The top of the rankings were shuffled again this past weekend as Oklahoma manhandled the second ranked Red Raiders of Texas Tech as the Sooners made their case for a spot in the national championship game. Top-ranked Alabama had the week off as did other national title contenders Texas and Southern Cal while Florida took time on Saturday to paste The Citadel by a 70-19 score. Looking ahead to this weekend, the Big XII South is yet again the feature game of the weekend as Oklahoma looks to continue their hot streak with a road trip to in-state rival Oklahoma State. Other key games to focus on are Florida visiting Florida State, Georgia Tech traveling to Georgia, Boston College welcoming Maryland, Alabama hosting Auburn, and Oregon heading to Oregon State. Time for a detailed preview of the weekendís best games as the season winds down with the final action in the month of November.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma enters this contest on a roll as the Sooners have won five straight games since their loss to Texas, including three straight games in which OU has scored more than 60 points. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State had the past weekend off after their 30-17 win over Colorado as the Cowboys got back on track after their 56-20 dismantling at the hands of Texas Tech the week before. Overall, Oklahoma is now 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the league while Oklahoma State stands at 9-2 on the year and 5-2 in the Big XII. A win by Oklahoma keeps their conference and national title hopes alive while Oklahoma State is looking to play the role of spoiler and to end a five game losing streak versus their rivals. Letís take an in-depth preview of how these two title contenders match-up in this weekendís top game.
The Oklahoma offense has been unstoppable this season as the Sooners are the best in the nation in scoring at 53 points a game and third in total offense at 557 yards per contest. The leader of the Sooner offense continues to be their sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford, who ranks fourth in total offense while tossing 42 touchdown passes versus only 6 interceptions on the season. Helping Bradford post his huge numbers is a wealth of receiving talent, including one of the nationís best tight ends in Jermaine Grisham, who has the most touchdowns receiving of any tight end in Oklahoma history with 22. Oklahoma State has problems defending the pass as their secondary continues to struggle against the conferences best passing games, an issue that was evident when the Cowboys gave up over 500 yards through the air in their loss to Texas Tech. What makes Oklahoma so dangerous is their offensive balance so if the Cowboys focus on containing the Sooner passing game, the OU ground game is more than capable of leading the offense behind the running back combination of DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. All season, a key to the Sooners success on offense has been the nationís best turnover margin as the Sooners have only turned the ball over nine times, making it key for the Cowboys to find a way to force mistakes if they maintain upset hopes.
Oklahoma State will counter the Sooner attack with a powerful offense of their own, a unit that is scoring at a rate of 42 points per game. Expect to see the Cowboys leaning heavily on their star running back, Kendall Hunter, who ranks fifth in the nation in rushing and is a breakaway threat with every touch of the football. Hunter will run directly into the strength of the Oklahoma defense, their front line, but Oklahoma State must be able to run the ball successfully to have a chance at knocking off the Sooners. After a tremendous season, quarterback Zac Robinson has struggled the past two weeks, tossing only one touchdown versus two interceptions, so he must get back on track for OSU to have enough firepower to keep pace with the Oklahoma offense. Robinson has one of the best receivers in the nation to work with in Dez Bryant, a deep threat who will benefit tremendously if Hunter can get the running game going early to keep the Oklahoma defense off balance. Overall, Oklahoma State has tremendous skill position talent on offense, whether this unit has enough firepower to keep pace with the Sooner attack remains the key question that no team has had an answer for in recent weeks versus Oklahoma.
Although this game features two highly ranked opponents, the potential remains for this game to get out of hand based on the recent performance of Oklahoma. Oklahoma State does not have enough to slow Oklahoma on the defensive side of the football so the Cowboys hopes for an upset reside in winning the turnover battle and establishing a running game to burn clock and keep the Sooner offense off the field. That being said, this Oklahoma team is a group on a mission that is just punishing one opponent after another in making their case for a berth in the Big XII championship game and a shot at the national championship. When the final gun sounds on Saturday night, expect another impressive showing by the Sooners as they head back to Norman with a sixth straight win over their rivals and still in the midst of the race for a championship game appearance.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Georgia has locked up a second place finish in the SEC East Division while Georgia Tech currently is atop the ACC Coastal Division and in need of a Virginia Tech loss to claim a position in the ACC championship game. Leading the way for the Georgia offense is their triple threat of quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, and receiver A.J. Green, who together command an offense that is putting up 31 points per game. The Tech defense has played well all season, especially against the pass, so expect to see Moreno receiving plenty of carries to see if the Bulldogs can soften up the Jacket rush defense. On offense for Tech, the running game remains the focus as Georgia Tech is fourth in the nation in rushing yardage at 271 yards per game. The Bulldogs will challenge the Jacket ground game with the nationís fifteenth rated rush defense, which will likely force Tech to go to the air, an area in which they have struggled to be effective all season. Overall, Georgia has dominated this series, winning seven games in a row, but if Tech can find a way to end the streak, first year coach Paul Johnson will have made a successful debut as he transforms the Georgia Tech program.
Florida at Florida State
Florida has been absolutely dominant since their 31-30 loss to Mississippi, winning seven straight to run their record to 10-1 while Florida State enters this game off their best performance of the season, a 37-3 pounding of Maryland. The Gators are led by a defense that has emerged as one of the nationís most opportune units, with the group forcing 28 turnovers and setting up the offense with numerous scoring opportunities. Florida State will attack the Gator defense with a balanced offense that averages 190 yards per game on both the ground and in the air but the Seminoles must have an effective ground game to maintain ball control and keep the Gator offense off the field. On offense for Florida, the Gators also rely on the ground game, ranking eleventh in the nation in yards per game, with a balanced group of backs, led by Percy Harvin and Chris Rainey. Florida State has played well against the run, yielding only 110 yards per game, but the Seminoles have yet to see as explosive an attack as the Gators will bring into Tallahassee. As the season heads down the final stretch, Florida remains in the mix for the national championship and the Gators need an impressive showing against their rivals to maintain their title hopes.
