College Football 2010 Picks: Week 9

The Ducks head down to L.A. for a huge Pac-10 meeting with USC.
Author:
Publish date:

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Well, we have another new No. 1 for the fourth consecutive week, but is it the right one?

Auburn, led by all-world Cam Newton, tops the BCS poll this week. The Tigers of the Southeastern Conference -- thanks to a dispatching of fearsome Louisiana State -- take the place of Oklahoma, which was the first BCS No. 1 this season until the Sooners got dumped by Missouri last Saturday.

The week before that, it was Ohio State, No. 1 in the media polls, knocked off by Wisconsin, and before that, it was Alabama, the defending national champion, derailed by South Carolina.

This is why we love college football, on any given Saturday... But what is mysterious about all this is the fact that Oregon hasn't mounted the BCS mantle yet. The Ducks are the most breathtaking team in college football this season and are ranked No. 1 in the

AP

and

USA Today

polls, but they always seem to be just out of the spotlight, after the focus shifted to the BCS.

What, the Ducks worry?

Nobody needs that No. 1 spot at this point of the season, especially when teams like Oregon and Boise State get, uh, moved around by the BCS. Plus, the Ducks have to go down to Los Angeles this weekend and have to be a little wary of a reversal of fortune. After all, it's mighty USC that usually is on the receiving end of a season-ending upset by an Oregon-based team. Now the Trojans, on bowl probation, have a chance to return the favor, led by everybody's high school All-America Matt Barkley.

Matt Barkley, USC

No. 2 Oregon (7-0) at USC (5-2), 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

By the time Oregon finished routing UCLA last Thursday evening -- scoring 32 points at halftime en route to a 60-point outing -- the Ducks had even made a believer out of Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel.

"That was impressive," Neuheisel told reporters, according to

The Associated Press

. "I'll leave it at that. That was impressive."Yes it was, Rick. And while most of the nation's pollsters nodded in unison, anointing Oregon No. 2 in the current BCS, it's the way that coach Chip Kelly's squad has done so that has caught many off guard. Namely, by implementing a fast-break, basketball-scoring style spread offense, Oregon is leading the country with a whopping 55 points per matchup. And in the process, running back LaMichael James - who's also leading the nation at nearly 162 yards per -- has become a serious Heisman Trophy contender.

As the perennial Pac-10 power, USC, then, is in odd territory.It's not often a team filled with supposed five-star recruits would instead play the role of the longshot contender. Still, the Trojans can point to a few facts in their favor. USC lost by a mere three points combined in its two losses and Oregon can only point to one, true quality win over a ranked opponent thus far. And with all-do-respect to Stanford's Andrew Luck, USC quarterback Matt Barkley is quietly making his case for first-team all-conference honors, leading the Pac-10 in passing efficiency while ranking second in total offense. Too bad USC doesn't have the D to match.

Corner's choice: Oregon 48, USC 28

-- Sung Moss

Jordan Wynn, Utah

No. 8 Utah (7-0) at Air Force (5-3), 7:30 p.m. ET (CBS College Network)

: Now these Utes ... sorry. These two Mountain West foes have had some rugged games the past two seasons, and this year shouldn't be any different. This game features the nation's best rushing attack -- the triple-option offense of Air Force -- which is averaging just over 325 yards a game, against Utah's sixth-ranked rushing defense. Wait, shouldn't Air Force be taking the aerial route and leaving the ground game to Army? That said, let's take a minute to salute the steady improvement of football at our service academies. The Middies shelled Notre Dame last week, and along with Army, all three academies are playing above .500 and are a difficult ticket for everyone they play. Maybe one day a team from West Point or Annapolis or Colorado Springs will challenge for the whole thing -- again.

Utah Coach Kyle Wittingham is wary of the Falcons: "Most every year it goes down to the wire, he said at his weekly press conference. "A lot of that is attributed to the toughness of an Air Force team that never quits, ever. They always hang in there and give the full 60. For whatever reason, it seems like every game is very close."

