2010 College Football Predictions: Conference Favorites Step Up in Week 8

Bleacher ReportContributor IAugust 3, 2010

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 17: Case Keenum #7 of the Houston Cougars passes the ball against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Robertson Stadium November 17, 2007 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 35-28. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

As part of BCS Know How’s 2010 college football season preview, we will be breaking down each week’s most important games that could have BCS and postseason implications in the “Road to Glendale 2011.″

Let’s move on to Week Eight where the nation’s best can begin to truly separate themselves from the pack.

Oklahoma at Missouri: Saturday Oct. 23, TBA

A young, unproven Missouri team put in a surprisingly good 2009 season, leading many to believe the Tigers are a legitimate Big 12 North contender despite their continued relative youth.

It’s not a stretch to think of the Tigers as co-favorites in the North with Nebraska, especially with junior quarterback Blaine Gibbert leading the way. Full of potential and of the classic quarterback mold, only Colt McCoy was better than Gibbert in terms of Big 12 passing efficiency in ’09.

Equipped with a stable of talented receivers, Gibbert is poised to break out in 2010.

If Missouri can make its way to a Big 12 North title, this game could be a Big 12 Championship Game preview, as Oklahoma is favored to return to the top of the always-competitive Big 12 South.

Quarterback Landry Jones and running back DeMarco Murray will take to the task of replacing the lost talent from the 2009 Sooners, and could be on their way back to a BCS bowl.

It wont be easy, but both the Sooners and Tigers could be undefeated coming into this late-October matchup in Columbia, meaning this could end up being among the most important games of the Big 12 regular season.

Wisconsin at Iowa: Saturday Oct. 23, TBA

Ohio State may rule the roost when the conversation turns to Big Ten favorites in 2010, but these two squads might have something to say about it once the 2010 season actually gets started.

Beside being considered co-favorites along with the Buckeyes, the Badgers and Hawkeyes feature two skill players who are more than capable of taking over a game and making sure their team wins. And if either wants a real shot at the Big Ten conference championship, they’ll have to bring their best to this midseason clash at Iowa City.

Making things all the more interesting is the Badgers will be fresh off the marquee matchup of the Big Ten season against Ohio State just seven days earlier at Camp Randall. If the Badgers can pull the upset, this could turn into a must win for either team if they want the Big Ten championship to themselves.

The obvious key to the game will be offense, as Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin running back John Clay are among the early favorites for the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. However, defense will likely play a larger role in trying to shut down the game’s skill players, and there Wisconsin might have a slight advantage—especially in the back seven.

Houston at Southern Methodist: Saturday Oct. 23, 3:30 p.m. ET

The two names you might know in this matchup—Houston quarterback Case Keenum and SMU coach June Jones—will be vitally important to each team's success in 2010. However, in this game, the unheralded players and coaches might play the key in a game that will likely decide the C-USA West Division champion.

Houston’s stable of wide receivers and running backs, anchored by senior wideout James Cleveland and junior running back Bryce Beall, will need to step up against an SMU defense that made huge strides in 2009 and is always ready to take on the pass-happy offenses of the C-USA.

Houston could easily make its way to this matchup undefeated, while SMU will have a more difficult road, but will also likely be undefeated in early C-USA play. Both likely will be favored in all of their remaining conference battles, so this matchup is vitally important to both teams’ hopes of a C-USA championship.

SMU went from 1-11 in 2008 to 8-5 in 2009 after just one year of tutelage from June Jones. Now among the C-USA favorites, can Jones continue the improvement and bring the Mustangs to where Hawaii was when Jones took them into the national spotlight?

This game will definitely be a window into how far the Mustangs have come and whether they have made enough strides to hang with the conference’s most nationally visible program in Houston.

Other Games of Note: LSU at Auburn, Wyoming at BYU, Notre Dame at Navy, Alabama at Tennessee.