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October 17, 2008
Keep an eye on: Top story lines for Week 8
Each Friday, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans six things to keep an eye out for over the course of the weekend.
MISSOURI AT TEXAS. This is the marquee game of the weekend, and both teams will have to answer the age-old question, "What are you going to do now?" Texas is coming off an impressive victory over Oklahoma. The Longhorns have jumped to No. 1 and have heard nothing but how good they are all week. Can the Longhorns maintain that same level of intensity or will they have a letdown? Missouri, on the other hand, blew a perfect opportunity to take over the No. 1 spot when it was upset at home by Oklahoma State. Will the Tigers be able to regain their confidence and return to the high level of play that they displayed against Nebraska the week before? Get ready for some aerial fireworks with Texas ranked 109th in pass defense and Missouri ranked 113th.
CALIFORNIA AT ARIZONA. There is a lot of intrigue in this matchup. A victory would allow the Bears to keep pace in the Pac-10 and show that their loss at Maryland was just a bad day. But a loss raises questions of whether the Bears yet again will collapse in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, an Arizona victory would put the 4-2 Wildcats on the brink of bowl eligibility. A loss would make you wonder if they can beat a good team.
WILL WISCONSIN RE-DISCOVER ITS WINNING GROOVE? The Badgers' season is on the brink. They have lost three in a row. They are on the precipice of a quarterback controversy. And they play at hungry and desperate Iowa on Saturday. Last week's 48-7 loss to Penn State was Wisconsin's worst home setback since 1989, and a struggling offense may have difficulty getting on track against a stout Hawkeyes defense. Iowa figures to sit on Wisconsin's strong ground game and make the quarterback win the game. If Wisconsin can win, it could spark the Badgers to a strong finish against one of the easiest remaining Big Ten schedules. If Wisconsin loses, more self-doubt will creep in and the Badgers may be fighting for their bowl life down the stretch.
SOUTH CAROLINA'S OFFENSE AGAINST LSU. Let's face it: This isn't the LSU defense that won the national championship last season. The Tigers have been unimpressive. We should have seen Florida's offensive output coming after LSU allowed Auburn to score 21 and Mississippi State to score 24. This isn't a vintage Steve Spurrier offense at South Carolina, but it's getting better. Now that quarterback Stephen Garcia has his act together, the Gamecocks have theirs together on offense, too.
MICHIGAN STATE. The Spartans host Ohio State in a big game in the Big Ten. Michigan State's offense is overly reliant on tailback Javon Ringer; what happens if Ohio State's strong defense shuts him down? It seems extremely unlikely quarterback Brian Hoyer can win the game with his arm. At the same time, Ohio State's offense certainly is no juggernaut. Running back Chris Wells is back, but for all the athletic gifts Terrelle Pryor possesses, the Buckeyes' passing attack reeks (143.6 ypg, last in the Big Ten). This is a prime opportunity for Michigan State to announce that it has arrived as a legitimate Big Ten contender. Ohio State, meanwhile, has this one, then next week's showdown with Penn State in Columbus. If the Buckeyes lose to the Spartans, next week's contest loses a lot of luster.
HOW WILL CLEMSON RESPOND? Perhaps no team in the country has underachieved as much as Clemson, which entered the season ranked ninth. The Tigers are 3-3 and two of the wins are against Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) teams. Can the Tigers turn things around now that Tommy Bowden has stepped down as coach? Will the decision to replace starting quarterback Cullen Harper with Willy Korn rejuvenate the offense? This week's game looks like a bad matchup for Clemson because its struggling offensive line faces a Georgia Tech defensive line that is among the best in the nation. If Clemson breaks the 24-point mark and beats Georgia Tech, it could signal that the Tigers are ready to make a late-season surge. If the Tigers lose and fail to move the ball again, they could have a hard time earning any kind of bowl bid.