College Football Week Five: The 10 Most Important Games This Weekend
Saying it's a big weekend in college football is an understatement. Football fans everywhere will be glued to their television sets this Saturday, as matchup after matchup has huge national title implications.
With all the games this weekend, how does one pick which games to watch?
I have put together a list of the top 10 most important games played this weekend. Some are no-brainers, and some may surprise you. Nonetheless, each game has its own story line.
Get your chores done early this week, because come Saturday you won't take your eyes off these games.
Nevada vs. UNLV
This is possibly the first time both Nevada and UNLV have been in one of the most important games in college football.
At first glance the game seems like no big deal. No. 25 Nevada against a lowly UNLV team is not the most glamorous matchup, especially with all the other games this weekend.
So why is this seemingly unimportant matchup one of my most important games this weekend?
National championship hopefuls should be watching Nevada very closely until the end of the season. Right now Nevada is the last ranked team that No. 3 Boise State is slated to play this season.
With the Broncos’ unattractive conference schedule, Boise State is hoping to get all the help it can from its opponents. Nevada simply needs to keep winning and, more importantly, continue being ranked for Boise State to have any chance to jump a one-loss SEC, Big Ten, or Pac-10 team at season's end.
Nevada on the road at UNLV Saturday night, because of the WAC’s history, comes in as the 10th most important game this weekend.
Notre Dame vs. Boston College
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Can you say hot seat?
After winning his first game of the season, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has lost three games in a row. Now, as the Fighting Irish take on a 2-1 Boston College team this Saturday, a loss could drop Notre Dame to 1-4.
In the words of former coach Charlie Weis, that would be “just not good enough.”
No one expected Notre Dame to be a national championship contender this year, but with a loss this weekend the Fighting Irish could be staring at a “bowl-less” season.
That won’t sit well with alumni.
Even though this game is not getting the hype going into the weekend, if Notre Dame falls to 1-4, the press could be calling for Kelly’s head come Monday.
This steaming seat, and foreshadowed coaching controversy, has Notre Dame at Boston College as the most important game for Brian Kelly, and ninth on my list overall.
Michigan vs. Indiana
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All Michigan eyes won't be on a player, team, or coach this weekend; instead fans everywhere will be focused on a single joint:
Denard Robinson’s knee.
Last weekend’s victory against Bowling Green was probably the least celebrated 40-point blowout in team history. Although Tate Forcier looked great coming off the bench, Wolverine fans everywhere let out a collective sigh of relief when Robinson’s knee injury was deemed not serious.
However, the thought looms in the back of Michigan fans’ minds if this small injury is the beginning of something worse. The nation should be watching this game to see if one of the leading rushers will stay in the pocket more come Saturday.
Michigan at Indiana, or should I say Denard Robinson’s knee, makes my list at No. 8.
Virginia Tech vs. NC State
Here we have another game whose importance lies not with the teams playing, but with the team Virginia Tech has already played.
It seems like my entire article is about Boise State.
Because each week it seems more and more likely that an undefeated and/or one-loss team from a major conference will emerge at the end of the season, Boise State needs help to fuel its national championship hopes.
Virginia Tech, after a terrible start to the season, can begin its climb back into the polls during early conference play. Facing an NC State team on the road will be a good test to see whether Va Tech can make it back or falls off the wagon all together.
This ACC showdown ranks No. 7 in this weekend of important matchups.
Boise State vs. New Mexico State
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After two important games for Boise State that they aren’t in, the Broncos are finally playing in one.
The reason this foreseen blowout win for Boise ranks so high in the rankings is based simply on the polls. The Broncos can no longer just win to secure their No. 3 ranking; now they have to win pretty.
Just ask TCU.
After their win last week against Southern Mississippi, TCU was leapfrogged (pun intended) by Oregon to fall to No. 5.
Those same Ducks are now on Boise State’s tail for the third spot. Even if the Broncos win, every writer, reporter, and pollster around the nation will magnify any sign of weakness.
Boise State is favored by 43 points this weekend, but I think it will take an even larger victory than that to remain ranked in the top three.
Penn State vs. Iowa
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The five most important games are also the five ranked-on-ranked games that make this a huge weekend in college football.
We begin with Penn State visiting Iowa.
Both teams saw their national title hopes all but crumble with losses early in the season, but a trip to the Rose Bowl still looms large. This Big Ten opener for both teams puts the winner in the driver’s seat for the BCS and the loser on track for another disappointing season.
Penn State squeaked by in last week's game against Temple in what was clearly a team looking ahead to this matchup. Because of this, no one gives the Nittany Lions much of a chance this weekend.
I say don’t rule out good ole Joe Pa just yet.
Fans could see a preview of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game on Saturday, as Iowa and Penn State both bring top 10 defenses to the table. In the last two games against each other the winner has scored 24 and 21 points respectively. I would be surprised if either team eclipses the 20-point mark on Saturday.
In a conference that relies on defense and running the football, I like Iowa to put its season back on track with a big win. Adrian Clayborn and Adam Robinson will pull the load in this weekend’s slugfest. Penn State couldn’t handle the noise at Alabama two weeks ago, and fans know Kinnick Stadium will be rocking Saturday night.
This Big Ten showdown cracks the top five in most important games this weekend.
Oklahoma vs. Texas
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Oh my, wouldn’t this matchup be higher had Texas taken care of business last week against UCLA? However, it’s still the Red River Rivalry, and it’s still a matchup of Big 12 powers.
