Each week, I take a look at the week ahead, including games, upsets and players to watch for. I have also added a guide to the best/most intriguing games of the week.
What I am watching: By day, whether Northwestern can become the first bowl-eligible team in the country, By night, whether Nebraska can seize early control of the Big 10 with a win at Ohio State. Northwestern travels to Penn State, where the Nittany Lions have weathered an early-season storm to play solid football the past 3 weeks. If the Wildcats prevail in Happy Valley, they will move to 6-0 and have to be considered in the race for Indy. Ohio State has not been flawless, but the Buckeyes appear poised to spoil hopes all over the Big 10 this season. Sparty was a victim last week, so the Huskers can get a leg up on the boys from East Lansing if they can figure out Urban Meyer's crew Saturday Night.
Upset alert: Purdue over Michigan. The Boilermakers are emerging as Leaders Division favorites and hope there defense can bounce back this week against Denard and Co. Purdue seems to get a big home win each season and this might be the spot. Last week: Minnesota over Iowa (should have been Ohio State over Michigan State, although that was barely an upset).
Player on the spot: Kain Colter, QB/WR, Northwestern. Last week, Colter went from starting quarterback to versatility machine, lining up at both QB and WR and combining for 292 yards and 4 TD's. How effectively he is used at Penn State Saturday will go a long way in determining the outcome. Last week: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - 17-29, 181 yards, 2 TD, 13 rushes, 107 yards, 1 TD in a 30-27 come from behind win vs Wisconsin.
What I am watching: Is there a bounce back from Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech or NC State? These four, who were all potential ACC contenders and expected to be in the upper-division, are a combined 10-10 and are also combined 32 point underdogs this weekend. Georgia Tech and Virginia appear to be big messes that need to be fixed fast, while Virginia Tech and NC State are inconsistent and have not made the plays in big games.
Upset alert: Virginia Tech over North Carolina. The Hokies and Frank Beamer are a prideful team and are approaching uncharted territory. A loss this week would drop them to 3-3, and with games remaining at Miami, at Clemson and against Florida State, VaTech may be fighting for their bowl life in 2012. Last week: Cincinnati over Virginia Tech (should have been Cincinnati over Virginia Tech, Duke over Wake Forest or Middle Tennessee State over Georgia Tech)
Player on the spot: Stephen Morris, QB, Miami. How do you follow up a career high 566 passing yards? By facing maybe the Nation's hottest defense. Morris has over 1,000 yards passing combined the past two weeks and will need more of the same if the Hurricanes have any chance to upset Notre Dame in the renewal of the Catholics vs Convicts rivalry. Last week: Mike Glennon, QB, NC State - 24-42, 440 yards, 4 TD, 2 Int in a 44-37 loss at Miami.
What I am watching: Oh baby, what a double dip in the SEC this week! First, improving Florida hosts suddenly vulnerable LSU in the "Swamp". Taunted by a kicker in last season's blowout, the Gators would like nothing more than to knock LSU from their perch. Points should be hard to come by this year and I expect this one to come down to the end. After a few minutes of recovery, Georgia travels to South Carolina in a huge clash which may ultimately decide the SEC East. The Gamecocks are the most under the radar team in the SEC elite, but they won't be if they win this week. Georgia has great expectations this season and has had this one circled since last season's loss to South Carolina. In 2011, Georgia's defense failed them in big games. Last week, the offense bailed them out against Tennessee. South Carolina is better than the Vols, so the Bulldog defense needs to start living up to the hype.
Upset alert: Florida over LSU. The Gators might be getting LSU at a perfect time, as questions swirl regarding the Tigers offense. If Florida can minimize the running game, Zach Mettenberger might be pressed into mistakes that could lead to the upset. Last week: None (should have been None).
Player on the spot: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia. The senior signal-caller for the Bulldogs has the opportunity for a signature moment in his career. A win on the road against a very, very talented South Carolina defense vaults Georgia into the SEC favorite role. Last season, Murray hit for 4 TD's against South Carolina in the 42-35 loss. More of that will be needed this year. Last week: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee - 24-45, 281 yards, 2 TD, 3 Int in a 51-44 loss at Georgia.
What I am watching: If you can't tell, I am fixated by the machine that is West Virginia. This week, the machine travels to Austin, where a resurgent Longhorn squad awaits. The Texas defense was supposed to be stifling, but they have allowed 31 and 36 points the past two weeks in victories. Geno Smith presents even more problems for Texas, although Smith's defensive teammates are a big problem for the Heisman frontrunner. Both of these teams are for real, but the winner gains an upperhand in the wild and crazy Big 12, at least for a week.
