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College Football: Week 5 Viewing Guide

After last week’s debacle in Austin, any hopes the Longhorns had of making it to the national title game went out the window. Nonetheless, there is still the prospect of playing in a BCS bowl game and for the Big 12 title. With this week’s game against ou, and Nebraska in two weeks, Texas has the ability to redeem themselves in a hurry. The ‘Horns have fallen considerably in both polls, to #21 and #16 in the AP and Coaches polls, respectively, but those rankings mean little when you’re out of the title hunt.

At this point it’s all about conference domination, but just for fun, we can hope for a late season run and focus on all the help we’ll need along the way. With more teams to root against, the rest of the season should be interesting.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

Now let’s get to it. Put on your “hater” hat and follow the week 5 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 2
12:00 PM ET
Louisiana-Monroe at #10 Auburn (ESPNU)

Auburn should handle business at home against an inferior team, but this game will do little to move the needle for them.

No. 16 Miami, FL at Clemson (ESPN2/ESPN3D)
Both of these teams will be playing their first conference game of the season. Expect this to be a good game with Clemson trying to make a statement at home.

3:30 PM ET
#21 Texas vs. #8 oklahoma (ABC/ESPN)

The Horns’ path to redemption begins in Dallas this weekend. Reference EyesOfTX’s game preview here. Note: This game will not be shown on TV in the mid- and south Atlantic regions. Check the coverage maps to see where you can find it in your area.

Virginia Tech at #23 North Carolina State (ABC)
Another regional coverage game. A Tech loss here only weakens Boise State’s case for their lofty ranking.

#11 Wisconsin at #24 Michigan State (ABC/ESPN)
The final of the regional trio this week has highly-ranked Wisconsin going on the road. Michigan State is getting a lot of credit for the way they’ve played the last few weeks, and they’ll prove they’re worthy of it if they knock off the Badgers. Their head coach Mark Dantonio will be coaching from the booth as he returns from the mild heart attack he suffered two weeks ago.

Tennessee at #12 LSU (CBS)
Keep an eye on what’s happening in Baton Rouge and hope for a major upset. LSU head coach Les Miles is beginning to take a lot of criticism, let’s hope it’s merited.

#19 Michigan at Indiana (ESPNU)
Michigan is finally getting on track for the first time since head coach Rich Rodriguez took over the team. A conference road game could be just what we need to see them lose their way again.

8:00 PM ET
#7 Florida at #1 Alabama (CBS)

This should be one of the better games of the season. From the standpoint of a Texas fan, there is no good scenario with this game. Both teams will remain ranked higher than Texas despite who wins here or what happens in Dallas. That said, the lesser of two evils would be for Alabama to roll on and knock Florida back a few slots, leaving the status quo at the top of the SEC for now and hoping for some other spoiler down the road.

#9 Stanford at #4 Oregon (ABC/ESPN2)
This is a similar situation to the aforementioned game, and ‘Horns fans should take the same position as before and hope for the higher ranked team to hold on to that position for the time being. The PAC-10 is usually a cluster, so it’s foreseeable that both of these teams will lose at least one more time as well.

Washington at #18 Southern California (ESPN2)
Ah, USC, how we’ve loved to hate you for these last few years. But now that you’re bowl ineligible, you can play hero. By wreaking havoc throughout the conference, USC can determine the fates of many teams this year, without taking a bowl spot for themselves. Let’s hope for an undefeated Trojans season going into their final game against UCLA on December 4th and then getting crushed.

8:05 PM ET
#22 Penn State at #17 Iowa (ESPN)

It would be easy to hope that Penn State could knock of Iowa on the road thereby removing one higher-ranked team from Texas’ path, but a victory like that would be one to vault the Nittany Lions over Texas in the rankings. For the time being that might be acceptable, being that the Big Ten has a way of knocking off all of its teams on its own. With this game, Iowa begins a four game stretch of ranked opponents and then still has to face Ohio State in late November. Penn State’s competition is more spread out and their one loss to-date was on the road at #1 Alabama. Hope for Iowa to win this one knowing that they’ll likely fall again in the next few weeks.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing weekly viewing guide contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 2 Viewing Guide

Whew! The first week of the college football season has come and gone – thank you for five straight days, college football gods! – and with it, so are most of the cupcake teams that pad the schedules of the big boys early in the season. Tell the JV team to go put their summer dresses back in the closest.

