Sometimes the difference between a championship team and one on the outside looking in is nothing more than one game. Or, maybe, it’s even more specific than that — a drive, a play, a missed opportunity. It’s hard to tell when that moment will happen, but when it does, you instantly know.
Week nine is sure to be full of those moments. Some teams, like Oregon and Missouri, must overcome their biggest hurdles to date on their way to a possible BCS National Title. Others, like Texas A&M and Washington, are just trying to secure a solid win to keep their season from spiraling out of control.
No. 7 Missouri at No. 14 Nebraska (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: Nebraska -7.5
THE PLOT: After a big win over then BCS No. 1 Oklahoma, can Missouri keep the mojo rockin’ against No. 14 Nebraska in a game that Will Likely decide the Big 12 North? Traditionally, Missouri’s the team who just can’t win the big games, but last week’s 36-27 win over the Sooners proved that this ain’t your momma’s Mizzou.
THE PICK: Missouri’s defense has been better than normal. How will they stack up against Taylor Martinez? Stop Martinez, stop Nebraska’s offense. Trust us, it’s not as easy as it looks.
THE SCORE: Nebraska 35, Missouri 31
No. 25 Baylor at Texas (7:00 ET)
THE LINE: Texas -7.5
THE PLOT: Nope, you read that right. Baylor is ranked and Texas is not. To put it lightly, Texas has struggled through seven games and has been uncharacteristically soft. Baylor, on the other hand, is off to a surprising 6-2 start and is bowl eligible for the first time since joining the Big 12. You have to give credit to Art Briles and the job he’s done in Waco. The question here is how hungry (and desperate) is Texas for a win.
Against Baylor …
THE PICK: Desperate enough. Texas’ biggest win this season (against Nebraska) came when the Longhorns were backed into a corner. After a stunning loss to Iowa State, Mack Brown‘s team and coaches find themselves in a similar situation.
THE SCORE: Texas 23, Baylor 21
Texas Tech at Texas A&M (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: Texas A&M -7.5
THE PLOT: At this point, Texas A&M is just trying to find a quality win somewhere. Texas Tech is in rebuilding mode with first-year coach Tommy Tuberville, but the Aggies have to get some momentum going their way. Jerrod Johnson stinks, Mike Sherman just isn’t getting it done and watching A&M is slowly turning into like watching the Osbournes.
THE PICK: Until A&M shows me something — anything — I’m going to go with the other team.
THE SCORE: Texas Tech 38, Texas A&M 28
No. 1 Oregon at USC (8:00 ET)
THE LINE: Oregon -7
THE PLOT: It’s a Pac-10 showdown when Oregon travels to their toughest road test this season. There’s no doubt the Ducks have been the class of the Pac-10 so far, but Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State are waiting in the wings with one conference loss a piece — and Oregon still has yet to play the Wildcats and Beavers. A loss to USC would certainly put the pressure on Chip Kelly and his team, who are eying more than the Rose Bowl.
THE PICK: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Oregon executes better than any team I’ve seen this season. USC is still USC talent-wise, but the Ducks are just outrageous.
THE SCORE: Oregon 41, USC 30
Straight Up: 2-1
Vs. Spread: 1-2
Straight Up: 16-10
Vs. Spread: Really?