Today looks to be an interesting day in college football.
In the most important game of the day, Penn State travels to Northwestern in only their third road game of the season. They've beaten Temple and Indiana on the road, but both wins were lackluster performances that resulted in very close games (14-10 and 16-10 respectively) against some very weak opponents (I'll grant that Temple is having a good year at 5-2, but it's still Temple...and Indiana, well, they're 1-6).
Northwestern is not having a good year at 2-4, but their offense puts up some numbers, whereas Penn State's doesn't. Penn State's defense will have to be on its best behavior, since Penn State's offense is unable to put up numbers against even weak defenses such as Indiana (95th in the nation in defense).
Penn State has a very good chance of losing four of its next five games. It also has a realistic chance of winning four of its next five games, though, with the one exception being Wisconsin. However, if they drop the game to Northwestern, their odds of winning any of the remaining games goes way down, because of the remaining teams, the weakest is Ohio State, and despite the Buckeyes' woes this year, PSU has a bad habit of crumbling against even mediocre teams from Columbus.
Also playing this weekend:
In the Big 10, the only marquee matchup, aside from PSU, is the Wisconsin v. Michigan State game. It'll be played in East Lansing, which I think is really the Spartans' only hope. You have to remember that Michigan State lost to Notre Dame. Big time, 31-13. I don't know if all the MSU players were smoking crack the night before the game, or simply thought the game was later in the day, but somehow they lost to a Notre Dame team that hasn't beaten any other team with a winning record. I predict a dominating Wisconsin performance. Wiscy is the class of the Big 10 this year, the only team that I would say is really ready for a New Years Day bowl.
In the SEC, Auburn v. LSU could be interesting, but it would be much more interesting if it were being held at Auburn. Auburn was convincingly stomped by Arkansas, and they haven't been impressive in any win. The only hope for Auburn is that LSU is looking past them to Alabama. I predict a major pounding by the Tigers. The LSU Tigers, that is.
In the Big 12, or what's left of it, Oklahoma v. Texas Tech is the only interesting game, but it's being played in Norman, and Oklahoma is simply a better team. Texas Tech has hung tough against ranked opponents, but it's lost to them, and it's also allowed crappy teams like Kansas and Nevada to hang around, so I'm again predicting a monster stomping by the Sooners.
In the PAC-10, Washington is at Stanford. Stanford has encountered absolutely no resistance in its 2011 campaign thus far, but then again it hasn't played a single good team (their victims sport a combined 15-25 record), with none of them having a winning record. Washington at least has a winning record at 5-1, their one loss coming to a very respectable Nebraska team. However, Washington can't point to any respectable victories, and I'm going with Stanford in a comfortable blowout.
In other games, I'd love to see Maryland beat Florida State. I don't think it will happen though, even if Maryland pulls out all stops and wears even more unimaginably hideous uniforms than in previous games this year.
The USC v. Notre Dame game, which in many years has major bowl implications, is really an afterthought this year. Neither team is ranked, and USC's seemingly impressive 5-1 record is built upon punching bags such as Minnesota (1-5) and Arizona (2-5). Their most impressive win came against Syracuse, whose 4-2 record will most likely be 5-7 by season's end. As for Notre Dame, I've already noted their convincing win against Michigan State and the fact that MSU was the only opponent they've beaten who has a winning record. However, the two teams they've lost to, Michigan and South Florida, are better than any team that USC has beaten. Or even played for that matter. I'm handing this game to Notre Dame, probably by two touchdowns.