Sports

College Football Week 9 Game Previews

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Michigan State is coming off the biggest win of the season in a 37-31 victory over a highly touted Badgers squad.

Mark Dantonio stuck to his offensive game plan of attacking Wisconsin’s soft edges, the same way Nebraska started against the Badgers. The difference between the two Big Ten teams (and their outcomes) is that when Wisconsin started getting hot, the Huskers panicked and abandoned their plan while the Spartans did not. Michigan State’s defense intercepted Russell Wilson twice, forced him to fumble once, and sacked him three times; before Saturday, Wilson had been sacked five times through six games. QB Kirk Cousins was solid and poised, completing 22-of-31 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning Hail Mary pass with four seconds left in regulation.

Nebraska goes back to Lincoln to prepare for the hottest team in the conference after a 41-14 rout of a dreadful Minnesota team in Minneapolis. Bo Pelini had the Huskers kept the ball on the ground for most of the game, possibly as a tune-up for the eighth ranked rush defense in the country. Nebraska racked up 346 yards on 56 attempts and scored three times on the ground. The defense also found the end zone after safety Austin Cassidy returned a fumble 11 yards; Nebraska forced three fumbles in the contest and held the Gophers to 254 total offensive yards.

Baylor (4-2) @ #3 Oklahoma State (7-0)

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3:30 ET – Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater OK

Two weeks ago, both Texas A & M and Baylor quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards in a shootout that ended with the Aggies defeating the Bears 55-28 in College Station. A&M’s Ryan Tannehill threw for 415 yards, six touchdowns and a pick while Baylor’s star QB Robert Griffin III set a school record passing for 430 yards and three scores; becoming the third quarterback to set a record against the Aggies’ worst pass defense in the country. Griffin also threw his second interception on the season, bringing his totals to 22 TDs to 2 INTs. The Bears could not get the run game going, however, and were outgained 266-50 yards on the ground. The defense struggled throughout the game, allowing a total of 681 yards of offense, 35 first downs, and did not force any fumbles or sack Tannehill. The defense has had two weeks to prepare for the second most scoring offense and third ranked total offense in the country.

Even without two of their starting wide receivers the Cowboys still had plenty of offense, and help from the defense as they won their ninth straight game on the road defeating Missouri 45-24. QB Brandon Weeden went 33-of-49 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, finding last year’s Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon once for a score before Blackmon was precautionary held out of the second half after a blow to the head. RB Joseph Randle ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns and caught another for a career-high four TDs. The defense forced Tigers quarterback James Franklin to commit four turnovers in the second half: three interceptions and a lost fumble at the Oklahoma State 4 yard line, but allowed Missouri 463 yards of total offense and three offensive touchdowns.

Although Robert Griffin III is one of the biggest playmakers in college football, the offense struggles at times with a ground attack, which puts pressure on RG3 to carry the load. Even if the Cowboys defense gives up big numbers to the Bears’ QB, the overall play of Oklahoma State should be able to hold off an upset.

 

#11 Oklahoma (6-1) @ #10 Kansas State (7-0)

3:30 ET – Bill Snyder Stadium, Manhattan KS

After Oklahoma was #1 in the preseason rankings, looking ahead on the schedule to week nine probably looked like an easy victory for the Sooners. Then an October 22 meeting with Texas Tech took place. The opening kickoff was delayed one hour and 35 minutes due to a weather delay; once the game started, the Red Raiders attacked OU’s pass defense and the Sooners found themselves down 31-17 entering the final quarter. QB Landry Jones threw a three yard pass to FB Trey Millard, but the Red Raiders answered back on their next two possessions with a field goal and a 15 yard TD pass from QB Seth Doege, his fourth passing touchdown of the night. Jones threw his fourth and fifth touchdowns to put Oklahoma with three, but the Sooners couldn’t recover the onside kick, and TTU ran out the clock for the 41-38 upset.

Through seven games, Kansas State is tied with Oklahoma State for the best records in the Big 12 and the Wildcats are looking strong, especially on defense. In the tune up to the Oklahoma game this week, KState’s rushing defense held the Kansas ground attack to five first downs, 76 yards on 37 attempts, and one touchdown and forced three fumbles (recovering two) in the 59-21 victory to give Kansas State their best start since going 9-0 in 1999. The offense also performed well, gaining a total of 466 yards with a steady balance of passing and running the ball. QB Collin Klein threw for a career-high 195 yards and a touchdown and ran for 92 yards and four scores. Oklahoma’s game plan should be that Jones keeps the ball in the air as much as possible against the 87th ranked passing offense in the FBS; the Wildcats run defense in ranked at 13.

