Week 8 ended up being a big one in terms of the national title picture. So what happens in Week 9?
While everyone already is starting to look ahead to the Armageddon-esque showdown next week in Tuscaloosa, they shouldn't overlook a few of this weekend's matchups.
Oklahoma State welcomes in offense-minded Baylor for what could be an epic shootout, considering that neither defense is all that stout. Wisconsin and Oklahoma try to bounce back from tough losses with road games against dangerous opponents - a revitalized Ohio State team for the Badgers and an unbeaten Kansas State team for the Sooners. (Count the oddsmakers among those who don't believe in K-State: The Sooners are 13.5-point favorites on the road.) Stanford attempts to stay on a national-title track when it visits one-loss USC. Michigan State looks to take control of the Big Ten Legends Division race when it visits Nebraska.
The weekend gets off to an intriguing start Thursday night when unbeaten Houston takes on city rival Rice.
Here's a look at each game involving a FBS team this weekend.
Virginia (4-3) at Miami (4-3), 8 p.m., ESPN THE BUZZ: Who would've imagined before the season that this one would be important in terms of ACC bowl positioning for both teams? UVa won just one ACC game last season - and it was an upset of Miami. The Cavs have to run for 150 yards to have any shot at an upset.
THE LINE: Miami by 13.5 THE PICK: Miami 35-17
Rice (2-5) at Houston (7-0), 8 p.m., Fox Sports Net THE BUZZ: This is one of just two FBS rivalries that pit opposing schools from the same city (UCLA-USC is the other). While Houston leads the series 26-11, Rice has won two of the past three, including a victory last season.
THE LINE: Houston by 27.5 THE PICK: Houston 59-28
BYU (6-2) vs. TCU (5-2) in Arlington, Texas, 8 p.m., ESPN THE BUZZ: Former Mountain West rivals square off in BYU's first season as an independent and TCU's final season in the MWC. TCU has won each of the past three meetings, by a combined 101-17.
THE LINE: TCU by 13 THE PICK: TCU 27-17
Michigan State (6-1) at Nebraska (6-1), noon, ESPN THE BUZZ: Michigan State is the only unbeaten team in league play in the Big Ten Legends Division, which basically makes this a must-win game for the Huskers if they want to wear the division crown. Nebraska leads the Big Ten in rush offense, while Michigan State leads the league in rush defense.
THE LINE: Nebraska by 4 THE PICK: Nebraska 23-20
Missouri (3-4) at Texas A&M (5-2), noon, FX THE BUZZ: A&M remains alive in the Big 12 title race in its final season in the league. Mizzou, meanwhile, is just worried about becoming bowl-eligible - and it's going to be tough for the Tigers to do so. This is the second season in a row the teams are playing in College Station; Mizzou won by 21 last season.
THE LINE: A&M by 11 THE PICK: A&M 42-27
N.C. State (4-3) at Florida State (4-3), noon, ESPNU THE BUZZ: The teams have split the past 10 meetings in the series, and eight of those 10 have been decided by 10 or fewer points. NC State's only hope seems to be to force a slew of turnovers; the Wolfpack are seventh nationally in turnover margin (plus-1.3 per game) and FSU is 115th (minus-1.14). Unbelievable but true: FSU has won each of its past two games 41-16 - and that came on the heels of back-to-back 35-30 losses.
THE LINE: FSU by 19.5 THE PICK: FSU 38-16
Purdue (4-3) at Michigan (6-1), noon, ESPN2 THE BUZZ: This is Michigan's homecoming, and if the Wolverines want to send the alums home happy - and if they want to stay in the Big Ten Legends Division race - they need to beat the Boilermakers. Michigan leads the series 42-14 and has won 20 of the past 25 meetings; Purdue, though, has won two of the past three.
THE LINE: Michigan by 13.5 THE PICK: Michigan 38-22
Northwestern (2-5) at Indiana (1-7), noon, Big Ten Network THE BUZZ: Northwestern's defense has been surprisingly bad; no one is really surprised that IU's defense has been poor. The Wildcats have won 10 of the past 13 in the series.
THE LINE: Northwestern by 9 THE PICK: Northwestern 34-27
Syracuse (5-2) at Louisville (3-4), noon, Big East syndication/Sportsnet New York/MASN/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Both are coming off important wins - Syracuse over West Virginia in a game that proved the Orange can be a factor in the Big East title race and Louisville over Rutgers in a game that showed that the Cardinals can earn a bowl bid.
