Week 9 Football Picks
As college football enters Week 9 of the 2008 season, some teams are trying hard to stay in the BCS race, while some are just playing for pride. Our team of writers and handicappers hand out six picks for Week 9.
Minnesota at Purdue, 12:00 PM ET
Minnesota will play as a ranked team for the first time in three years. It's been much longer since it won at Purdue.
The No. 25 Gophers look for a third straight victory while trying to snap a seven-game road losing streak to the struggling Boilermakers in a Big Ten matchup Saturday.
In a remarkable turnaround from a 1-11 finish in 2007 in Tim Brewster's first season as coach, Minnesota (6-1, 2-1) is bowl eligible and has returned to the AP poll for the first time since Oct. 9, 2005.
Though the Boilermakers offense has been inconsistent, defensively they are last in the conference, allowing 407.4 yards per game.
Purdue, which hasn't dropped five in a row since losing six straight in 2005, tries to snap a 17-game losing streak to Top 25 opponents dating to a 27-14 win over then-No. 10 Iowa on Nov. 8, 2003.
Virginia at Georgia Tech, 3:30 PM ET
Virginia helped create an opening in the Top 25, and Georgia Tech was more than happy to take it.
In the poll for the first time this season, the No. 21 Yellow Jackets look to avoid being the second straight ranked team to fall to the surging Cavaliers when the ACC rivals meet Saturday.
After a stumbling start, Virginia (4-3, 2-1) has become a factor in the ACC. The Cavaliers have won three straight, including a dramatic 16-13 overtime win over then-No. 18 North Carolina last Saturday.
That result dropped the Tar Heels out of the poll, and Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-1) moved into it for the first time since it was 2-0 last season. The Yellow Jackets beat Clemson 21-17 last Saturday, and jumped into the Top 25 the following day.
After being unranked all season, Georgia Tech is now the highest-ranked ACC team in the poll. Florida State, at No. 23, is the only other ranked ACC team.
Virginia leads the all-time series 15-14-1.
Boston College at North Carolina, 12:00 PM ET
After graduating the first quarterback selected in this year's NFL draft, there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding Boston College this season.
Even though senior signal-caller Chris Crane hasn't exactly filled Matt Ryan's shoes, the 23rd-ranked Eagles appear to have answered a few questions.
BC, ranked for the first time this season, will look to justify its spot in the poll and win its fifth straight game Saturday in Chapel Hill, where North Carolina is hoping to bounce back after dropping from the Top 25.
After three full seasons as a starter in Chestnut Hill, Ryan was selected third in the 2008 draft and has exceeded expectations in Atlanta, leading the Falcons to a 4-2 start.
BC (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has also played well without last season's ACC player of the year, earning a pair of shutouts defensively and averaging more than 35 points in its last four games - all victories.
The Eagles' biggest win came Saturday, when they beat then-No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-23, avenging their loss in last year's ACC title game.
The winner of Saturday's game will become bowl-eligible, but BC will have to play without standout linebacker Brian Toal, who is out for the season with a broken fibula he sustained against Virginia Tech.
UNLV at BYU, 4:30 PM ET
It's been more than a year since BYU has needed to bounce back from a loss.
That's the case on Saturday as the 18th-ranked Cougars face UNLV, looking to rebound after having the nation's longest winning streak come to an end.
BYU (6-1, 2-1 Mountain West) enters this contest coming off a disappointing 32-7 loss at TCU last Thursday, snapping its 16-game winning streak, the longest in the nation dating to a 55-47 defeat at Tulsa on Sept. 15, 2007. It also was the school's worst loss since falling 49-23 loss at Notre Dame on Oct. 22, 2005.
More important, the setback dropped the Cougars to fourth in the conference behind 3-1 Air Force, and the 15th-ranked Horned Frogs and No. 12 Utah - both 4-0 - while delivering a blow to their chances of earning a BCS bowl bid.
UNLV, second-to-last in the conference allowing 32.7 points per contest, has not posted consecutive wins over Top 25 opponents since beating then-No. 16 Colorado State in 2002 and then-No. 14 Wisconsin early in the 2003 season.
Oklahoma State at Texas, 3:30 PM ET
Back-to-back convincing victories over Big 12 contenders helped make Texas the first unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll in more than a year, but coach Mack Brown still doesn't think his Longhorns are a great team.
Their next opponent might be.
In a matchup of undefeated rivals, the top-ranked Longhorns host No. 7 Oklahoma State on Saturday as both teams try to improve their positions in the conference title and national championship races.
Texas (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) cruised through its first five games, but didn't really jump into the spotlight until notching wins over then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 11 and then-No. 11 Missouri last Saturday. Those victories made Texas the first team to get all 65 first-place votes from the media panel since Ohio State did it the last four weeks of the 2006 regular season.
Though his team passed its first two big tests with flying colors, Brown isn't convinced it deserves the praise it's getting.
Georgia at LSU, 3:30 PM
Georgia and LSU came into the season facing big expectations, with the Bulldogs starting out at No. 1 for the first time in school history and the Tigers hoping to defend their national championship.
With each team having endured a blowout loss, another setback would almost certainly derail either's hopes of getting back to the top.
One won't make it out of Baton Rouge unscathed on Saturday, when the No. 11 Tigers kick off a five-game homestand by hosting the ninth-ranked Bulldogs for the first time since 2003.
Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC) had never been the No. 1 team in the AP preseason Top 25 before this season, and the Bulldogs looked like a potential national title contender in their first four games. Then came a 41-30 home loss to Alabama on Sept. 27 in which Georgia fell behind 31-0 at halftime, dealing a crushing blow to its SEC and national championship hopes.
The Bulldogs have won their two games since the loss to the Crimson Tide, but they've looked much more ordinary. Struggling Tennessee kept close well into the fourth quarter in Athens on Oct. 11 before Georgia won 26-14, then the Bulldogs played a back-and-forth affair with Vanderbilt last Saturday, finally sealing a 24-14 victory with a late field goal.
LSU has won six consecutive games against top 10 opponents.
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Posted: 10/23/08 2:50 PM