One good thing about late kickoffs is that I get to spend the earlier part of the day checking in on other games around the Big Ten and the rest of the country. And, as the season wears on, it is looking more and more like Iowa has a legitimate shot at the Big Ten title and maybe more, which piques my interest in other games that will shape the championship picture. So here are the games that I'll be keeping my eye on through the day.
Big Ten Race:
Penn State at Michigan - 2:30 PM ABC
The good news is, that if Iowa loses a game and PSU is the only other 1-loss team in the B10, Iowa wins the head-to-head tie breaker. However, it would be very nice to actually win the title outright, something Iowa hasn't done since 1985. Of course, Iowa winning out would be the ideal.
Anyway, this is a really interesting match up as Penn State has had its troubles against Michigan. And really, the only good team they have faced so far this year is Iowa and we know what happened there. So, we don't know a lot of the Nittany Lions yet, but it would at least seem that they have a good defense. Michigan however, has already been in tough games and shown what they can do. They have a very good offense and have been outstanding late in games. So, it's PSU's D versus Michigan's O...should be a good match up.
Minnesota at Ohio State - 11:00 AM ESPN
If Ohio State wins out, then they will go to the Rose Bowl. So obviously a loss would give Iowa a little breathing room. Of course Iowa can taking care of business in Ohio Stadium in a couple weeks is the best case scenario.
I am curious to see how OSU and Pryor respond to the loss last week to Purdue. You would think that they would come out looking for blood. But, if things start going bad early, the team may collapse. Either way the game goes, expect it to be low scoring. Both offenses have been struggling and are at the bottom of the conference in total yards on offense (OSU 10, Minn 11). They also rank in the bottom half of the conference in 3rd down %, completion %, and QB rating.
National Championship Race:
Florida at Mississippi State - 6:30 PM ESPN
Florida hasn't exactly looked great lately, but it would take a monster effort by Mississippi State to pull off this upset. The one glimmer of hope they have is that Florida could be without 3 defensive starters including the outstanding linebacker Brandon Spikes. The other injured players are along the line, so the front 7 could struggle a bit. If the Bulldogs can grind out some drive on the ground and keep Tebow off the field, they might, just maybe, have a shot.
Texas at Missouri - 7:00 PM ABC
Texas has completely owned Missouri winning 14 of their last 15 match ups. However, Texas hasn't been playing outstanding lately struggling to beat a not very good Oklahoma team (why are they still ranked?) and trailing Colorado at halftime. Missouri cruising threw the non-conference schedule but has struggled against B12 goes Nebraska and OK State. Still Missouri has enough talent that it has a chance to challenge Texas if McCoy has a game like last week.
USC vs. Oregon State - 7:00 PM ABC
I hate to think a USC team with a loss to Washington has a chance to play in the BCS title game (they had better not jump Iowa if the Hawkeyes win out), but it is certainly a possibility. Oregon State has had USC's number the past couple of years winning 2 of the last 3, and the team this year certainly looks capable. Their only losses are to a good Arizona team and undefeated Cincinnati. USC's defense got exposed a little bit at the end of the Notre Dame game last week, but is still on of the best in the country. Oregon State will have a tough time getting 3 of 4.
Alabama vs. Tennessee - 2:30 PM CBS
Alabama has been the most dominant team this year with a decent (probably better than decent really) offense and an outstanding defense. Their closest game was the season opener against a good Virgina Tech team that Bama won by 10. Their average game has been 35-12. Tennessee has been very average this year and is 3-3. Though, in their last game against Georgia 2 weeks ago, senior QB Jon Crompton got in going and led the Vols to a huge victory. If he can play like that against a much tougher Alabama defense, then Tennessee may have a chance.
Cincinnati vs. Louisville - 2:30 PM ESPNU
I think the odds are not very good for Cincinnati to get to the championship game but it is certainly possible. The real question this week though, is the status of QB Tony Pike who has been outstanding thus far this season. He's currently said to be "day-to-day" but did practice on Thursday a little. He has accounted for about 60% of the Bearcat's offense, so if he's a no-go, it will be interesting to see how they do. Louisville though has been really bad this year and is just 2-4. So Cincinnati may not have any trouble even if Pike sits.