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn has passed for 12 TDs and more than 1,200 yards, including a 23-of-29 outing for 321 yards and three TDs in a romp over Colorado State last week. Air Force's offense was bottled up as it fell to No. 4 TCU, 38-7, last week, and will need to get some yards from leading rusher Asher Clark.

Corner's choice: Utah 31, Air Force 17

--William Hennelly

Aldon Smith, Missouri

No. 6 Missouri (7-0) at No. 14 Nebraska (6-1), 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN)

: What to make of this one? The Huskers decertified their title hopes after a home whupping by Texas, a team that this season has lost to UCLA and Iowa State -- at home. Come to think of it, Iowa State has done a number on Iowa a few times in recent years, as has UCLA to USC. (By the way, we need Texas to be awesome again; it just makes for a better college football season.)

Nebraska is on its farewell tour of the Big 12 before it heads to the Big Ten next season. As a Big Ten alum (Indiana), I think Nebraska is a great fit for the conference, but so is Missouri, with its St. Louis media market. But let's talk about this year's game. This Mizzou team is good. In fact, it may be better than the team led by Chase Daniel that was No. 1 at one point a couple years back.

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel talks in reverential tones of Nebraska:"Just a very good defensive football team. Offensively, they're one of the best rushing offenses in the country and certainly we've got a great challenge ahead of us."

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini is most concerned about what his team does, not the Tigers. "We just need to execute, he said earlier this week. "We need to take care of ourselves. I like our game plan and we just need to execute. ... It's not so much about Missouri, but about us. I think they would say the same thing."

Sure, Nebraska is capable of winning this one, but Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert is really good, and now the Missouri D has defensive end Aldon Smith back, and he is menacing. But Missouri has lost defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton for the season to an injury and linebacker Luke Lambert will be out this game.

Corner's choice: Missouri 31, Nebraska 21

-- William Hennelly

Cam Newton, Auburn

No. 1 Auburn (8-0) at Mississippi (3-4), 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

: Auburn No. 1 in the BCS? Check. Quarterback Cam Newton as the Heisman trophy front-runner? Check. Really, is there much else that needs to be said about

the other

team from the state of Alabama?

Maybe it happened just after Newton's 49-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter of last week's win over LSU -- a run combining the power, speed and the "wow-did-that-just-happen" kind of magic that all of his 6-6, 250-pound frame could muster -- but Auburn has only solidified its place at the top of the heap in the public consciousness.

On paper, at least, Ole Miss will probably do little to disrupt those thoughts. The Tigers rank first in the conference in scoring, while the Rebels are at the back of the SEC pack in scoring defense. If the Rebels are to have any hope, it may have to rest on the arm of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, to take advantage of Auburn's comparatively shaky secondary. Still, though the legendary Grove in Oxford will be bumping come Saturday, don't expect the Tigers to miss a beat.

Auburn 56, Mississippi 24

-- Sung Moss

Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN)

: One stat stands out here. The Spartans haven't won in Iowa City since 1989. The Hawkeyes, coming off a brutal 31-30 home loss to Wisconsin, could be motivated to derail the Spartans' season or demoralized at their own broken season, which started out with national title hopes.

If Michigan State can pick up a win here, there's a good chance it could sail to the Big Ten title, with Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State left on the conference schedule. If you go by common opponent criteria, Wisconsin slugged it out with both teams, but the Spartans dropped Wisconsin -- in East Lansing.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz is impressed by the Spartans' running game."They have three backs that could start for people," he said at his weekly press conference. "But part of the running game's effectiveness is the fact they can throw the football. They make you defend everything. They have got the ability to run the football.

Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell lead the ground game ... and you know, they throw it around pretty well

with QB Kirk Cousins, too. And they have got good skill players and good tight ends. So it's just a tough team to defend. You know, you can't load up on one area."

Despite Ferentz's concerns, the team in Iowa City is still outstanding. Adrian Clayborn is unstoppable on defense, and with Ricky Stanzi throwing, Adam Robinson running and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos receiving, the Hawkeyes look like a spoiler this weekend.

Corner's choice: Iowa 24, Michigan State 21

-- William Hennelly