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October 25, 2005

SCS.comAlthough only one undefeated team, Texas Tech, lost this weekend, the road to the Rose Bowl became clear for all teams still involved. USC and Texas have distanced themselves from the pack, each claiming huge road wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State in recent weeks and generally dominating their competition. Texas has not been truly challenged since early September, and their schedule is the most favorable for taking a return trip to Pasadena this year. USC obviously only has to win out to make it in the game, and this does not seem too difficult until UCLA comes to town.

Virginia Tech is the only team to feel really bad for, but only if they win out and do not make the title game. Boston College, Miami, and an ACC title game against Florida State (more than likely) will give them a challenge. Marcus Vick is really maturing into a leader and a great quarterback, so anything is possible if Beamerball keeps capitalizing on special teams mistakes. I do not see the Hokies winning out, but they have a compelling argument if they do.

The SEC teams which are still undefeated are less than impressive. Georgia was looking good, but they barely squeaked by Arkansas after losing quarterback D.J. Shockley to injury and I'm guessing they will falter in the SEC title game, if not before then. Alabama has won the last two weeks on last-second field goals, and they have been lucky to not lose both of those games. LSU and Auburn remain on the schedule as well as Georgia in the SEC title game (assuming UGA doesn't lose two of their last three conference games), and I actually doubt they will even make the SEC title game after a loss to either Tiger team. The SEC teams are good, but definitely a step below the current top three.

The final undefeated is UCLA, and they have gotten the job done so far. They still have to play USC though, and they will need some serious help to jump Texas or Virginia Tech even if they win. UCLA, we'll talk again in December if you are still undefeated.

The first game of the week comes to us from Blacksburg where Boston College visits Virginia Tech on Thursday night. Boston College has a lone blemish on their record and needs to win to stay in the hunt for a division title now that Florida State must only lose once more for BC to control the division. Virginia Tech could all but ensure Florida State wins their division with a victory here, and I suspect the home field advantage on a weeknight on national television will motivate the Hokies to an important victory. Virginia Tech by 10.

Although there are important games in the Big Ten this weekend, I choose to focus on a different midwestern conference for my second game of the week: Toledo at Central Michigan. After Bowling Green got smashed last weekend, Toledo remains the only undefeated in conference play and appears to be a favorite for the MAC title. They must hold off Central Michigan as they are the only threatening team left to beat in their division (the Rockets beat Northern Illinois earlier). Road games against the Chippewas are never easy, as Ohio University could attest to. I'll take Central Michigan by 14, which will open up this division for an exciting final few weeks of conference play.

Finally, we have The World's Largest Cocktail Party, Georgia against Florida. Georgia would clinch an outright Eastern Division title by giving Florida a third loss, as every other team in the division already has three conference losses. With QB D.J. Shockley not leading the team this week, Florida will seek to take advantage. Even with a full week of practice, I suspect Georgia, after seeing how weak they looked against hapless Arkansas, will struggle this week. With Shockley, I would say Georgia would be dancing to a division title, but I think they leave the ranks of the unbeatens this week. Florida rejoins the division race with a three point victory.

Top 3 Games of the Week Record to date: 12-12 (2-1 last week)

Although BC at VT is the big game of the week, there are tough challenges for each of the other four teams with one loss in conference play. Maryland has a chance to knock Florida State down into a three-way tie for the conference lead if BC loses as well, but a loss knocks them out of the conference title race. The same situation applies as North Carolina travels to take on Miami in a Coastal Division elimination game. Although both Florida teams will certainly be favored, don't be surprised if these games come down to the wire.

Four of the five teams with one loss in conference (Colorado, Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma) have those losses at the hands of 4-0 Texas. None of them has even been close to knocking off the Longhorns, and Texas A&M should not be a problem either. Nebraska is the only two-loss team, and they have a big game against Oklahoma in the only interesting conference game this week. The conference race could become even more lopsided than it is already since every team with zero or one loss in conference plays someone with two or more conference losses this week. It is still Texas and then every team they have beaten so far in Big XII play, and it's beginning to look like nothing will change that this year.

Big East
The only conference game this week is a battle for last place between Cincinnati and Syracuse. Oh, and then there's Navy at Rutgers.

Big Ten
Seven teams remain in the conference race with one or two losses, and two games feature two of these teams in contention this week. Ohio State will have to remove the mistakes to defeat Minnesota on the road, but the Buckeye defense is hard to overcome either way. Michigan comes off a huge road win at Iowa, and they come into Northwestern this week with a chance to knock another team into the two-loss bracket with them. Northwestern has played surprisingly well, but this stretch of games against Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio State in consecutive weeks could break the Wildcats. Indiana and Michigan State need to shake off bad losses from the past two weeks when they play each other this week, as both hold 4-3 records and need to win this game to have a chance at getting the eighth bowl bid from the Big Ten this season.

Other than the Cocktail Party, one other interesting battle in the East division should merit attention from a national audience this week. Steve Spurrier has turned South Carolina into a decent team under his system, but another test this week comes when they travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. Neither team has played particularly impressively so far, and both have three losses already. Another conference loss makes one of these teams in danger of missing out on bowl season, so Spurrier needs to pull a road miracle to save his season now.

Fitzy's Top 10 - Week 9
1. USC (7-0)
2. Texas (7-0)
3. Virginia Tech (7-0)
4. Georgia (7-0)
5. Alabama (7-0)
6. Miami (5-1)
7. UCLA (7-0)
8. LSU (5-1)
9. Boston College (6-1)
10. Florida State (6-1)
Dropped Out: #8 Texas Tech (6-1)

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