Week 9 Will Identify BCS Contenders or Pretenders

It is very hard to believe that we are entering Week 9 on the 2012 College Football season. Week 9. It seems like just yesterday we were kicking off the long-awaited 2012 season. This season there have been a few surprise teams who are all BCS contenders as of now: Notre Dame, whose defense has been outstanding so far, Kansas State, who has a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback in Collin “Optimus”  Klein, and lastly, you guessed it, the Florida Gators, who aren’t perfect but continue to win games week after week. Week 9 is a weekend of huge match-ups that could make or break any of these team’s BCS chances. Let’s see what this weekend has in store, and just what teams might knock off the current BCS hopefuls.

(2) Florida vs (10) Georgia- 3:30P.M. CBS:

Florida takes on Georgia Saturday in a critical SEC East game

Florida faces yet another huge test this time against the Georgia Bulldogs. A win for Florida, and they book their ticket to Atlanta for the first time since 2009. A win for Georgia essentially puts them in the driver’s seat to make it to the SEC Championship game. This is a very good match-up featuring Aaron Murray and Georgia’s high-scoring offense and Florida’s ruthless, chaos-causing defense. Just as Florida’s defense was key against South Carolina, defense will be key in this game. Not only is Aaron Murray’s offense ranked ninth in the nation in passing efficiency, Georgia’s two true freshmen running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, known together as “Gurshall” have combined for 1,110 yards. Georgia has 15 turnovers on the year, while the Florida ball hawk defense has caused 17 turnovers on the season. Turnovers should be another huge factor in the game just like last week. Georgia’s defense gives up an average 167 rushing yards per game, which should allow Florida to run the ball effectively. They are averaging 213 yards per game so far. Also an important statistic: Kentucky ran for 205, that’s right 205, rushing yards against the Bulldog defense. I don’t blame defensive back Shawn Williams for calling the Bulldog defense “soft”. While Georgia has shown that they can be very vulnerable, getting blasted by USC 35-7 and squeaking by Kentucky 29-24, they are still a very solid team, with an explosive offense. Florida, while they are the favorites going into this game, will have their work cut out for them. It’ll be interesting to see if the recent success will get to the team, although head coach Will Muschamp is confident that it will not as he addressed in his weekly press conference on Monday:“Nothing’s changed for us, we’re not working any harder , it’s all the same. We don’t approach things differently based on the situation because next week’s [vs Missouri] important too.” With Georgia’s back against the wall and Florida with just one game left to clinch the SEC East, this game means a heck of a lot for both of these teams. Expect another great one in Jacksonville this year.

(3) Kansas State @ (14) Texas Tech- 3:30P.M. FOX:                                                

Texas Tech QB Seth Doege has a lot to smile about, he’s got 2,209 passing yards on the season

This game has got Tommy Tuberville written all over it. Texas Tech wasn’t on anyone’s radar until they thrashed then-BCS favorite West Virginia 49-14 in week 6. Kansas State upset then #6 Oklahoma in Norman and manhandled West Virginia last week 55-14. K-State quarterback Collin “Optimus” Klein’s numbers are simply jaw-dropping. He’s thrown for 1,397 yards and has 10 touchdowns on the year so far. In addition, their two leading running backs have combined for 1,209 yards. Texas Tech’s quarterback Seth Doege makes Klein’s numbers look average. He’s thrown for 2,209 yards and has 28 touchdowns. 28?! It’s only week nine and the kid has got 28 touchdown passes. Needless to say, these two teams’ defensive coordinators will have a hard time sleeping in the next few days. Did I mention the game is in Lubbock? Red Raiders head coach Tommy Tuberville has been in this situation many times before. Let me rephrase that, Tommy dreams of games like this. Already this season his team has shaken up the BCS title picture by upsetting West Virginia, but let’s look at the upsets he’s pulled off in recent years. Just last season, Texas Tech upset #3 Oklahoma 41-38, spoiling the Sooner’s chances at a BCS Bowl. In 2008, the Red Raiders upset #1 ranked Texas in a thrilling 39-33. I don’t know about you, but I’ll never forget this play when I think of Texas Tech: 

Tuberville was not at Texas Tech yet for this one, but this program has been known to shake things up. This game will no doubt be a classic Big 12 shootout with points, outlandish offensive statistics, and more points. Don’t be surprised if this one goes down to the wire. If Texas Tech wins, they move ahead in the Big 12 title race, and it will most likely spoil Kansas State’s chances to get a BCS bid. Look out Optimus Klein, Tommy Tuberville and Company might just be able to pull this one off.

(5) Notre Dame @ (8) Oklahoma-8P.M. ABC:

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has emerged as a Heisman candidate

An unlikely BCS Bowl candidate, Notre Dame, has a very big test this week as they travel to Norman, Oklahoma to face Landry Jones and the Oklahoma Sooners. Notre Dame was not on anyone’s radar at the start of this year, except probably Lou Holtz, but their defense has been stellar, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o who has 69 tackles and 4 interceptions. The Irish defense is so good that they are ranked 2nd in the nation in points against. While Oklahoma lost to a very good Kansas State team, their offense is going to be a true challenge for the Irish defense, especially in the secondary. Oklahoma is averaging 52 points in their last three games, and Landry Jones had 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Not to mention the Sooner’s go-to red zone gunner, 6-6’ 254 pound Blake Bell, who has 8 rushing touchdowns on the year. Bell will be going up against a Notre Dame’s defense ranked 2nd in red zone defense.  This is a thrilling match-up for any college football fan: an explosive, high-flying offense against a dominant, hostile defense. A win for Oklahoma could make them a one-loss BCS hopeful, and a Notre Dame win could prove that it’s no gimmick-The Irish are no longer irrelevant.

(1) Alabama vs (11) Mississippi State-8:30P.M. ESPN:

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has thrown 16 touchdown passes with no interceptions

The Alabama Crimson Tide has been on cruise control all season long, with no signs showing that they are undeserving of their #1 BCS ranking. This week, they face Dan Mullen and an undefeated Mississippi State team.  Can the Bulldogs really hang with the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa? Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russel has a lot of confidence coming in, he currently has 1573 yards and 15 touchdowns. The key in this game for the Bulldogs is not only executing against the ruthless Alabama defense, but in addition getting pressure on A.J. McCarron. The Tide’s quarterback impressively has no interceptions so far this year, and the Tide’s offensive line has allowed just 7 sacks on the season, so this will be no easy task for the Bulldogs. But Mississippi State’s secondary has been solid so far, intercepting 12 passes and allowing just 5 passing touchdowns all year.  Alabama’s running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are averaging 5.8 and 6.8 yards per carry respectively, while the Bulldog’s rush defense have contained opponents to an average of 139 yards per game. It’ll be interesting to see if this State team can hang with the overpowering Crimson Tide, and really give them a run for their money. If the Bulldogs can hang tough, they could expose some vulnerability within the Crimson Tide.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy these sure to be heart-pumping games this weekend. By the end of it, there is sure to be some major BCS shakeups, and the national title picture may be much different after a weekend of top-ten, thrilling match-ups. By Sunday, we should be able to clearly see who’s pretending, and who’s really contending for that elusive BCS bid.

Morgan Moriarty is a sophomore Telecommunications major at the University of Florida, and covers college football and recruiting for ESPN Radio. She is also on the University of Florida Women’s Club Water Polo Team. Follow her on Twitter @moriarty343.

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