A bit of sanity was restored to the college football landscape this past weekend as the top ranked teams in the nation remained unscathed. In addition, all 5 of the unbeaten teams remained that way, with 4 surviving very tough challenges in a week that most experts felt a couple would fall by the wayside. Of the unbeaten teams, the most impressive performance of the weekend was Ohio Stateís 37-17 dismantling of Penn State, while Arizona State served notice that they are indeed to be taken seriously with their 31-20 triumph over California. These two games followed Thursday eveningís thrilling comeback win by Boston College to knock off Virginia Tech 14-10 in a miserable downpour. The last two unbeatens were in control of their contests as Kansas' 19-11 win over Texas A&M was not as close as the final score indicated, and Hawaii dismantled New Mexico State 50-13 behind Colt Brennanís 6 touchdowns.
Heading into the 1st weekend of November, there are numerous conference battles on the schedule that will impact their league races. The top game is out west in the Pac-10, as conference leader Arizona State heads north to battle the Ducks of Oregon. A battle for the top in the SEC West is also on tap when LSU travels to Alabama, while back East, surprising UConn plays host to Rutgers in a critical Big East showdown. Letís break down the individual games that college fans should focus on this weekend.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Arizona State at Oregon
The Sun Devils of ASU came into this past weekend with question marks surrounding their unbeaten record as their strength of schedule, or lack thereof, overwhelmed their unbeaten 7-0 record. ASU decided to take out their frustrations on a very good California team as they dominated the 2nd half of action in the 31-20 win, improving their record to 5-0 in Pac-10 play as they stand alone atop the Pac-10. Meanwhile, Oregon earned a huge win of their own, a 24-17 triumph that required a late interception to put an end to a potential game tying Southern Cal drive. The win elevated Oregon into a 2nd place conference tie with UCLA, but the Ducks have destiny in their hands with upcoming games against ASU and UCLA. Oregon is happy to host this game in Autzen Stadium, where they are 14-3 in the past 3 seasons, but the visitor in this series have won 4 of the past 5 making for an interesting contrast. Heading into November, both of these teams remain in the thick of the national title chase, with the winner of this one making a major statement for their case at a championship shot. Time to breakdown how these two western powers line-up in the weekendís top game.
The Oregon offense is centered on the play of dual threat quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jonathan Stewart. Dixon is coming off another strong effort as he accounted for 233 yards of total offense against a stout Southern Cal defense in the Ducks big win. When defensive coordinators begin to game plan around stopping Dixon, Oregon can simply shift their focus to Stewart, the nationís 7th leading rusher. For the Sun Devils, their defensive play has been a major surprise this year as before the season the focus was on ASUís great offense and the questions surrounding their defensive unit. So far this year all questions have been answered as the Devil defenders rank 7th in the nation in points allowed, giving up only 15.6 points per contest. That being said, they are about to face their toughest challenge of the year on the quick turf at Oregon, where the Ducks are putting up 40 points per game.
For the Sun Devils the offense is a balanced attack with different players stepping up on a weekly basis to lead this team. This past week it was running backs Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance who took over for the injured Ryan Torain and ran for 181 yards in the win over California. In this weekends game expect Ryan Carpenter to be the focal point of the Devil game plan as ASU takes aim at a Duck pass defense that gives up 256 yards per game. The Devils will look to continue to spread the ball around the field to a variety of receivers, as their top 3 pass catchers all average around 3 catches per game. Carpenter will need to keep an eye out for the Ducks pass rushing terror Nick Reed, who leads Oregon with 7.5 sacks, ranking 10th in the nation in that category. With the Oregon offense ranked as one of the top units in the country, the ASU defense will need all the help they can get out of their offensive brethren in terms of controlling the ball and the clock. A repeat performance of their win over California is critical for the Devils as ASU controlled the clock for 37 and a half minutes in that game.
