Week nine's contenders and pretenders

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CONTENDERS

North Carolina State (6-2 overall, 3-1 ACC)

The Wolfpack scored a huge … huuuuge … win over Florida State on Thursday night, putting them in control of their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. Tom O'Brien has never won more than 6 games at NC State, but with 4 manageable games against Clemson, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Maryland left, he could reach 10 wins before it’s all said and done.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has had a lot to do with that success, too.

Baylor (7-2 overall, 4-1 Big 12)

It’s a crazy, inverted world we live in when Baylor leads the Big 12 South, yet nine weeks through the season, here we are. I had Baylor as a contender last week, but I wasn’t quite sure they’d go into Austin and beat Texas. Boy, was I wrong. Granted, my 5-foot grandmother could beat Texas right now, but beating the Longhorns on the road like that is a statement win nonetheless.

John Taylor has a man-crush on Cam Newton. I’m rather smitten with Robert Griffin.

Wisconsin (7-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten)

Currently, there’s a four-way tie for the Big Ten title between the Badgers, who lost to Michigan State but beat Ohio State, who, in turn, will play Iowa who just beat the Spartans, who will not play the Buckeyes. Confused yet?

The bottom line is that out of the Big Ten’s top four teams, Wisconsin stands the best chance to win the Big Ten. Obviously, Iowa or Ohio State will lose come Nov. 20 and, even though Michigan State holds the tie-breaker with Wisconsin, a win by Iowa would put the Badgers in the Rose bowl because they will have the highest BCS ranking (assuming Wisconsin wins out).

Right? Maybe … I don’t know. I’m still for the drawing names out of a hat method.

TCU/Utah (combined 17-0 overall)

There is an outside chance that the winner of this game (assuming they win all their games, of course) could make into the national championship game. For that to come to fruition, though, TCU or Utah would need a little help in the way of a loss by Oregon or Auburn and that’s certainly possible.

Plus, given that Boise State has now become college football’s Judas, a late jump by either of these teams over the Broncos is not out of the question.

PRETENDERS

Miami (5-3 overall, 3-2 ACC)

I’m not so convinced that Miami could have beaten Virginia even with Jacory Harris, who was knocked out of the game by a gruesome/righteous hit. Miami has been one of the biggest flops of 2010 and, despite the ‘full confidence‘ of the university president, Randy Shannon‘s seat has to be muy caliente.

West Virginia (5-3 overall, 1-2 Big East)

The Mountaineers have dropped two straight conference games after looking early on like a legitimate Big East contender. Of course, that’s not saying much, is it? If Bill Stewart‘s seat wasn’t hot before, it’s certainly beginning to warm up now. West Virginia is not entirely out of the conference race yet, but if they’re going to turn it around, they need to do it STAT.

Meeeechigan (5-3 overall, 1-3 Big Ten)

Remember that 5-0 start when all of Michigan’s problems and NCAA issues just floated away lazily into the atmosphere? When the sun shone just a little brighter and the birds sang a little sweeter? When Michigan appeared to be back and all was right with the college football world?

Neither do we. Welcome back to the dungeon, Rich.

Missouri (7-1 overall, 3-1 Big 12)

Let me clarify: I don’t think Missouri is a bad team at all, but Nebraska laid a big ‘ole smack down on the Tigers. For the first quarter, Mizzou looked lost, confused a little like they wanted to cry. Even with Taylor Martinez out, Missouri couldn’t get anything going on offense to mount a comeback.

Missouri certainly deserved all the praise they received after beating Oklahoma, but I just wasn’t convinced they could do it two weeks in a row.