27. West Virginia looked great this past Saturday as they hammered Mississippi State 38-13 as the double headed monster of Pat White and Steve Slaton dominated a good MSU defense. Rutgers has stepped up their offensive attack this season as the receiving duo of Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt have proven to be difficult to contain, especially with running back Ray Rice keeping defenses honest. In order to pull the upset and end a 12 game losing skid against WVU, the Knights will need to match the WVU offense score for score as both units should be able to move the ball all game long. There will be no surprises with the Mountaineer game plan as Pat White and Steve Slaton will both run, run, and run some more, attacking an area in which the Rutgers defense has been vulnerable. This game is critical in Big East play with both schools already suffering a loss within the conference, saddling the loser with a huge mountain to climb to get back into the championship chase.
Florida at Georgia
Florida ended their 2 game losing streak with a major statement as the offense proved to be unstoppable in their 45-37 win over Kentucky on the road. Georgia had a week off to prepare for this one after their win over Vanderbilt, and the Bulldogs need all the time they can get as they have lost 15 of the past 17 meetings in this series. The Florida offense continues to be a one man show as Tim Tebow accounted for 334 of the Gators 427 yards in their win at Kentucky. The Georgia defense has been susceptible to a strong ground game so expect to see Tebow have at least 15 more rushing attempts in this contest. Georgia is not going to be able to keep pace with Florida if this game becomes a track meet, so the Bulldogs will try to work Knowshown Moreno and Thomas Brown heavily to see if they can wear down the Gator front wall. Both teams are 3-2 in SEC play and are tied for 1st with South Carolina in the East division, with only Florida controlling their own destiny as they still have a date with South Carolina later in the season.
California at Arizona State
Not too many people have taken notice of the Arizona State 7-0 start, 4-0 in Pac-10 play, and with good reason as the toughest portion of the Sun Devil schedule begins this week. California will have to find a way to regroup after 2 consecutive devastating losses to Oregon State and UCLA, as the Bears have dropped into a 5th place tie in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils have used a balanced offensive attack to become the nation's 12th best scoring offense, with running back Ryan Torain the main weapon of choice. California has struggled this season on the defensive side of the ball, so the Bears are likely to have to simply outscore the Devils if they hope to halt their losing skid at 2. In order to do just that, the Bears will pound away with star running back Justin Forsett, who is churning out 116 yards per game this season and is a constant threat to take it the distance. California has owned ASU in recent seasons by winning 4 straight in the series in convincing fashion; a Sun Devil win starts the national title talk in Tempe and rightfully so.
GAMES OF INTEREST
South Carolina at Tennessee - Saturday 6:45 PM CDT
Both of these teams appeared to be peaking, but this past Saturday changed all that as Carolina and Tennessee were dominated by SEC foes, each losing their 2nd conference game of the season. South Carolina has struggled in their trips to Tennessee, winning only once in 13 attempts, so the “head ball coach” will have to work up a few tricks if the Gamecocks hope to reverse the trend.
South Florida at Connecticut - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
After their huge win over Louisville, Connecticut now stands alone is the current leader of the Big East as the Huskies have already become bowl eligible. South Florida’s stay at #2 in the BCS was short-lived after their loss to Rutgers, and the Bulls need to rebound quickly as they head out on the road again against a vastly improved UConn team.
Kansas at Texas A&M - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
The Jayhawks enter this one off a big road win at Colorado, moving them to 3-0 in the league and 7-0 overall, with the toughest portion of their schedule looming. A&M is tied for the top spot in the South division, and a win at home would be huge with a trip to Oklahoma on the horizon.
Clemson at Maryland - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Maryland enters this game off a heartbreaking loss to Virginia, their 2nd ACC loss, while Clemson is looking to end a 2 game conference losing streak. These two teams enjoy playing tight games as the last 3 in this series have been decided by a total of 8 points.
Indiana at Wisconsin - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
This has become a big game in the Big 10 chase as both of these teams have now dropped 2 straight games within the conference. This contest should feature explosive offenses as two of the conference's biggest stars will be on display in the Badgers' P.J. Hill and the Hoosiers' James Hardy.
Colorado at Texas Tech - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
After a 2-0 start in the league, Colorado has now dropped 2 straight and the Buffs need to get back on track if they want to maintain their post-season hopes. Tech returns home after being blown out by Missouri with the good news for the Raiders being that the home team has won all 8 of these contests.
Air Force at New Mexico - Thursday 8:00 PM CDT
Air Force is already just 1 win away from qualifying for the post-season after missing out on the bowl season since 2002. This is a key game in the Mountain West standings as both of these teams have 1 loss and are working towards chasing down league leader and unbeaten Brigham Young.
Boise State at Fresno State - Friday 8:00 PM CDT
This is a key game within the WAC as Fresno State is off to a 4-0 conference start while the defending league champs now stand at 3-0. The Bulldogs did beat Boise the last time they visited California, the only win for Fresno in their last 6 meetings.