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College Football Week 9: Five Games To Watch

Alix Fitch, Michael Katz, Omar Shamout, James Santelli |
October 28, 2011 | 2:30 a.m. PDT

Sports Staff

Robert Woods and the Trojans look to upset Stanford. (Mac Carlile/Neon Tommy)
Robert Woods and the Trojans look to upset Stanford. (Mac Carlile/Neon Tommy)
The National Championship race is starting to become more clear. Through Week 8, just eight undefeated teams remain in college football. Two of those teams, Stanford and Kansas State, will be tested by top-20 foes this Saturday. We preview those games, and three other big matchups of the weekend.

All picks are straight up.

No. 4 Stanford (7-0) at No. 20 USC (6-1)

Fitch: USC - Though I am a lifelong Trojan fan, that's not the reason why I am picking USC to win. Stanford is coming off a win against Washington while USC left their mark on the Fighting Irish back in South Bend. It is ultimately going to be a test for both quarterbacks and their performances. This will be the biggest matchup that either team has seen this season and a true test to see how each team's defense can measure up to powerful offenses.

Katz: USC 35, Stanford 31 - This one feels like an upset in the making. The Trojans are home, and they seem excited for this game.

Shamout: Stanford 34, USC 27 - Yes, the Trojans defense proved me wrong last week. But, hey, I'm not upset about it! Honestly though, who saw that Jawanza Starling 99-yard, fumble-recovery TD coming? As for Saturday's game, I think Stanford will be tested by a rapidly improving USC team. Let's not forget that the Trojans played Luck and the Cardinal very close last year in Palo Alto, and I expect the same here.

The key to this game will be the USC defensive line. If they can contain Stanford's running attack, and find some way to pressure Luck, then we're in for a real pre-Halloween treat. But, I am picking the Cardinal with the same score prediction as week. Why mess with a good thing, right?

Santelli: Stanford 42, USC 31 - The Trojans will win this game if they can establish the pass against Stanford's strong secondary, use Robert Woods as a decoy to set up the run game, force Andrew Luck out of his comfort zone and grab some turnovers, and mostly keep the ball away from the Cardinal run attack to inch out a win.

And that's just it. It seems like so much has to go right for a USC victory, while Stanford just has to play the same power football game that has gotten them to 7-0.

No. 22 Georgia (5-2) vs. Florida (4-3) in Jacksonville

World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (bjsmith/Creative Commons)
World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (bjsmith/Creative Commons)
Fitch: Georgia -  The thing to see will be how Florida's quarterback, John Brantley, performs coming off an injury. For the Gators to have hope, they need to focus on establishing the run. If Georiga manages to contain running back Chris Rainey and limit the options set out for Brantley, this game will be Georgia's.

KatzGeorgia - Florida has been pretty bad lately. Georgia is also one of the hotter teams in the country, winning five in a row. I don't think the Gators have a chance.

Shamout: Florida 28, Georgia 25 - The Bulldogs have was won five straight, but that’s partly due to a very favorable schedule. Florida’s three straight losses have all come against ranked opponents, and QB John Brantley will be returning from injury to face the Bulldogs, who will be missing two key defensive starters for the first half due to suspensions. The Bulldogs also have a history of underperforming in this game, so I think the Gators will do everything in their power to come out of the gate strongly, and get RB Chris Gainey going. Look for the upset here.

Santelli: Florida 31, Georgia 24 - The Gators just ran the gauntlet, losing to No. 2 Alabama and at No. 1 LSU and Auburn. Something tells me Florida has learned a thing or two from facing those teams, and will bring a mean streak into Jacksonville for the "Cocktail Party," where the Gators have won 18 of their last 21 matchups against Georgia.

No. 9 Michigan State (6-1) at No. 13 Nebraska (6-1)

Michigan State football (Matt Radick/Creative Commons)
Michigan State football (Matt Radick/Creative Commons)
Fitch: Michigan State - The Spartans got lucky last week against Wisconsin, but they'll have to control the passing game instead of the running game to overcome the Cornhuskers. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has been unable to show that he can perform consistently in a way that puts his team on top. Nebraska is going to focus on their man-to-man coverage but Michigan State has the momentum coming off of last week’s win and the strength of their receivers to rely on a win for this upcoming weekend.

