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October 3, 2008
Keep an eye on: Things to watch in Week 6
Each Friday, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans six things to keep an eye out for over the course of the weekend.
USC. A one-loss team is likely to make it to the championship game, and I want to see how the Trojans respond from last week's embarrassment. I don't care how bad USC looked in their last game against Oregon State; the Trojans always will be a media darling. At the end of the day, when it comes down to putting a one-loss team in the national-championship game, those voters will come flocking back to USC. Such is the case when you have "rock star" status.
FLORIDA STATE. The Seminoles showed some offensive life with 259 rushing yards in last week's victory over Colorado. The Seminoles are solid defensively, so if the offense can be consistently productive, Florida State could make a strong challenge in the ACC Atlantic Division and get back in the national rankings. I'm curious to see if the Seminoles can continue to run well this weekend against Miami.
SOUTH CAROLINA. Will it be a glorious or gory finish for the Gamecocks? We will know after Saturday's game at Ole Miss. The magic appears to have run out of Steve Spurrier's visor. Entering this season, Spurrier was 21-16 in three years in Columbia. The Gamecocks went to middling bowls in his first two seasons, then missed the postseason in 2007. This season, South Carolina is 3-2, including a loss at Vanderbilt. Impressive wins? There have been none. Now, the Gamecocks trek to Ole Miss, which is flying high following a huge upset at Florida. No one doubts the ability of South Carolina's defense, so the onus is on the offense in what I think is a must-win game for the Gamecocks. A loss in Oxford could send South Carolina into a tailspin with games remaining at Kentucky, vs. LSU, vs. Tennessee, at Florida and at Clemson. A win could provide a spark to a breakout season that has eluded Spurrier thus far in Columbia.
STANFORD. This is a week full of good, but not great, matchups. Stanford at Notre Dame falls into that category, but interests me nonetheless. Notre Dame has played one physical, run-oriented team this year (Michigan State) and lost 23-7. Stanford could fit that bill. The Cardinal can run with Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble at running back, while the defense has playmaking potential. The winner will be a team to watch for the rest of the season. Notre Dame could eclipse its win total from last season against Stanford, while the Cardinal could match last season's four wins with a victory in South Bend.
THE BIG 12. Conference play begins this week, which should give us a clearer picture of who's good and who's not so good. Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech are among the road teams whose play will be scrutinized. The Tigers haven't won at Nebraska since 1978. Though Mizzou beat the Huskers last season, the Tigers haven't won back-to-back games against Nebraska since 1973-74. Texas and Texas Tech, meanwhile, finally play teams that should make them break a sweat. Oklahoma's visit to Baylor also has a bit of intrigue. We'll get to see how the Sooners handle an explosive quarterback (albeit an explosive quarterback without much help) when they face freshman Robert Griffin. The other game is Kansas at Iowa State. Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing has thrown for 350 yards in three consecutive games, but the Cyclones actually have been OK against the pass thus far.
PENN STATE. Penn State has won each of its five games by at least two touchdowns and hasn't been held below 38 points this season. Then again, they've played away from home once, and that was against lowly Syracuse. Considering that Penn State went a combined 12-2 at home and 4-6 in away games during the 2006 and '07 seasons, it's too early to pass judgment on this team until it plays someone good away from Happy Valley. We should know plenty more about Penn State in a hurry because four of the Nittany Lions' next five games are away from home. That demanding stretch starts Saturday at Purdue. The Boilermakers have dropped two of their past three games and are coming off a convincing loss to Notre Dame, but they can be tough at home. If Penn State wins this game with relative ease, maybe it's time to add the Nittany Lions to the national-title conversation.