College Football Picks: Week 9 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2013

College Football Picks: Week 9 Predictions for Every Game

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    Missouri has risen high in the rankings after starting out completely unheralded. Will the Tigers beat a third straight ranked opponent?
    Missouri has risen high in the rankings after starting out completely unheralded. Will the Tigers beat a third straight ranked opponent?Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Last week was the week the SEC fell apart, as nearly every game not involving Alabama resulted in a surprise outcome.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the country pretty much went according to chalk, except for maybe that home choke by Louisville and how badly Florida State romped over Clemson.

    Now comes Week 9, the first since the BCS standings were released. Every game from here on out is gauged not just by conference championship or bowl-eligibility impact, but how it will affect the next set of rankings and the never-ending politicking that comes with those standings.

    To that end, the rankings listed in these predictions are teams' current BCS ratings, not their AP ranking, as had been the case in past weeks.

    Click through the picks to see what we think will happen over the next few days and nights—for the record, we went a cool 36-12 last week, including correctly picking Tennessee and Ole Miss' upsets in the SEC—and then, if you're so inclined, chime in about how you agree (or, more likely, disagree) with the selections.

No. 20 Louisville at South Florida

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    Last meeting: Louisville pulled out a 27-25 home win over South Florida last October.

    What to watch for: Louisville (6-1, 2-1 American) saw so many of its season goals go out the window when it lost at home to UCF last Friday, but the the Cardinals can still have a great season if they stay focused. That means returning to the blend of efficient offense and dominant defense from their first five games before struggles in high-profile games against Rutgers and UCF.

    South Florida (2-4, 2-0) looked like one of the worst teams in the country in the first month of the season, and Willie Taggart looked like a bust after coming over from Western Kentucky. But now the Bulls are on a two-game win streak and feeling confidence now that they're in the relatively weak AAC.

    But Louisville is just too good to fall this time around. Now that the Cardinals have felt the pain of defeat, expect them to come back with renewed focus.

    Prediction: Louisville 27, South Florida 22

    **Update: Louisville 34, South Florida 3

No. 19 Oklahoma State at Iowa State

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    Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Upset alert

    Last meeting: Oklahoma State rolled to a 31-10 home win last October.

    What to watch for: Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) has two quarterbacks, and coach Mike Gundy isn't happy with either of them. Whether it's Clint Chelf or J.W. Walsh, the Cowboys offense just isn't as explosive as in the past, and that makes OSU vulnerable, especially on the road. If not for a vastly improved defense, the Cowboys could be 3-3.

    Iowa State (1-5, 0-3) just needs to catch a break. Until last week's 71-7 annihilation at Baylor, the Cyclones had been in every one of their losses until the final moments. It should have beaten Texas, but the replays and officiating said otherwise.

    There's too much uncertainty in this one to say Oklahoma State won't be in for a rough one.

    Prediction: Iowa State 30, Oklahoma State 26

    **Update: Oklahoma State 58, Iowa State 27

No. 24 Nebraska at Minnesota

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: Nebraska beat Minnesota 38-14 in Lincoln last November, the Cornhuskers' 16th straight win over the Golden Gophers.

    What to watch for: Remember when Nebraska (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) was the center of controversy after the Cornhuskers got run out of their own building by UCLA, right around the same time someone decided to leak an old tape of Bo Pelini privately going off on his fanbase?

    Yeah, three straight wins, each more convincing than the last, will do a lot to make all that go away.

    Nebraska's defense has gotten healthy on the bottom feeders of the Big Ten, holding Illinois and Purdue to a combined 26 points before the Huskers had a bye week. And injured quarterback Taylor Martinez is finally practicing, so if he can go, that makes Nebraska look even better.

    Minnesota (5-2, 1-2) is coming off a three-point win at Northwestern, but that result is misleading because the home team was spiraling downward and might have lost its season. The Gophers had lost their last two before that, including by 16 at home to Iowa. There's still no passing game, and without a balance, it will be hard to keep up with Nebraska.

    Prediction: Nebraska 30, Minnesota 19

    **Update: Minnesota 34, Nebraska 23

Houston at Rutgers

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Houston (5-1, 2-0 American) went from being maybe the quietest unbeaten left in the country to just another team after losing 47-46 at home to BYU last week. The Cougars weren't going to run the table anyway, so the loss itself isn't as much an issue as the fact they looked so bad on defense after having seemingly improved on that side of the ball.

    Rutgers (4-2, 1-1) hasn't played since beating itself two weeks ago, when a golden opportunity to score a big road upset at Louisville was squandered. Quarterback Gary Nova threw four interceptions in that game, which kept the Scarlet Knights from taking control of the AAC. 

    All four of Houston's league road trips are long ones, geographically. This one's also going to be long from a physical and mental standpoint.

    Prediction: Rutgers 33, Houston 21

    **Update: Houston 49, Rutgers 14

Ball State at Akron

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Ball State needed overtime to win 37-30 over Akron in November 2010.

    What to watch for: Ball State (7-1, 4-0 Mid-American) is a one-touchdown road loss to North Texas away from being undefeated and putting itself in the conversation with division mate Northern Illinois for a possible BCS at-large bid. The Cardinals haven't been challenged much of late, though some of their games have been closer than they should, likely out of complacency toward the weaker competition.

    Akron (2-6, 1-3) ended its abysmally long losing streak against FBS opponents when it beat winless Miami (Ohio) last week, and the Zips have had other close calls for victories—as any Michigan fan will tell you. However, they're also not at the point where they can be expected to beat one of the MAC's upper-tier members.

    Ball State will win its sixth straight.

    Prediction: Ball State 40, Akron 22

    **Prediction: Ball State 42, Akron 24

Connecticut at No. 23 UCF

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Connecticut (0-6, 0-2 American) has had one or two chances to win a game in this completely lost season and failed. The Huskies might have another shot or two, but probably not. The original coach, Paul Pasqualoni, was fired, and interim replacement T..J. Weist hasn't fared much better. This team can't run, can't score and gives up too many points.

