Into Week 6 and huge conference games are upon us. Each week before the BCS standings come out teams must continue to impress or risk falling out of the national championship talk.
This weekend is no different. The college football schedule is lined with important games on a Saturday where no true football fan will leave their couch.
Here's how, according to me, the ten most important games of the weekend match up.
Don’t look now, but the Falcons of Air Force have made the list of important games this weekend. I’m not sure that Air Force has ever played an important game that wasn’t against another service school. This, however, is a different kind of year for the boys in uniform.
It has been eight years since Air Force has been ranked in the top 25, and the Falcons are looking to stay there. This weekend, Air Force faces a Colorado State team they have beaten the last four years.
It’s not hard to see how these boys plan to make it five.
Air Force brings the number one rushing offense in the nation to Saturday’s game. Averaging just less than 400 yards on the ground a game, Air Force’s game plan is to simply run over everybody.
But of course, this game would mean nothing without some sort of BCS implications. Just two weeks ago, Air Force nearly missed an opportunity to knock off powerhouse Oklahoma. Two weeks from now, the Falcons face two top 10 teams in TCU and Utah. While the rest of the nation hopes Air Force can upset both BCS busters, TCU and Utah are both banking on Air Force staying in the top 25 to help their strength of schedule come seasons end.
Air Force’s first trip to the top 25 since 2002 and the implications this game may have down the road have it ranked as my number ten.
Not quite the number four versus number nine match up we saw a week ago, but the Ducks’ game this week still cracks the top 10.
This game looks highly unattractive to audiences, and to be honest, it probably will be. But that one-in-a-million chance that Washington State has of beating the number three team in the country is still worth discussing.
This will be the second straight week that Washington State is playing a Pac-10 team off a huge victory. Last week, WSU faced a UCLA Bruin team fresh off a stunning upset of Texas. Just a week after that performance, UCLA looked sluggish, slow, and, frankly, uninterested in the game. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Bruins took control for good.
The Ducks could face a similar let-down this week.
As much as Chip Kelly and the rest of the Ducks coaching staff will try and play down the fact Oregon is playing a lowly team in Washington State, the 37-point spread is hardly unnoticeable.
Oregon has gotten off to a slow start in most of their games this season. This Saturday I look for the Ducks to turn that pattern around and strike early and often against the Cougars.
After all, it’s now up to Oregon to impress the voters to stay ahead of Boise and TCU. The nation's top-ranked offense going up against the nation's 116th ranked defense has everything this game needs to do so.
Overcoming a let-down game, and another inevitable blowout win, has Oregon at Washington State at number nine on my list.
Don’t look now Buckeye fans, but the team in the rearview just got a little bit closer.
Comfortably sitting in the number two position since the beginning, Ohio State has basically coasted through the first five weeks of the season. For the first time this year, Ohio State should be a little uncomfortable with where they are.
Coming off a less than impressive win over Illinois, where Buckeye fans held their breath as Terrell Pryor limped off the field, there have to be concerns in Ohio. Not to worry Buckeye fans, if Pryor goes out your backup can come in and, oh yeah, throw an interception on his second pass attempt.
Indiana, on the other hand, even coming off a loss, looked impressive last week in taking Michigan’s high-powered offense down to the wire. All that did was gain Michigan a mere single spot in the polls.
A shootout or a close game with a Buckeyes win won’t do it this week.
Last week in my same article, I said Boise would have to more than cover the spread to keep Oregon from jumping them. Well, Boise more than covered the spread, and Oregon still jumped them. To avoid a similar fate this week, Ohio State has to look impressive.
It’s not until next weekend when Ohio State faces its first major Big Ten test, but make no mistake, this weekend’s game holds just as much power.
A much needed blowout victory from Ohio State has this Big Ten matchup standing tall at number eight.
All throughout the 2000s, saying these two teams were playing each other meant a clash of the titans. Clear your schedules and get the grill ready, definitely worth a prime-time showdown. Now, in 2010, not so much.
The teams’ combined record of 3-7 is the worst since back in the '70s. I know this wasn’t an extremely promising year for either team, but it's Week 6 and both have yet to win a conference game?
Georgia used the excuse, and it was a fairly good one, that their star player AJ Green had to sit out the first four games of the season. Well, Green returned last week with a superstar-like performance and it still wasn’t enough to get the Bulldogs their first win.
