The battle of unbeatens in the SEC West highlights Week 8 action.
LSU (+6) at Auburn
The SEC’s only two undefeated teams get together at Jordan-Hare Stadium for an epic battle. Auburn is led by junior quarterback Cam Newton, who has emerged as the top Heisman Trophy candidate in his first season with the Tigers. Newton, the SEC leader in rushing and passing efficiency, has topped the 100-yard passing and rushing mark in the same game four times this season. This week, however, he must solve the LSU defense, which is allowing only 242.1 yards and 14.4 points per game. Les Miles’ club still has issues on offense, but this team did take a big step forward two weeks ago, scoring 33 points and totaling 385 yards in its win at Florida. The Tigers — from LSU — will remain undefeated.
LSU 27, Auburn 24
Wisconsin (+5.5) at Iowa
The Big Ten race is wide open, thanks in large part to Wisconsin’s 31–18 win over then-No. 1 Ohio State last Saturday night. Iowa is one of three league teams without a loss, but the Hawkeyes still have to play Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Northwestern — though all but the Northwestern game are at home. The Hawkeyes have been very steady on offense and dominant on defense, limiting opponents to 13.2 points per game. The key in this game will be Iowa’s ability to slow down Wisconsin’s two-headed monster at tailback, John Clay and James White. The Badgers were able to run on Ohio State last weekend, netting 184 yards on 43 carries. The Hawkeyes can’t let happen this weekend.
Iowa 24, Wisconsin 14
Nebraska (-5.5) at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is arguably the biggest surprise of the nation’s 10 remaining undefeated teams. The Pokes lost 17 starters from the 2009 team that went 9–4 and were expected to take several steps back this fall. But Mike Gundy’s team is 6–0 overall and 2–0 in league play after last week’s impressive 34–17 win at Texas Tech. Nebraska figured it would also be undefeated at this point, but the Huskers were upset at home by Texas Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for only 21 yards — 126 below his season average — and was benched in the third quarter. He will return as the starter this week and should have the Cornhuskers offense back on track.
Nebraska 31, Oklahoma State 17
Washington (-6.5) at Arizona
While most of the nation was tucked away in bed, Washington edged Oregon State in a double-overtime thriller in Seattle late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Washington and Arizona are both 2–1 in league play and this is a game both teams must win if they want to remain relevant in the Pac-10. The Wildcats will be without quarterback Nick Foles, who dislocated a kneecap in the win over Washington State last weekend. His replacement is Matt Scott, a junior who actually beat Foles out for the starting assignment early last season. Don’t expect the Arizona offense to suffer much.
Arizona 34, Washington 24
Oklahoma (-3) at Missouri
Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the initial BCS standings, hits the road for a tough test at surprising Missouri, which is 6–0 overall and has won its two Big 12 games (vs. Colorado, at Texas A&M) by a combined score of 56–9. The Tigers are known for their offense — powered by the right arm of junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert — but they have been incredibly stingy on defense through six games. Mizzou is allowing only 10.8 points per game (second in the nation) and only one team, San Diego State, has scored more than 13 points. Oklahoma was a bit shaky early in the season — with closer-than-expected wins over Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati — but Bob Stoops’ club appears to have hit its stride in recent weeks.
Oklahoma 28, Missouri 20
Michigan State (-5) at Northwestern
The Spartans, the only 3–0 team in the Big Ten, start a two-game road trip this week that will determine their postseason fate. With wins at Northwestern this week and Iowa next week, Michigan State will take complete control of the league race. Northwestern had a great opportunity to enter this game undefeated but lost at home two weeks ago to undermanned Purdue. Now, after a bye week, Pat Fitzgerald’s club must deal with a Michigan State team playing with a ton of confidence. The Spartans might not be great at any one facet of the game, but there isn’t one thing that this team does not do well. The one word that best describes Mark Dantonio’s club — solid.
Michigan State 30, Northwestern 20
Georgia (-3.5) at Kentucky
Georgia has flexed its muscles the past two weeks, rolling past Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined scored of 84–14. Sure, the level of competition wasn’t great, but the Bulldogs have looked very good, especially on offense. Aaron Murray can do it all at quarterback, and he has a bunch of weapons at his disposal. Kentucky is sky-high after its comeback win over South Carolina, but the Wildcats will have a tough time making it two straight wins in league play. UK should be able to score some points, but the Wildcats have some issues on defense. In four SEC games, they are giving up an average of 38.8 points.
Georgia 34, Kentucky 30
Georgia Tech (+6) at Clemson
Expectations weren’t too high at Clemson this season, but the Tigers have still been a bit of a disappointment. They snapped a three-game losing streak last week, beating Maryland 31–6, but they managed only 213 yards of total offense. This isn’t a great Georgia Tech team, but the Jackets have won three straight overall and sit at 3–1 in league play. As usual, Paul Johnson’s club has been very productive on the ground (second in the nation in rushing) and very unproductive through the air (119th in the nation in passing). The Jackets have won four straight in this series, all by 10 points or less. Make it five in a row.
Georgia Tech 24, Clemson 21
North Carolina (+6.5) at Miami (Fla.)
Nothing is official, but Butch Davis will have a tough time holding on to his job at North Carolina due to the off-the-field issues that have tarnished the program. Miami’s Randy Shannon could also be out of a job, but his problem has been his team’s product on the field. The Canes are 4–2 overall, but it’s tough to overlook how poorly they played — and how poor the energy level was — in their 45–17 loss at home two weeks ago to Florida State. There have been some bright spots, like a dominating 31–3 win at Pittsburgh and a 30–21 win at Clemson, but the production on the field hasn’t matched the talent level on the roster.
Miami 27, North Carolina 23
Kansas State (+6) at Baylor
Here’s a sign of progress: Baylor is favored against a Big 12 opponent for the third time this season after only being favored a total of two times in league play the previous three seasons. The Bears are 5–2 overall and 2–1 in the Big 12 after last week’s 31–25 win at Colorado. Kansas State is also 2–1 in the league, with wins over Iowa State and Kansas and a loss to Nebraska. The winner of this game will already be bowl eligible — a big step for both programs. K-State hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2006 while Baylor’s postseason drought dates back to the 1994 Alamo Bowl. For Baylor, the wait will soon be over.
Baylor 34, Kansas State 27
Last week: 5–5 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 46–24 overall (34–32–4 against the spread)