    UCF (5-1, 2-0) is coming off its biggest win in school history, upsetting Louisville on the road in front of a national audience and therefore thrusting itself into the BCS spotlight. The last thing the Knights can afford to do is suddenly look sluggish against an opponent they should beat handily.

    Expect UCF to perform accordingly.

    Prediction: UCF 38, Connecticut 10

    **Update: UCF 62, Connecticut 17

Northwestern at Iowa

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: Northwestern beat Iowa 28-17 at home last October.

    What to watch for: Northwestern (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten) is in serious jeopardy of having its once-promising season turn into a dumpster fire.

    The Wildcats have dropped three straight, each more disappointing than the next, with last week's home loss to Minnesota the biggest sign that the wheels may be coming off. Northwestern doesn't have the luxury of getting well against a bad foe anytime soon, so it will have to right the ship under adverse conditions.

    Iowa (4-3, 1-2) played well enough to win at Ohio State last week, but it lacked that "oomph" to get it done in the end. The Hawkeyes have potential, but so far they have come up short against all of their toughest foes except for in-state rival Iowa State, though that victory is looking less and less impressive as the year goes on.

    Look for the home team to use this one as a warm-up for next week's bigger matchup with Wisconsin, though don't expect Northwestern to roll over just yet. 

    Prediction: Iowa 28, Northwestern 20

    **Update: Iowa 17, Northwestern 10 (OT)

Wake Forest at No. 7 Miami (Fla.)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12 p.m. ET

    Matchup time: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: Miami eked out a 28-27 win over Wake Forest in October 2009, its sixth straight win in the series.

    What to watch for: Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2 ACC) has looked mostly good at home—if you throw out a loss to low-level Louisiana-Monroe—and not so good on the road, the typical pattern for a middle-of-the-road program just hoping for six or seven wins to get that flimsy bowl game. But the Demon Deacons have appeared better the past two games, especially in their home dismantling of Maryland last week.

    Miami (6-0, 2-0) narrowly escaped a bad loss at North Carolina last Thursday. It used a calm, composed approach fueled by its veteran players to rally late. The Hurricanes are in the discussion for a BCS slot, but they have lots of in-league competition and are probably the odd team out right now.

    They face Florida State and Virginia Tech back-to-back after this one, so it wouldn't be a surprise for the 'Canes to look past Wake.

    But not long enough for an upset.

    Prediction: Miami (Fla.) 31, Wake Forest 19

    **Update: Miami (Fla.) 24, Wake Forest 21

Vanderbilt at No. 16 Texas A&M

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12:21 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think.

    Last meeting: None.

    What to watch for: Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3 SEC) got the win it's been looking all over for last week, downing a weakened Georgia team at home. The victory was nice, but it doesn't hide the fact the Commodores have struggled to find consistency in order to be considered more than just a once-in-a-while winner.

    That's tough to do in the SEC; Vandy doesn't face the lighter part of the league until the tail end of the season.

    Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) cannot defend anybody and heads into this game unsure how healthy star quarterback Johnny Manziel is after he hurt his shoulder and missed time in the Aggies' 45-41 home loss to Auburn last week. If he can't go (though he probably will), it would be a huge hit to their offense, but no matter who's moving the ball for A&M, it's ultimately the poor defense that dictates the outcome.

    Vanderbilt might show some flashes in this one, but not enough for A&M to lose two straight at home.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 37, Vanderbilt 24

    **Update: Texas A&M 56, Vanderbilt 24

Georgia Tech at Virginia

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: Georgia Tech won 56-20 last September.

    What to watch for: Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2 ACC) got fat and happy off Syracuse last week, capitalizing on a team that couldn't properly defend the option to end the Yellow Jackets' three-game losing streak. Tech looks like it figured out some things, most notably not to require quarterback Vad Lee to throw too often.

    Virginia (2-5, 0-3) is just good enough to get beaten, as it's lost four straight games. Most of those games were winnable, such as the home setback to Duke last week or the game before at a depleted Maryland team, but the Cavaliers lack any spark or force to come through in the end.

    It'll be more of the same this week. The Cavs should keep it close but will still fall short.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 28, Virginia 24

    **Update: Georgia Tech 35, Virginia 25

Pittsburgh at Navy

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 1 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: Pittsburgh won 27-14 in September 2009.

    What to watch for: Pittsburgh (4-2) might have found itself a new star in tailback Isaac Bennett, who outgained his season-to-date rushing total with 240 yards and three touchdowns last week against Old Dominion. It helped make up for the fact the Panthers' pass game, which looked stellar earlier this year, has all but disappeared.

    Navy (3-3) has struggled to move the ball effectively in two of its three losses, a bad recipe for a team that relies on rushing and clock-eating. The Midshipmen had a great rush presence last week against Toledo but still couldn't pull out the win.

    Both teams need this win to improve their chances at bowl eligibility, but Navy needs it just a little bit more.

    Prediction: Navy 30, Pittsburgh 24

    **Update: Navy 24, Pittsburgh 21

Miami (Ohio) at Ohio

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    Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 2 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Miami won last year's meeting 23-20 at home.

    What to watch for: Miami (0-7, 0-3 Mid-American) would be a shoo-in for a bottom-of-the-heap college football playoff if there was one, as the RedHawks have been pathetic all season. Their "best" result was losing 14-0 at home to Cincinnati, but the last two weeks they've fallen to winless Massachusetts and an Akron team that hadn't beaten an FBS foe in three years.

    Ohio (5-2, 2-1) has one understandable loss (at Louisville) and an inexplicable home loss (home to Central Michigan) on its resume, so it's hard to figure the Bobcats out. Their senior quarterback, Tyler Tettleton, appears to be getting into a midseason grove, so expect their performances to keep improving.

