NCAA Football Preview: 10 Must-Watch Games in Week 8
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Heading into week 8 of the college football season, things are starting to get interesting. With the release of the the first BCS rankings of 2010, the potential national title contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.
Even after eight weeks, there are still ten undefeated teams in the ranks of college football. With a couple of them battling it out this weekend, things are sure to shake up in the BCS.
Here's a look at the ten must watch college football games of week 8.
10. Georgia Tech at Clemson
Clemson Running Back Andre Ellington
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
In a rematch of last year's ACC title game, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets travel to Death Valley Saturday to face the Clemson Tigers.
Neither the Tigers nor the Yellow Jackets have been as dominant as 2009's versions that won their respective divisions. If either team plans to have a chance to defend their division crown, they will need a victory this weekend.
After reeling off three consecutive wins, Georgia Tech stands at 5-2 after a disappointing start. With inter-divisional games versus Virginia Tech and Miami following the matchup against the Tigers, the Yellow Jackets would love to win this game in order to maintain control of their own destiny in their defense of their Coastal Division title.
For the 3-3 Clemson Tigers, things are looking eerily similar to last year's team. Like last year, the 2010 Tigers started the season by losing three of their first five games. However, they were able to win six consecutive games and eventually the Atlantic Division. With ACC losses against both Miami and UNC, Clemson faces a must win situation if they want to have any chance at title contention.
9. No. 19 South Carolina at Vanderbilt
South Carolina Quarterback Stephen Garcia
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
In this battle of SEC East opponents, the South Carolina Gamecocks look to win their first SEC road game in over two years when they visit the Vanderbilt Commodores.
After a huge win over then number one ranked Alabama, the Gamecocks gave up 21 unanswered points to the Kentucky Wildcats in their 31-28 loss. At 2-2 in conference play, South Carolina can't afford another emotional letdown this week against Vanderbilt if they want to remain in control of the SEC East.
Although Vanderbilt stands at 2-4 coming off of a 43-0 loss to Georgia, they have managed to win two out of their last three games against the Gamecocks and only lost by four points last season. For a team that regularly finished near the bottom of the SEC East, they always seem to be able to be competitive against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina.
If the Gamecocks can recover, they will be one step closer to their first SEC East title, but if the Commodores pull off the upset, the SEC East will be up for grabs with Vanderbilt the only team with only two conference losses.
8. North Carolina at No. 25 Miami
Miami Quarterback Jacory Harris
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Even with all the off field issues that have plagued the North Carolina Tarheels in 2010, they have remained remarkably competitive on the field. With both UNC and Miami tied for third in the ACC Coastal Division with a 2-1 conference record, this game could be very important in determining the eventual conference champion.
The Miami Hurricanes have lived and died by the arm of Jacory Harris thus far in 2010. When Harris is able to avoid many interceptions, the Hurricanes are very successful. In their two losses to Ohio State and Florida State, Harris has thrown five interceptions and only one touchdown. Once again, their division title hopes will rest on the right arm of Jacory Harris.
The Tarheels have won four consecutive games after opening the season at 0-2. With the all the replacements to the suspended players gaining experience, North Carolina has made significant strides every week. With a win over Miami, Butch Davis would put his team in a good position to compete for the crowin in a very competitive ACC Coastal Division.
7. No. 8 Michigan State at Northwestern
Michigan State Running Back Edwin Baker
Leon Halip/Getty Images
At 7-0, the surprising Michigan State Spartans are off to their best start since 1966. If they want to remain in control of the Big Ten, they will have to continue their winning ways against a 5-1 Northwestern squad.
The Spartans have already won two games against top-25 opponents Wisconsin and Michigan and shown plenty of guts in their overtime victory against Notre Dame. In a season where they don't have to play Ohio State, a win over Northwestern would put them at 4-0 in conference play before a pivotal conference game against Iowa the following week. Northwestern is just the next stepping stone in their quest for the Big Ten title.
Northwestern opened the season at 5-0 before suffering a 20-17 setback last week against Purdue. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the schedule only gets tougher from here with games against Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin following this week's matchup with Michigan State. With a win over the Spartans, Northwestern could finally start to get some respect in the Big Ten.
6. UCLA at No. 1 Oregon
Oregon Quarterback Darron Thomas
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
In this week's Thursday night ESPN game, the Oregon Ducks will try to maintain their number one position in the AP poll for the first time in school history. If they want to prevent themselves from being the third consecutive top ranked team to lose, they will have to win against a 3-3 UCLA Bruins team that has been very inconsistent.
Oregon's offense leads the nation in scoring at 54.3 points per game thanks in part to the success of Heisman hopeful LaMichael James. With UCLA giving up 25.7 points per game, the Ducks should be able to continue their impressive offensive production. With a conference win on national television, the Ducks can further cement their status at the number one team in the nation according to the human voters, and also maintain control of the PAC-10.
UCLA has been a tale of two teams so far in 2010. They have both a big win over Texas and big losses to Stanford and California under their belt. If the team that blew out the Longhorns 34-12 shows up at Autzen Stadium, then the Bruins should be competitive. However, if the other version shows up, this game could be over by the end of the first quarter.
