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: The de facto Leaders Division Championship Game takes place this week with Wisconsin travelling to West Lafayette and a date with the Boilermakers. The Badgers are the only Indy-eligible Leaders Division team with a victory, so a road win against Purdue would essentially give them a 2.5 game lead on Purdue. A Purdue win would give the Boilermakers the tie-breaker over the Badgers with a bit easier schedule the rest of the way, although still 4 on the road. Purdue was bludgeoned a week ago by Denard Robinson's running, a threat Wisconsin does not have. Wisconsin has dropped both road contests by 3 points, but has been offensively inept for 6 of the 8 quarters on the road. The key to the game will be getting the Badger running game going that finally showed life in the 4th quarter against Illinois last week and not allowing the Purdue pass rush to tee off in second and third and long situations. Elsewhere, Northwestern tries to bounce back from their first loss and is on the road a second consecutive week at Minnesota, in a game the Gophers need before their schedule gets daunting. Iowa plays at East Lansing, where we have no idea what Hawkeye or Spartan teams will show up (don't look for this one in the Jabesblog Picks this week).
Upset alert: Wisconsin over Purdue. The Badgers have won 6 straight meetings with the Boilers by an average of 23 points and have taken 4 straight in West Lafayette. While the Big 10 seems like a week-to-week league in 2012, these teams appeared headed in opposite directions last week. Last week: Purdue over Michigan (should have been none).
Player on the spot: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa. Weisman is averaging 7 ypc and has 7 TD's and has been the bright spot on a faltering Hawkeye offense. A big task awaits in East Lansing this week, but if Weisman can get going, Iowa might be able to put up enough points to take down Sparty. Last week: Kain Colter, QB/WR, Northwestern - 8 touches, 41 total yards, 1 TD in a 39-28 loss to Penn State.
What I am watching: The league's biggest surprise travels to play one of the league's biggest disappointments when Duke goes to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech Saturday. With a win, the Blue Devils will be the ACC's first bowl-eligible team, a feat so shocking you have to repeat it back. The Hokies are reeling and face a must-win or face the distinct possibility of missing out on the bowls. Virginia Tech was supposed to have a top defense in 2012, but have given up almost 37 ppg in their 3 losses. Duke can put points up and has played with an improved defense. The Blue Devils have never won in Blacksburg, but this marks the best chance for them to do so.
Upset alert: Maryland over Virginia. Maryland is better than expected and Virginia can't stop anyone defensively. Both teams need this one for their future bowl prospects, but unless the Cavaliers figure things out quickly, Saturday will be their last hurrah. Last week: Virginia Tech over North Carolina (should have been NC State over Florida State, Army over Boston College or Duke over Virginia)
Player on the spot: Gio Bernard, RB, North Carolina. Coming off a 262 yard effort against Virginia Tech, Bernard and the Tar Heels head to Miami this week. The Hurricanes have owned the ACC so far with a 3-0 start, but have looked meager against Kansas State and Notre Dame. UNC is not bowl-eligible, but if Benard can reprise his showing from a week ago, they will establish themselves as the best team in the Coastal Division. Last week: Stephen Morris, QB, Miami, FL - 18-35, 201 Yards, 0 TD in a 41-3 loss vs Notre Dame.
What I am watching: South Carolina takes to the road for the second leg of their three-game gauntlet, heading to Baton Rouge to face a now angry and potentially desperate LSU team. The Tigers had National Championship aspirations that appear to only be alive if they can win out and take the SEC Championship. The question is whether this version of LSU is good enough to do that. Offensive struggles, including turnovers have plagued the Tigers and Florida got a running game going last week against them. Marcus Lattimore is the challenge this week, but the biggest difference might be that the Gamecock defense is better than LSU's. The home crowd will definitely favor the Tigers in what should be another great SEC brawl on Saturday.
Upset alert: South Carolina over LSU. It's going to be an all Gamecock/Tiger preview in the SEC this week, as South Carolina looks to prove they are on par with Alabama by winning a huge road game. If the LSU offense can't get the crowd into it, the one advantage the home team has will be negated. Don't expect a lot of points here, but do expect the upset. Last week: Florida over LSU (should have been Florida over LSU, Arkansas over Auburn or Vanderbilt over Missouri).
Player on the spot: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Potentially the best defensive player in the nation (Manti Te'o disagrees), Clowney will need to wreak his usual havoc on LSU to establish South Carolina as the dominant team on Saturday. Last week: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia - 11-31, 109 Yards, 0 TD, 1 Int in a 35-7 trouncing at the hands of South Carolina.