That said, there were more than a few surprises in week one – Jacksonville State’s win in Oxford over a stunned Ole Miss squad (Do you think troublemaker QB transfer Jeremiah Masoli felt “robbed” in this one?), North Dakota State’s barn-burner over Turner Gill’s debut for the Jayhawks, oklahoma struggling against the Aggies of the not-Big 12 – Utah State (which always makes ‘Horns fans smile), not to mention the epic battle at FedEx Field between Boise State and Virginia Tech on Monday night.

With week two through the end of the season, fans will get more important and impactful games, and definitely more watchable contests. Let’s hope for plenty more thrilling nail biters from here on in – heck, ESPN’s deemed this weekend “Monster Saturday.” Maybe that refers to the IV drip of Monster energy drinks you’ll need to get through this week’s line-up. Yum, breakfast.

As always, the rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games. Let’s get to it, shall we? Here is your college football week 2 viewing guide (all times Eastern):

Friday, September 10
#23 West Virginia @ Marshall (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
West Virginia is the only ranked team in the Big East and Marshall didn’t put up much of a fight against Ohio State last week. But, this is an in-state rivalry, and the coaches have a long history, so it’s somewhat compelling for a Friday night game.

Saturday, September 11
San Jose State @ #11 Wisconsin (ESPN, 12:00 p.m.)
Wisconsin is heavily favored and taking on San Jose State at home. Cupcakes gone, right? Maybe a game against a wheel of cheese (fitting for the state of Wisconsin) follows a cupcake; EyesOfTx isn’t even mad. Let’s face it, as one of the best in the Big 10, they’re worth keeping an eye on.

#22 Georgia @ #24 South Carolina (ESPN2, 12:00 p.m.)
This should turn out to be a more interesting matchup in this time slot. Both of these teams could be dangerous opponents to the other top teams (i.e. Alabama, Florida) in the Stuck-up Elitist Conference…er, SEC…as the conference schedule progresses.

This week’s regional games on ABC/ESPN2 are unfortunately two of the better games of the day. Check the coverage maps to see which game is on which channel in your area:

Iowa State @ #9 Iowa (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)
The Iowa-Iowa State rivalry is always intriguing and Iowa has really come on as a serious contender. But, head coach Paul Rhoads has Iowa State headed in the right direction, and they’re also one of the Longhorns’ Big 12 North opponents this year; worth scouting if you can pull your eyes away from the oklahoma-Florida State game.

#17 Florida State @ #10 Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)
In the other regional game, ou hosts Florida State and “new” coach Jimbo Fisher – can anyone remember when Bobby Bowden wasn’t the coach of the Seminoles? oklahoma QB Landry Jones was mediocre last week, who had a closer game than expected against Utah State, although RB DeMarco Murray had a field day as one of the conference’s top backs in week one. Gag. FSU, on the other hand, looked better than expected in their opener. This will be a telling game, will have BCS implications, and is definitely a must-watch.

#12 Miami (FL) @ #2 Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN3D, 3:40 p.m.)
Here’s another great game in the mid-afternoon slot. We get our first look at the Buckeyes, and Heisman-hopeful QB Tyrell Pryor, on the national stage. Both teams feature highly-touted quarterbacks, with Miami’s Jacoby Harris leading the way for the Hurricane offense. Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, four players were injured in the week one against Florida A&M and won’t play in Columbus.

Wyoming @ #5 Texas (FSN, Comcast Sports, 7:00 p.m.)
Texas had a slow start against Wyoming in the altitude of the high plains last year, before taking a 3 point lead just before halftime in to a rout in the second half, but playing in Austin should be a different story. Hopefully, the Longhorns broaden the playbook, get remaining jitters and hitches out of the system, and fine tune the details in a win before starting conference play at Texas Tech next week – luckily, offensive-minded Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen’s offense is a perfect litmus test for the ‘Horns highly-ranked secondary.