5. Washington at No. 15 Arizona
Washington Quarterback Jake Locker
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Even at 3-3 overall, the Washington Huskies are tied with Arizona for second in the PAC-10 at 2-1. With the way Oregon has been playing, the loser of this game is more than likely out of contention for the PAC-10 championship.
The Huskies are coming off a thrilling 35-34 double overtime victory where Jake Locker threw five touchdown passes. They also have a close victory over USC, but a big loss against Nebraska. With this game against Arizona, they enter the hardest stretch of the season with three consecutive games against top-25 opponents. At this point in the season, Washington still controls their own destiny, but it will all start with a win over the Wildcats.
Arizona is having a very good season at 5-1, with their only loss coming against Oregon State two weeks ago. The Wildcats should be competitive with their top-10 defense, even with quarterback Nick Foles expected to miss this weekend's game due to a knee injury. However, even without the PAC-10's leading passer for most of last week's game against Washington State, the Wildcats were still able to pull out a 24-7 victory.
4. No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 13 Iowa
Wisconsin Running Back John Clay
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Iowa Hawkeyes look to remain undefeated in Big Ten play when the Wisconsin Badgers come to visit in this weekend's matchup of top-15 teams. Wisconsin is coming off a huge win over #1 ranked Ohio State, but won't have the home field advantage has been so instrumental in their success over the past few seasons.
Iowa's sixth ranked defense has only give up 13.2 points per game and will look to slow down the Badger's formidable rushing attack and an offense that has put up 36.3 points per contest. The Hawkeyes face nearly a must-win situation with Michigan State coming to town the following week in a game that could be a battle for control of the Big Ten.
Wisconsin is no longer in control of their own fate after their conference loss to Michigan State earlier in the season. However, with a win over the Hawkeyes, they could move into second place in the Big Ten and still have a good chance at winning the conference. The key for the Badgers will be to take their confidence from beating Ohio State at home into hostile territory on the road.
3. No. 14 Nebraska at No. 17 Oklahoma State
Nebraska Quarterback Taylor Martinez
Eric Francis/Getty Images
After last week's loss to Texas, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will look to get back into the win column against undefeated Oklahoma State. This battle of top-25 opponents will give the Cowboys an opportunity to gain a little bit more respect after opening up with six wins against non-ranked opponents.
The Nebraska offense will need to get back on track after being held to only 202 yards last week against the Longhorns. That shouldn't be too difficult against a porous Oklahoma State defense that gives up an average of 27.2 points and 404.5 yards per game. Taylor Martinez should reaffirm his status at the starting quarterback with a big game, and also keep the Huskers in contention in the Big 12 North.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys feature a high powered offense that averages 49.5 points and 535.3 yards per game offensively. However, they will be facing a stout Nebraska defense that has only allowed 14.0 points per game. Even though the Cowboys are undefeated at 6-0, they are yet to face an opponent of nearly the caliber of Nebraska. With a win, they can remain tied for first in the Big 12 South, but that could prove to be very difficult against a Cornhusker team eager to avenge last week's loss.
2. No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 18 Missouri
Oklahoma Quarterback Landry Jones
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
In this battle of undefeated teams, the Oklahoma Sooners will try to prove that they do in fact belong at the top of the BCS rankings. Standing in their way will be a 6-0 Missouri team that stands in first place in the Big 12 North. The winner of this game can cement their first place status in their respective division.
Through four of the first five games, the Sooners hung on for narrow victories, but exploded last week for a 52 point shutout win over Iowa State. They are scoring 36 points per game while allowing only 19 after their first six games of the season. However, they will face a tough test against a Tiger defense that is second in the nation in points allowed at only 10.8.
The Missouri Tigers have won by double digits in five of their six games so far this year, but are yet to play a high quality opponent. This week's game against Oklahoma will give the Tigers a chance to prove that their defense can compete against a high powered Sooner offense that averages 458.3 yards per game. Their offense on the other hand will also be facing it's toughest test of the season against an Oklahoma defense that allows 19 points per game.
1. No. 6 LSU at No. 5 Auburn
Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
This battle of top-10 SEC West opponents features two teams that have yet to lose a game in 2010. This battle of Tigers features an Auburn team that is all about offense against an LSU team that is all about defense.
Auburn is led by Heisman-contender Cam Newton and has put up over 40 points per game in a conference traditionally known for strong defense. Their defense on the other hand has been quite the opposite, giving up nearly 25 points per game. Luckily for the Auburn Tigers, LSU's offense has struggled and only had 103 passing yards in last week's win over FCS foe McNeese State.
Even with a 7-0 record, LSU coach Les Miles has been constantly berated throughout the season. The man they call the Mad Hatter has continued to have amazing luck this season with a last minute controversial win against Tennessee. Even with an offense that ranks 10th in the SEC in points per game with 26.7, the LSU Tigers have ridden their defense to victory throughout their first seven games.
The biggest questions in this game will be whether Auburn's defense will let the LSU offense score or whether the LSU defense can contain the Auburn offense. The winner of this game will gain sole possession of first place in the SEC West and a path to the national championship game if they can continue to win.