Seriously, I mean the guy misses the first four games, comes back for one, and is third on the team in receiving and tied for the lead in touchdowns. Georgia, you’re in the SEC and you have GOT to be better than that.
Tennessee was losing before this season even began. First, they lost their coach to USC. Then, they lost their star running back to, well, just about everything. Tennessee currently has the youngest team in the FBS, and a 2-4 record to prove it.
As much as you can complain about their age and inexperience, alumni and the athletic department don’t want to hear it. They want to see results. A win last week against LSU would have been the exact result they needed. However, leave it to a young team to not have twelve people on the field, but thirteen!
So why does this game make my top 10 list? I’m not going to say it will be either one of these teams specifically, but I am predicting Week 6 of the college football season will end with its first coaching casualty. These two coaching seats may be the hottest of the hot, and for that reason, Tennessee at Georgia ranks at number seven.
Yes, neither FSU or Miami is ranked in the top 15 this time around, but the first huge match up in the ACC has to make the list.
Miami is a big sleeper team on my list. Every team and coach around the league would tell you that if they had to lose a game, they would rather it be sooner than later. The Hurricanes were the first major team to lose when they fell in Week 2 to Ohio State. Slowly but surely, they have been making their way back towards the top. They haven’t been pretty, but they’ve been wins.
Jacory Harris, who has all but knocked himself out of Heisman talks, can always put his name back in the mix with a Denard Robinson type of performance against a solid Florida State defense.
A win this week and Miami has to rejoin the talks of the BCS.
Similarly, FSU got blown out in their only real big game this season, but again, since then it has been win after win after win. The ACC, thanks in part to the suspensions thrown at North Carolina, is in somewhat of a down year. The winner of this game will then take a commanding lead in the ACC chase.
I’m not saying an Orange Bowl team will be determined this Saturday, but I am saying the winner of this game will take that first major leap towards Miami.
The classic rivalry game of FSU versus Miami and the strong conference implications have this game making the list at number six.
The Pac-10 has one of the more interesting make-ups I’ve ever seen this year. Perennial powerhouses USC, California, and UCLA are seemingly nowhere to be seen, and yet no one is calling this a down year.
But, this game has an interesting connotation to me.
Both USC and Stanford are coming off big loses. Stanford’s BCS hopes hit a big duck wall, and USC’s BCS hopes, well, they’ll come back around in a couple years. The teams look to bounce back this week with big wins over the other rival school. USC is a young team, but don’t think they haven’t forgotten Stanford ended their title run at home just a couple years ago.
However, the reason this games falls so high on my list is the implications that could follow.
Most years, Pac-10 teams have a single goal of making the Rose Bowl. This year, with Oregon making a strong push for the national championship, the Rose Bowl berth could be given to a team who finishes second.
But, what if that’s USC?
Well, then the third place team in the Pac-10 could be making a trip to Pasadena. I know these are a lot of ifs, but the main point is that one loss in the Pac-10 isn’t a huge killer. Stanford cannot sulk in the midst of a loss to Oregon. Instead, the Cardinal needs to bounce back against a vulnerable USC team at home.
It could be higher, it could be lower, and so I put it in the middle. USC at Stanford ranks in at number five.
This game features what I think is the best team no one is talking about. In mid-August, an ESPN reporter, previewing the 2010 season, told everyone to watch out for Auburn. His remarks were followed by smirks and laughter from the rest of the cast, not to mention the nation.
Who’s laughing now?
Many say that, while the Tigers are a perfect 5-0, they really haven’t played anybody. It’s true, Auburn’s schedule is heavily weighted towards the second half of the season, but even in the first five games I have seen some special things out of this team.
A couple of their wins, one against South Carolina and one against Clemson, were definitely too close for comfort. In those games, however, we saw that Auburn has so many different ways they can win. In their first five games this season, Auburn has won with the passing game, with the running game, with their defense, and with special teams.
This, to me, shows a great deal about a team who is bound to face adversity in the SEC down the road.
The reason why Auburn at Kentucky is so high on my list is for that same reason of strength of schedule. After this weekend, Auburn faces tough games against Arkansas and LSU.
This sets up perfectly for a trap game against Kentucky this week. A loss this week on the road and all the discussion about two undefeated teams in Auburn and Alabama meeting the final week is for naught.
