A huge shift in the national title picture took place this past week as the USC Trojans were upset at Oregon State, 33-31. The loss by the Trojans reduces the number of undefeated teams remaining to six and further scrambles the BCS picture as the season heads into November. Numerous other top ten teams had struggles on Saturday as well, further emphasizing how wide open the national title race remains at this point in the season. Highlighting the upcoming week is a national title knock-out game as a pair of Big East powers battle on Thursday evening. Time to look in-depth at the key games to keep an eye on in week #10.
GAME OF THE WEEK
#3-West Virginia at #6-Louisville
The spotlight matchup of the week features two Big East teams who are undefeated and still maintain national title aspirations. Both Louisville and West Virginia come off a bye week as both programs prepare for their national primetime clash on Thursday night. Louisville enters the game off of two consecutive mediocre performances versus Cincinnati and Syracuse, while West Virginia has yet to be challenged this season. With the level of competition that both these teams have played this year, the loser of this game more than likely falls out of the national title chase. In last seasonís game, these teams played a thrilling contest as West Virginia emerged victorious 46-44 in 3 overtimes in a game that launched the Mountaineers on their way to the Big East title. Favoring Louisville in this year's game is the fact that the Cardinals have won 15 consecutive home contests at Papa John's Stadium, the 2nd longest streak in the nation, so they have the Mountaineers right where they want them.
For West Virginia, the story all season long has been a powerful rushing attack that ranks 1st in the nation and generates 319 yards on the ground per game. Leading the attack is a combination of RB Steve Slaton (151 ypg) and QB Pat White (88 ypg) who are the most elusive QB/RB rushing duo in the nation and set the stage for the 2nd ranked scoring offense. West Virginia has utilized its tremendous speed on offense to generate 40.9 points per game, but Louisville presents by far the toughest defensive challenge so far this season. The strength of the Mountaineer offense will run directly into the strength of the Louisville defense as the Cardinals only allow 74.9 yards per game on the ground, and in their last game, UL only allowed Syracuse 19 total yards rushing. For Louisville to win this game, their defensive unit must attack the line of scrimmage and force the Mountaineers to beat them with the pass. Otherwise WVU will run all game long, grinding out chunks of yardage and controlling the clock.
Louisville has been able to overcome key offensive injuries so far this season as Heisman candidate RB Michael Bush was lost for the season in week #1 and QB Brian Brohm has also missed time this year. Even with the critical losses, the Cardinals rank 2nd in the nation in total offense and are churning out 496 yards and 38.7 points per game. Louisville will attack a Mountaineer defense that has yielded yardage in their tougher games and looks to be susceptible to a pounding ground game. The Cardinals and their Big East-leading ground game will utilize a powerful running back combination of George Stripling and Kolby Smith to maintain ball control and keep the dangerous WVU offense on the sideline. The strength of the Mountaineer defense is a stingy pass defense that ranks 4th in the nation in yards allowed, and with an improving pass rush, QB Brian Brohm may have trouble attacking down the field. In the Big East game of the year, the winner of this contest will be discussed in great length in terms of the BCS national championship game and have their sites set on an undefeated season.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
#13-Louisiana State at #7-Tennessee
In a conference such as the SEC, there is always a great matchup of rivals every single week with major championship implications. Tennessee enters this game after a tough 31-24 win at South Carolina, a game in which the Volunteer defense was not nearly as sharp as it needs to be with LSU this week followed by Arkansas next week. LSU is still looking for a marquee win on the season as they have lost in their first two opportunities to Auburn and Florida, games in which the Tigers scored a total of 13 points. The weakness for LSU all season long has been an inconsistent rushing attack that leaves the scoring burden solely on the shoulder of QB JaMarcus Russell. The strength of the Bayou Bengals, meanwhile, is the nationís top ranked defensive unit that only allows 212 yards per game and basically shuts down the opposition's passing attack. What makes this game very interesting is that Tennessee is led by a passing attack that ranks 9th in the nation as the Vols rely heavily on the arm of QB Erik Ainge to lead their offense. Tennessee needs to win to keep pace with Florida in the SEC East, while LSU is already two games behind Arkansas and one behind Auburn in the Western division and cannot afford another loss this season.
Oklahoma at Texas A&M
The Oklahoma defense has responded to the loss of RB Adrian Peterson and is playing an agressive style of football that forced 4 Missouri turnovers in the Sooners' 26-10 win on Saturday. OU RB Allen Patrick had a tremendous game filling in for Peterson as he rumbled for 162 yards and wore down the Missouri front, as the Tigers could not stop Oklahoma when they needed to late in the game. The gameplan looks to be the same for Oklahoma this week as A&M does yield yardage on the ground, so the Aggies should expect a full serving of Patrick all day long in College Station. For the Aggies, a similar gameplan will be in place as A&M will use the rushing combination of Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson to pound away at the Sooner front seven. A&M has very quietly put together an 8-1 season, but now the schedule heats up quickly as the Aggies must face Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas to finish their season. The Aggies do control their own destiny, and if they win out, they will have clearly earned a place in the Big 12 championship game.
