With the first round of the MLB Playoffs settled and no NFL until to tomorrow, it’s time to turn out attention to the world of college football.
There are plenty of exciting match-ups this week, but none more anticipated then our first game, the “Red River Rivalry“.
#3 Oklahoma Sooners (4-0) vs. #11 Texas Longhorns (4-0)
12:00 pm – Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX
The last time Oklahoma and Texas met as undefeated teams was 2008, when the 5th ranked Longhorns took down the top ranked Sooners 45-35 in front of a record crowd of 92, 182 at the Cotton Bowl. This year, Oklahoma dropped two spots from their preseason ranking, while Texas entered the season unranked for the first time since Mack Brown’s first year in 1998. The Longhorns are coming off a four-loss 2010 and have avenged two of those losses (UCLA, Iowa State) and still have two to go in back-to-back weeks (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State). Oklahoma may have fallen from #1, but that is mostly due to the dominating fashion LSU and Alabama have won over higher quality opponents.
The Sooners are led by Heisman candidate Landry Jones, who has amassed 1,447 yards, 10 TDs, 5 INTs, and a 71.6% completion percentage in four games this season. Last year in the Red River Rivalry, Jones was 24-of-39 for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and DeMarco Murray (now with the Dallas Cowboys) carried the ball 25 times for 115 yards and two scores. This Saturday, Jones will have Dominique Whaley who is coming off a 109 yard, 2 TD game against Ball State, and has 379 yards so far in 2011.
Texas’ strongest part of their game is their defense, despite losing defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to the Florida Gators. They are second in the Big 12 in total defense allowing 303.3 yards per game and first in points allowed with 14.8. Last week against Iowa State, the Longhorns allowed 380 yards of total offense, but limited the Cyclones to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in the 37-14 victory. Texas has been using a combination of different quarterbacks, but since UCLA has settled on playing Case McCoy and David Ash. Against Iowa State, both QBs were 7-of-12, with Ash throwing for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, while McCoy threw for 110 yards without a passing TD.
Oklahoma is still overall one of the best teams in the country, and should halt “Texas Revenge Run” Saturday.
Player to watch: Landry Jones
#17 Florida Gators (4-1) at #1 LSU Tigers (5-0)
3:30 pm – Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA
LSU seems to be running on all cylinders, except at one position: quarterback. Last week against Kentucky, The best team in the country got Jordan Jefferson back from suspension Saturday as he was reinstated earlier in the week after a grand jury reduced charges the quarterback faces in connection with an August 19th bar fight to a misdemeanor. LSU’s starting QB Jarrett Lee continued to put up mediocre numbers in the 35-7 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, throwing 169 yards and a touchdown while completing only 8-of-21 passes. This week, Les Miles has said they will use Jefferson in a “variety of ways” the rest of the season, but has refused to name him the starting quarterback. The Bayou Bengal defense continued its dominance over opposing offenses, allowing 155 yards of total offense, 66 yards in the air and sacking Kentucky QBs Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith a combined five times.
Florida is coming off of their worst loss at home since 2002 (LSU, 36-7) when they were defeated 38-10 last week by the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Gators lost starting QB John Brantley after suffering a high ankle sprain just before the half and will remain out this week. Will Muschamp has not yet named a starter, but freshman Jeff Driskel is said to be starting, with red shirt freshman Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett (who was going to be red-shirted this season) also available to take snaps under center. The Gators plummeted from the sixth ranked defense in the country to 20th after allowing Alabama to gain 366 yards of total offense and 38 points.
Florida will not have it any easier this week, and the results should be similar – if not worse.
Key Matchup: Florida OLine vs. LSU DLine
#22 ASU Sun Devils (4-1) at Utah Utes (2-2)
3:30 pm – Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
Arizona State has won both Pac-12 contests they’ve played (USC, Oregon State), forcing nine turnovers along the way. This week, they play conference newbies Utah who they have not met since 1993. Prior to that final meeting, the Sun Devils had won seven straight; sparked by a victory their last trip to Salt Lake City in 1977.
Last week against Oregon State, QB Brock Osweiler went 24-of-37 for 258 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and had seven rushing attempts for -57 yards. Osweiler was sacked four times and fumbled twice, losing the ball once in the 35-20 win. So far, the bread and butter of their defense in conference play has been takeaways. CB Alden Darby intercepted Beavers QB Sean Mannion twice for 40 total return yards, while S ClintFloyd and CB OsahonIrabor each grabbed an INT of their own.
Utah is 0-2 in the Pac-12 and will be starting Jon Hays in place of Jordan Wynn who injured his shoulder last week in the 31-14 loss to Washington. The Utes are last in the conference in total offense with an average of 368.3 yards per game and ninth in points scored with 27.3 points per game.