    That will start with a pasting of their rivals.

    Prediction: Ohio 43, Miami (Ohio) 13

    **Update: Ohio 41, Miami (Ohio) 16

Toledo at Bowling Green

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    Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 2:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: Toledo took a 27-15 decision at home last September.

    What to watch for: Toledo (4-3, 2-1 Mid-American) appears to have found its offensive rhythm, realizing the best plan of action is to get the ball to tailback David Fluellen (1,006 yards, 10 TDs) and hope his production helps the Rockets outscore opponents. That's because Toledo's defense has been mediocre.

    Bowling Green (5-2, 3-0) came up short in its chance for a nice win at Mississippi State two weeks ago, but at least it was a better result than the Falcons' previous foray into BCS territory (a 42-10 loss at Indiana). The Falcons are among the better defensive teams in the usually wide-open MAC, which makes for a nice matchup no matter which team they face.

    This should be the best of an otherwise crummy MAC slate this weekend.

    Prediction: Bowling Green 28, Toledo 23

    **Update: Toledo 28, Bowling Green 25

Western Michigan at Massachusetts

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    Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Pillow fight

    Last meeting: Western Michigan won the teams' meeting 52-14 last October.

    What to watch for: Western Michigan (0-8, 0-4 Mid-American) has only been close in one of its games this season, and that was a four-point loss at home to an FCS opponent. The Broncos are bad on offense and even worse on defense. They are headed for their worst season in at least nine years.

    The Minutemen (1-6, 1-2) aren't any better. They're even worse on offense and only slightly less bad defensively, and the only reason they've gotten a win is because they got to host an even-worse Miami (Ohio) squad two weeks ago.

    Someone has to win this game—NCAA rules dictate as such, ever since ties were abolished—and it really could come down to a coin flip.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 20, Massachusetts 17 (2 OT)

    **Update: Western Michigan 31, Massachusetts 30

Temple at SMU

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    Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: The teams played to a 7-7 tie way back in 1946, four years after tying 6-6 in 1942.

    What to watch for: Temple (1-6, 0-3 American) just picked up its first win rather easily, downing Army 33-14, while most of the Owls' other results have been closer than you'd think for a previously winless team. Temple might win a couple more this season considering the weakness of some of its fellow AAC foes.

    SMU (2-4, 1-1 American) was impressive early in a road win last week at Memphis, jumping on a decent defense thanks to a strong outing from quarterback Garrett Gilbert. But the Mustangs tried to give the game away down the stretch. They are still not up to the middling par of previous teams under June Jones.

    SMU is the better of the bad teams in this one and will probably try to show that as often as possible.

    Prediction: SMU 40, Temple 17

    **Update: SMU 59, Temple 49

North Carolina State at No. 2 Florida State

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: North Carolina State edged Florida State 17-16 last October, handing FSU its first loss after a 5-0 start.

    What to watch for: NC State (3-3, 0-3 ACC) has kept each of its three league games close, particularly the opener against Clemson, but the Wolfpack don't have the players to close out a victory against a quality opponent. They're most dangerous at home, which doesn't bode well for having to face a strong team outside Raleigh.

    Florida State (6-0, 4-0) could be ripe for a letdown after crushing Clemson last week, not to mention with a much bigger game looming next week against unbeaten Miami (Fla.). But the Seminoles are also trying to justify their No. 2 rating in the first BCS standings, and the last thing they can afford is an unimpressive performance against an inferior opponent.

    Look for the Seminoles to roll easily.

    Prediction: Florida State 50, North Carolina State 17

    **Update: Florida State 49, North Carolina State 17

No. 9 Clemson at Maryland

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    Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Clemson won 45-10 at home last November and has outscored Maryland 142-62 in the last three meetings.

    What to watch for: Clemson (6-1, 4-1 ACC) suffered a major letdown last week, getting run out of its own tough-to-win-in stadium by Florida State. The Tigers have been humbled and have lost that national luster, but they're still very much in the BCS picture if they can keep winning.

    The Terrapins (5-2, 1-2) cannot stay healthy, and the players they've got on the field right now aren't the same ones involved in their 4-0 start. If not for a late touchdown at home against Virginia two weeks ago, the Terps could be on a three-game losing streak.

    Clemson has some frustration to release, and Maryland will be the unwitting victim.

    Prediction: Clemson 33, Maryland 16

    **Update: Clemson 40, Maryland 27

Boston College at North Carolina

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: North Carolina beat Boston College 31-13 in 2009.

    What to watch for: Boston College (3-3, 1-2 ACC) has a solid running back in Andre Williams. That's about all the Eagles have going for them right now, as they've lost three of four despite keeping things close with league powers Florida State and Clemson.

    North Carolina (1-5, 0-3) might be the biggest disappointment among teams from BCS conferences. The Tar Heels were coming off an 8-4 season and still have stars like quarterback Bryn Renner and tight end Eric Ebron. But UNC can't find a way to win a big game, with last Thursday's late collapse against unbeaten Miami (Fla.) the latest example.

    The Tar Heels look ready to finally break out, though.

    Prediction: North Carolina 30, Boston College 23

    **Update: North Carolina 34, Boston College 10

No. 10 Texas Tech at No. 15 Oklahoma

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    Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    Last meeting: Oklahoma went into Lubbock and beat the Red Raiders 41-20 last October.

    What to watch for: Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) is among the biggest surprises in 2013, starting off far better than anyone could have expected under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders are doing their usual approach of throwing the ball anywhere, regardless of which freshman quarterback they use, while an improved defense is keeping each game from being a shootout.

    Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1) is almost a forgotten commodity following its bad loss to Texas two weeks ago, but the Sooners are still a tough out no matter how inconsistent their offense has looked. Their saving grace this week is a pass defense that is tops in the nation, the perfect antidote for the Texas Tech air attack.

