Week Eight: Thursday
Which games should you watch this weekend? What games should you be keeping your eyes on during each time period? We've got it all worked out for you.
The day is divided into five parts. Some are more unequal than others due to the start time of the games.All times are Eastern. The time periods are early games (start time before 2:00), afternoon (start time from 2:15-5:00), late afternoon (start time from 5:15-7:15), evening (start time from 7:30-9:45), and late night (start time after 10:00). The games are ranked by time period and give you a couple of reasons to watch each game, whether it is questions that need to be answered or something else altogether. The games are the games listed on CollegeFootballNews.com as the television games for this weekend. Only Saturday games are included.
Let's get it started!
1. Northwestern at Michigan State (12:00 ESPN2)- 1) You know you can't wait to watch the two best offenses in the Big Ten do battle. Neither team can stop anybody (or so it appears), and these offenses light it up. Look for lots of points. 2) The loser of this game will have three conference losses, which all but eliminates them from the Big Ten title chase. The winner stays just one loss behind the leaders. 3) Tyrell Sutton is one of the better running backs that people don't talk about. He has a chance to be something really special at Northwestern.
2. Nebraska at Missouri (12:30 FSN)- 1) There is so much riding on this game. The winner will be no worse than in a tie for the North lead with Colorado. The loser will fall a game behind the winner, and possibly also Colorado in the race for the division title. While it is not an elimination game in the North, it is pretty darn important. 2) Brad Smith is always capable of lighting it up or stinking it up. The Tigers certainly need him to be lighting it up this week against the very solid Huskers defense. 3) Nebraska won their first road game of the year last year at Baylor. They had to run the ball the whole second half to do it. Cory Ross is a very underrated running back for Nebraska, and he needs to have a big game to take the Missouri crowd out of the game.
3. Georgia Tech at Miami (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Miami isn't out of the national championship race yet, and that is due to their rock solid defense. Of course, they are playing another very talented defense in Georgia Tech. Look for this to be a slugfest. 2) The Yellow Jackets have the explosive Calvin Johnson catching passes and P.J. Daniels running the ball. If they can get the ball in their hands, they pose one of the more serious threats to the Miami defense than they have faced yet this year. 3) Kyle Wright has a sprained thumb and is expected to play. How will he perform with this injury?
4. Michigan at Iowa (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Don't look now, but here comes Iowa. Quietly, the Hawkeyes have moved into a tie for the Big Ten lead at 3-1. Most people still wonder if Iowa is for real or not, but they can go a long way to proving how for real they are this week against Michigan. 2) Michigan likes to win one, then lose one, then win one, then lose one so far this year. This is their week to lose if that's the case. Or, did the Wolverines dramatic win over Penn State last week finally propel them to the team that they were supposed to be in the preseason. 3) Drew Tate and Chad Henne both have been underachieving this year. They were considered by some to be the two best quarterbacks in the Big Ten in the preseason. Can either one of them break out of their struggles?
5. Virginia at North Carolina (12:00 JP/Gameplan)- 1) Um...Virginia. You still have a lot to prove. Last week's win over Florida State was nice. Let's see if you can follow it up with a nice game against North Carolina. 2) Interestingly, the Tar Heels are only one game behind Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division in the loss column. They need to beat a good team like Virginia as they prepare for Miami, Boston College, Maryland, and Virginia Tech down the stretch. 3) Marques Hagans looked like a solid quarterback last weekend against Florida State. His inconsistency has plagued him throughout his career, so another solid performance this week would be nice.
6. Ohio State at Indiana (12:00 ESPN)- 1) Ohio State needs to get Ted Ginn Jr. more involved in the offense...or Ginn needs to step up and be a player. Playing the Hoosiers defense ought to give him a chance to get involved. 2) The Hoosiers are lead by Blake Powers, who has already thrown a remarkable 20 touchdown passes this year. He hasn't faced a defense as good as Ohio State's yet. 3) Indiana can really make some noise with a huge home upset of the Buckeyes. They are 4-2, but people don't believe they are for real. This is a chance to show they are.