#12 Wisconsin (6-1) @ Ohio State

8:00 ET – Ohio Stadium, Columbus OH

Before last week, Wisconsin was easily not only the Big Ten favorite, but also a contender for an outside shot at the BCS Title. Unfortunately, the latter came to an end as the Badgers were defeated by Michigan State in a last second Hail Mary play in East Lansing Saturday night.  Wisco’s Heisman and Maxwell hopeful Russell Wilson had his worst performance of the year, throwing picks two and three on the season, completing 66.7% of his passes and being sacked three times. However, he did valiantly orchestrate a second half comeback, one that landed just a hair shy of going into OT for at least one more chance.

Two weeks ago, Ohio State upset then-16th ranked Illini 17-7 in Champaign to hand Illinois their first of two straight losses on the season. During the off-week, Luke Fickell & Co had plenty of time to game plan and strategize on beating the Badgers. Having already played (and lost to) the Spartans should help Ohio State have an edge going into the game, whether or not they execute the game plan as well as Michigan State did remains to be seen.

The Buckeyes have been a roller coaster of a team so far, and it will all depend on which squad shows up Saturday. Meanwhile, Brett Bielema and Wilson will be out to prove they can win on the road, and come back from adversity.

#6 Clemson (8-0) @ Georgia Tech (6-2)

8:00 ET – Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta GA

No. 6 Clemson is typically a defensive powerhouse, but this season, leads the ACC with 482.5 yards and 40.6 points a game as quarterback Tajh Boyd and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins have become one of the most dynamic passing-receiving threats in the country as DeAndre Hopkins has lent excellent support opposite Watkins. Over the past two weeks, the Tigers have racked up 115 points and 1,026 yards against Maryland and North Carolina, scoring 35 points in the third quarter on the Tar Heels. Before last Saturday, only Clemson’s 1981 national champion team had ever done that. Clemson is now at their best record since 2000, and if they can defeat the Yellow Jackets, would be 9-0 for the first time since that ‘81 squad. Losses last Saturday by previously unbeaten Wisconsin and Oklahoma moved the Tigers up to fifth in the latest BCS standings, the highest the school’s ever been.

In the same time that Clemson’s offense was taking over the conference rankings, Georgia Tech’s offense was sliding down them. Until two weeks ago, it was the Yellow Jackets that led the ACC in scoring and total offense for most of the season until stumbling with consecutive losses to Virginia and Miami where they managed just 28 points and averaged 253 yards of offense. Last week, Georgia Tech only allowed 262 yards of offense to the Hurricanes, but couldn’t stop Miami from scoring on the ground in the red zone and had a fumbled punt that led to a ‘Canes TD in the 2nd quarter. For the Yellow Jackets to keep this close, they will have to keep pressure on Boyd, force turnovers, and capitalize on possessions.

#4 Stanford (7-0) @ #20 USC (6-1)

8:00 ET – Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles CA

Last week, Stanford’s 15th straight victory came against its toughest opponent on their schedule so far, Washington.  What made the 65-21 win impressive wasn’t just because it came against a top 25 team (the Huskies were ranked 25th), but because they didn’t depend solely on Heisman favorite Andrew Luck. The Cardinal got the job done racking up an astounding 446 yards on the ground. While the defense allowed 430 total yards of offense, it held a potent Washington offense to 21 points, the fewest scored by the Huskies in this campaign.

USC jumped out to a 17-0 lead, allowing Notre Dame just 14 first quarter yards, last Saturday, before Freshman George Atkinson ran a kickoff 96 yards into the end zone and David Ruffer kicked a 25 yarder at the end of the first half to pull the Irish to within seven at the break.  In the second half, the Trojans defense forced three turnovers and the electrifying QB-WR duo of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods struck for the tandem’s second TD of the game to put the game away. Tommy Rees was intercepted on the next possession to seal the 31-17 victory for USC. The win was the biggest so far for the Trojans, who are riding a lot of momentum into the Stanford matchup since losing to Arizona State week four.

Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc