By Joe Curci
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We are turning toward the home stretch this season, and now every snap could be the difference from playing in a BCS game or some “other” bowl game.
These are the games where Heisman hopefuls become favorites, and teams begin the climb to the top of the college football world.
#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma 8:00 p.m.
The first year Mike Stoops became the Oklahoma head coach was 1999. It was also the last time these two squads faced off.
The Irish won the game at home 34-30, beating a very solid Sooners team. This year the game will have national implications as the Irish come in to Norman at a perfect 7-0. They have done it with tremendous defense led by Senior Linebacker Manti Te’o, and a true “ground and pound” style of offense. Running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood have done a nice job leading the way. Last week they both ran for over 100 yards apiece and will need to continue to be effective if Notre Dame will be successful this week.
Oklahoma comes into this week on a three-game winning streak after their tough home loss to Kansas State. The good news for the Sooners is that K-State has proven itself to be a true contender this year, making the loss not too bad. Will the Oklahoma offense be able to put up points against the stingy Irish defense? That’s the question that will be answered Saturday.
The Irish are allowing less than 10 points per game (9.4), which ranks them second in the country. The Sooners offense averages almost 45 points per game. Something has to give.
Landry Jones has yet to have that big statement win. He has beaten up on the lesser teams, but has struggled in some big spots before. I think this will be a defensive struggle, but I think this is Notre Dame’s year. With the return of Everett Golson at quarterback, the Irish will do enough on offense to pull out a hard fought win over a very talented Oklahoma team. PICK: Notre Dame 23 Oklahoma 21.
#3 Florida VS #12 Georgia 3:30 p.m.– SEC on CBS
The Gators will look to move to 8-0 and put themselves in position to play in the SEC Championship game with a win over Georgia this week.
The game will be played in Jacksonville, and the Bulldogs will come in off a close victory over Kentucky after their blowout loss at South Carolina. Over the past two games, Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel has accounted for seven touchdowns. And in the last four games the Gators have outscored the opposition 127-34. They are scoring points through each phase of the game and they have beaten every team in the SEC East except Georgia and Missouri, who they play next week.
The Bulldogs will go up against a very talented Gators front seven and will need to run the ball in order to have a chance in this game. Aaron Murray will not be able to beat this Gator ‘D’ by himself. If they cannot establish any sort of efficient rushing attack it could be similar to the game the Gators played against South Carolina. PICK: Florida 31 Georgia 16.
#15 Texas Tech @ #4 Kansas State 3:30 p.m.
Well, it’s an understatement to say that I have been way off on Kansas State. They beat down a West Virginia team that has now disappointed two weeks in a row.
The Wildcats have not disappointed yet this season. They are averaging just shy of 43 points per game, and have a quarterback whose stock is rising faster than Google’s did. Collin Klein stormed into the Heisman race last week with his seven-touchdown performance. He did it through the air and on the ground, and West Virginia could not stop him. This week they will play a confident Red Raider team and will face a head coach in Tommy Tuberville, who certainly will not make it easy for K-State.
Texas Tech comes into the game on a two-game winning streak, beating WVU and surviving an overtime thriller at TCU. They will need to make some defensive plays in order to have a shot. If they can force Kansas State into some third-and-long situations and can get off the field, they can compete with this team. In the end this likely shootout should go to the home team. PICK: Kansas State 44 Texas Tech 35.
#13 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama
Mississippi State is just out of Alamaba’s class. Both teams have great defenses, but AJ McCarron has played very well over the past few weeks, and Mississippi hasn’t played a team even close to as good as the Crimson Tide. PICK: Alabama 33 Mississippi State 6.
#9 Ohio State @ Penn State 5:30 p.m.
This is would be a huge win for a community and school that have been hit very hard over the past two years. Jerry Sandusky has been sentenced and put away, and now Penn State can begin to move on. Coach O’ Brien has done a tremendous job getting this team to play inspired football, and I think with the way they have played defense over the past five games they will find a way to slow down Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offense. This will be a must-watch and an emotional win for Penn State. PICK: Penn State 20 Ohio State 17.
Cincinnati@ #16 Louisville 8:00 p.m. — Fri., Oct. 26
Two turnovers and a few special teams issues gave the Bearcats their first loss of the season at the hands of an underrated Toledo team. Louisville has been on cruise control all season and came out with a big win against South Florida. This will be a tough game for the Cardinals as Cincy will be hungry looking to get back in the race for the Big East title. I expect the Bearcats to bring their best, but I’m not sure it will be enough. PICK: Louisville 24 Cincinnati 21.
What’s your lock of the week? Let Curci know in the comments below…