2011 NCAAF Week 9 Weekend Preview

October 27, 2011
By K. Becks

It’s safe to say that last weekend was the craziest of the 2011 college football season so far. I’d like to coin this weekend “Redemption Week” for those previously undefeated teams that now face the extremely uphill battle of working their way back into national title conversations (and at this point, they’re going to need some significant help from teams ahead of them). It won’t be easy for Oklahoma or Wisconsin, though. Both teams have some relatively stiff competition this weekend and will not be feeling good on Sunday morning if they are feeling sorry for themselves on Saturday.

Unfortunately for the Sooners and Badgers, attention shifts to the teams that took their places in the rankings. It’s a harsh reality that in college football, once you lose, you’re old news. 

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more games to keep an eye on and some storylines that will keep people talking.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#9 Michigan State at #13 Nebraska (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Michigan State’s Hail Mary to beat Wisconsin in the final seconds of regulation is without a doubt one of the top plays of the season, and the Spartans will surely be riding the emotional wave from that victory as they prepare to battle Nebraska this Saturday. Although the Spartans got out to a sizable lead over the Badgers and the Cornhuskers were throttled a few weeks ago in Madison, this game should be nearly as exciting as the one that played out in East Lansing last weekend. The fun thing about this matchup is that there are a lot of question marks for both teams.

Nebraska’s defense has had its troubles this year, but their offense has been pretty stellar all year with the exception of the Wisconsin game and the first half of their game against Ohio State. The Cornhuskers will need to come out strong on offense if they want a chance to upset the Spartans, because if Michigan State’s defense is playing well, the home crowd could become a factor. Michigan State was shaky on offense against decent defenses throughout the first half of the season, but have seems to have broken out of their funk after strong offensive showings the past two weeks. This game will probably come down to whether Nebraska can put a lot of points on the board against Michigan State’s stingy defense. If this is a high scoring game, expect Nebraska to pull off a minor upset.

My Pick: 34-28 Nebraska

#11 Oklahoma at #10 Kansas State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Oklahoma’s national title hopes suffered a severe blow, one in which they may not be able to recover from, on Saturday night against Texas Tech. The Sooners get no break though, as they must travel to Manhattan to play an upstart Kansas State team that is eyeing their first outright Big 12 title since 2003. This is a potential trap game for the Sooners, who could find themselves with a pair of losses after this weekend if they come out flat.

Kansas State is a completely different team from the Texas Tech squad that dispatched Oklahoma last weekend. The Wildcats will look to quarterback Collin Klein, a duel threat who relies as much on his legs as his arm, to give the Sooner defense trouble. Unfortunately for Kansas State, Oklahoma has had a lot more trouble with pure passers this season, as was evident last Saturday night. If Oklahoma comes out ready to play, Kansas State will likely have to rely on their defense which gives up a league best 337.1 yards per game to slow down the Sooner offense. Kansas State is a nice surprise, but assuming Oklahoma is out for revenge, they should take down one of the eight undefeated teams left in the nation.

My Pick: 38-23 Oklahoma

#22 Georgia at Florida (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Remember last year when Virginia Tech lost their season opener at Boise State, then dropped an ugly one to James Madison the week after, only to reel off ten straight victories on their way to a BCS bowl? The Georgia Bulldogs, after losing to Boise State in their opener then losing to South Carolina the next weekend, may be on their way to a similar ending. The Bulldogs have quietly won five games in a row, and although all of their wins are over mediocre competition, the way they have done so suggests that they have the ability to win the rest of the games on their schedule.

Florida has had a rough October, dropping three straight games to ranked opponents (it would be far more alarming if the three teams weren’t Alabama, LSU, and Auburn). What is alarming, however, is the fact that the Gators have not scored more than 11 points in any of those losses. Without John Brantley, Florida’s offense is unable to get much going. This is good news for Georgia, who has held opponents to just over 20 points per game and gives up just under 273 total yards per game. Brantley may be back for the Gators, which may make things interesting, but Georgia’s young offense is getting better every weekend. Expect a close, defensive battle in this rivalry game.

