Week 9 of the 2013 College Football season could make or break teams' seasons.
Undefeated Texas Tech will try to put Oklahoma at two losses in Big 12 Conference play, while Missouri tries to stay undefeated and put themselves in the driver's seat of the SEC East Division, as they host a South Carolina team limping in off an upset loss at Tennessee.
The state of Oregon will be host to two high-profile games between ranked teams. UCLA will try to bounce back at Oregon’s hostile Autzen Stadium, and Stanford will attempt to keep themselves in the Pac-12 North Division race with a trip to Oregon State.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will also look to keep themselves in the national title hunt with Penn State coming into Columbus Saturday night.
With a lot on the line this week, here are the top 10 games to watch:
No. 10 Texas Tech @ No. 15 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Texas Tech is 7-0 for the first time since 2008 under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Ironically enough, the Red Raiders were undefeated when they traveled to play Oklahoma in 2008 but were blown out 65-21.
Texas Tech played a close game at West Virginia, as it scored 21 unanswered points to knock off the Mountaineers 37-27. The Red Raiders will now move into the more difficult part of their schedule, though, and the country will find out just how good this team really is.
It's unknown who will start on Saturday. Regardless of who it is, the second best passing offense in the country will be in good hands. Texas Tech has been averaging 416.4 passing yards per game this season.
With so much emphasis on Texas Tech’s offensive attack, the defense is also playing well. The Red Raider defense, led by linebacker Will Smith, has surrendered just 18.7 points per game this season.
Oklahoma was in for a rude awakening against Texas in a 36-20 loss. Then, the Sooners struggled offensively at Kansas until pulling away with 4:19 remaining in the fourth quarter to win 34-19.
The Sooner offense hasn’t been the same since it defeated Notre Dame on Sept. 28. Quarterback Blake Bell and the offense have averaged only 24.6 points in their last three games.
This means a lot has been put on the defense's shoulders. The Sooners are holding opponents to 17.1 points per game (ninth in the country) and to 293.4 yards per game (sixth in the country).
Oklahoma must continue to play tough defensively to avoid getting beat early by Texas Tech's offense. If the Sooner offense starts off the game slow, they would be in danger of falling too far behind on the scoreboard. Bell needs to step up in the passing game, and running back Brennan Clay must make more of an impact than he has the past two games.
In 2011, Texas Tech upset Oklahoma in Norman 41-28, but can they do it for a second consecutive time and knock the Sooners out of the Big 12 Championship race?
Prediction: Texas Tech 35, Oklahoma 30
No. 21 South Carolina @ No. 5 Missouri, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Not only is Missouri looking to take a commanding lead in the SEC East Division, but it’s homecoming in Columbia as well, meaning it will be crazier than usual when South Carolina heads into Faurot Field Saturday night.
The Gamecocks were upset at Tennessee last Saturday, and starting quarterback Connor Shaw sustained a knee sprain, causing him to be doubtful for this week’s game. Dylan Thompson will get the start, according to NBC Sports.
The South Carolina defense must also be at its best if they want to contain a surging Tiger offense.
It’s surprising enough that Missouri is undefeated at 7-0, but what makes it even more special is that they continue to do so with backup quarterback Maty Mauk.
The Tiger rushing attack has been dangerous with Henry Josey, who had a big game against Florida by rushing for 136 yards and one touchdown. L’Damian Washington has been a threat in the passing game as well.
This matchup will come down to wins up front. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney seems to always be the center of attention for offensive lines, but the main defensive player to pay attention to in this matchup will be Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Sam is currently tied for the most sacks in the country with nine, and also leads the SEC in tackles for loss with 13.
Missouri has been fortunate to face SEC East Division opponents who have dealt with their starters being injured, but it is no easy task to defeat Georgia, Florida and potentially South Carolina in consecutive weeks.
The Tigers have a huge opportunity to make a statement nationally, as well as in the SEC if they can knock off the Ol’ Ball Coach’s Gamecocks.
Prediction: Missouri 38, South Carolina 35
No. 12 UCLA @ No. 3 Oregon, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Traveling to Stanford and Oregon back-to-back weeks will be brutal on Jim Mora’s squad, but a win is critical for this team with Arizona State contending for the Pac-12 South Division as well.
Quarterback Brett Hundley had been averaging 276.8 passing yards per game until facing the Stanford defense. He was held to 192 passing yards and one touchdown, while also throwing two interceptions.
Hundley will need to be at the top of his game against Oregon, especially if the running game continues to struggle. The Bruins have averaged just 76.0 rushing yards in their past two games.
The Bruin defense, led by linebacker Anthony Barr, has given up 147.0 rushing yards per game this season (47th in the country), but they will be up against the second-best rushing attack in the country. Talented UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks could be limited as well. Kendricks, who left the Stanford game with a kidney injury, is currently listed as probable for Saturday's game.
Oregon has been unstoppable thus far. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is a Heisman front-runner, as he’s already passed for 2,051 yards and 19 touchdowns. The most astounding statistic is that he’s yet throw an interception this season.
The running game thrived with the combination of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, but De’Anthony Thomas is expected to be back from a right ankle injury against UCLA, meaning the Ducks' rushing attack will be that much more lethal. With an already talented backfield, the Bruins secondary must deal with Josh Huff and Bralon Addison as well.
The Oregon defense’s goal will be to rush Hundley and take advantage of a beat up and inexperienced UCLA offensive line. The Bruins are struggling on the ground, and the Ducks are holding its opponents to 118.3 rushing yards per game.
It’s simple; if UCLA can somehow shutdown an Oregon offense averaging 57.6 points per game, they give themselves a chance to pull off the upset in Eugene.
Prediction: Oregon 45, UCLA 27
Penn State @ No. 4 Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Penn State will head into The 'Shoe after a bye week.