ASU beginning the season at 7-0 was not a huge surprise based on how their schedule lined up, but everyone expected their unbeaten run to end this past weekend versus California. Instead after they fell behind early the Devils rebounded and put together their best performance of the season heading into the toughest game on their schedule. Expect to see plenty of points scored in this contest as Oregon will do all they can to turn this game into a track meet, their specialty at home in Eugene. ASU has to be careful to not try and match the quick scoring potential of the Duck offense and keep to the same game plan that won them the California game. In the end, expect Oregon to have too much firepower with Dixon and Stewart getting loose on big plays as the Ducks put an end to the Sun Devil unbeaten run and move to the front of the Pac-10 race.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
LSU at Alabama
Both of these teams sit atop the SEC West division standings, with a win by LSU basically locking up a trip to the conference championship game for the Tigers. Alabama has won 3 straight since their loss to Florida State and enter this game off their best performance of the year, a 41-17 win over Tennessee two weeks ago. For LSU, a defense that seemed impenetrable in the early going has been slowed as of late, but this still rates as one of the top units in the country and Alabama will have its work cut out for them on the offensive side of the ball. For the Tide, quarterback John Parker Wilson has struggled at times this season and he will need to play his best game of the season if ĎBama has hopes of pulling off the upset. Expect to see Terry Grant get plenty of carries for Alabama and to combine with a short and controlled passing game as the Tide works to try and wear down the Tiger front line. For LSU on offense the game plan is totally focused on the running game as Matt Flynn is still not a great threat through the air, throwing for only 8 touchdowns on the season against 5 interceptions. These two teams come into this weekendís game with an SEC championship game berth in their sites, whoever wins takes a huge step towards their ultimate goal.
Rutgers at Connecticut
Donít look now but UConn stands alone atop the Big East standings at 3-0 after their 22-15 win over South Florida. Rutgers will be looking to rebound in only their 2nd road trip of the season after the Knights were taken behind the woodshed by West Virginia 31-3 on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies are winning games due to a tough defense that ranks 3rd in the nation in points allowed, yielding only 13 per contest. For Rutgers, their quarterback Mike Teel is banged up so expect to see even more of workhorse back Ray Rice, who ranks 4th in the nation in yardage per game and already has carried the ball 234 times this year. On the other side of the ball the UConn offense does nothing spectacular expect to limit mistakes and capitalize on the opportunities presented to them by their defense. With the Knights being susceptible to good rushing offenses except UConnís Andre Dixon to get plenty of carries as he has assumed the lead role in the Husky offense. A win by UConn over another tough conference opponent would make collegiate fans step up and take notice and potentially set-up a huge conference finale with West Virginia, the team currently in hot pursuit of the league leaders.
Wisconsin at Ohio State
After hearing for a week about how overrated they were at #1, the Buckeyes took care of business and made a statement with a 37-17 pounding of a solid Penn State team. Ohio State was tremendous in all aspects of the game and were led by the nationís top rated scoring defense which only yielded 10 points and a precise offense that was efficient all night both on the ground and through the air. Meanwhile, Wisconsin would put an end to a 2 game conference losing streak with an impressive 33-3 win over a good Indiana team, putting together their best defensive performance of the season. This weekend expect OSU to feed the ball all game long to its running back combination of Chris and Maurice Wells as these two have combined for 147 yards per game. The Badgers have not been great at stopping the run this season and with the Buckeyes offensive line playing great it could be a long afternoon for the Badgers defensive front seven. Wisconsin has won 3 straight at Ohio State so the Buckeyes will need to follow up their Penn State effort with another top-notch performance as they work to keep on track for a 2nd consecutive national title game appearance.
