Nothing fancy here, just writing as I move down the schedule.
VaTech should stomp Marshall. This is their chance to try to combine a shutout (or something similar) performance on defense with a huge offensive outburst. I like that they're improving every week, so we know they have a huge ceiling, and are also building to something greater instead of being everybody's regular season All American only to flop down the road.
Florida State's is improving on offense, although still having a lot of fits and starts. Their defense should tee off on Wake's impressive ground attack. I doubt they respect Wake's ability to pass without the benefit of a sound running game to back it up. I like defenses that do that, forcing opponents to become one dimensional and then attacking what's left.
Wisconsin at Northwestern is pretty interesting. I give NW's offense a lot of credit on here, but they've really struggled to put up huge points. There's just not a lot of talent to work with and opponents are starting to figure out freshman back Tyrell Sutton. This is another matchup of a "mini Big Six" offense against an established power and its great one sided rush attack (think Bowling Green against Wisconsin). I'll take the Badgers, based on precedent.
Florida's officially struggling on offense, and its defense is now leaky. Urban Meyer as a coach is not just about offense, but toughness and work ethic. I'm not sure everybody's fully bought in, though. The Gators should handle Mississippi State, but this is a good test of where they are mentally, and if they can recover and make a late run at an SEC crown.
The most hyped game this weekend is Texas against Oklahoma. Obviously the Sooners are down, but they are showing signs of life again, and are highly ranked nationally in run defense. I think after the wins over Michigan and Ohio State, Mack Brown believes in himself and feels he can hurdle Oklahoma finally. This game could look a lot like Texas/Missouri last weekend, where a talented opponent hangs in for a while, runs out of its offensive juice, and hands the game over to the Longhorns before the first half is over. I'll go with the Horns, but Oklahoma isn't dead in the water, as they still hold a huge mental edge here and can play spoilers.
Bruce Feldman mentions the UVA/BC matchup as a game people should be interested in as a possible six first-rounders will be playing. That's impressive, but this just isn't an interesting game. UVA's kind of stalled and Al Groh doesn't appear to be in a hurry to elevate his program despite a continued influx of talent. The Hoos could use another Matt Schaub, because I don't think Marques Hagans is the best fit for that offense.
Minnesota at Michigan is interesting because... well because it's always interesting. These teams find a way to make this one fun. Mike Hart's back and I think Michigan is a different team with him. Their defense has held the line so far this year, avoiding predicted collapses. This is a great opportunity to follow the Penn State script and shut down the Gophers' vaunted rush attack. Not that anybody cares, but if I were coach I'd take Steve Breaston off the first string of receivers and put Mario Manningham in there. Maybe Chad Henne's gone Knoblach because his #2 receiver isn't much of a receiver?
Air Force is at Navy if Academy games are your thing. Their offenses are pretty fun to watch.
USC returns home (although it isn't homecoming) to face Arizona after two road scares in Autzen and Sun Devil Stadium. They'll be happy to get back and extend a 20+ home game winning streak. Poor Wildcats. This thing could be a little vanilla as the Trojans have Notre Dame up next week.
Georgia travels to Tennessee for a huge SEC tilt. The Dawgs are a better team, but they've been on cruise control and are also on the road. I hunch this one quickly turns into one of the SEC mudfests I hate to watch (they look too much like NFL games, where nothing happens and then the whisle blows at the end with one team on top but no clear winner). Georgia's won 4 of the last 5 in this series, but lost last year 19-14. It looks like Mark Richt has Phil Fullmer's number, so I'm going with the Dawgs quite tentatively.
Duke travels to Miami to be the sacrifical lamb. Memo to Miami: wake up! I just finished reading Cane Mutiny, by ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman, and I think this Cane team is pretty much an embarrassment to those old squads. Great book, by-the-way, so go read it.
Texas Tech travels to Nebraska, soaring in the rankings and what should be a stroll through the Huskers. But hold on---Nebraska's playing pretty good on defense (although that could be a mirage), and could be smarting from last year's 70-10 mugging. That said, I think Tech has the best skill athletes they've ever had under coach Leach, and should find ways to score if things break down. Nebraska's offense finds ways to break down all on its own. Tech should struggle for a while before pulling away for a pretty solid win.
Does anyone remember all that preseason hype for Purdue? How dumb that exercise was. Anyway, they're hosting Iowa in a battle for right to get first dibs on Big Ten table scraps. These two have traded the last four meetings. Iowa's probably the better team, particularly if Drew Tate's head is screwed on straight. I'll go with the Hawkeyes.
Stanford travels to Washington State to try and steal a Pac-10 win somewhere, anywhere, please. I actually enjoy watching the Cougars, as their rushing game has improved this season. Of course, the pass attack is also in decline. Kind of how those things work for teams that rely on cycles of talent development to achieve success. The weather's just starting to turn in the upper northwest, so expect a rough turf, rowdy Pullman faithful and a frustrated California team. Good stuff.
I'm glad Vanderbilt lost last week, otherwise we would be suffering from unnecessary hype for their game against LSU Saturday. Now that the Tigers don't have to worry about the burdens of being a contender, they can start smashing SEC foes (such as Mississippi State last week). Games like these are how teams like LSU cruise to so many 9 and 10 win seasons without much fanfare.
Three years ago, Hawai'i at Louisiana Tech would be interesting. But now is not then and their offensive systems are showing age. I have no idea who wins, but just wanted to point that out.
In a Pac-10 game people are actually paying attention to, California travels to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA. A lot of the pundits are picking the Bruins. I've got a problem with that. The Bears won big last year, but lost in overtime in 2003 when they didn't know how good they were. There's little doubt that the Bears are down from last year, but they're still pretty good. I have a hard time seeing Karl Dorell outcoach Jeff Tedford, especially after a performance like last week. Thing is, even Las Vegas disagrees with me, so maybe I'm nuts here. This one should be fun to watch (Maurice Drew, Marcedes Lewis, Marshawn Lynch/Justin Forsett, Donnie McCleskey, Spencer Havner), so just do your best to stomach the TBS coverage and see how these teams approach the game. You know I'm picking the Bears here, but UCLA should find ways to threaten for a while.
Across the country, Ohio State travels to Happy Valley to play a resurgent, fill the bandwagon Penn State squad. The Nittany Lions are overmatched here, though. I don't think we'll see much from the Ohio State offense, but they should be able to find their way to something close to 30 points. Thing is, they'll crush Penn State's offense. Michael Robinson is a ticking time bomb, and Ohio State has a defense that can make him explode. The Lions' rinky-dink reverses and indirect run plays are cute, but smart defenses know how to snuff that out pretty quick. This is a game where Penn State wishes they'd found a way for freshman receiver Justin King to play a ton of downs on defense. Oops. Ohio State won't be wowed by the Derrick Williams/Justin King combo. Its not like they don't practice daily against Ted Ginn and haven't already played Vince Young. It's too bad neither team has a dynamic back, because he would probably have blown this game open. Instead, we've got pluggers Tony Hunt/Austin Scott opposite Antonio Pittman.
Lastly, Oregon gets to play Arizona State at sundown (I guess USC wasn't given that favor---gotta love homefield advantage). The Sun Devils are much better than their rank, and should crush Oregon's fancy but too-new spread attack. Of course, this could also be a letdown game after nearly toppling #1 USC last weekend.
There are more games, but I can't find much to say about them. Enjoy the weekend!
More to come on here this weekend, don't worry.