ACC: Miami at North Carolina
You must be thinking, "Wait, why is any game involving Miami a game of the week?" Maybe it's because it's not about Miami, but more about North Carolina, a team that is 5-1 overall, 1-1 in the ACC. Are the Tar Heels for real? And is a game against a down-trodden Miami a good litmus test?
If North Carolina wins, they are for real in terms of playing competitive football. They are favored by three points over Miami, a team that has only beaten Bethune-Cookman and Ohio State. Granted, Miami had some high-profile losses including a close 38-35 loss to Virginia Tech and they've certainly had some off-the-field distractions but this is Miami, a football school, getting tagged as an underdog to a basketball school.
North Carolina had had plenty of off-field distractions as well, so basically, this game is all about who wants to gut out the rest of the season more. It's also a good week to find out if the Tar Heels are a legit one-loss team.
Honorable Mention: Virginia Tech at Wake Forest
If the Hokies get past the Demon Deacons, the only teams left on their schedule are Boston College (1-5), Duke (3-2), Georgia Tech (6-0), North Carolina (5-1) and Virginia (3-2). Can you say ACC Championship game?
Big East: Cincinnati vs. Louisville (at Paul Brown Stadium)
Neither Louisville nor Cincinnati have played a conference game. Louisville has a less-than-stellar record (2-3) with wins over Murray State and a Kentucky team that has dropped four straight games. After the Cardinals' loss to Marshall, rumors of offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's demotion swirled. The Courier-Journal's Rick Bozich reported that Sanford was removed from the position last week and replaced by Shawn Watson, but there has been no official announcement from the school. Throw in silly mistakes and costly penalties that have ended drives, and you've got Louisville all summed up in one word: tumultuous.
Cincinnati has a 4-1 record, but it's a little deceiving — their wins are against an FCS team, two MAC teams and an ACC team (NC State) whose three wins are over two FCS teams and a MAC team. Still, Las Vegas must like the Bearcats big over the Cardinals because the line opened at -13 points and it has gone up to 16.5. If Cincinnati doesn't challenge for the Big East, it could be a runaway for West Virginia.
Big Ten: Michigan at Michigan State
Brady Hoke has his Wolverines at 6-0 while Mark Dantonio's Spartans are sitting at 4-1 in the Legends division. Michigan already has a 2-0 conference record but both of their wins were against sub-500 teams Minnesota and Northwestern. Quarterback Denard Robinson is not only the Wolverines' leading rusher averaging 120 yards per game, he's also one of the top 10 rushers in the country. Robinson will surely be the focus of the Spartans' defense, but can they stop him?
The Spartans have an incredibly stingy rush defense yielding an average 64 yards on the ground per game but they haven't come across a game-changer like Robinson. The key to the game is how well the Spartans can contain Robinson. If he gets a free roam through the secondary, it's going to be a long day for Michigan State. Both the Spartans and the Wolverines share a common opponent already — Notre Dame — but the Spartans lost to the Irish 31-13 while the Wolverines won 35-31.
Honorable Mention: Ohio State at Illinois
The Illini are one of three Big Ten teams with a perfect record while Ohio State is a .500 team. If the Buckeyes don't win this game, they may not make it to postseason play.
SEC: South Carolina at Mississippi State
Quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team on Tuesday. While not surprising, it does put a little more pressure on Connor Shaw to stay healthy. Head coach Steve Spurrier also had a bad Tuesday after he reportedly called out a reporter working at the State for being too negative and refused to do his presser with that reporter in the room. The bad vibes aren't going to help the Gamecocks on the road against an SEC team that was projected to finish highly but has faltered against some very good teams.
This game is bigger for South Carolina than Mississippi State because realistically, Mississippi State will not challenge for the SEC West with already three losses under their belts and they still have enough winnable games (Kentucky, UT Martin and Ole Miss) to get them a bowl berth. South Carolina is one game ahead of Georgia and Florida in the East but they still have Arkansas and Florida in November — they need this win.
Honorable Mention: Florida at Auburn
Florida is 4-2 and appears to be bowl-bound with just two more wins needed to get bowl eligible, but three wins would ensure that. If the Gators beat Auburn, their last game against Florida State doesn't become as critical to their post-season plans.
Big 12: Oklahoma State at Texas
Texas needs to recover from the 55-17 spanking they received from Oklahoma last week at the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns have got to figure out how to minimize their turnovers — five turnovers will kill a young team. The speed of the Sooners is what overpowered the Longhorns and unfortunately, Oklahoma State has a lot of speed as well. If the Longhorns can get their running game going, it'll help the team's quarterbacks gain more confidence.
Oklahoma State looks fantastic but their resume isn't as impressive as their record. Wins over Arizona, Tulsa and Kansas equal wins over teams with a combined record of 5-11 — the Pokes did beat Texas A&M on the road. We know the Cowboys have a great offense averaging over 577 yards per game, but they're also giving up 438 yards per game.
This game should see a lot of points scored and will be wildly entertaining.
Honorable Mention: Baylor at Texas A&M
It's time to find out if Baylor is ready to take the next step and really contend for the Big 12. Kansas State ruined their perfect record — now we'll find out if that was an omen of things to come.
Pac-12: Arizona State at Oregon
This contest has a good chance of being the preview of the Pac-12 Championship and for that reason alone, it's this conference's game of the week. The Ducks may or may not have the services of running back LaMichael James after he dislocated his elbow last Thursday against Cal — he has been seen at practice with his arm in a soft cast. The Ducks still have Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 88 yards on 10 carries against Cal, so if James doesn't play, it's not time to panic. One area the Ducks need to improve on is their tendency to sleepwalk through the first half of big games. In Oregon's two of three contests against BCS teams, they were down to both Cal and LSU at the half, splitting the two games with a win and a loss.
Arizona State has been battle-tested against five BCS teams — their one loss was to Illinois, currently undefeated and ranked No. 16. The biggest factor in this game will be how well the Sun Devils protect quarterback Brock Osweiler, a proto-type pocket passer. They are currently allowing over two sacks per game, which puts them in the bottom 25 percent of all FBS teams. Osweiler was sacked six times in the Sun Devils' 17-14 loss, so count on linebacker Vontaze Burfict having Darron Thomas dialed in on his radar to change momentum.
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