The top portion of the collegiate landscape did not shift much this past weekend as the top schools all came away victorious. The seven remaining unbeaten teams continued on their journey as they all came away with wins in impressive fashion, setting up what looks to be a great November. Looking at the upcoming week, there are no games between two national title contenders on the schedule, but as always, several key games in league play will further shape the BCS picture. The SEC returns to the forefront again this week as a key rivalry is on tap when Florida and Georgia meet on Saturday afternoon. Let’s review the games that need to be on your schedule for week #9.
GAME OF THE WEEK
#7-Florida vs Georgia (at Jacksonville)
The highlight matchup of the week features two SEC teams, one of which still maintains national title hopes, while the other looks to finish the season strong after struggling for the past few weeks. The Florida Gators are looking forward to returning to the field after their disappointing performance in a loss to Auburn on October 14th. The Gators led AU 17-8 at halftime before all aspects of their game came apart as Auburn scored on turnovers and a blocked punt and overwhelmed the Gators in the 2nd half to win 27-17. Even with the loss, Florida remains a major factor in the national title race but cannot stumble for the rest of the season. For Georgia, the season looks to be slipping away from them and they need a win in this contest to still be a factor in the SEC East race. In their recent 27-24 win over Mississippi State, Georgia turned the ball over 5 times and the defense gave up major yards to a below-average MSU offensive unit. The 3 point win over State follows a home loss to Vanderbilt and a blowout loss at Tennessee, so clearly the ‘Dawgs are struggling to find consistency in their game.
The Florida offensive unit had been relatively mistake-free before the 2nd half of the Auburn game, where nothing seemed to work. QB Chris Leak had by far his worst performance of the year as he completed only 9 out of 17 passes for 108 yards, including an interception, and with Tim Tebow lurking, Leak needs to have a solid outing versus Georgia or Tebow will continue to gain additional playing time. The Gators will look to attack a suddenly vulnerable Georgia defense that will look to rebound from its worst performance of the year against Mississippi State. In that game, MSU drove 80 yards for a touchdown in the 4th quarter and was also in position to pull the upset late but was unable to convert for the win. Georgia still ranks 12th in the nation in total defense, but clearly the unit needs help from a struggling offense that continually has put the defense in bad field positions.
The Georgia offense has really struggled all season long, ranking 84th in the nation in total offense and making critical mistakes. QB Matthew Stafford threw for 267 yards this past week but also tossed 3 interceptions that helped keep Mississippi State in the ball game. To have any shot of pulling the upset against the Gators, Georgia must maintain ball control and get RB Kregg Lumpkin pounding the ball on the ground, which looks to be a major challenge. The Florida defense continues to play well, ranking 13 in the nation, and shutting down the opposition’s ground game has become a weekly occurrence. Combining the run stuffing defense with a strong pass rush, the Gators are likely to force the Georgia offense into making mistakes, as the Florida D has been doing all year long. Overall, Florida enters this game as clearly the better team up to this point in the season and the Gators have had Georgia’s number in the past, winning 4 of the last 5 at the "World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
Oklahoma at Missouri
The 7-1 Missouri Tigers enter the toughest two-week stretch of their season beginning this week with their home dual versus Oklahoma, followed next week by a trip to Nebraska. The Tigers go into this game off an impressive 41-21 pasting of Kansas State that saw Mizzou fall behind early but then respond by scoring 34 consecutive points. QB Chase Daniel has been great all season, and he continued his strong play versus Kansas State by tossing 4 touchdowns. Daniel will face his toughest task to date as Oklahoma ranks 11th in the nation in total defense and has been strong in shutting down opponent’s passing attacks. With the loss of RB Adrian Peterson last week, Oklahoma will rely even more heavily on its defense to win games. The Sooners defense responded nicely to the challenge by mauling Colorado and only allowing the Buffaloes 113 yards of total offense in OU’s 24-3 win. In order to knock off Missouri, Oklahoma will have to open up the offense more than it did versus Colorado as the Tigers offense is talented enough and quite capable of putting points on the scoreboard.
#8-Tennessee at South Carolina
This is the first of three brutal games for South Carolina as they will follow up their tussle with Tennessee with a home date with Arkansas and a road trip to Florida. The Carolina defense is playing well, and this past week the Gamecocks forced four Vanderbilt turnovers that allowed USC to take control of the game and win going away 31-13. QB Syvelle Newton has sparked the Carolina offense since taking over early in the season, but he is still prone to making critical mistakes, which against a team like Tennessee will be deadly. The Vols had major struggles at home on Saturday before finally knocking off Alabama 16-13. QB Erik Ainge had his worst game of the season in terms of protecting the football as he tossed 3 interceptions, but the Vol defense responded and only yielded 3 points to the Tide on those turnovers. Tennessee limited Alabama RB Ken Darby to only 26 yards, and the front seven were chasing Bama QB John Parker Wilson around the field all afternoon long. The loser of this dual falls out of the East Division title chase while the winner remains right in the hunt.
#11-Clemson at Virginia Tech
The Tigers looked tremendous in all aspects of the game in their 31-7 rout of Georgia Tech in a game involving ACC front-runners. The most impressive area for Clemson was a running game led by RB James Davis who himself rumbled for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns, while C.J. Spiller chipped in with 116 yards of his own, leading the nation’s 4th best ground attack. Not to be outdone, the Clemson defense shut down Georgia Tech’s All-American wide out Calvin Johnson all night as Tech QB Reggie Ball could not locate his top target against a stout Clemson stop unit. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, rebounded from two consecutive poor performances to rout Southern Miss 36-6. Leading the Hokie charge was RB Branden Ore, who hammered away on the ground for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns, and a defense that spent the majority of the game in the Southern Miss backfield. A concern for Tech remains a passing game that is still not clicking as QB Sean Glennon only completed 4 passes in his 11 attempts and against surging Clemson, adn that will not be nearly enough to pull off the upset.
