Over the past five weeks, college football's rankings have been particularly shaken up, with at least three teams dropping out of the AP Top 25 upon every new release. There is plenty of potential for it to happen again in Week 7's action, but some top teams that face tough road tests will weather the storm.
Here are a few of Saturday's marquee matchups, where ranked teams will survive trips into hostile environments to maintain their BCS bowl hopes.
No. 3 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU
This side of the Texas-Oklahoma Red River Rivalry, this will be the best game of the week.
It's hard to fathom the Tigers losing two consecutive games, but it's also hard to fathom anyone besides Alabama beating the Gamecocks, given their recent form. The Top-Five Georgia Bulldogs came to William-Brice Stadium and were promptly dismantled, 35-7. Meanwhile, LSU is coming off a crushing defeat to the Florida Gators in The Swamp.
Home cooking is just what the Tigers need right now, and the team will come out energized and eager to avenge its first loss of the season.
Two great coaches in Steve Spurrier and Les Miles will match wits in this one, but it will come down to which quarterback minimizes mistakes against two stout defenses in this contest. Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw not only takes care of the football better than his counterpart Zach Mettenberger—he also makes more plays.
With an important road game at Florida a week away, South Carolina will take care of business in Baton Rouge with a balanced offensive attack unlike any the Tigers have seen this season.
That balance will take its toll near the end of the game, when Marcus Lattimore will wear down the Tiger defense and break a couple of big plays. The result is a 24-14 win for the Gamecocks.
No. 4 Florida at Vanderbilt
This has "trap game" written all over it, whether such a concept is factual or not. Sandwiched between a gratifying victory over LSU and a showdown with South Carolina, it would be easy for the Gators to overlook the Commodores.
That is, unless Vandy hadn't given SC their toughest test of the year, losing the home opener by just four points to what is arguably the SEC's best team.
It's always been an uphill climb for the Commodores in the nation's toughest conference, but their lackluster offense led by QB Jordan Rodgers has been improving lately. The brother of the Green Bay Packers QB has two big targets in Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews on the outside, which could create matchup problems for Florida's stout secondary.
Combined with Vandy's underrated defense—which is often a victim of being on the field too much due to the offense's ineptitude—this has the makings of an upset special.
Don't hold your breath, though.
This program has established a relentless, defense-oriented mindset under Will Muschamp. The Gators have the feel of a renewed toughness, playing efficient offense and lights-out D.
It's proven that the Commodores won't roll over at home, but the Gators will come out on top in a relatively low-scoring affair, 17-9.
No. 6 Kansas State at Iowa State
Not only are the Wildcats in the BCS conversation—they are in the national title conversation. Much more will be known when they take on No. 5 West Virginia a week from now, where the Heisman dialogue will take place between Mountaineers QB Geno Smith and KSU's Collin Klein.
But the Wildcats must pull out a win in Ames in order for that matchup to maintain its massive magnitude.
Klein is an outstanding dual-threat quarterback, who has thrown for 887 yards and seven touchdowns while scampering for 405 yards and seven scores. That should provide enough problems for the upstart Cyclones, who are just outside the Top 25 in the AP but are 25th in the USA TODAY/Coaches Poll.
The combination of Klein and Wildcats running back John Hubert will overwhelm Iowa State's formidable defense. It's been years since the Cyclones have been inside the AP rankings, but they are definitely a program on the rise under Paul Rhoads. They beat No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011, and they have the opportunity to add another impressive upset to its recent record.
Unfortunately for the Cyclone faithful, Klein and Co. are too tough, and new starting QB Jared Barnett isn't experienced enough to handle a game of this significance.
Kansas State emerges victorious, 35-20.
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