The Pac 10 puts out four games for our enjoyment this weekend as six league teams tangle in conference match ups; the fourth game is the midday showcase for the Men of Troy. Three conference games should go a long way in clearing up the cloudy space between Pac 10 pretender and contender.
Stanford @ Arizona
Mike Stoops’ squad enters the game at 3-2 and with little identity on either side of the ball. Their 1-1 in their most recent contests but gave up over 30 points in both games. Jim Harbaugh’s troops were riding a Pac 10 hot streak of three wins in a row before being derailed by Oregon State, now they look to return to the winning side as Toby Gerhart looks to continue rumbling through the Pac 10 leading 124.3 yards per game.
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Washington @ Arizona State
Jake Locker has shot up NFL draft boards as Steve Sarkisian has molded him into a “semi”- pro styled quarterback. Coming off the USC win U-Dub is the nation’s most respected 3-3 team while the Sun Devils have quietly played solid defense anchored by freshman Vontaze Burfict. Locker vs the freshman phenom should make for an interesting day in Tempe.
California @ UCLA
Both teams are 0-2 in the conference; for UCLA the worst start in Pac 10 play since 1999 and for Cal a far cry from the lofty #6 ranking of just two weeks ago. Jahvid Best’s Heisman train is absolutely derailed and Rick Neuheisel had better hope the return of Kevin Prince sees some offensive production for the Bruins. At least one of these struggling teams will get a much needed win here.
USC @ Notre Dame
Jimmy Clausen has looked like a world beater; snatching games against Purdue, Michigan State and Washington from the jaws of defeat at the last second. However, the junior now faces a team that fields an actual defense; including a secondary, linebackers and defensive line that are a notch or two above Purdue. Taylor Mays and Co. look to confuse, cover and in the end pulverize a Notre Dame attack that will severely miss Michael Floyd’s field stretching abilities. On the other side of the ball Matt Barkley looks to build his legend against a Notre Dame defense that has surrendered 30 points to all but one BCS team they’ve faced.
In the Mid-West the Big Ten features a full conference slate plus and extra game. The Delaware State-Michigan game drew some fire as the Hornets forfeited a MEAC league game to take the $550,000 Big Blue offered them to fill the mid-October date. Outside of the Del State controversy this should be a straight ahead week as cold is setting in up north and teams are looking to pound one another on the road to the Big Ten title.
Ohio State @ Purdue
Purdue is riding the longest losing streak in the Big Ten as they are at five games after winning their first contest against Toledo. Ohio State struts in off a dominating performance in which they suffocated the Wisconsin Badgers. While Buckeyes defense is playing lights out and against a Purdue team whose best accomplishment to date is “almost” beating Notre Dame the Scarlet and Grey need to get their offense running on the same level.
Iowa @ Wisconsin
The most fortuitous team in the land faces the paper tiger of the Midwest. Wisconsin was exposed as a fraud against the Buckeyes and now they look to regroup against an Iowa team that is physical, mistake free and riding the wave of Ferentz’s tremendous luck. With Paul Chaney’s ACL recent ACL injury the Hawkeyes will have to find a new return man and receiving threat but Ricky Stanzi is a veteran capable of spreading the ball around.
Illinois @ Indiana
Two of the Big Ten’s winless bottom three this game features a massively underachieving Illinois team squaring off against a mind boggling Indiana squad. The Hoosiers started out winning three in a row and looking solid against Michigan before collapsing against Ohio State and then getting drubbed by seemingly punchless UVA.
Northwestern @ Michigan State
Mike Kafka of the Wildcats is throwing the football all over the yard as Northwestern sits two wins away from bowl eligibility; meanwhile Michigan State, at 3-3 boasts the better resume to date. With neither team being truly “in the hunt” this game will be more crucial in jockeying for Big Ten positioning for the bowl season than anything. Mike D’Antoni’s team must hit their stride as they’ve got Iowa and Minnesota up next.
Minnesota @ Penn State
Eric Decker and the Golden Gophers take on Evan Royster and the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. Decker is averaging 114.83 yards a game receiving and is among the nation’s elite targets. Royster is averaging 84 yards a game on the ground; however the running back is putting up these numbers playing half to three quarters of blow out football. If Tim Brewster’s guys want to make a real run on the Big Ten title it starts Saturday afternoon with Penn State.
The big daddy at this halfway point is the SEC and while last week was the SEC’s moment in the sun this weekend has quite the opportunity for pratfalls. The contests for Alabama and Florida aren’t nearly as hyped as last week’s however they feature match ups that are the polar opposite of what was on the top two teams’ plate a week ago. Meanwhile Ole Miss, Georgia and Mississippi State look to avoid back to back losses against “lesser” opponents.
Mississippi State @ Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders have already picked off Maryland and now they face Mississippi State looking for the second BCS scalp to put on their 2009 wall. First year coach Dan Mullen couldn’t hold of Houston’s potent offense and looks to use this trip to Murfreesboro to get the Bulldogs on the winning track prior to sliding fulltime into the SEC meat grinder.
UAB @ Ole Miss
Houston Nutt’s reeling after dropping from the ranks of the Top Five to not even receiving votes in 120 minutes. The Rebels quarterback Jevean Snead has been the nation’s biggest disappointment as his stock has dropped like 21st century dot com’s. The Blazers are the perfect recipe for the Rebels as they’ll be able to get a win in Vaught-Hemingway and give the folks a reason to sing Hotty Toddy.
Georgia @ Vanderbilt
The Commodores have looked bad; including a loss to Army, but no one expected Vandy to be anything spectacular this season. UGA, has looked equally underwhelming, perhaps even more so as a team preseason ranked #13 and expected to win ten games this season. With losses to LSU, Tennessee and Oklahoma State already posted and Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech remaining on the schedule ten wins seems less than likely. For now the Dawgs need to avoid a Vandy embarrassment and Willie Martinez and the defense need to find a way to stop the bleeding.
Kentucky @ Auburn
The Tigers got blitzed by Ryan Mallett and the Hogs passing attack last Saturday. While Randall Cobb at Kentucky is special, losing quarterback Mike Hartline indefinitely hurts the phenom’s ability to be effective. Kentucky’d defense has yet to play consistent defense so look for Gus Malzahn’s offense to continue traipsing through the opposition.
Arkansas @ Florida
The Hogs are the polar opposite of last week’s LSU match up for the Florida Gators; an offensively explosive team with an average to below average defense. Mallett is one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks and he’ll test Florida by stretching the field and hitting multiple receivers; something Jordan Jefferson couldn’t, or wasn’t allow to, do Saturday. The Gator defense gets their first real test after facing shrunken playbooks from both LSU and Tennessee.
South Carolina @ Alabama
Tough defenses with sometimes shaky offenses are the name of this game as two of college football’s best unites square off in Tuscaloosa. This will be a heavyweight title fight as the Cocks and Tide do battle. Between Eric Norwood, Rolando McClain, Javier Arenas and Terrence Cody the SEC’s premier defensive players will be on display. On offense look for Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffrey to get plenty of balls thrown their way as both quarterbacks try to manage the game and play turnover free football