    Tech has shown it can win in Norman—ending Oklahoma's 39-game home win streak two years ago—but the Sooners will take this one.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 33, Texas Tech 28

    **Update: Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30

UTEP at Rice

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Rice won 33-24 in El Paso last November.

    What to watch for: UTEP (1-5, 0-3 Conference USA) is probably better than some teams with more wins, but until the Miners find a way to play defense and slow an opponent down, they will continue to lose.

    Rice (5-2, 3-0) has won four straight, the last three on the road, and while the offense is still coming around (other than via the run game), the Owls' defense has shined of late.

    Rice wins this game by virtue of being the more complete team. Getting UTEP at home makes it a lopsided victory.

    Prediction: Rice 39, UTEP 16

    **Update: Rice 45, UTEP 7

Duke at No. 14 Virginia Tech

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    Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup time: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: Virginia Tech won 41-20 at home last October, its 12th straight victory over the Blue Devils.

    What to watch for: Duke (5-2, 1-2 ACC) has started to find consistency on offense, while its defense is settling down after allowing 58 points to a since-struggling Pittsburgh team back in September. The Blue Devils are doing what you'd expect from a mid-level team, beating the teams they're supposed to.

    Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0) has been one of the country's most dominant teams since yielding 35 to Alabama in its season opener. The Hokies have allowed just 36 points in their three ACC wins, which overshadows an offense that cannot mount much of an attack despite quarterback Logan Thomas' playmaking abilities.

    Tech will use this one and next week's trips to Boston College to continue to work on things heading into a big showdown at Miami.

    Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Duke 13

    **Update: Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10

Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Alabama won 44-13 in Knoxville last October, the Crimson Tide's sixth straight win in the series.

    What to watch for: Tennessee (4-3, 1-2 SEC) has done increasingly better in each of its four games this season against ranked opponents, breaking through for an upset win over South Carolina last week. But the Volunteers are probably still a year away from competing, something that will be evident as they continue muddling through five straight ranked foes.

    Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) hasn't been tested, challenged or even made slightly uncomfortable by an opponent in six weeks, but it's not like the Crimson Tide have just been going through the motions of late. They've won the last five games by a combined score of 201-16, including shutouts of Ole Miss and Arkansas.

    This will be the "closest" game Alabama has played since surviving at Texas A&M, but it still won't be close.

    Prediction: Alabama 40, Tennessee 13

    **Update: Alabama 45, Tennessee 10

Michigan State at Illinois

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: Michigan State won 26-6 in October 2010.

    What to watch for: Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) is like the Virginia Tech of its league. The Spartans have a struggling offense, but their defense is just so good it hasn't mattered much. MSU is coming off a rather weak effort in beating a horrible Purdue team just 14-0 last week. The Spartans will need to be more focused to avoid an upset here.

    Illinois (3-3, 0-2) failed miserably in its chance to get a statement win over Wisconsin last week because its defense was unable to slow down the Badgers' run game. The Fighting Illini have allowed 43 points per game in their three losses, a hurdle their decent offense hasn't been able to overcome.

    Look for Michigan State to rebound and gain some momentum heading into next week's showdown with Michigan.

    Prediction: Michigan State 27, Illinois 14

    **Update: Michigan State 42, Illinois 3

Buffalo at Kent State

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: Kent State won 23-7 in Buffalo last September.

    What to watch for: Buffalo (5-2, 3-0 Mid-American) is on an incredibly overrated five-game win streak, having beaten an FCS team (in five overtimes, mind you) and then four opponents with a combined record of 2-26.

    Granted, the Bulls took care of business against those weak foes to develop plenty of confidence into a much tougher stretch coming up.

    Kent State (2-6, 1-3) has struggled to score, throw the ball and defend, a bad combination, which is why the Golden Flashes are far off last year's 11-3 effort. They've already played three of the top MAC clubs, and while none of those ended in victories, they weren't complete blowouts.

    Kent State is going to take this one because it's been tested in losses better than Buffalo has in wins.

    Prediction: Kent State 24, Buffalo 20

    **Update: Buffalo 41, Kent State 21

Eastern Michigan at No. 18 Northern Illinois

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Northern Illinois won 49-7 on the road last November.

    What to watch for: Eastern Michigan (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American) is possibly the worst of a slew of bad MAC teams, at least from a defensive standpoint. The Eagles are giving up almost 50 a game in league play, though each of those games has been against the upper-level teams in the conference.

    Northern Illinois (7-0, 3-0) is once again drawing attention as a possible BCS buster, and this time the Huskies are unbeaten with wins over two Big Ten teams. Jordan Lynch is coming off the greatest rushing performance ever by a quarterback and seems intent on leading his team back to another big bowl.

    Lynch won't make last week's numbers, but probably only because he'll get to sit out much of the second half.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 58, Eastern Michigan 12

    **Update: Northern Illinois 59, Eastern Michigan 20

Tulsa at Tulane

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: Tulsa won 45-10 at home last September, its eighth straight win over the Green Wave.

    What to watch for: Tulsa (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) has been a major disappointment this season after going 11-3 last year, its fourth 10-win season out of six. The Golden Hurricane have been especially bad on the road, losing by 27 and 31 when not playing in Tulsa.

    Tulane (5-2, 3-0) is having its best season in more than a decade despite a rather pedestrian offense that doesn't gain yards but somehow still scores 29 points a game. The Green Wave have won three straight, the last an overtime victory over East Carolina that put them in position to challenge for the league title.

    Tulane is having one of those once-in-a-lifetime seasons, and it should continue here.

    Prediction: Tulane 37, Tulsa 31

    **Update: Tulane 14, Tulsa 7

West Virginia at Kansas State

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 3:45 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: Kansas State won 55-14 in Morgantown last October.

    What to watch for: West Virginia (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) looked like it was turning a corner when it upset Oklahoma State at home last month. Then came a trip to Baylor (73-42 loss) and then a blown lead at home against Texas Tech. The Mountaineers aren't as explosive as in the past, and they can't stop anyone when they need to.