#5-Texas at Texas Tech
Texas enters this contest after a huge road win at Nebraska in a game that Texas did not nearly play its best football, but was still able to win in a hostile environment against a nationally-ranked opponent. Longhorn QB Colt McCoy continues to develop as he threw for 2 touchdowns and more importantly did not turn the ball over against a tough Nebraska secondary. Texas will likely look more to RB Jamaal Charles this week against a Texas Tech run defense that ranks 76th in the nation and yields over 145 yards per game. Texas Tech has been the definition of inconsistency this year as they rebounded this past week to paste Iowa State 42-16 after getting blasted 30-6 by a winless Colorado team the week prior. Tech QB Graham Harrell enters this game after a 6 touchdown performance versus the Cyclones as the Tech offense put together its best effort on the season on the road. For Tech to have any chance against Texas, Harrell will need a repeat performance of his play against ISU, and the Red Raiders will have to limit the number of mental mistakes, especially reducing the 4 turnovers committed this past week.
#3-Southern Cal at Oregon State
USC has been amazingly consistent in their last 3 games, winning by 6, 6, and 7 points, and surviving late comeback attempts in all 3 contests after the Trojans began the season by blasting their first 3 opponents by a combined score of 98-27. The SC offense is still a work in progress but has come through whenever required so far this year with different players stepping up in each game. On the other side, the Trojan defense seems to have slipped a bit from the level of play in the first 3 games, but the unit still remains one of the better defenses in the country and should have a strong showing against an Oregon State offense that has not been a scoring machine in Pac-10 play, averaging just 15.8 points per game. If the Beavers have their sites set on stunning the college football world, QB Matt Moore will be relied on heavily to attack a USC pass defense that ranks 21st in the nation. The Oregon State running game has not been consistent, and behind an offensive line that is still developing, that could spell a long night for the Oregon State offense. Although this looks like a mismatch on paper, OSU did knock off Washington on the road, a Husky team that gave USC all it could handle before falling about 20 yards shy of the upset.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Florida State at Maryland - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
Maryland is very quietly off to a 5-2 start with their only losses on the road at West Virginia and Georgia Tech, while the Seminoles have already dropped 3 ACC contests and now stand at 4-3 on the year. Maryland enters the toughest stretch of their season as Clemson, Miami, Boston College, and Wake Forest are lined up in a row after the ‘Noles.
Texas A&M at Baylor - Saturday 6:05 PM CDT
Don’t look now, but Baylor is 3-1 in conference play and is focused on getting the school's 1st bowl bid since the Alamo Bowl in 1994. A&M has only played two road games this season, and both were thrillers as the Aggies emerged victorious in each, 21-18 over Kansas and 34-33 over Oklahoma State in OT.
#12-Notre Dame at Navy - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
The Midshipmen of Navy are focused on ending their NCAA record 42 consecutive loss streak to Notre Dame this Saturday in Baltimore. Although the series record is completely one-sided, many of these games have been very close as the Navy attack has been able to give the Irish fits over the years.
Washington State at UCLA - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
The Cougars travel to UCLA looking to build on their huge 34-23 win over Oregon, while the Bruins need to rebound after a disastrous 20-17 loss at Notre Dame. The winner of this game is right in the mix of the battle for 3rd place in the Pac-10 behind USC and California.
Miami at Georgia Tech - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Miami has struggled all season long in generating any consistency in their offense, but the Canes still stand at 5-2 on the year, with only 1 loss in conference. The Yellow Jackets were bombed at Clemson and need to this win to maintain control of the Coastal Division.
Nebraska at Oklahoma State - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Nebraska put out a tremendous effort in their game with Texas, just coming up 2 points short as the Huskers lost their 2nd game of the season, both to top 5 teams. Oklahoma State comes off a huge disappointment of their own as the Cowboys had an extra point blocked that would have sent their game with Texas A&M into a 2nd OT.
Arizona State at Washington - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
After getting thrashed in their first 2 Pac-10 games, ASU has rebounded nicely, giving USC a great run and bombing Stanford last week 38-3. Washington gave California a stern test before coming up a touchdown short in OT, losing their 3rd straight game.
Brigham Young at Air Force - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT
One of the most impressive teams of the past month, and not receiving much attention, are the BYU Cougars, who since their OT loss at Boston College have pounded 4 straight opponents by a combined score of 168-41. Air Force is coming off a puzzling loss to previously winless San Diego State, after the Falcons had won their first 3 Mountain West games.
Wyoming at Texas Christian - Saturday 6:30 PM CDT
Wyoming is really starting to play well, winning their 3rd straight by shutting out Colorado State 24-0 on Saturday. TCU is looking to break a 2-game conference losing streak in the friendly confines of Amon Carter Stadium.
Idaho at Hawaii - Saturday 11:05 PM CDT
Idaho has played well this season and is coming off a week which saw them give Boise State a great game before falling 42-26 and dropping to 3-1 in WAC play. Hawaii is an offensive juggernaut, leading the nation in total offense at 522.7 yards per game and ranking 2nd in scoring offense at 42.1 points per game.