Articles By Mitch Light
College football’s Week 8 action features several key matchups in the SEC (as usual), a pivotal Big 12 game in Morgantown a battle for supremacy in the state of Michigan.
No. 77 Connecticut at No. 67 Syracuse
Four of the eight teams in the Big East do not have a loss in league play. Connecticut and Syracuse are not in that group. The Huskies are 0–2 after losing at home to Temple last week. The Orange are 1–1 with a win over Pittsburgh and a loss at Rutgers.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 35 Tennessee
The Volunteers are 0–3 in the SEC for the third time in Derek Dooley’s three seasons as the head coach. There is a very good chance UT will be 0–4 in league play for the third time in three years after Alabama’s visit to Neyland Stadium Saturday night.
No. 52 BYU at No. 3 Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense has now gone four straight games without giving up a touchdown — although Stanford came very, very close to crossing the goal line in overtime last Saturday. It won’t be a surprise if the streak reaches five games. BYU ranks 78th in the nation in scoring (25.6 ppg).
Notre Dame 24-10
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 4 Florida
It’s stop No. 3 for South Carolina on what has to be the most difficult three-game stretch that any team in the nation will face in 2012. The Gamecocks split the first two games, beating Georgia at home and losing last Saturday at LSU. Now it’s off to Gainesville in a game that will go a long way in determining the SEC East champion.
No. 5 Kansas State at No. 13 West Virginia
Heisman voters will be watching this game with interest. WVU’s Geno Smith and K-State’s Collin Klein are strong favorites to be among the finalists.
West Virginia 34-30
No. 66 Purdue at No. 6 Ohio State
Urban Meyer put out an APB for “tough guys” after the Buckeyes gave up 49 points in a too-close-for-comfort win over Indiana last week. There are no issues with the Ohio State offense; Braxton Miller & Co. have scored a total of 115 points in the past two weeks and are averaging just over 40 points for the season.
Ohio State 41–20
No. 7 LSU at No. 22 Texas A&M
Good pitching usually stops good hitting. We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon if the LSU defense can slow down what has been the SEC’s most explosive offense. Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football.
No. 94 Kansas at No. 8 Oklahoma
The OU offense has come alive after losing at home to Kansas State. The Sooners have totaled 1,057 yards and 104 points in wins over Texas Tech and Texas. Kansas continues to struggle; the Jayhawks are one of two AQ conference teams (Boston College is the other) in the nation without a win over an FBS opponent.
No. 10 Georgia at No. 82 Kentucky
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play.
No. 99 Colorado at No. 11 USC
Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (20.8 ppg) and scoring defense (41.3 ppg). That is not a good combination.
No. 12 Florida State at No. 48 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes’ offense is slumping. After scoring 38 points or more in four of their first five games, the Canes have scored a total of 17 in the past two.
Florida State 41-24
No. 54 Virginia Tech at No. 14 Clemson
Here’s a troubling stat if you are a Clemson fan: The Tigers are allowing an average of 7.6 yards per play in ACC games, the worst in the league by a considerable amount. That needs to improve down the stretch.
No. 60 Utah at No. 15 Oregon State
The Beavers continue to be the biggest surprise in the nation. Last week, backup quarterback Cody Vaz stepped in and threw for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in a 42–24 win at BYU.
Oregon State 30-13
No. 75 South Florida at No. 16 Louisville
South Florida is the only team in the Big East that has given up over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing. The Bulls rank seventh in the league in total defense and have allowed 93 plays of at least 10 yards. Not good.
No. 17 Rutgers at No. 65 Temple
Temple handed Rutgers some of its most disheartening losses in school history in the late 1990s early 2000s. Some bad Temple teams won four straight over some bad Rutgers teams, the worst of which was a 48–14 loss at home in 2000. Those were not fun times for the Scarlet Knights.
No. 47 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan
Michigan is 4–2, but both losses came away from home vs. top-five teams (Alabama and Notre Dame). The Wolverines have won their two Big Ten games by a combined score of 99–13. This is a solid Michigan team that is better than its ranking (No. 23 AP, No. 25 coaches). The Wolverines will snap their five-game losing streak to State — and do so in convincing fashion.
No. 84 Middle Tennessee at No. 19 Mississippi State
Mississippi State fans are looking forward to a likely showdown at Alabama in two weeks between a pair of 7–0 teams. But first the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee club that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.
Mississippi State 34-20
No. 20 Stanford at No. 50 California
For only the second time ever — and the first time since 1892 — the Big Game will not be played in November or December. Stanford must bounce back from an emotional (and controversial) overtime loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. Close games are nothing new to this team; five of the Cardinal’s six games have been decided by seven points or less.
No. 21 Cincinnati at No. 63 Toledo
The schedule hasn’t been daunting, but Cincinnati has been quite impressive on offense in 2012. The Bearcats are averaging 6.8 yards per play, which ranks ninth in the nation. That number likely will go up after playing Toledo.
No. 24 Texas Tech at No. 26 TCU
Last October, Texas Tech stunned the college football world by knocking off Oklahoma, ranked No. 3 at the time, 41–38 in Norman. The next week the Red Raiders lost at home to Iowa State 41–7. Now, after beating previously unbeaten West Virginia 49–14, Tech finds itself in another “week after” game. This time around, will the Red Raiders be able to avoid a no-show the week after a breakthrough game?
Texas Tech 28-27
No. 69 Minnesota at No. 25 Wisconsin
After three games, Wisconsin ranked 94th in the nation in rushing offense (119.7 ypg) and 116th in total offense (276.0 ypg). Now, the Badgers rank 48th in rushing (181.1 ypg) and 87th in total offense (374.0 ypg). It’s still not what we expect from this program, but there are significant signs of life.
No. 117 Idaho at No. 27 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech rolled up over 600 yards of offense vs. an SEC team last week, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs battled Arkansas to the wire before falling 59–57 in what will be one of the more memorable games of the season. This one will be far less exciting.
Louisiana Tech 65-17
No. 29 Nebraska at No. 40 Northwestern
This is a sneaky good game between two teams that have aspirations of representing the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska, which gave up 63 points in a loss at Ohio State two weeks ago, has to win this game to remain a threat in the division race.
No. 42 Baylor at No. 30 Texas
Baylor snapped a 12-game losing streak to Texas with a 30–22 win in Austin in October 2011 and followed up with a 48–24 victory in Waco last December. Now, the Bears will be aiming for their first-ever three-game winning streak against UT. Scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem against a Texas defense that has given up 111 points in the last two games. But can Baylor slow down the Longhorns enough to win the game? That is the big question.
No. 31 Washington at No. 32 Arizona
Washington has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date. The Huskies have played teams ranked third (Oregon), sixth (LSU), 10th (USC) and 20th (Stanford) in the initial BCS standings. They are 1–3 in those games, with the one win coming vs. Stanford. This is not a bad team, despite its rather ordinary 3–3 overall record.
No. 41 Iowa State at No. 33 Oklahoma State
Should we be concerned that Oklahoma State was held to 371 total yards and 20 points against Kansas last week? Possibly, but we are willing to give the Pokes a mulligan.
Oklahoma State 31-27
No. 101 UNLV at No. 34 Boise State
UNLV held leads of 21–0, 28–7 and 31–21 last week against rival Nevada but ended up on the wrong end of a 42–37 final. Bobby Hauck’s team doesn’t have much to show for it, but the Rebels are an improved team in 2012. Now, can they keep it interesting in Boise this week? Not likely.
Boise State 37-17
No. 36 NC State at No. 64 Maryland
Maryland is a surprise at 4–2 overall and 2–0 in the ACC despite having an offense that ranks last in the league with 267.5 yards per game.
NC State 24-17
No. 91 San Diego State at No. 37 Nevada
The Wolf Pack avoided disaster last week, rallying from 21–0 to beat UNLV 42–37 in Vegas. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who missed last week’s game with an injured back, is expected to return to action. That’s not good news for San Diego State.
No. 39 Penn State at No. 46 Iowa
Penn State has won four straight after losing its first two games, and each of its four wins has come by 11 points or more. Bill O’Brien has done a tremendous job in a very difficult spot.
Penn State 21-20
No. 43 North Carolina at No. 59 Duke
Duke must recover from a gut-wrenching loss at Virginia Tech last Saturday. The Blue Devils, seeking their sixth win of the season, led 20–0 in the first quarter but did not score again and lost 41–20. The Devils still have five more opportunities to become bowl-eligible, but they might be an underdog in all five games. North Carolina, which can’t play in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, is quietly playing very good football.
North Carolina 24-20
No. 106 Rice at No. 44 Tulsa
Tulsa has emerged as the team to beat in Conference USA West thanks to a 4–0 start in the league. The Golden Hurricane lead the nation in sacks (4.71 per game) and tackles for a loss (9.86 per game).
No. 49 ULM at No. 45 Western Kentucky
It’s the game of the year in the Sun Belt. Western Kentucky is 5–1 with the lone loss at Alabama, while ULM is 4–2 with an overtime loss at Auburn and five-point loss at Baylor. These aren’t just good Sun Belt teams; they are good teams period.
Western Kentucky 31-30
No. 121 New Mexico State at No. 53 Utah State
Utah State has lost two games — at Wisconsin and at BYU — by a total of five points. New Mexico State has lost all five of its games vs. FBS foes. Maybe that’s why Utah State is favored by 30.5 points.
Utah State 47-17
No. 55 Northern Illinois at No. 110 Akron
Northern Illinois has 14 plays from scrimmage of 40 yards or more. Only two teams nationally have more (Baylor and Georgia Tech). It could be a long night for the Akron defense.
Northern Illinois 37-16
No. 72 Auburn at No. 56 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006.
No. 95 Boston College at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has given up 42 points or more in its last three games — all losses. That streak will come to an end this week.
Georgia Tech 34-20
No. 62 UCF at No. 118 Memphis
It was back to reality last week for Memphis. One week after breaking through with a 14–10 win over Rice, the Tigers lost 41–7 at East Carolina. UCF is playing its first road game since Sept. 8.
No. 68 Pittsburgh at No. 116 Buffalo
The first season of the Paul Chryst era has been a disappointment — the Panthers have lost four games — but Tino Sunseri has shined at the quarterback position. The oft-maligned quarterback ranks eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 10 touchdowns and two picks.
No. 111 Wyoming at No. 71 Fresno State
I thought Fresno State was ready to make a statement and beat Boise State last week. I was wrong. The Bulldogs lost 20–10 to fall to 4–3 overall. They should get win No. 5 without much trouble.
Fresno State 30-20
No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 73 Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done a tremendous job at Kent State. The Golden Flashes are 5–1 overall and 3–0 in the MAC despite playing only two of their first six games at home.
Kent State 30-27
No. 74 Ball State at No. 105 Central Michigan
Central Michigan has failed to capitalize on a potential breakthrough win at Iowa in Week 3. Since that victory in Ames, the Chippewas are 0–3 and have given up a total of 136 points. Last week, they were beaten soundly by Navy 31–13 at home before a sparse crowd. Dan Enos could be in trouble.
Ball State 37-13
No. 78 East Carolina at No. 98 UAB
Don’t expect too much production on the ground in this game. East Carolina ranks 108th in the nation in rushing with 103.7 yards per game. UAB is at 117th with 82.3 yards per game.
East Carolina 34-20
No. 81 Wake Forest at No. 80 Virginia
These two struggling teams have something in common: They’ve both lost to Duke and Maryland, in that order, in their last two games. Statistically, Virginia ranks in the middle of the pack in both total offense (51st) and total defense (53rd), but the Cavs have been undone by turnovers (119th in turnover margin).
Wake Forest 27-23
No. 83 San Jose State at No. 113 Texas-San Antonio
The Spartans must regroup after losing at home 49–27 to Utah State in a battle of improving WAC programs. Here’s a scary stat: San Jose State quarterback David Fales had a net of negative-98 yards rushing thanks to getting sacked 13 times.
San Jose State 34-10
No. 85 Indiana at No. 92 Navy
Indiana has averaged 35.0 points in its three Big Ten games. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Hoosiers are giving up 42.3 points in league games. The result is an 0–3 record, but Kevin Wilson’s club is showing signs of significant improvement. IU has lost its last two games, to Michigan State and Ohio State, by a combined seven points.
No. 104 FIU at No. 86 Troy
Mario Cristobal’s name won’t be linked to as many jobs this offseason. FIU is 1–6 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt after losing at home to Middle Tennessee last week. The Golden Panthers ranked 14th in the nation in scoring defense last season (19.5 ppg) when they went 8–5; this year, they rank 108th (37.3 ppg) with five games to play.
No. 88 Marshall at No. 103 Southern Miss
No program has fallen faster than Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles went 12–2 last year and capped their season with a 24–17 win over a very good Nevada team in the Hawaii Bowl. This year, however, USM is 0–6 under new coach Ellis Johnson, who is not a popular man in Hattiesburg.
No. 90 New Mexico at No. 107 Air Force
New Mexico is last in the nation in passing offense (59.0 ypg) and is the only team in the country with just one passing touchdown. But the Lobos are winning games under first-year coach Bob Davie, who has implemented an option attack in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 27-24
No. 93 Bowling Green at No. 123 UMass
Bowling Green has won three straight games and is in position to challenge Ohio for the MAC East title. The Falcons should be 4–1 in the league when they head to Oxford on Nov. 7.
Bowling Green 44-13
No. 112 Tulane at No. 97 UTEP
Curtis Johnson picked up his first win at Tulane last week, a 27–26 victory over SMU at the Superdome. The Green Wave hadn’t scored more than 13 points in any game before “busting out” and putting 27 on the board.
No. 114 Army at No. 115 Eastern Michigan
These two teams have combined to win one game this season —Army's 34–31 victory over Boston College. Eastern Michigan ranks 70th or worse in every key stat maintained by the NCAA, with the exception of net punting. The Eagles, who have a lot of practice in the area, rank seventh with an average net of 42.2 yards.
No. 124 FAU at No. 122 South Alabama
It’s been a rough first season for Carl Pelini at FAU. The Owls are 1–5 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt. They have been bad on defense and really bad on offense. It’s tough to find a win on FAU’s schedule if it doesn’t get one this week.
South Alabama 27-17
Last week: 40-11
The Week 8 shedule in the SEC his highlighted by South Carolina's trip to Gainesville to battle Florida, but the Texas A&M-LSU showdown in College Station will be fun to watch as well. Can the Tigers' defense slow down Johnny Manziel? Stay tuned.
Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions
SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8
1. Can Johnny Manziel make plays against the LSU defense?
Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football. Consider this stat: Texas A&M has played in one less game than LSU, yet Manziel has almost twice at many total yards (2,356 to 1,220) as Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Manziel, however, has yet to see a defense as formidable as LSU. In the opener against Florida, the only other top-flight defense A&M has faced, the Aggies were held to 17 points, and Manziel had a season-low 233 total yards. This should be a fascinating battle between two vastly different styles of play.
2. Can the LSU offensive line hold up?
An LSU offensive front that was expected to be among the nation’s finest struggled early in the season. Sure, injuries played a part — left tackle Chris Faulk was lost for the season after one game — but there is no denying that this unit underperformed at key times. That, however, was not the case Saturday night. The line played arguably its best game of the season, especially when you factor in the quality of the competition. South Carolina entered the night ranked ninth in the nation in rushing defense and had not given up more than 120 yards on the ground in any game. Led by freshman Jeremy Hill, LSU powered its way to 258 yards and two scores on 53 attempts. And that was with Alex Hurst, a preseason All-American, and Josh Williford out with injuries, and center P.J. Longergan slowed by a back injury. Only one player, left guard, La’El Collins, has played in the same spot in every game this season. We often to point to depth as what separates programs like Alabama and LSU from the rest of the league — and country, at times. LSU needs its depth on the offensive line to shine in the second half of the season if it hopes to remain relevant in the national title chase.
3. Who will play quarterback for Auburn?
Auburn has yet to announce a starter for its game Saturday at Vanderbilt, and it’s possible that all three scholarship quarterbacks will see action. Clint Moseley, making his first start of the 2012 season, received the majority of the snaps in last week’s loss at Ole Miss. The junior started strong, completing 8-of-8 for 80 yards in the first half but he went 3-of-10 for 32 yards the rest of the way. True freshman Jonathan Wallace did not attempt a pass but had six carries for 14 yards out of the Wildcat formation. Sophomore Kiehl Frazier, the starter in the first five games, did not play — due in part to injury and in part to his early season struggles. As a team, Auburn was held to 213 total yards against an Ole Miss defense that had been allowing an average of 379.8 yards per game.
4. Can Vanderbilt handle the role of the favorite?
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006. Overall, Vanderbilt is 6–11 straight up as the favorite vs. AQ conference opponents in the past 10-plus years, including a 2–2 record under James Franklin.
5. Can South Carolina win if it’s forced to pass?
Connor Shaw has proven himself to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. But it’s clear that South Carolina is a better team when Shaw is asked to do less in the passing game. It’s no knock on him as a player — it’s just the way this team is constructed. I realize the sample size isn’t huge, but consider the Gamecocks’ last two games: Shaw attempted 10 passes in a 35–7 win over Georgia; he attempted 34 in a 23¬–21 loss at LSU. Against Georgia, South Carolina jumped out to an early lead and leaned on tailback Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 110 yards on 24 carries. In the loss in Baton Rouge, Lattimore and Shaw both struggled to run the ball, which forced South Carolina to rely on its passing attack. The results weren’t favorable. Shaw completed a season-low 55.9 percent of his passes and was intercepted twice. Obviously, a lot of teams are going to struggle against LSU, but it will be interesting going forward — starting with this weekend against Florida — to see if South Carolina can beat an elite opponent by throwing the ball.
6. Can Florida hold Marcus Lattimore to under 100 yards (if he plays)?
Name the last player to top the 100-yard mark against Florida. If you said Jerodis Williams (133 yards in Week 11 last season) from Furman, you’d be correct. The Gators have now gone eight straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. That streak will be tested this weekend when Marcus Lattimore and South Carolina visit Gainesville, provided Lattimore overcomes a hip injury to play against the Gators. Lattimore is coming off his worst game of the season (35 yards on 13 carries against LSU), but he is still one of the elite backs in college football. He missed the Florida game last season with an injury, but had one of his finest moments of his career two years ago against the Gators when he ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries in a 36–14 Carolina victory. Florida currently ranks 20th in the nation in rush defense, allowing 107.5 yards per game. The Gators did a great job against LSU two weeks ago, but had some trouble at times stopping Vanderbilt’s power rushing attack last week in Nashville. The Commodores’ two primary tailbacks combined to run for 152 yards on 34 carries.
7. Is AJ McCarron hurt? If so, can Alabama still win at Neyland Stadium?
The short answers: Who knows, and yes. McCarron has been one of the more underrated quarterbacks nationally in the last year-and-a-half. He’s done a masterful job doing what needs to be done as the leader of the Alabama attack — complete a high percentage of his passes (66.5 for his career) and not make mistakes (five interceptions in 338 career attempts). There have been reports this week that McCarron is dealing with a knee injury. He is still expected to play against Tennessee, but Alabama is built as well as any team in the nation to succeed with a backup quarterback. Sure, it would be nice to have a completely healthy McCarron this Saturday night in Knoxville, but the Tide will be fine if they are forced to turn to Blake Sims.
8. Will Tennessee find new ways to get Cordarrelle Patterson the ball?
Justin Hunter might be the Tennessee’s most polished offensive player, but Patterson has emerged as the Volunteers’ most dynamic playmaker. Last week against Mississippi State, Patterson caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, carried the ball three times for 57 yards and had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. For the season, Patterson, a junior college transfer, is averaging 15.5 yards on his 34 offensive touches. The task for Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is to get the ball in Patterson’s hands — either on direct snaps out of the Wildcat, conventional handoffs from the quarterback or quick-hitting passes. He is simply too good not to get at least 10 offensive touches per game.
9. Can Mississippi State avoid the letdown?
One of the biggest wins in the Dan Mullen era, a 41–31 victory over Tennessee, has set up one of the biggest games in the history of the program … if Mississippi State beats Middle Tennessee on Saturday. An MSU win over the Blue Raiders coupled with an Alabama win over Tennessee sets up a showdown of 7–0 teams in Tuscaloosa in two weeks. Before that dream matchup becomes a reality, the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee team that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.
10. Can Kentucky hit the elusive 250-yard mark against Georgia?
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play. This week, Whitlow will get the start against a Georgia team that is eager to get back on the field after having a bye last week. The Bulldogs have a ton of talent on defense but gave up a total of 79 points in their last two games — a win vs. Tennessee and a loss at South Carolina. Yards figure to be very difficult to come by for the Wildcats.
Week 8 SEC Predictions
|Week 8 SEC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
LSU (-3.5) at Texas A&M
|Texas A&M 28-24||LSU 24-21||
|Auburn (+7) at Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt 17-7||Vanderbilt 34-24||
South Carolina (+3) at Florida
|South Carolina 24-17||Florida 20-17||
Alabama (-18) at Tennessee
|Alabama 38-14||Alabama 38-14||
Georgia (-27.5) at Kentucky
|Georgia 41-10||Georgia 45-17||
Middle Tennessee (+19) at Mississippi State
|Miss. State 35-7||Miss. State 30-20||
Miss. State 38-14
|Miss. State 34-20|
Related College Football Content
At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the SEC.
Coach of the Year — Will Muschamp, Florida
After struggling through a difficult first season — the Gators’ 3–5 record in the SEC in 2011 was the school’s worst since 1986 — Muschamp has the Gators in the thick of the SEC East race in Year 2. Florida improved to 6–0 overall and 5–0 in the league with a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Gators are winning with defense and power-running game — a formula that has served Muschamp’s former boss, Nick Saban, quite well over the years. Senior tailback Mike Gillislee ranks second in the SEC in rushing with 102.5 yards per game and is on pace to be Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The defense has been dominant, ranking 13th in the nation in total yards and sixth in points allowed.
Freshman of the Year — Todd Gurley, Georgia
Johnny Manziel is the midseason Offense Player of the Year, so we will tab Gurley as the SEC’s top freshman. The 6-1, 218-pound native of North Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing with 95.8 yards per game on a healthy 7.1-yard average. He has topped the 100-yard mark in four of six games and had back-to-back 130-yard efforts in wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Fellow freshman tailback Keith Marshall is averaging 77.5 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry.
Newcomer of the Year — Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson has lived up to the hype in his first season out of junior college. The 6-3, 205-pound wide receiver is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Through six games, Patterson has 23 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns and has carried the ball 11 times for 214 yards (19.5 per rush) and two scores. He teams with junior Justin Hunter to form one of the nation’s most dangerous wide receiver tandems.
Offensive Player of the Year — Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel, a one-time Oregon commitment, has been spectacular for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies in their first season in the SEC. A true dual-threat quarterback, Manziel is one of three quarterbacks in the nation with over 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He has been efficient throwing the ball, completing 67.4 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Most important, he’s winning: The Aggies are 5–1 overall and 2–1 in the SEC, with the only loss coming by three points to Florida in their season-opener. Manziel was at his best in A&M’s 59–57 win at Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. He broke is own SEC record for total yards in a game (576) by throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 181 and three scores.
Defensive Player of the Year — Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina
Georgia’s Jarvis Jones received a lot of buzz early in the season, but Clowney has been the most dominant defender in the first half of 2012. A freakishly athletic 6-6, 256-pound defensive end, Clowney spearheads a defense that has limited all seven opponents — including five in conference play — to 17 points or fewer. Clowney, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has recorded 31 tackles, including 12.0 for a loss (with 6.5 sacks).
Midseason Disappointment (Team) — Auburn
Just two years removed from winning the national championship, Auburn is now the worst the team in the SEC West. The Tigers secured that dubious honor by losing on Saturday at Ole Miss, which had not won an SEC game since October 2010. Auburn is 1–5 overall and 0–4 in the SEC and ranks last in the league in total offense and 12th in total defense. The Tigers head to Nashville this week to play Vanderbilt in a game Gene Chizik cannot afford to lose.
Midseason Disappointment (Player) — Knile Davis, Arkansas
Maybe he’s not 100 percent healthy after missing last season with an ankle injury, but Davis has yet to show the skills that made him one of the elite offensive players in the nation in the final two-thirds of the 2010 season. Through seven games, Davis has a total of 337 yards on 98 carries for an alarmingly low 3.4 yards-per-carry average — almost three yards less than his career average heading into the ’12 season.
Midseason Surprise (Team) — Florida
Mississippi State deserves a ton of credit for its 6–0 start, but Florida gets the nod thanks to its top-5 ranking and the quality of its wins. The Gators, a fringe-top-25 team in the preseason, already have three SEC road wins and have a victory over LSU at home. There are still more hurdles to climb — the Gators play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks — but right now Florida looks like the best team in the much-improved SEC East.