More importantly than the game, however, EyesOfTX offers its condolences to the family and friends of Wyoming linebacker Ruben Narcisse who lost his life earlier this week in a car accident. Best wishes for a quick recovery to the other three Cowboys players who were hurt in the incident.

#18 Penn State @ #1 Alabama (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
A decent consolation if you’re not able to get the Texas game. Both teams cruised to victories last week, including Penn State’s true freshman QB debut, but both better be ready for this brutal challenge. The Crimson Tide playing at home with a bevy of veterans looks to be an easy favorite on paper (despite being without Heisman Trophy winner RB Mark Ingram, who continues to recover from knee surgery), but Penn State is a team you can never count out. Head coach Nick Saban doesn’t have an easy return to the BCS title game, as the Nittany Lions are the first of six ranked opponents Alabama faces this year.

#7 Oregon @ Tennessee (ESPN2, 7:00 p.m.)
A third top 10 team playing in this slot will get you burning up your remote. Oregon has to carry the Pac-10’s “legitimacy hopes” this year, so going on the road against an SEC team will be a barometer for the rest of their season. Is Tennessee the best SEC barometer? Probably not, but its better than Vanderbilt. Under a new head coach, the Vols aren’t the cream of the SEC crop, and they have some key injuries, but they played well last year against some of the top teams even with “crazy Lane” Kiffin as coach. Oregon, meanwhile, comes off a dismantling of New Mexico, in which their back-up running back had five TDs. At halftime. And, they return their starting RB – the “other La” – LaMichael. Let’s look for two things: 1) How well the Zeroes play away from Autzen, at a real college football stadium; and, 2) What crazy uniforms they bring to play against the always-conservative SEC.

#25 Stanford @ UCLA (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.)
The nightcap game this week is a Pac-10 showdown at the Rose Bowl. Stanford comes in with a fresh top 25 ranking to their credit, and the Bruins – expected to finish in the bottom three of the conference – reeling from an opening game loss to Kansas State (well, to Wildcats RB Daniel Thomas, really…not sure the rest of KSU’s team showed up). UCLA comes to Austin in two weeks for redemption game for the Longhorns after the never-forgettable 66-3 beat down in the late 1990s at home, so now is the time to see what the ‘Horns will be up against in a key non-conference match-up.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing weekly viewing guide contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Conference Re-Alignment, Part II: The Stretch To The Bible Belt

Now that we’ve covered some perspectives on why Texas should stay apart of the Big 12 Conference, Eyes Of TX contributor and former Blue & Gold staffer, John Haynsworth, will take his perspective on why Texas should leave the Big 12 behind, and follow the road signs north to the Big 10 Conference.

View from the Big 10 Conference
By: John Haynsworth
To be honest, I was a little disappointed when Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds told the Associated Press the university did not intend to explore a move to the Big 10. Of course there would have been several hurdles – political and geographic among them – to clear in order to pull of such a move, but I believe it really could have worked out for the best for Texas, not only for the football program, but for all sports within the department. Here’s why:

The rivalries.
I want to quickly debunk the myth that Texas’ long-standing football rivalries would suffer with a move to another conference. Let’s remember that Texas v. oklahoma was a rivalry long before the Longhorns and sooners settled into the Big 12’s South division in the fall of 1996. If Texas and oklahoma could be bitter rivals as members of the Southwest Conference and Big 8, respectively, then why would it be so hard to resume a non-conference rivalry in the future? Further, I honestly believe oklahoma would welcome a shakeup within the Big 12 that might allow for a renewal of its once-annual rivalry with Nebraska while still maintaining the Red River Rivalry.

As far as the A&M series is concerned, is that even a rivalry anymore? Sure, there are more than 100 games of history within the series, but Texas has won more than twice as many games in the series (75-36), and the Longhorns are 10-4 against the Aggies since the inception of the Big 12. If anything, the series has digressed from a rivalry game to a trap-game for the ‘Horns. As such, is it really necessary to maintain on an annual basis?

