Michigan is in a three way tie for the lead in the Big Ten’s Legends Division with Michigan State and Nebraska, and are trying to avoid a third consecutive loss to Iowa on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes have racked up a combine 68 points and 750 yards in the past two games, but this week will face a different Wolverines squad led by first year head coach Brady Hoke who has put more of an emphasis into defense than in the last couple years. After allowing 213 rushing yards to the Spartans three weeks ago, Michigan’s defense came back from the off week holding Purdue to only 89 yards on the ground.
Combined, quarterbacks Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush went 17-of-27 for 222 yards, one pick, and were sacked four times. Offensively, Fitz Toussaint ran for two touchdowns and 170 out of the 339 rushing yards Michigan gained on the Boilermakers in the 36-14 victory. QB Denard Robinson went 9-of-14 for 170 yards and an interception while adding 63 yards and a score on the ground.
Last week Minnesota got their second win on the season defeating Iowa 22-21 while rushing for 178 and passing for 193 yards on the Hawkeyes. Marcus Coker ran for 252 and two scores on 32 attempts and James Vandenberg threw for 177 yards and one touchdown while completing 16-of-24 passes. The one TD was to Marvin McNutt, who added 107 yards on seven attempts and ranks 11th in the nation with 858 receiving yards and has caught five of his nine touchdowns in the last three games.
Iowa has not done well stopping the run this season, averaging 194.8 yards in Big Ten play and will certainly have their hands full against a Michigan team ranked tenth in the country and second in the conference in rushing yards per game (245.38).
Louisville Cardinals (4-4) @ #24 West Virginia (6-2)
12:00 pm – Mountaineer Field, Morgantown WV
The Cardinals head to West Virginia looking to snap a four game losing streak to the Mountaineers, and their first victory in Morgantown since a 9-7 victory in 1990. Last week, Louisville beat Syracuse for their second straight W following a three game losing streak, and held the Orangemen to 246 yards of offense. Although the Cardinals defense has been consistent, ranked 11th in the FBS in scoring (16.3 ppg) and 12th in total defense (295.6 ypg), their offense has been a work in progress. Louisville sits at 113 in scoring (17.6 ppg) and 103rd in total offense (329.4 ypg). Since parting ways with OC Mike Sanford and promoting QB coach Shawn Watson to the position, the Cardinals have improved their run game from an average of 108.84 yards per game in the first six, to 166 over the last two games. Against Syracuse, Victor Anderson ran for 93 yards on 11 carries, and Teddy Bridgewater completed 17-of-24 passes for 198 yards and two scores.
West Virginia is coming off a 41-31 come from behind victory over Rutgers and will need the win over Louisville to keep pace with Cincinnati who sits atop the Big East standings at 2-0 in conference play. Last week, the defense tightened up, blanking the Scarlet Knights in the second half after allowing 31 points before the break. Geno Smith went 20-of-31 for 218 yards and two touchdowns, and ran in a score from the one yard line on 4th and one. Smith is now tied with Rasheed Marshall for third on West Virginia’s all time passing touchdown list with 45, and eclipsed athletic director Oliver Luck for fourth in all time passing yards with 5,787. Defensively, the Mountaineers are 25th in total defense (329.3 ypg) and 58th in scoring, surrendering an average of 26.1 points per game. In the Rutgers contest, they allowed 386 offensive yards, 151 on the ground, but recovered two fumbles, intercepted Gary Nova twice, while sacking him twice.
Morgantown is a difficult place for opposing teams to play, but with the amount of rushing yards the Mountaineers are allowing (132.75 ypg), Louisville has the potential to have an effective ground attack if they run between the tackles as they did against Syracuse.
Texas A&M Aggies (5-3) @ #7 Oklahoma Sooners (7-1)
3:30 pm – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman OK
Last season against the Sooners, Texas A&M wideout Ryan Swope finished with 136 yards on eight receptions and had a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the Aggies’ 33-19 victory over Oklahoma. A&M RB Cyrus Gray ran for 122 yards and a touchdown in last year’s contest, but his team blew a 11point halftime lead last Saturday as its three-game winning streak was snapped in a 38-31 loss to Missouri. In each of the Aggies three losses this season, they have had a double digit lead at halftime. Part of the reason for the second half decline is due in part to teams taking advantage of Texas A&M’s worst pass defense in the country, that averages 318.3 yards per game.
The Sooners have lost RB Dominique Whaley for the season after he fractured his left ankle last week, but Oklahoma QB Landry Jones threw for a school record 505 yards and five touchdowns, and star receiver Ryan Broyles caught 14 passes for 171 yards and a score in the 58-17 victory over Kansas State. Broyles is second in the FBS in receptions, yards, and touchdowns this season, and was limited to 59 yards on eight catches during last year’s meeting. The Oklahoma defense held the Wildcats to 58 passing yards out of 240 total yards, sacked Collin Klein seven times, and forced three fumbles recovering one.
Oklahoma is second in the nation in passing offense with 396.6 per game, and all signs point to Jones-Broyles lighting up the 120nd ranked passing defense.
#10 South Carolina Gamecocks (7-1) @ #8 Arkansas Razorbacks (7-1)
7:15 pm – Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville AR
The South Carolina passing game isn’t up to Steve Spurrier standards with Connor Shaw who replaced Stephen Garcia on October 8th as the starter for the Gamecocks. Shaw has thrown for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions over the last two games since Garcia’s dismissal from the team. SC lost star tailback Marcus Lattimore for the season after he suffered a torn ligament in his left knee against Mississippi State on October 15th, but freshman Brandon Wilds is off to a good start replacing him, rushing for 137 yards on 28 carries against Tennessee and was named the SEC freshman of the week. On the other side of the ball, the Gamecocks defense has been nothing short of stellar, ranked third in the SEC in both total defense (266.1 ypg) and scoring (17.1) and sixth and 14th in the nation, respectively. Last week in Knoxville, South Carolina held the Volunteers to 186 total yards, and only 35 of them on the ground and picked off Justin Worley twice.