    Kansas State (2-4, 0-3) is even further removed from its past, particularly last year's team that made the Fiesta Bowl. The Wildcats have been just good enough to get beaten in their three Big 12 games, lacking any players who can make a difference in a close game.

    K-State did give Baylor its best challenge so far, which gives it the edge.

    Prediction: Kansas State 30, West Virginia 23

    **Update: Kansas State 35, West Virginia 12

Utah at USC

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 4 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: USC won 38-28 in Salt Lake City last October.

    What to watch for: Utah (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) lost all of the momentum it gained from its upset of Stanford when it dropped a 35-24 game at Arizona last weekend. The Utes lost quarterback Travis Wilson to a hand injury, and his status is up in the air, further clouding their season at a point where they continue to find ways to lose close games.

    USC (4-3, 1-2) regressed back to the old Lane Kiffin version when it fell 14-10 at Notre Dame, though that was as much due to a rash of injuries as poor offensive performance. The most consistent player of late has been Silas Redd, who has been reliable since coming back from knee surgery.

    Both teams are essentially out of the Pac-12 South title race, but each needs this one to improve its bowl chances. It could go either way.

    Prediction: USC 28, Utah 27

    Prediction: USC 19, Utah 3

Troy at Western Kentucky

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 4 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: Western Kentucky won 31-26 on the road last October.

    What to watch for: Troy (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) has won a pair of squeakers against the league's lower rung the past two weeks, but that reversed a three-game losing streak and has the Trojans playing with more confidence heading into this one. They have an underrated senior pass-catching tandem of Corey Robinson and Eric Thomas.

    Western Kentucky (4-3, 1-2) was surprisingly docile in how it lost last week, falling by 17 at home against Louisiana-Lafayette. That was after three impressive victories, so it's hard to say what changed. The Hilltoppers have a great back in Antonio Andrews (1,036 yards) and need to keep feeding him the ball.

    Both teams need this one to keep pace with Lafayette for the Sun Belt lead, so expect desperation play on both sides.

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 35, Troy 31

    **Update: Troy 32, Western Kentucky 26

Notre Dame at Air Force

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 5 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great

    Last meeting: Notre Dame won 59-33 over Air Force in October 2011.

    What to watch for: Notre Dame (5-2) has had a little bit of good in each of its last two wins, showing off nice some offensive touch in the victory over Arizona State and then great defensive prowess in last weekend's triumph over USC.

    The Fighting Irish can't seem to do both at the same time, though, which makes most of their games tighter than they'd like.

    Air Force (1-6) has been abysmal this season, and only a win over FCS Colgate to start the year has kept the Falcons from being winless and on a nine-game losing streak. Instead, they've lost six straight, blowing late leads to San Diego State and Nevada in their last two Mountain West Conference outings.

    Having Notre Dame come in is a big deal for Air Force, but it won't be enough for a victory.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Air Force 21

    **Update: Notre Dame 45, Air Force 10


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    Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sp

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 5 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: UAB (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) is coming off its "best" defensive performance of the season, allowing just 24 points in a win over Florida International. Otherwise, the Blazers are getting burned for about 45 points per game in their losses, and they don't have the weapons to win shootouts.

    UTSA (2-5, 1-2) is almost as bad defensively, but the Roadrunners do have some playmakers on offense. Actually, they've got so many receivers for quarterback Eric Soza to throw to that it's hard to determine which one is going to be the key threat each week.

    UTSA has had three of its four toughest opponents at home, losing each, but it will now finally have a chance to give the Alamodome crowd something to cheer for.

    Prediction: UTSA 38, UAB 23

    **Update: UTSA 52, UAB 31

Louisiana Tech at Florida International

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    Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sp

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 6 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Louisiana Tech (2-5, 1-2 Conference USA) is a shell of the team that led the nation in scoring a year ago, with the Bulldogs failing to reach 20 in each of their losses. They even have the infamy of being the first FBS program in three years to lose to Kansas when they fell 13-10 to the Jayhawks last month.

    Florida International (1-5, 1-1) is no better—probably worse, actually. The Golden Panthers' only win was a pillow fight of a triumph over winless Southern Mississippi. Washed-out coach Ron Turner's team is getting beaten by an average of 27 points per game.

    Does there really need to be a winner here? If so, edge goes to the team that has managed to score more than 24 points in a game this season.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 28, Florida International 21

    **Update: Louisiana Tech 23, Florida International 7

UNLV at Nevada

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 6:05 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: Nevada won 42-37 in Las Vegas last October for its eighth straight victory over the Runnin' Rebels.

    What to watch for: UNLV (4-3, 2-1 Mountain West) is much-improved from the 2-11 team of 2012 and might be the best unit Bobby Hauck has had in his four seasons in Las Vegas. Devante Davis looks like an NFL receiver and makes big catches when the Runnin' Rebels get the ball to him

    Nevada (3-4, 2-2) has won every home game and lost each time it's left Reno, though the Wolfpack have looked better (but still lost) in their league road trips to San Diego State and Boise State. Nevada is sorely missing last year's dynamic back, Stefphon Jefferson, but quarterback Cody Fajardo is playing like a poor man's Colin Kaepernick.

    Both of these teams are in the bottom 20 nationally in scoring defense, and the game is in Reno. 'Nuff said.

    Prediction: Nevada 47, UNLV 38

    **Update: UNLV 27, Nevada 22

Wyoming at San Jose State

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: The teams are meeting for the first time since 1997, when Wyoming won 30-10.

    What to watch for: Wyoming (4-3, 2-1 Mountain West) has suddenly become unable to slow anyone down, while at the same time, its dynamic offense has lost some power. Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith is still throwing for 300 yards per game, but he's making more mistakes and not running as well as in the past.