Specifically addressing a possible move to the Big 10, Texas football would trade ho-hum regional match-ups for intriguing national games that would include trips to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. I think those three powers, with their 100,000-seat stadiums more than make up for the loss of Tech and A&M on an annual basis and Big 12 North teams such as Nebraska or Colorado twice every four years.

The return games would be huge as well. I don’t know about many of you, but for me, Texas’ home schedule has left a lot to be desired in recent years. Aside from Ohio State, I can’t think of one intriguing non-conference matchup at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium since 1998.

Imagine a schedule that includes: Oklahoma annually, rotating home and homes with Texas Tech and A&M every four years, and then a home and home with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State every four years. Granted, Texas would have less room on its schedule for the likes of Wyoming and Louisiana-Lafayette, but I could live with that.

National exposure.
Texas doesn’t really need the exposure boost that a move to a more national conference would provide. After all, the football program has risen to the top of Forbes’ list of college football’s most valuable programs, dethroning perennial revenue king Notre Dame in the 2009 rankings.

What Texas has done with a predominantly state-centric consumer base is nothing short of impressive. But the next frontier is growing the brand outside of the state’s borders.

And while that wouldn’t do much for football, I believe it would help immensely with a basketball team that is fighting to earn a place in the national spotlight. Consider this: according to Forbes, the Big 12 and the Big 10 are currently tied with five teams among the top 20 most valuable. However, according to Forbes’ basketball research, the Big 12 is hardly to be found. There are five Big 10 teams on a list dominated by the ACC, and just one Big 12 team – Kansas.

Oh, by the way, other populous state universities such as Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin made both of Forbes’ football and basketball lists.

Stability of the Big 12?
Texas isn’t the only program considering its options with other conferences. Several media reports over the past few weeks indicate that Big 12 North members Colorado and Missouri would both be receptive to overtures from the Pac-10 and the Big 10, respectively.

For the sake of argument, if those teams leave, what options does that leave the Big 12? Out west, the conference might look to replace Colorado with perhaps Boise State, BYU or Utah, but those are lateral moves at best from the Buffaloes, despite some of their recent successes on the gridiron. Besides, such programs would face some of the geographic hurdles that Texas would face moving to the Big 10, though those programs are far less equipped, financially, to endure such a move.

Regardless, there are very few, if any, moves that the Big 12 could make to enhance its conference from a competitive standpoint in any sport across the board, either men’s or women’s, if any of its members leave for another conference. Granted that doesn’t have much effect on Texas or the Big 12 South, but I think that Texas has to consider its place in a league that might have nowhere to go but down, especially if other conference start raiding the Big 12’s cupboard.

Good academic company.
Texas’ revenue sports – football, basketball and baseball (which breaks even) – have little room to turn up their noses at any other program’s academics. None of those programs graduate even 50 percent of their student-athletes.

Having said that, the athletics department should have an obligation to do what it can to enhance the university’s academic reputation, which is notable nationally. A move to the Big 10 would put Texas in good company with other reputable public institutions.

According to the latest release from the US News & World Report, the University of Texas (tied 15th) ranks highest among the Big 12’s schools among the nation’s best public colleges. They would be fourth in the Big 10 behind Michigan (4), Illinois (tied 9th) and Wisconsin (tied 9th). In all, seven Big 10 members rank in the top 25 of the nation’s best colleges, while just two Big 12 schools (Texas and A&M) earned that distinction.

Additionally, as a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) – a common thread among all current Big 10 members as well as a primary criteria for any future considerations – the University of Texas’ commitment to research would certainly mesh well with the academic mission of the conference’s current schools.

The money.
Let’s be honest, the money will ultimately determine whether Texas stays or leaves the Big 12. As reported by the Associated Press, Dodds is looking all the way to 2015 for the Big 12’s TV payday. Why wait, especially considering the money that would be on the table today?

