College Football Preview, Week 8: Weakened LSU Welcomes Auburn, Wisconsin Battles Michigan St.

The 6th ranked Wisconsin Badgers will get their first chance to make a statement away from Camp Randall when they take on 16th ranked Michigan St. in East Lansing. Also, #1 LSU will have to show again that it can survive without some of its biggest contributors when they welcome 20th ranked Auburn to Tiger Stadium.

 

WEEK 7 REVIEW

With the initial BCS Standings due out following Week 7, a slew of teams began jockeying for position for the race to the National Championship Game in New Orleans.  Among them were 13 undefeated teams, all of whom believed that they belonged among the elite.  Of those 13 undefeated teams, nine of them found themselves in games that were a little too close for comfort, and three of them saw their perfect records go down the drain.

The highest ranked of the bunch were the Michigan Wolverines who came into the weekend hoping to crack the Top 10 for the first time since 2007, but standing in their way were the Spartans of Michigan St.  The Spartans used their punishing defense to ground Denard Robinson and the high flying Wolverines offense, winning the game 28-14.  Robinson completed just 9/24 passes and was contained on the ground as well, wracking up less than 50 yards.

Elsewhere in the Big 10, Illinois was looking to extend its stunning start by moving to 7-0, but the Buckeyes of Ohio St. walked into Champagne and dropped the defensive hammer, holding the Illini to just seven late points in a 17-7 win.  The fact that the Buckeyes won the game with just one completed pass from quarterback Braxton Miller raised questions about how good Illinois was to begin with.  The Illini had dodged a number of bullets against lightly regarded teams this season and looked wholly overwhelmed throughout this one.

The final undefeated team to lose their unbeaten mark was Georgia Tech.  Coach Paul Johnson warned folks early in the week that this game against Virginia would be tougher for his Yellow Jackets than people anticipated.  After the Cavaliers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, that became a reality.  The Jackets were able to rally back to tie the game, but after falling behind 24-14 at the half, the Cavaliers defense completely shut down the vaunted triple option attack in the second half save for one drive late in the third quarter.  Georgia Tech managed just 285 yards of total offense on the day, the first time this season they've been held below 300.

A number of other teams also found themselves in tough battles but managed to escape with their records in tact.  Kansas stuck with Oklahoma throughout the first half, before the Sooners pulled away in the third quarter, Texas showed much more fight against Oklahoma St. then they did the week before in the Red River Shootout, but ultimately fell to the high powered Cowboys, and surprising Kansas St. got everything it wanted from Texas Tech before rallying in the second half to down the Raiders in Lubbock. 

Maybe the game of the year though took place in College Park where unranked Maryland, coming off a close loss against Georgia Tech the week before, showed off a new quarterback and a new offense while running out to a 35-17 lead against unbeaten Clemson.  The Tigers found their defense though over the final 18 minutes of the game and also got an otherworldly performance from freshman receiver Sammy Watkins (105 yards receiving, 207 yards on kickoff returns) as the Tigers rallied back for a 56-45 win.

In Week 8, the Wisconsin Badgers will take center stage for the first time this year as they hit the road to take on Michigan State in a game that should provide us with some answers about how good the Badgers really are.  But, maybe the most interesting game is taking place in Death Valley, where No. 1 LSU will take on the defending national champion, Auburn Tigers.

All games are Saturday, October 22nd unless otherwise noted. All games are ET.

MAIN EVENT

No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (6-0) @ No. 16 Michigan St. Spartans (5-1) -- 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

When the BCS Standings came out late Sunday night, Badger fans were up in arms when the computers spit them out as the 11th best team in the country.  A big reason for the major disparity between the human polls and computer polls is the weak schedule that the Badgers played out of conference.  But, with their visit to East Lansing this weekend, Wisconsin will have it's chance to improve its computer numbers.  The Spartans are coming off a big win over rival Michigan last week and would love nothing more than to knock out another undefeated squad.  The Spartan defense, led by Jerel Worthy, has been utterly dominant this season, holding Michigan and Ohio St. to just 21 combined points in the last two weeks and rank fourth in the country in points allowed (10.8 per game).  That runs counter to the Badgers punishing offense, which has racked up over 500 yards per game and is the top scoring offense in the country at 50.2 per game.  The Badgers likely won't be able to just run through the Spartans defense with Montee Ball, so the game could come down to the ability of Russell Wilson to make smart passes and pick up some key yards on the ground.

