The SEC conference will once again be important to pay close attention to in Week 9. Alabama gets their first true test against a gritty Mississippi State team in Tuscaloosa.
And who can forget about The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party? One of college football’s most intense rivalries annually, this party pits the Bulldogs of Georgia against this year’s SEC surprise team, the Florida Gators.
We will also learn more about the Fighting Irish this week as they go to Bob Stoops territory in Norman, Oklahoma where the Sooners rarely lose.
Game to Watch: NC State vs. North Carolina (12:30pm ET, ESPN 3)
This little-paid-attention-to but very underrated rivalry game will be as exciting as ever as both teams are fighting for bowl-eligibility this week in Chapel Hill. The underdog has a tendency to win this game recently so look for the Tar Heels to come out strong even though the Wolfpack of NC State will probably be favored. Overall, it should be an intriguing matchup, pitting two very even teams against one another. The key will be how well NC State’s 28th-ranked scoring defense is prepared for Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard, who ranks third in the country, averaging 170 yards from scrimmage per game this season with 11 TDs.
Duke vs. Florida State (3:30pm ET, ESPNU)
One Word: Surprise
Game to Watch: Michigan vs. Nebraska (8:00pm ET, ESPN2)
The Michigan Wolverines remain undefeated in Big Ten play at 3-0 and can officially become bowl eligible this weekend with a win against the powerful-running Cornhuskers of Nebraska (5-2). The Wolverines defense has been surprisingly stout and they have the 17th-ranked rushing attack in the nation. But they may be up against a buzz saw in Nebraska, who averages 279 rushing yards per game as a team. The good thing for Michigan is that the QB on the opposite side of the field is Taylor Martinez, who has been notorious for not showing up in big games in the past.
Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2)
One Word: B(a/e)ll
Game to Watch:Cincinnati vs. Louisville (TODAY, 8:00pm ET, ESPN)
Could this be the game that decides the Big East title winner? Right now it seems possible. But Rutgers is still in the mix as well. Still, Louisville has been one of the most steady teams all season long in 2012 as they average a cool 32 points per game and their defense plays solid week in and week out. Cardinals QB Teddy Bridgewater is the key to his team’s success as he brings that same easy-going, laid-back mentality behind center every week. Bridgewater currently ranks 12th in the nation in passer rating at 165.2 and has thrown just three interceptions all year. Meanwhile, Cincinnati must rely on trying to get pressure on Bridgewater just as they have on other opposing QBs this season. Through just six games this season, the Bearcats have 18 sacks and have also forced seven fumbles.
Kent State vs. Rutgers (3:30pm ET, Gameplan/ESPN3)
One Word: Archer
Game to Watch: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma (8:00pm ET, ABC)
Fighting Irish starting quarterback Everett Golson is back after a concussion this weekend. But is that a good thing? Backup Tommy Rees has been just fine in replacing Golson; in fact you could make a case that he’s been playing even better than Golson. The difference is that Golson will be able to use his feet and not just his arm as a weapon. On the contrary, Landry Jones and the Sooners will make every attempt to exploit Notre Dame's average secondary and should be bombing away in this game, using his talented stable of wide receivers which includes two key transfers in Justin Brown (Penn State) and Jalen Saunders (Fresno State) — all of which could make a huge impact this weekend. Despite the war in the trenches, matching up two of college football’s best defensive fronts (allowing less than 25 points a game, combined) this game will come down to how well Oklahoma’s passing game thrives — or doesn’t thrive — against the Notre Dame secondary.
Texas Tech vs. Kansas State (3:30pm ET, FOX)
One Word: Kleisman
Game to Watch: UCLA vs. Arizona State (3:00pm ET, FX)
This should be one of the better matchups in the Pac 12 so far this season as both of these teams have surprised up to this point. The Sun Devils have an extremely balanced offense which averages almost 40 points per game behind quarterback Taylor Kelly (167 passer rating) and freshman phenom running back D.J. Morgan (657 yards from scrimmage). The Bruins also have a steady young quarterback at the helm – Brett Hundley (143.5 passer rating) who will look to use his dual-threat abilities combined with running back Johnathan Franklin (878 rushing yards) to inflict damage upon the Sun Devils defense. Both teams currently sit at 5-2 and will be looking for bowl-eligibility so that may be a factor as well.
USC vs. Arizona (3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2)
One Word: Duel
Game to Watch: Florida vs. Georgia (3:30pm ET, CBS)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is traditionally one of the most heated rivalries in all of college football and this year’s game will be no different. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray brings one of the SEC’s most potent offenses into Jacksonville to face coach Will Muschamp and the Gators, who have been one of the toughest teams to score on all season. The Gators will attempt to wear down the Bulldogs with their consistent ground-and-pound attack (213 rushing yards per game). Meanwhile, Georgia’s best hope is that their underachieving defense (giving up 24 points per game) can step up to the plate, cause some turnovers and play through the entire 60 minutes of football without wearing down.
Tennessee vs. South Carolina (12:00pm ET, ESPN)
Two Words: Bounce Back
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