Tyler Wilson leads the SEC in passing yards with 2,327 yards and has 13 touchdowns to three interceptions. He threw a school record 176 passes without a pick which matched the sixth longest streak in the conference. Overall, Arkansas is second in the SEC and 24th in the nation in total offense with 452.9 ypg and third in the conference and 20th in the FBS in scoring at 36.9 points per game. This week, the Razorbacks will be without freshman wide out Marquel Wade who was ejected from the game and suspended by the conference for a hit on Vanderbilt punt returner Jonathan Krause. South Carolina has lost four of the last five against Arkansas who has won four in a row and seven straight at home. The Razorback defense is the third worst in the SEC and 71st in the country allowing 396.1 yards per game.
Both teams have played close games this year; South Carolina winning in low scoring games, while Arkansas has won blowouts.
#17 Kansas State Wildcats (7-1) @ #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-0)
8:00 pm – Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater OK
Kansas State was looking to match their best start since 1999, but fell a couple games short of the mark as they lost 58-17 to Oklahoma last week. In the contest the Wildcats gave up 690 total yards to the Sooners and allowed Landry Jones to pass for a school record 505 yards and five touchdowns. The Wildcats defense doesn’t get a reprieve this week as the Cowboys have the second highest scoring offense in the country with 49.9 points per game, and is ranked fourth in both total yards (555.1 ypg) and passing yards (373.3 ypg). The Wildcats pass defense ranks 103rd in the FBS with 278 yards allowed per game, while their passing game is a dismal 113th in the country with 130.5 yards per game. Kansas State actually led Oklahoma 17-14 midway through the second quarter, but the Sooners scored late in the half, and RB John Hubert fumbled with 19 seconds left in the half led to a career-long 53 yards field goal by Michael Hunnicutt for a 23-17 halftime advantage. Oklahoma went on to score 35 unanswered points in the second half. QB Collin Klein was 8-of-16 for 58 yards and added 92 yards and two scores on the ground while being sacked seven times.
With a win over KState, Oklahoma State can match their best start in school history as well as sit in the top two BCS spots for the first time, since #1 LSU and #2 are playing each other at the same time. When Sunday afternoon rolls around, the Cowboys could be sitting in the driver’s seat on the way to a BCS Title game. After a 59-24 win over Baylor, the Cowboys are in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 after beating Baylor and Kansas State’s loss. RB John Randle has scored four touchdowns in each of the past two games and set a career-high for rushing for the second time in as many weeks, running for 152 yards against the Bears. Brandon Weeden passed for three touchdowns, two to Justin Blackmon, who had 13 receptions for 172 yards. Oklahoma State’s defense is ranked 110th in total defense, allowing 455.6 yards per game, and 61st in scoring at 25.5 points per game.
#1 LSU Tigers (8-0) @ #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0)
8:00 pm – Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa AL
This game is so huge in college ball, not only have media outlets have been talking about it for weeks; it seems to be all they’re talking about. I’ve seen it touted as “Judgment Day” as it has been dubbed an elimination game for the national championship. The last time the number one and two teams in the country have met in the regular season since Michigan and Ohio State met in the 2006 regular season finale. The winner of this game has played for the SEC championship game four of the past six years, twice a piece and last year was the first time the winner didn’t either play in Atlanta or in a BCS bowl.
Everyone is breaking this game down from a strategy standpoint, and I wanted to take a look statistically how these teams compare. Without a doubt, both teams are considered to be among best defensive units in the FBS and rightly so, both on game play and rankings. Alabama is ranked first in the nation in total defense (180.5 ypg), scoring (6.4 ppg), rushing defense (44.88), and second against the pass (135.6 ypg). LSU isn’t far behind them in any category; fourth in total defense, (251.4 ypg), second in scoring defense (11.5 ppg), third in rushing (76.63 ypg) and ninth in defending the pass (174.8 ypg). With that said, LSU has faced tougher competition; Oregon, West Virginia, and Mississippi State all are good offensively, while Alabama faced one offensive powerhouse, Arkansas.
A friend of mine is constantly warning me against stats, and offensively when you look at these two teams, he’s never been more right. Alabama is 12th in scoring (39.4 ppg), 22nd in total offense (457.6 ypg), 14th in rushing (229.25 ypg), and 63rd in passing (228.4 ypg). LSU is tied at 13th in points scored per game (39.3), 81st in total offensive yards (372.1), 34th in rushing (189 ypg), and 98th in passing (183.1 ypg). Some things to consider: Alabama pounds the ball using primarily Trent Richardson, although Nick Saban does use Eddie Lacy as a change of pace back. LSU spreads the field to several players, but doesn’t throw much. When Jordan Jefferson is taking the snaps, there is always the threat that he goes 40 yards on a read option. Lastly, both teams are rarely trailing in games and aren’t being forced to pass down field or get real fancy on offense.
Alabama will once again use Richardson to wear down the LSU front seven, but the difference in why it won’t be effective is that LSU actually has 10 guys that play on that line. In fact, Barkevious Mingo, who is tied for a team lead 4 sacks isn’t even a starter. Late in games when Richardson has beaten down a defensive line, LSU’s will still be fresh. If AJ McCarron tries to throw the ball, he’ll face the best secondary he’s seen all year. With all of that said, I think LSU pulls out the victory.
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