Now that everyone’s got two or three good games under their belts, the season has started to take shape. Florida and Alabama emphasized their supremacy in the SEC, and by extension everywhere. The winner of that game is almost certainly going to be playing for the national championship.
For now, the spotlight shifts elsewhere. This week’s three games will go a long way toward deciding three of the five other conferences. (The final two conferences are the Big Ten and Pac 10, which await Ohio State’s November schedule and the USC-Oregon game, respectively, to probably be decided). This is another strong week, whose matchups include Iowa-Wisconsin, Texas Tech-Nebraska, South Carolina-Alabama and even Boise State-Tulsa yesterday. USC-Notre Dame is the biggest game relegated to the undercard, omitted because each team needs a win just to stay in the game. Winners of the three games below will be on the inside track for a BCS bid.
#20 Oklahoma vs. #3 Texas. Two of the preseason top 3, and there’s not much evidence they didn’t deserve it. Oklahoma does have two losses, but they were by two total points, and Bradford wasn’t around to save either of them. And it’s safe to say he’s back, throwing for 389 yards and helping the Sooners rack up 34 first downs against a Baylor team that hasn’t been half bad. Texas is one of the few unknowns left in college football. They haven’t had a close call yet, but they haven’t had much of a chance. A ten point home win over Texas Tech wasn’t perfect, but they never were in danger. The Sooners are going to be dangerous.
#8 Cincinnati at #21 South Florida. Tonight’s game features the two undefeated teams in the Big East. Both are overachieving. While Cincinnati did win the Big East last year, the Bearcats had to replace ten of their eleven defensive starters. They’ve held up fine, though, and the offense has made up the difference, scoring 42 points a game and pushing QB Tony Pike into the Heisman race. South Florida is the opposite case. When star QB Matt Grothe went down, their offense was expected to sputter. But they’ve persevered, and the defense has picked up even more slack, holding Florida State to 7 points and then forcing seven Syracuse turnovers in the last two games. This is a fun matchup, pitting strength against strength.
#4 Virginia Tech at #19 Georgia Tech. USC-Notre Dame is sexier, but VT outranks the Trojans, GT outranks the Irish, and Virginia Tech can effectively clinch the ACC Coastal with a win, since they’ll have tiebreakers on Miami and Georgia Tech and have no ranked teams left on the schedule. A convincing win, and they’ll hang on to ambitions of a national title game appearance. A Georgia Tech win pushes the conference into chaos and also effectively takes the ACC off the national stage for the balance of the season.
Texas (61/39). This should be a great game. Both teams are loaded with talent, Bradford’s back, and everyone on both sides has been looking forward to this all year. Also, Oklahoma’s two losses are out of conference. They’re out of the title picture, but if they win this game they should win the Big 12. However, the Longhorns have more experience, more motivation, and Colt has had longer to get in rhythm. I have to take Texas.
South Florida (46/54). I like the minor upset here. Oregon State and Fresno State both played Cincy tough. In fact, each had more first downs than the Bearcats in their games. South Florida’s D came up huge in their biggest game. Holding Florida State to 7 points is impressive; the Seminoles have been a disappointment, but they’ve also put up plenty of points. And remember. Cincinnati has 10 new defensive starters. On the road, big conference game, national TV, I’m not sure I trust them.
Virginia Tech (58/42). I’ve been picking against Virginia Tech all season, but not this time. Their D has been up and down, but when they’ve had trouble it’s been against teams who can stretch the field vertically (even Duke). And Georgia Tech can NOT do that. Georgia Tech can run, and they did damage on the ground last year against VT, but this year’s Hokie defense has shut down the run much better. They can’t count on that again. On the other side of the ball, Georgia Tech hasn’t played much D against decent teams. Why should they start now?
Last Week: 62-16
Year to Date: 330-466, .415