Alabama gets its first game since jumping Florida, taking on Ed Orgeron's Mississippi squad. Its defense should suffocate whatever Ole Miss proffers on offense. I think long-term, losing Tyrone Prothro hurts a lot, as they have to go without their big playmaker on an offense lacking a whole lot of pop outside of the quarterback. That isn't to say back Kenneth Darby isn't good (he's a very good everydown back), only he's not the biggest threat other than to just chew away 5-7 yards every carry. The obvious choice here is to say the Tide cruise, and I'll agree, because games like these should just be cans in the road; one swift kick and you're back to more important business.
Texas Tech should crush Kansas State. I have no idea why Kansas State has fallen so far. Losing talent is one thing, but coach Snyder's always been a good motivator and game plan guy. I don't think his hearts in it anymore.
Wake Forest at Boston College could be interesting. The Eagles have a decent defense and the offense always knows how to run and make a handful of plays through the air. But Wake's really got their run offense working. It registered over 200 yards against Florida State last weekend (although it netted them just 17 meaningful points). I could see an upset, but the Eagles are also home and looking to stay close to Florida State in the ACC Atlantic division race. Call this one a narrow win for BC.
CFR superstar team Michigan State hits the road to Columbus to play Ohio State. Expect the Buckeye offense to come alive against State's crappy D, much the same as Michigan did two weekends ago. That said, the Buckeyes are not as potent offensively as the Wolverines and State should still find ways to get itself around 30 points. Heck, Penn State and their pedestrian O managed 17 against the Buckeyes last weekend. The snag for Michigan State is they may not believe they can win this, and let their powerhouse opponent dictate the game to them at times. They looked tentative against the inferior Wolverines in a similar game, and we could see more of the same here. If the Spartans figure Ohio State out, this one could be something like 34-28. If not, 24-20 OSU, perhaps. I don't anticipate a shootout, that's just not Ohio State's style. I'm going with the Spartans.
Here's a mirror image game: Wisconsin at Minnesota. Both teams employ heavy-handed rush attacks and have fairly pedestrian defenses. Both also have recorded narrow victories against Michigan this year. Minnesota's more comfortable in mechanically running the ball, letting their finesse line open lanes for a bevy of similar backs. When they get knocked off that plan, they tend to lock up. Wisconsin's a little more flexible, and have shown the ability to ratchet up their offense (Bowling Green, Northwestern) if a game calls for it. The Badgers defense probably has a shot at disrupting the Minnesota offense at times, enough to give them an opening from which to take command here. I'll go with Wisky.
Miami should crush Temple. Next.
A more difficult choice is between Northwestern and Purdue. I love the Northwestern offense, and they stretched Wisconsin to their limits in getting an OT victory last week. That said, Purdue's licking its wounds and may not take kindly to the visiting Wildcats. This may be Purdue's "get well" game after back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Iowa. The Wildcats' attack is so markedly different from what Purdue's seen the last two weeks that the Boiler defense may be a little rattled, but then...they also practice against a pretty funky offense themselves, making the familiarity argument moot. In a bit of a surprise, I'll go with Purdue here---their defense is due for a game where they make a few stops (albeit after surrenduring another 500 or so yards).
The most hyped game this year is obviously USC at Notre Dame. I think the only thing in USC's way here is the whole Notre Dame Stadium and Touchdown Jesus mystique. The slow starts are bound to end, and although I think Charlie Weis may be (we'll need at least a season plus of games to really be sure) one of the game's better coaches, he really doesn't have the guns to win this one. USC's lack of familiarity with what the Irish run plays to ND's advantage, but ND is also just five games into this scheme, themselves. There's a lot of rough edges yet to be smoothed. Notre Dame's won on defense by forcing an incredible amount of timely turnovers, but they're not likely to have as much impact against a professional offense like USC's. USC should have little trouble getting at least 30 points, if not much higher. Brady Quinn should have a superb day, but I'm not sure Darius Walker is the kind of back who can challenge the Trojan defense enough to give the Irish offense enough breathing room to score the amount of points they're going to need here. I'm having trouble figuring out a spread here, since the game can go so many ways (new coaches=no real team identity to speak of after just five games), so I'll say USC wins this with some level of comfort.
