UConn at Cincinnati
Connecticut has had more than its share of tragedy off the field and then they had an awful loss on it last week against Rutgers. Wouldn’t it be something if they found a way to upset Cincinnati? The Bearcats have West Virginia next week and a non-conference game with Illinois later in the month and Pitt in early December. If they were going to look ahead, this would be where it might happen. Regular readers know how much I love Brian Kelly and the Bearcats, so I’m not predicting it and not even rooting for it, but still…
Cincy has to keep pace with Pitt in the Big East. The Panthers play earlier in the day hosting Syracuse. The Orangemen have been pesky this year. They are overmatched and on the road, but eight years of living in the Steel City did teach me that this is the kind of game the Panthers find a way to stub their toe on. Are they different in 2009? I suspect so. A ground game that controls tempo is a good way to avoid an upset at home and Dion Lewis keeps Pitt unbeaten in league play.
Oklahoma at Nebraska
The Sooners look like they have it turned around and even if they aren’t national title material, they have the marks of a proud program hungry to close strong and send a message for next year. They have two chances to do it in the regular season. This is the first and it would pave the way for a later date with Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Nebraska desperately needs a win right now to keep itself in position in the Big 12 North and to clear out some of the demons that surfaced after that atrocious 9-7 home loss to Iowa State two weeks ago. Being in a must-win spot against OU isn’t easy, but it’s the mess the Cornhuskers created for themselves when they couldn’t hold on to the ball and take care of business for themselves against ISU.
A couple other games to keep an eye on in the Big 12 are Missouri-Baylor, where we’ll see if the Tigers can make a miracle push for the division title against a soft schedule. But the North doesn’t fare very well against the South, so this won’t be a gimme. And Texas A&M is showing signs of life these past two weeks and goes to Colorado. Another interdivisional test and one that the Aggies need in their push for a bowl.
USC at Arizona State
The Trojans’ hopes for a national title are long gone. Their hopes for a Rose Bowl are almost certainly gone. Even their hopes for sharing the Pac-10 title for an eighth straight year are on life support. But they can keep those slim hopes alive, and more importantly, keep themselves in position for a BCS bowl bid. At 10-2, I’m sure the Fiesta Bowl would love to have USC as a potential replacement for Texas presuming the Longhorns go to the national championship game. But Peter Carroll’s team has to win out. They haven’t done much in the way of defense for three straight weeks. Jimmy Clausen, Jacquizz Rodgers and most notably, Jeremiah Masoli, have had their way with them. As far as Arizona State goes, I might like a nice Irish quarterback like Danny Sullivan, but he’s not going to do what those first three did. On the positive side for the Sun Devils, I said the exact same thing about Masoli and his cast last week. But I expect USC to bounce back and to be motivated by the prospect of vindicating themselves in a major bowl game.
While USC-ASU might be the league’s marquee TV game, the better matchups are Oregon-Stanford (3:30 ET) and Oregon State-Cal (7 ET). Neither is on national or major regional television, but they’ll be good games. On their homefield, Stanford has the running game to catch the Ducks napping after a big win. Oregon State-Cal is an absolutely huge game in the race for bowl positioning, and it’s also a chance for Cal’s Jahvid Best to restore his reputation against a good team. Overall, between Stanford’s Toby Gerhart, Oregon State’s Rodgers and Best, the Pac-10’s three top runners will be in these two games. I think Cal wins a close one over the Beavers. And I’ll close this week’s previews by calling the upset special in Palo Alto. Gerhart runs for at least 150 yards, and just as they did to USC in 2007, Stanford pulls the shocker, 31-27.
Everyone enjoy the games and see you on Sunday night, after the BCS Standings are released to sort out the weekend’s events. If you're looking for rapid response as the games finish, drop in at Jeff Fogle's Stat Intelligence, which is updated throughout the day as the final scores come in.