Midseason Surprise (Player) — Jeff Driskel, Florida
The quarterback position was a huge concern for Florida heading into the 2012 season. Now it’s a strength. Driskel has emerged as a weapon in the Gators’ run-first offense and has also shown the ability to hurt defense’s in the passing game. He has completed 74-of-111 passes for 836 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception. He had moderate success running the ball in Florida’s first five games but then busted out with 181 yards (a record for a Gator quarterback) and three touchdowns in a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt Saturday night.
What Athlon Sports got right — We weren’t exactly going out on a limb, but Kentucky was the preseason pick to finish last in the SEC East. We also projected a three-way tie for fourth place in the East between Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and it looks like all three teams will be jockeying for position in the middle of the division throughout the conference season.
What Athlon Sports got wrong — We undervalued South Carolina and Florida, projecting both to finish 5–3 and in a tie for second place in the East behind Georgia. We thought LSU would finish ahead of Alabama in the West, but it looks as though the Crimson Tide will represent the division in the SEC title game. And we also didn’t envision that Auburn would be quite so bad. We picked the Tigers to finish with a .500 mark in the SEC and in fourth place in the West.
Here’s how we think things will look at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
2. South Carolina
3. Mississippi State
4. Texas A&M
6. Ole Miss
Three Things to Watch
Coaches on the Hot Seat — Joker Phillips is almost assuredly gone at Kentucky, and the John L. Smith experiment will come to an end some time in December, but what about the other coaches on the hot seat? Can Derek Dooley do enough in the second half of the season to save his job? Conventional wisdom suggest that Dooley must win at least eight games, but would an 8–4 record that doesn’t include a quality win in SEC play be enough to give him another year? What about Gene Chizik? Would the Auburn administration pull the plug only two years after he won a national title. Here’s some advice for Chizik: Don’t lose to Vanderbilt next week in Nashville.
LSU’s offense — The Tigers, as usual, are fielding a championship defense. The offense, however, isn’t quite doing its part. Through six games, LSU ranks 73rd in the nation in total offense (395.7) and 49th in scoring offense (32.0 ppg). In three SEC games, wins over Auburn and South Carolina and a loss at Florida, the Tigers have scored a total of 41 points. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was expected to upgrade the passing attack, ranks 10th in the SEC in passing efficiency and has only six touchdown passes in seven games. Despite the disappointing showing in Gainesville two weeks ago, LSU is still very much alive in the national title race. The offense, however, must improve significantly for this team to live up to its preseason expectations.
Auburn’s question to win a game — Take a look at Auburn’s schedule. If the Tigers don’t win this weekend at Vanderbilt — and they opened as an 8-point underdog — it’s quite possible they will end the 2012 SEC season with an 0–8 record. After Saturday’s trip to Nashville, Auburn hosts Texas A&M (Oct. 27) and Georgia (Nov. 10) and plays at Alabama (Nov. 24) — games that range from difficult to very difficult to sure death. The Tigers have gone winless in the SEC five times, most recently in 1980 when Doug Barfield’s final team went 0–6.
Three Games to Watch in the Second Half
1. South Carolina at Florida, Oct. 20 — The winner of next week’s showdown at the Swamp will emerge as a strong favorite to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game. Two years ago, South Carolina clinched its first-ever SEC East title with an impressive 36–14 win over the Gators in Gainesville. This Florida team, however, is much tougher — both physically and mentally. It should be a great game.
2. Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3 — The hype won’t be quite as outrageous as last year, but this is still the game of the year in the SEC. Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the country, and LSU proved last week in its win over South Carolina that it’s still very capable of beating any team in the nation.
3. Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 27 — Georgia’s ego took a big hit with its humbling 35–7 loss at South Carolina a few weeks ago, but this still a very good team that can still have a special season. The Dawgs need some help, but don’t rule out a return to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Beating Florida in Jacksonville, however, is a must.
Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
1. Alabama — Crimson Tide overpower Missouri to remain unbeaten.
2. Florida — It wasn't easy, but Gators survive in Nashville thanks to Jeff Driskel.
3. LSU — Tigers' defense shuts down Gamecocks attack.
4. South Carolina — Did Carolina's title hope die in Death Valley?
5. Georgia — Dawgs still very much alive in SEC East race.
6. Mississippi State — Russell was the better Tyler as State stays perfect.
7. Texas A&M — Johnny Manziel runs and throws Aggies past Louisiana Tech.
8. Tennessee — Vols doomed by slow start in Starkville.
9. Arkansas — Hogs dominate Kentucky with ease.
10. Vanderbilt — Special teams was the difference in loss vs. Florida.
11. Ole Miss — Rebels pick up first SEC win in two years.
12. Missouri — Shorthanded Tigers no match for powerful Alabama.
13. Auburn — Tigers show signs of life on offense but lose in Oxford.
14. Kentucky — Wildcats whipped in every phase in Fayetteville.
Related College Football Content
Week 7 College Football Recap
ACC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Big East Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Big Ten Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
College football's Week 7 action is highlighted by a huge matchup in the SEC — what else in new? — Stanford's trip to Notre Dame (will the Irish give up a touchdown), and the Red River Shootout in Dallas.
Our picks for every game in Week 7
No. 91 Navy at No. 99 Central Michigan
Central Michigan ranks 114th in the nation in stopping the run. Not a good stat with Navy coming to town. This is not a vintage Navy team — it’s not even a good navy team — but the Midshipmen should be able to run the ball enough to win this game.
Central Michigan 33-31
No. 1 Alabama at No. 48 Missouri
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury. Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. Good luck, Mizzou.
No. 3 South Carolina at No. 8 LSU
LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.
South Carolina 17-13
No. 19 Stanford at No. 4 Notre Dame
It’s kind of strange to say, but this Notre Dame team isn’t getting enough credit. The Fighting Irish are 5–0, with four of the wins coming against AQ conference teams. The defense has been absolutely dominant. Consider the following: Michigan State, Michigan and Miami (Fla.) combined to scored 12 points against the Irish in successive games.
Notre Dame 24-13
No. 5 Florida at No. 57 Vanderbilt
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Expect the Gators to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.
No. 6 West Virginia at No. 41 Texas Tech
It’s no secret that Geno Smith is having a spectacular season, but have you taken a close look at his numbers? They are simply amazing. He’s completing 81.4 percent of his passes (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 399.2 passing yards per game (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 9.8 yards per attempt (No. 3 in the nation); he’s thrown 24 touchdowns (No. 1 in the nation and six more than anyone else); and he hasn’t thrown an interception (one of four quarterbacks nationally with over 100 attempts and no picks). Bottom line: He’s very good at playing quarterback.
West Virginia 44-24
No. 7 Kansas State at No. 42 Iowa State
It’s a battle of two coaches who have made a habit of doing more with less. Bill Snyder has Kansas State ranked in the top 10 after a 5–0 start that features wins over Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma. Collin Klein has been sensational at quarterback for the Cats; he ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency and is averaging 81.0 yards rushing per game. Iowa State is 4–1 under fourth-year coach Paul Rhoads thanks to a defense that is giving up 15.8 points per game.
Kansas State 27-17
No. 9 Ohio State at No. 97 Indiana
Indiana hasn’t defeated Ohio State since 1988, and the Hoosiers haven’t lost by less than 10 points to Buckeyes since 1993 (23–17 in Columbus). This one won’t be close.
Ohio State 44-17
No. 11 USC at No. 26 Washington
USC’s last trip to Seattle didn’t go too well. Back in 2009, the Trojans were held to a season-low 13 points in a four-point loss in the first and only Pete Carroll vs. Steve Sarkisian matchup. Sarkisian is 1–1 vs. Carroll’s successor, Lane Kiffin, with a win in L.A. in 2010 and a loss in L.A. last fall.
No. 12 Texas vs. No. 14 Oklahoma (Dallas)
First the good news: Texas is averaging 46.8 points per game and has finally identified a quarterback in sophomore David Ash. Now, the bad news: A Longhorn defense that was expected to be among the best in the nation has given up 115 points in the last three weeks. The most troubling part has been Texas’ inability to stop the run. Last week, West Virginia’s Andrew Buie gashed the Horns for 207 yards on 31 carries. Oklahoma is hoping to be the next team to take advantage of Texas’ cooperative run defense.
No. 96 Boston College at No. 13 Florida State
Florida State’s national title received a crippling blow last week at NC State. Now, the Seminoles must regroup and focus on winning their first ACC title since 2005. Boston College figures to put up little resistance after losing last Saturday to an Army team that lost to Stony Brook the previous week.
Florida State 38-13
No. 16 Oregon State at No. 46 BYU
Oregon State received a dose of bad news early this week when starting quarterback Sean Mannion was ruled out indefinitely after hurting his knee in the Beavers’ win over Washington State last week. The next man up is junior Cody Vaz, who hasn’t thrown a pass since his redshirt freshman season in 2010. With the inexperienced Vaz taking snaps, expect to see the Beavers lean on tailbacks Storm Woods and Marcus Agnew.
Oregon State 24-14
No. 17 Louisville at No. 67 Pittsburgh
Louisville is only a field goal favorite over a Pittsburgh team that has lost to Youngstown State by 14 points, Cincinnati by 24 points and Syracuse by one point. That line seems a bit low, but the Cardinals struggled on the road against inferior opponents in their last two games, beating FIU by seven and Southern Miss (in a driving rainstorm) by four points.
No. 66 Syracuse at No. 18 Rutgers
Rutgers is undefeated and nationally ranked thanks to a defense that has given up an average of 10.8 points per game. Syracuse scored a total of 70 points in its first two games vs. FBS foes but has totaled 24 points in its last two. Points will be tough to come by for the Orange on Saturday.
No. 71 Illinois at No. 20 Michigan
Michigan is no doubt disappointed to “only” be 3–2 at this point of the season, but it’s important to note that the Wolverines’ two losses came to Alabama and Notre Dame, two top-five teams with a combined record of 10–0. This is still a solid Michigan team.
No. 21 Louisiana Tech at No. 24 Texas A&M
Louisiana Tech has made its first-ever appearance in the coaches poll thanks to a 5–0 start that features road wins over Houston, Illinois and Virginia. The Bulldogs are averaging 523.4 yards and 53.2 points per game running Sonny Dykes’ wide-open attack. Tech will need to score plenty of points on Saturday because its defense — which ranks 119th in the nation — will have a tough time slowing down Texas A&M.
Texas A&M 44–37
No. 34 Tennessee at No 22 Mississippi State
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville.
Fordham at No. 23 Cincinnati
We are in the seventh week of the season, and Cincinnati has only played three FBS opponents. The Bearcats have had two byes and are playing an FCS foe for the second time.
No. 60 Iowa at No. 27 Michigan State
Michigan State avoided disaster by rallying from deficits of 17–0 and 27–17 (in the fourth quarter) to beat Indiana 31–27. Iowa is back in action after enjoying a week off. The Hawkeyes have found a running game — Mark Weisman is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing with 103.0 yards per game — but quarterback James Vandenberg only has two touchdown passes in 159 attempts. He had 25 in 404 attempts last year.
Michigan State 13-10
No. 28 Nevada at No. 103 UNLV
Nevada has won seven straight in this in-state rivalry — and each of the last four have been by 18 points or more. The Wolf Pack struggled last week with Wyoming, winning by seven in overtime in Reno. That is not a good sign.
No. 55 Utah at No. 30 UCLA
The Bruins have lost two of three after opening the Jim Mora era with three straight wins. UCLA scored a total of 37 points in its losses — vs. Oregon State and at Cal — despite averaging a more-than-respectable 408 yards in those two games. Brett Hundley was picked off four times vs. California. That, obviously, cannot happen.
No. 32 Oklahoma State at No. 95 Kansas
Kansas lost to Rice, which lost to Memphis (yes, Memphis), which lost to Tennessee-Martin. Things aren’t going well in Year 1 of the Charlie Weis era.
Oklahoma State 41-10
No. 70 Fresno State at No 33 Boise State
Boise State might be 4–1 and nationally ranked — though not by Athlon Sports — but this is not a great Bronco team. They struggled with New Mexico two weeks ago before beating up on a Southern Miss team in shambles. Fresno State has the edge at the skill positions. I smell upset.
Fresno State 30, Boise State 23
No. 43 TCU at No. 36 Baylor
TCU lost at home to Iowa State 37–23 in its first game without Casey Pachall. Trevone Boykin stepped in and threw for 270 yards but was picked off three times. The Horned Frogs need to bounce back quickly, because the schedule in the second half of the season is not kind.
No. 110 Akron at No. 37 Ohio
Ohio is still undefeated, but the Bobcats haven’t exactly been playing great football. Here are their last three games vs. FBS opponents: Marshall (27–24), UMass (37–34) and Buffalo (38–31).
No. 39 Northwestern at No. 68 Minnesota
Both of these teams only have one loss on the season, but Northwestern is far more battle-tested. The Wildcats have wins over Syracuse (on the road), Vanderbilt, Indiana and Boston College, while Minnesota’s lone FBS win came against Syracuse. Last week, the Gophers were handled with ease in their Big Ten opener by Iowa, 31–13.
No. 40 Wisconsin at No. 45 Purdue
Purdue had a chance to make a statement last week but was surprisingly uncompetitive in a 44–13 loss at home to Michigan. Wisconsin is quietly playing much better in recent weeks. Joel Stave has been solid at quarterback.
No. 51 North Carolina at No. 44 Miami (Fla.)
Still not sure what to make of either one of these teams. They’ve both looked good at times — Miami scored a total of 86 points in wins over Georgia Tech and NC State; North Carolina pounded Virginia Tech last weekend. And they’ve both looked bad at times — Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16; Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest and trailed Louisville at the half 36–7.
Miami (Fla.) 37-33
No. 123 Florida Atlantic at No. 47 ULM
After opening up with three straight games against AQ conference opponents — and doing quite well (1–2 vs. Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor) — ULM beat Tulane and Middle Tennessee (both on the road) by a combined score of 94–27. The Warhawks shouldn’t have any trouble with FAU.
ULM 47, Florida Atlantic 13
No. 50 California at No. 102 Washington State
Cal was in a must-win mode last weekend, and the Golden Bears delivered with a 43–17 victory over UCLA in Berkeley. Zach Maynard was very sharp (25-of-30 for 295 yards), and C.J. Anderson rushed for 151 yards on 21 carries. This team has plenty of talent.
No. 52 Utah State at No. 79 San Jose State
It’s a big battle in the WAC between two of the nation’s most underrated coaches, Utah State’s Gary Andersen and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre. Utah State has lost two games, to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined five points; San Jose State has lost one game, to Stanford by three points. These are quality teams.
Utah State 27, San Jose State 24
No. 53 Duke at No 54 Virginia Tech
Duke is 5–1 and one win away from bowl-eligibility, but the Blue Devils still have plenty of doubters. The schedule has been very kind. Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four and has given up 27 points or more in all three defeats. This will be a tough test for the Hokies’ defense.
Virginia Tech 27-17
No. 62 Auburn at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss is much improved under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but it’s still alarming that Auburn — a program that won the national title two years ago — is a six-point underdog to the Rebels. The Tigers’ faithful won’t be pleased with Gene Chizik if Auburn loses in Oxford.
Ole Miss 27-20
No. 105 Southern Miss at No. 59 UCF
Southern Miss continues to struggle under first-year coach Ellis Johnson, who is under fire from a program that expects to win. The Golden Eagles rank 114th in the nation in scoring offense and 105th in scoring defense.
No. 81 Kentucky at No. 61 Arkansas
The Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips.
No. 114 Buffalo at No. 63 Northern Illinois
Jordan Lynch is having a terrific first season as the Huskies’ starting quarterback. The junior is averaging 209.2 yards passing (with nine touchdowns and three INTs) and 131.5 yards rushing (with nine TDs). Denard Robinson is the only quarterback with better rushing numbers nationally.
Northern Illinois 47-17
No. 65 Toledo at No. 117 Eastern Michigan
It’s been a struggle in 2012 for Ron English and Eastern Michigan. After breaking through with six wins in 2011, hopes were high for the Eagles this fall. It hasn’t quite worked out. EMU is 0–5 (with a loss to FCS foe Illinois State) and is ranked near the bottom of the nation in total offense and total defense.
No. 72 Western Michigan at No. 83 Ball State
Ball State has split its last four games, beating two AQ conference opponents (Indiana and South Florida) and losing to two MAC teams (Kent State and Northern Illinois). Western Michigan, which lost to Toledo at home a few weeks ago, cannot afford another loss in league play.
Western Michigan 30-27
No. 75 Temple at No. 73 Connecticut
Connecticut has been one of the most “lopsided” teams in the nation. The Huskies rank sixth in the nation in total defense (248.8 ypg) and 110th in total offense (310.5 ypg). This figures to be a low-scoring affair.
No. 74 Maryland at No. 78 Virginia
We thought Virginia might take a step back in 2012 after suffering some key personnel losses. But we didn’t expect this: a 2–4 record with a 36-point loss to Georgia Tech and a 25-point loss to Duke. Maryland, on the other hand, is showing signs of being a competitive football program — a positive step after last year’s debacle.
No. 116 Memphis at No. 80 East Carolina
Last week, Memphis won its first C-USA home game since October 2009. The Tigers rallied to beat Rice 14¬-10 in a game that featured only 466 yards of total offense. Memphis’ winning streak will be snapped at one.
East Carolina 37-10
No. 82 Kent State at No. 113 Army
It’s been a strange three-game stretch for Army. The Black Knights scored a total of 71 points in two games vs. AQ conference opponents (37 in a loss to Wake Forest and 34 in a win over Boston College) and three points in loss at home to FCS foe Stony Brook. That doesn’t make much sense.
Kent State 31-17
No. 85 SMU at No. 124 Tulane
In very un-June Jones-like fashion, SMU beat UTEP 17–0 on the road last week. In the last two games, the Mustangs have allowed a total of 431 yards. They gave up 452 yards or more in each of their first three games.
No. 98 UAB at No. 86 Houston
This is a bit of a statistical oddity: Houston is ranked ninth in the nation in total offense despite scoring 13 points in two of its five games. The Cougars are piling up the yards but have struggled to score at times due a turnover differential of minus-0.8 per game.
No. 87 Middle Tennessee at No. 100 FIU
FIU might be the most disappointing team in the nation. The Golden Panthers, expected to compete for the Sun Belt title, are 1–5 overall (with the one win coming at home in overtime to Akron) and 0–2 in league play.
Middle Tennessee 21-20
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 89 Arkansas State
Maybe my expectations were too high for the Gus Malzahan-Ryan Aplin combo, but it’s a bit of a surprise that Arkansas State hasn’t scored more than 34 points vs. an FBS opponent this year.
Arkansas State 34-13
No. 119 Colorado State at No. 90 San Diego State
Jim McElwain is discovering that it’s far more difficult calling plays with Colorado State’s players than it was at Alabama. The Rams rank 115th in the nation in scoring offense and 106th in total offense.
San Diego State 37-17
No. 92 New Mexico at No. 118 Hawaii
Bob Davie is doing a fine job in his first season at New Mexico. The Lobos, who are running an option attack, have three wins through six games in 2012; they had a total of three wins from 2009-11.
New Mexico 31-23
No. 109 Miami (Ohio) at No. 93 Bowling Green
Ohio is clearly the team to beat, but Bowling Green is good enough to be a factor in the MAC East. Miami is 2–0 in the league, but that record is a product of a soft early slate. Bowling Green is the better team.
Bowing Green 31-20
No. 115 Idaho at No. 104 Texas State
Texas State has struggled a bit since its shocking season-opening win at Houston. The Bobcats are 1–3 since that win, with a four-point victory over Stephen F. Austin and losses to Texas Tech, Nevada and New Mexico.
Texas State 30-27
No. 111 Texas-San Antonio at No. 106 Rice
David Bailiff’s job security took a huge hit last week when Rice lost at Memphis. The Owls have one win on the season — at Kansas.
Texas-San Antonio 28-24
No. 107 Air Force at No. 122 Wyoming
Air Force is one of only two teams nationally (Texas-San Antonio is the other) that has not allowed a sack. It’s worth noting, however, that the Falcons have only attempted 57 passes in five games.
Last week: 33-19
Season to date: 287-79
The South Carolina-LSU showdown in Baton Rouge might be the biggest game in the SEC in Week 7, but Tennessee's visit to Starkville to battle Mississippi State might be the most intriguing game of the weekend. The Vols desperately need a big win to take heat off of head coach Derek Dooley, while the undefeated Bulldogs are looking to prove themselves against a qaulity opponent.
Other Week 7 Previews and Predictions
Week 7 SEC Storylines and Predictions
1. Can Tennessee take some pressure off its coach and win a big game?
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville. Tennessee showed signs of being balanced offensively in its loss at Georgia two weeks ago. The Volunteers rushed for 197 yards vs. Georgia, their best effort in an SEC game since running for 226 yards vs. Kentucky in November 2009. If the Vols can complement their potent passing attack with an adequate running game, they should be in position to win in Starkville. Mississippi State is playing well and deserves its national ranking, but the Bulldogs have not played a difficult schedule. They have faced Jackson State, Troy and South Alabama in non-conference action, and Kentucky and Auburn — two of the worst teams in the SEC — in league play. Tennessee will be by far the best offensive team Mississippi State has faced.
2. Can Texas A&M pass another road test?
The Aggies made a big statement last week by rallying from 10 points down midway through the fourth quarter to beat Ole Miss 30–27. Beating the Rebels, even in Oxford, isn’t necessarily cause for celebration, but Texas A&M showed the type of resolve and mental toughness that this program has lacked in recent years. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel bounced back from his first two interceptions of the season to lead A&M on two fourth quarter touchdown drives. Now, the Aggies step out of conference, but the quality of opponent will be better. Louisiana Tech, nationally ranked in both polls after a 5–0 start, has scored 44 points or more in every game and is averaging 523.4 yards. The Bulldogs, however, have struggled on the defensive end. Texas A&M has the weapons to outscore Louisiana Tech. The Aggies also have the leadership both at quarterback and with the head coach — something that wasn’t always the case in recent years.
3. Can Auburn generate some offense in Oxford?
After scoring a total of 20 points in its first two SEC games — losses to Mississippi State and LSU — Auburn’s offense was hoping to flex its muscles against an Arkansas defense that had given up 34 points or more in each of its last four games. Didn’t happen. The Tigers scored seven points, had 321 total yards and were sacked eight times in a demoralizing 24–7 loss at home. Starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier was benched at halftime in favor of Clint Moselely. Auburn coach Gene Chizik had not named a starter of Wednesday but did say earlier in the week that his team needs to make a concerted effort to run the ball better. In the loss to Arkansas, no Auburn tailback had more than seven carries. This week, the Tigers head to Oxford to face an Ole Miss defense that is vastly improved statistically from a year ago but is still a unit that will give up some yards. In three games vs. AQ conference opponents, the Rebels are allowing 43.0 points and 487.3 yards.
4. Will Missouri hit the 200-yard mark vs. Alabama?
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury (that will keep him out for at least one more week). Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense, only allowing 191.6 yards per game and 3.3 yards per play. Good luck, Mizzou.
5. Is there something that Alabama doesn’t do well?
Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, and it’s easy to see why by looking at the stats. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense and scoring defense; they’ve scored 33 points in every game and allowed 14 points or fewer in every game; they lead the nation in turnover margin (plus-2.40 per game); and they’re solid in all special teams categories. Offensively, their yardage numbers don’t jump out initially — they rank 68th in the nation in total offense with 401.0 yards per game — but keep in mind that it’s often difficult to post up big yardage totals when you force so many turnovers (and work with short fields). They rank 79th nationally in passing offense (212.8 ypg), but they don’t have to pass much because they are so often nursing a big lead, and when they do pass, they do so efficiently (fourth in the nation in passing efficiency). This is a team that is clearly capable of winning another national title.
6. Can Florida keep its focus?
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Last year, the Commodores rallied from 17–0 in the first half to cut the lead to 20–14 (with the ball) in the fourth quarter before losing 26–21 in the Swamp. Expect Florida to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.
7. Can Ole Miss break through with an SEC victory?
They are still looking for their first SEC win of the season, but the Ole Miss Rebels are clearly an improved team under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. Through six games, Ole Miss ranks 42nd in the nation in total offense and 56th in total defense; last year, through six games, the Rebs ranked 117th and 106th. Rebel fans are no doubt pleased with their team’s statistical improvement, but they also would like to see some SEC wins — or at least one win. It could happen this week with struggling Auburn in town. The Tigers are 1–4 overall with the lone win coming in overtime against ULM. They rank 12th in the SEC in total defense and last in total offense and are last in the nation in turnover ratio at minus-2.20 per game.
8. Can South Carolina run on LSU?
LSU’s defense has been among the finest in the nation statistically through the first half of the 2012 season. The Tigers rank third nationally in total defense (221.0 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (33.5 ppg). But LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.
