Week Nine: 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. Ohio State at Minnesota (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) It's the best rush defense in the country, led by A.J. Hawk, against the best rush offense in the country, led by Laurence Maroney. Something has got to give. 2) Minnesota has two conference losses, while the Buckeyes have just one. A Gopher win puts them back into the Big Ten title chase. 3) Ted Ginn Jr. seems to be starting to play some football this year. He has scored touchdowns each of the last two weeks.
2. Oklahoma at Nebraska (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) So Oklahoma is not going to win the Big Twelve South and Nebraska probably will not win the Big Twelve North (although the Cornhuskers still have a shot at it). This is still one of the great rivalries in college football even if we don't get to see it every year. That makes it that much more important to watch when we do get it. 2) Rhett Bomar really seems to slowly be developing into a nice quarterback. Yes, he is young and makes freshman mistakes, but his development is happening, which makes his play against the very good Huskers defense a must-watch. 3) Nebraska wants to show the college football world that they are back. While Oklahoma is down, this still would be a signature win for Bill Callahan's crew.
3. North Carolina at Miami, FL (12:00 ESPN2)- 1) While the Hurricanes have got to be dreaming about their match up with Virginia Tech, they better not overlook the Tar Heels. If Boston College upsets the Hokies on Thursday night, the winner of this game will be tied with VT in the loss column in the Coastal Division. 2) North Carolina upset Miami last year. They would love to do it again. 3) Kyle Wright and the Miami offense still seem to be plodding a bit. They better get it going against a North Carolina defense that held Wisconsin to 14 points and Virginia to five. (And before anyone asks, yes I remember that Louisville scored 69 on them.)
4. Texas Tech at Baylor (12:30 FSN)- 1) This game may be a better indicator of just how good Texas Tech is. Baylor is a lot better than people think, and the Red Raiders need to beat them to stay in line for a big bowl game. 2) Cody Hodges has been putting up arcade game like numbers, which is not surprising. Nothing beats watching the Texas Tech offense, and Baylor's defense has been pretty good so far, making this an interesting match-up. 3) Who would have guessed that Baylor would be playing a very meaningful game for their bowl hopes at this point in the season?
5. Wisconsin at Illinois (12:00 ESPN)- 1) The Badgers are right in the thick of the Big Ten race, lead by Brian Calhoun's running and John Stocco's throwing. 2) Penn State put a 63 up on the scoreboard against the Illini defense last weekend. Wisconsin's offense is even better than Penn State's. 3) Ron Zook knows how to get his teams up for one big game. There should be one upset somewhere along the way for the Illini this year. Is this it?
6. Indiana at Michigan State (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) Blake Powers and the Indiana offense could have a very nice week against a very average Michigan State defense. 2) Drew Stanton and the Spartans offense are very good and Indiana's defense isn't that great. 3) The Spartans go into a tailspin at the end of every year, it seems like. They've lost two in a row. Can they pull out of it?
7. Southern Miss at North Carolina State (12:00 ESPNU)- 1) Can the Golden Eagles pull off one of their patented upsets against a struggling Wolfpack team? 2) At 2-4, NC State needs every win they can muster to qualify for a bowl game. With Middle Tennessee and Maryland ahead on the home slate, they could win three more games. Where the fourth one comes (at Boston College or at Florida State) is anyone's guess. However, they cannot lose one of their home games and be forced to win both of those games on the road, making this one important. 3) Toney Baker is a solid freshman running back for the Wolfpack.
8. Ole Miss at Auburn (12:30 JP/Gameplan)- 1) The Tigers Brandon Cox needs to regain some confidence before the showdowns with Georgia and Alabama. They need him to play better if they are going to win those games. 2) The Rebels have been playing better lately. Three more wins gets them bowl eligible, which would be a huge step forward. With Arkansas, LSU, and Mississippi State ahead on the schedule, they will probably need one upset (and to be sure they beat Arkansas and Mississippi State) to get there. This would be a nice place to get that upset. 3) Mico McSwain is a very good running back, however he will be squaring off with a very good Auburn defense.
9. Wake Forest at Duke (12:00 JP/Gameplan)- 1) Hey, it is an in-state rivalry game! Nothing beats that on Tobacco Road. 2) Chris Barclay and Micah Andrews is one of the better running back duos in the country. 3) Ronnie Drummer has an incredible 14 carries and 248 yards in his previous three games for the Blue Devils. That comes out to 17.7 yards per carry. Now, why does he only have 14 carries? That's a good question.
10. Toledo at Central Michigan (1:00 FSN Regional)- 1) It's a very important game in the MAC West. The Rockets are undefeated in conference play at 4-0, but up just one game on Northern Illinois and Central Michigan, who are both 3-1 in conference play. 2) Bruce Gradkowski and Trinity Dawson will be looking to keep the Rockets offense exploding. 3) Kent Smith has been playing well as the Chippewas quarterback. He will need to keep the offensive momentum going if they are going to hang around with Toledo.
11. Cincinnati at Syracuse (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) Is the loser of this game destined to finish last in the Big East? It is a possibility as Syracuse is 0-4 and Cincinnati is 1-2 in conference play. 2) Cincinnati has Dustin Grutza at quarterback, who has been coming along very slowly for the Bearcats. Syracuse defense isn't great, so Grutza has a chance to have a good game. 3) Damien Rhodes is one of the more underrated running backs in the country. The Orange should feed him the ball and try to wear down the Bearcats questionable defense.
1. Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville (3:30 CBS)- 1) Georgia can clinch the SEC East with a win in this game. It would be their third SEC East title in four years. 2) Chris Leak and the Gators have struggled on offense. That means it is probably not the best time to be facing the stout Bulldogs defense. 3) Joe Tereshinki will be the starting quarterback for the Dawgs. Not a good place for him to be stepping in, against a great defense in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
2. Washington State at USC (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Admit it. Just because Washington State is 0-4 in the Pac Ten you think they have no shot. They might not, but they've been up by double digits in the fourth quarter each of the last three weeks. 2) The Cougars have really struggled on defense this year. Umm...Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White. 3) USC's defense hasn't been outstanding this year. With Jerome Harrison running the ball and Jason Hill catching the ball, the Cougars can make big plays on just about any team in the country.
3. Maryland at Florida State (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Drew Weatherford and the Seminoles offense seems to be coming around, although they still need to get the ball in the hands of Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington more. Maryland's defense is still pretty sharp, lead by D'Qwell Jackson. This should be an interesting match-up. 2) Sam Hollenbach should be playing for the Terps on Saturday. He needs to play better than he did against Virginia Tech for them to have any chance. 3) The Terps upset the 'Noles last year. A win in this game would tie the Terps in the loss column with Florida State in conference play. If Virginia Tech also beats Boston College on Thursday night, they could find themselves in a tie for first by the end of the day.
4. Purdue at Penn State (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Purdue has been one of the biggest disappointments in college football. One more loss and they won't even be bowl eligible at the end of the year. One of these weeks, the Boilermakers are going to pull off an upset and show everyone why they were so highly regarded in the preseason. 2) The Nittany Lions control their own Big Ten destiny. If they win out, they are the Big Ten champs. Michael Robinson and the Penn State offense has to be licking their chops to go against this Purdue defense with this much on the line. 3) Brandon Kirsch is a solid quarterback, and he hasn't played too poorly this year. He'll have a tough task against the Penn State defense.
5. Clemson at Georgia Tech (3:30 ESPN)- 1) The Tigers and the Yellow Jackets both really want to get to a bowl game. With both teams sitting at four wins, winning this game would really help either teams chances. 2) Charlie Whiterhurst has been a very solid quarterback this year and has gotten from the running game and James Davis. Georgia Tech has got a great defense, though, making this an interesting match-up. 3) Reggie Ball is one of the most inconsistent players in the country. However, with playmakers like P.J. Daniels and Calvin Johnson on his team, he can't help but have a big game every now and then. Clemson's defense is not great, so this could be one of those big games.
6. Utah State at Alabama (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) Surely this week the Tide won't have to win on a last second field goal, right? 2) Tide coach Mike Shula might want to have the subs ready. After losing Brodie Croyle in a blowout last year against Western Carolina and Tyrone Prothro this year in a blowout against Florida, he came under some heat for having those guys in the game. If this one gets ugly, he should be advised to get those players out of the game quickly. Will he? 3) Leon Jackson III makes the Aggies offense go. He's the team's leading rusher and the team's quarterback. This will provide an interesting test to the Alabama defense before facing LSU and JaMarcus Russell, another guy who can both run and throw.
7. Iowa State at Texas A&M (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Don't look now, but Texas A&M is in control of their own destiny in the Big Twelve South. The Aggies struggled to get by Kansas State last weekend, but that could be just the win this team needs to get their momentum rolling. 2) Reggie McNeal is one of the top threats in the country. He can do it all and he can single-handedly light up the scoreboard if the other team isn't careful. Bret Meyer is similarly athletic for the Cyclones. 3) Iowa State got back to winning last week against Oklahoma State. They are probably out of the Big Twelve North race without a lot of help. However, if they were to win out and get to 5-3 in the conference, they would still have an outside shot of at least tying for the division title. That might have to do for this Iowa State team.
8. Air Force at BYU (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) Air Force is 3-5 and BYU is 3-4, meaning that the loser of this game is probably not going to a bowl game. The winner keeps those bowl hopes alive. 2) Shaun Carney leads a tough to defend Air Force offense against a good BYU defense. 3) John Beck is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country. He could put up big numbers against an average Air Force defense.
1. Michigan at Northwestern (7:00 ESPN)- 1) The Northwestern offense is lead by Brett Basanez and Tyrell Sutton. Those two are both explosive and will look to lead the Wildcats against a good Michigan defense. 2) Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Kevin Grady, Steve Breaston, and Jason Avant are all players that have potential to put up big numbers offensively any week. With the way Northwestern's defense tends to play, that week could be this week. 3) Michigan only sits one game out of the Big Ten lead at 3-2 in conference play. Northwestern is a half game out at 3-1, and tied in the loss column. This game has huge ramifications on who wins the Big Ten.
2. UCLA at Stanford (6:30 FSN)- 1) This game suddenly looks like a real trap game for the Bruins. Stanford has won three straight, including last week's win over Arizona State. Now they are 4-2, and the Bruins perfect 7-0 record will be put to the test. It is also huge in the Pac Ten. Stanford is 3-1 in conference play, while the Bruins are 4-0. Both teams have USC remaining on their schedule. The winner could become the team most likely to win the Pac Ten if USC does not. 2) Maurice Drew and Drew Olson are both lighting it up. Both are receiving some mention in the Heisman Trophy voting. Stanford's defense is just OK, so those two could put up big numbers again. 3) With how many close games UCLA has been playing lately, the Cardinal have hope. Trent Edwards has been playing better and better at quarterback and he would love to lead his team to this home upset.
3. Fresno State at Hawaii (7:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The Warriors always play well at home. They nearly beat Boise State there earlier this year. Now, they would love to take out the other big WAC team. 2) Paul Pinegar leads the explosive Fresno State offense that is getting ready for showdowns with Boise State and USC in November. If they don't win here, though, those games won't mean as much. 3) Colt Brennan has taken over admirably as the starting quarterback for the Warriors. He has been leading the offense very well. After averaging just 22.0 points per game during their 1-4 start, they have been averaging 45.0 points per game in their last two wins.
4. Texas at Oklahoma State (7:00 TBS)- 1) The Longhorns are #1 in the BCS this week. What will it take to stay ahead of USC another week? 2) Vince Young and the Longhorns offense can put up huge numbers. With a defense like the Cowboys have, that could be a very bad thing. The Cowboys have been giving up 42.8 points per game to Big Twelve opponents this year. 3) The Cowboys offense has also been stifled as of late, with Bobby Reid not able to get the offense moving. Still D'Juan Woods is a very explosive receiver that could have a huge game against almost any team. Plus, the Cowboys always seem to be able to get up for one of these games that they shouldn't win every year and make it close.
5. UTEP at Rice (6:00 i/PAX)- 1) The Miners are receiving votes in the Top 25. They have a big C-USA West showdown with Tulsa next week. Will they be looking past Rice? 2) Jordan Palmer and the Miners offense could really explode this week. 3) The Rice rushing attack can pose problems to defenses. At 0-6, the Owls would love to pose problems to someone.
6. Marshall at Tulane (7:00 CSTV)- 1) Bernard Morris and Ahmad Bradshaw need to show some explosiveness on offense or else the Thundering Herd's season could fall apart very quickly. Tulane's defense has been the cure for a lot of woes in the past. 2) Lester Ricard and the Tulane offense can score points in bunches. Marshall's defense has been pretty good so far this year, though. 3) At 2-2 in conference play, Marshall is not out of the C-USA East title race. Both teams need the win to help them get to six wins and a bowl game.
1. South Carolina at Tennessee (7:45 ESPN2)- 1) Phil Fulmer vs. Steve Spurrier. The rivalry continues... 2) The Vols and Gamecocks are battling it out for third in the SEC East. The winner still has an outside shot at second, particularly if Florida loses earlier in the day to Georgia. 3) When will the Vols offense get going? Rick Clausen and the Vols offense has sputtered badly. Blake Mitchell and the Gamecocks offense has been playing pretty well, but they haven't faced a defense as good as Tennessee's in a while.
2. North Texas at LSU (8:00 Gameplan)- 1) Due to Hurricane Katrina, this game was postponed from the first week, which means that LSU is playing North Texas this week and Appalachian State next week. Will the Tigers be fully focused or will they just be going through the motions? 2) North Texas still has back-to-back rushing champions, Patrick Cobbs and Jamarrio Thomas. They could explode any week. 3) JaMarcus Russell has been improving at quarterback for LSU.
3. Idaho at New Mexico State (8:00 Gameplan)- 1) The two teams have combined to go 1-13 this season. A win here would obviously be huge to getting something positive this year. 2) Steve Wichman hasn't been bad for the Vandals at quarterback. Against New Mexico State's defense, that ought to be good enough for some points. 3) The offense for the Aggies hasn't gotten rolling yet under Hal Mumme. Will this be the week that it finally does?
There are no late night television college football games this Saturday. This is one of the truly saddest sentences I have ever had to write.
Very quick preview of Thursday night's game.
Boston College at Virginia Tech (7:45 ESPN)- This game is probably the best Thursday night game of the year. This is one of the better games in the ACC this year. Watch it!