    San Jose State (3-3, 2-1) has won its last two via the arm of quarterback David Fales and has set itself up for its first possible bowl trip since the mid-1980s.

    These teams are going in opposite directions, but it should still make for a fun and high-scoring game.

    Prediction: San Jose State 40, Wyoming 35

    **Update: San Jose State 51, Wyoming 44

Furman at LSU

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Furman (3-4) is a mid-level FCS team that's just in it for the program-sustaining paycheck. There's nothing else that needs to be said there.

    LSU (6-2) will use this coffee break of a game to take out its frustration from effectively being eliminated from the SEC West—and probably BCS—race, which probably means quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running back Jeremy Hill and wide receiver/kick returner Odell Beckham will all post Playstation-like numbers early before getting a head start on the Tigers' bye week.

    This could be the most lopsided game on the Week 9 schedule, especially if Les Miles takes his time calling off the dogs.

    Prediction: LSU 56, Furman 7

    **Update: LSU 48, Furman 16

No. 21 South Carolina at No. 5 Missouri

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    Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    Last meeting: South Carolina won 31-10 at home last September, spoiling Missouri's SEC debut.

    What to watch for: South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) fell victim to the same upset bug that swept through the SEC last week, effectively ending its shot at the SEC East title unless that craziness continues all season. The Gamecocks must now play without quarterback Connor Shaw, who's out for the foreseeable future while Dylan Thompson tries to keep the team on track.

    Missouri (7-0, 3-0) is the biggest surprise of the 2013 college football season, coming out of nowhere after going 5-7 last year in its first foray into the SEC. The Tigers have studs on defense like ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, while the offense has made an almost seamless transition from injured QB James Franklin to freshman phenom Maty Mauk.

    Mizzou hadn't beaten ranked teams in back-to-back weeks since 1972 until it downed Georgia and Florida. It's now time to start researching if the Tigers have ever done it three weeks in a row.

    Prediction: Missouri 30, South Carolina 24

    **Update: South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (2 OT)

South Alabama at Texas State

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    Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: South Alabama (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) is performing above expectations in its first year of postseason eligibility, pulling off a pair of early upsets over Tulane and Western Kentucky and holding its own in nearly taking down Tennessee in Knoxville. The Jaguars find a way to be in every game they play.

    Texas State (4-3, 1-2), also a first-year bowl-eligible team, has its own impressive win against Wyoming, but for the most part the Bobcats have struggled. They nearly lost at home to winless Georgia State last week. They lost badly in their Sun Belt debut to Louisiana-Lafayette last month.

    South Alabama has been quite impressive on the road for such an inexperienced program, and that will pay off here.

    Prediction: South Alabama 27, Texas State 23

    **Update: Texas State 33, South Alabama 31

No. 8 Baylor at Kansas

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Baylor won 41-14 at home last November.

    What to watch for: Baylor (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) leads the country by a landslide in scoring, averaging nearly 65 points and more than 700 yards per game. Yet the Bears' "worst" offensive performance came in their only previous road game, a 35-25 win at Kansas State where they gained only 446 yards and needed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally for the win.

    Kansas (2-4, 0-3) found new ways to screw things up in last week's 15-point home loss to Oklahoma, somehow managing to turn an early 13-0 lead into another big loss. The Jayhawks threw for just 16 yards, pulled the redshirt on a talented freshman quarterback only to have him not throw a pass, failed on trick plays and had a punt blocked for a safety. Wonder why Kansas has lost 24 straight Big 12 games?

    Make that 25 straight.

    Prediction: Baylor 49, Kansas 17

    **Update: Baylor 59, Kansas 14

Georgia State at Louisiana-Monroe

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Georgia State (0-7, 0-2 Sun Belt) is having exactly the kind of season you'd expect from a transitioning FBS program, with blowout losses to BCS programs and closer defeats to lower-tier FBS teams on its resume. But the Panthers also lost three games to FCS foes, a sign the program is still a few years away from competing.

    Louisiana-Monroe (3-4, 1-1) also has those lopsided losses to BCS teams, but the Warhawks have also lost at home to Tulane and Western Kentucky, with neither game close. Yet at the same time they have won twice on the road, including at Wake Forest back in September. Who knows what to make of this team?

    ULM is the better team by default.

    Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 29, Georgia State 18

    **Update: Louisiana-Monroe 38, Georgia State 10

No. 12 UCLA at No. 3 Oregon

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    Last meeting: Oregon beat UCLA 49-31 at home in December 2011 in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.

    What to watch for: UCLA (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) might have suffered its first loss of the season last weekend, falling 24-10 at Stanford, but a closer look will show the Bruins had been cruising toward such a setback for a few weeks. They were lucky to get out of Salt Lake City with a win over Utah two weeks before, then they looked uninterested at home against California despite winning by 27. The Bruins have become mistake-prone, which has affected their efficiency.

    Oregon (7-0, 4-0) had a rash of mistakes itself last week, the first time that's occurred this season. But since the Ducks were playing Washington State it didn't really matter, as they still won 62-38. This is their last game action until the Nov. 7 showdown with Stanford, so expect Oregon to be looking to shore up any deficiencies it may have at UCLA's expense.

    UCLA will struggle just as much this time as it did with the first half of its Pac-12 North road gauntlet, but with much more scoring involved.

    Prediction: Oregon 44, UCLA 30

    **Update: Oregon 42, UCLA 14

North Texas at Southern Mississippi

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Snoozefest

    Last meeting: Southern Mississippi beat North Texas 31-10 to win the 2004 New Orleans Bowl.

    What to watch for: North Texas (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) has had a decent season with some surprising results, like being the only team to beat Ball State and playing Georgia tough on the road for three quarters last moth. The Mean Green appear on pace for their first bowl berth in nine years, capitalizing on the weakened state of their new league.

    Southern Mississippi (0-6, 0-2) has lost 18 straight games since its Conference USA title and bowl victory in 2011, and the end of that streak is probably a few weeks away. The Golden Eagles had their chance a few weeks back but lost by a point at home to Florida International, then responded by losing by 41 at East Carolina.

    North Texas will continue to prey on the lighter part of its schedule.

    Prediction: North Texas 33, Southern Mississippi 20

    **Update: North Texas 55, Southern Mississippi 14

Florida Atlantic at No. 11 Auburn

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Auburn beat Florida Atlantic in September 2011.

    What to watch for: Florida Atlantic (2-5) is glad to take the paycheck for what will most certainly be a whooping in SEC country. The Owls' 28-10 win over South Florida earlier this season was just their second in 28 games all time against foes from BCS conferences, so they don't really play these games with victory in mind.

    Auburn (6-1) strategically placed this game and one two weeks ago against Western Carolina in spots on the schedule so they almost worked like bye weeks before tougher matchups. The Tigers are riding high after upsetting Texas A&M last week, and they will use this game as a chance to kick back and win with a lot less stress.

    But they'll still put points up almost at will.

    Prediction: Auburn 57, Florida Atlantic 14

    **Update: Auburn 45, Florida Atlantic 10

Idaho at Ole Miss

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Idaho (1-6) has been forced into a nomadic life after the Western Athletic Conference dropped football, which is why the Vandals are playing in the Deep South for the second time in three weeks. They lost 48-24 at Arkansas State two weeks ago, and this one is going to be even more painful for a team losing by an average of 27 points.

    Ole Miss (4-3) gets a week off from the stress of back-to-back down-to-the-wire games against ranked opponents, losing to Texas A&M by three before taking down LSU by the same margin last week. The Rebels actually look poised to make a nice run here, as after Idaho, they get Arkansas and Troy at home.

    Pity Idaho, and not just for all the travel it's had to endure this season.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 48, Idaho 17

    **Update: Ole Miss 59, Idaho 14

Texas at TCU

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    Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup time: Appointment television

    Last meeting: TCU went into Austin last November and came out with a 20-13 win.

    What to watch for: Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) looks like it's righted the ship after a 1-2 start, and with a 3-0 start to league play, the Longhorns are back in a comfortable position atop the Big 12 standings. But while the defense has shown signs of improvement, Texas' offense might be too reliant on Johnathan Gray to sustain its current run

    TCU (3-4, 1-3) is searching for an identity on offense, with Trevone Boykin getting pulled at quarterback last week and no running back stepping up to be the No. 1 guy. The Horned Frogs have had to rely on an above-average defense to keep them in games, but that hasn't been enough to win against any of their better opponents.

    This could be the game where we see how improved Texas really is, and that it turns out that's not as much as previously thought.

    Prediction: TCU 26, Texas 20

    **Update: Texas 30, TCU 7

Arizona at Colorado

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    Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 8 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: Arizona got a Pac-12 record 366 rushing yards from Ka'Deem Carey in a 56-31 home win over Colorado last November.

    What to watch for: Arizona (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) will give the ball to Carey as many times as necessary, no matter if it's ahead of behind. He ran it a school-record 39 times, and it helped the Wildcats rally from behind in the fourth quarter. He has to get the ball that much as long as Arizona's passing game continues to take uncertain baby steps forward.

    Colorado (3-3, 0-3) is a big-play offense. When it is able to connect on deep balls to Paul Richardson (averaging 55 yards on his six touchdown passes) it can give any team fits. But the Buffaloes don't have a run game, so they can be shut down on offense, while their defense is surrendering 45.5 points per game to FBS opponents.

    Expect a wild one with a lot of highlight-reel plays from Carey and Richardson, but Arizona's run game will be the deciding factor.

    Prediction: Arizona 41, Colorado 31

    **Update: Arizona 44, Colorado 20

Abilene Christian at New Mexico State

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 8 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for: Abilene Christian (5-3) is a small private school that recently began transitioning from Division II to FCS, and as a result it has faced five D-II schools and three from FCS. Two of those are fellow independents transitioning into FCS.

    The Wildcats also happen to score 48 points per game, including an 84-spot in their opener.

    New Mexico State (0-7) is, by far, the worst team in FBS. With 18 straight losses and 21 consecutive defeats to non-FCS opponents, the Aggies are getting outscored 48-16 on the year. To make matters worse, they're independent this season because of the Western Athletic Conference breaking up, meaning they've had to play whoever would fit them on the schedule.

    If NMSU loses this game, it should shut down the football program. No joke.

    Prediction: New Mexico State 44, Abilene Christian 37

    **Update: New Mexico State 34, Abilene Christian 29

Penn State at No. 4 Ohio State

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 8 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    Last meeting: Ohio State won 35-23 last October in Happy Valley.

    What to watch for: Penn State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) is the last team to come out of Ohio Stadium with a victory, beating the Buckeyes 20-14 in November 2011 to send OSU on a season-ending four-game losing streak.

    That PSU team went 9-4 before getting hit with all of the Jerry Sandusky-related NCAA sanctions, though this year's club is showing signs of greatness if it can gain consistency.

    Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) is everybody's least-appreciated unbeaten team, winners of 19 straight but still considered the odd one out in most BCS title scenarios. The Buckeyes aren't getting much credit for winning at Northwestern now that the Wildcats have gone into the tank, while the home wins over Wisconsin and Iowa (last week) have been considered too close.

    The Buckeyes either use this prime-time national stage to impress or fall flat.

    Prediction: Ohio State 37, Penn State 24

    **Update: Ohio State 63, Penn State 14

No. 17 Fresno State at San Diego State

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup types: Better than you'd think

    Last meeting: Fresno State won 52-40 at home last September.

    What to watch for: Fresno State (6-0, 3-0 Mountain West) has a strong chance to be a BCS buster, but it will need to win out for that to happen. The Bulldogs lost out on a resume-builder when their game at Colorado was canceled, so they'll have to hope rolling through the MWC will suffice until a possible rematch with Boise State in the league title game in December.