9. Can the LSU offense score more than a touchdown vs. an SEC foe?
Only one team nationally that has played more than one conference game has only scored one TD in league play. That team is LSU. The Tigers have scored a total of 18 points in two SEC games, 12 in a win at Auburn and six in a loss at Florida. Zach Mettenberger was expected to upgrade the passing attack in his first season as the starter, but LSU ranks 98th in the nation in passing offense and has had trouble throwing the ball down the field with consistency. The bigger concern, however, was the Tigers’ struggles in the running game in the loss at Florida. In the past few years, Les Miles could always count on his cadre of tailback to produce, even when his team’s quarterbacks were struggling. But on Saturday, LSU’s three top running backs combined to rush for 51 yards on 17 carries. The Tigers cannot compete for an SEC title with that type of production in the running game.
10. Can Arkansas win two games in a row?
Arkansas finally broke through with its first win vs. an FBS opponent, rolling past Auburn 24–7 with surprising ease. The Arkansas defense, which had been atrocious through its first five games, limited Auburn to 321 total yards and sacked the two Tiger quarterbacks a combined eight times. Now, the Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips. Arkansas is favored by 17 points — a big number for a team with only two wins — but don’t be surprised if the Hogs cover with ease.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Auburn (+6) at Ole Miss
|Ole Miss 21-17||Ole Miss 31-24||
Ole Miss 27-24
|Ole Miss 27-20|
Alabama (-21.5) at Missouri
|Alabama 48-10||Alabama 34-14||Alabama 45-7||Alabama 30-10|
Florida (-8) at Vanderbilt
|Florida 28-10||Florida 27-21||Florida 27-13||Florida 24-14|
Kentucky (+16) at Arkansas
|Arkansas 24-14||Arkansas 30-20||
South Carolina (+2.5) at LSU
|South Carolina 17-14||LSU 20-17||
South Carolina 20-17
|South Carolina 17-13|
Tennessee (+3) at Mississippi St.
|Mississippi State 24-21||Tennessee 30-24||
Mississippi State 27-24
Texas A&M (-8) at Louisiana Tech
|Texas A&M 35-28||Texas A&M 38-34||
Texas A&M 38-34
|Texas A&M 44-37|
There was a big shakeup in the SEC on Saturday. South Carolina climbed to No. 2 in the league power rankings (and No. 3 in the nation) with their impressive win over Georgia, and Florida moved up to No. 3 after beating LSU 14–6 in Gainesville. Also, Vanderbilt jumped from 12th to ninth after beating Missouri in Columbia.
Post-Week 6 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Mike Gillislee, Florida — The senior tailback rushed for 146 yards and scored the game’s only two touchdowns in Florida’s 14–6 victory over LSU. Gillislee leads the SEC in rushing with 109.6 yards per game.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel threw for 191 yards and rushed for a career-high 129 as the Aggies rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Manziel has thrown for 1,285 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions and has rushed for 495 and seven scores.
3. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina — Lattimore has rushed for 100-plus yards in three of four SEC games, including 109 on 24 carries in the Gamecocks’ 35–7 win over Georgia on Saturday. He is averaging 106.0 yards and has scored seven touchdowns in four SEC games.
Post-Week 6 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — The likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft helped shut down what had been a potent Georgia attack on Saturday night. Clowney recorded four tackles, two for a loss (plus one sack) in South Carolina’s 35–7 win over Georgia.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — It wasn’t the finest moment for the Georgia defense, but Jones is still one of the elite defensive players in the nation. The junior linebacker had four tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, vs. South Carolina.
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — Minter was a monster for the LSU defense in a 14–6 loss at Florida. The junior linebacker recorded 20 tackles (including two sacks) and forced a fumble vs. the Gators. In six games, he has 54 total tackles, two tackles and three pass break-ups.
Post-Week 6 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — It’s tempting to put Steve Spurrier up top, but Saban is the boss of the consensus No. 1 team in the nation.
2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina — The Gamecocks have ascended to No. 3 in the nation in the polls after beating Georgia on Saturday night. South Carolina is playing with supreme confidence.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators improved to 4–0 in the SEC with an impressive win over LSU. The defense was dominant and the running game was sound — just like Muschamp likes it.
1. Alabama (5–0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 5 result: Bye
The Tide took the week off and watched three top-five teams lose on a crazy Saturday of college football. Next week, Alabama heads to Missouri, which must regroup after losing at home to Vanderbilt. Mizzou quarterback James Franklin is not expected to play.
Next week: at Missouri
2. South Carolina (6–0, 4–0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 5 result: Beat Georgia 35–7
On a special night in Columbia, South Carolina delivered arguably the biggest win in school history. The Gamecocks discarded SEC East rival Georgia with stunning ease and have now entered the national championship picture. “We definitely sent a message out to the whole country,” Gamecocks tailback Marcus Lattimore said. “It’s not the old South Carolina. We can play with y’all. We can play with anybody.” Lattimore led the way with 109 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. Connor Shaw only completed six passes but he threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns and did not throw an interception for the third straight game.
Next week: at LSU
3. Florida (5-0, 4-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 5 result: Beat LSU 14–6
The Gators passed another huge test on Saturday afternoon to improve to 4–0 in the SEC. The Florida defense, which gave up a total of 74 points in losses to LSU in 2010 and ’11, was dominant. LSU managed only 200 total yards and was held to two field goals — both in the first half. Tailback Mike Gillislee pounded out 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries to lead the Florida offensive attack. “I’ll take Gilly over anybody,” UF coach Will Muschamp said after the game. “I tell him that all the time, and I mean that. I felt that way in spring and going into fall camp. He’s a Will Muschamp guy.” The Gators only had 248 total yards, but converted 7-of-14 on third down and averaged a respectable 3.2 yards per rush.
Next week: at Vanderbilt
4. LSU (5–1, 1–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 5 result: Lost to Florida 14–6
LSU boasts a championship defense. The Tigers’ offense? Not so much. Les Miles’ club had only 200 yards of offense and did not score a touchdown on its way to its first regular-season loss since a 24–17 setback at Auburn in October 2010. Zach Mettenberger, who was expected to provide an upgrade at the quarterback position, completed only 11-of-25 passes for 158 yards — with 56 coming on one play that ended up with a fumble and lost possession. And the Tigers’ usually rock-solid rushing attack was limited to 42 yards on 25 carries.
Next week: South Carolina
5. Georgia (5–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 5 result: Lost to South Carolina 35–7
Time to put the brakes on the “Georgia is elite” talk. The Bulldogs, who opened the season with five straight wins and climbed into the top five in the national rankings, suffered a sobering defeat at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday night. Georgia entered the game averaging 536.0 yards and 48.2 points per game; they had 224 and seven vs. the Gamecocks. Freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, both averaging over 85 yards through the first five games, were held to a total of 76 yards on 25 carries. And Aaron Murray, the savvy junior quarterback, had the worst game of his career, completing only 11-of-31 for 198 yards and no touchdowns.
Next week: Bye
6. Mississippi State (5–0, 2–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 5 result: Beat Kentucky 27–14
With a huge home game with Tennessee looming, the Bulldogs avoided a letdown by beating Kentucky by 13 points in Lexington. Mississippi State jumped out to a 14–0 lead in the first quarter and was never really threatened. The Bulldogs outgained UK 428 to 228 and shined on third down, converting 10-of-18 (compared to 5-of-15 for Kentucky). Tyler Russell threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns, and LaDarius Perkins ran for 110 yards and a score on 24 carries. Russell, in his first season as the full-time starter, has only thrown one interception in 129 attempts.
Next week: Tennessee
7. Texas A&M (4–1, 2–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 5 result: Beat Ole Miss 30–27
It’s not often that you can win a game on the road in the SEC when you turn the ball over six times. But Texas A&M did just that, thanks to a fourth quarter rally that turned a 27–17 deficit into a 30–27 victory — the first on the road for the Aggies in the SEC. Johnny Manziel, who didn’t throw an interception through his first four games, was picked off twice, but he made big plays when the game was on the line. He cut the lead to four with a 29-yard touchdown run with just under seven minutes remaining, and he put the Aggies on top with 2:33 on the clock when he found Ryan Swope for a 20-yard score. The redshirt freshman quarterback ended the game with 191 yards passing and 129 on the ground.
Next week: at Louisiana Tech
8. Tennessee (3–2, 0–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 5 result: Bye
The Vols are bracing for a brutal three-game stretch that features road trips to Mississippi State and South Carolina sandwiched around a home game with Alabama. Derek Dooley cannot afford to lose all three games.
Next week: at Mississippi State
9. Vanderbilt (2–3, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 5 Result: Beat Missouri 19–15
Vanderbilt finally won a close game. The Commodores had lost six straight games decided by seven points or less but gutted out a four-point win over Missouri in Columbia. The Commodores struggled for much of the night on offense, but moved the ball at key times in the second half and dominated on special teams to give James Franklin his first SEC road win as the head coach at Vanderbilt. Tailback Zac Stacy’s stat line wasn’t overly impressive — he netted 72 yards on 29 carries — but he scored two touchdowns, threw a 24-yard pass to Jordan Rodgers and salted the game away with a third down run in the final 90 seconds.
Next week: Florida
10. Missouri (3–3, 0–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 5 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 19–15
Missouri is still searching for its first win in the SEC. The Tigers opened strong against Vanderbilt, marching 61 yards and 90 yards on their first two possessions (both resulting in field goals) with James Franklin running the show. But after Franklin went down with a knee injury, the Mizzou offense sputtered. Backup Corbin Berkstresser, who led MU to a win over Arizona State earlier this season, completed only 9-of-30 passes in relief. Missouri outgained Vanderbilt by 100 yards (395 to 295) but the Tigers lost the special teams battle. Punter Trey Barrow dropped a snap in the end zone that resulted in a safety in the first quarter, and MU botched a potential game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter. Next week, No. 1 Alabama rolls into town, and Franklin is not expected to play. Good luck Tigers.
Next week: Alabama
11. Ole Miss (3–3, 0–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 5 result: Lost to Texas A&M 30–27
Ole Miss is clearly an improved team under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but the Rebels are still looking for their first SEC win of the season. They led Texas A&M 27–17 midway through the fourth quarter but were unable to come up with big stops when it mattered most. The Rebels’ offense did its part, with 464 total yards and a solid 9-of-19 conversion rate on third down. But the Ole Miss defense gave up 481 yards, including 290 on the ground, and allowed A&M to convert 9-of-15 on third down. Through six games, Ole Miss ranks 42nd in the nation in total offense and 56th in total defense; last year, through six games, the Rebs ranked 117th and 106th.
Next week: Auburn
12. Arkansas (2–4, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 5 result: Beat Auburn 24–7
The Hogs broke through with their first win against an FBS opponent this season — and it was done without breaking too much of a sweat. Arkansas pounded Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium, taking advantage of an inept Tiger offense that had 321 total yards and committed five turnovers. The Razorback pass defense that had been torched in the first five games “held” Auburn to only 242 yards through the air. Tyler Wilson was sharp at quarterback for Arkansas, completing 20-of-27 for 216 yards. The running attack was paced by Dennis Johnson, who had 17 carries for 76 yards and two scores. Knile Davis, a preseason All-American, only had three rushing attempts for minus-4 yards.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 5 result: Lost to Arkansas 24–7
It’s never a good sign when the head coach issues an apology to the fans who paid money to attend the game. But that’s what Gene Chizik did following his team’s 24–7 loss to Arkansas. The Tigers managed only 321 yards of offense against a Razorback defense that had given up 525 yards or more in three of its previous four games. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who has struggled in his first season as the starter, was pulled at the half in favor of Clint Moseley. A junior who started six games last season, Moseley completed 13-of-21 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions and was sacked four times.
Next week: at Ole Miss
14. Kentucky (1–5, 0–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 5 Result: Lost to Mississippi State 27–14
There were some moments of hope — most notably when true freshman Patrick Towles guided the Wildcats on an 80-yard touchdown drive in the first half — but in the end it was another double-digit loss for Kentucky. The Wildcats were held to 228 yard of offense and are averaging an alarmingly low 230 yards in three SEC games. Towles completed 5-of-6 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown in his debut that was cut short by an ankle injury. Jalen Whitlow, the starter (and also a true freshman), completed 10-of-21 for 73 yards. On a positive note, UK did not commit a turnover for the first time since a Week 2 win over Kent State.
Next week: at Arkansas
College football's sixth weekend of action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC, Miami's trip to Chicago to battle undefeated Notre Dame and the West Virginia-Texas showdown in Austin.
No. 57 Pittsburgh at No. 73 Syracuse
These two future ACC members have a combined one win vs. FBS opponents — Pitt’s Week 3 win over Virginia Tech. Here’s a note that doesn’t mean much: Syracuse gave up exactly 42 points in its first two games and exactly 10 in its last two.
No. 46 Utah State at No. 52 BYU
Gary Andersen continues his fine work at Utah State. The Aggies are 4–1 overall with the only loss coming by two points at Wisconsin. His team has wins over its top two rivals in the past two years, BYU in 2010 and Utah this season. The next step? Beating BYU in Provo, something that Utah State hasn’t done since 1978.
Utah State 23-20
No. 20 Washington at No. 2 Oregon
Washington once dominated this Northwest rivalry, winning 17 of 20 from 1974-1993. The balance of power has shifted to Oregon of late. The Ducks have won eight straight — and all eight have been decided by 17 point or more. The streak will continue.
No. 3 Georgia at No. 7 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top five in the national polls for the second time ever.
No. 4 Florida State at No. 43 NC State
Florida State heads back into ACC play after improving to 5–0 with a win at South Florida last week. NC State lost its ACC opener last week, falling to Miami 44–37 on a 62-yard pass in the final minute. The Wolfpack have given up a combined 79 points in their two games against teams with a competent offense, Tennessee (35) and Miami (44). That’s a bad omen with FSU coming to town.
Florida State 38, NC State 17
No. 5 LSU at No. 9 Florida
The Gators are 4–0 and are showing signs of once again having an offense capable of scoring points with regularity. This new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
No. 36 Miami (Fla.) at No. 6 Notre Dame (in Chicago)
For the first time since 1990, Miami and Notre Dame meet in the regular season. The Fighting Irish are 4–0 with wins over three quality Big Ten teams — and yes, there are some quality Big Ten teams. The Notre Dame defense has been dominant, allowing an average of 291.3 yards and 9.0 points per game. The Irish will be challenged by a Miami team that has scored more than 40 points in each of its three ACC games (all wins).
Notre Dame 24-21
No. 12 West Virginia at No. 8 Texas
First the bad news: These two Big 12 powers gave up a combined 99 points last week. Now the good news: Both teams won, thanks to offenses that scored 70 points (West Virginia) and 41 points (Texas). They key on Saturday will be red zone defense. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field; the team that has to settle for field goals will have a difficult time winning.
No. 95 Kansas at No. 10 Kansas State
It’s been a rough start for Charlie Weis at Kansas. The Jayhawks are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, with losses to Rice and TCU at home and Northern Illinois on the road. This in-state battle won’t be close.
Kansas State 30-7
No. 22 Nebraska at No. 11 Ohio State
Nebraska rallied from a 27–10 deficit in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin 30–27 in Lincoln in its Big Ten opener. Taylor Martinez rushed for 100-plus yards for only the second time this season. When he is a threat both through the air and on the ground, this offense can be difficult to stop. Ohio State is only allowing 17.0 points per game, but the Buckeyes have yet to face an offense that can run the ball as well as Nebraska’s.
No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 41 Texas Tech
This is a important game for Oklahoma in so many ways. After losing two weeks ago at home to Kansas State, the Sooners simply need to win a game. But they also need to play well, something they have yet to do in two games vs. FBS opponents. Landry Jones’ numbers look okay on the surface — he’s completing 63.6 percent and averaging 257.3 yards per game — but he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency in large part because he’s only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.
No. 54 Georgia Tech at No. 15 Clemson
Georgia Tech has dominated this series of late, with a 7–2 record vs. Clemson over the last eight years (the teams met twice in 2009). But things aren’t going so well for the Yellow Jackets in 2012. They dropped to 2–3 overall with a shocking 49–28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee — a team that lost to McNeese State in Week 1. The Blue Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.6 yards per snap.
No. 49 Iowa State at No. 16 TCU
I’m still stunned that TCU managed only 156 total yards of offense in last week’s 24–16 win over SMU. The previous week, Texas A&M rolled up 605 yards vs. the same Mustang defense. Now, TCU must go to battle without quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended following an arrest for DUI.
No. 104 Washington State at No. 17 Oregon State
The Beavers are already 2–0 in the Pac-12 and both wins have come on the road — vs. UCLA and Arizona. Washington State, on the other hand is 0–2 in the league and both losses have come at home — vs. Colorado and Oregon (in Seattle).
Oregon State 38-17
No. 72 UConn at No. 19 Rutgers
UConn’s last four games have been decided by seven points or less. The Huskies lost to NC State (by three) and Western Michigan (by six) and beat Maryland (by three) and Buffalo (by seven). Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents.
No. 21 UCLA at No. 55 California
Jeff Tedford’s job security will be a hot topic the rest of the season. The Golden Bears have played a tough schedule, but 1–4 is still 1–4. This team needs a quality win, but beating UCLA will be a tough task, even in Berkeley.
No. 23 Michigan at No. 39 Purdue
Purdue might be the most undervalued team in the nation through the first one-third of the season. The Boilermakers are 3–1 with their only loss coming by three points at Notre Dame. They did have some trouble with Marshall last weekend, but the final score (51–41) was a bit deceiving. Purdue led 42–14 at the half and 51–35 midway through the fourth quarter.
No. 32 Arizona at No. 24 Stanford
The Wildcats, once 3–0 under new coach Rich Rodriguez, are now 3–2 after losing at Oregon 49–0 and at home to Oregon State 38–35. Quarterback Matt Scott has thrown five interceptions in the two losses after throwing only one in the first three games. He also hasn’t been as much of a threat with his legs; he averaged 63.3 yards rushing in his first three games but only 19.0 in the last two. This is a huge swing game for both programs.
No. 105 UNLV at No. 25 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech isn’t getting enough attention for its 4–0 start. The Bulldogs have scored 44 points or more in all four games and have won consecutive games on the road vs. AQ conference foes by a combined score of 96–62.
Louisiana Tech 55-17
No. 26 Michigan State at No. 102 Indiana
Michigan State has only scored more than 23 points once this season, in a 41–7 win at Central Michigan in Week 2. Indiana has given up a total of 85 points the last two games — losses to Ball State and Northwestern. Michigan State fans should really be concerned if the Spartans struggle to score vs. IU.
Michigan State 30-13
No. 27 Mississippi State at No. 79 Kentucky
Kentucky is struggling on both sides of the ball, but there is certain to be some extra energy at Commonwealth Stadium due to the debut of true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Bulldogs will have to play well to win and preserve their undefeated record.
Mississippi State 30-20
No. 28 Texas A&M at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss has made tremendous progress on offense under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. One reason: The Rebels are having success on third down, leading the SEC by converting 51.5 percent of their attempts. This week, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M defense that has been the stingiest in the SEC on third down, allowing a 26.5 percent rate of success. If the Rebels, an 11-point underdog, hope to keep pace with the potent Texas A&M offense, they need to have success on third down.
Texas A&M 38-28
No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 29 Cincinnati
Cincinnati has won six straight in this series — and none of the six has been close. In the last two years, Miami has scored a total of three points.
No. 30 Northwestern at No. 53 Penn State
Northwestern is one win away from bowl-eligibility. Penn State, of course, won’t be going to a bowl game this year — or any time soon. But credit Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions have won three straight and looked very good in last week’s 35–7 win at Illinois.
Penn State 17-13
No. 112 Wyoming at No. 31 Nevada
Nevada is home to the nation’s leading rusher. Junior Stefphon Jefferson is averaging 175.4 yards per game for Chris Ault’s club. Jefferson has rushed for at least 135 yards in all five games.
No. 70 Vanderbilt at No. 34 Missouri
The first part of the season has been a struggle for the Vanderbilt offense. The Commodores averaged 30.6 points in their final eight games in ’11, but are scoring at a much lower clip this fall. They are averaging 21.8 points in four games, but that number dips down to 9.7 when you remove the 58–0 win over Presbyterian in Week 3.
No. 37 Boise State at No. 101 Southern Miss
The Ellis Johnson era at Southern Miss is not going well. The Golden Eagles are 0–4 and have been alarmingly unproductive on offense. The natives, who are used to winning at a high level, aren’t happy with their first-year head coach.
Boise State 27-7
No. 42 Virginia Tech at No. 56 North Carolina
Looking for a positive spin on Virginia Tech’s season to date? The Hokies are 1–0 in the ACC. Looking for a realistic spin? The Hokies are struggling. They are 0–2 vs. Big East teams and needed overtime to win their only league game, a 20–17 decision over Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech 27-20
No. 88 Arkansas at No. 44 Auburn
Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrendous in 2012 — and that is being kind. The Razorbacks, who are still searching for a win over an FBS opponent, have allowed 349.4 passing yards per game to rank 121st in the nation. They have given up 14 touchdowns through the air and have intercepted only one pass.
No. 76 Illinois at No. 45 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been a disappointment in 2012. Illinois has been a train wreck. The Fighting Illini opened with a solid 24–7 win over Western Michigan but have lost three straight against FBS foes. Last week, Illinois was drilled at home by Penn State 35–7. That shouldn’t happen.
No. 47 ULM at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee threw for 246 yards and rushed for 264 last week in a surprisingly easy 48–28 win at Georgia Tech. ULM, too, has a win over an AQ conference opponent. The Warhawks beat Arkansas in overtime in their opener before losing to Auburn (in overtime) and Baylor (by five). This is a very good team.
ULM 34, Middle Tennessee 24
No. 113 Buffalo at No. 50 Ohio
Ohio’s run at perfection nearly took a catastrophic (relatively speaking) turn last week. The Bobcats had to rally from seven down late in the third quarter to beat FBS newcomer UMass. Was this simply a speed bump, or is Ohio not quite as good as we thought? Go with the former.
Ohio 41, Buffalo 13
No. 66 Virginia at No. 60 Duke
Not many people have noticed, but Duke is 4–1 and needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils have a great opportunity to pick up No. 5 this Saturday vs. Virginia.
No. 61 South Florida at No. 83 Temple
South Florida won two straight to open the season but has since lost three in a row, including two at home. They now hit the road for four of the next six. If the Bulls want to be a factor in the Big East, they cannot afford to lose to Temple.
South Florida 21-20
No. 64 Wake Forest at No. 82 Maryland
It’s not a good sign for Wake Forest that the Demon Deacons are a 5.5-point dog to a Maryland team that hasn’t won a league game since the 2011 opener.
No. 65 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Ball State
Ball State’s last three games have been decided by a total of eight points. The Cardinals beat Indiana by two and South Florida by four before losing at Kent State by two. Northern Illinois has won four straight after opening with a one-point loss to Iowa. These are two solid MAC teams.
Northern Illinois 47-41
No. 67 Tulsa at No. 86 Marshall
Marshall has scored 95 points in its last two games but only has a 1–1 record to show for it. The Herd beat Rice 54–51 in overtime two weeks ago before losing to Purdue 51–41. Tulsa is 2–0 in the league after winning at UAB last week. The Golden Hurricane sacked UAB quarterback Austin Brown seven times for a loss of 68 yards.
No. 100 Central Michigan at No. 68 Toledo
The good times didn’t last long at Central Michigan. One week after beating Iowa 32–31 on a last-second field goal, the Chips were pounded 55–24 at Northern Illinois.
No. 69 Boston College at No. 122 Army
Army lost at home to Stony Brook 23-3 and allowed someone named Miguel Maysonet to rush for 220 yards. Things aren’t going well for the Black Knights.
Boston College 37-10
No. 120 UMass at No. 71 Western Michigan
UMass climbed from 124 (last) to 120 in the weekly Athlon Sports 124 thanks to its three-point loss at Ohio. That’s progress for a team that had lost its first four games by an average of 34.3 points.
Western Michigan 34-17
No. 124 Tulane at No. 74 UL Lafayette
There’s not other way to say it: Tulane is awful. The Green Wave are 0–4 and rank last in the nation in scoring offense (8.0 ppg) and 118th in scoring defense (42.8 ppg). And three of their four games have been at home. This will be ugly.
UL Lafayette 48-13
No. 75 Fresno State at No. 116 Colorado State
It’s a battle of first-year coaches in the Mountain West — Tim DeRuyter at Fresno State vs. Jim McElwain at Colorado State. DeRuyter, the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M last season, inherited significantly more talent than McElwain, the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11.
Fresno State 38-10
No. 80 Kent State at No. 114 Eastern Michigan
Kent State is 3–1 for the first time since 1987 when Glen Mason was roaming the sidelines. The Golden Flashes haven’t been 4–1 since ’77 when Dennis Fitzgerald was the boss at Kent State.
Kent State 30-20
No. 97 SMU at No. 89 UTEP
Garrett Gilbert, once considered the nation’s top prep quarterback, had one of the worst games possible for a quarterback last week. The former Texas Longhorn completed 15-of-40 attempts for 190 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. It’s a minor miracle that SMU only lost 24–16 to TCU.