“Big 10 schools clear $9 to $10 million more annually in TV revenue than Big 12 schools,” Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News recently reported. “Every SEC and Big 10 school receives a larger annual conference payout than Texas gets from the Big 12. Yes, that includes Vanderbilt and Northwestern. As Texas took home $10.2 million from the Big 12 in 2007-08, every Big 10 school was enjoying around $18.8 million.”

You do the math on a difference of roughly $8.6 million dollars over the next four seasons until the 2015 renewal year. Could $8 million a year make up for the difference in a bus trip to Waco, TX vs. a charter plane to State College, PA?

I’m not convinced that the Big 12 will ever be financially competitive with the likes of the SEC and the Big 10. I don’t know what that ultimately means for wins and losses on the playing field, but Texas has an immediate opportunity to strengthen its financial grip of the rest of college athletics. In the current landscape of college athletics, money does a lot of talking, and at some point, it is certain that Texas will want to be the big fish in a bigger pond.

My conclusion is that the Big 12 is on shaky ground at best. And while Kansas is a competitive basketball program, and oklahoma is a competitive football program, there isn’t enough star power from the conference’s assembled members. Texas should consider a move to a more established, profitable conference. While the Pac-10 is intriguing, I don’t think it benefits Texas to expand west. The eastern time zones are still the king of coverage, and would do more to further thrust Longhorns athletics into the national spotlight.

Tomorrow, stay tuned to Eyes Of TX for the final installment on the conference re-alignment series, as “Keifer Nandez” evaluates a potential move to the Pac-10 Conference.

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Texas’ Volleyball Fight Comes Up Short

Coming off a straight-set defeat (25-19, 25-20, 25-15) of the #11-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers in their semifinal match on Thursday night, the #2-ranked Texas Longhorns (29-1) volleyball team prepared to take on the #1-ranked and back-to-back national champion Penn State Nittany Lions (37-0) on Saturday night. The championship match appearance was the first for the ‘Horns since 1995, winning once in 1988, although the squad made the semifinals last year before a heart-breaking three games to two loss against Stanford. The ‘Horns faced their toughest test of the year, by far, in the Nittany Lions – with teams that have won a NCAA record 101 consecutive matches – but the match pitted the teams who held the top two spots in the national rankings all season.

Off to a hot start, the ‘Horns surprised the Nittany Lions in the first two games, winning both (25-22, 25-20), on strong play from senior All-American outside hitter Destinee Hooker and the defensive presence of senior libero Heather Kisner. From there, the ‘Horns struggled while staying in contention, but Penn State won the next two games (25-23, 25-21) behind strong play from AVCA National Player of the Year Megan Hodge to even the score going in to the final game. Texas led early in the game to 15 (win by two), but as any national championship team does, the Nittany Lions rallied and won the final game (15-13), the match and their third straight national championship. The Nittany Lions finish their season 38-0, and have now won 102 consecutive matches.

Hooker, who led the ‘Horns with 34 kills in the match, was named the NCAA Championship’s most outstanding player, and joined senior Ashley Engle and junior Juliann Fauscette on the all-tournament team. A full recap of the game can be found here.

It was a great season for the ‘Horns, and although they lose some of their key seniors heading in to the 2010 season, they have built the foundation for a superb team for years to come.

Hook ‘em!

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College Football: Week 12 Viewing Guide

A little late this week, but be assured that Colorado at #12 Oklahoma State was on the watch list. The ‘Pokes deserve more recognition for their season and are threatening to steal an at-large BCS bid, and more good stuff is in store on Saturday so settle in for one of the final weeks in college football. Remember to check the TV coverage maps, and note all rankings are the current BCS standings. For this week, the viewing guide is your huckleberry.

Saturday
12:00 PM ET
#10 Ohio State at Michigan, ABC
Ohio State is already a lock as the Big 10‘s representative for the Rose Bowl, but there’s no chance they don’t get up for this game. A few years ago, this rivalry game was billed as the de facto national championship, but oh how far we’ve come. Still, anything can happen in a rivalry game, and it would be worth watching Big 10 football just to see Rich Rod and Michigan pull off the upset against The Sweater.

