After the chaos of last Saturday, the people at ESPN are right to call this "Gut-Check Week" in the college football world.
A play or two could change the national landscape—and wins are more important now than ever. Here are five key matchups that should shape the course of "Antacid Saturday" (my nickname—not quite as good as the professionals, but still genius):
Wisconsin's P.J. Hill vs. Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall
This game will come down to which backfield has the bigger day.
Hill is the second-leading rusher in the Big Ten (133.4 yards/game), while Mendenhall leads the conference in yards per carry at 6.4. Wisconsin likes to run between the tackles, while Illinois prefers to stretch defenses sideline-to-sideline.
The team that's better able to establish its own style will win this one.
Georgia's Matthew Stafford vs. Tennessee's Defense
The Tennessee defense, once a juggernaut, is a joke this year.
This unit is 95th in the country in total defense, and hasn't shown the ability to stop anyone. Make way for sophomore Matthew Stafford, who should be the next QB to watch after his stats soar against the Vols.
Clemson's James Davis & C.J. Spiller vs. Virginia Tech's Xavier Adibi & Vince Hall
After a subpar performance last week against Georgia Tech, Davis and Spiller will look to get back on track.
VA Tech isn't the ideal team to rebound against—their team speed, especially in the linebacking corps, will pose a problem. While not as statistically proficient as past defenses, this Hokie D is still a Bud Foster unit that will bring pressure from different angles and different formations.
The key will be Clemson's ability to run the ball effectively, something they couldn't do against Tech last year.
Florida's Tim Tebow vs. LSU's Defense
This is the true test of Tim Tebow's Heisman legitimacy.
The young QB is seventh in the country in total offense and third in passing efficiency, but he's yet to face a defense like LSU's.
Come to think of it, there are no other defenses like LSU's.
The statistics speak for themselves: first in rushing, pass efficiency, and total defense; second in scoring defense; third in turnover margin; fifth in pass defense.
The Tiger defense amazes week-in and week-out—and if they can bottle up Tebow I think they can be talked about as one of the nastiest units of all time.
Missouri's Chase Daniel vs. Nebraska's Secondary
Daniel is the Tebow of the Big 12—a dual threat who's fifth in the country in total offense and seventh in passing yardage per game.
The QB has the Tigers playing very well, and now they have the privilege of facing the Pink—oh, sorry—Black Shirt defense of the Cornhuskers.
This unit is 77th in the country in total defense, and has looked abysmal in back-to-back-to-back performances against USC, Ball State, and Iowa State. Daniel will have to show that he can run and pass to keep this defense off-balance.
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