No. 115 Hawaii at No. 90 San Diego State
San Diego State is scoring a ton of points (34 or more in four straight) but also giving up a ton (38 or more in three straight). Good thing Hawaii is next up. The Warriors have been outscored 165–34 in three games vs. FBS opponents.
San Diego State 41-14
No. 91 Navy at No. 106 Air Force
These proud military schools have fallen on hard times in 2012. Combined, they have one win vs. FBS competition, and that was Air Force’s 42–21 victory over Colorado State last weekend.
Air Force 24-21
No. 92 Texas State at No. 109 New Mexico
New Mexico has made the leap from dumpster fire (during the Mike Locksley) to potentially decent Mountain West team. The Lobos flirted with a huge upset last week before falling to Boise State 32–29 in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 28-20
No. 107 North Texas at No. 93 Houston
Houston, a colossal disappointment through the first three weeks of the season, broke through with its first win last week, a 35–14 victory over Rice. The Cougars should make it two straight with North Texas coming to town. The Mean Green have been solid on defense, but they will struggle to score enough to win this game.
No. 94 Rice at No. 123 Memphis
Rice expects quarterback Taylor McHargue to return to action after missing last week’s loss to Houston with a shoulder injury. It might not matter. Memphis is still really bad at football.
No. 96 Bowling Green at No. 110 Akron
Akron has only one win — and it came against FCS member Morgan State — but there is no doubt that the Zips have made significant improvements in the first season of the Terry Bowden era.
Southeastern Louisiana at No. 98 UAB
UAB is searching for its first win of the Garrick McGee era. It should happen this week against Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions lost to Missouri 62–10 in Week 1 in their only game vs. an FBS opponent.
No. 117 New Mexico State at No. 118 Idaho
These two future FBS Independents will meet twice next year, once in Las Cruces and once in Moscow.
Last week: 44–11
The SEC takes center stage in college football this weekend with two huge matchups. Florida, experiences a resurgence under second-year coach Will Muschamp hosts LSU at the Swamp, and Georgia and South Carolina meet in Columbia in a game that could decide the SEC East champ.
Other Week 6 Previews and Predictions
1. Is the Florida offense ready for an elite defense?
Florida is 4–0 and showing signs of life on offense. The Gators are averaging 407.5 yards per game and 6.2 yards per play, up from 328.7 and 5.4 from a year ago. The competition has been relatively strong — they’ve already played three SEC games — but this new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. The Tigers rank in the top 10 nationally in both passing yards (10th) and rushing yards (fourth) allowed. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
2. Can LSU continue its offensive prowess vs. Florida?
Here’s a stat that might surprise you: LSU has scored a total of 74 points in its last two games against Florida, and the Gators ended both seasons ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense. In those two games, the Tigers averaged a healthy 6.2 yards per play thanks in large part to an efficient passing attack. LSU’s two quarterbacks, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, combined to complete 26-of-38 for 439 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in those two wins. Now, it’s Zach Mettenberger’s turn. The strong-armed junior has been decent, but far from a difference-maker, through his first five games as the starting quarterback. This Saturday, he will have an opportunity to shine on one of the biggest stages in college football.
3. Can Georgia run on South Carolina?
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is getting some Heisman Trophy buzz — and deservedly so — but the most important offensive development in 2012 has been the emergence of freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. This dynamic duo is averaging a combined 192.8 yards rushing per game and rank first (Marshall, 8.2) and second (Gurley, 7.9) in the SEC in yards per carry. The each have three rushing plays of 30 yards or more; no one else in the SEC has more than two. This week, however, Gurley and Marshall will run into (literally) a South Carolina defense that ranks second in the SEC in stopping the run, allowing an average of 77.6 yards per game and 2.2 yards per attempt. The Gamecocks have given up only two rushes of 20 yards or longer and none of 30 yards or longer.
4. Can South Carolina seize the moment?
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top six in the national polls for the third time ever. The Gamecocks have won big games under Spurrier — most notably the 35–21 win over then-No. 1 Alabama in 2010 — but there is seemingly more at stake this time around. South Carolina was not undefeated at the time of the Alabama win and climbed no higher than No. 10 at any point in the ’10 season. Now, however, the Gamecocks are 5–0 and ranked No. 6 in both the AP and coaches poll. A win over Georgia would vault them into the top five for the first time since 1984 and keep them in the hunt for the school’s first-ever national title.
5. Who wins on third down: the Ole Miss offense or the Texas A&M defense?
Ole Miss has made tremendous progress on offense under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. One reason: The Rebels are having success on third down, leading the SEC by converting 51.5 percent of their attempts. And Ole Miss isn’t just padding its stats against inferior competition. In their two games vs. AQ conference teams — Alabama and Texas — the Rebels have a 41.4 percent success rate. This week, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M defense that has been the stingiest in the SEC on third down, allowing a 26.5 percent rate of success. If the Rebels, an 11-point underdog, hope to keep pace with the potent Texas A&M offense, they need to have success on third down.
6. What can we expect from Patrick Towles?
Barring a major surprise, quarterback Patrick Towles will make his collegiate debut for Kentucky when the Cats host Mississippi State on Saturday. Joker Phillips had planned on redshirting Towles — a 4-star recruit from Ft. Thomas, Ky. — but those plans changed when starter Maxwell Smith went down with an ankle injury early in last week’s loss to South Carolina. Jalen Whitlow, another true freshman, is expected to get the start, but Towles will see significant playing time. Towles, who had been working with the scout team, received extensive on-the-job training during practice this week. “He had not been working with the one or the twos, but he’s been in the meetings every day,” Phillips said. “He’s a guy that pays attention in the meetings, and we’ll have to see how much he knows. But again, it’s difficult when you haven’t gotten any reps.” If Towles plays well, Phillips, who is on the hottest of seats in the SEC, will have no choice but to start the Kentucky native for the last six games. Stay tuned.
7. Kiehl Frazier vs. the Arkansas defense: Who wins?
Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrendous in 2012 — and that is being kind. The Razorbacks, who are still searching for a win over an FBS opponent, have allowed 349.4 passing yards per game to rank 121st in the nation. They have given up 14 touchdowns through the air and have intercepted only one pass. In five games, they have given up 72 pass plays of 10 yards or more (most in the nation), 21 of 20 yards or more and nine of 30 yards or more. That brings us to Kiehl Frazier, the former prized recruit who is struggling in his first season as Auburn’s starting quarterback. The numbers aren’t pretty: Frazier ranks 14th in the SEC with a 96.03 passer rating (for a reference point, James Franklin is No. 13 with a 127.38 rating); he has completed only 52.8 percent of his attempts (last in the league); and his 6.1 yards-per-attempt average ranks last as well. This week, however, Frazier has the luxury of facing the SEC’s worst pass defense. If he struggles once again, will Auburn consider a change at the most important position on the field?
8. Can Vanderbilt score a red zone touchdown?
The first part of the season has been a struggle for the Vanderbilt offense. The Commodores averaged 30.6 points in their final eight games in ’11, but are scoring at a much lower clip this fall. They are averaging 21.8 points in four games, but that number dips down to 9.7 when you remove the 58–0 win over Presbyterian in Week 3. One issue has been production (or lack thereof) in the red zone. Vanderbilt has scored a touchdown on only 26.7 percent (4 of 15) of its trips inside the 20-yard line — and all four of those TDs occurred in the Presbyterian game. In fact, the Dores are the only team in the nation that has not scored a red zone touchdown vs. an FBS opponent.
9. Can Mississippi State take care of business?
The Bulldog faithful are anxiously awaiting the visit from Tennessee in two weeks, but Mississippi State must first handle the task at hand: Beat Kentucky in Lexington. And while the Bulldogs are a heavy favorite — the line has settled at 10 points after opening at 14 — this is not a program that can expect to win a road game by simply showing up. Two weeks ago, in their only road game of the season, Mississippi State gave up 572 total yards in a 30–24 win at Troy. Kentucky is struggling on both sides of the ball, but there is certain to be some extra energy at Commonwealth Stadium due to the debut of true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Bulldogs will have to play well to win and preserve their undefeated record.
10. Is DGB ready to break out?
It took longer than most Missouri fans had hoped, but wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham — the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruit in the class of 2012 — finally impacted a game. In the first quarter of Mizzou’s 21–16 win at UCF, Green-Beckham turned a 25-yard toss from James Franklin into an 80-yard touchdown — the first of his career. Missouri fans are hoping that was the first of many big plays for the freshman, who had caught only six passes for a total of 48 yards in his first four games.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Florida (+2.5) at LSU||
|LSU 21-17||LSU 24-20||LSU 24-17|
|Georgia (+1) at South Carolina||
South Carolina 28-21
|Georgia 34-31||Georgia 31-27||Georgia 30-24|
|Texas A&M (-12.5) at Ole Miss||
Texas A&M 35-17
|Texas A&M 40-20||Texas A&M 34-24||Texas A&M 38-28|
|Arkansas (+9.5) at Auburn||
|Auburn 27-21||Auburn 27-20||Auburn 27-20|
|Mississippi State (-10) at Kentucky||
Mississippi State 31-10
|Mississippi State 27-14||Mississippi State 38-23||Mississippi State 30-20|
|Vanderbilt (+6.5) at Missouri||Missouri 24-10||Missouri 31-21||Missouri 27-24||Missouri 23-20|
College football's Week 6 action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC. Georgia and South Carolina meet in Columbia in a game that could decide the SEC East, and LSU travels to Florida in a key game for both programs.
10 Biggest Games of Week 6
Georgia (+1.5) at South Carolina
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top six in the national polls for the third time ever. The Gamecocks have been playing well on both sides of the ball in recent weeks. They have won their two SEC games by a combined score of 69–27 and rank among the nation’s leaders in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense. Georgia has been remarkably efficient on offense of late — the Dawgs averaged 8.8 yards per snap against Tennessee — but the defense is a bit of a concern after allowing 478 yards against UT. South Carolina isn’t the most explosive offensive team around, but the Gamecocks have a quarterback (Connor Shaw) who has completed 35 of his last 39 attempts and a running back (Marcus Lattimore) who is averaging more than 100 yards in three SEC games this season. South Carolina is playing very well, but Georgia is the better team.
Georgia 30, South Carolina 24
West Virginia (+6.5) at Texas
First the bad news: These two Big 12 powers gave up a combined 99 points last week. Now the good news: Both teams won, thanks to offenses that scored 70 points (West Virginia) and 41 points (Texas). Geno Smith’s prowess throwing the football has been well-documented. Meanwhile, his counterpart at Texas, sophomore David Ash, is emerging as a legitimate big-time quarterback. In Saturday’s win at Oklahoma State, Ash completed 30-of-37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. For the first time since Colt McCoy was hanging out in Austin, Texas has a quarterback capable of taking over a game. The key on Saturday will be red zone defense. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field; the team that has to settle for field goals will have a difficult time winning.
Texas 44, West Virginia 34
LSU (-3) at Florida
LSU is undefeated. LSU is ranked in the top 5 in the nation. LSU fans, however, aren’t happy. The Tigers have looked rather ordinary in recent weeks, beating Auburn 12–10 on the road and Towson 38–22 in Baton Rouge. This has not looked like a team that can win a national championship. Florida, on the other hand, has exceeded its fans’ expectations. The Gators are 4–0 and are showing signs of once again having an offense capable of scoring points with regularity. This new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
LSU 24, Florida 17
Miami (Fla.) (+13) at Notre Dame (at Chicago)
For the first time since 1990, Miami and Notre Dame meet in the regular season. The Fighting Irish are 4–0 with wins over three quality Big Ten teams — and yes, there are some quality Big Ten teams. The Notre Dame defense has been dominant, allowing an averaging of 291.3 yards and 9.0 points per game. The Irish will be challenged by a Miami team that has scored more than 40 points in each of its three ACC games (all wins). The Hurricanes were humbled in a 52–13 loss to Kansas State in Week 2 but have shown tremendous resolve in recent wins over Georgia Tech and NC State. This is far from the most talented Miami team, but the Canes do have some weapons on offense. Quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns the past two weeks, and true freshman tailback Duke Johnson has rushed for 359 yards despite averaging only 10 carries per game.
Notre Dame 24, Miami (Fla.) 21
Nebraska (+3.5) at Ohio State
Nebraska’s first road trip didn’t go well. Back in early September, the Cornhuskers were torched for 653 total yards in a 36–30 loss at UCLA. Ohio State isn’t likely to roll up 600-plus yards this weekend, but the Buckeyes do have one of the game’s elite offensive talents. Quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for 315 of Ohio State’s 387 yards from scrimmage in the Buckeyes’ 17–16 win at Michigan State last weekend. Nebraska rallied from a 27–10 deficit in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin 30–27 in Lincoln in its Big Ten opener. Taylor Martinez rushed for 100-plus yards for only the second time this season. When he is a threat both through the air and on the ground, this offense can be difficult to stop. Ohio State is only allowing 17.0 points per game, but the Buckeyes have yet to face an offense that can run the ball as well as Nebraska’s.
Nebraska 24, Ohio State 21
Michigan (-3) at Purdue
Purdue might be the most undervalued team in the nation through the first one-third of the season. The Boilermakers are 3–1 with their only loss coming by three points at Notre Dame. They did have some trouble with Marshall last weekend, but the final score (51–41) was a bit deceiving. Purdue led 42–14 at the half and 51–35 midway through the fourth quarter. We still don’t know too much about Michigan; the Wolverines are 2–2 with wins over Air Force and UMass and losses to Alabama and Notre Dame. Denard Robinson is doing his thing — he’s averaging over 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing — but the rest of the offense is lacking playmakers. In its two losses, Michigan averaged only 284 yards and scored a total of two touchdowns.
Purdue 34, Michigan 20
Georgia Tech (-10) at Clemson
Georgia Tech has dominated this series of late, with a 7–2 record vs. Clemson over the last eight years (the teams met twice in 2009). But things aren’t going so well for the Yellow Jackets in 2012. They dropped to 2–3 overall with a shocking 49–28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee — a team that lost to McNeese State in Week 1. The Blue Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.6 yards per snap. Clemson, too, has had some issues on defense in recent weeks, but the Tigers are better equipped to win high-scoring games. When everyone is healthy (Sammy Watkins missed the win vs. Boston College due to a stomach virus), Clemson features a cast of skill-position players that rivals any team in the nation. The same cannot be said about Georgia Tech.
Clemson 37, Georgia Tech 24
Arizona (+10) at Stanford
Two weeks after mauling USC at the line of scrimmage with 202 yards rushing in a 21–14 win over the Trojans, Stanford managed only 65 yards on the ground in a troublesome 17–13 loss at Washington. The rushing numbers looked bad — and they are — but the biggest problem with the Stanford offense is at quarterback. Josh Nunes, Andrew Luck’s replacement, completed only 18-of-37 for 170 yards vs. UW and currently ranks 12th in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Meanwhile, the good times at Arizona didn’t last long. The Wildcats, once 3–0 under new coach Rich Rodriguez, are now 3–2 after losing at Oregon 49–0 and at home to Oregon State 38–35. Quarterback Matt Scott has thrown five interceptions in the two losses after throwing only one in the first three games. He also hasn’t been as much of a threat with his legs; he averaged 63.3 yards rushing in his first three games but only 19.0 in the last two. This is a huge swing game for both programs.
Stanford 30, Arizona 27
Oklahoma (-5) at Texas Tech
Texas Tech quietly picked up a really nice road win last week, beating Iowa State 24–13 in Ames. The Red Raiders had feasted on inferior opponents in their first three games, but made a statement that things might be different in Year 3 of the Tommy Tuberville era. Iowa State isn’t the most gifted offensive team, but it’s impressive any time you can hold a conference opponent to 189 total yards — especially on the road. This is an important game for Oklahoma in so many ways. After losing two weeks ago at home to Kansas State, the Sooners simply to need to win a game. But they also need to play well, something they have yet to do in two games vs. FBS opponents. Landry Jones’ numbers look okay on the surface — he’s completing 63.6 percent and averaging 257.3 yards per game — but he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency in large part because he’s only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. Maybe I have too much (blind) faith in Oklahoma, but I can’t envision this team going 0–2 in the league.
Oklahoma 28, Texas Tech 21
Texas A&M (-11) at Ole Miss
It’s safe to say that Kevin Sumlin made the right call when he tabbed Johnny Manziel as the starting quarterback at Texas A&M prior to the season. The redshirt freshman, who was once committed to play at Oregon, threw for a school-record 453 yards and added 104 yards rushing in the Aggies’ 58–10 win over Arkansas. In the last three games — wins over SMU, South Carolina State and Arkansas by a combined 176–27 — Manziel has accounted for 15 touchdowns. Ole Miss took a step in the right direction last weekend — even in a 19-point defeat. The Rebels, who were torched by Texas for 676 yards and 66 points in Oxford in Week 3, held No. 1 Alabama to season lows in both yards (304) and points (33). Ole Miss only gained 215 yards, though the Rebels did have two touchdown drives that went for 75 yards or longer. Hugh Freeze is clearly doing a solid job in his first season in Oxford.
Texas A&M 37, Ole Miss 23
Last week: 8–2 overall (9–1 against the spread)
Season: 35–15 overall (30–20 against the spread)
Tom Osborne recently announced his retirement as Nebraska’s athletic director after nearly five years on the job. One of the true giants in college football, Osborne won 13 conference championships and three national titles during his 25-year stint as the head coach at Nebraska.
Here are some candidates to replace Osborne as the AD at Nebraska:
Trev Alberts, Athletic Director, Nebraska-Omaha
A former All-America linebacker at Nebraska, Alberts has been the A.D. at Nebraska-Omaha since 2009. Previously, Alberts served as a college football analyst at ESPN and CSTV.
Brad Bates, Athletic Director, Miami (Ohio)
Bates, a former linebacker at Michigan, was named the Athletic Director at Miami (Ohio) in 2002 after a 13-year stint as an administrator at Vanderbilt. He also worked as a strength coach at Vanderbilt and Colorado.
Joe Castiglione, Athletic Director, Oklahoma
Castiglione has been the Athletic Director at Oklahoma since 1998. One of his first moves was to hire Bob Stoops, then the defensive coordinator at Florida, to take over as the Sooners’ football coach. Prior to his tenure at OU, Castiglione served as an administrator at Missouri for 17 years, including the final five as the Athletic Director.
Shawn Eichorst, Athletic Director, Miami (Fla.)
Eichorst was named the Athletic Director at Miami in April 2011 after serving as the Deputy Athletic Director at Wisconsin from 2009-11. Prior to his stint at Wisconsin, he was at the University of South Carolina, where he was the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration. Eichorst also has served as the AD at Wisconsin-Whitewater, his alma mater.
Paul Meyers, Associate AD, Nebraska
Meyers, a former All-America baseball player at NU, has been the Associate Athletic Director for the Huskers Athletic Fund since 2005. He has worked at Nebraska, as a coach and administrator, for his entire professional career.
Jamie Pollard, Athletic Director, Iowa State
Pollard is currently in his seventh year as the Athletic Director at Iowa State. Previously he served in athletic administration at Wisconsin, Maryland and Saint Louis.
Dave Rimington, President, Boomer Esiason Foundation
Regarded as one of the best centers ever to play college football, Rimington was a two-time Outland Trophy winner at NU in the early 1980s. He was a first-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1983 and played seven seasons in the NFL. He joined the Boomer Esiason Foundation (an organization that heightens awareness, education and the quality of life for those affected by cystic fibrosis) in 1993. Rimington has no experience as a collegiate administrator.
Ed Stewart, Associate Commissioner, Big 12 Conference
Stewart, a captain on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship team, is the Associate Commissioner for Football and Student Services at the Big 12 Conference. Prior to joining the Big 12, Stewart served as an Associate AD at Missouri.
Dr. Jamie Williams, Associate AD, Nebraska
A tight end at Nebraska from 1979-82 and a 12-year veteran of the NFL, Williams currently serves as the school’s Associate Director of Diversity and Leadership Initiatives. He came to Nebraska in 2012 after serving as the Director of Athletics at Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
There was some movement in this week’s SEC power rankings. Georgia jumped LSU and is now the No. 2 team in our rankings, but that had more to do with LSU than Georgia. The Tigers remain undefeated but have not played well in recent weeks. Arkansas plummeted to No. 14 after losing 58–10 at Texas A&M. The Razorbacks will have time to move up in coming weeks, but right now it’s hard to argue that Arkansas is not the worst team in the league.
Post-Week 5 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback continues to shine for the surging Georgia Bulldogs. He completed 19-of-25 passes for 278 yards and two scores in Georgia’s 51–44 win over Tennessee. Murray ranks first in the SEC and third in the nation in passing efficiency and has completed 70.2 percent of his passes in three SEC games.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel threw for a school-record 453 yards and added 104 yards on the ground to lead the Aggies to an easy 58–10 win over Arkansas. The redshirt freshman from Kerrville, Texas, is completing over 70 percent of his passes and has 124 attempts without throwing an interception.
3. Todd Gurley, Georgia — One-half of the Bulldogs’ dynamic duo of freshman tailbacks, Gurley rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in the win vs. Tennessee. Gurley has rushed for 100-plus yards in all but one game and is averaging 7.9 yards per carry for the season.
Post-Week 5 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — It was not a banner day for the Georgia defense, but Jones did his part. The junior outside linebacker recorded eight tackles to increase his four-game total to 32. He leads the Dawgs in both tackles for a loss (8.0) and sacks (4.5).
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney was a key cog in a South Carolina defense that limited Kentucky to 70 yards in the second half. The sophomore only had four tackles, but 2.5 were for a loss (including one sack.). He is one of the top defensive players — at any position — in the nation.
3. Dee Milliner, Alabama — It’s time to recognize another Alabama defensive players. After having C.J. Mosley in the spot in recent weeks, we thought Milliner deserved a mention. One of the nation’s elite cornerbacks, Milliner had 3.5 tackles (with a half of a sack) and four pass break-ups in the Tide’s win over Ole Miss.
Post-Week 5 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — The Crimson Tide improved to 5–0 with a workman-like 33–17 win over Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa. It’s hard to find a weakness on this team.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators, 3–0 in the SEC with two of the wins on the road, were off this past weekend. They host LSU in a huge East vs. West showdown next Saturday.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs have made the move from very good to elite, but there has to be some concern about the defense. If the Bulldogs win at South Carolina on Saturday, an undefeated regular season becomes a strong possibility.
Post-Week 5 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 5 result: Beat Ole Miss 33–14
It wasn’t as dominating as we might have expected, but Alabama improved to 5–0 with a 33¬–14 win over Ole Miss in a game that was never really in doubt. The Alabama defense continues to shine; the Crimson Tide have given up less than 300 yards in all five games this season. Offensively, the numbers (305 yards) weren’t great for Nick Saban’s club, but there were a few bright spots: Quarterback AJ McCarron once again did not throw an interception (he has no picks in five games this season) and freshman receiver Amari Cooper caught eight passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Also, senior placekicker Jeremy Shelly converted all four of his field goal attempts and is now 7-of-7 in 2012.
Next week: Bye
2. Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 5 result: Beat Tennessee 51-44
First the good news: The Bulldogs scored 51 points and moved the ball with ease (both on the ground and through the air) on their way to their third SEC win of the year. True freshman tailbacks Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley combined for 295 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries. The bad news: The Georgia defense isn’t quite elite. Tennessee countered with 44 points and 478 yards and had surprising success on the ground (197 yards). Georgia also lacked the killer instinct you’d like to see from a true national championship contender. The Dawgs led 27–10 early in the second quarter but allowed UT to take a temporary lead by scoring 20 straight points in a five-minute stretch.
Next week: at South Carolina
3. LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 5 result: Beat Towson 38–22
LSU is perfect in record only. After struggling to beat Auburn last week and stumbling through a 38–22 win over FCS foe Towson — which lost to Kent State 41–21 earlier this season — it’s clear that LSU isn’t in championship form. “To say that we made improvement — I can’t t say that,” coach Les Miles said in Miles-like fashion. “I’d have to say it was the same style of football that we played last week.” That style has been good enough to keep the Tigers undefeated to date, but LSU is about to embark on a tough four-game stretch that features road trips to Florida and Texas A&M and home games with South Carolina and Alabama.
Next week: at Florida
4. South Carolina (5-0, 3-0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 5 result: Beat Kentucky 38–17
The Gamecocks looked disinterested in the first half. They looked like a legitimate SEC title contender in the second half. The result: A 38–17 win in Lexington vs. a Kentucky team that played all but a few plays with a true freshman at quarterback. South Carolina turned a 17–7 deficit into a 21-point win by scoring on five of its six possessions in the second half. The Gamecocks’ defense limited UK to 70 total yards in the final two quarters, including only seven on the ground. Connor Shaw was once again efficient at quarterback for Carolina, completing 15-of-18 for 148 yards and two scores. In the last two games, Shaw has completed 35-of-39 for 397 yards.
