Week six of the college football season features a few old rivalries in the feature game, as well as a new one. The schedule is starting to heat up and we're finding out who the contenders are.
Note: I'm really trying to exclude Michigan at this point for fear of coming off as biased, but at this point in the schedule, they usually fall into the "interesting" games because many others really aren't all that intriguing.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ #5 West Virginia Moutaineers
Not quite the big deal it was two years ago when Rutgers was a breakout favorite, but should still be a great match-up featuring dynamic offenses. The question in this game is this: which defense is going to step up and make plays?
Rutgers, which was run-heavy thanks to Ray Rice, is now a passing team. They feature two potential All-Big East selections in Tequan Underwood and Kenny Britt. They can still run the ball but look for the Knights to light the sky with the passing game. On defense, there's trouble. The linebackers are very suspect and the team looks to be weak against the run. Rushing the passer, however, shouldn't be a problem with potential Big East Defensive Player of the Year Jamaal Westerman.
As for the Mountaineers, they lost a slew of talent last year but still have Pat White. White, who will no doubt go down as the greatest player in school history, will be a handful as usual. Coupled with Noel Devine and one of the nation's best offensive lines, White could be even more dangerous. Defensively, the linebackers, led by Mortty Ivy, should be very good and will have to be to make up for questions along the line and in the secondary.
Fans of defense need not watch. This should be a shootout from start to finish. The dynamic West Virginia offense will be dangerous but look for an explosive Rutgers line to hassle White all day, coupled with a strong performance from Rutgers QB Mike Teel, leading to a big upset in the Big East.
Rutgers: 41 West Virgina: 34
Illinois Fighting Illini @ Michigan Wolverines
Both teams come in with a blemish on their records and looking to set things right. Michigan in particular will be looking to rebound from a loss last week to Wisconsin. The Illini are also coming off a loss, their second of the season, walking out of Happy Valley with their heads down.
Offensively, the Illini will be trying to get back to what they do best: give the ball to the Juice. Juice Williams is very mobile, though not tremendously accurate, and will be the key. If he can break loose, the Illini will walk out of the Big House with a victory. On the defensive side of things, the line is a bit suspect but a solid linebacking corps and star corner Vontae Davis looms large.
For Michigan, it will be known exactly what Threet & company can and cannot do. So look for a ground and pound game from the Wolverines. They will try to take advantage of the Illini front seven and set up Threet for short to intermediate passes. Defensively, the interesting match-up will be Morgan Trent/Donovan Warren up against Arrelious Benn. If they can shut him down, it makes Juice a bit more one dimensional.
The Big House crowd will be loud and in charge, giving the Wolverines a bit of extra energy. It won't be a pretty game and should come down to the wire, but the Wolverines should pick up a huge home win.
Michigan: 23 Illinois: 17
#7 Missouri Tigers @ Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Tigers roll into Lincoln ready to improve their record and, they hope, their ranking with an impressive showing. The hometown Huskers will be looking to make good on the first year of the Bo Pelini era with a huge home victory over the favored Tigers.
We all know about the Mizzou offense by now. Led by Chase Daniel, this group is the catalyst and will be very tough to shut down, even if the Nebraska defense was good. And it's not. Meanwhile, the linebacking unit, a solid group throughout, will have it's hands full with a strong Nebraska rushing attack.
The Huskers will have to do things the old fashioned way if they want a win: pound the ball with tailback Marlon Lucky, one of the better backs in the country. The line will have to come through and open holes if the Huskers want a shot at a "W". Then there's the defense. Yikes. A horrendous unit last year, things won't get better against the Tigers.
Look for Chase Daniel to keep the Huskers tripping over their own feet and looking foolish. If the Mizzou defense can limit Lucky's effectiveness, the Nebraska offense will be very limited and make this one a lock for the Tigers.
Missouri: 42 Nebraska: 24
#8 Ohio State Buckeyes @ #14 Wisconsin Badgers
A marquee Big Ten showdown in Madison will be a huge test for Ohio State, though not of the caliber that USC is. Playing against Wisconsin in Madison doesn't get much talk but it's one of the toughest things to do in the Big Ten.
Ohio State will come in trying to control the tempo and keep the Wisky defense on the field as much as possible. Enter Beanie Wells. He won't have an easy time but Beanie will be a force on the ground. Defensively, the key will be shutting down PJ Hill. Take him out of the equation and things suddenly look very bleak on offense.
For Wisconsin, as mentioned above, PJ Hill has to be a force. He's a home run threat and a game-breaker. If he can get loose, the Badgers will keep up offensively. On defense, they need to bottle up Wells and get to Boeckman. Keeping him flustered has proven to be effective in the past and could result in a monster home win.
This will be a hard-fought, extremely physical battle along the trenches. The Buckeyes, eyeing another Big Ten title, will walk out of Madison winners thanks to a big day out of Heisman candidate Wells.
Ohio State: 24 Wisconsin: 13
I almost listed Florida State/Miami (Fl.) but it's just not the same now that neither team is very good. For the sake of college football, let's hope these teams can get back to their prior form.
A look at the standings:
#1 Georgia (5-0)
#2 Oklahoma (5-0)
#3 USC (4-0)
#4 Florida (5-0)
#5 Clemson (5-0)
#6 Missouri (5-0)
#7 Ohio State (5-1)
#8 Auburn (6-0)
#9 Texas Tech (5-0)
#10 Texas (5-0)
#11 LSU (4-1)
#12 West Virginia (4-1)
#13 BYU (5-0)
#14 Kansas (5-0)
#15 Virginia Tech (6-0)
Part eight coming..whenever.