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October 30, 2008

SCS.comThe ranks of the unbeaten were trimmed by one this past weekend as Oklahoma State fell by a 28-24 score to top-ranked Texas in a great game. Otherwise, the top of the rankings remained unchanged with Texas, Alabama, and Penn State leading the way, while Texas Tech made their case for a higher ranking with a rout of Kansas. Texas Tech can further strengthen their case this weekend when the top-ranked Longhorns travel to Lubbock to take on the unbeaten Red Raiders. The winner of the battle for Texas on Saturday night will take sole possession of the lead in the Big Twelve South division and remain in the thick of the national championship race. Other key games to keep an eye on are Florida meeting Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida State traveling to Georgia Tech, California welcoming Oregon, Virginia playing host to Miami of Florida, and West Virginia heading east to battle Connecticut. Time for a detailed preview of the weekendís best games as the season heads into November.

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


Texas at Texas Tech
Saturday 7:00 PM CDT ABC

Texas continued their march through the nationís top ten with another win over a highly ranked foe this past weekend as the Longhorns earned a hard-fought 28-24 win over Oklahoma State and improved to 8-0 on the season. Meanwhile, Texas Tech was also quite impressive as the Red Raiders dismantled a solid Kansas team by a 63-21 score as they also improved their overall record to 8-0. The Red Raiders are on a ten game winning streak, tied for the best in the nation, with their last loss coming by a 59-43 score at the hands of Texas last year in Austin. In this series that has been played every season since 1960, Texas owns a 42-14 overall advantage and have won five straight with the last Tech victory coming in 2002. Letís take an in-depth preview of how these two undefeated teams match-up head-to-head in this weekendís highlight game.

Taking a look at Texas, the offense is centered around the stellar play of their star quarterback Colt McCoy, who ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency and is completing an amazing 82% of his pass attempts. McCoy will be geared up for another big night as he goes up against the nationís 98th rated pass defense, a unit that is yielding 246 yards per game through the air. Expect to see plenty of wide receiver Jordan Shipley in this game as the Longhorn receiver has been on fire as of late, catching 34 passes in the last three games and clearly becoming McCoyís go-to target. The Red Raiders will need to have a huge effort out of their defensive line to keep McCoy contained in the backfield and under pressure, as he has proven to be more than capable of using his legs as effectively as his arm. Tech has been vastly improved on the defensive side of the football this year, and they have done especially well in reaching the opposing teams quarterback, registering 2.5 sacks per game. Overall, although the Tech defense is as talented and is playing at its highest level compared to recent seasons, they have yet to see an offense as explosive as this Texas team will bring into Lubbock.

A similar story appears on the Texas Tech sideline with quarterback Graham Harrell in charge of the nationís top passing attack. The good news for Harrell is that the weak link of the Longhorn defense is in their secondary, a unit that is giving up 266 yards per game. Also positive for Tech is that their offense is actually more balanced than it has been in recent years as the duo of Baron Batch and Shannon Woods are combining for 127 yards per game on the ground. The combination of a vastly improved offensive line and the better balance has made this Raider team more dangerous than in past seasons when the focus was entirely on the passing game. Texas will need to have a huge game out of their star defensive end, Brian Orakpo, who ranks seventh in the nation in sacks per game and has been a disruptive force all season long. In past years, when it came time for the toughest games the Raiders offense would struggle, but this year appears to be a different story due to the vast array of weapons at the disposal of coach Mike Leach and he now gets a chance to make a statement on the national stage.

This has the makings of the last few Big Twelve highlight games, two high powered offenses going head-to-head to see which group has the weapons to outscore the opposition. When breaking down this game it almost impossible not to see each team scoring at least thirty points, as there just does not appear to be enough firepower on either defensive side to slow down these offensive units. For Texas, this is their fourth consecutive game facing a ranked opponent, but this is the first time that they will have to head into hostile territory. The mental fatigue of yet another top ten opponent combined with the road trip to a challenging environment makes this Texas team vulnerable to an upset. Once the smoke of the Red Raider cannon has cleared, look for Texas Tech to earn a statement win for their program and to knock the Longhorns from the top of the national polls and to make their case in the national championship chase.


Florida at Georgia
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT CBS

The Gators are red-hot and on a three game winning streak in which they have dismantled SEC foes by a combined 152-33 score while Georgia has also won three straight including a huge win over LSU this past Saturday. Florida has turned the offense up a notch in recent weeks as Tim Tebow has accounted for nine touchdowns in their winning streak after a slow start to his season. Tebow will need to pass the ball efficiently as the Bulldog pass defense is vulnerable, so expect to see plenty of Percy Harvin in this game. For Georgia, the passing offense has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks as the emergence of freshman receiver A.J Green has ignited quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Dawgs offense. With the Florida rush defense ranking as one of the best in the nation, Stafford will need to play a key role for Georgia as Knowshon Moreno may discover that running room is hard to find. Both of these teams are 4-1 in SEC competition and the winner of this one takes control of their destiny in the East race and remains in the chase for a national championship.

Florida State at Georgia Tech
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ABC

Florida State is on a roll, winning four straight and standing at 6-1 on the season while Tech is looking to bounce back after a loss to Virginia dropped the Jackets behind the Cavaliers in the Coastal Division. The key to the Seminole resurgence has been a stifling defense that ranks third in the nation in yardage allowed and is led by a powerful defensive line. The challenge for the Tech offense will be to use its misdirection and option plays to keep the Seminole defense off balance because the athletic advantage belongs to FSU. The star for the Jackets on offense is running back Jonathan Dwyer, who leads the team at 94 yards per game on the ground, and is a break away threat with tremendous speed. For the Seminoles on offense the focus is on the ground game and running back Antone Smith, who has emerged in recent weeks to lead the FSU ground game that ranks 19th in the nation. The storylines in this game are Florida State looking to preserve their lead position in the Atlantic Division while for Tech this is a must win situation if the Jackets expect to maintain ACC championship hopes.

Oregon at California
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ABC

Oregon stands in a tie atop the Pac-10 standings with USC at 4-1 while California controls their own destiny and is right behind the top two with a 3-1 mark. For Oregon the story centers around their powerful running back combination of LaGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson who together combine for 153 yards per game in leading the Ducks to the nationís fifth best rushing offense. California will counter the Oregon rushing attack with a stout run defense, which ranks twelfth in the nation, and will look to force Oregon to the air where the Ducks have struggled after the loss of their top two quarterbacks. On offense for the Bears, the leader is running back Jahvid Best, who averages 107 yards per game on the ground, but he now runs smack into an Oregon defense which is led by a tough defensive line that could make for a long afternoon. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley will need to play a huge role in the offense if he maintains hope of leading his Bears to a win at home, as Oregon has struggled in containing the pass so far this season. The top of the Pac-10 race is wide open with four teams all having one loss in conference play, and the winner of this game remains in contention for a Rose Bowl bid while the loser likely sees their championship dreams ruined.

Miami, Florida at Virginia
Saturday 11:00 AM CDT RAYCOM

Both of these teams enter this game on a roll as Virginia has won four straight and now sit atop the Coastal Division while Miami has won three straight and are one game back of the Cavaliers. Providing the spark for the Virginia offense is quarterback Marc Verica, who took over the starting assignment in the third game of the season and has not looked back in guiding the Cavaliers. Verica will receive a stiff challenge on Saturday from a Hurricane pass defense that has been tough to throw on, ranking sixteenth in the nation in yardage allowed. On offense, Miami does nothing great, but they find ways to score, putting up 31 points per game with an offense that ranks 99th in the nation in yards per game. Expect to see running back Graig Cooper receive plenty of carries and for quarterback Robert Marve to also do damage on the ground against a Cavalier defense that is susceptible against the run. This game has huge conference race implications with Virginia currently atop the division, but Miami can make themselves a major player in the ACC race with a win on the road at Charlottesville.

West Virginia at Connecticut
Saturday 11:00 AM CDT GAMEPLAN

West Virginia has moved atop the Big East standings at 2-0 and have now won four straight games while Connecticut enters this game off a dominating 40-16 win over Cincinnati to move to 2-1 in league play. The Mountaineers are going to run the ball and continue running the ball for as long as they can behind the combination of running back Noel Devine and quarterback Pat White, who together total 194 yards per game on the ground. The WVU rushing attack collides with the strong suit of the UConn defense, a rush defense which is giving up only 110 yards per game, making for an interesting battle of strength versus strength. Connecticut will also keep the ball on the ground as much as possible as the Huskies feature the nationís best rusher in Donald Brown, who is churning out yardage to the tune of 166 yards per game. Expect to see Brown get in the range of 30 carries in this game as UConn is down to their third string quarterback in Cody Endres, who completed only 18 out of his 42 attempts in the win over Cincinnati. UConn is aiming for an improved performance after losing to WVU 66-21 last season, their fourth loss in four tries versus the Mountaineers, as both teams look for a key win that will have them sitting atop the Big East standings.


Northwestern at Minnesota - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT

Minnesota continued their amazing turnaround season, winning their seventh game on the season this past weekend with a 17-6 triumph over Purdue. Northwestern is looking to get back on track after a 21-19 upset loss to Indiana dropped the Wildcats to 2-2 in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin at Michigan State - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT

Michigan State rebounded from their loss to Ohio State to take care of their in-state rivals Michigan and improve to 4-1 in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Wisconsin ended a four game losing streak with a big win over Illinois and now the Badgers aim for consistency and back-to-back wins in what has become a challenging season.

Kansas State at Kansas - Saturday 11:30 AM CDT

The Jayhawks enter this game on a two game losing streak and off a 63-21 dismantling at the hands of Texas Tech. Kansas State is looking to end a two-game losing streak to their in-state rivals and to make a statement of their own in a still wide open Big Twelve North race.

Tulsa at Arkansas - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT

Tulsa continued their unbeaten run with a win over Central Florida, but they now must face their first BCS opponent of the season. Arkansas has played better in recent weeks as the Razorbacks look to end a two-game losing streak by extending their winning streak versus Tulsa to seventeen.

Pittsburgh at Notre Dame - Saturday 1:30 PM CDT

The Panthers were on a six game winning streak until they ran smack into a Rutgers team that dominated them from the opening whistle and now Pitt must get refocused as they head out of conference for a key game. Notre Dame rebounded from their loss to North Carolina to dismantle Washington this past weekend as the Irish now shift their focus to winning their sixth game of the season after earning only three all of last year.

Clemson at Boston College - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

The ACC race changes on a weekly basis as Boston College fell a game behind the leaders in the Atlantic Division after their loss to North Carolina on Saturday. Clemson is looking to salvage a disappointing season as the Tigers look for their first win over BC in ACC play with the Eagles winning all three prior meetings.

Iowa at Illinois - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

After a sluggish start in Big Ten play, Iowa has reeled off two consecutive blow out wins to even their conference mark at 2-2. Illinois has had an inconsistent season as they return home at 2-3 in the Big Ten and off a disappointing 27-17 loss to Wisconsin.

Tennessee at South Carolina - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT

South Carolina has three losses in SEC play, each by a single touchdown, as the Gamecocks now shift their focus to ending a seven game home losing streak to the Volunteers. Tennessee has struggled this year as the Vols currently are 1-4 in the SEC and they now must play the role of spoiler and rebuild for next season.

Nebraska at Oklahoma - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT

The Sooners are in a tie for third place in the brutal Big Twelve South as they welcome Nebraska to Norman. The Huskers have won two straight and now look to regain the upper hand in a series that Oklahoma has dominated in recent seasons, winning four of the last five.

Utah at New Mexico - Saturday 8:30 PM CDT

Utah has positioned themselves for a potential BCS bowl bid at 8-0 overall, but they must not be looking ahead to the huge TCU game next weekend. New Mexico comes off a loss to Air Force to fall to 2-3 in Mountain West competition, but this Lobo team has enough talent to be dangerous, especially at home in Albuquerque.

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