The Monday Morning Look Ahead: Welcome to the SEC’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

As crazy as it sounds, we are now heading into the last weekend of October, which also means we are now heading towards the college football home stretch as well. The preseason prognostications are a thing of the past, and in the present, we have eight weeks of real, tangible on the field production to help determine who our eventual National Champion will be.

And the best part is that as exciting as these past eight weeks have been, they pale in comparison to what’s about to come. Every Saturday from now until the first weekend of December will provide us with college football’s version of a playoff (for now) as teams play themselves into and out of the title chase, with each win and loss.

As Frank Sinatra once said, “The best is yet to come,” and it starts in Week 9.

Here’s what you have to look ahead to this weekend:

There’s No Need to Wait Until Saturday for Some Quality College Football:

Not this week, and not when two really good games, featuring two ranked teams will be played on Thursday and Friday night. Who needs Saturday college football when you’ve got Thursday and Friday, right?

Either way the action starts Thursday, when Clemson travels to Wake Forest to take on the Demon Deacons. Both teams played Saturda,y meaning it’s a short week for each, and even on the road you’d have to think that’d give an edge to Clemson. Since losing to Florida State back in late September, the Tigers have been one of college football’s sneaky good teams, going 3-0, with an average margin of victory of 17 points per game over that stretch. Looking at their schedule, Clemson could very well win out, and if they do, don’t be surprised if they sneak a coveted BCS at-large berth.

Moving to Friday, it only gets better, as we move to the Big East and get undefeated Louisville against one-loss Cincinnati. The Bearcats actually got tripped up this past Saturday at Toledo, but even still, don’t sleep on their ability to pull off the upset here. Not against Louisville (7-0), a super-talented club, but one which is also young and has shown an ability to give up big leads late in games. The Cardinals nearly lost this past Saturday after giving up 22 second half points to lowly South Florida, and also had to hold on for dear life against North Carolina earlier in the year as well. In that game Louisville won by just three points, after leading by 29 points at the break.  

Meaning that as talented as Louisville is, they do seem ripe for an upset.

Don’t be surprised if it happens this Friday night at home.

An Epic Battle of Offense vs. Defense in Norman:

Good news Oklahoma fans: College Gameday is coming…. to your citay! And they’re coming for one of the most intriguing games of the entire college football season so far.

That game will happen Saturday at Memorial Stadium, when Landry Jones and the high-flying Oklahoma offense take on one of the best defenses in college football, courtesy of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. To quote Terrell Owens, “Getcha popcorn ready!”

That’s right, this will be a fascinating contrast of styles between two teams who are ranked in the Top 10, but who got there in polar opposites ways of each other.  Since losing to Kansas State a few weeks ago (a loss which gets more justifiable by the week) the Sooners have quietly been one of college football’s most dangerous teams, going 3-0 since then with wins over Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas (the first two, which were ranked), by an average of over 30 points. Oklahoma’s offense has also averaged a ho-hum 44.7 points a game this season, which ranks them fifth nationally. Not too shabby, if you don’t mind me saying.

Of course in the process of putting up all those points, the Sooners also haven’t seen a defense anything close to as talented as what Notre Dame will bring to Norman on Saturday. The Irish have put the “fight” in their nickname, and proven worthy of their Top 5 national ranking, thanks in large part to college football’s No. 2 scoring defense. On the season Notre Dame is allowing a meager 9.8 points per game, second only to Alabama nationally.

Yup, that’s right, this one is going to be a good old-fashioned offense vs. defense showdown between two of the most dynamic clubs in college football.

In the process, it’s also going to give the winner a pretty strong case that they’re worthy of a BCS title shot.

The SEC’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party:

Sure, technically the annual showdown between Georgia and Florida is known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Still, this year the game carries extra weight, as the winner on Saturday in Jacksonville will unofficially wrap up the SEC East title.  For Florida and Georgia, the Cocktail Party is about much more than bragging rights this year.

As for the particulars, well, as you may have heard, the Gators enter this game white hot and undefeated, a feat all the more impressive considering Florida may have played college football’s toughest schedule to this point in the season (three of their seven wins have come against ranked opponents, and a fourth was at Texas A&M, which is now ranked). Meanwhile, Georgia has a loss to South Carolina on their resume, but with the Gamecocks losers of two straight in the SEC, it means that a Bulldogs win in Jacksonville would put them in first place in the SEC East divisional race.

And while nothing would be official for a few weeks, it does seem like the winner here would all but wrap up the division. Florida’s only remaining SEC game after Saturday is a home tilt against Missouri, which is still looking for their first win as a member of the SEC. Meanwhile, Georgia will host Ole Miss, before visiting the hapless and helpless Auburn Tigers to close out their SEC slate. Safe to say that by SEC standards, that’s not exactly a murderous home-stretch for either team.

It also means that neither is likely to lose a conference game after this weekend.

Which makes Saturday the SEC’s largest outdoor cocktail party in years.

For all his opinion, insight and analysis on college football please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.