Next week: Georgia
5. Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 5 result: Bye
Florida has passed two huge tests this season, winning at Texas A&M and Tennessee. Next week, the Gators will have an opportunity to prove themselves in their first big home game of the 2012 season when LSU visits the Swamp.
Next week: LSU
6. Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 5 result: Bye
The Bulldog faithful are anxiously awaiting the visit from Tennessee in two weeks, but Mississippi State must first take care of business next week at Kentucky. MSU struggled in it only road game this season, allowing 572 yards in a 30–24 win at Troy on Sept. 15.
Next week: at Kentucky
7. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 5 result: Beat Arkansas 58-10
It’s safe to say that Kevin Sumlin made the right call when he tabbed Johnny Manziel as the starting quarterback at Texas A&M prior to the season. The redshirt freshman, who was once committed to play at Oregon, threw for a school-record 453 yards and added 104 yards rushing in the Aggies’ 58–10 win over Arkansas. In the last three games — wins over SMU, South Carolina State and Arkansas by a combined 176–27 — Manziel has accounted for 15 touchdowns. Texas A&M, which claimed its first-ever SEC victory, rolled up 716 yards of offense, averaging 9.1 yards on it 79 snaps.
Next week: at Ole Miss
8. Missouri (3-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 5 result: Beat UCF 21-16
It was a bit of a struggle, but Missouri snapped a two-game losing streak by escaping Orlando with a 21¬–16 win over UCF. The Tigers were outgained 395 to 346 and only converted 1-of-11 on third down but won the game thanks to two huge plays. Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2012, scored on an 80-yard touchdown reception (the first of his career) in the second quarter, and Marcus Murphy returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown to give Mizzou the lead for good in the third. James Franklin threw for 257 yards with one touchdown and one interceptions, and Kendial Lawrence rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries.
Next week: Vanderbilt
9. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 5 result: Lost to Georgia 51-44
There was were a lot of positive signs for Tennessee, but it’s nearly impossible to win in the SEC when the other team gains an average of 8.8 yards per snap. The Tennessee defense gave up more than 275 yards passing and rushing en route to the school’s ninth loss in its last 10 SEC games. On a positive note, Rajion Neal had another productive day running the ball, gaining 104 yards on 23 carries. The junior now has a total of 191 yards in two SEC games this season. Tyler Bray threw for 281 yards but completed only 53.3 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times. In two SEC games, Bray has four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Next week: Bye
10. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 5 result: Bye
Auburn needs to find some answers on offense coming off the bye week. The Tigers have scored 19 points or fewer in three games vs. AQ conference teams. They rank 113th in the nation in offense, averaging 297.8 yards per game.
Next week: Arkansas
11. Ole Miss (3-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 5 result: Lost to Alabama 33-14
Ole Miss took a step in the right direction — even in a 19-point defeat. The Rebels, who were torched by Texas for 676 yards and 66 points in Oxford two weeks ago, held No. 1 Alabama to season lows in both yards (304) and points (33). Ole Miss only gained 215 yards, though the Rebels did have two touchdown drives that went for 75 yards or longer. Bo Wallace received the majority of the playing time — he completed 15-of-26 for 123 yards and two interceptions — but Barry Brunetti and Randall Mackey also took snaps at quarterback. Mackey’s only pass was intercepted, but he did rush for 33 yards and one touchdown on four carries.
Next week: Texas A&M
12. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 5 Result: Bye
Vanderbilt took the week off after its humbling 48–3 loss at Georgia. Vanderbilt is 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, but it’s worth noting that those three teams (South Carolina, Northwestern and Georgia) are a combined 15–0.
Next week: at Missouri
13. Kentucky (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 5 Result: Lost to South Carolina 38–17
Kentucky played its finest half of the season — and did so with a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) at quarterback for all but the first series. The Wildcats led South Carolina 17–7 at the break but were overwhelmed in the final two quarters on their way to a 38–17 defeat. Kentucky gained a total of 243 yards and did not have a drive that went for longer than 25 yards in the second half. South Carolina put the game out of reach by scoring a touchdown on all three possessions of the third quarter with drives of 74, 57 and 79 yards.
Whitlow, who replaced the injured Maxwell Smith in the first quarter, completed 12-of-23 for 116 yards and two interceptions.
Next week: Mississippi State
14. Arkansas (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 5 result: Lost to Texas A&M 58–10
Yes, the same Arkansas team that was ranked in the top 15 in every preseason poll is now ranked 14th in the SEC power poll. The Razorbacks, who have yet to beat an FBS team, dropped to 1–4 overall with a 58–10 loss at Texas A&M in their first game outside of the state. The Hogs led 10–7 after one quarter but got outscored 51–0 over the final 45 minutes. Texas A&M took advantage of the weak Arkansas secondary by throwing for 499 yards — including a school-record 454 by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel — and three touchdowns. Knile Davis continued his relative struggles, gaining only 54 yards on 18 carries. The preseason All-SEC pick now has 273 yards on 82 attempts in 2012.
Next week: At Auburn
Related College Football Content
College football’s fifth weekend of action is highlighted Texas' trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State, Ohio State's battle with Michigan State and West Virginia's first Big 12 game vs. Baylor. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 110 Hawaii at No. 55 BYU
Norm Chow, the noted offensive guru, is off to a rocky start in his first season as a head coach. The Warriors lost last week at home to Nevada 69–24 to drop to 1–2. The offense is ranked 102nd in the nation, and the defense has given up a total of 118 points in two games vs. FBS foes.
No. 75 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama
In its only game vs. a quality opponent (Texas in Oxford), Ole Miss gave up 350 yards on the ground. That’s an alarming number for a team that is preparing to visit Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide.
Towson at No. 2 LSU
Towson made the most dramatic improvement in the Division I ranks last season, improving from 1–10 in 2010 to 9–3 in ’11.
No. 3 Oregon at No. 100 Washington State
Maybe we expected too much too soon out of Mike Leach at Washington State, but the Cougars have been a disappointment in 2012. The record is a respectable 2–2, but they only beat Eastern Washington by four and UNLV by eight and lost last week at home to Colorado.
No. 42 Tennessee at No. 4 Georgia
This is the eighth time in the Derek Dooley era that Tennessee has been an underdog of 13 points or more. That happened only three times in the 13 seasons prior to Dooley’s arrival.
No. 5 Florida State at No. 57 South Florida
Florida State announced itself as a legitimate national title contender with a 49–37 win over Clemson Saturday night. Now it’s time for the Seminoles to show they can handle prosperity against a South Florida team that lost last week at Ball State.
Florida State 31-13
No. 7 South Carolina at No. 81 Kentucky
We all remember the Saturday night in Lexington two years ago when Kentucky stormed back from a 28–10 deficit in the third quarter to steal a 31–28 victory from South Carolina, ranked No. 10 at the time. That, however, is the only time the Gamecocks have lost to Kentucky since the turn of the century. Carolina has won 11 of the past 12 vs. the Wildcats, highlighted by last season’s 54–3 beatdown in Columbia.
South Carolina 27-6
No. 8 Texas at No. 26 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has sandwiched lopsided wins vs. inferior opponents (Savannah State and UL Lafayette) around a 59–38 loss at Arizona. The Pokes are allowing 438.5 yards per game vs. FBS foes. Look for the outstanding Texas defensive line to make life difficult for the Oklahoma State quarterback — either true freshman Wes Lunt (if healthy) or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh.
No. 11 Ohio State at No. 21 Michigan State
Ohio State has struggled on defense the past two weeks, giving up 512 and 403 yards to California and UAB, respectively. The major issue has been stopping the pass; the Bucks currently rank 104th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards per game. Good thing for Ohio State that Michigan State has so much trouble with the forward pass.
Ohio State 17-13
No. 38 Baylor at No. 12 West Virginia
West Virginia is putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game: Quarterback Geno Smith ranks second nationally in total offense, and WVU has two players (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) ranked among the top 10 nationally in receiving yards per game. This is an underrated matchup on a rather ordinary slate of games.
West Virginia 44-34
No. 17 Clemson at No. 74 Boston College
Clemson scored 37 points and gained 426 yards of offense on the road yet still lost by 12 points to Florida State. That’s what happens when your defense allows the opposition to average 8.9 yards per snap. That won’t happen this week.
No. 17 TCU at No. 93 SMU
Here’s an incredible stat (first pointed out by Athlon colleague David Fox): SMU ranks last in the nation in total defense even though the Mustangs did not allow a point in one of its three games. That’s right, SMU is allowing 556.7 yards and 35.7 points per game despite shutting out Stephen F. Austin 52–0 two weeks ago.
No. 19 Louisville at No. 96 Southern Miss
These two former C-USA rivals are a combined 4–3. Louisville is 4–0. Southern Miss is 0–3. The Golden Eagles have been brutal on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Ellis Johnson. They rank 115th in the nation in total offense and 104th in total defense.
No. 20 Oregon State at No. 25 Arizona
Expectations were low at Oregon State this season. So naturally, Mike Riley has the Beavers off to a 2–0 start that includes wins against Wisconsin and UCLA. ). Arizona suffered its first defeat of the Rich Rodriguez era on Saturday night, a humbling 49–0 shutout at Oregon. The Wildcats hung around into the second half — they only trailed 13–0 midway through the third — but gave up five touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game.
Oregon State 23-17
No. 23 UCLA at No. 99 Colorado
Colorado is back in double-digits in the Athlon Sports 124 after its surprising win at Washington State last Saturday. The Buffaloes had played as poorly as any team in the nation in the first three weeks of the season but somehow found a way to win in Pullman. The winning ways won’t continue.
No. 47 Wisconsin at No. 24 Nebraska
We still don’t know much about Nebraska. The Huskers have defeated three overmatched teams in Lincoln and lost to UCLA in their only game vs. a school from an AQ conference. Even against this soft schedule, Nebraska is having trouble stopping the run. The Huskers have given up 185 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, 355 to UCLA and 148 to Arkansas State. Wisconsin hasn’t been productive on the ground to date, but this is a team that is still capable of running the ball well (we think).
No. 28 Boise State at No. 109 New Mexico
Boise State has been held without an offensive touchdown in two of its three games yet is still 2–1 after beating BYU 7–6 last Thursday night. New Mexcio is showing signs of life under first-year coach Bob Davie; the Lobos ended an annoying three-year losing streak to rival New Mexico State with a 27–14 win in Las Cruces last week. I’m sure Walter White was pleased.
Boise State 27-10
No. 60 Arkansas at No. 30 Texas A&M
There are so many words we can use to describe Arkansas’ season to date — debacle, train wreck, dumpster fire, nightmare, etc. One word that can’t be used? Success. Virtually nothing has gone right for the Razorbacks. They are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, and all three losses have come in the state of Arkansas. Now, John L. Smith takes his show on the road.
Texas A&M 41-20
No. 98 Indiana at No. 31 Northwestern
Northwestern is one of only 15 teams in the nation with a 4–0 record. Three of those wins have come against teams from an AQ conference — Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Indiana, meanwhile, has one win vs. an FBS team dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season. That win came in Week 2 against a UMass team that is in its first year in the FBS.
No. 32 Nevada at No. 106 Texas State
Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson leads the nation in rushing attempts (122), rushing yards (697) and rushing touchdowns (11). He should run wild this week in San Marcos.
No. 33 Missouri at No. 62 UCF
Missouri finds itself as a three-point underdog on the road to a UCF team that only beat FIU by 13 points last week. The Tigers will be eager to prove that the wrong team is favored.
No. 34 Arizona State at No. 49 California
Unless Zach Maynard, the starting quarterback at Cal, goes down with an injury in the next few days, Arizona State will be facing a team’s No. 1 quarterback for the first time since opening day (vs. Northern Arizona). The Sun Devils played Illinois without Nathan Scheelhaase, Missouri without James Franklin and Utah without Jordan Wynn (who retired from football the week before).
No. 44 Cincinnati vs. No. 35 Virginia Tech (Landover, Md.)
It’s tempting to compare these teams’ common opponent (Cincinnati beat Pitt by 24 points and Pitt beat Virginia Tech by 18 points), but applying the transitive property in college football can be dangerous.
Virginia Tech 27-24
No. 43 NC State at No. 36 Miami (Fla.)
The first thing that comes to mind about Miami football in 2012 is the Canes’ no-show in a 52–13 loss at Kansas State in Week 2. But that’s far from the complete story. Al Golden’s team is 3–1 overall and 2–0 in the ACC with both wins coming on the road. The Canes showed tremendous resolve at Georgia Tech last weekend, rallying from a 36–19 deficit in the second half to defeat the Yellow Jackets in overtime.
No. 118 Middle Tennessee at No. 37 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is averaging 42.0 points per game but only has a 2–2 record to show for it — thanks to overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami. The Yellow Jackets led Miami last week 36–19 in the second half but surrendered the final 23 points of the game.
Georgia Tech 48-10
No. 52 Texas Tech at No. 39 Iowa State
Keep in mind that the schedule has been ridiculously soft — Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico — but Texas Tech currently ranks first in the nation in total defense (160.3 ypg). That won’t last, especially with Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas looming on the Red Raiders’ schedule.
Iowa State 27-23
No. 87 Marshall at No. 40 Purdue
Don’t be surprised if Purdue emerges as one of the better teams in the Big Ten (insert Big Ten joke here). The Boilermakers are 2–1, and their only lose was by three points at Notre Dame.
No. 41 Ohio at No. 124 UMass
Ohio is 4–0 and it’s hard to find a potential loss on the Bobcats’ schedule. UMass is 0-4, and it’s difficult to find a potential win on the Minutemen’s schedule.
No. 46 Louisiana Tech at No. 65 Virginia
Louisiana Tech is 3–0 and has scored over 50 points in all three games. Last week, the Bulldogs disposed of Illinois with surprising ease, beating the Illini 52-24 in Champaign. On a negative note, Tech’s leading rusher, Tevin King, is out for the year after tearing an ACL vs. Illinois.
Louisiana Tech 38-23
No. 101 UNLV at No. 48 Utah State
UNLV suffered a horrible loss in Week 2 (17–14 at home to Northern Arizona), but the Rebels have actually played relatively well in 2012. They have lost two games to AQ conference teams by a combined 11 points (by three to Minnesota in OT and by eight to Washington State), and last week they knocked off Air Force 38–35. Winning in Logan, however, is a tough chore.
Utah State 38-20
No. 50 Minnesota at No. 67 Iowa
It hasn’t exactly been the most difficult slate — and the wins haven’t exactly been dominating — but Minnesota is 4–0 for the first time since 2008. Iowa has played three games vs. AQ conference teams, and all three games have been decided by three points or less. The Hawkeyes beat Northern Illinois by one and lost to Iowa State by three and Central Michigan by one.
No. 51 ULM at No. 117 Tulane
After opening the 2012 season with three AQ conference teams — and playing quite well in all three — ULM heads to New Orleans to take on a struggling Tulane club. The Green Wave are 0–3 and are coming off a 39–0 loss at home to Ole Miss.
No. 53 Western Kentucky at No. 78 Arkansas State
This is a pivotal clash in the Sun Belt. There was no letdown for Western Kentucky last week after its big win at Kentucky. The Hilltoppers pounded Southern Miss 42–17 in Bowling Green to improve to 3–1. Arkansas State is 2–2 but has yet to play a team with comparable abilities. The Red Wolves were big favorites over Memphis and Alcorn State and decided underdogs vs. Oregon and Nebraska.
Western Kentucky 33-30
No. 56 Ball State at No. 104 Kent State
These are two improving programs with outstanding head coaches. Ball State, led by Pete Lembo, is 3–1 with the only loss coming at Clemson. The Cardinals have two wins over AQ conference teams, Indiana and South Florida. Kent State, under the direction of former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell is 2–1.
Ball State 33-20
No. 72 Duke at No. 58 Wake Forest
Duke, off to a 3–1 start, appears to be improved, but the Blue Devils have yet to record anything close to a quality win. Wake Forest is also 3–1, and it’s a strange 3–1. The Demon Deacons struggled with Liberty and Army and got blown out (52–0) at Florida State yet beat North Carolina. I smell upset.
No. 119 Idaho at No. 59 North Carolina
Idaho made a big move in our weekly rankings, climbing from No. 124 (last) all the way to No. 119. The reason? The Vandals lost in overtime to Wyoming.
North Carolina 41-6
No. 66 Penn State at No. 63 Illinois
Penn State is not a very good team, but the Nittany Lions would be 3–1 if they had a kicker who could make a chip-shot field goal. Illinois has been brutal on defense; the Illini have given up 45 points and 52 points in their two losses (at Arizona State and vs. Louisiana Tech).
No. 73 Toledo at No. 64 Western Michigan
This is a key early season showdown between two teams expectd to be in the hunt for the MAC West title. Western Michigan has played three games vs. AQ conference teams, losing to Illinois (24–7) and Minnesota (28–3) and beating UConn (30–24). Toledo lost in Week 1 in overtime at Arizona. These are two good teams.
Western Michigan 38, Toledo 34
No. 115 Buffalo at No. 68 UConn
As expected, UConn has been very good on defense and very average on offense. The Huskies are 2–2 after losing last week at Western Michigan — their second straight loss to the Broncos.
No. 69 Tulsa at No. 97 UAB
Tulsa had a nice win last week, rallying to beat a Fresno State team that had defeated Colorado 69–14 the week before. UAB is 0–3 against a tough schedule. This team isn’t awful.
No. 94 FIU at No. 76 UL Lafayette
The folks in Lafayette can’t be thrilled that their rivals from the Northeastern part of the state, the ULM Warhawks, have been getting so much national attention.
UL Lafayette 38-30
No. 88 San Diego State at No. 77 Fresno State
With the talent in the state of California, neither of these teams should be ranked so low in our national rankings. Fresno State lost some early season momentum by letting a 13-point first half lead slip away last week at Tulsa.
Fresno State 31-20
No. 95 Central Michigan at No. 79 Northern Illinois
Central Michigan is fresh off its best win of the Dan Enos era, a 32–31 victory at Iowa. Now, we’ll find out if the Chips have staying power. Northern Illinois lost by one point in Week 1 to that same Iowa team but has reeled off three straight since.
Northern Illinois 34-14
No. 85 UTEP at No. 80 East Carolina
East Carolina is struggling on offense without Dominique Davis taking snaps at quarterback. The Pirates rank 118th in the nation in scoring vs. FBS opponents, averaging 13.3 points in three games. The schedule has been tough (South Carolina, Southern Miss and North Carolina, all on the road), but ECU needs to increase its offensive production to be a factor in C-USA East.
East Carolina 21-20
No. 82 San Jose State at No. 89 Navy
San Jose State has won three straight after losing by three points to Stanford in Week 1. The Spartans have scored 38 points or more in all three wins. Navy picked up its first win of the season last week, taking out its early season frustrations on VMI in a 41–3 win. The Middies struggled to score points in their first two games, losses to Notre Dame (50–10) and Penn State (34–7). It will be a bad sign if Navy has trouble moving the ball this weekend.
San Jose State 24-17
No. 86 Troy at No. 121 South Alabama
Troy is 2–2 with two losses (vs. UL Lafayette and Mississippi State) by a combined nine points. The Trojans rolled up 572 yards in the loss to MSU. They should win this game with ease.
No. 107 Houston vs. No. 90 Rice
Houston has arguably been the most disappointing team in the nation. Yes, record-setting quarterback Case Keenum is gone, but the Cougars welcomed back 12 starters (including seven on defense) from a team that won 13 games last season. But the 2012 season, under the direction of first-year coach Tony Levine, has been a disaster. Houston has lost all three games, most notably a 30–13 decision at home in Week 1 to FBS upstart Texas State.
Rhode Island at No. 92 Bowling Green
Bowling Green looked sharp in a Week 1 loss at Florida but has not played well since. The Falcons struggled at home to beat a bad Idaho team and then lost at Toledo and Virginia Tech by a combined 64–15. Rhode Island is 0–3.
Bowling Green 38-6
No. 113 Colorado State at No. 102 Air Force
It’s an intrastate battle between two struggling programs. Colorado State has dropped three straight since beating Colorado in Week 1. Air Force played well at Michigan in Week 2 but lost to UNLV last weekend. Not good.
Air Force 34-20
Stony Brook at No. 103 Army
Army has scored 77 points in the past two weeks but has nothing to show for it. The Black Knights are 0–3 thanks in large part to a defense that is giving up 491.7 yards and 44.0 points per game.
No. 105 North Texas at No. 122 FAU
North Texas isn’t bad. The Mean Green are 1–3 but have played relatively well against a tough schedule. Florida Atlantic can catch its breath (to a degree) after playing Georgia and Alabama the past two weeks.
North Texas 30-13
No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 114 Akron
Akron is showing signs of improvement. The Zips, under the direction of Terry Bowden, lost at FIU in overtime in Week 2 and hung with Tennessee until the fourth quarter last weekend in Knoxville.
No. 120 Texas-San Antonio at No. 116 New Mexico State
New Mexico State dropped to 1–3 with a disappointing loss at home to rival New Mexico last week. The Aggies were gashed on the ground, giving up 302 yards on 54 carries. UTSA is 4–0 with wins against South Alabama, Texas A&M-Commerce, Georgia State and Northwestern Oklahoma. Not exactly a murderer’s row.
New Mexico State 27-24
Last week: 45-12
College football’s Week 5 action features a key showdown in the Big Ten, West Virginia’s first-ever Big 12 game and Texas’ trip to Stillwater to battle Oklahoma State.
10 Biggest Games of Week 5
Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State
After opening the Urban Meyer era with four straight wins at home — some closer than the natives would have liked — the Buckeyes make the short trip to East Lansing for the Big Ten opener for both schools. Ohio State has struggled on defense the past two weeks, giving up 512 and 403 yards to California and UAB, respectively. The major issue has been stopping the pass; the Bucks currently rank 104th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards per game. Good thing for Ohio State that Michigan State has so much trouble with the forward pass. Andrew Maxwell’s numbers aren’t horrible, but MSU ranks 108th as a team in passing efficiency and doesn’t really have many proven downfield threats. Le’Veon Bell has been the primary weapon for the Spartans’ offense, but he hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency. The junior has two games with over 200 yards and two games with under 100. Slowing down Bell will be the key for the Ohio State defense.
Ohio State 17, Michigan State 13
Baylor (+12.5) at West Virginia
Baylor is proving there is life after Robert Griffin III. The Bears improved to 3–0 with a 47–42 win at ULM last Friday night. Nick Florence, RG3’s backup the past three seasons, completed 25-of-39 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns, to lead Baylor past a solid ULM club that opened the season with an overtime win at Arkansas and an OT loss at Auburn. West Virginia, meanwhile, has cruised to a 3–0 start with home wins over Marshall, James Madison and Maryland. The Mountaineers are putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game: Quarterback Geno Smith ranks second nationally in total offense, and WVU has two players (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) ranked among the top 10 nationally in receiving yards per game. This is an underrated matchup on a rather ordinary slate of games.
West Virginia 44, Baylor 34
Tennessee (+13) at Georgia
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected 48-3 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night. Aaron Murray has been spectacular at quarterback, and the Bulldogs are getting great production from true freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Tennessee is 3–1, but all is not well in the land of the Volunteers. Derek Dooley’s club struggled with Akron last weekend for the first three-plus quarters before pulling away late. The defense, under the tutelage of Nick Saban disciple Sal Sunseri, is making too many mistakes. A secondary that was exposed during the 37–20 loss to Florida two weeks ago will have a very difficult time against the balanced Georgia attack.
Georgia 38, Tennessee 17
Texas (-2.5) at Oklahoma State
Is Texas back? That has been a popular question early in the 2012 season. Our answer: We think. The Longhorns, as expected, have been very good on defense. The offense, specifically the passing attack, has been better than expected — though the competition hasn’t been great. Sophomore David Ash ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency thanks in large part to his 7-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio. Oklahoma State has sandwiched lopsided wins vs. inferior opponents (Savannah State and UL Lafayette) around a 59–38 loss at Arizona. The Pokes are allowing 438.5 yards per game vs. FBS foes. Look for the outstanding Texas defensive line to make life difficult for the Oklahoma State quarterback — either true freshman Wes Lunt (if healthy) or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh.
Texas 31, Oklahoma State 17
Stanford (-6) at Washington (Thu)
This is an intriguing game between one program eager to prove it has staying power (Stanford) and one program attempting to climb the food chain in the Pac-12 (Washington). Stanford is 3–0 and has one of the best wins by team in college football this season, a 21–14 victory over USC in Week 2. Washington is 2–1 but played poorly in its only true test this season. The Huskies managed just 157 yards of offense in a 41–3 loss at LSU. The offense, which was a strength a year ago, has scored only 24 points in two games vs. FBS opponents. Junior Keith Price will have to be at his best to give Washington a chance to win.
