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UCLA at Oregon is top game in Week 9 of college football

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The Bruins' disappointing performance in a loss to Stanford last weekend took some of the luster off Saturday's showdown with Pac-12 rival Oregon, but the game still holds heavy implications for the national title picture and the race for the Heisman Trophy.

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Marcus Mariota, considered by many the frontrunner for the Heisman, has passed for 2,051 yards and accounted for 29 total touchdowns in leading the Ducks to a perfect record and a No. 3 ranking in the first BCS standings. Despite his struggles last week against the Cardinal, Bruins QB Brett Hundley still has plenty of scouts buzzing about his pro potential, and a big game Saturday could put him right back in the discussion for the Heisman.

Other prospects to keep an eye on include UCLA LB Anthony Barr, whom many including NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt consider one of the top prospects for the upcoming NFL draft; Ducks DB Ife Ekpre-Olomu; and Ducks RB De'Anthony Thomas, who expects to return from an ankle injury Saturday.

Also in Week 9, the Cardinal try to slow down Oregon State's rising star Sean Mannion, who has surpassed 400 passing yards in five of his seven games and has a 29-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season.

Here are our top 10 games in Week 9 of college football:

10. Boise State at BYU, Friday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: Boise State will be without starting QB Joe Southwick, who suffered a broken ankle in last week's win over Nevada. Junior Grant Hedrick, a dual-threat guy, is the new starter. Expect the Broncos to rely heavily on their ground game. Sophomore TB Jay Ajayi (6-0, 220) has rushed for 331 yards and four TDs in the past two games, and senior OT Charles Leno (6-4, 295) seems a likely third-day draft pick. BYU senior Kyle Van Noy (6-3, 245) is 10th nationally with 10.5 tackles for loss and seemingly always is around the ball; he is seen as a first-rounder by some analysts. BYU senior WR Cody Hoffman (6-4, 210) will test an OK Boise State secondary. Hoffman is another who seems like a likely third-day pick. BYU sophomore QB Taysom Hill (6-2, 221) is eighth nationally in total offense at 350.3 yards per game.

9. Texas at TCU, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

The skinny: The TCU defense is legit, with tackles Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson anchoring the Big 12's top run-stuffing unit. However, Pierson suffered a leg injury at Oklahoma State last week and his potential absence would shift the balance toward Longhorns running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. And don't be surprised if things get chippy between Texas wide receiver Mike Davis and Horned Frogs corner Jason Verrett, elite talents that play with just as much intensity and attitude.

8. Nebraska at Minnesota, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: A big game in the Legends Division race. Minnesota is out of the running but can muck up Nebraska's title hopes and improve its bowl situation. Minnesota has an effective ground game, but its passing attack is anemic. Nebraska's defense isn't much, though rising-star sophomore DE Randy Gregory (6-6, 255) is playing at a high level. Minnesota's defense, headed by stud senior DT Ra'Shede Hageman (6-6, 311), must stymie Nebraska's rushing attack. Huskers junior TB Ameer Abdullah (5-9, 190) doesn't get enough national attention. He has five 100-yard games in six outings this season and has rushed for 490 yards and four TDs in the past three games.

7. Vanderbilt at Texas A&M, Saturday, 12:21 p.m. ET, SECTV

The skinny: As a smallish CB prospect, Vanderbilt's Andre Hal will have little to lose in working against 6-foot-5 WR Mike Evans. After all, nobody will be expecting Hal to get the best of the college football's premier jump-ball artist, so if he does, it will be the personal highlight of his senior season. Other pro prospects to watch: Vandy DB Kenny Ladler, WR Jordan Matthews and OT Wesley Johnson; A&M QB Johnny Manziel, OL Jake Matthews, OL Cedric Ogbuehi.

6. Penn State at Ohio State, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

The skinny: Ohio State is No. 4 in this week's BCS standings. Junior QB Braxton Miller and senior TB Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235) headline a powerful offense, but the secondary has been suspect, which gives Penn State a puncher's chance in this one. The Nittany Lions can throw the ball with true freshman QB Christian Hackenberg, and junior WR Allen Robinson (6-3, 210) is the best receiver in the Big Ten, with 43 receptions for 705 yards (16.4 yards per catch) and five TDs. Will Ohio State coaches trust junior CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 192) to handle Robinson by himself? Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis torched Roby, a high-level talent who also had coverage issues in a win over Northwestern. At any rate, Penn State needs offensive balance, and Ohio State's run defense has been excellent, thanks to junior LB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 230) and a better-than-expected line.

If you think the average college lineman is big, then you should take a look at some of the biggest lineman to play in the SEC.

5. Tennessee at Alabama, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The skinny: This storied annual rivalry hasn't been competitive for the last three years, but there will nevertheless be plenty of pro prospects on the field. How will Tennessee's vaunted offensive line, with as many as four future pros, handle the Crimson Tide's always-tough defensive front, led by Butkus Award candidate C.J. Mosley? Alabama's interior offensive line, led by guard Anthony Steen, will spend the day working against two of UT's top prospects in NG Daniel McCullers and LB A.J. Johnson. Alabama star RB T.J. Yeldon challenges defenders physically, which is Johnson's kind of game, more so than backup Kenyan Drake. So while Yeldon is the proven star of the Alabama backfield, don't be surprised if the faster, quicker Drake gives Johnson more problems on the perimeter and in the open field.

4. South Carolina at Missouri, Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN2

The skinny: South Carolina left tackle Corey Robinson, a fast-rising pro prospect, will have his hands full with either of Missouri's defensive ends: Kony Ealy, or SEC sacks leader Michael Sam. Robinson is a brute of a run blocker, so look for him to have an edge in that area; his pass protection will be tested by the quickness of Ealy and Sam. Standout Missouri CB E.J. Gaines is questionable with a quad injury, as is Gamecocks DL Kelcy Quarles. Other top prospects to watch: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, RB Mike Davis, CB Vic Hampton; Missouri WR L'Damian Washington, WR Dorial Green-Beckham.

3. Texas Tech at Oklahoma, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox

The skinny: Can Oklahoma slow down Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro? Can anyone? Amaro leads the Big 12 in receptions, but Sooners corner Aaron Colvin has both size (6-0, 192 pounds) and experience at safety in his favor. Having Colvin shadow Amaro in the red zone and on third down would make sense, as a second conference loss would all but end OU's hopes of winning the Big 12. Taking away the Red Raiders' leader in catches and yards would also up the pressure on true freshman quarterback Davis Webb, who has thrown for 877 yards and five touchdowns with one interception in two starts.

2. Stanford at Oregon State, Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: Everyone knows wide receiver Brandin Cooks (76 receptions for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns this season) to going to be the main target for quarterback Sean Mannion. But Cooks can't get the ball if Mannion is flat on his back. If the Oregon State offensive line, which has allowed just nine sacks in 347 pass attempts, can hold off Stanford linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, Cooks can do his damage, keep the Beavers undefeated in conference play and inch that much closer to a potentially titanic Civil War with the rival Ducks.

1. UCLA at Oregon, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The skinny: Ducks versatile running back De'Anthony Thomas seems set to return after missing three games with a sprained ankle. With the development of other young running backs on the Oregon roster, expect the Black Mamba to catch more passes than he did earlier this season as the featured rusher. UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr and Myles Jack have the athleticism to cover Thomas, tight ends or even slot receivers in the prolific Ducks spread offense. Defensive end Tony Washington has 6.5 of Oregon's 20 sacks this season, with both totals set to rise against a UCLA offensive line that has struggled to protect quarterback Brett Hundley and is now starting three true freshmen at the Pac-12's most feared home-field advantage.

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