Texas at Oklahoma State
The Longhorns have not played at the same level as the recent Texas teams, but they still stand at 7-2 overall after winning 3 straight Big 12 contests. For Oklahoma State, the Cowboys have played much better since their sluggish 1-2 start as they currently are 3-2 within the conference and control their own destiny, entering this weekend tied with Oklahoma atop the South division. Texas will attack OSU through the air behind quarterback Colt McCoy as the Cowboys rank 116th in the nation in pass defense, giving up 308 yards per game. For Oklahoma State their resurgence has been led by running back Dantrell Savage, who is 10th in the nation in rushing yardage, while running for over 100 yards in 5 straight games. Savage will run smack into a stout Texas front wall anchored by mammoth tackle Frank Okam and which ever team can win this battle gains a huge advantage in this contest. The Longhorns have escaped numerous close games this season including last weekend over Nebraska, so for Texas to earn their 10th straight win in this series they will have to play at their highest level against this bunch of Cowpokes.
Missouri at Colorado
The Tigers are in the midst of their best season ever under the direction of coach Gary Pinkel as Mizzou now stands at 7-1 overall and 4-0 in Big 12 play. Meanwhile, Colorado has been tough to figure out this year, earning huge wins then following those victories with blow-out losses, as they now stand at 3-2 within the conference. For the Buffaloes to pull off this upset their offense must be able to keep pace with the Tigers potent attack. That will be a tall order for the Buffs 71st rated scoring offense as UC tries to match a Tiger offense which is putting up over 40 points per game this season. The biggest challenge for the Colorado defense will be defending against Tiger quarterback Chase Daniel, who ranks 5th in the nation in total offense and has accounted for 21 touchdowns on the season. For Missouri, they need a win to keep their North Division championship hopes in their control and they are traveling to a destination in which they have not had much success in recent seasons, losing 10 of their last 11 trips to Folsom Field in Boulder.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech - Thursday 6:30 PM CDT
The question here is can the Hokies bounce back after giving up a 10-0 advantage within the last 2 minutes in their loss to Boston College. Expect a defensive slugfest as both of these teams feature defenses that rank in the nationís top 10 in points allowed.
Wake Forest at Virginia - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Both of these teams are off to 4-1 starts in the ACC, making this a huge game with post-season implications. Virginia controls their own destiny in the Coastal Division, but needs a win over Wake who has won 6 straight since starting the year at 0-2.
Troy at Georgia - Saturday 12:00 PM CDT
Georgia returns home after a huge 42-30 win over Florida, a win that catapulted the ĎDawgs into 1st place in the SEC East. The Bulldogs better remain focused as this Troy team is talented and dangerous, winning 6 straight since a loss to Florida.
Cincinnati at South Florida - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
The Big East has been turned upside down in recent weeks, with both of these teams now standing at 1-2 in the conference and on 2 game losing streaks. South Florida is looking for revenge after they were thumped 23-6 last year at Cincinnati.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Oklahoma still has its sites set on a national championship with the Sooners winning 3 straight since their upset loss to Colorado. A&M is 3-2 in the Big 12 and will look to avoid a 2nd straight loss after being tripped up at home last Saturday versus Kansas.
Florida State at Boston College - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Boston College returns home at 8-0 and ranked #2 after last weekends stunning 14-10 comeback win on the road versus Virginia Tech. Florida State has struggled so far this season but can make their season with an upset on the road at BC, a place where the Seminoles have had success in the past.
Oregon State at USC - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
USC enters this game off a tough 24-17 loss to Oregon, a defeat that dropped the Trojans into a 4th place tie in the conference with Oregon State. The Beavers will be looking for their 2nd straight win over USC after last yearís stunning 33-31 upset at home.
Michigan at Michigan State - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Michigan enters this game on a roll winning 7 straight, including 5 in the Big 10 as the Wolverines stand tied with Ohio State atop the conference. Michigan State has lost 2 straight after a good start, but have played Michigan very well at home, with the last 4 contests at East Lansing being decided by a touchdown or less.
Buffalo at Miami, Ohio - Saturday 2:00 PM CDT
Coach Turner Gill has his Buffalo program on the upswing, as the Bulls currently stand alone atop the MAC East division after a big win over Akron. Miami of Ohio has owned Buffalo, winning all 9 of the games played so far, but none have been as big as this weekend's game, a contest which may decide which team makes an appearance in the conference championship game.