Week 9 will bring another great slate of college football games to the table as the contenders continue to separate themselves from the pretenders.
This week will feature a number of ranked versus ranked matchups, some ranked teams that need to be on upset alert against unranked foes, games with conference and BCS Championship implications and a few teams playing for some desperately needed pride.
Here are my rankings for the best 10 showdowns in Week 9.
Two years removed from a BCS Championship, it would be quite the understatement to say the Auburn Tigers have been a disappointment in 2012.
After dropping a heartbreaker to Vanderbilt last week, it’s becoming a very real possibility that the Tigers could go winless in the SEC this season.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, has had a very nice debut season in the SEC so far with their only losses coming against two teams currently ranked in the Top 10—Florida and LSU.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has been electric for the Aggies and is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch.
Despite their disparate records, look for this to be a very good game on the Plains.
After being blown out in Gainesville, South Carolina is almost certainly on the outside looking in at the SEC East race.
Tennessee is also coming off a blowout loss against the No. 1 Crimson Tide at home in Knoxville.
Still, look for this to be an exciting game. It will be interesting to see how both teams bounce back in this SEC East matchup.
Tyler Bray will lead his high-octane offense into the not-so-friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium against Jadeveon Clowney and the vaunted South Carolina defense.
Although the Gamecocks have struggled on the road in their last two games, they’ve played lights out at home this season. Expect Steve Spurrier to get his offense back on track against the Volunteers in what could be a shootout in Columbia.
Cincinnati fell from the AP Top 25 after being edged out by Toledo but still remains undefeated in the Big East.
With Louisville and Rutgers also unbeaten in the conference, the Big East is very much up for grabs and this game could have BCS implications for the winner.
Cincinnati has the harder path with a road game at Temple before hosting Rutgers the following week. But a win against Louisville would give them a big boost of confidence headed into that stretch.
If Louisville can get through this game, it would keep alive the potential of the season finale against Rutgers being a battle of two undefeated teams fighting for a spot in a BCS game.
Arizona is a much better team than its 4-3 record might indicate. Look for the Wildcats to test the Trojans at home on Saturday night.
Although not in contention for a Pac-12 title, the Wildcats are still in position to make a very good bowl game. A win against USC on Saturday night would go a long way in that regard.
The Trojans have also struggled a bit on the road, losing by seven to Stanford and posting 10-point wins against Utah and Washington so far this season. And remember, that’s a Washington team that Arizona just beat 52-17 last week.
The Trojans definitely need to be on upset alert Saturday.
The Beavers look to continue their Cinderella season when they travel to Seattle to take on the Huskies on Saturday night.
Oregon State continues to climb in the polls but will need a win against Washington to keep pace in the Pac-12 North with Oregon, who hosts 1-6 Buffalo this week.
The Beavers match up well with the Huskies with a strong defense against a lackluster Washington offense.
Still, Washington has proved it is capable of pulling an upset, beating Stanford earlier in the season at Husky Stadium.
Nebraska will host Michigan this week in a game that has huge implications in the Big Ten Legends division.
If the Cornhuskers can get past the Wolverines, they’ll both have identical 3-1 conference records, with Nebraska holding the tiebreaker.
Both teams still have to face Iowa, who could have something to say about the division race, but Nebraska has already played Ohio State, while Michigan still has to face the Buckeyes in the season finale.
This game may just be a must-win for both teams in the Big Ten title hunt.
Texas Tech has come out of nowhere in the past two weeks, climbing into the Top 15 in the latest AP Poll.
The Red Raiders shocked then-No. 5 West Virginia, holding Geno Smith and the explosive Mountaineer offense to only 14 points two weeks ago.
Texas Tech followed that performance by holding off a very good TCU team on the road in a game that took three overtimes to decide.
Not to be outdone, Kansas State is coming off its most impressive performance of the season, upending that same WVU team 55-14.
Collin Klein is looking more and more like a legitimate Heisman front-runner. It will be interesting to see if Tech’s defense can slow down Klein and the Wildcats. However, that’s certainly going to be a tall order for the Red Raiders, who are coming off of a brutal stretch in their last three games and will be facing a hostile crowd in Manhattan.
Dan Mullen has the Bulldogs looking very good in his fourth year in Starkville. Mississippi State will take a perfect record to Tuscaloosa to take on the No. 1 Crimson Tide on Saturday.
However, it will take some kind of performance for the Bulldogs to stay undefeated.
Alabama simply hasn’t really been in any danger of losing at any point this season. Although, it is worth mentioning that the closest game Bama has been in was against an SEC team from Mississippi at home when it beat Ole Miss 33-14 in Week 5.
Mississippi State does have the best defense Alabama will have seen thus far. But even if the Bulldogs’ defense can keep the Tide somewhat at bay, it’s doubtful the offense will put up enough points to pull off the upset.
But, that’s why they play the games. We’ll see this weekend if State can expose any chinks in Bama’s armor or if the Tide will continue to roll.
Georgia has struggled in its last two games, being blown by South Carolina 35-7 and just escaping Lexington with a 29-24 win over Kentucky last week.
Still, with Florida beating South Carolina last week, this game looks to have become a de facto SEC East championship game and the Bulldogs should come out fired up in Jacksonville.
If the Bulldogs can pull off the upset, they will still only have one conference loss and own the tie-breaker against the Gators.
On the other hand, if Florida wins, it will clinch the SEC East.
Despite the haters sincere denial, it certainly appears Notre Dame is for real in 2012.
Still, the Irish are facing a huge test headed into Norman this weekend to take on a streaking Sooners team.
Oklahoma’s only loss was a close game against what we know now to be an excellent Kansas State team. In the last three weeks, the Sooners have handily beat a very good Texas Tech team, dismantled rival Texas and expectedly blown out a very bad Kansas team.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, despite continuing to win, has had some very close calls in recent weeks. It took overtime and a goal-line stand to hold off Stanford, and the Irish just squeaked by BYU with a three-point win. And both of those games were in South Bend.
The Irish will once again have a chance to prove to the nation that they are title contenders on Saturday in a hostile road environment against an Oklahoma team overflowing with confidence.