Katz: Nebraska - MSU has nowhere to go but down from last week's game. Nebraska knows how to use up the clock, and they run the ball as well as anyone. This one should be interesting, though, because Kirk Cousins' team is playing good football right now.

Shamout: Michigan State 24, Nebraska 21 - This is a classic offensive/defensive matchup. The Spartans bring their 7th-ranked defense in points allowed to Lincoln to face the Huskers' 7th-ranked rushing attack. If I had more confidence in Martinez to make good, quick decisions under pressure, I would be inclined to pick the upset. But after watching Martinez's woeful, three-interception performance in the Huskers' other tough test this season at Wisconsin, I can't take that leap. The Spartans do just enough to stay in the top ten after last week's thrilling, last-second victory.

Santelli: Nebraska 17, Michigan State 14 - The winner of this game will be in charge of their own destiny en route to a Big Ten Championship berth. And when an unstoppable force like Nebraska's run game meets an immovable object like Sparty's front seven, I'll give the tie to the home team in Lincoln.

No. 12 Wisconsin (6-1) at Ohio State (4-3)

Wisconsin football (Paul Joran/Creative Commons)
Wisconsin football (Paul Joran/Creative Commons)
Fitch: Wisconsin - After enduring the loss at Michigan State last week, Wisconsin is going to bounce back. They have a prominent defense that has consistently done well, one that the Buckeyes will not be able to match up to. Ohio State needs to manage their game to make it more balanced on both sides. This is not a great year for the Buckeyes as they come into this game with only four wins. Unfortunately, they won't be able to keep up with the caliber of the Wisconsin offensive line and that will lead the Badgers to rebound win.

Katz: Wisconsin - Ohio State is pretty pathetic offensively. Plus, Wisconsin lost last weekend and needs to rebound. Their mix of Russell Wilson and James White/Montee Ball put up too many points; the Buckeyes can't compete when the other team is as prolific as the Badgers.

Shamout: Wisconsin 35, Ohio State 10 - The Badgers are coming off an excruciatingly tough loss to Michigan State, and need an impressive performance to bounce back. Luckily, they are facing an Ohio State team that has had big problems on the offensive side of the ball this season. Buckeye quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller have a combined total of less than 900 yards passing this season. That’s not the kind of productivity you want against a Badgers defense that only gives up 13 points per game.

Santelli: Wisconsin 21, Ohio State 20 - At last, we can come to a consensus. The Badgers will rebound from a heartbreaker and control the running game to beat the Buckeyes. But Ohio State, a team that played both Michigan State and Nebraska to within a touchdown, can keep it close with their tough defense.

No. 11 Oklahoma (7-0) at No. 9 Kansas State (6-1)

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (E. A. Sanabria/Creative Commons)
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (E. A. Sanabria/Creative Commons)
Fitch: Kansas State - After coming off a loss from Texas Tech last week, Oklahoma has an image to defend. That being said, the Sooners will be coming off strong, while the Wildcats had their best offensive performance last week. Kansas State has a tough defense that loves to attack the football but it will all come down to Oklahoma's ability to rebound from last week's loss.

Katz: Oklahoma - I think this is where we learn that KSU is overrated. I think they're good, but they do not have the talent to match up with OU. Plus, Oklahoma just got shocked at home; think they're ready for this one?

Shamout: Oklahoma 38, KSU 20 - The Sooners will be desperate for a win after their deflating loss to Texas Tech last week at home. Should OU win out, they still have a shot at the Big 12 title if they beat rival Oklahoma State on the final weekend. Oklahoma still averages a prolific 380 passing yards per game, and the Wildcats' defense has been vulnerable through the air this season, giving up over 460 passing yards to Texas Tech, and 346 to Baylor. I expect the Wildcats' undefeated run to end this Saturday.

Santelli: Oklahoma 45, KSU 21 - Lest we forget, this is the same Wildcats team that nearly lost to Eastern Kentucky. Yes, they have had some solid wins since that openng week debacle. But Landry Jones and the Sooners offense is too talented for KSU. And with games against Texas A&M, Baylor, and Oklahoma State remaining, Stoops' men still have plenty to fight for.

Pick Records This Season:

Fitch: 20-9 (.690), Shamout: 16-13 (.552), Katz: 6-4 (.600), Santelli: 8-1 (.889).


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