7. Arkansas at Georgia (12:30 JP/Gameplan)- 1) The Dawgs could use a nice easy blowout win to show the world that they are one of the nation's best teams. So far, they have played somewhat close games pretty much every game except for the Boise State game. Of course, none of the games have really been in doubt in the final minutes, but none have been blowouts either. 2) Houston Nutt really needs a big win like this to keep his head off the chopping block. 3) D.J. Shockley has played very well as a quarterback. There have been inconsistencies, but he seems to be coming around.
8. Louisville at Cincinnati (12:00 ESPNU)- 1) The Cardinals struggled at Kentucky and lost at South Florida and West Virginia. Another road game, another chance for the Cardinals to get beat? 2) Cincinnati can get right into the heart of the Big East race with a win. They are currently 1-1 in conference. Louisville is 0-2 in conference play and probably playing spoiler in the conference race. How will the Cardinals respond to being reduced to a spoiler? 3) Brian Brohm and this Louisville offense have the potential to put up huge numbers. They are one of the more explosive offenses in the country.
9. Syracuse at Pittsburgh (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) This must be an awful match-up, right? No meaning here, right? If you haven't been paying attention, you probably haven't noticed that Pittsburgh has won back-to-back games and is sitting at 3-4 and 2-1 in the Big East. The Panthers are right back in the conference race. 2) Tyler Palko and the offense can score some points. Syracuse defense has been pretty good. They need to slow down the Panthers if they hope to win. 3) Damien Rhodes does everything for the Orange offense. He runs the ball. He catches the ball. He is a solid back.
1. Texas Tech at Texas (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The winner of this game will be heavily favored in all their remaining games, which means the winner becomes the favorite, not only in the Big Twelve, but also to go undefeated. 2) The Red Raiders offense can put up huge numbers behind Cody Hodges and Taurean Henderson. Texas' defense is very good, but it is just about impossible to keep the Red Raiders from scoring some points. 3) Texas is lead by Heisman Trophy frontrunner (or at least among the top three), Vince Young. He can do it all. He really hasn't had a bad game yet. If he keeps that up, the Red Raiders defense will not be able to contain him.
2. Tennessee at Alabama (3:30 CBS)- 1) This is one of the more bitter rivalries in the SEC. These two teams really just flat out don't like each other. The Vols would love nothing more than to end their archrivals unbeaten season. 2) Brodie Croyle, Ken Darby and the rest of the Alabama offense looked completely out of sync against Ole Miss last week in their first week without Tyrone Prothro. Is that what the offense is going to look like from here on out? Tennessee's defense is solid, so it will be a test. 3) Erik Ainge. Rick Clausen. Clausen. Ainge. Then Ainge. Then Clausen. Or is it Ainge? Or is it Clausen? The quarterback merry-go-round continues for the Vols this weekend.
3. Purdue at Wisconsin (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The Boilermakers are looking to work their way back towards a bowl game. They're going to need some great performances down the stretch to get there since they are 2-4 right now. A win against Wisconsin would be a nice start. 2) The Badgers played the "we rather be lucky than good" card last week against Minnesota. How good are the Badgers? We still don't really know. 3) Brian Calhoun and John Stocco lead an offense that has been explosive lately against a Purdue defense that is a huge question mark.
4. Rutgers at Connecticut (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) This game is more or less an elimination game in the Big East race. Rutgers has already lost to frontrunner West Virginia, so they can't afford another conference loss. Both teams have just one conference loss, so winning here would be a huge boost to both teams. 2) Brian Leonard and Tres Moses are two of the more explosive player in the Big East. 3) Terry Caulley is the key player in the Huskies offense. If he gets the ball running, the Huskies offense can be tough to contain.
5. TCU at Air Force (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) The Horned Frogs are running away with the Mountain West title. Colorado State is the only other team with less than two conference losses. However, one conference loss by TCU opens the door for a whole slew of teams to get back in the race. 2) Shaun Carney will be looking to get his Falcons to a big home win. They've missed out on a couple of chances this year, but have another chance here. 3) Aaron Brown and Robert Merrills running against the smaller Falcons defense should produce great games.
6. USC at Washington (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The Trojans could use a nice easy game. They have had a rough last four games against Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona, and Notre Dame. 2) Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and LenDale White have a chance to absolutely explode against a very average Huskies defense. 3) Will USC come mentally prepared to play after last week's nailbiter against Notre Dame? If they don't, and the Huskies can get some early momentum at home, this could turn into one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. The Huskies have put up nice efforts against California and Notre Dame for a little over a quarter, and hung with UCLA for four full quarters.