#15-Boston College at Wake Forest
At the beginning of the season, this game was not expected to have huge ACC title implications, but oh how the times have changed. Both BC and Wake Forest have each only lost a single conference game so far this season, and the winner of this contest can take the outright lead in the Atlantic Division, dependent upon the Maryland result. Looking at the results season-to-date, this contest has the makings of a defensive struggle as Wake ranks 98th in the nation in total offense while BC stands at 57th. Both teams have relied on opportune defense, workmanlike offense, and relatively mistake-free football to grind out 14 combined wins in their first 16 games. For Wake, this game marks the beginning of by far the toughest stretch of their season as a trip to Florida State follows, then a trip home to battle Virginia Tech before a visit to Maryland completes the season. A win by BC gives the Eagles a strangle hold on the division as they will have knocked off their two biggest rivals and set themselves up for an ACC title run.
#12-Arkansas at South Carolina
The Razorbacks have not received the national publicity they have deserved after starting the season at 7-1, including a 27-10 pounding of Auburn on the road. The toughest stretch of the season begins this week, though, as the Hogs take a trip to dangerous South Carolina where both Auburn and Tennessee had to hold on to survive in their recent visits to Columbia. Leading the Razorbacks have been RBs Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, as the two backs combine for 185 yards per game and allow Arkansas to wear down opposing defenses and control the ball. Still a concern for Arkansas is the mediocre play of freshman QB Mitch Mustain, and for Arkansas to win the SEC West, he will need to step up and begin to make some big plays. South Carolina has improved throughout the season, and the offense has really made major strides since the beginning of the year behind QB Syvelle Newton, who is a threat in the air and on the ground. A win over Arkansas would be a huge step for the USC program and give the team a major confidence boost before their trip to Florida next week.
Missouri at Nebraska
Although both teams come off of tough losses, this game still is likely to decide the champion of the Big 12 North Division. The Nebraska defense had its worst performance of the season in the Huskers' 41-29 loss to Oklahoma State as the ďBlack ShirtsĒ yielded 496 yards of total offense. Nebraska better be more prepared this weekend as Mizzou dual threat QB Chase Daniels has played very well all year long and is ranked 7th in the nation in total offense. For Missouri, the Tigers will need to limit their mistakes after a 4 turnover, 8 penalty performance versus Oklahoma prevented any chance of a victory over the Sooners. Expect a good deal of offense in this contest, as both teams rank in the nationís top 20 for scoring offense and both defenses have yielded yardage in big games so far this season. The winner of this one grabs sole possession of the division lead and controls their own destiny with only 2 conference games remaining in the season.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Maryland at Clemson - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Clemson could not respond after its huge win versus Georgia Tech and was flattened last Thursday night by a Virginia Tech squad looking to save its season. Maryland travels to Death Valley after a huge win over Florida State that saw the Terps' conference mark improve to 3-1.
Penn State at Wisconsin - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Penn State recorded its 1st shutout since the 1999 Alamo Bowl by handcuffing Purdue 12-0 as the Lion defense has been stellar the past few weeks. Wisconsin survived a major scare at home versus Illinois and will need an improved effort on Saturday to maintain 3rd place in the Big 10.
Virginia Tech at Miami - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Virginia Tech put together their best effort of the season by far in shutting down a potent Clemson team that was playing as well as anyone in the country. Miami is still dangerous, and the Canes gave Georgia Tech all they could handle on the road before falling 30-23.
Arizona State at Oregon State - Saturday 3: 05 PM CDT
Oregon State stunned the nation by putting an end to USCís 27 game Pac-10 unbeaten streak while winning their 3rd straight conference game. ASU has bounced back and won 2 straight after suffering losses in their first 3 conference games.
Oklahoma State at #4-Texas - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
Texas came back from 21-0 down in the 1st half and held on to survive a 35-31 thriller versus Texas Tech. Oklahoma State is sky high after rolling over Nebraska and winning their 3rd straight Big 12 game.
Georgia Tech at North Carolina State - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
Tech responded to the devastating loss at Clemson by knocking off Miami and taking control of the Coastal Division, as the Jackets are focused on earning a spot in the ACC championship game. NC State needs to win this game if the Wolfpack hope to have any shot at earning a bowl bid.
#5-Florida at Vanderbilt - Saturday 11:30 AM CDT
This game has the makings of a dangerous contest for Florida, as the Gators have emerged from their brutal 4 game stretch and now must pay a visit to pesky Vanderbilt. The Commodores have played well all season and have enough talent to make this game interesting.
Pittsburgh at South Florida - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Coming off a terrible performance versus Cincinnati in their last game, USF needs to bounce back in a big way with games at Louisville and West Virginia to end the Bulls' season. Pittsburgh can get a tight grip on 4th place in the conference with a win in Tampa.
Tulsa at Houston - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Tulsa is off to a 4-0 start in Conference USA and is coming off a big comeback 30-20 win over inter-divisional rival UTEP. Houston looks to have rebounded from its mid-season 3 game losing streak as the Cougars have now won two straight and can tie Tulsa for the division lead with a win.
Baylor at Texas Tech - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Tech continued its up-and-down play this season as they had Texas on the ropes before falling 4 points short. Baylor lost a tough one to A&M this past week and needs to find 2 more wins this season to make their 1st bowl trip in 12 years.
UCLA at #9-California - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
California emerges from a bye week and now stands as the clear Pac-10 favorite after the fall of USC on Saturday. UCLA did not perform well this past week against Washington State, has lost 3 consecutive games, and is facing a losing season if they are unable to secure the upset.