The Nittany Lions have been an up-and-down team this season. They were blown out by Indiana 44-24 on Oct. 5 and then upset an undefeated Michigan team a week later 43-40 in four overtimes.
True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been leading a Penn State offense that ranks second in the Big Ten Conference with 283.7 passing yards per game. Wide receiver Allen Robinson has been a big contributor with his 705 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
The Nittany Lion defense has been strong against the run, as it has held opponents to 335.8 yards per game. The defense is also allowing opponents 23.7 points per game.
Ohio State comes in after a surprisingly difficult game against Iowa, where they came away with a 34-24 win.
The Buckeyes rushing attack is one of the best in the country with 279.6 yards per game. Quarterback Braxton Miller’s dual-threat ability is always a problem for defenses, but the play of Carlos Hyde in the past two games has been critical to the Buckeyes' success. In Ohio State’s past two games, Hyde has averaged 158.5 yards and 2.5 touchdowns.
The defense is only giving up 19.9 points per game and has been solid against the run. Defending against the pass, though, has been a struggle. The Buckeyes are currently giving up 240.7 passing yards per game.
Urban Meyer still has yet to lose while at Ohio State, but can an unpredictable Penn State team end Meyer’s 19-game winning streak Saturday night?
Prediction: Ohio State 28, Penn State 24
No. 6 Stanford @ No. 25 Oregon State 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Right after UCLA and Oregon battle it out in Eugene, another Top 25 matchup will take place about an hour north in Corvallis.
Last season, this was the game that knocked Oregon State out of the Pac-12 North Division race.
The Cardinal come in after shutting down a talented UCLA offense and winning 24-10. Quarterback Kevin Hogan bounced back from a tough loss at Utah by passing for 227 yards and one touchdown.
Running back Tyler Gaffney continues to improve each game he plays in. Gaffney rushed for an impressive 171 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA.
The Cardinal receiving corps will unfortunately be without Devon Cajuste in the passing game, after he suffered a bruised right knee last Saturday against UCLA.
The Stanford defense, led by linebacker Shayne Skov, will be in for one of their greatest tests of the year, as they face the best passing attack in the country.
Even though the Cardinal have held opponents to 247.1 passing yards per game, they must be able to shutdown the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the country, consisting of Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks.
Mannion currently leads the country with 2,992 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. On the other hand, Cooks leads the country in receiving yards (1,176) and 12 touchdown receptions.
As dangerous as the Beaver passing threat may be, the Cardinal front will have no problem shutting down one of the worst running teams in the country. The Beavers are averaging just 73.7 yards per game.
The main matchup will clearly be the Oregon State offense against the physical Stanford defense. The Beavers have bounced back after their embarrassing season opening loss to FCS Eastern Washington, but the Cardinal defense will do enough to keep themselves in the Pac-12 title race.
Prediction: Stanford 34, Oregon State 31
Friday: Boise State @ BYU, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Starting quarterback Joe Southwick could be out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for a broken ankle he suffered against Nevada.
Even without Southwick for now, Boise State has been out of the BCS picture since it lost at Fresno State on Sept. 20.
The Bronco defense has given up an average of only 131.7 rushing yards in its past three games, but they will travel to BYU, where the Cougars are racking up 263.0 rushing yards per game.
The BYU offense is led by dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill, who not only leads the team in passing, but leads the team in rushing with 772 yards and seven touchdowns.
BYU suffered a heartbreaking 7-6 loss last year at Boise State and will be looking to get revenge at home.
Prediction: BYU 31, Boise State 24
Houston @ Rutgers, 12 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
Even though Houston’s undefeated season was ended last week against BYU, they are still unbeaten in AAC play. If the Cougars want to compete for a conference title, this game at Rutgers is a must win. The Scarlet Knights lost at Louisville on Oct. 10, meaning one more AAC loss would likely eliminate them.
Houston brings in an offense that has given defenses problems through the air this season. The Cougar passing attack, which has averaged 312.3 yards per game, is led by quarterback John O’Korn and wide receiver Deontay Greenberry. Unfortunately, the Rutgers defense could be in trouble with one of the worst pass defenses in the country (306.8 passing yards per game).
It’s going to be a close game with a lot of scoring.
Prediction: Houston 41, Rutgers 40
Tennessee @ No. 1 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Tennessee will face a whole new animal this week, though, as it travels to take on No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Vols have not defeated the Crimson Tide since 2006 and have been outscored the last six meetings by a combined 204-65.
Butch Jones’ team got the best of South Carolina, but a second consecutive upset won’t happen.
Prediction: Alabama 41, Tennessee 17
No. 9 Clemson @ Maryland, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
There were high hopes for Clemson last week against Florida State, then it got dismantled by Florida State 51-14. This will be more of a trap game than anything for Tajh Boyd and company. It could be a game where Clemson starts off slow and wakes up in the second half.
If Maryland wants any chance of pulling off the upset, they will have to try and keep up on the scoreboard. The Terrapins could be hurt in the scoring department though, with their two top wide receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, out after both breaking their right legs in a loss at Wake Forest last Saturday.
Dabo Swinney’s squad will bounce back in this one.
Prediction: Clemson 41, Maryland 20
Texas @ TCU, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1
The Horned Frogs have been a disappointment so far this season by already losing three of its first four conference games. Surprisingly, on the other end, Texas is currently undefeated at 3-0 in Big 12 play after a rough start to the season with two non-conference losses.
Quarterback Case McCoy has been improving and will start his third straight game. The defense has also made improvements under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. The ‘Horns held Oklahoma to just 263 yards and 20 points two weeks ago.
Texas is on the rise, and TCU is on the downward spiral.
Prediction: Texas 31, TCU 17