THE LINE: Louisville by 3 THE PICK: Syracuse 21-16
UAB (1-6) at Marshall (3-5), noon, Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/Fox Sports Net Chicago THE BUZZ: UAB is coming off its first victory of the season, an upset of a UCF team that beat Marshall. This basically is a must-win game for Marshall if it wants to have a shot at a bowl bid.
THE LINE: Marshall by 6 THE PICK: Marshall 28-20
Central Michigan (2-6) at Akron (1-6), noon, ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: The MAC has some good teams this season. These aren't good teams. Central has thrown a nation's-high 14 interceptions.
THE LINE: Central Michigan by 8 THE PICK: Central Michigan 27-17
Arkansas (6-1) at Vanderbilt (4-3), 12:20 p.m., SEC syndication/Altitude/Comcast Sports Net California/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Here we are in late October, and Vandy has a legit chance to become bowl-eligible. Uhhh, no, we're not saying Vandy is going to beat Arkansas, just that the Commodores are better than expected. As for the Hogs, they didn't play well in squeezing past Ole Miss last week; don't expect two mediocre performances in a row.
THE LINE: Arkansas by 10 THE PICK: Arkansas 31-16
Virginia Tech (7-1) at Duke (3-4), 12:30 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Virginia Tech is 7-0 against the Blue Devils since it joined the ACC, winning five of those games by at least 24 points. The Hokies have a 10-game road winning streak, the longest such streak nationally.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 15.5 THE PICK: Virginia Tech 38-20
Bowling Green (4-4) at Kent State (1-6), 1 p.m. THE BUZZ: Bowling Green true freshman TB Anthon Samuel has five 100-yard games this season, which puts him sixth in school history in that category. This is an important game for BG as it attempts to get to six wins and become bowl-eligible.
THE LINE: Bowling Green by 4.5 THE PICK: Bowling Green 23-17
Air Force (3-4) at New Mexico (0-7), 2 p.m., The mtn. THE BUZZ: New Mexico has lost 10 in a row, and unless Air Force develops a severe case of fumble-it is, it soon will be 11 in a row. Air Force is second in the nation in rush offense (325.7 ypg) and the Lobos are last nationally in rush defense (249.4 ypg).
THE LINE: Air Force by 30.5 THE PICK: Air Force 54-20
Ball State (5-3) at Western Michigan (4-4), 2 p.m. THE BUZZ: Ball State remains in the hunt for the MAC East title, while Western looks out of the West Division race. Still, this is an important game for Western as it attempts to become bowl-eligible.
THE LINE: Western Michigan by 11.5 THE PICK: Western Michigan 38-30
Washington State (3-4) at Oregon (6-1), 3 p.m., Fox Sports Net THE BUZZ: Oregon has won four in a row in the series and has averaged 52.3 points per game in those contests. After a hot start, Washington State has dropped three in a row, and Autzen Stadium is not a good place for visiting teams to try to get back on the plus side of the ledger.
THE LINE: Oregon by 36.5 THE PICK: Oregon 58-24
Boston College (1-6) at Maryland (2-5), 3 p.m., Sun Sports/Fox Sports South/NESN/Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: It's crab cake time for the hounds, as this is the dog of the week. These teams have a combined three wins, and two of those are over FCS programs.
THE LINE: Maryland by 7 THE PICK: Maryland 30-17
Oklahoma (6-1) at Kansas State (7-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPN THE BUZZ: Oklahoma's chances to play for a national title took a huge hit last week; this week, the Sooners will try to keep their Big 12 title hopes alive. OU is ahead of K-State in both polls but one spot behind in the BCS standings. OU leads the series 70-14-4 and is 34-10 at K-State.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 13.5 THE PICK: Oklahoma 40-24
Illinois (6-2) at Penn State (7-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2 THE BUZZ: Penn State quietly has put together a 7-1 mark and is the only unbeaten team in league play in the Big Ten Leaders Division. Illinois has dropped two in a row, and another setback would send the Illini even further down the league's pecking order when it comes to bowls.