Maryland at Boston College
Boston College controls their destiny in the ACC Atlantic Division at 4-3 while Maryland also stands at 4-3 but the Terps can finish no higher than second after their loss to Florida State. As has been the case all season long in the ACC, this sets up to be a low scoring affair with both offenses still struggling to put points on the scoreboard. Boston College will continue to lean on their ground game, led by two freshmen in Montel Harris and Josh Haden, who together average 107 yards per game. Maryland has not done well in defending the run so expect the Eagles to showcase their young talent from the opening kick-off and challenge the Terps to slow down their ground game. On the opposite side of the ball for the Terrapins, the offensive struggles continue as Maryland is averaging only 20 points per game on the season. Meanwhile, Boston College ranks fifth in the nation in total defense and the Eagles have been especially effective in shutting down the run so Maryland must have a big game out of quarterback Chris Turner to have a chance in this contest.
Auburn at Alabama
The Crimson Tide have already claimed a spot in the SEC championship game versus Florida while Auburn is looking to end a disappointing season on a high note and to become bowl eligible with their sixth win. The Crimson Tide have relied on their powerful running game all season long and expect nothing to change in this one as both Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram will receive plenty of carries. Auburn has been susceptible against strong rushing offenses so the Tiger defense will have their hands full in trying to contain the Alabama attack. On the other side of the football the Tigers have been unable to develop any consistency on offense for the entire season resulting in a 19 point per game scoring average. With Alabama ranking third in the nation in total defense, the Tiger offense looks to be in for a long afternoon as points will be hard to find. Auburn has dominated this series by winning six straight, but the Tigers are significant underdogs in this game as Alabama looks to continue their journey towards a potential national championship.
Oregon at Oregon State
Oregon State is one win away from clinching a berth in the Rose Bowl as the champions of the Pac-10, while Oregon would like nothing more than to end their rivals title dreams with a win on the road. The Beavers received bad news this week when they learned an injury to their star running back Jacquizz Rodgers will likely keep him out of this game. The good news for Oregon State is that they have established a balanced offense and quarterback Sean Canfield is coming off an impressive showing in their win over Arizona, a victory that has to help the confidence of the Beaver quarterback. Oregon has not played well against the pass, so expect to see Canfield taking the leading role in the offense and to work downfield with his excellent receiving combination of Sammie Stroughter and James Rodgers. For Oregon, the offensive game plan is simple, give the ball to the running back combination of Jeremiah Johnson and LaGarrette Blount and let the two backs go to work. The Beavers are looking for their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 44 years and they have history on their side with the home team winning ten of the last eleven in this series.
GAMES OF INTEREST
West Virginia at Pittsburgh - Friday 11:00 AM CDT
West Virginia still maintain slim Big East title hopes, needing two wins and a Cincinnati loss to claim back-to-back conference championships. Pittsburgh enters this game off a tough loss to Cincinnati, a defeat that ended the Panthers conference title dreams.
Fresno State at Boise State - Friday 5:00 PM CDT
Although a bid to a BCS bowl appears to be out of the Broncos reach, Boise is still taking aim at their second unbeaten season in three years. Fresno State can make their season with a win at Boise, but the Bulldogs have had little success against the Broncos, losing six of the past seven.
UCLA at Arizona State - Friday 8:30 PM CDT
UCLA needs wins over Arizona State and rival USC to earn six wins on the season and become bowl eligible. This ASU season has been a major disappointment, but if the Devils can win their final two and end the season on a four game winning streak they will have momentum to build upon heading into 2009.
Syracuse at Cincinnati - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Cincinnati can clinch the Big East championship and a berth in a BCS bowl with a win over the Orangemen. Syracuse enters this game on a high after their fourth quarter comeback win on the road at Notre Dame.
South Carolina at Clemson - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Clemson has rebounded from a disappointing start to win three of their last four to become bowl eligible. South Carolina has struggled in this series, losing nine of the last eleven, and the Gamecocks need a win to make their season a success.
Virginia at Virginia Tech - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Tech needs a win over their in-state rivals and a loss by Miami of Florida to win the Coastal Division and secure a spot in the ACC championship game. Virginia needs a win to become bowl eligible as they look to end a four game losing streak in this series.
Kansas vs Missouri - Saturday 11:30 AM CDT
Missouri has already secured a spot in the Big XII championship game as the winners of the North Division. Kansas has had a disappointing season as the Jayhawks look to end their campaign with a win over their long time rivals.
Baylor at Texas Tech - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Texas Tech is looking to rebound after their disastrous performance versus Oklahoma as the Raiders still maintain an outside shot at the Big XII South Division championship. This is the best Baylor team in years and they could keep this game interesting for a while with their offensive firepower.
Houston at Rice - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Both of these teams currently sit atop the Conference USA West division with Tulsa at 6-1 in league play. Rice needs a win in this game and a loss by Tulsa to claim the division title while Houston controls their own destiny in the league race.
Notre Dame at Southern Cal - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Southern Cal still maintains national championship hopes as the Trojans aim for a seventh consecutive win over the Irish. Notre Dame is looking to salvage what they can out of a disappointing season and an upset win over the Trojans would be a nice ending to the campaign.