College Football Rankings: 5 Matchups with Everything on the Line This Week

Nick KostoraContributor IIIOctober 27, 2011

College Football Rankings: 5 Matchups with Everything on the Line This Week

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    Week 9 is make-or-break time for numerous teams this weekend.

    The Big Ten race will find some clarity as Michigan State and Nebraska face off.

    The Big 12 will determine its pretenders when undefeated Kansas State matches up with Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State does the same with Baylor.

    On the West Coast, Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal will finally face a legitimate challenge in USC.

    Here are five matchups with everything on the line this weekend. The games are broken down into how it will affect each team individually.

5. Clemson Tigers

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    The ACC is not the best conference in the NCAA, but Clemson is making a case to be considered one of the best teams in the country.

    The Tigers and quarterback Tajh Boyd have beat Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. All of which were ranked when they played.

    So Clemson knows how to beat good teams, but can they do it when everyone expects them to win?

    We find out this weekend when they play a reeling 6-2 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team.

    Georgia Tech has suffered two straight losses and will look to turn things around when Clemson visits Atlanta.

    A loss in this game would mean Clemson drops to a tie for first place in the ACC Atlantic division and virtually ends their national title hopes.

vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    That gimmicky triple-option offense at Georgia Tech baffles many opposing defenses. Especially when they only have a week to prepare.

    The Yellow Jackets will be relying on that this weekend when they host a Clemson team with superior talent.

    Two straight losses have certainly hurt this team, but a win against the No. 5 team in the country would bring Georgia Tech to 7-2 and give them a quality win once bowl selection season comes around.

    The ACC Coastal Division is currently Virginia Tech's to lose, but a win here and a 4-2 conference record keeps Georgia Tech in the hunt.

4. Stanford Cardinal

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    Finally, we get to see what Stanford is really made of.

    The No. 6 rated Cardinal may of beat a ranked opponent last week in Washington, but the Huskies didn't belong in the top 25 to begin with.

    Now, we get to see Stanford travel to the Coliseum to play USC.

    The Trojans had a big win over Notre Dame last week, and while they are not ranked, they do pose a tough challenge to Stanford.

    Andrew Luck is NFL ready, and everyone knows it, but it will be a nice change of pace to see a defense that could give him some trouble.

    USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is one of the best in the country, and his packages will have enough variety to possibly confuse Luck.

    Stanford is easily the better team, but if they somehow lose here, it would be devastating.

    Their national title run would fall into serious jeopardy, and Oregon would claim sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North division (assuming they beat Washington State.)

vs. USC Trojans

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    Give USC credit for playing such quality football when they can't earn a bowl berth at the end of the season.

    Southern Cal has not had the toughest of schedules, but against Stanford, they have a chance to showcase their talent on national television.

    The 6-1 Trojans have a polarizing quarterback in Matt Barkley, and whether you love him or hate him, you can't deny his production.

    Barkley has thrown for 2006 yards and 19 touchdowns already this season.

    USC's offense has the ability to go score for score with Stanford this weekend.

    They just might need to with Andrew Luck on the opposing sideline.

3. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Oklahoma State saw their Big 12 window open tremendously when Texas Tech upset Oklahoma last week.

    Now the Cowboys are the front-runner in the conference.

    Baylor is no easy opponent, and Robert Griffin has been one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country.

    It goes without saying that Oklahoma State has to shut him down to secure the victory.

    The No. 3-ranked Cowboys score the second-most points per game in the country.

    So look for them to put up points in bunches against a Bears defense that allows 32 points per game.

    If they do that, they can keep their national championship hopes alive.

vs. Baylor Bears

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    Remember the Baylor Bears? They came out of the gates fast. In fact, they beat TCU in one of the most exciting Week 1 games in recent years.

    Well, after winning their first three games, they are now 4-2 and are coming off an embarrassing loss to Texas A&M.

    How does Baylor become relevant again? Beat Oklahoma State.

    It's easier said than done, but Robert Griffin is a weapon that no one else has.

    The Baylor quarterback has 1,950 yards passing and 295 yards rushing.

    A dual-threat like that gives opposing defenses headaches.

    Oklahoma State is better than Baylor and should win this game.

    But there is always a chance that Robert Griffin won't let them.

2. Michigan State Spartans

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    Sparty is undoubtedly riding high after their thrilling victory over Wisconsin.

    But they better come out of that daze soon because heading to Lincoln is no easy task.

    Nebraska is a tough defensive-minded football team, and Michigan State is not going to excel through the air all too often.

    This game determines the leader in the Legends Division (see what I did there?)

    Michigan State is the only undefeated team left in the division, and a win here all but secures them a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Big Ten championship.

    Edwin Baker was great against Wisconsin. He will need a repeat performance for the Spartans to win.

vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    This game means just as much to Nebraska as it does to Michigan State.

    A win here puts the 14th-ranked Cornhuskers into a virtual three-way tie atop the division with the Spartans and Michigan Wolverines (assuming Michigan beats Purdue.)

    Rex Burhead is a great running back but he will have his hands full with the front four of Michigan State.

    That means quarterback Taylor Martinez needs to play great to get the win.

    Martinez has been hit or miss all season, but if he showcases the talent he displayed in beating Ohio State, then Nebraska has a real chance to win this game.

    That home crowd in Lincoln certainly won't hurt either.

1. Oklahoma Sooners

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    The Sooners don't lose at home under Bob Stoops. At least that was the commonly accepted belief until the shocker last week against Texas Tech.

    Now that the country's collective jaws have been picked up off the floor, it is time to realize that Oklahoma doesn't have an easy rebound game this week.

    Kansas State is the underdog of the year. They are undefeated and have a chance to win the Big 12.

    The Wildcats have to run a gauntlet of the conferences best teams in the coming weeks, but Oklahoma only cares about this week.

    The Sooners are a more talented football team than the Wildcats and want to show the nation that last week was a fluke.

    A win here gets them back in the conference race, and maybe just maybe, let's them creep back into the BCS picture.

vs. Kansas State Wildcats

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    Where on earth did the Kansas State Wildcats come from?

    Sure, they are yet to play the conference elite, but wins over Baylor, Miami and Missouri are certainly noteworthy.

    They have a difficult matchup this week at home against an angry Oklahoma team.

    A win here and the country has to take the Wildcats seriously.

    A loss and they lose any hope at a national title and likely a conference championship as well.

    Kansas State has almost no passing game, but their combined rushing attack of Collin Klein and John Hubert should give them a chance this week against the Sooners.