Top Five States of Matter (Sept 11 - Sept 15)

September 11, 2014 by SbS Football Staff | with 0 comments

The weekly “Top Five States of Matter” is a preview of the upcoming football weekend that highlights the key games in five states (e.g. big national games, local rivalries, in-state matchups, etc.).
1. Pennsylvania
The Keystone State is our top ranked State of Matter for this week as its two NFL teams both go on the road for big national games that will book-end the football week.  On Thursday Night Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers head to Baltimore to face the Ravens in one of the league’s best rivalries in recent years.  The games between these two AFC North opponents have been decided by three points or less the last five times they have played.  Pittsburgh is coming off a three point win over Cleveland and will try to start 2-0 for the first time since 2010.  Meanwhile, Baltimore suffered a divisional loss to Cincinnati in week one and is dealing with the biggest off the field distraction in recent memory.
The NFL weekend wraps up on Monday Night in Indianapolis when the Eagles take on the Colts.  Similar to the Steelers, Philadelphia is also coming off a week one victory, and it is looking to start 2-0 for only the third time since 1993.  They will face an Indianapolis team that struggled in week one against Denver and should be motivated to prevent a 0-2 start.  It could be a great night for fantasy players, as the Eagles and Colts are two of the most explosive offensive teams in the league and a shootout would not be a surprise.
Although it has no other big national games, we must highlight a few other key games for teams from Pennsylvania as it has more teams (55 NFL and NCAA teams) than any other state.  A few other relevant games for the state include: Penn State at Rutgers (FBS), Pittsburgh at Florida International (FBS) and Lehigh at No. 9 New Hampshire (FCS).
Key Games
NFL: Pittsburgh at Baltimore (Thursday, 8:25 PM ET, Line: Ravens by 2.5)
NFL: Philadelphia at Indianapolis (Monday, 8:30 PM ET, Line: Colts by 3)
2. Georgia
It’s a quiet weekend for high profiled college games as the Georgia Bulldogs play in the only FBS game between two ranked opponents when they head to Columbia, SC for an SEC showdown with South Carolina.  Georgia is ranked 6th in the polls and will face the 24th ranked Gamecocks in the second big game this year for both schools.  The Bulldogs crushed the Gamecocks in-state rival Clemson in the opening weekend of the season, while South Carolina was humiliated by Texas A&M on opening night.  Last year, Georgia won 41-30 in Athens, and the game will go a long way in deciding the SEC East winner.
Two of the other three FBS teams in the state of Georgia play one another when Georgia Southern visits Georgia Tech on Saturday.  It will be the first ever matchup between the schools.  Meanwhile, Georgia State welcomes Air Force to town in a contest between Sun Belt and Mountain West teams.
On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons will try to improve to 2-0 when the play Cincinnati in a cross-conference NFL game.  The Falcons are coming of a dramatic three point win over its divisional rival New Orleans, while the Bengals defeated Baltimore last week and are looking to go 2-0 for the first time since 2006.  The game is one of only three NFL games this week between teams who both started the season 1-0.
Key Games
FBS: Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, Line: GT by 18)
FBS: No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Line: UGA by 7)
NFL: Atlanta at Cincinnati (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, Line: Bengals by 5)
3. New Jersey
The Garden State will be the site of a historical game on Saturday night as Rutgers plays its first ever Big Ten football game.  In a matchup of 2-0 teams, the Scarlet Knights will host Penn State in what should be a very competitive game.  Rutgers came back in the 4th quarter to upset Washington State in Seattle on the opening night of the season, and then defeated an FCS team (Howard) last week.  Meanwhile, life is good for the Nittany Lions as they started the season with wins over UCF and Akron, and earlier this week had their post-season eligibility reinstated by the NCAA.
Although we include the Giants and Jets in our New York state profile, it must be noted that the two New Jersey based NFL teams also have key matchups this week.  The 0-1 Giants host the Cardinals and the 1-0 Jets travel to Green Bay to face the Packers.
Key Games
FBS: Penn State at Rutgers (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, Line: PSU by 4)   
4. Iowa
The best in-state rivalry game of the week will be in the state of Iowa as the only two FBS teams from the state face off in the annual Cy-Hawk series.  Iowa State will make the two hour drive from Ames to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes on Saturday afternoon.  Although Iowa defeated the Cyclones fifteen consecutive times from 1983 to 1997, the series has been more competitive in recent years.  The teams have split the series seven games apiece since the turn of the century, and the rivalry ranks as our second best in-state rivalry since 2000 (full list available here: Best FBS Rivalries Since 2000). 
The Hawkeyes enter the game at 2-0 after escaping at home last week versus Ball State, while the Cyclones fell to 0-2 with a heartbreaking loss to Kansas State.  It was 2007 the last time the two teams had these similar records entering the game (Iowa 2-0 and Iowa State 0-2) and the Cyclones were able to pull off the upset.  They will attempt to do it again in what should be a very rowdy crowd at Kinnick Stadium.
Key Games
FBS: Iowa State at Iowa (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Line: Iowa by 10)
5. Indiana
The Hoosier state comes in as number five in our States of Matter this week and is the site of the other major FBS in-state rivalry game this weekend.  Purdue and Notre Dame play one another at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on Saturday night.  The rivalry has been lopsided in favor of the Fighting Irish in recent years and is ranked #21 in our best in-state rivalry games since 2000 (Best FBS Rivalries Since 2000).  Purdue is coming off a humiliating loss to Central Michigan last week and is 1-1, while Notre Dame moved up to 11th in the rankings after it rolled Michigan and is a 28 point favorite over the Boilermakers.
As mentioned above, the Monday Night Football game will take place in Indianapolis when the Eagles come to town. The Colts are coming of two consecutive playoff appearances and will need a win to avoid a 0-2 start.  Additional games relevant to the state of Indiana include its other two FBS teams playing FCS teams (Indiana at Bowling Green and Indiana State at Ball State) and one of the biggest Division III games of the week as number one ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater comes to the state to play 25th ranked Franklin.
Key Games
FBS: Purdue vs. No. 11 Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, Line: ND by 28)
NFL: Philadelphia at Indianapolis (Monday, 8:30 PM ET, Line: Colts by 3)