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October 11, 2007

SCS.comTwo weekends ago it was the top ten that took a major hit with numerous teams suffering their first loss, while this past weekend two of the nationís top five teams were upset to yet again shuffle the top of the rankings. The stunner of the day was Stanford scoring a last minute touchdown to upset USC, handing the Trojans their first loss at home since 2001. Meanwhile at Illinois, the nationís longest winning streak came to an end as Wisconsin could not overcome an early 17-0 deficit against the surging Illini, a loss the Badgers need to shake off quickly as they travel to Penn State this weekend.

Although week #7 does not feature a plethora of great games, there are several key conference matchups, highlighted by Missouriís visit to Oklahoma. Also of note is LSU traveling to Kentucky, with the Tigers needing to stay focused and forget about their huge win over Florida as the Wildcats are a dangerous bunch. Time for an in-depth preview of this weekend's best games.

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


Missouri at Oklahoma
Saturday 5:30 PM CDT FSN

This one sets up as a potential preview of the Big 12 championship game as both of these teams took a big step towards reaching that goal this past weekend. Missouri had one of the best performances as they absolutely overwhelmed a solid Nebraska team by a 41-6 score in their conference opener, as Mizzou showcased their explosive team speed. The Tigers were able to answer a lot of their skeptics with the performance, easily dispatching their main competitor in the North Division. Down south in Dallas, Oklahoma got back on track after their loss to Colorado with a 28-21 win over Texas in the Red River rivalry. Even with the loss, Oklahoma is still right in the middle of the national championship hunt while Missouri made fans take notice on Saturday, and with a repeat performance this weekend, the Tiger fans will be thinking beyond a Big 12 championship towards a national championship. Time to see how these two teams match-up in the weekendís best contest.

Leading the Missouri charge is an offense that has proven to be unstoppable so far this season. Quarterback Chase Daniel is now receiving Heisman attention as he has accounted for 18 touchdowns directing the Tiger spread offense. The one area on defense that Oklahoma has yielded yardage is through the air, so Daniel should have a busy afternoon, as will his top target in tight end Martin Rucker, who ranks 11th in the country in receptions per game. The Sooner defense started the year on fire, but since Big 12 play began, the unit has shown some holes that have been exploited. One area that has no issue is the OU defensive line, a group that continues to be a team strength as opponents have been unable to find any room to run against the Sooner front wall. This weekend will present a vastly different challenge as Missouri is likely to spread the field with a variety of offensive looks to keep the OU defense guessing, and for the Tigers both the air and ground have been equally effective so far this season.

Much like the Sooner defense, the OU offensive unit was putting up points in bunches during the first month of the season, but within the Big 12, the scoring has been slowed. Directing the OU offense is young quarterback Sam Bradford, who leads the nation in passing efficiency, throwing for 18 touchdowns versus only 4 interceptions. Helping Bradford is a great set of receivers in Juaquin Iglesias and Malcolm Kelly; both are dangerous down-field targets that keep opposing defenses honest in their defensive sets. Missouri ranks 79th in the nation in total defense, yielding over 400 yards per game, so expect Oklahoma to focus on turning this game into a track meet if Mizzou gets hot in the early going. The Sooners will also feature a great set of running backs as both Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray will see plenty of carries as OU pounds away on the ground. The Tiger defense has not seen offensive weapons of this caliber so far this season, and how they respond will likely decide this game.

Oklahoma began the season by demolishing their first 4 opponents before they were shocked in their Big 12 opener at Colorado. After an impressive performance versus Texas, Oklahoma can make another huge statement with a win over a top foe, and put themselves right back in the middle of the national championship race. Missouri is no longer lurking in the middle of the rankings as this program is in the midst of potentially its best season in years. But, for the Tigers to take the next step, they must overcome an Oklahoma team which they have beaten only a single time in their last 17 attempts. In the end, the downfall of the Tiger team could be a defense that may be unable to stop the vast array of Oklahoma offensive weapons as the Sooners utilize the home field advantage to potentially earn their 2nd consecutive huge Big 12 win.


LSU at Kentucky
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT CBS

This is a game between teams heading into this one with vastly differing mindsets. LSU comes off a stellar comeback win over Florida, needing two 4th quarter touchdowns to secure the victory, while Kentucky was unable to overcome four turnovers in a 38-23 loss to South Carolina. This game will feature a great matchup of strength versus strength with the LSU defense, ranked 1st in the nation, battling the Kentucky offense, ranked 13th in the nation. Wildcat quarterback Andre Woodson will need to play the game of his life as no team has had any level of success in trying to run the ball at the LSU front wall. An area of concern for LSU is still centered on a passing offense that continues to struggle behind quarterback Matt Flynn, who only threw for 144 yards against Florida. Considering Flynnís early struggles, expect to see a heavy dose of the Tiger ground game, led by the duo of Jacob Hester and Keiland Williams, as both will look to exploit a susceptible Kentucky rush defense. After last week's win, LSU is on track for a berth in the national championship game, while Kentucky is looking to rebound, especially with Florida on the schedule next weekend.

Wisconsin at Penn State
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ABC

The Badgers had their 14 game unbeaten streak snapped this past weekend after having numerous close calls in the early going. Penn State got themselves back on track with a dominating 27-7 win over Iowa in their conference home opener, after the Lions had suffered losses in their initial two Big 10 games. For Penn State the key to this game is in the hands of quarterback Anthony Morrelli, who has struggled in recent weeks, turning the ball over seven times in conference play. The Badgers have struggled on defense so PSU should be able to move the ball, but constant mistakes have killed the Lions and another 3 to 4 turnover game will squash any chances of State earning the win in this one. The Penn State defense has been stout in the early going, and this will feature a great matchup between the 8th ranked rush defense and the nationís 9th leading rusher in the Badgers' P.J. Hill. Wisconsin needs a win here to stay a factor in the Big 10 title chase, while Penn Stateís conference hopes already appear to be dashed, but PSU can still make a major statement in who does emerge as the Big 10 champion.

Florida State at Wake Forest
Thursday 6:45 PM CDT ESPN

After losing in their opener at Clemson, Florida State has reeled off 4 consecutive wins, including impressive performances versus Colorado and Alabama. Wake Forest started their season at 0-2 but has rebounded nicely in recent weeks to win 2 straight in the ACC and 3 straight overall. In the Seminoles' recent run, FSU has relied heavily on their excellent defense as they have limited their last 3 opponents to a total of 30 points. The defense will need to continue to play at a high level as the FSU offense continues to be a work in progress and has been inconsistent all season long, generating only 23 points per game on the year. Wake Forest relied on an excellent defense last season in their 11 win campaign, but so far this season, the defense has been unable to sustain the level of last yearís play, especially struggling in ACC action, giving up 32.7 points per game. The Seminoles are focused on earning revenge after they were embarrassed 30-0 last season at home, as Wake made a huge statement in their ACC championship run.

Connecticut at Virginia
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ESPNU

At the beginning of the season, I suspect not too many college fans had this game circled on their calendar. But this contest now features teams with a combined 10-1 record, and both have to be considered factors in their conference chases after their strong starts. The 5 game winning streak for Virginia is even more impressive considering the Cavaliers are ranked 108th in the nation in total offense, especially struggling in the passing game. Connecticut ranks 4th in the nation in scoring defense, but the level of competition has been suspect, with their best win of the year coming over a 2-3 Pittsburgh team. The Huskies are not likely to find much room on the ground versus a good Cavalier defensive front, so quarterback Tyler Lorenzen will need to play his best game of the season if UConn has plans on stealing a win on the road. There are plenty of questions about UConnís 5-0 start that can be answered with a win in this one, while Virginia can already lock up a bowl bid with a victory after missing out on the post-season last year.

Washington at Arizona State
Saturday 9:15 PM CDT FSN

The Sun Devils are off and running to a 6-0 start, and they had their 1st real challenge on Saturday, needing a late field goal to knock off Washington State. The most surprising area of this ASU team has been a defense that has performed much better than expected in the early going, ranking 7th in the nation in points allowed. The Devil stop troops will receive a major challenge from Washingtonís dual threat quarterback in Jake Locker, who continues to carry the Huskies on his back as he leads the team in both rushing and passing. In this game, expect to see ASUís Ryan Torain get plenty of carries as Washington has struggled all season long in stopping the opponents ground game. For Torain to be effective, the ASU front wall must perform better than it did last weekend when Ryan averaged only 1.8 yards per carry and they gave up 7 sacks as Rudy Carpenter was under pressure all day long. ASU has won 3 straight in the series, and if they can earn this win, they head into a bye week at 7-0 with a brutal stretch upcoming that includes trips to Oregon and UCLA and home games with California and USC.


Boston College at Notre Dame - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

The Irish put an end to their 7 game losing streak with a dominating defensive performance in upsetting UCLA 20-6. Now they return home to face the unbeaten Eagles. BC has quietly put together a nice 6-0 start as quarterback Matt Ryan has been tremendous in leading the nationís 11th ranked passing offense.

Purdue at Michigan - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT

Both teams enter this game off of mediocre performances as Purdue was outclassed at home by Ohio State, while Michigan struggled to overcome Eastern Michigan. Michigan is unbeaten in Big 10 play at 2-0, while Purdue needs a win here to avoid a 1-2 start.

Auburn at Arkansas - Saturday 6:45 PM CDT

Auburn has turned their season around after struggling to a 1-2 start as the Tigers have now won 3 straight in impressive fashion, including a big victory over Florida. Arkansas is 0-2 in SEC play and is looking for a repeat performance of last season when they knocked off the 2nd ranked Tigers on the road.

Texas A&M at Texas Tech - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

A&M has rebounded from their embarrassing performance against Miami to earn wins in their first two Big 12 contests, including a nice comeback win on Saturday versus Oklahoma State. Texas Tech is off to a 5-1 start, but in their 1 game versus strong opposition, they were defeated by Oklahoma State as their defense was unable to slow down the Cowboys.

Louisville at Cincinnati - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT

The Cardinals are in the midst of one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, and the focus now is on earning a bowl bid after a 3-3 start. On the other hand, Cincinnati is off to a great start, winning their initial 6 games, including a huge victory on Saturday at Rutgers as the Bearcats proclaimed themselves as Big East title contenders.

Tennessee at Mississippi State - Saturday 1:30 PM CDT

Tennessee made a major statement this past weekend in a 35-14 pounding of Georgia as the Volunteer defense rebounded from their early season struggles. Mississippi State is having their best start in the Sylvester Croom era, and a win at home would be a great start to a brutal stretch of games, with trips to West Virginia and Kentucky to follow.

Arizona at USC - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

This game became a great deal more interesting with USCís stumble at home versus Stanford, the Trojans' 1st home loss since the 2001 season. Arizona will look to take advantage of a USC team that has really struggled in two consecutive weeks and even their record in Pac-10 play.

South Carolina at North Carolina - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

South Carolina is off to a great start, suffering their only loss in a good battle at LSU. North Carolina has played much better in recent weeks, losing a close game to Virginia Tech two weeks ago and then handling Miami with relative ease this past week.

Colorado at Kansas State - Saturday 8:15 PM CDT

Colorado has announced their status as a Big 12 North division contender with their 2-0 start in conference play, including the huge win over Oklahoma. Kansas State is looking to get back on track after getting tripped up at home by in-state rival Kansas.

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