A little more than a month left to go in the regular season. Wow, where did the time go? With that, let us have a look at the top 10 storylines to watch headed into Week 9. Special thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for some of the nuggets sprinkled throughout.
1. Roadblock Saturday. We love the gimmicky names. This one fits. Six of the top 10 teams are on the road this weekend, including four of the top 5. All are unbeaten. There are trendy upset picks to be sure: Ole Miss over No. 1 Auburn, USC over No. 2 Oregon, No. 18 Iowa over No. 5 Michigan State, No. 14 Nebraska over No. 6 Missouri. Trendy today, but will they happen? Let us move on to …
2. Will No. 1 lose for the fourth straight week? We are looking at you, Auburn. Alabama and Ohio State went down as the No. 1 teams in the human polls, then Oklahoma went down as the No. 1 team in the BCS standings. The Tigers face a difficult test against Ole Miss, especially from an emotional standpoint. They are coming into the game off a huge win over LSU that vaulted them to the top of the standings, and are getting much love from experts around the country. Cam Newton has already been penciled in as the winner. But this has the makings of being a trap game, especially if Jeremiah Masoli can get going against an inconsistent defense.
3. Will the other No. 1 fall? We are looking at you Oregon, which is No. 1 in the AP, Harris and coaches' polls. USC comes into the game off a bye, and is two field goals away from being undefeated. The Trojans have the offense to keep up with the Ducks, but do they have the defense to slow them down? Monte Kiffin has been underwhelming in his first season in charge there. This unit is simply devoid of the talent it once had. But emotions play a factor in this one, too. Off an embarrassing loss to Oregon last season and with no postseason to play for, USC says this is its bowl game.
4. Will a dominant team begin to emerge? Hard to answer yes on that one. Nobody has looked unstoppable, and you can start nit-picking each team, whether you want to look at strength of schedule, close games, margin of victory, talent or who should have done what every week. Bet on this season remaining completely wide open.
5. Michigan State run offense vs. Iowa run defense. There are five running back duos in FBS where each is averaging at least 70 rushing yards per game. This is the second straight week that Iowa will face such a duo -- Wisconsin’s John Clay and James White last week, Michigan State’s Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell this week. Wisconsin had 142 yards rushing in its win. What will Baker and Bell do?
6. T-Magic through the air against Missouri? We got a little bit of the unexpected last week out of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. That would be a little magic through the air. Martinez set a school freshman record with 323 yards passing and a career-high five touchdowns in a win over Oklahoma State. But he has been much more efficient passing on the road than at home. He is only completing 53 percent of his passes in Lincoln, with one touchdown to three interceptions. Compare that to 66 percent, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions on the road.
7. ACC up for grabs. After Florida State lost to NC State on Thursday night, the ACC is faced with the possibility that its highest-ranked team after this weekend could be good ol' Virginia Tech. You remember the Hokies, last seen making national headlines for losing to James Madison? Well, they have reeled off six straight wins and are No. 23, one spot behind No. 22 Miami. The Hurricanes play at Virginia, while the Hokies prepare for a huge Thursday night game against Georgia Tech.
8. Syracuse: contender or pretender? The Orange are 5-2 and face Cincinnati after a big win over West Virginia. But who will we see this weekend against Cincinnati? The team that beat the Mountaineers, or the one that lost to Pittsburgh 45-14? Syracuse has proved it can win on the road, and Cincinnati could be without quarterback Zach Collaros, listed as questionable with a bruised knee. That would obviously help the Orange, who would benefit greatly with a win over the defending conference champs.
9. Can Utah avoid the upset? The Utes travel to Air Force, which is facing its third top-10 team of the season. The Falcons have lost two straight but still have the top rushing offense in the country, though they were held to a season-low 184 yards on the ground last week against TCU. Though these games are generally close, Utah has won six of the last seven. Critics have pointed to the soft Utah schedule as a reason that it is overrated, so winning here would be huge. It would also set up a game to watch in Week 10, as it hosts No. 4 TCU.
10. Notre Dame deals with tragedy. It has been an emotional week for the Irish, who are dealing with the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan, killed after the tower he was standing on to tape practice toppled over in a high gust of wind. Players will wear a decal on their helmet for their game against Tulsa to honor him, but many are expecting answers from coach Brian Kelly about why Sullivan was allowed to work in the tower in such weather conditions.