    San Diego State (3-3, 2-0) has started to find a groove of late, winning a pair of road games against bad teams and holding off Nevada in the MWC opener. The Aztecs' schedule gets tougher from here, though, and if they want to get bowl-eligible they might need to pick off a better team along the way.

    This isn't going to be the one, though.

    Prediction: Fresno State 37, San Diego State 29

    **Update: Fresno State 35, San Diego State 28 (OT)

No. 6 Stanford at No. 25 Oregon State

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Appointment television

    Last meeting: Stanford won 27-23 at home last November.

    What to watch for: Stanford (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) seems fully recovered from its loss to Utah two weeks ago, having manhandled a very good UCLA team at home last week. But the Cardinal suffered some injuries in that game and don't play as well on the road and at night.

    They've also yet to face a passing attack like what's coming this time around.

    Oregon State (6-1, 4-0) is one of the most underrated teams in the nation despite having the top passer (Sean Mannion) and top receiver (Brandin Cooks). Playing on the West Coast has something to do with that, along with OSU's season-opening loss to FCS Eastern Washington. But the Beavers are playing as well as anyone in the country right now and need to be looked at as a top Pac-12 team.

    Stanford will agree with that after this game, if it doesn't already. 

    Prediction: Oregon State 35, Stanford 33

    **Update: Stanford 20, Oregon State 12

California at Washington

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26; 11 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Won't be pretty

    Last meeting: Washington won 21-13 in Berkeley last November.

    What to watch for: California (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) is among the worst BCS programs in the nation, having lost 11 straight to FBS opponents and giving up more than 44 points per game this season. The Golden Bears have played maybe the toughest schedule in the country, though, with their losses coming to teams that are a combined 33-9 (with four of those losses coming from Washington State).

    Washington (4-3, 1-3) was once a promising team that had high hopes for a Pac-12 title, or maybe more, and responded with a 4-0 start. Since then it's been nothing but losses, each more demoralizing, capped by last week's 53-24 blowout at Arizona State. The Huskies have forgotten how to tackle, and as a result, they are putting too much pressure on a good-but-not-great offense.

    This is when Washington gets healthy, at least for one week.

    Prediction: Washington 51, California 17

    **Update: Washington 41, California 17

Colorado State at Hawaii

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    Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Sunday, Oct. 27; 12 a.m. ET

    Matchup type: Points, points, points!

    Last meeting: Colorado State won 42-27 at home last October.

    What to watch for: Colorado State (3-4, 1-1 Mountain West) got a huge win last week at bitter rival Wyoming, cruising to a 52-22 game that was never that close. Though the 31 points-per-game scoring defense doesn't show it, the Rams are starting to play like a team led by someone from the Nick Saban tree, first-year coach Jim McElwain.

    Hawaii (0-6, 0-4) has had one winning season since June Jones left for SMU following the Sugar Bowl campaign of 2007, and this year's team is possibly the worst of the lot. The Warriors have looked less bad the last three games, losing by a combined 17 points, though often, they have to make a furious late-game comeback just to get that close.

    But the Warriors will be in this one from the outset and finally break through.

    Prediction: Hawaii 40, Colorado State 38

    **Update: Colorado State 35, Hawaii 28

Kentucky at Mississippi State

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images


    Final: Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 22

    When: Thursday, Oct. 24; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Good, but not great.

    Last meeting: Mississippi State won 27-14 in Lexington last October, its fourth straight win over the Wildcats.

    What to watch for: The most intriguing thing about this matchup might be the fact it's being played ahead of the rest of the schedule; otherwise, it would get lost in the shuffle of the weekend's bigger games.

    That being said, both teams are searching for some traction in the SEC, holding out hope they might be able to get into a bowl game somehow. That's a more likely scenario for Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC) than Kentucky (1-5, 0-3), as the Bulldogs have three winnable games left on the schedule if you include the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.

    Look for Mississippi State's dual-threat quarterback, Dak Prescott, to be the driving force for his team's first league win.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 17

Marshall at Middle Tennessee

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


    Final: Middle Tennessee 51, Marshall 49

    When: Thursday, Oct. 24; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Better than you'd think.

    Last meeting: None.

    What to watch for: Marshall (4-2, 2-0 Conference USA) has shown flashes of greatness in every game this season, with its losses coming in overtime to Virginia Tech and by three points at Ohio. The Thundering Herd have an experienced quarterback in junior Rakeem Cato, who has been starting since his freshman year.

    Middle Tennessee (3-4, 1-2) is trying to bounce back after its fast start has been derailed by three straight losses, most recently by 27 at North Texas. The Blue Raiders have trouble scoring, but they've looked better in Murfreesboro than on the road.

    Marshall struggled in its last road game before coming back late, but MTSU is a tougher opponent.

    Prediction: Middle Tennessee 27, Marshall 24

Boise State at BYU

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    Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports


    Final: BYU 37, Boise State 20

    When: Friday, Oct. 25; 8 p.m. ET

    Matchup type: Appointment television.

    Last meeting: Boise State won a defensive 7-6 game last season, a matchup decided by BYU's fateful decision to go for two after scoring with under four minutes in the game.

    What to watch for: Boise (5-2) has its groove back after starting the year 2-2, cruising past its last three opponents as its offense keeps improving and the Broncos defense becomes more and more dominant.

    BYU (5-2) is also on a roll. The Cougars are winners of four straight, most recently pulling out a 47-46 shootout at previously unbeaten Houston. BYU has gotten amazing contributions of late from quarterback Taysom Hill, who is as deadly on the ground as any QB in the country.

    Boise State lost its quarterback, Joe Southwick, to a broken ankle early in its 34-17 win over Nevada. Without him, the Broncos don't have enough to take this one.

    Prediction: BYU 28, Boise State 23


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