THE LINE: Penn State by 5 THE PICK: Penn State 20-17
Florida (4-3) vs. Georgia (5-2) in Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m., CBS THE BUZZ: It's time for the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," and you can forgive Florida fans if they're doing their part to help the game live up to its moniker. Florida's offense has been bad enough to drive a man to drink, but the likely return of starting QB John Brantley from injury lends hope. Georgia might be in the driver's seat in the SEC East race if they can beat the Gators, who have won 18 of the past 21 in the series.
THE LINE: Georgia by 3 THE PICK: Georgia 23-17
Baylor (4-2) at Oklahoma State (5-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN2/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: There should be offense aplenty in this one, especially from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys remain alive in the national title hunt and need to remember what happened to rival Oklahoma last week when a seemingly overmatched team from the state of Texas came to town.
THE LINE: Oklahoma State by 14 THE PICK: Oklahoma State 52-35
West Virginia (5-2) at Rutgers (5-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: A big game in the Big East race, as the loser is going to have all sorts of trouble winning the title. WVU leads the series 32-4-2 and has won 16 in a row over the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers leads the Big East and is 13th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
THE LINE: WVU by 7 THE PICK: WVU 34-24
SMU (5-2) at Tulsa (4-3), 3:30 p.m., Sports South/Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports Houston/Fox Sports West THE BUZZ: A big game in the C-USA West Division race, as SMU basically faces a must-win scenario if it wants to stay in the race. This is homecoming for Tulsa, which has lost three of its past five to SMU.
THE LINE: Tulsa by 3 THE PICK: SMU 37-31
Navy (2-5) at Notre Dame (4-3), 3:30 p.m., NBC THE BUZZ: Navy has lost five in a row, its longest losing streak since 2002. These teams are meeting for the 85th consecutive season, and while the Irish lead the series 71-12-1, Navy has won three of the past four, including a 35-17 rout last season.
THE LINE: Notre Dame by 20.5 THE PICK: Notre Dame 40-24
Wake Forest (5-2) at North Carolina (5-3), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU THE BUZZ: Wake needs a win to remain in the hunt for the ACC Atlantic Division title. The Demon Deacons are seeking their first three-game winning streak in the series since 1987-89. Wake's passing attack should cause some problems for the Tar Heels.
THE LINE: UNC by 7 THE PICK: UNC 34-30
Iowa (5-2) at Minnesota (1-6), 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network THE BUZZ: Iowa remains alive in the Big Ten Legends Division title chase. The teams play for the "Floyd of Rosedale" trophy, a bronze pig that, frankly, is the best trophy in college football. The trophy originated in 1935, when Floyd was a real, live pig. Eventually, he died, as pigs do, and a sculptor created a replica that is 21 inches long and 15 inches high.
THE LINE: Iowa by 16 THE PICK: Iowa 44-20
Buffalo (2-6) at Miami of Ohio (2-5), 3:30 p.m., SportsTime Ohio/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Miami won the MAC last season, but the RedHawks have fallen a long way this season and appear unlikely to get to a bowl. Their rushing attack is atrocious (58.9 ypg, which is last nationally).
THE LINE: Miami by 6.5 THE PICK: Miami 27-23
Fordham (1-6) at Army (2-5), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network THE BUZZ: This is Army's final home game of the season. These schools first played in 1891, but this is just the third meeting ever and the first since 1949. This is the second FBS opponent of the season for Fordham, which lost 35-3 to Connecticut to open the season.
THE LINE: None THE PICK: Army 30-13
Tulane (2-6) at East Carolina (3-4), 3:30 p.m. THE BUZZ: ECU is tied for the C-USA East lead and can't afford a loss to the lowly Green Wave, who lost last week to Memphis.
THE LINE: ECU by 16.5 THE PICK: ECU 41-21
Western Kentucky (3-4) at Louisiana-Monroe (2-5), 3:30 p.m. THE BUZZ: Western has won three in a row, including a rout of presumed Sun Belt front-runner Louisiana-Lafayette last week; it's the Hilltoppers' first three-game winning streak since 2007.
THE LINE: ULM by 6 THE PICK: Western Kentucky 30-24
Memphis (2-6) at UCF (3-4), 4 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast THE BUZZ: UCF has become a long shot to win the C-USA East title, and now the Knights need to focus on becoming bowl-eligible. An inconsistent offense has hurt UCF.
THE LINE: UCF by 28.5 THE PICK: UCF 49-16
San Jose State (3-4) at Louisiana Tech (3-4), 4 p.m. THE BUZZ: Despite the under-.500 records, both technically are in the hunt for the WAC title because each is 2-1 in league play. Thus, this is important in the title race and for bowl eligibility. San Jose State has lost nine consecutive WAC road games.
