October is ready to go out with a bang.
With key games lined up this weekend, the BCS landscape will either take shape or spiral into a world of turmoil.
Notre Dame is trying to continue their improbable run, Georgia wants to play spoiler and get back in the hunt, Michigan is seeking a big road win and Mississippi State is trying to prove they belong in the discussion.
By the end of Saturday night, we’ll have the answers to four crucial questions.
Can Georgia knock off Florida, get its first notable win in the SEC since 2007 and sneak its way back into the title hunt?
Last week, Georgia was caught looking ahead to the game against Florida and narrowly escaped Kentucky with a 29-24 win.
If the Bulldogs play the same way this week, the loss at South Carolina will feel like a picnic compared to the whipping the Gators will put on them in Jacksonville.
This is a statement game for Mark Richt and Aaron Murray.
Both are notorious for losing big games, and they need to show that the SEC East is more than a one team division.
To win the game, the Bulldogs need to show some grit, especially on offense. They must find a way to move the ball and score points against the Gators’ vicious defense that has been phenomenal most of the season
It won’t be easy to find daylight, but Richt and Mike Bobo have to stay committed to running the ball, even when the yards are hard to gain early in the game. They need to double down on pounding the Gators’ defensive line, hoping it will lead to bigger gains in the second half.
The Bulldogs must also contain the Gators’ rushing attack.
They have been atrocious against the run all year, and Florida’s offense is fairly one-dimensional; Georgia’s best shot is stopping Mike Gillislee and forcing Jeff Driskel to win the game with his arm.
Georgia is dying for a significant win. They have a perfect opportunity to erase the bad taste from the loss to the Gamecocks a few weeks ago.
They’ll keep it close, but Florida finds a way to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Gators win 28-17.
Is Notre Dame ready for primetime?
For the first time in decades, all eyes are smiling in South Bend, as the Fighting Irish are 7-0 and ranked No. 5 in the latest BCS poll.
This is the decisive game for Notre Dame.
Win it, and the only thing stopping them from punching a ticket to Miami on January 7 is the game at USC at the end of the year.
Forget the buildup, this game has blowout written all over it. Notre Dame is going to get exposed just like West Virginia.
The cause for concern is that the defense has yet to face a prolific offense; the most productive team they have played offensively is Miami, which ranks 51st in total offense in the FBS.
By comparison, Oklahoma is averaging 488 yards and 44 points per game. The Sooners are also starting to hit their stride, which could spell doom if they get hot early in the game.
Even if Notre Dame is able to slow down Oklahoma’s offense, the Fighting Irish will have difficulty scoring on the Sooners’ vastly improved defense.
Mike Stoops’ return to the Sooners’ sideline has paid immediate dividends for the defense. They are allowing just 15 points per game, which is remarkable considering they have played three of the Top 10 offenses in the FBS already.
It is easy to understand the hype over Notre Dame.
They are one of college football’s most storied programs, and their return to the big boy’s table is a breath of fresh air.
Unfortunately, the celebration is coming a little early. Their record is a bit shallow considering the wins are against teams that are not in the same realm as Alabama, Florida or Oregon.
Brian Kelly has the program headed in the right direction, but they are still a few years away from being a serious national title contender.
The Sooners will prove that on Saturday.
Oklahoma wins comfortably 35-14.
Does Michigan have the resolve to win a key night road game in Lincoln to take a huge step toward winning its first Big Ten title since 2004?
The Wolverines are in their longest title drought since the 1950s, when they went 13 years without winning or sharing a Big Ten title.
Are they ready to earn it this year?
Similar to Kelly at Notre Dame, Brady Hoke has the Wolverines trending in the right direction. Last year’s success was unexpected, but it shows what can happen when you bring in a passionate coach and one of the best defensive coordinators in the game.
The true mark of an elite program though is being able to win tough road games, and that is something the Wolverines have not accomplished since 2006. This game could be a defining point in Michigan’s turnaround under Hoke.
After struggling through September, Michigan appears to be gaining momentum at the right time.
Last week, the Wolverines finally snapped a four-game losing streak to the Spartans in a 12-10 nail-biter in Ann Arbor.
More encouraging is Denard Robinson led his team down the field to put them in position to kick the winning field goal. After sub-par performances earlier in the year against Alabama and Notre Dame, the Wolverine faithful are hopeful that this performance will kick start the season everyone expected him to have.
Robinson should have a field day against a Nebraska defense that is yielding 187 yards per game on the ground. Braxton Miller sliced through the porous Cornhuskers for 186 yards a few weeks ago.
Robinson should have no problem doing the same.
How Michigan fares against Nebraska’s offense will decide the outcome. The Wolverines’ defense has not faced a powerful offense since Alabama, and the Crimson Tide shredded them for 432 yards and four touchdowns.
Nebraska is averaging 532 yards and 42 points per game. How they have managed to lose two games with that kind of production is mind-boggling.
The Wolverines won’t stop the Cornhuskers’ explosive attack, but they can contain it. Greg Mattison should load the box to stop Ameer Abdullah and Taylor Martinez from running anywhere.
He needs to make Nebraska throw the ball.
Martinez’s accuracy is exceedingly better this year, but it is a smart bet to make him win the game with his arm over his legs.
This will be a high scoring game, which probably favors Nebraska. If the Wolverines can keep it close in the first half, they’ll win the game.
If not, the title draught will reach nine years.
Michigan wins 51-45.
Is Mississippi State ready to dethrone the king in the SEC?
After taking a step back in Coach Dan Mullen’s second season, the Bulldogs have soared into the national discussion in his third by opening the season 7-0.
The Bulldogs are probably the highest ranked team that no one knows anything about yet. They are undefeated, but their opponents have a combined 19-32 record this year.
We’ll quickly find out if the strong start is fluff or real when they take on No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.
Mississippi State appears ready for the challenge.
They have a suffocating defense, Tyler Russell is a smart and efficient quarterback and they avoid costly penalties and turnovers.
The Bulldogs epitomize winning the SEC way, and like Alabama, are extremely disciplined. They will not beat themselves.
The key to the game will be Mississippi State’s ability to rattle A.J. McCarron. He leads the nation in passing efficiency and has yet to throw an interception.
If McCarron plays well, the Bulldogs will have no chance at winning the game.
The Bulldogs will put a little fear into the Crimson Tide, but Alabama will eventually show why it is the best team in the nation.
Crimson Tide wins 31-14.
*All statistics provided by NCAA.com