Both teams have had somewhat of roller-coaster starts to the season.
Texas, which never loses at home, lost to a UCLA team that has a stranglehold on the title of California’s worst team. Look-ahead game or not, scoring 12 points at home against any opponent is simply unacceptable.
However, Texas can jump back into the BCS picture with solid back-to-back wins against Oklahoma this weekend and Nebraska next.
Oklahoma has heard the most hot and cold reviews of any team this season. A lot of people's pick for the national championship, many supporters jumped ship after three fairly lackluster performances in four weeks.
Get ready to jump back on.
A win this week against Texas and Oklahoma rejoins the national championship conversation. With all the talk of the Boise State and TCU schedules, many are overlooking that Texas is the last ranked team Oklahoma plays this year. Whether they win by two points or 20, the Sooners can turn heads with a solid win.
After what I believe will be a win for Oklahoma led by Landry Jones and DeMarco Murray, the Sooners could cruise to a trip towards the BCS.
Without the hype it usually holds, the Red River Rivalry still checks in as the No. 4 most important game this weekend.
Wisconsin vs. Michigan State
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How can this game be ranked so high? For me, two incredible stories make this game a must watch.
Fans are salivating as John Clay sparks deja vu of Ron Dayne’s highlight-filled career at Wisconsin. The running back can make his Heisman stamp this weekend against a stingy Spartan defense.
But the real story of this game lies in Michigan State’s coaches’ box.
Just over a week since suffering a mild heart attack, MSU coach Mark Dantonio is rejoining the team—an unheard-of move in the realm of sports. Coach Dantonio compared his heart attack to any injury suffered by a player.
Excuse me, coach; a heart attack is not just another injury.
Calling Coach Dantonio’s return this weekend an inspiration is a huge understatement. No matter what people believe in, something has to be said for a team coming together during a coach or teammate's time of struggle. Michigan State may be underdogs on paper, but Wisconsin is seemingly playing against 12 men this weekend when MSU takes the field.
Talk of players’ toughness is a dime a dozen, but coaches are rarely put in that category. Coach Dantonio’s sheer determination to return to coaching makes this game an easy rank at No. 3.
Florida vs. Alabama
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Most weeks this game would be No. 1, no question, but this week the top-ranked Crimson Tide taking on the Florida Gators ranks second.
Don’t get me wrong—this is a huge game. My formula may be just as bad as the BCS, but the main reason this SEC match doesn’t get my top spot is I simply don’t think it will be that close.
Alabama passed every test thrown at them last week against Arkansas on the road. Any naysayers were silenced as the Crimson Tide proved that they are the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.
Mark Ingram is unstoppable. Trent Richardson is unstoppable. I don’t care how fast Florida is; speed doesn’t do much when you’re getting run over by a 250-pound bulldozer in Mark Ingram.
Florida fans, of course, are screaming Trey Burton is unstoppable. After one game? Come on. I, for one, have yet to replace the Tim Tebow train with this new phenom. Clearly ESPN does not share my same feelings.
Burton is a great athlete, but a young quarterback facing the No. 1 team in the country on the road paints a pretty picture for the home team. The Tide’s defense managed three picks last weekend against arguably the best quarterback in the country. Saturday, that same defense will be licking their chops against two first-year starters in Burton and John Brantley, who have already shown ball security issues.
The No. 1 vs. No. 7 matchup looks great on paper, but I look for Alabama to pull away early. This game won’t lack excitement but may lack the down to the wire finish. It’s because of this Florida at Alabama falls to No. 2.
Stanford vs. Oregon
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The big one. So many great matchups this week, and ESPN GameDay picked the right one.
First off, someone needs to wake up and give the Pac-10 some credit. Yeah, USC is not going to be in the picture for a while due to Reggie Bush and his mishaps. But there are four Pac-10 teams ranked in the Top 20 for the first time in over 25 years.
The two highest-ranked teams, Oregon and Stanford, face each other this weekend in Eugene.
Oregon comes into the game ranked in the top five in the nation in scoring offense, defense, and rush yards per game. So, pick your poison.
Stanford brings a smash-mouth defense and All-American-caliber quarterback to the battle. The Cardinal, who haven’t been ranked in the top five in the nation since the early '80s, will surely make another appearance with a win on the road Saturday.
Question is, how far will Oregon move up?
Assuming the Ducks repeat history and handle their business at home, Oregon will almost surely jump the Broncos of Boise State into the top three.
The main reason this game takes the top spot as far as most important game of the weekend is the conference implications. As mentioned earlier, USC won’t see the postseason this year. This leaves Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona in the race for the Rose Bowl and possibly the national championship.
Oregon and Stanford simply have the most to gain and the most to lose this weekend. There is no conference championship at the end of the year. There isn’t the caliber of teams in the Pac-10 as the SEC or Big Ten. Saturday’s game is purely the Pac-10’s championship game to date.
My prediction is Oregon runs over a tough Stanford defense. The Ducks got a great preview last week in Arizona State, whose quarterback Steven Threet is similar in stature and play to Stanford QB Andrew Luck.
Oregon, who also got punched in the mouth a few times last week, still managed over 400 yards of offense.
Autzen Stadium, one of the loudest in the nation, gets that much louder when GameDay comes to town. The last two times Lee Corso and the guys came to Eugene, the Ducks pulled off a big win. I expect Saturday to be no different.
No. 9 Stanford at No. 4 Oregon: Winner moves up the Top 10 and loser moves out—easily this weekend's most important game.