College Football: The 10 Biggest Games Of The Next 5 Weeks
It is getting cooler outside, but the college football action is heating up as we head into the second week of October.
Now is the time where we start to see teams slip up here and there, and the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders.
Over the next five weeks there are certainly more than just 10 games that will end up shaping the BCS landscape come December. However, there are 10 surefire games to keep your eyes on that are sure to shed even more light on the big picture.
With my respects to the games this week, including Bama and South Carolina, I have decided to leave this week alone. The games following in the next four weeks are far more important than this weekend's action.
Oct. 16: Iowa at Michigan
This one is certainly going to be big on the radar of all Big Ten fans, and it could go a long way for Michigan as they start to creep up the rankings and into BCS territory.
Iowa plays Wisconsin, Michigan State, and OSU at home, so this may be their biggest road test.
Michigan will be coming off a huge rivalry game that will show whether they are a real Big Ten contender.
What you watch for in this game is how Heisman contender Denard Robinson does against a top defense. If he can go for 300-400 yards he may as well claim his trophy now. However, do not look for him to be able to against the best D the Big Ten has to offer.
Either way, this will be the game that may eliminate one or the other from BCS at-large status and conference title contention.
Oct. 16: Ohio State at Wisconsin
Ohio State has played at Camp Randall at night twice in the last seven years, and on Oct. 16, you can add a third time to their resume.
In 2008, Terrell Pryor led the Bucks to a game-winning drive late in the game. In 2003 Jim Sorgi and company stunned the Bucks for their first loss in nearly 20 games.
So what can you expect this time?
Another good game.
Wisconsin has not looked great at times with a squeaker win at home vs. Arizona State and a road loss at Sparty. On the other side of the table OSU did not look good in their first road outing at Illinois.
This one is important because Wisconsin has had this one on the radar for quite a long time, and nobody will be giving them much of a chance, which will be dangerous for the Buckeyes.
While OSU could still win the Big Ten even with a loss here, the Badgers will be looking at this one as a must win if they are to earn a trip to Pasadena.
Oct. 21: UCLA at Oregon
So why is this one on here, you may be asking?
It is a Thursday night game, and so far, the major Thursday night shocker has eluded us.
Oregon is the far better team here, but this one has trap game written all over it, even though it is at Autzen.
Oregon will be coming in off of a walk-through win over Wazzu and a week off to prepare. Next up after the UCLA game is a trip to USC. Will the Ducks get caught looking ahead?
UCLA is no stranger to upsets thus far, knocking off a then-highly ranked Texas team and a high-powered Houston team.
If Johnathan Franklin and the running game can move the ball while keeping it away from the high-powered Duck attack, this one could be interesting and could result in some Boise fans jumping for joy...
Oct. 23: Oklahoma at Missouri
This one may spell trouble for the Sooners, who have seemingly found a way to play down to their opponents this year. If they play poorly on the 23rd, Mizzou, will beat them in Columbia.
Missouri is not really getting a lot of talk around the nation as a team that could make a run in the Big 12. Defensively they are only allowing 14 a game, which is 10th best in the nation.
On offense, Blaine Gabbert is healthy and leading them to scoring drives, plus he may have found the next big Mizzou weapon in sophomore T.J. Moe, who leads the team with 37 catches for 394 yards.
Oklahoma should still be undefeated entering the game. The X factor is going to be which Landry Jones shows up. Is it the guy who beat Texas in the Red River game, or the one that nearly lost to Utah State in the opener?
This game could be the end of an Oklahoma title run....
Oct. 23: LSU at Auburn
The battle of the Tigers could be a "play in or play yourself out" of the SEC West title.
Auburn may be unbeaten still, as long as they have won in Lexington and taken care of Ryan Mallett and company at home. LSU needs to win at the swamp on the 9th and they could also be unbeaten.
Simply put, every game in the SEC is important when it comes to top-tier teams. This one will get magnified as both could be in the top ten at the time it is played.
