Here's this week's quick breakdowns of some marquee matchups:
The entire story of this game being and ends with the loss of UConn Huskies’ cornerback Jasper Howard, who was senselessly killed last Saturday evening following the team’s victory over Louisville; the Huskies have decided playing the game is the best way to honor him this week.
The Huskies bring an opportunistic defense into Morgantown, one that has forced at least two turnovers in six straight games. West Virginia is back in the Top 25 and will lean on RB Noel Devine in case QB Jarrett Brown is not recovered after last week’s helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked him out of the game. It’s hard not to root for UConn this week and they will keep it close no matter what.
UConn 27, West Virginia 24.
The “Holy War” rages on in what will be the last meeting in South Bend for the foreseeable future as the series ends after next season. BC attempts to turn their road woes around where they have managed little to no offense in two losses by a combined score of 73-21.
Notre Dame has lost six straight to the Eagles and will bring in a potent pass offense led by Jimmy Clausen who ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency. This game has seen some shocking results over the past 15 years but I think Clausen is too much for the Eagles’ pedestrian pass rush.
Notre Dame 30, BC 20.
The Tide continues to roll right along and the “third Saturday in October” is temporarily the fourth when the Vols travel to Tuscaloosa. Tennessee will jump on the back of Montario Hardesty who ranks 12th in the FBS in rushing yards and try to control the clock against the No. 1 ranked Tide.
Alabama is purely old school in 2009, which is to say, running (ranked ninth in team rushing) and defense (top of the heap in points allowed). Bama’s sophomore Heisman candidate RB Mark Ingram should pace the day and keep Tennessee off the field.
Alabama 27, Tennessee 14.
Clemson at No. 10 Miami (FL) (-4 ½)
Both teams find themselves in the thick of their respective divisional races yet again in the parity-laden ACC. Clemson comes off a dominant five-sack performance in which their 11th-ranked defense blew out Wake Forest 38-3.
Miami returns to conference play after a month away and will need to protect breakout QB Jacory Harris who ranks in the top 10 in passing efficiency. Clemson’s best performances have been special but they have yet to face an offense quite as versatile as the Hurricanes.
Miami 30, Clemson 24.
No. 11 Oregon at Washington (+10)
Oregon’s season has had quite the turnaround since “The Punch” was landed on opening night as they have ripped off five straight wins and amazingly climbed back into the BCS picture. The Ducks’ defense ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both scoring and total yardage and will need to contain Washington QB Jake Locker.
Washington has lost the five in this series and will need to tighten up on defense (ninth-worst in the PAC-10) in order to have any shot at slowing down Oregon. QB Jeremiah Masoli will likely come back for the Ducks so I think they make it six in a row in a closer-than-expected win.
Oregon 27, Washington 23.
The Nittany Lions have dominated their last three opponents by a combined score of 107-20 and will look to continue the hot streak in Ann Arbor, a place where they have not won since 1996. Michigan’s high-scoring offense ranks 10th in the nation and creates a challenging matchup for Penn State’s top-ranked scoring defense.
I think last week’s near off-week for Michigan against Delaware State came at a crucial time in the season and I like the upset here with the home underdog and a healthy Tate Forcier back in the mix.
Michigan 24, Penn State 20.
Oklahoma looks to bounce back from the loss in the Red River Rivalry and will do so without QB Sam Bradford, who may be lost for the season. Kansas has lost five straight to the Sooners but enters this contest boasting the second-ranked offense in the FBS with over 503 yards per game. Oklahoma is a surprisingly big favorite and I think they get the win, but they will need to earn it in a close one in Lawrence.
Oklahoma 31, Kansas 27.
This game looms larger than it may first appear on paper as the winner of this game will control their own destiny in capturing the Big Ten title. The Hawkeyes are vying to go 8-0 for the first time in school history and have battled close calls all year long, pulling another one off last week at Wisconsin.
The Spartans have battled back and have not lost to Iowa in East Lansing since 1995. Iowa has impressed me all year with their ability to pull out these close games but I do not expect them to run the table and I think it ends this week.
Michigan State 23, Iowa 20.
The Mountain West Conference does not often get a showcase as big as this one on Saturday evening in Provo. The Horned Frogs from TCU look to run their unbeaten streak to nine games and are led by a stifling defense that ranks in the top 10 in every category.
BYU defends their home turf well as evidenced by their 13-game conference winning streak in Provo. They will also be looking for payback after last year’s 32-7 trouncing knocked them out of their top 10 status at the time. This game will be a dogfight, but I think TCU’s defense gives them the edge even in Provo.
TCU 20, BYU 16.
I would say that Texas is primed for a big letdown but they didn’t play well at all in the win over Oklahoma. The Longhorns likely are in control of their own destiny to reach the BCS title game if they win out and they currently outscore everyone in the country at 42 points a game.
Mizzou will have their work cut out for them as QB Blaine Gabbert has struggled in their two losses and they won’t be running the ball against the nation’s toughest rushing defense in Texas. Beware the late cover but the game in general should never be in doubt.
Texas 34, Mizzou 20.
Last Week: 7-3