Stanford 28, Washington 23
Arkansas (+13) at Texas A&M
There are so many words we can use to describe Arkansas’ season to date — debacle, train wreck, dumpster fire, nightmare, etc. One word that can’t be used? Success. Virtually nothing has gone right for the Razorbacks. They are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, and all three losses have come in the state of Arkansas. There are many culprits, but enemy No. 1 has to the pass defense. Saturday night, Rutgers sophomore Gary Nova threw for 398 yards — 99 more than his previous career high — and five touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ win in Fayetteville. This week, Arkansas’ challenge will be even greater as they leave the state for the first time this season. Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel has emerged as one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the nation. Manziel has rushed for 262 yards and five touchdowns and also thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in 86 attempts. This one could get ugly.
Texas A&M 41, Arkansas 20
Oregon State (+3) at Arizona
Expectations were low at Oregon State this season. So naturally, Mike Riley has the Beavers off to a 2–0 start that includes wins against Wisconsin and UCLA. The Beavers are getting it done by passing the football and playing outstanding defense. Sean Mannion, the strong-armed sophomore, has completed 53-of-82 passes for 655 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The defense, a weakness a year ago, held Wisconsin to seven points (the Badgers’ lowest total since October 2008) — and UCLA to 20 (20.7 below its average heading into the game). Arizona suffered its first defeat of the Rich Rodriguez era on Saturday night, a humbling 49–0 shutout at Oregon. The Wildcats hung around into the second half — they only trailed 13–0 midway through the third — but gave up five touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game. Matt Scott, who had played so well in his first three games under RichRod, completed only 50 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times.
Oregon State 23, Arizona 17
Wisconsin (+12) at Nebraska
Wisconsin has been one of the most disappointing teams in the nation through the early part of the season. Yes, the Badgers are 3–1, but they beat Northern Iowa by five, Utah State by two (when USU missed a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds) and UTEP by 11. But there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Wisconsin is 0–0 in the Big Ten and plays in a division (the Leaders) in which two teams are ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game. Bottom line: Wisconsin doesn’t need to be very good to reach the league title game; the Badgers just need to be better than Illinois and Purdue. We still don’t know much about Nebraska. The Huskers have defeated three overmatched teams in Lincoln and lost to UCLA in their only game vs. a school from an AQ conference. Even against this soft schedule, Nebraska is having trouble stopping the run. The Huskers have given up 185 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, 355 to UCLA and 148 to Arkansas State. Wisconsin hasn’t been productive on the ground to date, but this a team that is still capable of running the ball well (we think).
Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 20
Virginia Tech (-7) vs. Cincinnati (Landover, Md.)
We are four weeks into the college football season, yet Cincinnati has only played two games — and only one vs. an FBS opponent. The Bearcats did well in that one game, beating Pittsburgh 34¬–10, but this team is still a mystery. George Winn has stepped in for Isaiah Pead at tailback and has 242 yards in two games. Munchie Legaux has been a playmaker at quarterback (142 yards rushing, 413 yards passing), but he threw two interceptions against Delaware State two weeks ago. Virginia Tech bounced back from its troubling loss at Pittsburgh to beat a decent Bowling Green team 37–0 in Blacksburg. Logan Thomas wasn’t sharp at quarterback (he completed only 11-of-26 attempts), but the Hokies ran the ball well, with 246 yards on 43 carries. It’s tempting to compare these teams’ common opponent (Cincinnati beat Pitt by 24 points and Pitt beat Virginia Tech by 18 points), but applying the transitive property in college football can be dangerous.
Virginia Tech 27, Cincinnati 24
NC State (+2.5) at Miami (Fla.)
The first thing that comes to mind about Miami football in 2012 is the Canes’ no-show in a 52–13 loss at Kansas State in Week 2. But that’s far from the complete story. Al Golden’s team is 3–1 overall and 2–0 in the ACC with both wins coming on the road. The Canes showed tremendous resolve at Georgia Tech last weekend, rallying from a 36–19 deficit in the second half to defeat the Yellow Jackets in overtime. NC State has won three straight after opening the season with a 35–21 loss to Tennessee in Atlanta. The schedule, however, hasn’t been too taxing. The Wolfpack won at UConn, which is mildly impressive, before beating South Alabama and The Citadel with ease. Mike Glennon has looked good at times — he was brilliant for a stretch vs. Tennessee — but needs to play well on a consistent basis to give this team a chance at being relevant in the ACC Coastal race.
Miami (Fla.) 27, NC State 20
Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 27–13 overall (21–19 against the spread)
By Mitch Light
The SEC slate in Week 5 of the college football season is highlighted by the Arkansas-Texas A&M matchup in College Station and Tennessee’s trip to Georgia. On paper, neither game is expected to be too close — both home teams are favored by about two touchdowns, but these are still compelling matchups.
Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions
SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:
1. Can James Franklin get it going on the ground
James Franklin emerged as one of the top young quarterbacks in the nation last season because of his ability to hurt defenses with his arm and his legs. In his first season as the starter, Franklin threw for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 981 yards and 15 scores on the ground. Nationally, only four quarterbacks rushed for more yards than Franklin in 2011. This year, however, the running element has been missing from his game. He has netted only 70 yards and has failed to rush for a touchdown in three games. Part of this can be blamed on his lingering shoulder injury (though he has 35 rushing attempts in his two games vs. FBS competition) and part can be attributed to the quality of competition he has faced. Franklin picked up 39 yards on six carries in the opener against Southeastern Louisiana but gained a combined 31 yards on 35 carries in SEC games vs. Georgia and South Carolina, two of the elite defensive teams in the nation. Both the Bulldogs and Gamecocks were able to get pressure on Franklin without blitzing too often, which allowed the defenses to drop seven players in coverage, and thus limited Franklin’s ability to find openings in the secondary when he was flushed out of the pocket. The question moving forward: Will he enjoy success running the ball against teams not named Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama? The next two games will serve as a barometer. The Tigers head to UCF this week and then host Vanderbilt on Oct. 6.
2. Can Knile Davis return to form?
You might not have noticed — because there are so many other problems with the Arkansas football program — but Knile Davis has been alarmingly unproductive in 2012. A first-team All-SEC back in 2010, Davis missed the entire ’11 season due to an ankle injury. But he was declared 100 percent healthy over the summer and was expected to be a key cog in the Razorbacks’ attack. Hasn’t happened. In four games, Davis has rushed for 208 yards on 64 carries for an average of only 3.3 yards per carry. There are 26 players in the SEC (with at least 30 carries) who have a better yards-per-attempt average than Davis. This week, Davis and the Hogs face a Texas A&M defense that gave up only 106 yards rushing to Florida in its only game vs. an AQ conference opponent.
3. Can the Aggies kill a wounded Hog?
This appears to be a great time to play Arkansas. The Razorbacks, a preseason top-15 team, have lost three straight games and are under the “leadership” of a lame-duck coach who has no chance of being retained once his 10-month contract expires. So, easy win for the Aggies? Maybe not. Arkansas is still a talented team that might actually benefit from leaving the Natural State for the first time this season. There are no distractions on the road. The Hogs can take an “us against the world” mentality into Kyle Field and play with nothing to lose. Meanwhile, there is considerable pressure on Texas A&M to win this game. Beginning with next week’s trip to Ole Miss, the Aggies play five of their next six on the road, and the one home game is against LSU. A&M cannot afford to drop to 0–2 at home in SEC play if it hopes to remain relevant throughout the 2012 season.
4. Can Tennessee limit the big play?
We were told not to be surprised if the Tennessee defense gave up some big plays while making the transition to Sal Sunseri’s 3–4 scheme. Well, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Through four games, the Volunteers have allowed 20 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more, which is tied with Arkansas for the most in the SEC. Included in those 20 “big plays” are three that went for at least 70 yards. Only Washington State has allowed more nationally. This could spell trouble this weekend in Athens. Guess who leads the nation in offensive plays of 20 yards or more? That’s right, Georgia with 35. The Bulldogs currently rank 13th in the nation in total offense (530 ypg) and have scored 41 points or more in all four games. Tennessee is a 13-point underdog at Sanford Stadium. The Vols must find a way to limit Georgia’s big plays to keep things close.
5. Can Marlon Brown contribute on a consistent basis?
Marlon Brown arrived at Georgia as one of the elite recruits from the Class of 2009. The Memphis native was ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver and the No. 14 overall prospect by Athlon Sports. Through three seasons, Brown was largely considered a bust. He had a total of 18 catches for 291 yards against SEC opponents, with 121 of those yards coming in one game (at Vanderbilt last season). This season, however, Brown has emerged as one of Aaron Murray’s favorite targets. The senior has 16 catches for 264 yards, including 13 for 222 and three touchdowns in the Dawgs’ two SEC games. The key now will be for Brown to maintain this level of production as the season progresses.
6. Can South Carolina continue its dominance against Kentucky?
We all remember the Saturday night in Lexington two years ago when Kentucky stormed back from a 28–10 deficit in the third quarter to steal a 31–28 victory from South Carolina, ranked No. 10 at the time. That, however, is the only time the Gamecocks have lost to Kentucky since the turn of the century. Carolina has won 11 of the past 12 vs. the Wildcats, highlighted by last season’s 54–3 beatdown in Columbia. The Gamecocks outgained UK 639-to-97 and limited the Cats to five total first downs. Following the game, Steve Spurrier offered the following assessment of his opponent: “Kentucky has a heck of a punter, I know that.” There was a time, however, when Kentucky had the upper hand in this rivalry. UK won five of the first eight after South Carolina joined the league in 1992.
7. Who will take snaps for the Wildcats?
Entering last weekend, Kentucky ranked 13th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing with 322 yards per game. But with starter Maxwell Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily. Morgan Newton, a senior who stepped in for Smith, had a nightmarish stat line: 7-of-21 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. The Wildcats are optimistic that Smith will be back, but one thing is clear: Newton, a former 4-star recruit, will not be receiving meaningful snaps. True freshman Jalen Whitlow received all of the work with the second team this week and will get the start if Smith has a setback. Whitlow had been receiving a lot of work with the second team in practice since the season-opening loss to Louisville, but the coaching staff felt more comfortable sending Newton, who has 17 career starts, to play against Florida at the Swamp. “When Max went down, we just felt like he (Jalen) wasn’t ready, wasn’t quite ready to go in (and play) in that type of environment,” UK coach Joker Phillips said earlier this week. “I’ve been down there when we put a freshman quarterback in there, and it’s pretty tough. And we just felt like we wanted to start Morgan. And we did. Didn’t work out. Didn’t play as well as we would have liked. But we still think that that was the right decision.”
8. Can LSU develop a consistent passing attack for the upcoming stretch of games?
There has been some consternation in Baton Rouge about LSU’s offense — specifically the passing attack. Zach Mettenberger, expected by many (including me!) to be the missing piece at quarterback, has been rather ordinary through three games. He has by no means been bad; he just hasn’t been a difference-maker. The Tigers rank 98th in the nation in passing with 194.5 yard per game, but that is a bit misleading. When you run the ball as well as LSU does — and when you are so often nursing a big lead — there isn’t much of a need to fling the ball all over the field. This week, LSU should have no problem moving the ball — either on the ground or through the air — against the mighty Towson Tigers, the alma mater of former New York Giant Dave Meggett. But take a look at the Tigers’ upcoming schedule, a five-game stretch that features road trips to Florida and Texas A&M and home dates with South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State. LSU will have to be balanced on offense to navigate that brutal stretch without a loss.
9. Can the Ole Miss defense stop the run?
At first glance, it would appear Ole Miss has done a decent job stopping the run. The Rebels rank 40th in the nation and seventh in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 125.3 yards per game. That, however, doesn’t really tell the story. In its only game vs. a quality opponent (Texas in Oxford), Ole Miss gave up 350 yards on the round. That’s an alarming number for a team that is preparing to visit Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide. The Alabama offense is quite capable of throwing the forward pass with efficiency, but the Tide are at their best when running the ball with their stable of outstanding tailbacks. It will be considered a victory for the Ole Miss defense if Alabama rushes for less than 250 yards on Saturday night.
10. Can Bama stay perfect in the red zone?
The Alabama offense has entered the red zone 18 times this season. And 18 times the Crimson Tide have put points on the board. Eleven other teams in the nation have been perfect in the red zone, but only Oklahoma State, with 20, has more trips inside the 20-yard line. Prior to last week, Alabama had scored a touchdown on all but one of its 12 red zone opportunities, but the Crimson Tide were forced to settle for field goals on three of their six trips inside the 20 in a 40–7 win vs. Florida Atlantic.
By Mitch Light
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Missouri (+3) at UCF||Missouri 28-17||Missouri 27-21||Missouri 27-24||Missouri 30-28|
|Arkansas (+13.5) at Texas A&M||Texas A&M 35-28||Texas A&M 34-28||Texas A&M 34-27||Texas A&M 41-20|
|Tennessee (+13) at Georgia||Georgia 31-17||Georgia 34-21||Georgia 34-20||Georgia 38-17|
|South Carolina (-20.5) at Kentucky||South Carolina 42-7||South Carolina 37-10||South Carolina 38-10||South Caroina 27-6|
|Towson at LSU||LSU 56-3||LSU 49-3||LSU 62-3||LSU 41-0|
|Ole Miss (+31) at Alabama||Alabama 49-7||Alabama 41-14||Alabama 45-7||Alabama 38-17|
The top of the SEC is as strong as ever. Alabama continues to shine, but LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and even Florida are capable of winning a conference title. The SEC East is making a comeback, as well. Alabama and LSU might be the two best teams in the league, but the next best three teams reside in the East.
Post-Week 4 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback was superb in Georgia’s 48–3 win over Vanderbilt, completing 18-of-24 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Murray ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency through four games.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — He didn’t put up big numbers against Kentucky (56 yards on 13 carries), but Gillislee has been a huge factor in the Gators’ offensive renaissance. He ranks second in the SEC in rushing, with 100.5 yards per game.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The redshirt freshman had another big game for the Aggies, throwing for 174 yards and three scores while adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground in a 70–14 win over South Carolina State. He will have to prove himself against better competition to stay on this list, but Manziel is off to a great start.
Post-Week 4 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones returned to action after missing last week with an injury, and the junior outside linebacker was his usual disruptive self. He recorded seven tackles, including three for a loss (including one sack) in Georgia’s dominating win over Vanderbilt.
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney, a likely top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, continues to be a force for the South Carolina defense. In four games, he has 7.0 tackles for a loss, including 2.0 sacks. The Gamceocks have given up 23 points in two SEC games.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker led Alabama with six tackles in a 40–7 win over Florida Atlantic. Through four games, he leads the Tide with 29 total tackles and has one interception.
Post-Week 4 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — The Crimson Tide have emerged as the clear No. 1 team one-quarter through the 2012 season. Right now, this looks like a team without a weakness.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators are already 3–0 in the SEC with two of the wins coming on the road. The offense, a major question mark before the season, has been sharp, while the defense remains a strength.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs continue to climb up the national rankings. They are playing extremely well on both sides of the ball and are now being mentioned with the elite teams in the nation.
Post-Week 1 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 4 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 40–7
The big news in Tuscaloosa is that Alabama was scored on for the first time since the third quarter of its Week 1 win vs. Michigan. When Florida Atlantic quarterback Graham Wilbert connected with Alex Deleon on a 6-yard pass with 2:49 remaining in the game, the Crimson Tide’s streak was snapped at 12 straight scoreless quarters — a run that lasted 192 minutes and 25 seconds of game time. FAU, which lost last week at Georgia, managed only 110 total yards and had only 45 offensive snaps. Alabama had 503 yards and scored on its first seven possessions.
2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 4 result: Beat Auburn 12-10
LSU had won 12 straight games by at least 24 points against teams not named Alabama. The Tigers, however, struggled to beat Auburn. But a win is still a win — especially on the road in the SEC. “We were tested, and we answered the call,” LSU coach Les Miles said. The Tigers, to no one’s surprise, got it done on defense. Auburn totaled only 183 yards of offense and did not have one drive that went longer than 42 yards. LSU has allowed 14 points or less in all four games in 2012.
3. Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 4 result: Beat Vanderbilt 48-3
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected win over Vanderbilt. Georgia scored on its four possessions — with touchdown drives of 68, 88, 57 and 96 yards — to put the game out of reach in the first half. In three career games vs. Vanderbilt, Aaron Murray is 55-of-86 for 863 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
4. South Carolina (4-0, 2-0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 4 result: Beat Missouri 31-10
Steve Spurrier was kidding, we think, when he offered this critique of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: “Well, he got off to a slow start. He missed the first one, I think.” Shaw’s first pass did fall incomplete, but the junior quarterback connected on his next 20 attempts to finish a near flawless performance with a 95.2 completion percentage, 249 yards passing and two touchdowns without an interception. After surviving a scare at Vanderbilt in Week 1, South Carolina has won its three ensuing games by an average score of 43–9.
5. Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 4 result: Beat Kentucky 38-0
Florida became the first team in the nation with three conference wins — and the Gators barely had to break a sweat to do so. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in the big win at Tennessee, but he was still very efficient (18-of-27 for 203 yards with one TD and one INT) for an offense that rolled up 403 yards. The Gators shined on third down, converting 12-of-17 while limiting the Kentucky offense to only 4-of-15.
6. Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 4 result: Beat South Alabama 30-10
There wasn’t much to get excited about in Mississippi State’s win over South Alabama, one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks. The Bulldogs barely outgained the Jaguars (356 to 347); quarterback Tyler Russell completed less than 50 percent of his passes; and the running game was mediocre at best, with an average of 4.2 yards per rush. But the Dogs are 4¬¬–0 for the first time since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
7. Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 4 result: Beat South Carolina State 70-14
The Aggies did what was expected: Beat overmatched South Carolina State with ease. Johnny Manziel once again was sharp, completing 15-of-20 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns and adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground. Texas A&M set an SEC record in only its third game as a member of the league; the Aggies had 246 punt return yards, highlighted by a 96-yard return for a score by Dustin Harris.
8. Missouri (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 4 result: Lost to South Carolina 30-10
Missouri’s first SEC road trip didn’t go too well. The Tigers had only 255 yards on offense — their lowest total since gaining 173 in a loss to Texas in 2009 — and provided little resistance to Connor Shaw and the South Carolina passing game. Shaw completed 21-of-22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin threw for only 92 yards on 18 passes for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. The Tigers head to UCF next week for a tricky road game before returning home for a key three-game homestand.
8. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 4 result: Beat Akron 47-26
The end result looked good: The Vols won the game by 21 points and outgained Akron 633 to 344. But this was far more difficult than coach Derek Dooley would have liked. The score was tied until midway through the third quarter, and the game was in doubt until Tyler Bray hooked up with Justin Hunter for a 10-yard touchdown strike with 9:18 remaining in the fourth. Tennessee was productive running the ball: Rajion Neal led the way with 151 yards on 22 carries, and Marlin Lane chipped in with 47 yards on nine attempts. Akron has now lost 22 straight road games.
9. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 4 result: Lost to LSU 12-10
It was far more competitive than most expected — Auburn was an 18-point under dog — but there are no moral victories, especially at home, for a team that won a national championship as recently as 2010. In two SEC games, Auburn is averaging 199.5 total yards and has scored one offensive touchdown. Kiehl Frazier, in his first season as the starting quarterback, has completed 47-of-89 passes for 546 yards (only 136.5 per game) with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Tigers are 1–3 for the first time since 1998 — the season in which Terry Bowden stepped down after six games.
11. Arkansas (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 4 result: Lost to Rutgers 35-26
Arkansas, ranked in the top 15 in every preseason poll, dropped to 1–3 with a 35–26 loss to Rutgers in Fayetteville. The return of Tyler Wilson, who missed last week’s 52–0 loss to Arkansas with a concussion, wasn’t enough to spark the Razorbacks. Wilson did his part, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns, but the Arkansas defense gave up five touchdowns and over 500 yards of offense. The Hogs are still looking for their first win vs. an FBS opponent; their lone win was vs. Jacksonville State in Week 1.
12. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 4 result: Lost to Georgia 48-3
Vanderbilt never recovered from a slow start and put up little fight en route to its most lopsided loss since being shut out by Tennessee 48–0 in the final game of the 2003 season. In a bit of a surprise, Jordan Rodgers got the nod at quarterback over Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started the previous week against Presbyterian. Rodgers completed 13-of-23 for 218 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Zac Stacy ran well for Vanderbilt with 83 yards on 12 carries. The Commodores have now been outscored by a combined 91–3 in their last two trips to Athens.
13. Ole Miss (3-1, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 4 result: Beat Tulane 39-0
The Rebels completed the nonconference portion of their schedule with a 3-1 record after pounding Tulane 39-0 in New Orleans. Ole Miss jumped on the Green Wave early, with four touchdowns in the game’s first 13 minutes. The Ole Miss defense limited Tulane to 159 total yards one week after getting lit up by Texas for 676 yards in a 66–31 loss in Oxford. Tulane, playing without starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, averaged only 2.3 yards per play.
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 4 Result: Lost to Florida 38-0
Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith was forced to watch from the sideline as Kentucky dropped to 1–3 with a lopsided loss to Florida. Entering the weekend, UK ranked 13th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing with 322 yards per game. But with Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily. Morgan Newton, a senior who stepped in for Smith, had a nightmarish stat line: 7-of-21 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
By Mitch Light
Related College Football Content
College football’s fourth weekend of action is highlighted by a huge battle in the ACC Coastal Division, an intriguing showdown between Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 and Michigan’s trip to Notre Dame in a rare night game in South Bend. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 37 Baylor at No. 60 UL Monroe
After splitting two overtime decisions against SEC West foes in consecutive weeks — a win at Arkansas and a loss at Auburn — UL Monroe returns home to host Baylor on national television. The Warhawks have been a popular upset pick, but Baylor is also eager to prove itself in the first season post-RG3.
No. 121 Florida Atlantic at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season.
No. 2 LSU at No. 47 Auburn
The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago.
No. 24 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes.
No. 22 Kansas State at No. 4 Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. It won’t be quite as bad this time around.
No. 108 UAB at No. 5 Ohio State
UAB’s tough road trip began with a trip to South Carolina (and a 49–6 loss) and will end in Columbus vs. the Buckeyes. Expect another productive game from sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
Ohio State 44-3
No. 53 Vanderbilt at No. 6 Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start (we think) against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge.
No. 14 Clemson at No. 7 Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game.
Florida State 34-24
No. 83 Maryland at No. 9 West Virginia
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown for 734 yards in two games. Maryland, as a team, has 775 yards in three games.
West Virginia 41-10
No. 78 Kentucky at No. 10 Florida
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7.
No. 43 California at No. 12 USC
This game features some of the elite skill-position players in the nation — especially at wide receiver — but neither team has played well defensively this season.
No. 26 Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. Both Connor Shaw and James Franklin are expected to start. The question is: Can they finish the game?
South Carolina 21-17
No. 16 Michigan at No. 15 Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games.
Notre Dame 24-21
No. 55 Virginia at No. 17 TCU
Virginia gave up 461 yards rushing last week in a 56–20 loss to Georgia Tech. TCU has given up a total of 450 yards in two games.
No. 18 Louisville at No. 96 FIU
The Cards are eager for revenge after losing last September to FIU at home. They should get it. The Golden Panthers have been a disappointment this season.
No. 110 Eastern Michigan at No. 19 Michigan State
The Le’Veon Bell for Heisman talk has cooled over the last few weeks. After bruising his way to 210 yards vs. Boise State in the opener, Bell has a total of 147 yards in the last two games.
Michigan State 38-10
No. 42 Oregon State at No. 20 UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska.
Idaho State at No. 23 Nebraska
Idaho State has got to be the first team ever to play Black Hills State and Nebraska in consecutive games. (In case you are wondering, Idaho State beat Black Hills State 38–5. And in case you were wondering, Black Hills State is in Spearfish, South Dakota).
No. 119 South Alabama at No. 28 Mississippi State
Mississippi State is after its first 4–0 start since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
Mississippi State 42-10
No. 29 Rutgers at No. 52 Arkansas
Rutgers isn’t Alabama — which shut out Arkansas 52–0 last week —but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13).
No. 61 Miami (Fla.) at No. 30 Georgia Tech
Kansas State rushed for 288 vs. the Canes in a 52–13 win two weeks ago. That’s a troubling number for a Miami team that is preparing to face Georgia Tech’s option attack.
Georgia Tech 37-24
South Carolina State at No. 31 Texas A&M
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He’s good.
Texas A&M 41-0
No. 32 South Florida at No. 93 Ball State
Ball State is 2–1 with wins over Eastern Michigan and Indiana sandwiched around a 52–27 loss at Clemson. The Cardinals have been able to move the ball in every game; they had 380 yards (including 252 on the ground) vs. Clemson and 440 yards (200-plus through the air and on the ground) vs. Indiana. This is a solid team that is good enough to beat South Florida straight up.