The difference in this one will be at the quarterback position. Cam Newton needs to make plays and Jordan Jefferson needs to eliminate mistakes.
Some clock management by Les Miles and Co. down the stretch could determine the game, as we all know that is a major chink in their armor.
Oct. 30: Missouri at Nebraska
For the last time, the Cornhuskers will face Mizzou in Big 12 North play. This game will also be for the right to play in the title game.
Last year, the Husker defense led the charge in a monsoon win over Missouri in Columbia. In that game Blaine Gabbert was nursing an ankle injury, and the speed of the Tigers was neutralized by the elements.
This year, Mizzou is playing well again, and so are the Huskers with one major exception, Taylor Martinez, who is leading the Huskers to more scoring drives.
While Nebraska should be a favorite (depending on what Mizzou does against OU the week before) but do not overlook the Tigers.
Oct. 30: Utah at Air Force
The preseason outlook on the Mountain West conference had TCU and Utah being the odds-on favorites to win it all and make a run at an at-large BCS Bowl appearance. Nobody had Air Force in a position to contend.
But the Falcons are a three-point loss at Oklahoma away from being unbeaten and heading into the weekend of the 23rd, could be unbeaten in conference heading to TCU.
The Falcons do it by running the ball and playing defense. Currently, they have three players who have rushed for over 300 yards, with Jared Tew and Asher Clark leading the way.
Utah has gotten it done at home, and against bad teams thus far. Nevertheless they are unbeaten at the time of this article. Overall the Utes have started slow on offense and the defense has not created many turnovers.
Utah still should be unbeaten coming into this week so watch for this to be its first test since the opener to prove that it is one of the nation's best.
Nov. 6: Arizona at Stanford
If the Pac-10 is anything like last year, we already know that every game counts. Even though Stanford has a loss in Oregon, it doesn't mean it is over for the Cardinal.
Insert the Arizona game, a game that has been decided by seven points or less.
Arizona is still unbeaten, including a heart-stopping win over Iowa.
This one will be close, and points should be put up a plenty as both teams try to battle for position at the top of the Pac-10.
Look for the team that wins this game to be the one that plays better defense. Also watch for the winner of this game to stay in the title race, while the loser packs its bags for a Sun Bowl berth or worse.
Nov. 6: TCU at Utah
Bu this point in the season, we will know if this will truly be the MWC title game. If both squads can avoid slip ups and take care of a gritty Air Force team, then this will be true.
Andy Dalton is the leader of the Horned Frogs attack, but in this game it will be how well tailback Ed Wesley runs the ball against what may be the best defense TCU faces all year.
On the other side of the ball, Utah will need Eddie Wide to do the same thing. So far, Wide has barely broken 200 yards total through the first four games.
Simply put, the key is running the ball.
Utah may be favored heading into the game since they have proven to be very good at home over the last several years.
The winner of this game keeps BCS hopes alive, while the loser is eliminated from the conference race in all likelihood.
Nov. 6: Alabama at LSU
Could this game be for the SEC West?
Yes, as long as LSU has beaten Auburn to this point.
Both the Tigers and Tide will enter this game off of a bye week, so preparation and coaching could be a factor. A factor that should favor Saban and the Tide.
But, Death Valley, potentially a night game, and 100,000 fans could be a neutralizer.
As mentioned earlier every SEC game matters, but this one could be a No. 1 vs No. 5 or No 6 matchup if both win out to this point.
Also the fact that Bama would have already been tested by games at South Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee could also be a factor.
Simply put, an elimination game in the BCS picture, as well as the SEC West.
There were several other games during this five-week span that should be on the radar as well, including the Bama-South Carolina, the FSU-Miami game, and LSU-Florida all this weekend.
Also watch for these games to be important in the shaping of the bowl picture as a whole:
10/16 Arkansas at Auburn
10/23 Wisconsin at Iowa
10/23 Air Force at TCU
10/30 Oregon at USC
Those are the key games to keep an eye on between now and the final few weeks, but as always feel free to post your comments below and spark up a conversation about any of the games on the list, or even add some of your own.