UNDERCARD

No. 20 Auburn Tigers (5-2) @ No. 1 LSU Tigers (7-0) -- 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Well, didn't this game get interesting in a hurry?  The Tigers have perhaps the best defense in the country, and conventional wisdom this week said that they would simply grind the defending national champions into dust this week.  But, the news on Wednesday that, maybe the best player on that unit, Tyrann Mathieu will be sitting this one along with leading rusher Spencer Ware thanks a failed drug test has increased the interest in this game ten-fold.  Auburn has proven to be a very erratic (read: dangerous) opponent this season.  The Tigers defense is nowhere near what it was a year ago when they won the national title, but a dominant running game, spearheaded by Michael Dyer has allowed them to control the clock, limit possessions, and help to keep that defense off the field.  If new quarterback Clint Moseley is able to provide the stability that Barrett Trotter couldn't, this game could get interesting fast.  On the other side of the ball though, LSU has slowly taken the reigns off of Jarrett Lee and allowed him to make more plays, and with Auburn's pass defense being what it is, this seems like a game where he and receiver Russell Sheppard might carry the team for the first time.  Auburn's defense (shredded for 430 yards against Arkansas two weeks ago) will be the difference between this being a close game or not.

No. 25 Washington Huskies (5-1) @ No. 8 Stanford Cardinal (6-0) -- 8:00 p.m (ABC)

For all the grief that Wisconsin has taken regarding their non-conference schedule and how it might impact their chances at playing for the national championship, little has been made of the equally poor schedule that Stanford has played against in amassing their perfect 6-0 record. Behind Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck, the Cardinal have hardly even broken a sweat this season.  Luck has averaged over 300 yards per game through the air, and the defense has done it's job as well, shutting down their overmatched opponents to the tune of just 11 points per game (good for 4th in the country).  Washington has been one of the nation's biggest surprises this season despite a similarly light schedule.  After losing their four year starting quarterback to the NFL (Jake Locker), Keith Price has stepped in and the team hasn't missed a beat.  Price has already thrown 21 touchdown passes this season, while completing almost 70 percent of his passes.  Coupled with a strong running game, the Huskies have one of the most balanced attacks in the country.  What gets them in trouble though is the defense.  They've surrendered at least 23 points in all but one game this season, and have had particular trouble against the pass, which is not good news against Andrew Luck.

UPSET SPECIAL (SEASON RECORD: 3-4)

No. 21 Penn St. Nittany Lions (6-1) @ Northwestern Wildcats (2-4) -- 7:00 p.m. (BTN)

Northwestern opened up the season with two straight wins over Boston College and Eastern Illinois, but have since lost four straight against some stiff competition.  The Wildcats are close to a breakthrough though as quarterback Dan Persa is beginning to round back into the form that had him pegged as a darkhorse Heisman candidate in the pre-season (Persa missed the first four games while continuing his recovery from achilles tendon surgery).  The Huskies probably should have beaten Illinois, led Michigan for most of the first half, and dominated Iowa everywhere except on the scoreboard last week.  Meanwhile, I continue to be baffled at how the Nittany Lions keep getting themselves ranked.  They have one of the worst offenses in the country, still can't settle on a quarterback (Matt McGloin took the bulk of the snaps last week against Purdue), and haven't beaten a quality team aside from a last second win over unranked Temple.  The Wildcats aren't great, but they can score points, particularly at home, and against a Penn St. team that can't, that should be enough to steal the win.

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

Boston College Eagles (1-5) @ No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1) -- 3:00 p.m. (NESN/RSN)

Over the past five or six years, this has been one of the more underrated rivalries in college football.  The Eagles often were getting the best of the Hokies during the regular season (particularly in the memorable 2007 game in Blacksburg), while the Hokies would win the games that mattered (two ACC Championship Game victories).  But, since Frank Spaziani has taken over for BC, the games have lost their luster with the Hokies winning by a combined 65-14 score over the last two seasons.  This year figures to be more of the same at Lane Stadium, where the 1-5 Eagles, behind quarterback Chase Rettig will search for their first win over an FBS school.  Virginia Tech though will be tough to stop behind running back David Wilson.  The Eagles have struggled to stop the run all season and Wilson might be the best back they'll see.  Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas hasn't played as well as people expected, so if the Eagles can force Thomas to make some plays with his arm, they might be able to hang around for awhile in this one.  If not...rocket ship.

Delaware Blue Hens (4-3) @ Rhode Island Rams (1-5) -- 12:30 p.m.

New Hampshire Wildcats (4-2) @ UMass Minutemen (4-2) -- 3:30 p.m.

Maine Black Bears (5-1) @ Richmond Spiders (3-3) -- 3:30 p.m.

Yale Bulldogs (3-2) @ Pennsylvania Quakers 3-2) -- 12:00 p.m. (Versus)

Brown Bears (4-1) @ Cornell Big Red (2-3) -- 12:30 p.m.

Princeton Tigers (1-4) @ Harvard Crimson (4-1) -- 1:00 p.m.

Columbia Lions (0-5) @ Dartmouth Big Green (1-4) -- 1:30 p.m.

Albany Great Danes (4-2) @ Central Connecticut St. Blue Devils (2-5) -- 12:00 p.m.

Bryant Bulldogs (4-3) @ Robert Morris Colonials (2-4) -- 12:00 p.m.

Monmouth Hawks (3-3) @ Sacred Heart Pioneers (4-2) -- 1:00 p.m.

Holy Cross Crusaders (3-3) @ Bucknell Bison (4-3) -- 1:00 p.m.

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