7. Wyoming at Colorado State (3:00 ESPN Classic)- 1) The Rams are hoping that they can stay around in the Mountain West title chase. They are only one loss behind TCU and have a trip to Fort Worth coming up in a few weeks. 2) The Cowboys are still a very good team. They have lost two in a row, but really could get back on the right track with a win at a very good Colorado State team. 3) Corey Bramlett is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country.
8. Vanderbilt at South Carolina (3:30 Gameplan)- 1) More than likely, this is a battle for fourth in the SEC East. The Commodores and Gamecocks both desperately need the win to try to become bowl eligible. 2) Jay Cutler hasn't been playing well lately. He may be due for a huge game. 3) The Gamecocks offense hasn't been explosive this year under Steve Spurrier until the fourth quarter of the Kentucky game. Can they keep the momentum going?
9. BYU at Notre Dame (2:30 NBC)- 1) The Irish are coming off a heartbreaking loss to USC last week. They might not be mentally focused on the Cougars. 2) Brady Quinn is a darn good quarterback. The Cougars defense has been playing well lately, especially last weekend against Colorado State. 3) John Beck is another quarterback that doesn't get the respect he deserves. Of course, he is throwing the ball to Todd Watkins, which sure makes things easier.
10. Florida State at Duke (3:30 ESPNU)- 1) Florida State is trying to bounce back from their loss last week at Virginia. Duke normally is the cure for that. 2) Doesn't it seem like the Blue Devils always either hang around in a game or pull off the upset in a game that they have no business doing it during the second half of the season? Is this that game this year? 3) Where have running backs Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker been for the Seminoles? They are averaging combined about 17 carries a game. Given that they are both future NFL backs, this is not enough touches.
11. East Carolina at Memphis (3:30 CSTV)- 1) This is a pretty important game in the East Division of Conference USA. The Pirates have just one conference loss and are tied for the division lead. The Tigers have two conference losses and are just behind those four tied at the top. 2) DeAngelo WIlliams is one of the country's best running backs. It is too bad he plays on a team like Memphis because we all deserve to get to se him more. 3) Skip Holtz is doing one of the best jobs in the country making this Pirates team competitive. A win over the Tigers in Memphis could establish the Pirates as a serious contender for the division title.
1. Oregon State at UCLA (7:00 TBS)- 1) The Bruins are unbeaten, but have been severly tested the last three weeks against Washington, Washington State, and California. Can they continue along their unbeaten path? 2) The Beavers stunned California in Berkley last Saturday afternoon. Can they possibly do the same thing to the Bruins this Saturday and thrust themselves back into the Pac Ten race? 3) Maurice Drew is one of the best (if not the best) all-purpose back in the country.
2. West Virginia at South Florida (7:00 ESPNU)- 1) Anybody else remember what the Bulls did the last time they played a home game? Only demolish the preseason Big East favorite, Louisville. Now, they look to do the same to the current Big East favorite. 2) The Mountaineers are lead by Steve Slatton running the ball. He should put up nice numbers on the ground. 3) How high will the Mountaineers be after their win against Louisville? Will they be flat after the triple overtime thriller?
3. Baylor at Oklahoma (7:00 FSN)- 1) If you are an Oklahoma fan, you better be a little concerned about this game. Baylor has been playing very well this year (for Baylor), while the Sooners have been underachieving. This looks like a classic spot for a huge upset, but the Sooners still have much more talent. 2) Adrian Peterson is not at full strength and Rhett Bomar is just average on offense. The Sooners could struggle to move the ball against a fairly sturdy Baylor defense. 3) Shawn Bell is a good quarterback, but will be seriously tested by a good Oklahoma defense.
4. Penn State at Illinois (7:00 ESPN2)- 1) The Nittany Lions need to bounce back quick from last week's tough loss because they still are in control of their Big Ten championship hopes. 2) Ron Zook could use a nice win over a ranked team to get his tenure at Illinois off the ground. Zook had success at Florida getting his team prepared to play when nobody expected them to be able to win. This is one of those games. 3) Illinois' offense has been struggling in Big Ten play. Penn State's defense is among the best in the country. Good luck with that, Illini.