This weekend’s game is high on my importance list because it needs to be high on Auburn's. It should be a win for the Tigers, but the scary schedule that lies ahead has this SEC match up at number four.
Both LSU and Florida played horribly last weekend. Only one of them happened to lose, though. In another year of top-tier teams clustered in the heart of the SEC battle, LSU and Florida remain solidly in the mix. The teams bring a combined 9-1 record into this weekend's game, with Florida’s only loss coming against top-ranked Alabama.
The names alone couldn’t rank this game high on my list though. There has to be, and is, a lot of significance riding on this game.
Because the SEC is so deep with powerhouse teams, sitting with one loss, as Florida is, isn’t a death sentence just yet. However, a second loss in conference pretty much is. Expect Florida to come out swinging Saturday and jump on the Tigers early. You can be sure that Urban Meyer wont let the same thing happen this week as last.
Almost the same thing can be said for the LSU Tigers. A win is a win, but don’t get me wrong, no one was happy about the game against Tennessee last weekend. LSU wants to get Jordan Jefferson going early and often.
That said, I really don’t know who has the edge here. I like LSU because of their top five defense, but the inability to score points, ranking 83rd in the nation, really scares me. As good as their defense is, they have to know 20 points per game is not going to get it done in The Swamp.
After all is said and done, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I like Florida to pull the upset over LSU. No matter what, the amount of pressure on both teams is so high coming into this game, I had to put it at third in this week's important games.
After passing the first two tests, Alabama wraps up a brutal three-week stretch by traveling to South Carolina this weekend.
The last two weeks have seen impressive performances by the nation's number one team against Arkansas on the road, and Alabama at home. Don’t rest yet though, Alabama’s road doesn’t get any easier this week as they face a tough Gamecock squad.
After five weeks in the season, I think almost everyone can agree, or at least not disagree, that Alabama is the unanimous number one team. The problem is after two fairly easy wins, Alabama may come into this weekend’s game a little too relaxed.
South Carolina, on the other hand, will be all riled up for the “Head Ball Coach” come Saturday. Don’t count South Carolina out of the BCS conversation just yet. Like I’ve said before, one loss in the SEC and the whole conference gets shaken up.
Pay close attention to South Carolina’s air attack early. Coach Spurrier loves to throw the football, and the Gamecocks have been impressive through the air thus far. Alabama struggled in the first half against Arkansas’s Ryan Mallet and have given up a few big plays this year.
If Arkansas can stop the SC air attack, I think this will be another easy victory for the nation's number one.
This crucial SEC match up, from a very top heavy conference, has Alabama going to South Carolina falling in at number two.
The battle of the Great Lakes is finally upon us. No doubt this week's biggest match up lies with the instate rivals doing battle once again. For the first time this decade, the two teams meet boasting similar undefeated records.
As much as the nation has succumbed to the fact that Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is “running” away with the Heisman, a win this week would be the first big win on the QB’s resume. Michigan State boasts a hard-nosed and tough defense, but not the most athletic.
The Spartans defense has been much talked about this week; however, I think most of it is moot. MSU has played well against teams that like to pound the ball. The one team the Spartans struggled with was Notre Dame, a team who is very athletic. This weekend, Michigan State will see probably the most athletic player in the nation with Robinson. Their goal must be to hit the QB hard early and prevent the long plays.
Michigan has put up a lot of points on the board this season, most of which have come with big plays. If Michigan State can somehow slow down the Michigan offense, or should I say Denard Robinson, they have a better chance of getting a big win two weeks in a row.
Watching the game this week, I want to see more than just Robinson. Denard is one heck of a player, athlete, and teammate, but history shows us that a team that relies too much on one player falters eventually. As the season moves on and teams are able to watch more tape and game plan better, you have to figure someone else has to step up.
Who will that someone be?
To be honest, as much as I have followed Michigan football this season because of Robinson, I don’t think I could name another offensive player. My eyes will be glued to Robinson’s play this weekend, but I will also be watching and waiting for another Michigan player to make a name for himself.
I also have to mention Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio once again. After a blood cot forced him back to the hospital for last weekend’s game, Dantonio plans to rejoin the troops in the press box this weekend. No doubt this will give the Spartans a major lift they’ll need traveling to the big house.
Definitely the biggest game of the season for Michigan State—keep in mind they don’t play Ohio State this year—and a BCS busting game for Michigan has this Big Ten showdown taking the top spot at number one.