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October 16, 2008

SCS.comIn yet another week of turmoil atop the national polls, this past Saturday provided a major shake-up with Oklahoma, Missouri, and LSU all falling. The team which ended Oklahomaís run at the top of the national polls is back again in this weeks highlight game as Texas returns home to face a Missouri team focused on getting their season back on track. The Big XII has proven to be a major power conference this season and now the Longhorns take their place on the top step to face their challengers. Other key games to circle on the schedule are Ohio State traveling to Michigan State, Kansas on the road at Oklahoma, South Carolina hosting LSU, Boston College welcoming Virginia Tech, and a Mountain West battle between Brigham Young and Texas Christian on the home field of the Horned Frogs. Time for a detailed review of the best games that highlight this weekendís schedule of action.

Check out the staff's picks for all of this week's top games!


Missouri at Texas
Saturday 7:00 PM CDT ABC

The Longhorns could not have been much more impressive in their 45-35 win over what looked to be a superior Oklahoma team heading into the Red River rivalry. Texas fell behind early, but responded each and every time they needed to, finally putting the Sooners away in the fourth quarter to improve their record to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. On the other hand, Missouri must regain their focus and forget about this past Saturdayís 28-23 loss to Oklahoma State, a defeat that dropped the Tigers to 5-1 on the season and 1-1 in the Big Twelve. Even with the loss to Oklahoma State, the Tigers still control their own destiny in the North Division to reach the conference championship game. In this series, Texas has won five of six and four straight since the formation of the Big Twelve with the lone Missouri win coming at home in Columbia in 1997. Letís take an in-depth preview at how these two teams match-up head-to-head in this contest.

For Texas the offense revolves around their star quarterback Colt McCoy who enters this game red-hot after an impressive 28 completions out of 35 attempts for 277 yards effort against Oklahoma. McCoy ranks fourth in the nation in total offense and he now gets to face a struggling Missouri pass defense that is ranked 113th and gives up 271 yards per game. Expect Colt and his leading receiver Quan Crosby to have a huge night as these two have developed a strong connection in recent weeks with Crosby catching 18 passes in the Longhorns first two Big Twelve games. The one area still in question for Texas is the running game as McCoy continues to lead the team in rushing at 58 yards per game, but a new star may be emerging in Chris Ogbonnaya. Chris rumbled for 127 yards on 15 carries versus Oklahoma and if he is indeed the real deal and the Longhorn ground game becomes a legitimate threat, Missouri may be overmatched by the offensive weapons that Texas will have on the field. Expect to see a Tiger game plan that focuses their efforts on controlling the Longhorn passing game and challenging Texas to win this game on the ground.

Missouri will answer with a star quarterback of their own in Chase Daniel, who is looking to rebound after tossing three interceptions in the loss to Oklahoma State. Much like the Missouri secondary, Texas has also struggled in defending the pass, ranking 109th in the nation, and they now face the nationís third best passing attack. Daniel has two star receivers to work with in Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman, who both rank in the top twenty in the nation in both receiving yards and receptions per game. Coffman can present huge match-up problems from the tight end position and he is only three receptions away from becoming the Tigers all-time leading receiver. When the Tigers do look to run they have a good one to turn to in Derrick Washington, but he will run directly into a Texas rush defense that ranks third in the country, highlighted by a stout defensive line, and anchored by Brian Orakpo. For Missouri to have a chance to pull of the upset in hostile territory, Chase Daniel must place this team on his back and not make the same crucial mistakes that hurt his team versus Oklahoma State.

This game has the potential of being an instant replay of the Texas/Oklahoma game, with two powerful offenses being on display on Saturday evening. Neither defense is likely to be able to match the speed and experience on the offensive side of the football making for a high scoring affair and an exciting game to watch. Breaking this game down on both sides of the football, these teams are amazingly similar in their season output, with the passing game setting the tone on offense and both teams struggling to shutdown their opponentís aerial attack on the defensive side of the ball. The quarterbacks are likely to have huge nights as both work against their opponentís inexperienced and still developing secondary, making it likely that this game will be decided by the always critical turnover margin. When all is said and done, the home field advantage at home in Austin for the Longhorns is enough to push Texas to another huge win as they remain undefeated and in the thick of the national championship race.