Upset alert: West Virginia over Texas. The Longhorns were lucky to escape Stillwater last week (fumble?!) and the Mountaineers may have learned a Big 12 lesson about keeping it on the gas. Geno Smith looks for that big upset to back-up the Heisman hype. Last week: Oklahoma State over Texas (should have been None).
Coach on the spot: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma. The Sooners look to avoid a disastrous 0-2 conference start at Texas Tech who stunned them in Norman last season. The Red Raiders are improved and Oklahoma continues to play without an identity. Stoops needs to find them one, fast, because the Big 12 is not letting up on them this year. Last week: Iowa State Defense - 395 yards allowed, 332 passing yards allowed in a 24-13 loss vs Texas Tech.
What I am watching: How does Stanford bounce back from last week and can Washington build off that upset? The Cardinal return home against Arizona, who has lost 2 straight themselves. Stanford needs to get back to the plan that helped derail USC, running the ball and wreaking havoc on the opponents quarterback. Washington has a second crack at a team ranked #2 this season. The Huskies were no match for LSU, so this week will be big to see if they can hang with Oregon. A close loss on the road in Eugene would at least validate the Stanford upset.
Upset alert: None. Cal over UCLA is the obvious choice, but I like the Bruins in this one. USC, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon should also win from the favorites spot. Last week: (should have been Arizona State over California, Oregon State over Arizona or Washington over Stanford).
Player on the spot: Robert Woods, WR, USC. The Trojans have an interesting game at Utah following a 11 day respite. Woods has disappointed in 2012 and one of these weeks Matt Barkley needs to get him on track. This could be that week as Utah has been passed on by teams in 2012. Last week: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona - 31-53, 403 yards, 3 TD, 2 Int in a 38-35 loss vs Oregon State.
What I am watching: Munchie and Rutgers. Cincinnati and Mr. Legaux entertain Miami(OH) in a non-conference tilt, where Munchie may need to match punches with Zach Dysert of the Redhawks. Rutgers slugs it out with UConn, who surprised the Scarlett Knights with 40 points a year ago. The Rutgers defense has been outstanding and I expect points to be at a premium Saturday.
Upset alert: Pittsburgh over Syracuse. The Panthers have righted the ship and have momentum heading into the Carrier Dome. The season of close losses and moral victories will get old for the Orange, but Saturday may just be another one of those days. Last week: None (should have been None).
Unit in the spotlight: Temple Owls Defense. South Florida is in a tailspin and B.J. Daniels is prone to mistakes. If Temple is going to pull the home upset Saturday, they are going to need to force Daniels into some game-changing errors. Last week: Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati - 19-42, 376 yards, 3 TD, 1 Int, game-winning TD pass with :13 left in a 27-24 upset win over Virginia Tech.
What I am watching: I am always watching for how many victories the Non-BCS schools can accumulate against the BCS conferences. Ohio, Nevada, Colorado State, Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rice, Western Kentucky, Ball State, Fresno State, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ball State(again), Louisiana Tech, Louisiana Tech(again) and Middle Tennessee State have done it the first five weeks with the victories over Penn State, California, Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado(again), Iowa, Connecticut, Kansas(again), South Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Georgia Tech, respectively. Last season the total was 15. The chances are dwindling as the non-conference season slows, but which games this week might add to the current 16? This week there is only one chance...Miami(OH) at Cincinnati.
Upset alert: Utah State over BYU. The Aggies have been tested winning at Utah and giving away a game at Wisconsin. The atmosphere will not get to them, plus they love themselves a Friday night game. Another game expected to be a defensive struggle, there is no reason Utah State can't pull the upset. Last week: Rice over Houston (should have been Missouri over UCF).
Players on the spot: Kolton Browning, QB, Louisiana-Monroe. All of that hard non-conference work goes to waste if ULM struggles in the Sun Belt. Browning and Co. get Middle Tennessee in their opener, who just happened to knock off Georgia Tech last week. Talk about two teams brimming with confidence. Last week: Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech - 23-36, 218 yards, 2 TD (1 rushing) in a 44-38 victory over Virginia.
Week 6 Game Guide
Utah State at BYU, Friday, 10:15 PM EST, ESPN
Louisiana-Monroe at Middle Tennessee, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, ESPN3
LSU at Florida, Saturday, 3:30 PM, EST, CBS
Oklahoma at Texas Tech, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, ESPN2
Michigan at Purdue, Saturday, 4 PM EST, Big Ten Network
Georgia at South Carolina, Saturday, 7 PM EST, ESPN
West Virginia at Texas, Saturday, 7 PM EST, FOX
Miami at Notre Dame, Saturday, 7:30 PM EST, NBC
Florida State at NC State, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN2
Nebraska at Ohio State, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ABC
Washington at Oregon, Saturday, 10:30 PM EST, ESPN