My Pick: 20-17 Georgia

#4 Stanford at #20 USC (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Who is in charge of determining where College GameDay will be from weekend to weekend? It seems like every other weekend a Pac-12 matchup is the Game of the Week. It’s funny to note that, of the Game of the Week games that have featured a Pac-12 team this season, none of the margins of victory have been within 13 points. I know that USC is much improved on defense and has a future NFL quarterback running the offense, but I’m not sure that this game will be any closer than the others.

Stanford has carved up every Pac-12 defense that they have encountered so far this season, which isn’t to the surprise of many. Most defenses in the Pac-12 are less than stellar, and Andrew Luck really shouldn’t even be considered a college quarterback anymore. USC should be a step up from the defenses that Stanford has gone up against thus far, but assuming that they will be able to shut down Luck is probably asking too much. In order to win this game, the Trojans will have to put on a show offensively, which they are capable of doing. However, a strong performance on both sides of the ball will be necessary to pull off this huge upset, and I don’t know if the Trojans’ defense is capable of holding up their end of the bargain.

My Pick: 42-31 Stanford

#12 Wisconsin at Ohio State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Like Oklahoma, Wisconsin faces the possibility of coming out flat against a decent opponent and being upset for a second straight week. The Badgers must go into The Shoe on Saturday night to face an Ohio State coming off of a bye week to prepare. Three weeks ago, this game wouldn’t have even made it onto the “5 More to Flip To” list. Now, it has the potential to be one of the best games of the weekend, depending on the progression that Braxton Miller has made during the last two weeks.

The Buckeyes beat an overrated Illinois team in Champaign, but relied almost exclusively on the run. In fact, Ohio State threw a total of four passes in the victory, although one of those passes was a touchdown pass from Miller to Jake Stoneburner. If the Buckeyes want to win this game, they are going to have to take a risk. The Badgers defense is too good to try to move the ball on the ground against all night. If the Buckeyes air it out a bit, they might have some success against a defense that may be playing the run too heavily. However, a conservative game plan will be hard to win with in this one. We should know by halftime if this game has the potential to be a shocker.

My Pick: 28-17 Ohio State

5 More to Flip To

BYU at TCU (Friday, 8 PM ET)

An old Mountain West Conference rivalry continues, and both teams look to be continually improving.

Illinois at #21 Penn State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Illinois has gone from sweet surprise to salty afterthought in a matter of two weeks. Beating a team that might be slightly overrated themselves would be just the thing to get the Illini back on track.

Navy at Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Navy has had some growing pains this season without Ricky Dobbs, but the Midshipmen have fared rather well in South Bend the past couple of trips. A win could turn the season around for the service academy.

#14 South Carolina at Tennessee (Saturday, 7:15 PM ET)

Tennessee is a decent team, but their SEC record doesn’t reflect that. A Stephen Garcia-less Gamecocks squad has “upset” written all over it.

#6 Clemson at Georgia Tech (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Last time Clemson started 8-0 (in 2000) they played Georgia Tech in their 9th game. Final Score: 31-28 Georgia Tech. I’m not saying that it will happen; I’m just saying that it could.

Storylines for the Weekend

The Weekly Conference Realignment Update

West Virginia is in talks with the Big 12, but Louisville wants to leave the Big East instead of the Mountaineers. While all this is going on, Big East officials are traveling to Idaho to meet with Boise State officials about the possibility of the Broncos joining the Big East, even though Boise State has already declined the offer once before. Talks between Notre Dame and the Big 12 have been taking off, even though it was widely assumed that if the Irish were to consider joining a conference for football, the Big Ten would be the most likely to take them.

This all means one thing: conference realignment is, and will continue to be, a weekly story that constantly changes. Schools are aware that major changes are being made, and geography isn’t being considered. That might seem odd now, but when college football finally gets the playoff that has eluded it for so long, geographic location will be the last thing on any school’s mind.

Playing Leapfrog

I wrote an article for Bleacher Report earlier in the week about how Boise State is being jumped in the AP Poll by other undefeated teams. With Stanford playing a ranked opponent this weekend, the question that begs to be asked is “if Stanford were to lose, would a team like Clemson jump the Broncos like Stanford, Oklahoma State, and Wisconsin already have?” It seems unfair, but it is apparent that the voters are making every effort to keep a team from a non-AQ conference from getting a chance to be one of the top two teams in the AP and BCS rankings.

It will be interesting to see what happens with regards to Boise State the rest of the season if they manage to stay undefeated.

- K. Becks

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