No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 21 South Florida (+2.5) — This game is about as high-profile as a game can get for the Big East Conference: A national TV contest with two undefeated and ranked teams vying for first place and increased recognition. Cincinnati boasts the nation’s third-ranked scoring offense, led by Heisman dark horse Tony Pike. South Florida is led by dual-threat QB BJ Daniels and a stout defense that allows fewer than 10 points per game. In a game that will go a long way to legitimizing both programs, I give the edge to the Bearcats.
Cincinnati 20, South Florida 17
No. 20 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas (-3.5, game is in Dallas) — It says a lot about the Longhorns that they lead the nation in scoring offense (47.20 points per game) and many pundits are left unimpressed mainly due to the caliber of their opponents to this point. Oklahoma has Sam Bradford back in the mix and ready to take on the fourth-stingiest defense in FBS. Despite OU’s rough start, this game will ultimately decide the Big 12 title as well as the BCS Championship game. I think the ‘Horns are still salty about last year’s decision to send OU to the Big 12 title game.
Texas 38, Oklahoma 27
No. 11 Iowa at Wisconsin (+2.5) — Amazingly, Iowa will be looking for its 11th straight win when they travel to Madison this weekend, its longest winning streak in 86 years. Their opportunistic defense is second in the FBS in takeaways with 19, which has been a huge factor if their wins coming by three or fewer points. Wisconsin looks to bounce back after a loss at Ohio State, where they failed to secure the ball—leading to two defensive TDs for the Buckeyes, something they can’t afford to do this weekend. I felt an upset brewing with all of Iowa’s close calls and a tough road game, but the Badgers’ turnover issues scared me away from it.
Iowa 24, Wisconsin 20
Arkansas at No. 1 Florida (-25) — The statistics would lead you believe that we may see a track meet this Saturday in Gainesville, with two of the top 11 scoring offenses in the nation matching up. Arkansas has gotten their season back on track after the upset win versus Auburn last week, and will look to knock off another top-ranked team like they did to LSU in November 2007. Florida expended every ounce of energy they had in shutting down LSU in Baton Rouge last weekend, and may have a bit of a letdown against the Razorbacks at home. Fortunately for the Gators, even their letdowns can be impressive.
Florida 34, Arkansas 17
No. 6 USC at No. 25 Notre Dame (+10) — The recent slate of games between these two teams has been anything but competitive, with USC in the midst of a seven-game winning streak. The Trojans’ sixth-ranked defense goes to South Bend having allowed just 256 yards and three points TOTAL in the last two meetings with the Irish. Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen has been brilliant through five hard-fought games for the Irish and has actually eeked into the Heisman picture. USC Freshman QB Matt Barkley may find this even tougher than Columbus. If ever there was a time for a signature win for a player, coach, and a school—this is it. No guts, no glory…
Notre Dame 21, USC 20
Memphis at Southern Miss issippi (-14) — Southern Miss is in a tailspin, having lost three straight which puts them right in the middle of the C-USA race. RB Damion Fletcher is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard season and will look to dominate this Saturday against Memphis. The Tigers caught UTEP sleeping after an upset of their own, but they're 1-4 against FBS schools on the season and have struggled offensively throughout.
Southern Miss 34, Memphis 13
No. 4 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Georgia Tech (+3) — In a conference that has become nearly impossible to predict, we have a pivotal game in the race for the ACC Coastal division crown. Virginia Tech is on a hot streak, having won five straight—including a couple of blowouts over alleged peers Miami and Boston College. Georgia Tech’s No. 1 ACC offense will pave quite the road to the conference title game with an upset in Atlanta this weekend. Frankly, there have not been too many teams as good and balanced in the ACC in recent memory as the Hokies are in 2009.
Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 23
No. 22 South Carolina at No. 2 Alabama (-17) — Alabama is on a mission right now to avenge last year’s loss in the SEC Championship game to Florida, and South Carolina is just another team in their way. The second-ranked Tide has the nation’s second-ranked defense and will look to shut down the Gamecocks on Saturday night. South Carolina has but one close defeat at the hands of Georgia, and brings the 15th-ranked defense into Tuscaloosa. The bad news for South Carolina is Alabama is averaging over 220 yards per contest on the ground—not the strong suit of their defense, which means the Tide continues to roll.
Alabama 27, South Carolina 17.
Missouri at No. 16 Oklahoma State (-7) — Everything seemed to be going according to plan this season for Missouri until the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Nebraska. Turnovers led to touchdowns, which led to a loss. The Tigers are led by the aerial attack of QB Blaine Gabbert, who will look to put them back in the rankings with an upset in Stillwater. The ENTIRE story for the Cowboys is the suspension of All-American WR Dez Bryant who will likely be out for this game as well. The OSU offense is still explosive (ninth in the nation in points scored), and will need to stay focused in order to fend off a feisty Missouri team. The distraction will be there, but the ‘Boys are simply the better team.
Oklahoma State 37, Missouri 27.
Washington at Arizona State (-6 ½) — Washington is having the most up-and-down of seasons, but everyone associated with the program will take it after last season’s winless debacle. While head coach Steve Sarkisian is working out the kinks on offense, it’s the 90th-ranked defense that needs some stops to produce more consistent wins. Arizona State has managed to solidify its defense, but the next four games after this one (Stanford, Cal, USC, Oregon) mean they need to earn their wins immediately to even think about bowl season.
Washington 24, Arizona State 23.
Last Week: 4-6