Minnesota at #13 Iowa, ESPN
A Big 10 alternative, Iowa is playing for pride now as there’s no chance they make it into a BCS game. Minnesota could make their season with a win.

12:30 PM ET
oklahoma at Texas Tech, FSN
A little Big 12 South division action if you’re interested. These teams are playing for 3rd place in the division, and with a little help, ou could weasel their way into 2nd. It’s always nice to watch ou lose and Tech’s offense (no matter which QB plays) is a lot of fun to watch, as long as Texas isn’t on the field with them.

3:30 PM ET
#8 LSU at Mississippi, CBS
Can’t think of any reason to watch this other than CBS has the best college football coverage, and the other options aren’t any more enticing. LSU will likely be shut out of the BCS race, unless Alabama or Florida suffer a major catastrophe, despite their high ranking. Ole Miss could certainly make things interesting with a win that would put them in 2nd place in their division.

#14 Penn State at Michigan State, ABC/ESPN
If you don’t care for the SEC matchup, ABC has a couple of options with more teams who don’t matter.

(Also in this slot on ABC or ESPN is Virginia at #23 Clemson)

7:30 PM ET
#25 California at #17 Stanford, Versus
Who would have thought these two teams in the Pac-10 would actually be a compelling game? California had high hopes coming into this season, but somewhere along the way, the wheels came off. Now, they’re missing star RB Jahvid Best for their trip to Stanford, where they’ll match up against the hottest team in the country.

7:45 PM ET
Kansas State at Nebraska, ESPN
This game should decide the Big 12 Conference’s North division champion, so it’s worth paying attention to – if anything, to scout Texas’ Big 12 conference championship opponent.

8:00 PM ET
Kansas at #3 Texas, ABC (regional)
If you were prepared for an “off week” for Texas football, you will be surprised to find this gem on the calendar. It’s like finding a twenty dollar bill in an old jacket. When was the last time Texas played a game the week before Thanksgiving? Kansas coach Mark Mangino is suddenly under criticism by current and former players for the way he’s run his program in Lawrence, and the Jayhawks might have reason to come out with some fight, so the Longhorns can’t let up. This is the final tune-up before the ‘Horns head to College Station to wrap up the regular season. Note: This game is regional coverage, and most of the country will be watch #11 Oregon at Arizona.

Thanks to LilPete for his ongoing viewing guide contributions to Eyes Of TX.

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College Football: Week 10 Viewing Guide

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited about in week 10 of the college football season, save for the big matchup in the SEC. But, the potential for some serious chaos looms. There are quite a few early games this weekend worth watching, and the evenings will feature several games regionally, so check the coverage maps to see what’s available in your area. All rankings are the current BCS standings.

Now let’s get to the games – here is your Week 10 viewing guide.

Thursday
7:30 PM ET
#23 Virginia Tech 16 v. East Carolina 3
Overcoming the “blackout” at East Carolina, and avoiding a three-game skid, the Hokies hit the spread of 13 points behind 179 yards rushing by freshman Ryan Williams, who gave up a late fumble last week to allow North Carolina to win on a last second field goal, to win 16-3. Too much too late for Frank Beamer and team, as their big bowl game hopes are already over.

Friday
8:00 PM ET
#7 Boise State at Louisiana Tech, ESPN2
Boise State is poised to go undefeated and make a serious claim for a spot in the title game if some of the top teams suffer defeats. Despite their opening game win over Pac-10 leader Oregon, there are still questions about their strength of schedule. If you’re able to catch this game, take a look and judge for yourself if they deserve a shot at the BCS’ crystal ball.

Saturday
12:00 PM ET
Central Florida at #2 Texas, FSN/Comcast Sport Net
Texas is out of the limelight for the week as they take on Central Florida in late-season non-conference matchup. The Knights nearly pulled off an upset the last time they met, but Texas’ offense is now rolling now and it won’t be the same coming into DKR-Memorial Stadium.