5. Florida Atlantic at Arkansas State (7:00 Gameplan)- 1) These Sun Belt games are slowly becoming some of the more entertaining games in the country. Are they as talented as the big name programs? No way. Are they putting on great shows? Yes they are. 2) Arkansas State gave up a ton of rushing yards last week to Louisiana-Lafayette. However, the Owls are still looking to get their running game going. 3) Arkansas State is right in the running for the wide open Sun Belt title. They sit just one game behind conference leader Louisiana-Monroe.
6. Utah at UNLV (7:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Who would have guessed that this would be a match-up where the loser would be all alone in the basement of the Mountain West? Utah has lost three straight games suddenly and finds themselves where they did not expect to be. 2) Quinton Ganther and Brian Johnson have been playing very well for the Utes offense. They just haven't quite put it all together yet for that one monster game. Could this be it? 3) Jarrod Jackson has been doing OK for the Rebels at quarterback. The offensive line isn't doing a great job and the deep ball has been a non-threat, but Jackson has been completing passes and making a few things happen.
7. Hawaii at San Jose State (6:00 Gameplan)- 1) Colt Brennan got on a roll last week for the Warriors. He needs to keep it going this week and keep his momentum going with huge games coming up against Fresno State and Nevada. 2) The San Jose State offense has some serious flaws. Still, what defense would you want to play to figure out your offensive flaws? Clearly, Hawaii is up near the top of that list. 3) Hawaii is notoriously bad on the road, and the Spartans have won one of their two home games.
1. Auburn at LSU (7:45 ESPN)- 1) This is the first game of the round robin that will determine the SEC West title. Both teams still have Alabama on their schedule. 2) Auburn's Brandon Cox has been playing well since that opening night debacle against Georgia Tech. Of course, the Tigers haven't played anyone of note since then. LSU's pass defense has been questionable this year at times, so Cox may have a shot to put some nice numbers on the board against them. 3) It's LSU. It's a night game. It's a big game on a Saturday. What more could you want? Well, it certainly doesn't hurt things any that LSU's high powered offense is going up against Auburn's rock solid defense. Wow. This one ought to be fun.
2. Marshall at UTEP (9:00 i/PAX)- 1) This has potential to be the preview of the Conference USA Championship Game. Marshall and UTEP both are currently tied in the loss column atop their divisions in C-USA. 2) Jordan Palmer and Marcus Thomas give UTEP a lot of explosion on the offensive side of the ball. They need to keep the ball moving and put up some points on a pretty good Marshall defense. 3) Ahmad Bradshaw and the Thundering Herd running game haven't been great, but he is good enough to put up huge numbers in any game that he plays. UTEP's defense hasn't exactly proven to be a brick wall this year.
1. Washington State at California (10:15 FSN)- 1) California's quarterback, Joe Ayoob, has been struggling lately. However, the Cougars defense might be just the solution to the problem. 2) Washington State's offense is absolutely explosive. Jerome Harrison is as good of a running back as there is in the Pac Ten. Cal's defense isn't bad, either, though. 3) Marshawn Lynch was benched during the second half last week. Can he bounce back with a big performance?
2. New Mexico at San Diego State (10:00 Gameplan)- 1) The winner of this game will be 3-2 in conference play, which will put them no worse than a tie for third at the end of the day, and in second if Colorado State loses to Wyoming. 2) DonTrell Moore got the job done against Wyoming last week. He's one of the more underrated running backs in the country and a load of fun to watch. 3) Kevin O'Connell seems to have grown into a solid quarterback for the Aztecs. He did nothing but make huge plays last weekend to help them stun Utah.
Very quick preview of Thursday night's games.
Virginia Tech at Maryland (7:45 ESPN)- The Hokies and the Terrapins are both holding out ACC Championship dreams. Maryland would love to put an end to Virginia Tech's dream season on national television.
Florida International at Troy (7:30 ESPNU)- Troy is trying to get back into the Sun Belt Conference race after last week's drumming at the hands of Louisaina-Monroe. The Golden Panthers would like to come up with their first win against Division 1-A competition.
For a complete preview of Thursday night's games via the Thursday Night Throwdown, click here.