THE SEASON AHEAD: IN WEEK 9, GAMES COME WITH LIQUOR
Week 9 is crunch time. By now, the teams who are going to be in contention for conference or even the national title have run a gauntlet of eight or nine games and have more than likely seen at least one test. Conference races have taken shape; most of the teams know what they need to do and what else needs to happen for them to end up at the top of their league or in the championship game.
And some other teams, well...
They just keep getting better and better.
Two interesting games precede the official start of the weekend (unless, of course, you're at Georgia, where the weekend begins on Wednesday and ends on Tuesday), with Boston College taking on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Thursday and Boise State traveling to Fresno State on Friday. The BC-Tech game -- both are expected to compete for their division crowns -- airs on ESPN at 7:30 p.m., while the two States meet on ESPN2 at 9 p.m.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, the other USC heads to Oregon in a game that is perpetually billed as an opporunity for Southern Cal to lose and perpetually ends up with the Trojans leaving the Ducks weeping into their neon yellow uniforms. FSN will carry the game.
The only other game actually scheduled at this point is the tilt between Ohio State and Penn State in State College, slated for ABC Saturday Night Football at 8 p.m. This could very well be little more than jockeying for second or third fiddle in the Big Ten, but it could be a big game if the Buckeyes are making enough noise to put Michigan on warning.
But the unscheduled matches are some of the best. Minnesota at Michigan will likely decide the fate of anything other than the Little Brown Jug, but there's some merit to that, I suppose.
Fighting over a 100-year-old liquor container is so stereotypically Midwestern.
West Virginia goes to Rutgers, where the Scarlet Knights will try to avenge the loss that officially ended their Big East championship dreams. The Moutaineers will, in all likelihood, still be in the national championship race at this point, and Rutgers will like nothing better than to derail those dreams.
Nebraska meets Texas in what is likely to be a preview of the Big XII championship game. You wonder if a Huskers win might be counterproductive, particularly if it's the first blemish on the Longhorns' record and gives them a revenge motive for the title tilt. Just throwing that out there.
The SEC East race will be clearly defined, and maybe decided, based on the outcome of two games this week. First, the Gamecocks head to Knoxville to take on the Vols. If Tennessee has managed to defeat Florida and Georgia at this point, South Carolina will be all that stands in their way. Besides, who wants to miss a game between Fulmer and Spurrier?
Speaking of Florida and Georgia, they're playing at