Top Ten games for Week 9
10. #4 Montana @ Northern Arizona (Saturday 6:05 PM EST)
Weren’t expecting to see an FCS game here, were you? Well, the Grizzlies have a one-game lead on the Lumberjacks in the Big Sky, and the winner stands to gain a lot in the conference title hunt. The Grizz, led by quarterback Cole Bergquist (1348 yards, eleven touchdown passes) and running back Lex Hilliard (570 yards and ten rushing touchdowns), possess a balanced offensive attack and have won seven games by a margin of 22.6 points per game. NAU will have their hands full, but at least this one’s in Flagstaff.
10A. #9 Kansas @ Texas A&M (Saturday 7 PM EST, ESPN2)
Well, these Jayhawks are indeed the real deal, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ve played in front of a crowd like the one awaiting them in Aggieland this season. Despite the pressure on head coach Dennis Franchione, you can count on the Aggie faithful to support their team for all sixty minutes, and Kansas had better be ready to stop the run. A&M, led by quarterback Stephen McGee and running backs Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson, average 260 yards per game on the ground. But KU is ranked seventh nationally against the run, holding foes to a meager 78.0 yards per game.
9. Houston @ UTEP (Saturday 9:05 PM EST)
The top two teams in Conference USA’s West Division get together in El Paso, which should add to why people should pay attention to this one. Add to that the fact that some of the best individual performances in the nation thus far have come from Conference USA. Now whether this is a good indicator of their skill position players or an indictment of their defenses is up to interpretation, but it does make for exciting football. The Miners, if they are to take over first place, will need to find answers for wide receiver Donnie Avery and running back Anthony Alridge.
8. #16 South Carolina @ Tennessee (Saturday 7:45 PM EST, ESPN)
The Gamecocks need to recover from their 17-6 loss at home to Vanderbilt last weekend, and Neyland Stadium isn’t the easiest place to do so. The Volunteers should be just as angry, if not more so, after their blowout loss at rival Alabama last week. With the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” being played as well, the winner of this one could find themselves in pretty good shape in the SEC East if Georgia happens to win since they both own wins over the Dawgs. If there’s a need for “musical chairs” with the USC quarterback position, then that’s a bad sign for South Carolina. If Chris Smelley can get the job done in hostile territory however, then the Gamecocks have a shot.
7. Indiana @ Wisconsin (Saturday Noon EST, Big Ten Network)
The Badgers have been plagued by the injury bug like no other this season, but last week’s 44-3 win over Northern Illinois was a welcome respite from Big Ten play. Into Madison comes a young Indiana team that can score points, but can also give them up in a hurry as well. Expect P.J. Hill to have a lighter load early in order to keep him fresh in the fourth quarter, and having his backup available (Lance Smith-Williams, who is suspended for all road games this season) should help as well. While both teams are a longshot at best to win the Big Ten at this point, this one boils down to jockeying for bowl position.
6. #7 West Virginia @ Rutgers (Saturday Noon EST, ABC)
Nine days after knocking off then-#2 South Florida, the Scarlet Knights welcome high-powered West Virginia. The Mountaineers, coming off an easy win over Mississippi State, will have a healthier Pat White to go along with Steve Slaton and Noel Devine, but don’t sleep on wide receiver Darius Reynaud. Reynaud, who has the speed to break a game open as well, leads the Mountaineers with 450 yards and eight touchdowns on thirty-seven catches. The key in this game will be the health f Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. If he can go, they can at least keep the WVU defense honest. If not, the Knights could be in trouble.
5. #18 Georgia @ #11 Florida (Saturday 3:30 PM EST, CBS)
“The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” kicks off once again with both teams looking to move to the head of a crowded SEC East race. Despite only having two conference losses, this one may be of more importance to the Bulldogs as both of those defeats came against East Division foes. Florida, on the other hand, owes both of their losses to the West. If Georgia is to get their third win in the last eighteen meetings, they need to be more consistent both up front and in regards to tackling. Also, they’ll need to find an answer for Tim Tebow, who’s well on his way to challenging the unwritten Heisman “rule” that a sophomore can’t win the award.
4. #21 California @ #4 Arizona State (Saturday 10 PM EST, Fox Sports Net)
The Sun Devils jumped four spots in the BCS standings without even playing last week, meaning that this is their first chance to show the nation just how good they are. ASU has been a second half team for most of the season, allowing opponents to hang around until just after intermission, turning up the intensity on both sides of the football to make a close game turn into a rout. But they face a wounded yet capable California team that has the weapons needed to make sure this one is tight for all four quarters. DeSean Jackson has seen his Heisman hopes fall by the wayside, but given his production in last week’s loss to UCLA (9 catches for 136, two touchdowns); you have to wonder if the fact that the Golden Bears lost had more to do with that.
3. #10 South Florida @ #23 Connecticut (Saturday 3:30 PM EST, ABC)
Normally, this game wouldn’t be ranked this highly on the list. However, thanks to the fair catch “no call” that resulted in a Larry Taylor touchdown, this one may be the most important game in UConn’s young FBS history for more reasons that the simple “they’re alone in first place” theory. Now, thanks to the national media, some of whom either didn’t watch the entire game against Louisville or didn’t know that UConn even fielded a football team, the integrity of this program has been called into question. But worrying about that will get this team in serious trouble, especially with the Bulls coming to town. The offensive line, which has been inconsistent in games against Louisville and Virginia, will have its hands full with national sackmaster George Selvie. And don’t forget about quarterback Matt Grothe either. But Connecticut does have the nation’s sixth-best defense, so they won’t roll over either.
2. #12 USC @ #5 Oregon (Saturday 3 PM EST, Fox Sports Net)
One week after easily dispatching of Notre Dame, the Trojans head north to Eugene with hopes of slowing down one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. While Oregon’s defense leaves much to be desired, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder if their offense can be stopped. Even with all the injuries, the Ducks find ways to hang “half a hundred” on foes nearly every week. Washington was able to keep up for three quarters last week, only to find that Oregon wasn’t going to stop scoring points. USC has more weapons in their attack than the Huskies, along with a better defense, so I wouldn’t expect a blowout here.
1. #2 Boston College @ #8 Virginia Tech (Thursday 7:45 PM EST, ESPN)
So, the Eagles are the second-best team in America. Question is how many people in Boston know this? The Red Sox are in the World Series, the Patriots are beating people like they stole something, and the Celtics are about to tip off next week with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in town. So, for those not interested in Game 2 of the World Series, this is your chance to get familiar with Heisman candidate Matt Ryan and his teammates. The Hokies will go with Sean Glennon in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, and Glennon is hoping that this one doesn’t go the way of his last game against a team ranked number two (LSU 48, Virginia Tech 7). Just their luck, BC’s chance at a national showcase runs up against the World Series. But don’t tell that to the Hokies, who are looking to make a splash themselves.