Ball State 34-31
No. 33 Nevada at No. 107 Hawaii
Nevada features two of the most explosive playmakers in college football. Tailback Stefphon Jefferson ranks second nationally in rushing (176.3 ypg), and quarterback Cody Fajardo is eighth in total offense (362.3 ypg).
No. 120 Akron at No. 34 Tennessee
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
South Dakota at No. 35 Northwestern
After opening the season with wins over three AQ conference teams, Northwestern dips down into the FCS ranks for what should bean easy win.
No. 91 Bowling Green at No. 36 Virginia Tech
The Hokies were on the wrong end of one of the most surprising scores of the season: Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17. Frank Beamer’s club should get back in the win column this week, but the Hokies will have issues the rest of the season unless some playmakers emerge on offense to complement quarterback Logan Thomas.
Virginia Tech 34-13
No. 38 Utah at No. 50 Arizona State
For the third straight week, Arizona State will be facing a backup quarterback. Nathan Scheelhaase (Illinois) and James Franklin (Missouri) were hurt, and Utah’s Jordan Wynn retired from football due to injury after a Week 2 loss to Utah State.
Arizona State 27-17
Norfolk State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio survived a scare last week but held on for a 27–24 win at Marshall, keeping its dream of a perfect season alive. There is no significant danger of losing this weekend.
The Citadel at No. 41 NC State
This might not be as easy as some Wolfpack fans would like. The Citadel is 3–0 highlighted by a 52–28 win over Appalachian State last week. This is a solid FCS club.
NC State 30-17
No. 86 UTEP at No. 46 Wisconsin
UTEP is playing an AQ conference team for the third time in four weeks. Wisconsin isn’t nearly as formidable as we thought before the season started, but it’s still a very tall order for the Miners to win in Madison.
No. 48 Utah State at No. 109 Colorado State
Utah State is a missed 37-yard field goal away from being 3–0 with wins over Utah and Wisconsin. Still, this is a very good team that will challenge Louisiana Tech for supremacy in the WAC.
Utah State 30-7
No. 56 Louisiana Tech at No. 54 Illinois
Louisiana Tech has scored exactly 56 points in its first two games and is ranked No. 56 in the Athlon Sports 124. Very interesting.
Louisiana Tech 31-23
No. 100 Army at No. 57 Wake Forest
Army is up to its old tricks: The Black Knights rank second in the nation in rushing (384.0 ypg) and No. 120 in passing (29.0 ypg). Wake must rebound after a humbling 52–0 loss at Florida State last weekend.
Wake Forest 30-10
No. 68 East Carolina at No. 58 North Carolina
North Carolina came extremely close to completing one of the great comebacks in college football history last weekend. The Tar Heels cut a 36–7 halftime deficit to 39–34 with 4:23 remaining. Louisville fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but North Carolina was unable to punch the ball in the end zone in the final minute. It will be interesting to see how this team responds.
North Carolina 27-10
No. 111 Central Michigan at No. 59 Iowa
Iowa is the only team in the nation that has not converted an extra point vs. another FBS opponent this season. That better not be the case after this week’s game vs. Central Michigan.
No. 84 Temple at No. 62 Penn State
Penn State struggled to beat Temple in Philadelphia last year, escaping with a 14–10 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. And that Nittany Lion team had far more talent than the 2012 version. But this game is at home, and I’d expect Penn State — with a win under its belt — to play well.
Penn State 24-13
No. 63 Connecticut at No. 79 Western Michigan
These two teams played one of the most exciting fourth quarters of the 2011 season. Western Michigan outscored UConn 21–14 in the final 15 minutes en route to a 38–31 win in West Hartford. The two quarterbacks, Johnny McEntree and Alex Carder, combined to throw for 779 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. Don’t expect as many fireworks this time around.
No. 65 Syracuse at No. 64 Minnesota
Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Coastal Carolina at No. 66 Toledo
Toledo is off to a solid start under first-year coach Matt Campbell. The Rockets aren’t quite as explosive on offense as a year ago, but they are 2–1 with the only loss coming in overtime at Arizona.
Gardner-Webb at No. 69 Pittsburgh
College football can be tough to figure out. The same Pittsburgh team that lost by 14 points at home to Youngstown State beat Virginia Tech by 18 points. How does that happen?
No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 70 Western Kentucky
The challenge for Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart this week — other than scoring more points than Southern Miss — is to keep his team grounded. The Hilltoppers have been the talk of the state after beating Kentucky in overtime in Lexington last week. If the Toppers can play with focus, they should pick up win No. 3.
Western Kentucky 27-23
No. 122 Memphis at No. 71 Duke
Duke should be halfway to bowl-eligibility at about 9 p.m. on Saturday night. Getting three more wins, however, will be a challenge for a program that hasn’t played in the postseason since 1995.
No. 73 Fresno State at No. 72 Tulsa
Fresno State delivered one of the epic beatings in recent memory last weekend. The Bulldogs led Colorado 35–0 after one quarter and 55–7 at the half on their way to a 69–14 win. Colorado is bad (obviously), but I think Fresno State is better than we think.
Fresno State 30-28
Alcorn State at No. 75 Arkansas State
Alcorn State has scored a total of nine points in its last two games, losses at James Madison and vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Braves will need to score about 40 to beat Arkansas State.
Arkansas State 40-3
No. 77 Ole Miss at No. 114 Tulane
Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Note to Hugh Freeze: Give Scott the ball.
Ole Miss 31-10
No. 112 Colorado at No. 80 Washington State
There is still a lot of football to be played, but Colorado is in the midst of an historically bad season. The Buffs are 0–3 with losses to Colorado State (which lost to an FCS team the next week), Sacramento State and Fresno State. And while there’s no shame in losing to Fresno State, there is plenty of shame in being down 35–0 at the end of one quarter.
Washington State 41-10
No. 90 Kansas at No. 81 Northern Illinois
Kansas is a 9-point underdog to a team from the MAC. That tells you all you need to know about how far this program has fallen in recent years. Just five years ago, the Jayhawks capped a 12–1 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois 31-30
No. 85 San Jose State at No. 88 San Diego State
San Jose State is very quietly having a solid season. The Spartans are 2–1, and the only loss came by three points at Stanford. This would be a huge win for Mike MacIntyre’s club.
San Jose State 30-27
VMI at No. 87 Navy
Navy should break into the win column this week, but the Midshipmen have not looked very good this year. The schedule has been relatively difficult — Notre Dame in Ireland and at Penn State — but they are averaging only 366.0 yards per game and have scored a total of 17 points.
No. 89 Rice at No. 94 Marshall
Rice is scoring some points this year — the Owls have averaged 28.7 against UCLA, Kansas and Louisiana Tech — but is also having trouble stopping the opposition. The Owls rank 117th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense.
No. 92 Air Force at No. 116 UNLV
Air Force leads the nation in rushing, averaging 387.0 yards in its two games, a win over Idaho State and a six-point loss at Michigan. The Falcons could run for 500 yards vs. UNLV.
Air Force 38-17
No 97 Troy at No. 102 North Texas
Troy rolled up 572 yards of offense against Mississippi State in a 30–24 loss last week. To put that in perspective, Auburn had 216 total yards the week before vs. MSU.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 99 Texas State
Texas State dips into the FCS ranks after splitting its first two games against in-state foes. The Bobcats stunned Houston in the opener before falling at Texas Tech 58–10.
Texas State 31-13
No. 123 UMass at No. 104 Miami (Ohio)
UMass’ first season in the FBS isn’t going too well. The Minutemen aren’t quite giving up a point per minute, but it’s close (48.3 ppg). Miami quarterback Zac Dysert should have a productive game.
Miami (Ohio) 37-10
No. 105 Wyoming at No. 124 Idaho
Wyoming’s season has taken several disappointing turns. After losing the opener at Texas (no shame), the Cowboys have lost consecutive games at home to Toledo and Cal Poly.
No. 117 New Mexico at No. 113 New Mexico State
New Mexico State has won three straight in the Battle for the Land of Enchantment. Neither team is very good, but the Aggies are not quite as bad.
New Mexico State 34-20
Last week: 58–9
By Mitch Light
College football’s fourth week of action features a huge showdown in the ACC Coastal Division, a big matchup in South Bend between Michigan and surging Notre Dame and key battle in the Big 12 between Kansas State and Oklahoma.
Clemson (+14) at Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game. Now, however, comes the first true test of the season. Clemson, also 3–0, is loaded with playmakers who will challenge the stout Florida State defense. The Tigers boast star power at quarterback (Tajh Boyd), running back (Andre Ellington) and wide receiver (Sammy Watkins). Last year, Clemson beat Florida State 35–30 in a game that featured two 300-yard passers (Boyd and Clint Trickett) and no 100-yard rushers. Establishing the running game will be key for both teams.
Florida State 34, Clemson 24
Michigan (+6) at Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games. The defensive front, which lost its best player in the spring when Aaron Lynch transferred to South Florida, was effective against both the pass and the run. This week, Notre Dame faces a dynamic offensive attack led by unconventional quarterback Denard Robinson. Last year, he threw for 338 yards and rushed for 108 in Michigan’s thrilling 35–31 win in Ann Arbor. Obviously, the Irish must do a better job controlling Robinson this time around. If you can take away his ability to run — which is easier said than done unless you are Alabama — you can limit the Michigan offense.
Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21
Kansas State (+14) at Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. Kansas State is once again undefeated, with all three wins coming at home by at least 14 points. It has to be a bit of a concern, however, that North Texas was able to score 21 points and pick up 353 yards of offense in last week’s game. The Oklahoma offense isn’t quite as potent as it was when these teams met last season, but the Sooners are still capable of scoring a bunch of points.
Oklahoma 36, Kansas State 21
Arizona (+23.5) at Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. After struggling a bit to beat Toledo in the opener — the Cats won 24–17 in overtime — Arizona pounded defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma State 59–38 and then rolled past FCS foe South Carolina State 56–0. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes. The Ducks have found their next great quarterback (redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota) and feature elite talent at the running back position. The Arizona defense has already faced two quality offensive teams (Toledo and Oklahoma State), but there is nothing quite like playing the mighty Ducks at cozy Autzen Stadium.
Oregon 48, Arizona 23
Missouri (+10) at South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State and is questionable for Saturday. Missouri obviously stands a better chance to win the game with Franklin at quarterback, but a big key for the Tigers will be the play of their makeshift offensive line. This group had trouble with Georgia’s defensive front in the loss two weeks ago. South Carolina’s defensive line, led by ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, presents a huge challenge.
South Carolina 21, Missouri 17
Oregon State (+8) at UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska. Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman, has been terrific at quarterback, and the Bruins are getting great production from tailback Johnathan Franklin, the nation’s leading rusher. The sample size — only one game — has been much smaller for Oregon State, but the Beavers have also been a surprise. They opened the season two weeks ago with a 10–7 win over Wisconsin at home. The Badgers clearly aren’t as good as we expected, but this is still a good win for a program that has suffered through two straight losing seasons.
Rutgers at Arkansas
In one of the low points in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks put up little fight in a 52–0 loss to Alabama. The Hogs, playing without quarterback Tyler Wilson, managed only 137 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per snap. (Last year, in a 38–14 loss to the Tide in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas averaged 3.9 yards per play.) Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). Arkansas is hoping to have Wilson back at quarterback — and they need him. Last week, Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell combined to complete 11-of-25 attempts for 79 yards. If Wilson plays, the pick is Arkansas. If he doesn’t, flip a coin.
Arkansas 28, Rutgers 24
Vanderbilt (+15.5) at Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia in a 33–28 loss in Nashville, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.
Georgia 28, Vanderbilt 10
Syracuse (-2) at Minnesota
Minnesota is favored vs. an AQ conference team for the first time since the 2009 Insight Bowl vs. Iowa State. The Gophers are 3–0, but it’s a rather soft 3–0. Their two wins against FBS teams are by three in triple OT at UNLV and by five at home vs. Western Michigan. Quarterback MarQueis Gray isn’t expected to start due to a sprained ankle, but that might not be a bad thing. Sophomore Max Shortell has played well in relief, combining to complete 15-of-23 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Syracuse 42, Minnesota 39
Utah (+7) at Arizona State
Give Utah a ton of credit. The Utes bounced back from a disappointing overtime loss at Utah State to beat hated rival BYU in the Holy War. And they did so without their projected starting quarterback (Jordan Wynn retired from football after suffering a shoulder injury vs. Utah State) and All-Pac-12 running back John White (injured). Arizona State is coming off its first loss of the season, a 24–20 setback in Columbia to a Missouri team playing without its starting quarterback (James Franklin). The Sun Devils had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes but had two drives deep in Mizzou territory end without points. We still don’t know too much about Arizona State. The Devils have played two AQ conference teams that didn’t have their No. 1 quarterback; they pounded Illinois at home and lost to Missouri on the road. We’ll know more after this weekend.
Arizona State 27, Utah 17
Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 21–9 overall (16–14 against the spread)
Week 4 action in the SEC is highlighted by the Battle of Columbia, Vanderbilt's trip to face Georgia and LSU's visit to Auburn.
Other Week 4 Previews and Predictions
SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4:
1. Todd Grantham vs. the Vanderbilt coaching staff
This is not a creation of the media: There is legitimately bad blood between the Vanderbilt coaching staff and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Last year’s game, won by Georgia 33–28 in Nashville, ended with Grantham and Commodore head coach James Franklin jawing near midfield before being separated by a Vanderbilt police officer. The Vanderbilt staff thought that some Georgia players, specifically safety Shawn Williams, were a bit too chippy during and immediately following the game. Grantham didn’t appreciate Franklin talking to his players on the field. Fortunately, no punches were thrown, but there is no denying this was a heated exchange.
Both parties are saying all the right things — Franklin recently joked that his family vacationed with the Granthams during the offseason — but there is no doubt there is some lingering animosity.
2. Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. the Georgia defense
Grantham’s defense will be facing a quarterback, junior Austyn Carta-Samuels, making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.
3. Can Arkansas beat an FBS opponent?
Arkansas was touted by some as a legitimate national championship contender during the offseason. Now, the Hogs are simply hoping to win a game. The Razorbacks are 0–2 vs. FBS competition, with a loss to UL Monroe in overtime and a 52–0 debacle against Alabama last Saturday. The good news is that Tyler Wilson likely will be back at quarterback after missing the Bama game with a concussion. The bad news is that Wilson can’t help a defense that is allowing 436.7 yards per game. The Hogs’ issues on defense will put pressure on the offense to score a bunch of points in virtually every game. And that could be a problem on Saturday. Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). This will be a significant test for Arkansas.
4. The Battle of Columbia
South Carolina and Missouri meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. All things equal, you probably have to give South Carolina the edge due to the location of the game (Columbia, S.C.) and the Gamecocks’ advantage on defense. But all things might not be equal. Both quarterbacks are nursing injuries. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Shaw will get the start on Saturday, but he has yet to complete a game this season. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State but is expected back on Saturday. South Carolina is better suited at this point to win with its No. 2 quarterback in the game. After struggling in a brief appearance in the opener against Vanderbilt, Dylan Thompson has been solid in relief of Shaw — albeit against inferior competition. Missouri’s backup, Corbin Berkstresser, played relatively well in the Tigers’ 24–20 win over Arizona State, but he is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap on the road.
5. Can Auburn be competitive?
Even the most ardent Auburn fan realizes it will be a tall order for the Tigers to beat mighty LSU this Saturday — even at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But it’s not too much for the Auburn faithful to expect their team to be more competitive against the elite programs in the league. The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago. Through three games, Auburn ranks 102nd in the nation in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. In the two games vs. AQ conference opponents (Clemson and Mississippi State), the Tigers have scored a total of one touchdown.
6. How ugly will get it in Gainesville?
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7. And barring a major reversal from both teams, Saturday’s game at Florida Field figures to be just as one-sided. Florida returns home with a ton of swagger after winning two tough SEC road games. The Gators played the finest game of the Will Muschamp era on Saturday night, surging past Tennessee 37–20 in Neyland Stadium. Kentucky, meanwhile, is fresh off a humbling overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky. UK has now lost to the other two FBS programs in the state of Kentucky. This is a tough spot for Joker Phillips and the wounded Wildcats.
7. Can Ole Miss get more touches for Jeff Scott?
Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Hugh Freeze acknowledged on Monday that he would like to get Scott, one of the few proven playmakers on the Ole Miss offense, more touches. But Scott is only 5-7 and 170 pounds, which can cause some problems when he is asked to get involved in protecting the quarterback. “If he’s in there for a consistent amount of time, we’re going to have to ask him to (pass protect) also,” Freeze said. “I don’t question Jeff’s or (tailback) Jaylen (Walton)’s heart at all with that. (But) we had defensive ends the other night (vs. Texas) that are 6-5 and 280 pounds.”
8. Can the Alabama defense pitch another shutout?
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season. This Saturday, the Tide will seeking their third straight shutout — something that hasn’t happened since 1966 — against a Florida Atlantic team that ranks 116th in the nation in scoring (14.7 ppg).
9. Bowden returns to the SEC … sort of
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. The Zips, 1–2 in ’12, visit Neyland Stadium on Saturday to a face a Tennessee team eager to get back on track after losing to Florida. “I’ve had the fortune of coaching in all the SEC venues,” Bowden said earlier this week. “And this is one of the most electric.” Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
10. Will Johnny Manziel ever throw a pick?
We don’t expect Manziel to navigate Texas A&M’s brutal SEC slate without making his share of mistakes, but the Aggies’ redshirt freshman quarterback is off to a great start. Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He is also a threat on the ground, with 184 yards rushing on 30 carries. “He’s a very talented guy,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said earlier this week. “He has to continue to work on moving from an athlete that’s playing quarterback to a quarterback that’s an athlete. And there’s a big difference.”
By Mitch Light
WEEK 4 SEC PREDICTIONS
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Ole Miss (-17.5) at Tulane||Ole Miss 21-7||Ole Miss 24-10||Ole Miss 40-14||Ole Miss 31-10|
|Kentucky (+24) at Florida||Florida 35-7||Florida 41-0||Florida 45-13||Florida 38-17|
|Missouri (+10) at South Carolina||South Carolina 28-14||South Carolina 35-24||South Carolina 31-20||South Carolina 21-17|
|Florida Atlantic (+49.5) at Alabama||Alabama 56-3||Alabama 41-0||Alabama 55-0||Alabama 45-0|
|Rutgers (+7) at Arkansas||Arkansas 21-17||Arkansas 34-20||Arkansas 28-20||Arkansas 28-24|
|LSU (-20.5) at Auburn||LSU 38-10||LSU 41-10||LSU 34-7||LSU 28-14|
|South Alabama (+34) at Mississippi State||Mississippi State 42-7||Mississippi State 35-7||Mississippi State 45-10||Mississippi State 42-10|
|S.C. State at Texas A&M||Texas A&M 45-10||Texas A&M 45-14||Texas A&M 58-0||Texas A&M 41-0|
|Akron (+35) at Tennessee||Tennessee 56-10||Tennessee 44-0||Tennessee 48-17||Tennessee 44-3|
|Vanderbilt (+16) at Georgia||Georgia 28-10||Georgia 34-10||Georgia 34-20||Georgia 28-10|
It was an interesting week in the SEC. Alabama made another huge statement with a convincing win at Arkansas, but the most noteworthy game took place in Knoxville. Florida was sensational in the second half of a 37-20 win over Tennessee. The Gators are already 2-0 in the SEC with both wins coming on the road.
Post-Week 3 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 842 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw for a career-high 342 yards in the Bulldogs’ win over FAU last weekend.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — The Gators’ rejuvenated offense has leaned on Gillislee in key road wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee. Saturday night in Knoxville, he ran for 115 yards on 18 carries, and he leads the SEC after three games with 346 yards.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The Texas high school legend has been terrific through two games for the Aggies. He has thrown for 467 yards and four touchdowns (with no INTs) and has added 184 yards and three scores on the ground.
Post-Week 3 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones remains on top of the this list despite sitting out the FAU game with an injury. The junior outside linebacker has emerged as one of the most disruptive forces in the nation.
2. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State — Banks is one of the nation’s premier cornerbacks. He has two interceptions and 12 total tackles for the 3–0 Bulldogs.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker has been a consistent force on the dominant Alabama defense. He had five tackles in the Tide’s 52–0 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
Post-Week 3 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — He is the coach of the nearly unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. His offense is brutally efficient, and his defense is dominant.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — Two weeks ago, many were wondering if Muschamp was the right fit in Gainesville. Now, after two come-from-behind wins on the road in league play, he is being mentioned as a possible SEC Coach of the Year.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs survived a Week 2 scare at Missouri and then returned home and pounded Florida Atlantic. This team remains the favorite to win the SEC East.
Post-Week 3 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 3 result: Beat Arkansas 52-0
In one of the most impressive performances of the Nick Saban era, Alabama routed the Tyler Wilson-less Razorbacks with surprising ease. Bama outgained Arkansas 438-to-137 with a balanced offense (200-plus yards passing and rushing) and a dominating defense that allowed an average of only 2.2 yards per play. The Crimson Tide has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season.
Next Game: FAU
2. LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 3 result: Beat Idaho 63-14
LSU completed its season-opening three-game homestand with its third straight blowout victory. The Tigers blew open a relatively close game — they only led 21–14 late in the second quarter vs. the winless Vandals — by scoring the final six touchdowns of the game. Zach Mettenberger, making his third career start, completed 17-of-22 passes for 22 yards and two touchdowns. LSU has now won an NCAA FBS record 40 straight regular-season non-conference games.
Next Game: Auburn
3. Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 3 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 56-20
Georgia averaged a staggering 11.3 yards per play on the way to setting a single-game school record with 713 total yards in the easy win over Florida Atlantic. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray threw for a career-high 342 yards (on only 19 attempts) and two running backs, true freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, topped the 100-yard mark despite each getting only 10 carries. Georgia has scored more than 40 points in its first three games for the first time in school history.
Next Game: Vanderbilt
4. Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 3 result: Beat Tennessee 37-20
Since struggling to beat Bowling Green in Week 1, Florida has been one of the most impressive teams in the nation. First the Gators won at Texas A&M in the Aggies’ first-ever SEC game. Then, on Saturday night, Florida dominated Tennessee in the second half on its way to an eighth straight victory over the Volunteers. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was sharp (he threw 219 yards on 20 attempts), but the Gators did most of their work on the ground. Mike Gillislee gained 115 yards on 18 carries to lead a running attack that gained 336 yards on 43 attempts. The Gators are the only team in the nation with two conference wins.
Next Game: Kentucky
5. South Carolina (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 3 result: Beat UAB 49-6
The Gamecocks cruised to their second straight lopsided win at home, pulling away in the second half to defeat UAB 49-6. After struggling on offense in the season-opening win over Vanderbilt, South Carolina has topped the 500-yard mark in consecutive games. Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. South Carolina has only given up two touchdowns in 12 quarters this season.
Next Game: Missouri
6. Mississippi State (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 3 result: Beat Troy 30-24
Mississippi State is 3–0 for the first time since 1999 after holding on to beat Troy on the road. It was a big night for two Bulldog skill players: Tailback LaDarius Perkins rushed for 179 yards on 23 carries, and wide receiver Chad Bumphis became the first MSU player with three touchdown catches since 1969. Bumphis caught six passes for 180 yards. The Bulldogs gave up 572 total yards but won the turnover battle 4-to-0.
Next Game: South Alabama
7. Missouri (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 3 result: Beat Arizona State 24-20
Playing with a backup quarterback in front of a patchwork offensive line, Missouri gutted out a four-point win over a solid Arizona State team Saturday night. Corbin Berkstresser made his first career start in place of the injured James Franklin, and the redshirt freshman from Lee’s Summit, Mo., completed 26-of-46 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown. This game, however, was won on defense. The Tigers forced four turnovers and held an Arizona State offense that topped 500 yards in its first two games to 296 yards.
Next Game: at South Carolina
8. Texas A&M (1-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 3 result: Beat SMU 48-3
The Aggies bounced back from the emotional loss at home to Florida in the school’s SEC debut by rolling past SMU in Dallas with ease. Redshirt freshman Johny Manziel was sensational for Texas A&M, throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns and adding 124 yards and two scores on the ground. The Aggies struggled a bit in the first quarter, but scored touchdowns on seven of eight drives during one stretch — four of which that went for 70 yards or longer.
Next Game: South Carolina State
9. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 3 result: Lost to Florida 37-20
The Volunteers weren’t quite ready for the national stage. In the most anticipated game of the Derek Dooley era, Tennessee watched Florida score the game’s final 24 points — including two on touchdowns that covered at least 75 yards — of a disheartening 37–20 loss. Tennessee struggled to run the ball, averaging only 3.0 yards on 28 rushing attempts. Conversely, Florida ran for 336 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per rush.
