BCS Rankings 2013: 5 Biggest BCS Impact Games of Week 9

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2013

BCS Rankings 2013: 5 Biggest BCS Impact Games of Week 9

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Sunday night brought with it the final debut of the BCS standings, the last first time that cursed formula will crunch all its numbers and spit out an initial list.

    But a lot can change between now and December, which is really when the rankings start to matter. Every team still has plenty of games left on their schedule that could trip them up and drastically alter the national title landscape.

    Week 9 presents a number of those potential impact games, even if it's not as loaded as the previous Saturday. Highly ranked teams face quality opponents in all corners of the nation, hoping to avoid the dreaded upset that will derail their season.

    Bleacher Report's resident BCS guru, Sam Chi, compiled the five biggest impact games on the Week 9 schedule. Here's a quick preview of each one.

5. Tennessee at Alabama

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    Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    If Alabama wins the rest of its games this season—no matter the margin of victory—it should coast easily into the BCS National Championship game.

    But for the sake of their public reputation, the Tide might need to win this game convincingly.

    Tennessee is the only common opponent Alabama shares with Oregon, and when the Ducks welcomed Butch Jones' team into Autzen six weeks ago, they destroyed them by 45 points.

    It's a little unfair since Tennessee is playing much better now than it was then, but unless Alabama wins in similar fashion, some voters might prefer Oregon to the Tide in next week's polls.

    The Vols, for their part, won't be intimidated when they walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium. They're using a psychological ploy to avoid being pressured, referring to 'Bama only as "The Red Team" in practice this week.

    Per Andrew Gribble of AL.com, Tennessee receiver "Pig" Howard said:

    Mentally, just by their name, when teams hear that name or when it comes to playing against them, they’re mentally beat already before they step on the field. I give them their credit, but we’ve got warriors on our team as well. It's just going to be time to go to war.

    Tennessee is brimming with confidence and won't back down from the challenge in Tuscaloosa.

    The Vols don't have the bodies to win, but even making this a four-quarter game could have major BCS implications and give Oregon an outside shot at flirting with No. 1.

4. Texas Tech at Oklahoma

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    Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Texas Tech will be truly tested for the first time this season, taking its show on the road to play a one-loss Oklahoma team in Norman.

    This game is an important diagnostic for the Red Raiders, who have done everything their schedule has demanded of them but still haven't proven themselves a legitimate BCS contender.

    This game will finally tell us something about their chances.

    First-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been successful at every stop of his career, and he has not tuned out some of the criticism about his team's lofty top-10 ranking.

    "I know he takes it personally," said tight end Jace Amaro, according to Mike Graham of the Dallas Morning News. "You can see it in his eyes. He gets mad like if he’s actually a player."

    Will that energy translate from coach to player and onto the field? It might need to. Oklahoma's defensive front seven is (by far) the best Texas Tech has seen this season, and the Raiders will need some sort of adrenaline boost to handle it in the trenches.

    Oklahoma is playing for respect here too, having not faced a quality opponent since laying an egg against Texas. The Raiders aren't the only team who will play this game with fire.

3. Stanford at Oregon State

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    Oregon State has looked remarkably good since losing to FCS Eastern Washington in Week 1, and this is its first chance to repent for that upset.

    Quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks—by statistical metrics—have been two of the best players in college football this year.

    Mannion leads the nation with 2,992 yards and 29 touchdowns, while Cooks has the receiving triple crown by leading the nation in catches (76), yards (1,176) and TDs (12).

    There's also some revenge factor in play. Stanford beat OSU 27-23 in Palo Alto last year, winning after a potential game-winning pass from Mannion went wanting at the end of the fourth quarter.

    "We definitely look back on something like that," said Cooks, according to Connor Letourneau of The Oregonian. "But we've still got that taste in our mouth from the beginning of the season. So we've got a lot on our shoulders right now."

    The BCS impact of this game is massive. If Oregon State wins, it would effectively eliminate Stanford from the Pac-12 North race and end any hope the Cardinal had of making the Rose Bowl.

    It would also knock one of the biggest land mines off of the Beavers' schedule, helping them improve to 5-0 in conference play and making them a legitimate threat to advance to Pasadena.

    Stanford will come out with a "Stop Cooks at All Costs" game plan, and if the Beavers can take advantage of that, there's no reason they can't pull the upset.

2. South Carolina at Missouri

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    Missouri's offense kept rolling against Florida last week, as backup quarterback Maty Mauk—a redshirt freshman—stepped into the lineup and helped the Tigers rack up 500 yards and 36 points against the vaunted Florida defense.

    Even with James Franklin out of the lineup, this offense is loaded with offensive weapons, from receivers L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham to running backs Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy.

    The defense isn't half bad either. With three sacks against Florida last week, Michael Sam—who also scored a TD against Georgia—now leads the nation in both sacks (9.0) and tackles for loss (13.0).

    "They're very fast. They're quick," said South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, according to Mike Herndon of AL.com. "Somebody said: 'They don't have any fat guys out there playing.'"

    South Carolina needs—repeat: needs—a win to keep its faint BCS hopes alive, and it will likely be without starting quarterback Connor Shaw.

    Backup Dylan Thompson will need to play the game of his life, and a rejuvenated Jadeveon Clowney (2.5 tackles for loss last week) will need to make a couple of big plays.

    Otherwise, Mizzou's sleeper bid for an SEC crown will get stronger.

1. UCLA at Oregon

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    UCLA lost at Stanford last week, depriving the world of an undefeated showdown at Autzen, but the Bruins' trip to play Oregon is still Week 9's best offering.

    Other than the Ducks' own trip to Palo Alto, this might be their best chance of losing a game before the Pac-12 Championship. Between QB Brett Hundley and linebacker Anthony Barr, the Bruins might have two of the 10 first picks in April's NFL draft.

    Oregon, though, isn't without its own NFL talent. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the Heisman front-runner, and scouts hold him in similar (if not higher) regard to Hundley at the next level.

    Still, for all of the quarterback hype, this game could come down to the status of a pint-sized running back. De'Anthony Thomas has missed the past four games with an ankle injury, but he's expected to make his triumphant return.

    "I should play on Saturday," Thomas said in a video posted by The Oregonian. "I'm ready. I'm hungry and ready to get back on the field."

    Thomas is one of the most electric players in football—at any level—and his big-play presence might be enough to swing this game toward Oregon and help it avoid the upset.

    But the hard part of its schedule is still just getting started.