Week 9 is upon us and as the season begins to hit the backstretch, most teams are jockeying for bowl berths or just trying to make it to one. There are a few big games this week on the schedule. Missouri takes on Nebraska in the Tigers last big test they will face. Oregon goes down to L.A. for a showdown with a mediocre but still hated USC Trojans and Michigan State battles Iowa in a Big Ten Clash. And with that let’s focus on these three games for breakdowns.
Missouri vs. Nebraska – After finally beating the Sooners, Missouri gets the prize of traveling to Lincoln to take on the Cornhuskers. QB Blaine Gabbert proved more than able last week in the toppling of Oklahoma. I love his composure and the way the offensive line protects him. He stood tall in the pocket all night and ran the offense with surgical precision. De’Vion Moore give the Tigers a decent running attack and averaged 7.3 yards a carry last weekend. The Tigers defense is starting to get some credit now and it is much deserved. They are a physical unit and aggressive. Nebraska counters with QB Taylor Martinez, who was considered a Heisman hopeful until he met the Texas defense. Roy Helu will need a good game to take some of the focus off of Martinez but I still don’t think that will be enough. Nebraska has a stout defense as well led by senior Prince Amukamara. They will keep the game close for the Huskers but that will not be enough.
The Pick: Missouri
Oregon vs. USC – Oregon and USC always provide an exciting game. Both teams like to get up and down the field and score. Oregon has just been so dominant this year, at one time ranking number one in both total offense and defense. Lamicheal James is a Heisman candidate and is the straw that stirs the tea in their offense. QB Darron Thomas is more than capable at his position. His job is to keep the defense honest with the threat of the pass and keep the tempo up for the Ducks high powered offense. USC comes off a bye after whopping Cal. Matt Barkley has quietly put together a great season in his first year under Lane Kiffin . Barkley’s number merit Heisman talk, just take a look:
Cmp Att Pct Yds Yd/A TD Int Rating
138 211 65.4 1,869 8.9 20 4 167.3
He won’t be in contention because of all the sanctions USC face but this guy is pretty darn good. He will be able to put up points on Oregon’s defense. The big elephant in the room with the Trojans is their defense. I haven’t seen a worse defense from USC since the pre Pete Carroll days. Oregon will run through, over and around these guys on offense. USC doesn’t have a bowl game this year so they have to treat every game as if it is one but the Ducks are just too much with their breakneck speed tempo offense.
The Pick: Oregon
Michigan State vs. Iowa – Is it me or does it seem like Iowa is playing a marquee game every week? The road to the Big Ten title obviously goes through Iowa City these days. The Hawkeye’s still have a chance at the title. They would need to win out and still get some help but it’s possible. Ricky Stanzi has really cut down on the mistakes this year. After being named pick six Rick by last years opposing teams, Stanzi has only thrown two INTs the whole year. Even with that being said, Iowa needs a strong run game effort to top the Spartans. Adam Robinson is the workhorse for the Hawkeyes and is a brusier at running back. They will turn to him to control the clock and keep the ball from Michigan State. The Spartans have been fun to watch this year. Rather if it was a fake field goal vs. Notre Dame or the fake punt vs. Northwestern, Sparty has a flair for the dramatics. I admire Mike Dantonio not only for coming back from a heart attack and blood clot but also for his gutsy calls in crunch time. He is a man’s man. I also love the running backs Edwin Baker and Le’veon Bell. Baker’s tenacity as runner is great. He is tough to bring down and an arm tackle won’t get it done. QB Kirk Cousins has been living on the edge all season but keeps finding a way to gut wins out. The defense led by LB Greg Jones has been good enough to keep the Spartans in games. This just seems like a team of destiny this year with all the adversity they have faced. This is the last remaining tough opponent they face and if they beat Iowa, they actually have an outside shot at the National Championship. That is too much on the line for Sparty to give up.
The Pick: Michigan State
Game of the week – Missouri vs. Nebraska: The Tigers have to avoid a letdown after defeating Oklahoma. The winner of this should take the Big 12 north title.
Most intriguing game – Louisville vs. Pitt: It was hard to pick this game over the Michigan vs. Penn State clash, but because it has more impact on the standings in the Big East, it will get the nod. Charlie Strong has exceeded expectations in Louisville and Dave Wannestedt keeps falling below his at Pitt.
Rivalry Game – Florida vs. Georgia: The world largest cocktail party made it an easy pick for me on this one. Both teams are struggling and both would like none other to add to the other’s misery this year.
Under the Radar Game – Baylor vs. Texas: The Bears have quietly put together a nice season led by the freaky athletic QB Robert Griffin. Texas continues their inconsistent year. Which Longhorn team will show up? The one who served Nebraska or the one that got served by UCLA.
Wake me when its over game – New Mexico vs. Colorado State: These two teams combined record is 2-13. Enough said.
Coach better get it right game – Notre Dame vs. Tulsa: The pressure to be the coach of Notre Dame is always on. Brian Kelly’s team needs to respond after the drubbing it took from Navy. I didn’t even pick on Dan Hawkins this week.