The first week of October brings a
tantalizing menu of games in college football, as five matchups will pit Top 25 teams against each other. Each contest will not only shape the picture within each
respective conference but also the BCS race as well.
LSU Tigers at Florida Gators
This game has become a more
uncertain proposition than anyone could have anticipated at the beginning of
the season. LSU, the defending SEC champion, figured to overwhelm Florida's nonexistent offense, but the Gators have actually been able to
put points on the board. The new Florida scoring attack is led by
quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose mobility has led to big plays on both
passes. It's still true that LSU's front seven has the speed that can
neutralize Driskel in a hurry, and it's also true that the SEC East has not yet
proven that it can beat the SEC West in a high-stakes showdown. This matchup will favor the Tigers, as the western division of the SEC has been dominant over the east for the last several seasons.
However, this is another test on the road for
LSU, whose quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, is playing well below average. The Bayou Bengals have had issues controlling the football in recent
weeks, bringing the strength of their fundamentals into question. It is possible that LSU has become complacent after a soft early-season schedule, but the Tigers could also be foreshadowing some weaknesses that a
quality team like Florida can exploit.
This is the game in which both LSU and
Florida must make a statement to the rest of the league or fall out of contention for a championship. A one-loss record likely won't cut it for a shot at the conference title this
season based on the dominant starts by Alabama, South Carolina and
Georgia Bulldogs at South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina -3
On a big day of SEC football, the other
five-star showdown is the battle for SEC East supremacy. It's difficult to predict the outcome of a game like this because of how evenly matched the two sides are.
South Carolina and Georgia were both
extremely sloppy last week, yet both teams pulled out ugly wins and remain unbeaten. Now
both teams are 5-0 and ranked in the Top 10.
Offensive line play is spotty for both
teams, and that will be a game-changer as both the Dawgs and Gamecocks field
formidable defensive lines. This game could end up being a battle of the turnover margin, as each
side has had issues maintaining possession so far this season.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Texas Longhorns
While defense will be the theme of the
SEC tilts, this Big 12 contest will likely be a shootout — although, after West
Virginia's 70-63 win over Baylor last weekend in which more than 1,500 total
yards were posted, the notion of a "shootout" probably needs to be
seen in a comparative context.
Texas and West Virginia both needed a
lot of offense to win their conference openers last week, and they'll need that firepower
again this weekend.
The Longhorns' defense was supposed to
be the one respectable unit in the Big 12, but they need to step up after
getting shredded by Oklahoma State last week. If they have a few timely stops
in them, they can gain and maintain leverage against the Mountaineers.
Otherwise, the Geno Smith Heisman Trophy bandwagon will gather a lot more
momentum if the Mountaineers leave Austin with a win.
Washington Huskies at Oregon Ducks
The Stanford Cardinal were expected to
be one of Oregon's chief competitors in the Pac 12, but Washington did the Ducks
a favor. By upsetting the Cardinal last Thursday, the Huskies removed Stanford from that role and inserted themselves into the No. 1 contender spot
in the Pac 12 North.
However, the odds makers — and the rest
of the college football world — aren't taking the Huskies very seriously.
That's because the Washington offense has been paltry this season, scoring a total
of 41 points in three games against FBS teams. Heading to Eugene without much
pop on offense is a recipe for disaster, as the Ducks have scored at least 42
points every week and have averaged 52.4.