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College Football Week Eight Preview: Stanford, Wisconsin Try to Assert Themselves Against Decent Teams

B1G Title Preview: Certainly, this is a statement game for Wisconsin. The only “statement” the BCS formula presently accounts for is the Badgers having played no one of note. They have travelled once, to a neutral site game in Chicago. The Spartans are their first real test. They are also their bogey team. Beilema is winless in East Lansing. Last year’s loss was their one regular season blemish. There’s also the small factor of a loss eliminating their outside shot at the BCS Title Game. It’s also a big game for Michigan State. A win would put them at 3-0 through the four game stretch supposed to derail them.

The clash will come on one side of the ball. The nation’s top scoring offenses faces what, by most accounts, is an unnecessarily rough, top five defense. Boiled down further, the true clash will come on the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin’s offense runs through its perpetual line of overtly large test-tube children. Michigan State’s defense predicates itself upon its line. William Gholston won’t appear in this game, but All-American candidate Jerel Worthy and a deep, talented stable of performers will be appearing. Russell Wilson might want to vary his snap counts.

The Honey Badger Should Give More of a Sh-t. LSU was at this identical place last season – 7-0, ranked in the top ten and looking to go 5-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1973 – when Auburn beat them en route to their BCS title. This LSU team is more coherent. This Auburn team is missing Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and quite a few other veteran starters from last year.

The big story is LSU’s suspensions for synthetic pot use (not as bad as armed robbery). The losses could hurt the guys in purple, but won’t cripple them. Spencer Ware has carried a load for the Tigers’ delicately balanced offense, though LSU has talented depth at running back. Losing Mathieu and Simon will weaken them in the secondary, which could put a check on some of the nasty things they do up front. Facing their third-consecutive replacement starter at quarterback, it should not be too much of an issue.

Auburn has more spunk than expected, but they’ll need the other Tigers to bury themselves in mistakes to have an opportunity. You’d worry more about the missing players against Alabama on Nov. 5, but, conveniently, they should be back in action.

Upset Bid: Stanford has a chance as well to sway subjective opinion, against a surprisingly solid Washington team. The Huskies are 5-1, with one road loss to Nebraska. Their offense is far more dynamic than last year’s with Jake Locker. Sophomore QB Keith Price is fifth in Division I in passer rating and tied with Kellen Moore for second with 21 touchdown passes. Junior Chris Polk has been a very effective carry back as well. The Cardinal defense, however, will be stiffer than any they’ve yet faced.

Can Washington pull it off? They need to slow down a Stanford offense that has been held below 44 points just once this season (in a 37-10 win at Arizona.) Theoretically, the answer would be forcing the Cardinal from their comfort zone, which is pounding the ball with Taylor and Gaffney. Though, placing the game in Andrew Luck’s incredibly capable hands is not a strategy destined for success. The future No. 1 overall pick had an off game against Washington State, in which he completed 64 percent of his passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. The Huskies need their d-line to bring the heat. Stanford’s big fellas have allowed just two sacks for five lost yards over six games.

The Jeweled Shillelagh. Notre Dame and USC aren’t relevant, except that they’re Notre Dame and USC, so they are always relevant. Go back and forth. Repeat. Don’t convince each other. I’m guessing some folks will watch, and Notre Dame would appreciate it if those doing so inside the stadium could be a bit more boisterous. Perhaps some vigorous, anti-transubstantiation taunting might get a rise out of them? Or perhaps a shot of…

The series has been a slow moving pendulum lately. The programs have seldom been very good at the same time. Lou Holtz went 9-1-1 against the Trojans. Pete Carroll followed that up with an 8-1 run against the Irish. After last season’s loss, Lane Kiffin will try to stem a shift back to Notre Dame. With scholarship reductions that will be difficult. This game should be a crucial one for recruiting, especially with Gunner Kiel both on the market and in house for this one.

Notre Dame must play its game. The only team that has beaten the Irish is themselves. They turned the ball over 10 times in opening losses to South Florida and Michigan, but have coughed it up only five times in the subsequent for wins, not once in the last pair against Purdue and Air Force. USC needs balance on offense with a credible rushing game to open the field for Barkley and Woods. That may depend on whether the University of Sexual Ballers’ leading rusher Marc Tyler is healthy enough for action.

[Photo via Getty]

 

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