Brigham Young at Texas Christian
Thursday 7:00 PM CDT VERSUS

Brigham Young extended the nationís longest winning streak to 16 with their win over New Mexico this past Saturday while TCU struggled but overcame Colorado State to run their conference mark to 3-0. The story remains the same for BYU as the Cougars rely heavily on their eighth ranked passing offense under the direction of quarterback Max Hall. Hall must have a huge effort for BYU to win as the TCU rush defense is ranked first in the nation, allowing only 21 yards per game on the ground. For TCU, the new leader of their offense is quarterback Marcus Jackson, who has taken over the starting role for the injured Andy Dalton, and has played well in the Frogs two wins over Mountain West foes. Jackson is a dual-threat and leads the team in rushing, but the Frogs will need more out of his passing arm if they have hopes of putting an end to the BYU winning streak. This game has huge implications in the Mountain West race with both of these teams being legitimate conference contenders as BYU looks to extend their winning streak over TCU to four games.

Ohio State at Michigan State
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ABC

A battle of teams that are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten is on tap Saturday with Ohio State coming off a 16-3 battle with Purdue while Michigan State overwhelmed Northwestern their last time out. Michigan State will continue to hand the ball to their star running back Javon Ringer, who has been a workhorse all season long and ranks second in the nation at 159 yards per game. Ringer will be challenged by an Ohio State rush defense that has slipped a bit since last season but is still a top-notch group which only allows 104 yards per game and features Butkus Award winning linebacker, James Laurinaitis. For Ohio State on offense, quarterback Terrelle Pryor continues to develop as the Buckeye offense remains focused on the ground game with the passing game ranked 108th in the nation. The Buckeyes game plan will be centered on the combination of Pryor and running back Chris Wells, both who will rush the ball and challenge the Spartans 60th ranked rush defense to stop them. The winner of this game will at least remain in a tie atop the Big Ten standings as Ohio State aims to extend their winning streak in this series to seven games.

Kansas at Oklahoma
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ABC

Oklahoma is looking to rebound after their hard-fought 45-35 loss to Texas while Kansas is off to a 2-0 start in league action and head to Norman off a 30-14 win over Colorado. The Sooners will attack Kansas through the air with their fourth ranked pass offense and quarterback Sam Bradford, who should have a good afternoon working against the Jayhawks leaky pass defense. Both receivers Manuel Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias, who average a combined ten receptions per game, should expect to see plenty of passes as Oklahoma uses the pass to set up the run in this one. For Kansas, the offense remains focused on their quarterback Todd Reesing, who ranks fifth in the nation in total offense at 347 yards per game. Reesing will take his shots at an Oklahoma pass defense that was exploited by Texas and remains a concern for the Sooners against a talented Kansas passing game. Oklahoma has been dominant at home versus conference foes as they look to extend their winning streak to five over this rejuvenated Kansas program.

Louisiana State at South Carolina
Saturday 7:00 PM CDT ESPN

LSU was obliterated by Florida on Saturday night and they now must travel to South Carolina where a confident Gamecock team on a four game winning streak awaits their arrival. The game plan for the Tigers will be simple, hand the ball to running back Charles Scott, and see what he can do against the Carolina defense. The Gamecock pass defense has been stellar and with LSU still looking to establish a consistent aerial attack behind Jarrett Lee, the Tiger running game will receive plenty of work. On the other side of the ball, South Carolina continues to struggle on offense and will need a huge effort out of either quarterback, Chris Smelley or Stephen Garcia, both of whom are expected to play. For the Gamecocks to pull off the upset, the offensive line has to improve in pass protection, otherwise the powerful LSU front line will be disruptive and in the Carolina backfield all night long. South Carolina is looking for their first win in this series since 1994 as they prepare for an angry and motivated group of Tigers looking to rebound from their poor performance last weekend.

