Games to Watch - Week 5
September 23, 2012
Thursday - Stanford at Washington (ESPN, 9:00 p.m. ET)
Stanford has won six of its last seven meetings against Washington including a 65-21 beat down last year. Yet after losing Andrew Luck to the NFL most people thought the Cardinal would take a significant hit this year. However that has not been the case so far as the Cardinal comes in ranked 8th and sitting at 3-0 after taking down PAC-12 favorite USC two weeks ago. Washington meanwhile has beat two lesser opponents but got demolished in Baton Rouge by a much faster and more talented LSU squad. The Stanford defense can't quite match the defensive intensity of LSU but if the Cardinal defense can provoke Husky QB Keith Price into the same mistakes they did against Matt Barley and USC then they should easily move to 4-0. However they are back at home in CenturyLink Field and the ESPN Thursday night games have occasionally proven to be costly to higher ranked teams in the past playing on the road, especially in the PAC-12, so the Cardinal will need to be on upset alert as a touchdown road favorite.
Saturday - Baylor at West Virginia (FX, 12:00 p.m. ET)
After watching a phenomenal slate of games in Week 4 the scheduling gods took a break this week. If you have been putting off a weekend project, this might be the weekend to go ahead and knock it out. This is the only game of the week with both teams ranked in both polls. However, if you like offense, you will love this game. Both teams come in 3-0 having beaten less than stellar competition to date and it appears that Baylor senior QB Nick Florence has picked up where RGIII left off, as Baylor currently sits 5th in passing yards in the NCAA at 362 yards per game. Meanwhile WVU senior QB and Heisman hopeful Geno Smith is even better at 370 yards passing per game and 3rd in the NCAA. Both teams also currently rank in the Top 10 in points scored, but again the most impressive win either team has to date is Baylor beating ULM last Friday night. The biggest question in this game might be whether WVU will be looking ahead to their matchup next week in Austin against the Longhorns? If they do, the post RGIII Bears' could easily stroll into Morgantown and spoil the Big 12 debut of West Virginia. Unlike the Oregon/Arizona game last Saturday I don't see either of these teams getting shut down offensively due to suspect defenses on both sides. Points will not be a problem; in fact this game simply might come down to whoever has the ball last wins.
Saturday - Tennessee at Georgia (CBS, 3:30 p.m.)
Two weeks ago this game looked like it could be a huge swing game in the battle for the SEC East…and then Tennessee reminded us that it's not the 90's anymore and proceeded to get blown out at home by Florida. Now the Vols look to play the role of spoiler in-between the hedges in Athens. The Dawgs come in as a two-touchdown favorite and playing extremely well the last few weeks, however they have a huge road test next week against South Carolina and The Ole' Ball Coach…probably the most hated man in the state of Georgia from his days at Florida. If Georgia is already looking ahead and isn't focused on Tyler Bray and the Tennessee passing attack ranked 8th in the country, then that game next week against the Gamecocks might not mean near as much to the Dawgs. The key to this game will be the Georgia defensive line and if they can get pressure on Bray, if they can, look for Georgia to shut down the Tennessee passing attack; but if Bray has time to sit in the pocket this game might be a little closer than the Georgia faithful want.
Saturday - Ohio State at Michigan State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Technically this game also has two ranked teams playing each other according to the AP Poll; however Ohio State has a one-year postseason ban that prevents them from playing in a bowl game, the Big Ten championship or consideration by the USA Today Coaches Poll. And more importantly the fact that Michigan State is ranked in any poll on the planet is almost as comical as the Big 10 as a whole. They trailed Eastern Michigan at halftime last week, barely pulled out a win over a clearly depleted Boise State team at home in Week 1 and got rolled by Notre Dame two weeks later; but hey, they did beat Central Michigan pretty impressively. However that is a big win in the Big 10 these days…just ask Iowa. Ohio State is probably the "best team" in the Big 10; however that's like being the skinniest person on The Biggest Loser. The Buckeyes are 4-0 so far but they also haven't left Columbus to play a football game and have been less than impressive in most of those. This week will be Urban Meyer's Big Ten debut and the first real "test" of the season for the Buckeyes. Can the Buckeyes contain Sparty RB Le'Veon Bell? If not it might be a long afternoon in East Lansing for Meyer, if so MSU might get shutout of the end zone like they did against the Irish. In either case the good news for the Big 10 is that at least one of them has to win.
Other Games to Watch
FSU doesn't play a ranked team again this year until the last weekend of the season when they host their intrastate rivals, The Florida Gators. However this weekend they are on the road against South Florida and need to avoid a letdown after their big win over Clemson in what should otherwise be an easy win as a two touchdown favorite for the Seminoles.
Texas is 22-4 all-time against Oklahoma State, however as mentioned earlier Texas has a big game at home next week against WVU so they will need to avoid looking ahead as a slight road favorite against a team that has beaten them the past two years.
If you don't live in Nebraska or Wisconsin you can stop reading now. Nebraska got embarrassed last year at Madison in their first-ever Big Ten game losing 48-17. They will look for revenge this year in front of their ongoing NCAA record 322nd consecutive sellout home crowd. But again, at least another Big 10 team is guaranteed a victory.
How good is Arizona? We may never know. They put up 59 points on Oklahoma State and then get shut out by Oregon. Meanwhile Oregon State may be much better than anyone thought beating two top 20 teams to start the season after coming in off a 3-9 2011 season. While neither team will likely challenge for the PAC-12 title, this game should answer quite a few questions for both teams and their fans.