By Casey Keefe
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#1 Oklahoma @ #11 Missouri: When the first official BCS rankings were released Sunday the Sooners took grab of the top spot. Their prize is a trip to Missouri to take on the defensive-minded Tigers. Needless to say, this will not be an easy game for Oklahoma to win.
First off, Oklahoma is somewhat bipolar. As talented as they are, you never know what you’re going to get out of them. They are very inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Yes, Landry Jones is a big-time quarterback and he has a couple real dangerous receivers – but I’ve seen the offense stall at times. They can’t afford to have such troubles this week.
On defense Oklahoma is even more vulnerable. This isn’t a classic Bob Stoops defense, that’s for sure. They don’t get after the quarterback as well as you might think, and they don’t defend in the secondary as well as you might think either. I’m not blown away with this team – but obviously the computers were.
A big advantage for Missouri is playing at home. The Sooners have only played only one road game – against Cincinnati – and that was a game they should have lost. Historically, Oklahoma is not the best road team in the world. They’re almost a completely different club when they leave Norman.
They’ll be going up against a solid Missouri team that matches up pretty well. I’m not overly impressed with their offense, but they are a balanced unit capable of doing some damage when they’re clicking. Blaine Gabbert has had his share of injuries but remains a dangerous quarterback who is more than capable of picking on Oklahoma’s secondary.
The main matchup to watch is Landry Jones and the Sooners offense against the Tigers defense. Whoever wins this battle will win the game. Jones has two great receivers, Ryan Boyles and Kenny Stills who will be a handful to deal with for Missouri’s secondary. The key here is how will Oklahoma’s offensive line defends against the Tigers pass rush. The return of Aldon Smith will help matters for Missouri.
The bottom line is this will be a close game – A total tossup at the end. It’ a night game and the Sooners will certainly be facing a raucous Missouri homecoming crowd. But I think they’ll squeak this one out. I think Jones and company will have their moments against Missouri, and I’m not confident that the Tigers will be able to move the ball consistently enough against Oklahoma’s defense.
If Bob Stoops and the Sooners want to prove the BCS computers right – they better show up with their A game on Saturday… Prediction: Oklahoma
#6 LSU @ #4 Auburn: Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of this LSU Tiger team. It’s an absolute miracle that they are still undefeated. They’re not a horrible team, but there’s not one thing that they do great. When you play in a game like they’ll play in come Saturday against Auburn, you have to do something extraordinary to win. LSU is incapable of this.
Auburn will sniff out and shut down LSU’s cute little two-quarterback system. Jordan Jefferson is atrocious and Jarrett Lee is talented but still young and inexperienced. Neither will be ready to handle what Auburn’s defense will throw at them. The one thing the Tigers D has to focus on is taking away Stevan Ridley. He’s the one legitimate weapon on LSU’s offense. If they minimize his damage, LSU will have no shot.
The biggest struggles for LSU will happen on the other side of the ball. I guarantee there are a lot of sleepless nights this week in Baton Rouge because of one man – Cam Newton. It will be a miracle if the Tigers find a way to slow Newton down. He’s the definition of a dual threat quarterback as he can dominate a game both on the ground and through the air. LSU’s defense can be tough, but they are in for a rough time against Newton and company.
I don’t want to make this sound like a complete mismatch, but I’m 100% confident Auburn will get the upper hand on the scoreboard come Saturday. They have a lot of advantages on their side; none bigger than being at home in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. In the matchup of two 7-0 Tigers, I expect the ones in orange and blue to prevail… Prediction: Auburn
#13 Wisconsin @ #15 Iowa: In my opinion, this is the game of the week. Two excellent teams that are mirror images of one another fighting for the upper hand in the Big 10 conference. Both are coming off big-time wins – Wisconsin over Ohio State, and Iowa over Michigan at the Big House. Now these two 1-loss teams square up in Iowa City… Something’s got to give.
We have two great, veteran quarterbacks – Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien and Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi. Two great running games – Wisconsin powered by John Clay and James White, and Iowa behind the strength and speed of Adam Robinson… The thing I love about Tolzien is that he knows his role and never tries to do too much. However, Stanzi has something Tolzien doesn’t – Marvin McNutt. The big play McNutt has proven to be a game breaker and is the best of Iowa’s deep receiving core. The Badgers however have a stronger running game and rely on Clay and White for their game breaking plays.
Both defenses are very strong. How both units defend the dynamic offenses they’ll be going up against will help decide this game. Also vital is the line play of both teams. These battles in the trenches are what will be most fun to watch. You have to keep in mind that these are two old school smash-mouth teams that rely on their big men up front on the line. There’s a lot of pride down in the trenches. The battle we’ll see on Saturday is not one for the light-hearted.
This is a very even game. Home field will be big for Iowa. If this game was at Camp Randall I’d be confident Wisconsin would win. But it will be a lot tougher to beat these Hawkeyes on the road. Even with all that said I expect the Badgers to come out on top. This will be a man’s game – no place for boys. I expect Wisconsin to be a little tougher and a little more efficient… Prediction: Wisconsin
#16 Nebraska @ #14 Oklahoma State: The whole world is wondering how Nebraska will respond after getting blasted against Texas last week. It was such a letdown for the Cornhuskers who had been seeking revenge for their Big 12 title loss last season. I expect Big Red to come out with an enormous chip on their shoulders. They need to win this game to right the course – but it won’t be easy.
‘Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez wasn’t himself against the Longhorns last week. Mack Brown’s defense found a way to knock him around and take away his swagger. Martinez is the main weapon for Nebraska. He’s the engine which gets the train moving. It is vital for him to regain his old form if the ‘Huskers are to win on the road against this good Oklahoma State team. I think we’ll see Martinez get it going, running free and finding receivers down field. State can’t afford to let this happen, but in this matchup I think it’s inevitable. Nebraska is too strong up front on the offensive line.
I don’t think Nebraska’s defense will have much trouble against the run, but the big test will be finding a way to slow down Brandon Weeden who has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country. His main target is Justin Blackmon who is as good as any receiver anywhere. Look for the ‘Huskers to double team Blackmon in an attempt to take him out of the game. That’s easier said than done. They can’t let Blackmon get free in the secondary. Pressure up front on Weeden will be crucial in this matter.
Stillwater is no easy place to play, but I expect the better and more desperate team to win – in this case, Nebraska. They will bounce back and pick up a big time road win… Prediction: Nebraska
– Very sad developments regarding Eric LeGrand of Rutgers. He is paralyzed from the neck and is facing a very uncertain future. Everybody’s best wishes go out to LeGrand as he faces the tough road ahead.
– There’s little doubt Rutgers will play inspired football this week against Pitt. It’s an important game for both teams, but the Scarlet Knights will be playing for LeGrand. That’s a motivational boost you can’t duplicate.
– It’s put up or shut up time for Syracuse. After their fast start, they were dismantled against Pitt last week in the Carrier Dome. They would be right back on track if they could somehow beat the Mountaineers in Morgantown.
– Alabama hopes to keep the ship moving this week at Tennessee. The Vols crowd will be ready for the Tide, but I doubt their team will.
– Michigan State is on the high road to big things. They can’t afford a slip up at Northwestern this Saturday, but they better be careful because the Wildcats are a very solid team.
Check back on Monday for my recap of all the weekend action.
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