Game to Watch: Virginia Tech vs. Miami (Thursday, 7:30pm ET, ESPN)
The winner of this annual slugfest will take control of the ACC Coastal division. The game is a big one for two teams that both currently sit at 4-4 and have both lost two division games this year already. The Hurricanes come in on a three-game losing streak and have been outscored 37-92 in that span. Meanwhile, the Hokies of Virginia Tech have been inconsistent all year long with a team that uncharacteristically ranks 50th in the nation in total defense. Still, the winner controls their own destiny for a spot in the ACC championship game.
Honorable Mention: Clemson vs. Duke (Saturday, 7pm ET, ESPN2)
One Word: Un-sexy
Game to Watch: Nebraska vs. Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2)
The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into Saturday’s game with Sparty having scored at least 30 points in six of their eight games this season. They will need to rely on their rush-heavy attack against the Spartans, whose defense ranks 7th in the nation against the run (allowing under 92 yards per game). If the Spartans want to win this game, quarterback Andrew Maxwell and the offense must throw the ball better. The Spartans have just nine touchdowns through the air this season. Look for Michigan State to have the slight edge here due to their momentum from last week’s upset of Wisconsin and playing at home in East Lansing.
Honorable Mention: Michigan vs. Minnesota (Saturday, 12pm ET, Big Ten Network)
One Word: Quarterbacks
Game to Watch: Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30pm ET, NBC)
We all realize that every single Notre Dame game from now until the end of the season will be heavily watched and scrutinized, right? After the stellar showing by the Irish on the road last weekend against the Sooners in Norman, this game should be a fairly easy test: Notre Dame’s 2nd ranked scoring defense who has allowed just one rushing touchdown all year versus a Pittsburgh rushing attack that ranks just 77th in the country. Yeah, this should be easy.
However, in the words of Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friends!” This could very well be a trap game for Notre Dame after last week’s big win. After all, Landry Jones carved up and exploited the Irish defensive backs for most of the game and threw for over 350 yards.
Therefore, the pressure will be on Pittsburgh’s senior signal-caller Tino Sunseri to get the job done this week on the road. Sunseri is having his best season as a Panther – he’s throwing for 275 yards per game and has thrown just two picks all year to this point. Notre Dame should still win the game, but it won’t be as big of a blowout as we might expect.
Honorable Mention: Temple vs. Louisville (Saturday, 12pm ET, ABC/ESPN3)
One Word: Teddy
Game to Watch: Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State (Saturday, 8pm ET, ABC)
Kansas State will get yet another stern test from a Big 12 opponent this week in the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder thrives in situations exactly like this and that’s why he deserves being mentioned in coach of the year talks. The ponies from Oklahoma State have been really getting going in the last few weeks and the Cowboys have reeled off three straight Big 12 victories because of it.
Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle is one of the nation’s most underrated at his position, but the key for the Cowboys is whether true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt will be able to control his emotions in what will be there biggest game of the season so far. It is vital for a team that has struggled with QB injuries all year and now faces a Kansas State defense who’s average margin of victory in 2012 is 27 points.
Honorable Mention: Texas vs. Texas Tech (Saturday, 3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2)
One Word: Lubbock
Game to Watch: Oregon vs. USC (Saturday, 7pm ET, FOX)
This week’s Pac 12 big showdown will be all about one matchup in particular: Matt Barkley versus Oregon’s secondary. Barkley has thrown 25 touchdown passes this season and throws for nearly 300 yards per game (283.3), but this week must contend with a feisty Ducks pass defense which allows just about 214 yards per game through the air.
The key, however, is not the yardage they give up, but the fact that they are true ball-hawks. The Ducks have given up just 10 touchdowns passes and have come up with 14 interceptions (good for sixth in the country) this season.
The dynamic Ducks trio of Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner will inevitably get their touches and probably their yards too, but if USC wants the big victory at the home they must get 300 yards passing from Barkley and force some turnovers of their own.
Honorable Mention: Arizona State vs. Oregon State (Saturday, 10:30pm ET, ESPN2)
One Word: Corvallis
Game to Watch: Alabama vs. LSU (Saturday, 8pm ET, CBS)
This is the big one that we’ve all been waiting for. Will the Alabama Crimson Tide continue their domination this season or will the LSU Tigers spoil their championship party? If there was anywhere in the country in which Alabama may just be vulnerable it has got to be under the night lights of “Death Valley” in Baton Rouge. Two teams with top-25 rushing offenses and two teams with mammothly-talented defensive fronts will be going toe-to-toe in a rematch of last year’s National Championship game. This will be an all-out slugfest and the truest test of wills that anyone could ever witness on one football field in a college setting.
Will it be the steady hand of Nick Saban that prevails? Or will it be the rambling and gambling “Mad Hatter” himself, Les Miles? Only one thing is certain in this matchup: it will be a joy to watch and find out.
Honorable Mention: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State (Saturday, 12pm ET, ESPN)
One Word: Scramble!
Photo Credit: Getty