Northwestern at #4 Iowa, ESPN
Iowa keeps finding a way to win. They’ve nearly been upset the last two weeks, but have come alive in the fourth quarter to keep their unbeaten record intact. Their final big test will come next week at Ohio State, so they may be caught looking ahead.

12:30 PM ET
Kansas at Kansas State, Versus
Kansas State currently leads the Big 12’s North division, while Kansas has reverted to their norm at the bottom of the conference standings. If K-State can keep up the pace, they’ll be in line to meet Texas in the Big 12 title game and Kansas comes to Austin in a few weeks so this might be worth a look for scouting purposes.

2:30 PM ET
Navy at #22 Notre Dame, NBC
Navy always gets up for these high profile games and nearly took down Ohio State in Columbus in Week 1. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the Irish fall at home to the Midshipmen? Front-butt coach Charlie Weis will have to help Heisman-hopeful QB Jimmy Clausen keep the winning ways going in South Bend.

3:30 PM ET
#9 LSU at #3 Alabama, CBS
This is the game of the week and the Tide is vulnerable. If LSU pulls off the upset on the road it could set up quite a you-know-what storm in the BCS. The implications are huge but we won’t focus on “what ifs.” The Tigers have suffered only one defeat, at home to Florida in a hard-fought game. Alabama is coming off of a near loss to Tennessee but has had two weeks to prepare for LSU to come to town. This is must watch.

#16 Ohio State at #11 Penn State, ABC/ESPN2
This is the premier matchup for ABC’s regional coverage. Both these teams started the year with high hopes to make a run at a national title, and both have fallen off course. They still have time to stake the claim of best in the Big 10 should Iowa drop one of their remaining games.

(Also in this slot on ABC or ESPN2 are #19 Oklahoma State at Iowa State and Wake Forest at #10 Georgia Tech.)

7:30 PM ET
Vanderbilt at #1 Florida, ESPN2
Florida shouldn’t have much trouble here, even without Brandon Spikes on the field, but you wouldn’t want to miss this if it turned out to be an upset. This will also fill in the gap before the later games and it’s better than a seventh game in the World Series.

8:00 PM ET
UConn at #5 Cincinnati, ABC
Cincinnati finally gets a spotlight game, at least for part of the country. ABC should send notes of apology to everyone on the West coast forced to watch another pitiful USC outing. The Bearcats seem in control of their season with very few challenges left, yet they are still likely to be left out of the BCS title game as long as there are at least two more undefeated teams from the big conferences. Fortunately for Texas, the Longhorns are positioned to benefit (for once) from the messed up BCS system, though the nightmare scenario for the BCS is to have undefeated teams from the Big 10, Big 12, Big East, and SEC, a scenario that doesn’t seem all that unlikely with the way things are going now. If this is in your region, check out this game to see just how worthy Cincinnati really is.

(Other games in this slot on ABC are #12 USC at Arizona State, and #24 oklahoma at Nebraska.)

Thanks again to LilPete for his viewing guide contribution.

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NCAA Football: Week 9 Viewing Guide

Hard to believe it’s already week 9 of the college football season, meaning we’re more than halfway to this year’s title game. Only seven unbeaten teams remain – #1 Florida, #2 Alabama, #3 Texas, #4 Iowa, #6 TCU, #7 Boise State, and #8 Cincinnati – the latter four being a bit of a surprise. At #5, a one-loss USC team.

Riddle Eyes Of TX this: USC comes in at #5, despite a loss to conference foe, and unranked Washington on 9/19; #9 LSU is the next-best one-loss team, having lost to #1 Florida on 10/10 and who beat U-Dub to open the season; #10 Oregon is the next one-loss team, are leading the Pac-10 conference race (ahead of none other than USC), and they lost to #7 Boise State in the first game of the year. Bias in the BCS? Eyes Of TX thinks so…

This Saturday will have a lot of ranked teams on display, so settle in for an entertaining set of games. Let’s get to it, the NCAA football week 9 viewing guide.