THE LINE: Louisiana Tech by 7.5 THE PICK: Louisiana Tech 31-21
Hawaii (4-3) at Idaho (1-6), 5 p.m., Altitude/MASN/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Idaho has lost five in a row. Hawaii is eighth nationally in pass offense and Idaho is 107th in pass defense.
THE LINE: Hawaii by 7 THE PICK: Hawaii 43-28
Colorado State (3-4) at UNLV (1-5), 6 p.m., The mtn. THE BUZZ: Colorado State has lost eight consecutive Mountain West road games. The flipside: Colorado State has won seven of the past eight in the series and UNLV has given up at least 37 points in five of its six games this season.
THE LINE: Colorado State by 2.5 THE PICK: Colorado State 37-27
Colorado (1-7) at Arizona State (5-2), 6:30 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona/ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain/Fox College Sports Pacific THE BUZZ: This move to the Pac-12 ain't working out so well for the Buffs, who are 0-3 in the league and have surrendered at least 500 yards in each of those losses. This is homecoming for Arizona State.
THE LINE: Arizona State by 31 THE PICK: Arizona State 44-10
Mississippi State (3-4) at Kentucky (3-4), 7 p.m., Sun Sports/Fox Sports South THE BUZZ: Both teams are winless in league play and are looking to begin trying to salvage their seasons. And by "salvage their seasons," we mean get to six wins and nab a bowl bid. Each of the past three games in this series has been decided by seven or fewer points.
THE LINE: Mississippi State by 10 THE PICK: Mississippi State 23-10
Iowa State (3-4) at Texas Tech (5-2), 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net THE BUZZ: Texas Tech put a huge dent in Oklahoma's national title hopes last week, and now it needs to worry about bowl positioning. Iowa State, meanwhile, would like to do what Tech did last week - pull off a big upset on the road.
THE LINE: Texas Tech by 15 THE PICK: Texas Tech 45-27
Ole Miss (2-5) at Auburn (5-3), 7 p.m., ESPNU THE BUZZ: Ole Miss is one of four SEC teams that is 0-4 in league play. Auburn is struggling mightily on offense, having scored just 57 total points in its past four games. The Tigers have won eight of their past 10 against the Rebels.
THE LINE: Auburn by 10.5 THE PICK: Auburn 30-17
California (4-3) at UCLA (3-4), 7 p.m., PrimeTicket THE BUZZ: This is a big game for both in terms of earning a bowl bid. UCLA is coming off an embarrassing performance in a loss at Arizona, and you have to think Rick Neuheisel's time at his alma mater is dwindling. Cal has won three in a row in the series but just one of its past nine at UCLA.
THE LINE: Cal by 5.5 THE PICK: Cal 28-20
Oregon State (2-5) at Utah (3-4), 7 p.m., ROOT Sports Northwest THE BUZZ: Oregon State has played much better of late, winning two of its past three games; if the Beavers want to get to a bowl, they need to win this. Utah has lost three of its past four, but the Utes play no one that currently has a winning record the rest of the way.
THE LINE: Utah by 5 THE PICK: Utah 24-21
Kansas (2-5) at Texas (4-2), 7 p.m., Longhorn Network/Jayhawk Sports Network THE BUZZ: Texas is 8-0 against Kansas in Big 12 play, and KU's last victory over the Longhorns came in 1938. And, yes, there is a Jayhawk Sports Network; no one in the Big 12 seems to be worried about it, perhaps because this is its first-ever statewide football telecast.
THE LINE: Texas by 28.5 THE PICK: Texas 45-20
North Texas (3-5) at Arkansas State (5-2), 7 p.m. THE BUZZ: Last week, North Texas senior TB Lance Dunbar became just the 25th player in NCAA history with 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards. Arkansas State is the only team unbeaten in conference play in the Sun Belt and becomes bowl-eligible with a victory.
THE LINE: Arkansas State by 17 THE PICK: Arkansas State 35-20
South Carolina (6-1) at Tennessee (3-4), 7:15 p.m., ESPN THE BUZZ: The Vols are winless in SEC play and they sure wouldn't mind sticking Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks with an unexpected league loss. Tennessee has changed starting quarterbacks and is going with true freshman Justin Worley, a South Carolina native. The best thing about the QB change for Vols fans? At least it's not Matt Simms starting again.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 3.5 THE PICK: South Carolina 16-10
Louisiana-Lafayette (6-2) at Middle Tennessee (2-4), 7:30 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: ULL was routed last week by Western Kentucky, and the Ragin' Cajuns fell into second place in the Sun Belt race. ULL has won on three of its past four trips to Middle Tennessee.
THE LINE: MTSU by 3 THE PICK: ULL 37-28
Stanford (7-0) at USC (6-1), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Stanford has won three of the past four in the series; in addition, the Cardinal has won on four of its past six trips to the L.A. Coliseum. Stanford needs to win again to keep its national title hopes alive. The Cardinal won last season on a last-play field goal.
THE LINE: Stanford by 7.5 THE PICK: Stanford 34-24
Clemson (8-0) at Georgia Tech (6-2), 8 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Tech's offense has been stuck in the mud the past two games, not so coincidentally the Yellow Jackets' two losses. Can the offense get back on track? It had better because Clemson's offense is slicing through opposing defenses, and nothing Tech has done on defense this season can lead anyone to believe the Jackets can slow Clemson.
THE LINE: Clemson by 4.5 THE PICK: Clemson 44-41
Wisconsin (6-1) at Ohio State (4-3), 8 p.m., ESPN THE BUZZ: Wisconsin lost to Michigan State last week on a last-play "Hail Mary," and the Badgers can't afford any kind of carryover effect if they have designs on winning the Big Ten Leaders Division. Ohio State's offense received a huge boost in its most recent game from the return of TB Dan "Boom" Herron from a suspension. But the Buckeyes' pass attack remains bad.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 7 THE PICK: Wisconsin 27-17
Southern Miss (6-1) at UTEP (4-3), 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network THE BUZZ: Southern Miss is coming off a dominating performance in a win over SMU, the Golden Eagles' fifth consecutive victory. They're ranked in both major polls this week, the first time that has happened since 2004.
THE LINE: Southern Miss by 9.5 THE PICK: Southern Miss 44-28
Nevada (4-3) at New Mexico State (3-4), 8 p.m., WAC syndication/Altitude2/ESPN GamePlan THE BUZZ: Nevada has won eight consecutive WAC games and is the only league team unbeaten in conference play this season. Talk about offensive balance: The Wolf Pack is averaging 251.6 yards per game rushing and 250.0 yards per game passing..
THE LINE: Nevada by 14.5 THE PICK: Nevada by 40-23
Wyoming (4-2) at San Diego State (4-2), 10 p.m., The mtn. THE BUZZ: A big game for Wyoming, which has two wins over FCS programs and needs to get to seven wins for bowl eligibility. San Diego State has matched its best record after six games in the past 34 season, since the 1977 squad opened 5-1.
THE LINE: San Diego State by 18 THE PICK: San Diego State 45-24
Arizona (2-5) at Washington (5-2), 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net THE BUZZ: Arizona is coming off a rout of UCLA, while Washington was bludgeoned by Stanford last week. The win over the Bruins' snapped Arizona's eight-game Pac-12 losing streak. Washington's Keith Price leads the league with 22 TD passes, while Arizona's Nick Foles is fourth with 18.
THE LINE: Washington by 6.5 THE PICK: Washington 38-30
Northern Illinois (5-3) at Toledo (5-3), 7 p.m., ESPN2 THE BUZZ: This basically is the MAC West title game. The home team has won four in a row in this rivalry and only one has been decided by fewer than 31 points; that was a one-point Toledo win in 2009. NIU leads the MAC in total offense but is 12th in the league in total defense.
THE LINE: Toledo by 9.5 THE PICK: Toledo 41-28
Temple (5-3) at Ohio (5-3), 8 p.m., ESPN2 THE BUZZ: This could end up deciding the MAC East race. This matches two of the top three defenses in the league (Temple is first, Ohio third), and the outcome likely will be decided by Temple's rushing attack. When the Owls struggle to run, they struggle to move the ball because the passing attack is awful.
THE LINE: Temple by 3.5 THE PICK: Temple 23-17
30-23 straight up, 22-28-1 against the spread.
YEAR TO DATE
361-116 straight up, 179-204-2 against the spread (no spread on games involving FCS schools).
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.