What I am watching: The conference unbeatens both have tricky road tests, but the big game is the Red River Rivalry in Dallas. Both Texas and Oklahoma come into their annual affair with one loss, meaning the loser is all but eliminated from the conference race. The demise of Oklahoma may have been premature as they bounced back against a good Texas Tech team on the road. It is the Longhorns turn to bounce back after dropping their first game to West Virginia. The Sooner offense is still figuring it out and faces a slightly disappointing Texas defense. The key may be how the Sooner defense handles a versatile Texas attack. The watch will be on in Ames and Lubbock, as Kansas State and West Virginia try to avoid road upsets that derail their title hopes.
Upset alert: Texas over Oklahoma. The Sooner offense is still not right, despite last weeks effort. Texas may have been outgunned by the best in the Big 12 last week and could easily bounce back to stay in the Big 12 race. Last week: West Virginia over Texas (should have been West Virginia over Texas or Iowa State over TCU).
Player on the spot: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. It has to be Jones again. He returned for his senior season to win a championship and that is all on the line this week against his biggest rival. if Jones is not huge in this one, the Sooners will be disappointing again. Last week: Bob Stoops, Coach, Oklahoma - defeated previously undefeated Texas Tech 41-20 in Lubbock.
What I am watching: Stanford and Oregon State have tough non-conference road tests and Utah and UCLA battle to avoid a third conference loss. Also, Steve Sarkisian and Washington try to upend USC for the third time in 4 meetings. The Cardinal travel to Notre Dame and try and dent the impenetrable Irish defense. The Beavers head to Provo against BYU without their quarterback Sean Mannion. Both teams can provide the PAC-12 with another signature victory in non-conference and boost its BCS chances. UCLA is reeling now and gets a chance to face a Utah team that is less talented and showing that in 2012.
Upset alert: None. I am going to that well another week, as once again UCLA is the most likely victim and I have them beating Utah this week. I guess they are still on upset alert, since they can easily be beat this week. Last week: None (should have been Cal over UCLA).
Player on the spot: Josh Nunes, QB, Stanford. Andrew Luck won 3 straight against the Irish, who all of a sudden won't give up a touchdown. Nunes will have to find a way to do so on the road, where he recently struggled at Washington if the Cardinal harbor any hopes of the upset. Last week: Robert Woods, WR, USC - 6 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD in a 38-28 win over Utah.
What I am watching: The 3 Big East unbeatens are in action, with Louisville having the toughest test at Pitt. With an extra week to prepare, the Cardinals should be ready for the Panthers and with Pitt, we have no idea which version will come to play. Cincinnati should cruise against Fordham, but Rutgers always has less margin for error if their defense shows any holes this week against Syracuse.
Upset alert: Temple over Connecticut. The Huskies have trouble scoring and the Owls are riding the momentum of last weeks win over South Florida. Last week: Pittsburgh over Syracuse (should have been Temple over South Florida).
Unit in the spotlight: Tino Sunseri, QB, Pittsburgh. Louisville has been susceptible to the pass and Sunseri will have to take advantage if Pitt is going to upset the Cardinals. Sunseri was good last week in a loss at Syracuse, but didn't make enough plays when it counted. Last week: Temple Owls defense - 28 points, 384 yards allowed, 3 turnovers in 37-28 upset of South Florida.
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...Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech.
Upset alert: Fresno State over Boise State. We do not really know how good Boise State is and Fresno State must be salivating at the chance to win on the blue turf. The Bulldogs have the playmakers to take down the Broncos in what should be a great game on Saturday. Last week: Utah State over BYU (should have been Navy over Air Force).
Players on the spot: Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech. Cameron gets a second nod in three weeks as he gets a chance to show he and Louisiana tech are for real when they host Texas A&M in a hurricane make-up game Saturday. The Aggies would probably rather have a bye week in the middle of the SEC gauntlet, so this may be a chance for the Bulldogs to surprise and keep their hopes for an undefeated season alive. Last week: Kolton Browning, QB, Louisiana-Monroe - 26-38, 285 Yards, 1 TD, 44 rushing yards in a 31-17 victory over Middle Tennessee State.
Week 7 Game Guide
Louisville at Pittsburgh, 11 AM EST, ESPNU
Texas at Oklahoma, Saturday, 12 PM EST, ABC
Kansas State at Iowa State, Saturday, 12 PM EST, FX
Wisconsin at Purdue, 12 PM EST, Big Ten Network
Iowa at Michigan State, 12 PM EST, ESPN
North Carolina at Miami, FL, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, ESPNU
Alabama at Missouri, Saturday, 3:30 PM, EST, CBS
West Virginia at Texas Tech, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, ABC/ESPN
Fresno State at Boise State, Saturday, 3;30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network
Stanford at Notre Dame, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, NBC
Oregon State at BYU, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST, ABC/ESPN3
USC at Washington, Saturday, 7 PM EST, FOX
South Carolina at LSU, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN
Tennessee at Mississippi State, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPNU