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Week Nine Headlines

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

LIVING UP TO THE HYPE:
The showdown between USC and Ohio State failed to live up to the billing earlier this year, but this past weekend, the Buckeyes were involved in one of the better games of the season, going toe-to-toe with third-ranked Penn State. The Nittany Lions had been receiving a lot of attention for their prolific offense, but OSU shut that down. However, Joe Paterno's squad showed off a pretty good defense of its own in a 13-6 decision and survived in Columbus, winning in the Horseshoe for the first time since 1978. There weren't a whole lot of game-breaking offensive plays for either team, but there were a number of defensive gems. Now that the smoke has cleared, Ohio State is certainly out of the national title picture with two losses, while Penn State remains a viable option for the championship game, sitting just behind Texas and Alabama in the BCS standings and gaining ground.

KEEPING THE BALL ROLLING:
Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions won in the Horseshoe for the first time since 1978.

The Ball State Cardinals finished 2007 at 7-6 overall, so it is not a big surprise that the team has gotten off to a great start this year. However, not many pundits could have envisioned Ball State being 8-0 as November begins. It is the first 8-0 start for BSU since 1965, and comes after the team joined the top-25 for the first time ever two weeks ago. The Cardinals are now settled in at 18th in the top-25, and with a balanced offensive attack that is churning out 191 yards rushing and just under 260 yards passing per game, along with a defense that has played lights out as well, the team may continue to climb. The star on the offensive side of things is little-known MiQuale Lewis. The talented tailback is one of the most productive at his position in the country, averaging 123.6 yards per game. Lewis is closing in on a 1,000-yard campaign, with 989 yards thus far, with 14 TDs.

IRISH EYES ARE SMILING:
There isn't a team in the country that polarizes the nation like Notre Dame. There are no casual fans of the Irish, but rather those who either faithfully follow every move of the team or despise the very thought of blue and gold. Still, Charlie Weis has done a great job in South Bend this year, especially following a miserable 3-9 record in 2007. The Irish are 5-2 on the year. The team dropped a tight affair on the road to a good North Carolina program and was really only handled once, a 23-7 setback at Michigan State back on September 20th. Notre Dame will undoubtedly become bowl eligible, with five games remaining on the schedule. The team probably doesn't have enough on either side of the football to keep things close with USC in the regular-season finale, but will be more than competitive against the other four foes on the docket, with home games against Pittsburgh and Syracuse and road games at Navy and Boston College. Notre Dame is by no means all the way back as a national powerhouse, but the tensions in South Bend have to be easing a bit with the strong showing thus far.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks was unstoppable this past weekend against Boston College, hauling in eight passes for 139 yards and three TDs, while adding a fourth score on the ground. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell is on this list once again with another supreme effort this week against Kansas, as he completed 34-of-42 passes, for 386 yards and five TDs in just three quarters of action, while rushing for a TD as well. Colt McCoy kept his Texas Longhorns atop the national polls this week, despite a huge challenge from Oklahoma State, as McCoy threw for a career-high 391 yards and two TDs, on an ultra-efficient 38-of-45 passing against the Cowboys. Finally, Missouri QB Chase Daniel finally got his Tigers back in the win column thanks to a 302-yard, five TD performance in a 58-0 shutout of Colorado.

SNEAK PEEK:
There are only two top-25 showdowns in college football this week, as fifth-ranked Florida and eighth-ranked Georgia get together in Athens. The Gators are playing at a high level right now and could really catapult themselves into the national title picture with a huge win over the Bulldogs. The other big game features seventh-ranked Texas Tech playing host to top- ranked Texas. The Red Raiders are undefeated on the year, but the knock on them is a soft schedule to this point. There will be no more grumbling about Tech if the team can somehow knock the Longhorns from their lofty perch. However, McCoy and company will definitely have something to say about that. Other games that might spur some interest nationally include Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 23rd-ranked Oregon at California, 16th-ranked Florida State at Georgia Tech, Nebraska at fourth-ranked Oklahoma, and undefeated and 19th- ranked Tulsa at Arkansas.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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