I have to be honest, picking five games this week wasn’t an easy task. When my beloved Tigers take a one-week hiatus, I sort of view it as vacation time. I never step too far away, but look at the match-ups this week. Hardly any of them are inspiring. Alabama/UGA is probably the only premium game this week. That’s sad. It’s ok to experience a lull right about now, though, because come next week, pretty much everyone will be in conference play, and that’s when things get interesting. I can’t wait to dig into the wonderful juiciness that will be the Honors Courses next week. For now, this will have to do. Enjoy.
(1) USC at Oregon State – 8:00 p.m. (Central)
Watch this one because it’s just the third chance you’ve had to see USC this season. That, and the last time the Trojans went up to Corvallis, they came back licking their wounds after a stunning 33-31 loss. This isn’t 2006, and this is a very different USC squad going up against a very different Oregon State squad. Professor Slow Jerk fully expects this one to be a good game into the fourth quarter. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but Oregon State should come out swinging pretty hard in the early rounds. The Beavers will look to isolate and expose any weakness they can find in a USC squad that, while it has faced and dispatched of the supposed No. 5 team in the nation, hasn’t really been tested yet this season. One such weakness might be found in the secondary, as USC will play without starting cornerback Shareece Wright. This is supposed to be the deepest team in the country. This game won’t necessarily validate that claim universally, but we’ll know a lot more about USC’s talent in the defensive backfield right away.
(24) TCU at (2) Oklahoma – 6:00 p.m.
How’d TCU slip into the Top 25? Good question. It’s not really based on beating stiff competition. They’ve knocked off the likes of New Mexico, Steven F. Austin, Stanford and Southern Methodist on their way to a 4-0 start, but really the story has been the convincing manner in which they’ve done so. TCU is winning by an average margin of 35.3 ppg. That’s good enough for fifth in the nation. Normally, you’d like TCU’s chances in any given week, but in Oklahoma they face a team that is winning by an average margin of 40.7 points, good enough for second in the nation. That’s an impressive feat, no matter how you slice it. So what we have here are two strong defenses paired with two excellent offenses. Sam Bradford has been lights out for the Sooners so far, and should probably be higher up in the Heisman talk than he already is. Perhaps that happens this week, as one of the leading candidates in the early going, Missouri’s Chase Daniel, sits idle, with little opportunity to steal headlines. Watch this one because it’s just hard to predict how this game will ultimately play out. I’m convinced the Sooners will win, but I’m interested in seeing what they can do against a solid defense. Oh yeah, did I mention that TCU has come back victorious in its last two trips to Norman?
(8) Alabama at (3) Georgia – 6:45 p.m.
This is by far THE match-up of the week. No other game even comes close. Take in this one because it could not only shake up the SEC, but the national title hunt as well. Both teams feature powerful running games and stout defenses. One thing we know about Georgia, though, is that a strong run defense just gives the Bulldogs fits. Refer back to the South Carolina game. If Alabama can have similar success against Georgia, holding them to just 14 points, the Crimson Tide will win this game. Two things work against Alabama this week: the game is in Athens, and Georgia is jacked up to play this game. Like last season, Richt has put practices in lock down mode. They’ve targeted this game as the “blackout” game, and it’s suspected that UGA will break out the all black uniforms for just the third time… ever. Does that matter? No, not really. It just means that UGA has put the proper emphasis on this game. They know it’s big. If they win this one, it will be the best win of any current top 5 team this season. And don’t try and tell me that USC/Ohio State is better. Stop.
(22) Illinois at (12) Penn State – 7:00 p.m.
A Big Ten snoozer? No way. These are the only two fun teams to watch in the Big Ten. I’ll just be up front and say that I don’t believe Illinois has much of a chance in this one. If the Illini had a quarterback who could pass effectively, they might be able to harness the wonderful talent possessed by Aurelius Benn. This is Illinois’ Top 25 swan song, but I’ll give credit where credit is due: Illinois doesn’t go down quietly. Essentially this same team last season stayed with Missouri until the bitter end, then ended up knocking off Ohio State later in the year. In the Illini’s only loss this season, they once again ran with an even more powerful Missouri offense. I don’t think JoePa needs to abandon his comfy perch in the press box for this one, but it might not be quite the cakewalk some expect. Or maybe it will. Last I checked, Ron Zook does still coach the Illini.
Virginia Tech at Nebraska – 7:00 p.m.
I’ll admit I have a selfish interest in this game. I really want to see how Nebraska handles VaTech. I think Tech pretty much blows, and I don’t give the much of a chance in Lincoln, but then I’m not all that impressed with Nebraska, either. In a battle of two middling teams, I guess a break here or there could swing the advantage tremendously. You have to think thatVaTech has grown tired of being embarrassed by the likes of kansas (dating back to the Orange Bowl) and ECU and will come out with some fight in them. However, it’s entirely possible that they simply lack the talent or ability to do anything about it. That’s probably the truth. Look for Nebraska to continue trying to recapture the 90s by working the kinks out of that famous Tom Osborne option game heading into what really is the thrill of the year in Lincoln: the showdown with Missouri.