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October 15, 2008

Five to watch: Big 12 powers look to rebound

All eyes again should be on the Big 12.

Of the five games involving two ranked teams this week, two take place in the Big 12. A week after losing their first games of the season, Oklahoma and Missouri face must-win games Saturday against Kansas and Texas, respectively.

The Big Ten race will shake out in the next two weeks, starting Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., when Ohio State plays at Michigan State. In the SEC, Alabama will try to avoid the same fate as Florida when it plays host to Ole Miss; the Rebels beat the Gators in Gainesville last month.

Of note: We don't include Thursday or Friday night games, but Thursday's BYU-at-TCU contest should be a must-watch game; it's at 8 p.m. on Versus.

All times Eastern.


When: 3:30 p.m.
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst
Line: Alabama by 13.5
Why you should watch: Ole Miss will try to play the role of spoiler for the second time this season after beating Florida 31-30 in Gainesville on Sept. 27. Alabama has won the past four in the annual series, but each of the past three has been decided by three points. For those who like good line play, four of the best linemen in the nation will be on view in offensive tackles Michael Oher of Ole Miss and Andre Smith of Alabama, defensive tackle Terrence Cody of Alabama and defensive end Greg Hardy of Ole Miss.


When: 3:30 p.m.
TV: ABC regional/ESPN2
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Bob Griese and Paul Maguire analysts
Line: Ohio State by 3
Why you should watch: This is the first of two critical Big Ten games in the next two weeks. A win for Ohio State would set up a potential de facto conference title game between the Buckeyes and Penn State next week in Columbus. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio hasn't lost a game by more than a touchdown in his Spartans tenure. Jim Tressel is 3-0 against his former defensive coordinator, including a 24-17 victory over the Spartans last season. This is the first time Dantonio gets to face his old boss on his home field. But Tressel vs. Dantonio is just a sideshow. The real entertainment will be watching Javon Ringer and Chris Wells run the ball.


When: 3:30 p.m.
TV: ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan
Broadcasters: Ron Franklin play-by-play, Ed Cunningham analyst
Line: Oklahoma by 17.5
Why you should watch: Oklahoma State opened up the Big 12 North race by upsetting Missouri last week, but Kansas will have to pull some upsets of its own, starting against the Sooners. Oklahoma isn't out of the national-championship race yet. The Sooners dropped to fourth in the Harris poll and sixth in the coaches' poll. Bob Stoops' defense must recover from a bruised ego after allowing 45 points to Texas and losing starting middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds for the rest of the season to a torn ACL.


When: 8 p.m.
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
Line: Texas by 7
Why you should watch: Missouri is in a more dire situation than Oklahoma as far as the polls are concerned, as the Tigers tumbled to No. 11 in the Harris poll and No. 12 in the coaches' poll. Meanwhile, Texas vaulted into the top spot after defeating OU. The game could turn into a Heisman showcase for Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy, who faces the worst pass defense statistically in the Big 12. Texas isn't much better against the pass, ranking 11th in the league in that category. Longhorns defensive end Brian Orakpo leads the conference with 7.5 sacks. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will try to recover from his three-interception night against Oklahoma State.


When: 8 p.m.
Broadcasters: Mark Jones play-by-play, Bob Davie analyst
Line: Boston College by 2
Why you should watch: Clemson dismissed its coach in the middle of the season. North Carolina is nationally ranked. Florida State is back on the map. Georgia Tech has proved it can compete with Paul Johnson's triple option. These are interesting days for the ACC, for sure, but don't forget who played in the conference championship game last season and provided one of the most exciting fourth quarters of 2007. It's these two. After a season-opening loss to East Carolina, Virginia Tech quietly has won five in a row behind quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Boston College hasn't really been tested; the Eagles have played one game (a 19-16 loss to Georgia Tech) against a team likely going to a bowl.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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