Virginia Tech at Boston College
Saturday 7:00 PM CDT ESPN2

After opening their season with a loss to East Carolina, Virginia Tech has rebounded to win five straight, including two key wins in ACC play, while Boston College has won three consecutive games since their loss to Georgia Tech. For Tech the focus on offense is on the ground game with running back Darren Evans continuing to assume an expanded role in the Hokie game plan. Evans and quarterback Tyrod Taylor must continue to do damage on the ground as the Tech passing game continues to sputter, ranking 113th in the nation. On offense for Boston College, the focus is on a running game by committee, as Montel Harris, Jeff Smith, and Josh Haden have basically split the carries in the Eagles initial five games. The Tech rush defense has been susceptible this season, so expect to see the trio of BC running backs get plenty of carries and to combine with quarterback Chris Crane who will direct a short and controlled passing game. These teams split two games last year with Tech coming out on top in the ACC championship game and this season with a wide open ACC race, the winner of this game takes a huge step forward in their divisional race.


Wake Forest at Maryland - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT

Maryland has been impossible to figure, earning big wins over California and Clemson and then suffering puzzling losses to Middle Tennessee and Virginia, with a 31-0 loss to the Cavaliers occurring in the Terps last game. Wake has won their first two in the ACC and positioned themselves atop the Atlantic Division and a third straight win over Maryland will put the Deacons in the driverís seat.

Georgia Tech at Clemson - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT

The Clemson season is close to coming apart at the seams after two consecutive conference losses to Maryland and Wake Forest and now the resignation of their coach Tommy Bowden. Tech has dominated this series in recent years, winning three of the last four, as the Jackets aim for their third ACC win on the season.

Western Michigan at Central Michigan - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT

The MAC West division is setting up for a tremendous end to the season with three teams currently unbeaten in conference play. WMU is off to a 4-0 start in the league while CMU stands at 3-0 with the winner of this game joining Ball State as the favorite for the MAC title.

Vanderbilt at Georgia - Saturday 11:30 AM CDT

The surprising run of Vanderbilt came to an end in a 17-14 loss to Mississippi State as the Commodores fell to 3-1 in SEC play. Georgia enters this game off a 26-14 win over Tennessee to improve to 2-1 in the conference as the Bulldogs look for a big win in a tightly bunched East division race.

Mississippi at Alabama - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

Alabama will be looking for a much more impressive performance after their hard-fought 17-14 win over Kentucky their last time out as the Tide improved to 3-0 in league play. Mississippi is 1-2 in the SEC but does have the stunning 31-30 win on the road at Florida on their resume, making the Rebels a very dangerous match-up.

North Carolina at Virginia - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

The Tar Heels are on a roll, winning three straight since their loss to Virginia Tech, including this past weekends thrilling 29-24 win over Notre Dame. Virginia is also hot, winning two straight in impressive fashion as the Cavaliers look for a 14th consecutive win versus UNC at home.

Pittsburgh at Navy - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

Pitt is on a four game winning streak since their opening weekend loss, including an impressive win at South Florida their last time out. Navy has rebounded from a 1-2 start to win three straight, included in that streak were strong performances versus Wake Forest and Air Force as the Middies look for back-to-back wins over the Panthers.

Stanford at UCLA - Saturday 3:00 PM CDT

Stanford is off to a 3-1 record in Pac-10 play, including a thrilling 24-23 upset win over Arizona on Saturday. UCLA has struggled recently, winning only once in their last five games, as the Bruins look for assistance from their home field to get back on track in conference play.

Michigan at Penn State - Saturday 3:30 PM CDT

Penn State is on a roll, outscoring their opponents by a combined 106-37 in Big Ten play, as the Lions return home after thumping Wisconsin by a 48-7 score. Michigan is reeling and in need of a huge effort to extend their winning streak to ten over Penn State after back-to-back home losses to Illinois and Toledo.

California at Arizona - Saturday 9:00 PM CDT

California looks to have rebounded after their loss to Maryland, winning two straight with relative ease, including a 24-14 win over Arizona State in their last game. Arizona comes off a disappointing loss to Stanford and now must look to regain their confidence against a Bear team that has won four of the past five in this series.

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