Scoreboard Watching: Week 7

With Notre Dame on the bye this week, here’s a look at who the teams ranked ahead of and around the Irish are playing this weekend.  With the Irish currently projected to be 6th in the BCS, a few upsets over the next few weeks could have the Irish right in the thick of the title race in November.

#1 Ohio State (6-0) at Michigan State (3-3) – 3:30 PM (ABC)
The Buckeyes are undefeated and if you listen to the media there’s no way they’re losing until possibly the Michigan game, but have looked beatable at times this year.  If Penn State had a more seasoned quarterback, the Lions very well could have won that game.  The big question here is what Michigan State team shows up.  Since melting down against Notre Dame, the Spartans have lost their last three games (including Notre Dame).

If there’s anything Michigan State has shown over the last decade or so, its that they can win any game and at the same time can lose any game.  Michigan State enough talent to pull off the upset if things go there way, but the X-Factor is John L. Smith.  Smith showed the mental toughness of a Pee Wee coach when he slapped himself in the face after the loss to Illinois.  Can Smith actually focus on one opponent for an entire week and forget about Notre Dame and Charlie Weis?  Maybe, but most likely not.

#2 Florida (6-0) at #11 Auburn (5-1) – 7:45 PM (ESPN)
Florida has beaten LSU and Tennessee already this year and now must face a tough Auburn team on the road.  Auburn lost last weekend to unranked Arkansas after reach 2nd place in the polls.  Florida meanwhile continues to play musical quarterbacks with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow.

This will be an extremely tough test for Florida.  Auburn, despite last week’s loss, is a very talented team with a great defense and a strong running game.  The Tigers will be playing at home and are coming off a humbling loss to an unranked team.  I think we lose another unbeaten this week.

Arizona State (3-2) at #3 USC (5-0) – 8:00 PM (ABC)
Last year Arizona State gave USC all they could handle for three and a half quarters and even led 21-3 at half time before USC put up 21 points in the 4th quarter to win 38-28.  This year the Sun Devils are coming off two straight blowout losses to Cal and Oregon, but will have the benefit of a bye week to prepare for USC.

USC has looked as beaten as they have been since early 2002 the last few weeks with some close calls against Washington and Washington State.  USC staying undefeated would be a good thing for Notre Dame because it would enhance their BCS resume should the Irish be able to beat USC November 25th.  ASU has a chance to pull the upset, but its not very likely.

#4 Michigan (6-0) at Penn State (4-2) – 8:00 PM (ABC)
Michigan will be without star wide receiver Mario Manningham this weekend and the loss will definitely effect their offense.  The Wolverines will be in a very hostile environment in Happy Valley Saturday night and Chad Henne has been looking for Manningham often this year.

One thing to think about is the fact that Henne has looked sharp when he’s had a big time go-to receiver (2004 with Braylon Edwards and this year with Manningham), but struggled last year without one.  Penn State definitely has the defense to play with Michigan, but do they have the offense?  This will be Penn State’s third contest with a top 10 team after losses to Notre Dame and Ohio.  This one will be competitive all game long, but it would take a truly breakout game from Anthony Morelli for Penn State to have a shot.

Syracuse (3-3) at #5 West Virginia (5-0)
The Orangemen look improved this year, but they aren’t ready for prime time yet.  West Virginia’s high powered offense should be able to put up a lot of points on the Syracuse defense.  It’s going to take a real clunker of a game for West Virginia to drop a game outside of Louisville or possibly Pitt or Rutgers.

Baylor (3-3) at #6 Texas (5-1)
The Longhorns are coming off a big won over Oklahoma and have only one more game against a ranked opponent – next week against Nebraska.   No real chance of an upset here.

Cincinnati (3-3) at #7 Louisville (5-0)
Louisville could get Brian Brohm back from injury and might need him.  Cinnci has played Ohio State and Virginia Tech tough this year and this one could be closer than some think.  The Bearcats played good defense against Ohio State and had them bottled up for most of the game.  Still, Louisville should have too much offensive firepower for Cinnci.

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