Texas should stomp Colorado, but I like some of Solon's analysis on EDSBS on why this game may in fact be close. Colorado's kind of sneaky, and Joel Klatt may find ways to breathe life into the Buffaloes' offense. But Texas has been absolutely taking care of business and I anticipate they will continue to do so here. At some point in the season, every undefeated (assuming Texas goes undefeated) team has a stumble or two or three. Texas is due, particularly given how soft the rest of the schedule is. So this game may take almost three quarters to be decided. Or maybe it is an upset. I say Longhorns by a healthy margin here.
Resurgent Penn State ("we're back"; "we are Penn State") travels to Ann Arbor against a surly, if combustible, Michigan squad. The Nittany Lions' defense has been fierce, even against CFR darling Northwestern. They should give Michigan a lot of trouble, but I think Mike Hart could make for a fairly long day here, particularly because the Lions' rush attack should be well within manageability for the Wolverine defense. Michael Robinson is once again the wild card here: so far he's been able to lead his team and overcome a ton of mistakes. Can he do it again against another name brand foe? I think that now that Michigan's season is over, they can really enjoy playing spoiler. This is the perfect game for them, with an opponent whose offense is pretty lame and a home setting to entertain the faithful. Chad Henne will likely struggle against the Lions' secondary, but Mike Hart has tore through everything he's faced this year, even good defenses. I'll go with Michigan here, and the upset. Now why do I feel so shaky about this pick? Oh yeah, its Michigan I'm going with (once again---d'oh!).
Florida should beat LSU. Les Miles is in over his head, and the Tiger faithful are getting mutinous. Each passing game, Florida is bound to get just a little bit better, as much as they've struggled so far. They've proven they can scrap in the meantime and get by. I'm going with the Gators here.
California should stomp Oregon State. Devastating loss to UCLA last week aside, they're playing great football, and the offense looked great going against the first real defense of the season. There's a malaise in Corvallis that spells trouble for the Beavers' entire season. Go with the Bears.
In a fairly obvious pick, I'm taking Louisville over West Virginia. The Mountaineers should provide a decent challenge, however, and make this a game well beyond halftime. In the end, there's little West Virginia can do to hang with the Cardinals' offense, however.
Washington has a shot to make Oregon have a long afternoon. The Huskies, despite having a junk quarterback, have had all kinds of success through the air this year. They don't necessarily score a lot, but they rack up a ton of yards, and that causes the games to take forever. Oregon scored a huge win over ASU last weekend, and they appear to be running on all cylinders with their version of the spread offense (The "Oregon" offense, says coach Belotti). Sometimes teams have letdown games that coincide with an opponent catching stride, and that may happen here. However, Oregon should win.
UCLA has lost a bunch in a row to Washington State, and now must travel to Pullman fresh off a huge win against Cal. The typical UCLA team would lose this game in embarrassing fashion, but I'm holding out that they have their act together and can stay focused enough to win out through the Pac-10 until their game against USC. Maurice Drew is on a tear, and although the Cougs' running game should give the Bruins fits for a second week in a row, Drew is an even bigger challenge. UCLA's the choice here.
Florida State takes on Virginia in a midseason ACC battle. The Seminoles just keep on winning, and should continue to do so here. Virginia coach Al Groh is having to deal with a lot of media backlash and inquiry after one of his linemen had a nasty back of leg attack against Boston College last weekend. The Cavs have otherwise done little of significance this year and are looking really flat. There is the hope that FSU once again sleepwalks on offense and has a second straight subpar defensive afternoon... but that's just a hope. Seminoles win this one.
Six weeks into their dance in cupcake land, Auburn still hasn't decided to join the rest of us in reality world. They face a bad Arkansas team this weekend and should win. They're still trying to get the running game in order, but the defense has played well and the offense probably has enough juice to make this game an easy one. The choice is Auburn.
Is Baylor for real? We'll find out when they play Nebraska. In reality, this should be an easy Husker win---but if Nebraska is thinking the same thing Baylor will win. They're a team much more starved for victories and have beaten every unprepared opponent so far. So basicalyl the question is this: is Nebraska taking Baylor seriously? If so, they'll win. If not, they'll go down in stunning defeat. I think they're ready. The Cornhuskers win here.
Georgia should clean the floor with Vanderbilt. The question is, does the Georgia team that waxed Boise State and Tennessee show up, or the one that sleeps through games against South Carolina and Mississippi State? They need to be alive and play for the pollsters and light that scoreboard up if they know whats best for them. I hunch the big win over Tennessee has them realizing they're contenders and start to really crush the weaklings that come their way. I'll take the Bulldogs, big.