Thursday, October 5

Weekend Matchups (Week of 10/7)

Totally delayed on getting stuff posted; I've been busy, and it looks like it'll stay that way. What'd help matters is if I didn't post incredibly, incredibly long entries. This way I wouldn't need to allocate 3 hours per post. Anyway....

(15) Clemson @ Wake Forest
Why to watch: Well, it's for the early-season title of strongest ACC team of the moment. Seriously, who thought Wake would be 5-0 anyway?

What to watch for: Rushing yardage. Clemson now has a dual-threat running game with C.J. Spiller and James Davis (Spiller finally emerged last week), while Wake only goes one-deep thanks to an injury to Micah Andrews - he won't be back this week, either.

What to expect: Again, Clemson has a stronger set of running backs, and I'm a sucker for a strong 1-2 punch on the ground. Oddly, Wake's been having issues stopping the pass (both defenses do a decent to good job of stopping the run), so for all the rushing yardage, Will Proctor might be the difference.

Purdue @ (19) Iowa
Why to watch: Momentum. Purdue didn't really play a bad game last week, but they were outplayed. Meanwhile, Iowa got embarassed at home. Think that'll be a factor?

What to watch for: Defensive disparities. Purdue's been having issues stopping the run - witness the anemic ND rushing attack going for nearly 140 yards last week - and Iowa again has that 2-deep rushing attack I like.

What to expect: I figure Iowa's going to be pissed. When a team is hammered like that at home, they either fall into one of two groups: depressed for the year (the Michigan State side) or looking for retribution. Iowa's probably going to fall into the latter, and while I think Purdue will get their yardage, Iowa has an intangibles edge. Of course, I said this last week about BYU.

Navy @ Air Force
Why to watch: It's the only 2-1 team in the nation. Seriously. AF has only played 3 games so far. Also interesting if you like a) rushing and b) the academies.

What to watch for: options - lots of options. Also, two teams that are very familiar with each other; not only do both teams run variants on the same offense, but they play every year.

What to expect: Navy's triple option: Brian Hampton (QB), Reggie Campbell (SB), Adam Ballard (FB). Air Force's triple option: Shaun Carney (QB), Chad Hall (RB), Ryan Williams (FB). Those 6 guys will get the ball most of the time, and this game will take you back to 1925. This matchup lacks the luster of a lot of other games, but academy games are normally strongly contested and Navy looks like they could be bowl-bound again this year. Both teams could use the win.

Washington @ (3) USC
Why to watch: Tyrone Willingham has the Huskies sitting at 4-1, but this is their toughest test by far. USC is fighting off injury issues at receiver.

What to watch for: We know about USC this year; we know Booty and Moody will be good this year and next, but we also know that they're not the teams of years past. What we don't know is how Washington will play now that they have some confidence (remember that we didn't know anything about the Huskies when they played Oklahoma, really; the general response was "Oklahoma sucks", not "Washington might be good), and that's going to be interesting. What happens if Washington finds themselves close late?

What to expect: Lost in all the talk of offense is that USC still has a pretty good defense; again, it's mortal, though. Look for Washington to attempt to get the ball to Shackelford and Russo in an attempt to stretch the USC D. Shackelford is the better option of the two - he dominated the UCLA game. For USC, they'll do what they always do, and they'll probably do it about as well as they've done it so far this year.

(9) LSU @ (5) Florida
Why to watch: SEC is overrated lolz. Arguably the most complete 1-loss team in the nation going up against an undefeated team that ...well, really isn't getting respect. Also, Texas / Oklahoma is on commercial break (if you're from the Big 12).

What to watch for: Well, defense. Both of these defenses are impressively good, and both these teams have taken the best shot from the best teams they've played so far (Auburn and Tennessee, respectively). LSU's defense rose to the challenge against Auburn (check the stats; they outgained Auburn by nearly 100 yards, even if Auburn won the game. No disrespect against Auburn, either; that was an impressive win).

What to expect: LSU will have to take to the air to win the game. Florida's rush defense has been incredibly impressive, and as I can attest to, running the ball against the Gators is damn hard unless you have a solid back. Speaking of solid backs, Wynn is out for the Gators. This means that the Gators will either have to go to the air or rely on Tim Tebow for their rushing yards. Probably both - but LSU also has two safeties that played for their '03 championship squad. Besides, it's a SEC game between two national powerhouses - all (well, most) eyes will be here.

(7) Texas @ (14) Oklahoma @ Dallas
Why to watch: It's some kind of rivalry game. There's obvious Big 12 implications here, and possibly NC ramifications if the cards fall right. Also, LSU/Florida is on commercial break (if you're from the SEC).