In the Pac-12, Arizona State is ranked fourth in total defense (366.4 ypg) and third in points allowed (20.6), and should have no trouble handling the Utes on the road.
Key Matchup: Arizona State DBs vs. Jon Hays
Miami Hurricanes (2-2) at #21 Virginia Tech Hokies (4-1)
3:30 pm – Lane Stadium, Blacksburg VA
Jacory Harris threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns while completing 12-of-17 passes and Lamar Miller rushed for 144 yards on 14 attempts and added a pair of scores in the 45-14 victory over Bethune Cookman last week. The Hurricanes defense is allowing an average of 202.3 yards per game on the ground, and allowed the Wildcats 219 rushing yards (422 yards of total offense). They have lost LB Ramon Buchanan and DT MarcusForston due to season ending injuries and will be playing without DT Luther Robinson and DE JalenGrimble in Blacksburg. S Ray Ray Armstrong will return from his NCAA imposed four game suspension for receiving improper benefits during his recruitment.
Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas has been inconsistent this season, throwing four touchdowns and five interceptions, which has allowed defenses to focus on RB David Wilson. However, Wilson has four games with over 100, for a total of 639 yards so far this season. In the 23-3 loss to Clemson last week, Thomas threw for 125 yards and an interception while being sacked four times. Wilson had 20 carriers for a total of 123 yards as the Hokies netted 258 yards total.
With the injuries on Miami’s defensive front, Wilson should have a field day Saturday, gaining his fifth game of at least 100 yards.
Key Matchup: CB Jayron Hosley vs. Jacory Harris
#15 Auburn Tigers (4-1) at #10 Arkansas (4-1)
7:00 pm – Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville AR
The Tigers go into Fayetteville coming off a 16-13 win over South Carolina in Columbia in which the defense showed flashes of the BCS National Championship team from a year ago. RB Michael Dyer rushed 141 yards and a TD on 41 attempts, and QB Barrett Trotter was 12-of-23 for 112 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The score came with 1:38 left in the game with a nine yard pass to Phillip Lutzenkirchen to put Auburn up. The defense held Heisman hopeful RB Marcus Lattimore to 66 yards and one touchdown, and QB Stephen Garcia to 160 yards on 9-of-23 passing and one touchdown, and intercepted the senior twice.
Last week, Arkansas was trailing Texas A & M 35-17 at halftime when the SEC’s best offense came out from the break and scored 10 unanswered points in the third. In the final quarter, the Razorback defense held the Aggies to 3 points, while QB Tyler Wilson threw a pass to the Aggies 1 that was fumbled and picked up by Jarius Wright who recovered the ball for the touchdown. Broderick Green rushed three yards with 1:50 left in the game to give Arkansas the 42-38 lead and final score. Both Wilson and Wright set school records Saturday as the quarterback threw for 510 yards on 30-of-51 attempts (2 TDs) and the wideout caught 13 passes for a school-record 281 yards (1 TD).
Auburn’s defense looked back to form last week, but the number one offense may be too hot to handle.
Key Matchup: Auburn DEs vs. Tyler Wilson
Ohio State Buckeyes (3-2) at #14 Nebraska (4-1)
8:00 pm – Memorial Stadium, Lincoln NE
Ohio State travels to Lincoln for the first time in program history to play Nebraska for just the third meeting between the two; Ohio State won both previous meetings in Columbus in 1955 and 1956. Huskers head coach Bo Pelini played safety at Ohio State from 1987-90.
The Buckeyes are coming off a tough loss at home to Michigan State, who narrowly avoided being shut out for the first time since 1982 at home, when they scored a touchdown with 10 ticks left on the clock. After going 5-of-10 for 56 yards and an interception, Braxton Miller, was pulled in favor of Joe Bauserman who was 7-of-14 for 87 yards, and the late touchdown. The offense finished with 178 yards total, 143 passing and 35 yards on 39 rushing attempts and the QBs were sacked for a combined nine times. The defense kept them within reach, holding the Spartans to 71 yards rushing and forcing three turnovers.
Nebraska was formally welcomed into the Big 10 last weekend by Wisconsin, who showed the Huskers that they are the reigning conference champs, and they are looking to repeat. QB Taylor Martinez was 11-for-22 for 176 yards and three interceptions in the 48-17 loss to the Badgers. The defense allowed 486 yards of total offense, the highest amount this season, and the 48 points scored on Nebraska was the most since a 62-28 loss to Oklahoma in 2008.
Last Saturday’s performance was the worst by an Ohio State offense in years, and they should be able to recover, but not this week. Despite the loss in Madison, the Huskers are a good football and shouldn’t have much trouble taking care of the Buckeyes on their home turf.
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