Last week was easily the most anticipated of the college football season with three showdowns between top ten teams. Despite the hype and national title implications, the games were far from what many expected. Baylor dominated Oklahoma after a slow start in the first quarter, Stanford stopped Oregon’s up-tempo offense, and Alabama achieved its biggest win over LSU of the Nick Saban era.The results of those games have set-up a clear national title picture, but that could quickly change, if unexpected upsets occur in November like in years past.
This week doesn’t have a marquee game that is the center of attention, but there are several mid-card matchups that will factor heavily in to the BCS standings and bowl matchups.
10. Texas Tech at #5 Baylor (-27) (7pm, Fox): Texas Tech is the latest team to drop out of the rankings after having a strong start to the season. The Red Raiders were ranked as high as tenth only three weeks ago, but have been unable to compete with the upper echelon of the Big 12. It could be another big offensive day for the Baylor Bears who are coming off a 41-12 win over Oklahoma.
9. Houston at #20 Louisville (-15.5) (7pm, ESPNU): Neither program will be going to a BCS bowl this year after losing to Central Florida, instead this matchup could determine who will earn second place in year one of the AAC.
8. Georgia Tech at #8 Clemson (-10) (8pm, Thursday, ESPN): The Tigers wont be playing for the national title this year, but their chances at a berth in Orange Bowl will be strong, if they can win their remaining games along with Florida State. Georgia Tech is looking to win their first game in Clemson since 2008.
7. Washington at #13 UCLA (-2) (9pm, Friday, ESPN2): The Huskies got off to a great start in 2013, but quickly fell to the middle of the pack in the conference with three straight losses to Stanford, Oregon, and Arizona State. Upsetting the thirteenth-ranked Bruins would be their signature win of the season and a big test to see just how much the program has improved in year five of the Steve Sarkisian era. A win for UCLA would set up a first place showdown in the Pac-12 South next week against Arizona State.
6. #4 Stanford (-3) at USC (8pm, ABC): The Cardinal ended Oregon’s national title hopes for a second straight November with 26-20 win last Thursday in Palo Alto. Stanford had offensive possession for more than 42 minutes and shutout the Ducks for the first three quarters of the game. Their national title hopes are in-limbo with three unbeatens ahead of them in the rankings and another slowly gaining on them, but Stanford could emerge as the most likely one-loss team to play in the title game, if more BCS chaos occurs over the next month. A trip to the c0liseum could be a trap game against a USC team, that has won three straight and still has hopes for a double digit win season.
5. #23 Miami (-3) at Duke (3:30pm, ESPNU): Duke controlling its own destiny the ACC Championship Game, this late in the season, is easily one of the biggest surprise in college football this year. The Blue Devils have already locked up a spot in a bowl game for a second straight year and could be on the verge of their first ten win season in program history. They upset Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last month and will be hosting a Miami Hurricanes team that has been routed in back-to-back weeks.
4. Ball State at #15 Northern Illinois (-6) (8pm, Wednesday, ESPN2): Middle of the week football games in the MAC are usually afterthoughts for casual sports fans, but this matchup could be the one of the biggest in the conference’s history. Northern Illinois would be well on their way to another BCS bowl with a win over the 9-1 Cardinals, but a loss knocks them out of a conference championship game and in to a bowl game much closer to Christmas than New Year’s Eve.
3. #16 Michigan State (-6.5) at Nebraska (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2): First place is on the line this weekend for the Big Ten Legends Division. The Spartans only blemish this season was a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame and they can secure a place in the conference championship game with a victory at Memorial Stadium. Its been an a season of ups and downs for Nebraska, especially for Bo Pelini, whose status for 2014 has been debated for several months. Beating the Spartans would give them a tie-breaker in the division and leave little doubt about his immediate future in Lincoln.
2. #12 Oklahoma State (-3) at #24 Texas (3:30pm, Fox): This showdown in Austin is a de-facto number one contender match in the Big 12. While the Baylor Bears have emerged as a clear favorite to win the conference, the Cowboys and Longhorns hopes for a BCS berth are still alive. Oklahoma State’s only loss this season occurred on the road against West Virginia and they have won five in a row since. Texas has gotten off to a 6-0 start in conference play, after dropping back-to-back games to BYU and Ole Miss. A road win for Mike Gundy’s squad would set up an even bigger matchup next weekend in Stillwater against Baylor.
1. #25 Georgia at #7 Auburn (-3.5) (3:30pm, CBS): Despite all their injuries and setbacks, the Georgia Bulldogs still have an outside shot at becoming SEC East champions for a third consecutive year. Mark Richt’s squad will have to beat Auburn for the third straight year, to have any hopes of another visit to the Georgia Dome. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is always one of the most watch SEC games of the year, especially with the current series record now at 54-54-8. A win for Auburn would set them up for an Iron Bowl showdown against Alabama for first place in the SEC West.