What to watch for: Mack Brown in a big game. I'd really just repeat this about 20 times, but in the interest of the game, you've got Colt McCoy playing a game that's arguably bigger than the OSU game was and Adrian Peterson looking for revenge after missing last year.

What to expect: See above. Colt McCoy shouldn't be counted on to win this game like he was against OSU. Jamaal Charles should carry the game for the Longhorns, and Peterson will carry the Sooners. It'll come down to if Oklahoma can pull out a few stops; remember that this defense was well-hyped coming into the season, and they're coming off a bye week.

(23) Missouri @ Texas Tech
Why to watch: Mizzou's first real test; another opportunity for TTU to get some respect after a tough win against A&M last week. They're still looking to fight off the TCU loss.

What to watch for: Check out the differences in team philosophy; Missouri's had a rock-solid defense all season and TTU is, well, TTU. One of the most obvious "what to watch for" lines on the board.

What to expect: Here's the interesting one. Texas Tech will have issues running the ball again this week, but since they're primarily a passing team, it'll fall to the Missouri secondary to stop the offense. The Tigers shouldn't have an issue moving the ball, though; TTU has given up big games both on the ground and through the air this season, although their big passing yardage mark is a total outlier. Still, Missouri should have some success on the ground, and they'll try to control the game with the rush.

(13) Tennessee @ (10) Georgia
Why to watch: Tennessee's first chance to prove its legitimacy after the Florida game, and Georgia's last chance to prove they're a legitimate unbeaten. (Think about it; if they lose, they can't really prove they're a legit unbeaten.)

What to watch for: Tennessee's running game (or lack thereof?), Georgia's passing game (or lack thereof?). Joe Tereshinski is back for the Dawgs, but Arian Foster will be - at best - limited for the Vols. It's up to LaMarcus Coker to prove that the last couple of weeks weren't flukes.

What to expect: A game that's way, way closer than anyone's figuring. Yeah, Georgia hasn't looked good. Yeah, Tennessee's done well between the hedges the last few years. But it's a night game in the SEC, and you can go ask Auburn what that means.

(11) Oregon @ (16) California
Why to watch: You live on the West Coast; another opportunity for Oregon to silence the critics and an opportunity for Cal to prove they're a legit team in the Pac-10.

What to watch for: Excellent QB play (Dennis Dixon and Nate Longshore) and excellent RBs (Jonathan Stewart, Marshawn Lynch, and Justin Forsett). While Dixon and Stewart are the better talents, Cal does run a strong 2-deep. Plenty of talent in the backfield for both teams.

What to expect: Again, with two great offenses it normally comes down to whichever team can stop them. Oregon's already seen a great RB in Adrian Peterson, and while Cal will give them a different look, Peterson carried 34 times against the Ducks. The most that Lynch and Forsett have carried in a game is 39 times against Minnesota. Similar to Oklahoma, Cal was supposed to have a good defense. This'd be a great time for it to show up for the Bears.

(22) Nebraska @ Iowa St.
Why to watch: If you're a fan of the Big 12 North, this is the game for you. ISU hasn't been on the winning end of a blowout yet this year, and Nebraska is coming off a way-closer-than-expected OT win over Kansas.

What to watch for: Whither the Cyclones' rushing attack? They've been stuffed on the ground the last couple of games, and that won't keep them in the division hunt if that continues. Nebraska should be looking to make a road statement, as Iowa State falls squarely in that area of "not national title contenders, but not bad teams" - and we don't know how Nebraska does against those teams yet, really.

What to expect: Nebraska will get yards one way or another; the only team that's stopped them was USC, and ISU doesn't have near that caliber of defense. Iowa State will do their best to keep the game close, and offhand I'd say this could be a contender for the All-Ugly Game of the Week (non-ACC division).

Other games to watch - quick edition:
Arkansas @ (2) Auburn: a battle for the early driver's seat in the SEC West. Arkansas needs to control the ball more than they do right now, and Auburn needs a decisive win after what came off as a lackluster win against South Carolina. (It wasn't, really.)

Penn St. @ Minnesota: more rushing yards. Offhand, it looks like the Golden Gophers have the better team, but PSU has a better record. Weird. No idea what to expect here.

Pittsburgh @ Syracuse: say wha? Syracuse is 3-2 and a win against Pitt totally legitimizes them for Big East competition. Nobody expects them (or Pitt, really) to do anything other than get waxed by the big guns, but if the Orangemen pull off the upset, it could be a dogfight for 3rd. Pitt has all the pressure, as Syracuse has realistically already exceeded expectations for the year.