*All ranking shown here reflect the current BCS poll standings.

Thursday
7:30 PM ET
North Carolina 20 v. #13* Virginia Tech 17
FINALLY! Can we give the Virginia Tech hype a rest? Or at least those hideous uniforms? Year-in and year-out, VT gets a ton of hype coming out of the ACC, and every year they manage to blow it. This time, two weeks in a row. Anyone that has seen them play has to know that they are not at the same level as the country’s elite football programs. Sure, there’s “Beamer Ball” which preaches success in the special teams game, but any guesses as to who has had better special team success over the past 8-10 years? Hint: They come from the Big 12 Conference. That’s right, Texas. Going in to a hostile environment, the Tar Heels come out with their first conference victory on a last-second field goal, and the Hokies can now write off their season to another second-tier bowl game.

Friday
8:00 PM ET
#21 West Virginia at South Florida, ESPN2
Finally a Friday night game worth watching. West Virginia is one of three Big East teams with a perfect conference record, and South Florida is a legitimate foe, especially at home. However, the Bulls are coming off back-to-back losses to both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the other two teams at the top of the conference board.

Saturday
12:00 PM ET
Indiana at #4 Iowa, ESPN
Iowa is flying up the rankings, despite squeaking out a win at Michigan State with some last second heroics to maintain their perfect record last weekend. It’s doubtful any team in the “Little 10” will stand in the way of an unbeaten season for the Hawkeyes, but tune in for this early game to see what they’re about.

#8 Cincinnati at Syracuse, ESPNU
The Bearcats are quietly staking a claim as one of the best teams in the country, yet they get no love and no airtime. Flip over to this one when you have a chance; if anything, you’ll get to see a former NCAA basketball player play quarterback for the ‘Cuse. It’ll be like Michael Jordan trying to play baseball. Bonus: Greg Paulus getting posterized!

3:30 PM ET
#1 Florida vs. Georgia, CBS
Despite Georgia’s struggles this year, rivalry games always pose the threat of an upset, especially on a neutral field. Florida’s offense has been down lately, though their defense continues to dominate. Mississippi State wouldn’t have kept the score as close without the help of two Tim Tebow interceptions returned for touchdowns. Georgia has a legitimate shot if the same Florida we’ve seen the last few weeks shows up in Jacksonville.

Kansas at Texas Tech, ABC
ABC’s regional coverage will include this Big 12 matchup. Kansas has fallen out of the national rankings, but could still compete for the Big 12 North title. Check in during breaks from Florida-Georgia if this is on your lineup.

Other regional coverage games in this slot on either ABC or ESPN2 include: Michigan at Illinois, Miami at Wake Forest, and California at Arizona State. Check the coverage maps here to see what’s available in your area.

4:30 PM ET
#12 Penn State at Northwestern, ESPN
The tail end of this game will likely carry us through to the prime time games. Yep, Joe Paterno is still coaching, and Northwestern is still wearing purple.

8:00 PM ET
#3 Texas at #14 Oklahoma State, ABC or ESPN2 (depends on geography)
In this case, one of these teams will be taking their first conference loss, and with so many undefeated teams remaining at this point of the season, that will likely remove any national title hopes. McCoy and the Longhorn offense seemed to hit their stride last week in Columbia, while Okie State hasn’t let the losses of RB Kendall Hunter or Dez Bryant hurt their production. Bonus: Bet the over/under on the number of mentions that these two orange teams are playing on Halloween. Let’s set it at 4.5.

#5 USC at #10 Oregon, ABC or ESPN2 (depends on geography)
Oregon is in command of the Pac-10, and their only loss came in the opening game of the season to an undefeated Boise State team on the blue turf. USC has a bad history going on the road in the Pacific Northwest, so this could get interesting. USC head coach Pete Carroll will make his team playa celebrity tournament of “Duck Hunt” on Nintendo to “lighten the mood” in the locker room this week. Not really, but that’s something he would do and ESPN would love him for it.

Thanks to LilPete for his ongoing NCAA football viewing guide blog contribution.

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