Next Game: Akron
10. Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 3 result: Beat UL Monroe 31-28 in OT
Auburn averted disaster — and its first 0–3 start since 1950 — by edging giant killer UL Monroe in overtime. The biggest positive for the Tigers was a running game that picked up 255 yards on 42 carries. Onterio McCalebb led the way with 128 yards on 11 carries, and Tre Mason added 90 yards on 22 carries. Kiehl Frazier continued to struggle at quarterback. The sophomore completed 10-of-18 passes for 130 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Those aren’t bad numbers, but the Tigers would like see more production against a Sun Belt foe.
Next Game: at LSU
11. Arkansas (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 3 result: Lost to Alabama 52-0
In one of the low points in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks put up little fight in a 52–0 loss to Alabama on national television. The Hogs, playing without quarterback Tyler Wilson, managed only 137 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per snap. Brandon Allen went 10-of-18 for 60 yards and two interceptions, and Brandon Mitchell, last year’s backup quarterback who had moved to receiver, completed 1-of-7 for 19 yards.
Next Game: Rutgers
12. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 3 result: Beat Presbyterian 58-0
The Commodores broke into the win column with an easy victory over FCS foe Presbyterian. The Commodores scored on their first nine possessions and rolled up over 600 yards of offense en route to their most decisive win since blanking The Citadel 58–0 in 1999. In a surprising move, second-year coach James Franklin went with junior Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback in favor of senior Jordan Rodgers. Carta-Samuels, a transfer from Wyoming, completed 13-of-20 for 195 yards and one touchdown.
Next Game: at Georgia
13. Ole Miss (2-1, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 3 result: Lost to Texas 66-31
After starting the Hugh Freeze era with two wins over inferior competition, Ole Miss was ambushed at home by a Texas offense that totaled 676 yards. The Rebels had success of their own on offense — they had nearly 400 yards and 31 points against one of the nation’s top defenses — but had no answer for the balanced Longhorn attack. Texas rushed 350 yards and threw for 326 more.
Next Game: at Tulane
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 4 result: Lost to Western Kentucky 32-31 in OT
Joker Phillips' worst fears became a reality: His team lost at home to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers were in control for most of the night — they held leads of 17–0 and 24–10 — but Kentucky forced overtime by scoring on a 22-yard touchdown strike from Maxwell Smith to DeMarcus Sweat in the final minute. That, however, just delayed the agony for UK fans, who watched in horror as WKU converted a 2-point conversion for the win after scoring a touchdown in the first overtime session. Kentucky has now lost to the other two FBS schools in the state. Not good for Joker.
Next Game: at Florida
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College football's third weekend of action is highlighted by Notre Dame’s trip to Michigan State and a huge showdown in the SEC East. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 78 Washington State at No. 115 UNLV
Mike Leach and the struggling Cougars take their show to Sin City this weekend. Wazzu likely will send out Connor Halliday at quarterback due to a knee injury to starter Jeff Tuel.
Washington State 27-13
No. 1 Alabama at No. 34 Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.
No. 2 USC at No. 24 Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level.
No. 124 Idaho at No. 3 LSU
Idaho is 0–2 with a 20–3 loss at home to Eastern Washington and a 21–13 loss at Bowling Green. The Vandals have scored one touchdown in eight quarters. They will have one touchdown after 12 quarters.
Tennessee Tech at No. 4 Oregon
Oregon is the far superior team, but the best wide receiver in the game will be wearing a Tennessee Tech uniform. Da’Rick Rogers, an All-SEC pick last year while at Tennessee, has caught eight passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns in his two games with the Golden Eagles.
No. 48 California at No. 6 Ohio State
Cal’s defense has been a disappointment through two games, giving up an average of 410.5 yards and 31.0 points against Nevada (loss) and Southern Utah (win). This was looking like a potential upset back in August. Not anymore.
Ohio State 28-14
No. 121 FAU at No. 7 Georgia
After an emotional win at Missouri last week, the Bulldogs return home to face one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. This will be an easy win.
No. 53 Wake Forest at No. 8 Florida State
The betting line, FSU by 24 points, seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team.
Florida State 30-17
No. 9 Texas at No. 72 Ole Miss
Ole Miss sophomore Bo Wallace has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback for first-year coach Huge Freeze. The junior college transfer has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 438 yards with five touchdowns and one interception and has also rushed for 135 yards and two scores. Those stats, however, were accumulated against Central Arkansas and UTEP. Now, the Tennessee native will test his mettle against a ferocious Texas defense that has allowed a total of 17 points in two games.
James Madison at No. 10 West Virginia
James Madison has allowed only one touchdown in two games this season. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns in its only game this season.
West Virginia 44-17
No. 109 UAB at No. 11 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier has been quick to point out that first-year UAB head coach Garrick McGee experienced a ton of success against South Carolina while the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. UAB, however, doesn’t have Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, Greg Childs, Joe Adams, etc. on its roster.
South Carolina 38-0
Furman at No. 12 Clemson
Furman has lost its first two games by a total of five points, including a 47–45 triple-overtime thriller to Coastal Carolina last week. The Paladins won’t have to worry about a close loss this week.
No. 16 Notre Dame at No. 13 Michigan State
The key for Notre Dame will be its ability to slow down Le’Veon Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State two weeks ago. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field.
Michigan State 27-21
No. 123 UMass at No. 14 Michigan
UMass is an FBS team in name only. The Minutemen are 0–2 and have lost their two games by a combined score of 78–6. They are also one of two teams in the nation (joining Iowa) that does not have an extra point.
No. 15 Virginia Tech at No. 99 Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s season has been a disaster. The Panthers opened with a demoralizing loss at home to Youngstown State and then looked bad in a 34–10 loss to Big East rival Cincinnati last Thursday night. Paul Chryst needs something to go well this weekend.
Virginia Tech 27-17
No. 17 TCU at No. 84 Kansas
TCU ventures into Big 12 play with a trip to Lawrence to play the worst team in the league. The Jayhawks lost last week at home to a Rice team that gave up 646 yards to UCLA at home in a Week 1 loss.
No. 54 Louisville at No. 18 Louisville
The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game.
No. 29 Florida at No. 19 Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference.
No. 100 Miami (Ohio) at No. 20 Boise State
Ready for a misleading stat? Boise State ranks 120th in the nation in total offense with 206 yards per game. The Broncos have played one game — on the road at Michigan State, one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Boise State 40-17
No. 101 Houston at No. 21 UCLA
It’s arguably the nation’s most disappointing team (Houston) vs. the most surprising team (UCLA). The Bruins have been putting up Houston-like offensive numbers, ranking third in the nation in total offense (649.5 ypg) and 18th in scoring (42.5 ppg).
No. 103 North Texas at No. 22 Kansas State
K-State is fresh off one of the most impressive victories of the young college football season, a 52–13 win over Miami (Fla.) in Manhattan. The Wildcats will be 3–0 when they head to Norman next weekend.
Kansas State 31-10
No. 65 Arkansas State at No. 23 Nebraska
It should be noted that Arkansas State did a bunch of damage during garbage time in its Week 1 loss at Oregon, but the Red Wolves are averaging 574.5 yards per game. They will move the ball on Nebraska, which has given up over 900 yards total in its two games.
South Carolina State at No. 25 Arizona
The Wildcats can relax this week before a brutal six-game stretch that features road trips to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA and home dates with Oregon State, Washington and USC.
No. 70 UL Lafayette at No. 26 Oklahoma State
These teams met last September in Stillwater in a game that featured 986 yards of offense (666 by O-State) and 95 points (61 by the Pokes). The scoring might be down a bit this time around.
Oklahoma State 44-28
Portland State at No. 27 Washington
The Huskies need a get-well game after their humbling trip to Baton Rouge. They picked up a total of 183 yards in a 41–3 loss.
Northwestern State at No. 30 Nevada
Nevada would be 2–0 with wins over two AQ conference teams if it hadn’t given up two touchdown passes of 50-plus yards in the final three minutes in last week’s 32–31 loss to South Florida.
No. 31 Mississippi State at No. 105 Troy
The Bulldogs have struggled in recent years with some teams from so-called lesser conferences. They beat Louisiana Tech last season and UAB in 2010 by an average of 5.5 points and lost to Houston 31–24 in ’09 and Louisiana Tech 22–14 in ’08. Dan Mullen is well aware of what his team can accomplish this season and will do everything in his power to be sure the Bulldogs are mentally ready to take care of business at the venue formerly known as Movie Gallery Stadium.
Mississippi State 33-14
No. 46 Arizona State at No. 32 Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game.
No. 33 Texas A&M at No. 94 SMU
The Aggies are no doubt disappointed with their loss to Florida in the school’s SEC debut, but they had to like what they saw from redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The Texas high school legend threw for 173 yards and added 60 on the ground and did not turn the ball over.
Texas A&M 38-20
No. 37 Virginia at No. 35 Georgia Tech
This is pretty much a must win for Georgia Tech if it hopes to compete with Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal Division title. The Yellow Jackets are already 0–1 in the league after losing at Virginia Tech in the opener. Virginia is 2–0 but struggled a bit in last week’s 17–16 win over Penn State at home. The Cavs will have to play better to be a factor in the ACC.
Georgia Tech 28-21
No. 36 BYU at No. 62 Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly gone as planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. BYU will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by its hated rivals from Salt Lake City.
Sam Houston State at No. 38 Baylor
Sam Houston State is 1–0 with a 54–7 win over Incarnate Word. I don’t think Incarnate Word is very good.
Western Illinois at No. 39 Iowa State
Iowa State will be halfway to bowl-eligibility after beating Western Illinois on Saturday. But then the fun begins — a stretch of nine straight Big 12 games.
Iowa State 37-7
No. 40 Ohio at No. 92 Marshall
There was no letdown for Ohio last week after its big win at Penn State on opening day. The Bobcats rolled past New Mexico State 51–24. Their third win should come this Saturday in Huntington.
No. 119 South Alabama at No. 41 NC State
NC State gutted out a 10–7 win at Connecticut last week, but the Wolfpack have to be a bit worried about an offense that picked up only 258 yards.
NC State 41-10
No. 61 Utah State at No. 43 Wisconsin
One team is fresh off one of its best wins in school history. The other must regroup after a surprising loss on the road. Utah State snapped a 12-game losing streak to hated rival Utah, knocking off the Utes, 27–20, in overtime Friday night. I smell upset.
Utah State 24-23
No. 66 UL-Monroe at No. 44 Auburn
This game Saturday features one of the nation’s hottest quarterbacks (Kolton Browning) vs. one of the most maligned (Kiehl Frazier). Browning, a former 3-star recruit (Scout) who had no BCS offers, threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 69 more and one score in the Warhawks’ thrilling overtime win at Arkansas last weekend. Meanwhile, Frazier, a consensus top-100 national recruit two years ago, is struggling mightily in his first season as the starter.
No. 77 Boston College at No. 45 Northwestern
Northwestern in the only school from an AQ conference to open the season with three non-league games vs. AQ conference opponents. The Wildcats beat the first two, Syracuse and Vanderbilt, and should make it No. 3 on Saturday.
Delaware State at No. 49 Cincinnati
Munchie Legaux was outstanding in the Bearcats’ Week 2 win over Pittsburgh, throwing for 205 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 117 yards on only six carries. Expect more fireworks this week.
No. 116 New Mexico at No. 50 Texas Tech
Texas Tech’s soft early season schedule continues with a visit from New Mexico, which lost 45–0 at Texas last week. The Lobos completed only six passes vs. the Longhorns.
Texas Tech 41-14
Presbyterian at No. 51 Vanderbilt
The Commodores have held leads in the fourth quarter in both games this season but have nothing to show for it. They will break into the win column this Saturday.
Charleston Southern at No. 52 Illinois
Charleston Southern is 0–2 and has lost its two games by a total of 56 points. Illinois has some issues, but the Fighting Illini will roll.
Northern Iowa at No. 55 Iowa
Iowa is one of only three teams nationally that has played two games but scored only one touchdown. The Hawkeyes also rank in a tie for second with six field goals.
No. 111 Eastern Michigan at No. 56 Purdue
Purdue fell short last week at Notre Dame, losing 20–17 on a late field goal, but the Boilermakers will be a tough out in the Big Ten. This is team that is capable of winning eight games.
Bethune-Cookman at No. 57 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes have given up 84 points in two games this season. The 2001 Canes, who won the national title, gave up 117 for the entire season.
No. 71 Navy at No. 58 Penn State
Bill O’Brien is still searching for his first win as the head coach at Penn State. He should find it this weekend.
Penn State 17-13
No. 59 Louisiana Tech at No. 83 Rice
Louisiana Tech gave up 693 yards last week yet still beat Houston thanks to an offense that scored 56 points and rolled up 598 yards. It will be a surprise if the Bulldogs don’t top 500 yards against Rice.
Louisiana Tech 44-20
Stony Brook at No. 60 Syracuse
Ryan Nassib has thrown for a total of 804 yards and six touchdowns in two games, but the Orange have yet to win a game. They lost to Northwestern 42–41 at home and then dropped a 42–29 decision to USC at the Meadowlands.
No. 63 UConn at No. 79 Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season.
No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 64 Minnesota
This is a good measuring stick for Minnesota. We think the Gophers are improved, but this will be a nice test. Western Michigan is good enough to win this game if Jerry Kill’s club doesn’t play well.
No. 102 Western Kentucky at No. 67 Kentucky
After losing its first two games in the series by an average of 36.5 points (in ’08 and ’10), Western Kentucky made the boys from Big State U sweat in last season’s opener played in Nashville. The final score was 14–3, but Kentucky didn’t put the game away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
No. 86 Bowling Green at No. 68 Toledo
Toledo bounced back from a tough overtime loss at Arizona to defeat a solid Wyoming club 34–31 on the road. Bowling Green unexpectedly struggled with Idaho (the Falcons won 21–13) after giving Florida trouble in Week 1.
No. 87 FIU at No. 69 UCF
FIU has been a disappointment through the first two games of the season. The Golden Panthers were blown out at Duke by 20 (and Duke went on to lose badly at Stanford) and then had to go to overtime to beat Akron at home.
North Carolina Central at No. 73 Duke
Duke expected to be a bit more competitive last week at Stanford, but the Blue Devils were soundly beaten (50–13) in Palo Alto. They threw for 363 yards but managed only 37 rushing yards.
No. 81 East Carolina at No. 74 Southern Miss
We still don’t know too much about this Southern Miss team. The Golden Eagles have only played once and gave up 632 yards en route to a 49–20 loss at Nebraska.
Southern Miss 34-28
Nicholls State at No. 75 Tulsa
Nichols State picked up a grand total of 118 yards in its only game this season, a 9–3 loss at South Alabama. This will get out of hand very early.
No. 82 Northern Illinois at No. 97 Army
Northern Illinois isn’t usually known for its defense, but the Huskies have only given up two touchdowns in two games this season — an 18–17 loss to Iowa in Chicago and a 35–7 win over Tennessee-Martin.
Northern Illinois 31-13
No. 110 Colorado at No. 85 Fresno State
The optimist points to the fact that Colorado has lost its two games — vs. Colorado State in Denver and Sacramento State at home — by a total of five points. The realist points to the fact that Colorado is not good at football.
Fresno State 30-17
No. 114 New Mexico State at No. 88 UTEP
UTEP is struggling to score points. The Miners have one offensive touchdown and are averaging 283.0 yards per game. It might be time to panic if they have trouble scoring this weekend.
No. 107 Colorado State at No. 89 San Jose State
Colorado State’s Week 1 win over rival Colorado was followed up by a sobering 22–7 loss at home to North Dakota State. San Jose State continues to improve under third-year coach Mike MacIntyre. This is a game the Spartans should win.
San Jose State 24-13
No. 104 Ball State at No. 91 Indiana
I realize that Ball State beat IU on a neutral field last year, but it has to be alarming for Kevin Wilson that his team is only a three-point favorite at home to a middle-of-the-pack (at best) team from the MAC.
North Dakota at No. 94 San Diego State
Ryan Katz, a former starter at Oregon State, is off to a solid start in his only season with the Aztecs. He has completed 24-of-40 passes for 343 yards and two scores and has added 86 yards rushing.
San Diego State 33-10
Cal Poly at No. 95 Wyoming
Wyoming let one get away last week in a loss at home to Toledo. Those are the type of games the Cowboys need to win to reach a bowl game.
Lamar at No. 108 Hawaii
Hawaii makes its home debut with native Hawaiian Norm Chow as the head coach. The Warriors lost in Week 1 at USC, 49–10.
Morgan State at No. 120 Akron
Akron showed significant improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. After losing at home 56–14 to UCF, the Zips took FIU to overtime before losing 41–38 on the road. This week, Terry Bowden’s club will break through.
No. 118 Middle Tennessee at No. 122 Memphis
For the second straight week, Middle Tennessee is involved in a game that features two of the worst 10 teams in the nation (according to our rankings). Unlike last week, the Blue Raiders won’t win.
Last week: 52–17
— By Mitch Light
UConn named Kevin Ollie to replace Jim Calhoun as the Huskies’ head coach. But Ollie was only given a one-year contract. If the school opts to go in another direction after the 2012-13 season, here are some likely candidates.
Shaka Smart, head coach, VCU
Smart is one of the most respected young coaches in the game. He has an overall record of 84–28 and a 38–16 mark in the Colonial in three seasons at VCU. He is best known for taking the ’10-12 Rams to the Final Four, but his most impressive accomplishment has to be guiding last year’s team, which had to replace four key seniors, to a 15–3 record in the CAA.
Brad Stevens, head coach, Butler
He’s considered by many college basketball observers to be among the top five coaches in the game. Stevens led Butler the National Championship game in two consecutive seasons and has an overall record of 139–40 in five years. Butler is making the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 in 2012-13, but the program is well-equipped to remain competitive in its new league with Stevens running the show.
Dan Hurley, head coach, Rhode Island
Hurley lacks experience — he’s only been a collegiate head coach for two seasons — but he could be a top candidate if he enjoys some degree of success in his first year at Rhode Island. He inherited a Wagner program that went 5–26 in ’09-10 and two years later led the Seahawks to a school-record 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Northeast Conference. He is a New Jersey native who spent 10 successful years as a high school coach.
Buzz Williams, head coach, Marquette
Williams has been a consistent winner at Marquette, with an overall record of 96–44 and a 46–26 record in the Big East. He has led all four of his Golden Eagle teams to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16. He has rebuffed overtures from other high-major programs in recent seasons.
Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is entering his second season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Marquette in the Round of 32.
Frank Martin, head coach, South Carolina
Martin recently made the move from Kansas State — which he guided to the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons — to South Carolina, where he faces a significant rebuilding project. He might be an attractive candidate to UConn if he does well in his first season in Columbia.
Anthony Grant, head coach, Alabama
Grant has a decent record in three seasons at Alabama — he is 63–39 overall and 27–21 in the SEC — but has only been to the NCAA Tournament once with the Tide. He did take VCU to the NCAAs twice in his three years with the Rams and had a 45–9 record in the Colonial. He is an outstanding recruiter.
Keep an eye on …
Neither Ralph Willard at Seton Hall or Mike Rice at Rutgers has done enough at their current jobs to warrant much interest from UConn, but either coach could emerge as a viable candidate with a breakthrough season. Both enjoyed success at previous stops — Willard at Iona and Rice at Robert Morris.
— By Mitch Light
Florida(+3) at Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference. Tennessee has looked sharp in both games — a win over NC State in Atlanta and a lopsided victory over hapless Georgia State — but Florida is the more battle-tested of the two teams. The Gators’ offense is still an issue, but there were signs of progress in the 20–17 win at Texas A&M on Saturday. The story of the game, though, was the Florida defense. After giving up three drives of more than 70 yards in the first half, UF limited A&M to a total of 65 yards in the second half. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray might be the most physically gifted quarterback in the nation, but he has yet to lead his team to a victory against a quality opponent with an elite defense.
Florida 24, Tennessee 21
Alabama (-21) at Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. To make matters worse, All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson might not play due to an injury suffered in the Monroe game. Alabama, meanwhile, is rolling right along. The Crimson Tide improved to 2–0 with a 35–0 win over Western Kentucky and looks like the best team in the country after two weeks. This trip to Fayetteville will be Bama’s first true road game, so don’t be surprised if the Tide struggles a bit — even if Wilson doesn’t play for Arkansas. In the end, though, Alabama will prevail.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 17
Notre Dame (+4) at Michigan State
For the first time since 2005, both Notre Dame and Michigan State are undefeated for their annual early season showdown. Michigan State moved to 2–0 with a 41–7 win in its first-ever visit to Central Michigan. Le’Veon Bell was “held” to 70 yards on 18 carries after exploding for 210 against Boise State. Notre Dame gutted out a 20–17 win over an underrated Purdue club that features an outstanding defensive front. The Irish had trouble running the ball, but Everett Golson and Tommy Rees combined to throw for 324 yards and one touchdown. The key for Notre Dame, however, will be on defense and its ability to slow down Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field.
Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 21
USC (-9) at Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level. USC’s defense, however, was a bit of a disappointment last week. The Trojans surrendered 455 yards to Syracuse in a 42–29 win over the Orange at the Meadowlands. We knew this wasn’t going to be one of the premier defenses in the nation, but those numbers are a bit alarming. Stanford bounced back from a lethargic Week 1 win over San Jose State by dominating Duke 50–13 in Palo Alto. The Cardinal have won three straight in this series. They won’t get to No. 4.
USC 38, Stanford 24
Arizona State (+7) at Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game. Missouri played well for much of the game but was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs’ front seven on defense in the fourth quarter. The Tigers won’t face the same type of defensive pressure this week, which is good news for the banged up Mizzou offensive line. If quarterback James Franklin has ample time to operate, the Tigers should get back in the win column this weekend.
Missouri 30, Arizona State 24
Wake Forest (+25) at Florida State
This line seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team. The Deacons had trouble running the ball vs. UNC, but Tanner Price completed 27-of-38 for 327 yards to lead the passing attack. Florida State has won its two games by a combined score of 124–3, but the two wins came against FCS opponents. We think this is a very good FSU team, but we won’t know for sure until the Noles play a few schools that hand out more than 65 scholarships. After Wake, Florida State hosts Clemson and then travels to South Florida and NC State. It’s a crucial stretch for the preseason ACC favorites.
Florida State 30, Wake Forest 17
Connecticut (-2.5) at Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season. The Terps are 2–0 in ’12, but the wins have come against William & Mary (by one) and Temple (by nine). There is some quality young talent on the roster — and the Terps are starting a true freshman quarterback (Perry Hills) — but the program has a long way to go to be relevant in the ACC. UConn has split its first two games, dominating UMass 37–0 in Week 1 before dropping a 10–7 decision to NC State at home last weekend. The sample size is small (and the first opponent was dreadful), but the Huskies have been stout on defense so far in 2012. That, combined with Maryland’s struggles on offense, gives UConn the advantage in this classic Big East vs. ACC showdown.
UConn 13, Maryland 10
BYU (-4) at Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. That leaves senior Jon Hays (12-of-26 vs. Utah State) as the starter with true freshman Travis Wilson being used as a change-of-pace option. BYU, on the other hand, has looked very good in wins at home vs. Washington State (30–6) and Weber State (45–13). The Cougars will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by their hated rivals from Salt Lake City.
BYU 24, Utah 14
North Carolina (+3.5) at Louisville
North Carolina’s hopes of contending in the ACC Coastal took a big hit with a surprising loss at Wake Forest on Saturday. The Tar Heels are ineligible to play in the league’s title game, but there was a belief among many — including Athlon Sports — that they could challenge Virginia Tech in the division. That, however, will be difficult after Saturday’s loss. Louisville remains the favorite in the Big East. The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game.
Louisville 24, North Carolina 20
Rutgers (+9) at South Florida (Thu.)
Once again, South Florida is off to a strong start. The Bulls improved to 2–0 with an impressive come-from-behind win over a solid Nevada team in Reno. Now, the Bulls need to sustain this strong play throughout the course of the season — something they haven’t been able to do in recent years. Rutgers is 2–0, but the Scarlet Knights haven’t been overly impressive in wins over Tulane (a bad FBS team) and Howard (a mediocre FCS team). The Scarlet Knights are only averaging 315 yards per game (ranks 100th in the nation), an alarmingly low number given the level of competition. Jawan Jamison has looked good running the ball (222 yards on 28 carries), but nothing else has really stood out about the RU attack.
South Florida 24, Rutgers 16
Last week: 6–4 overall (4–6 against the spread)
Season: 15–5 overall (11–9 against the spread)
— by Mitch Light
College football's second weekend of action is highlighted by three key games in the SEC. Here's a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 32 Utah at No. 85 Utah State
Utah has won 12 straight over its in-state rivals from Logan, and only two games have been decided by 10 points or less. But it would be a surprise if this one got away from the Aggies, especially on their home field. Not sure if Utah State can win, but it should be close.
No. 102 Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama
They’ve won eight of their last nine games dating back to the 2011 season with the only loss coming against LSU. No, not Alabama. We’re talking about Western Kentucky, which was the only seven-win team last season that did not go to a bowl game.
No. 2 USC vs. No. 62 Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Syracuse rolled up 596 yards of offense against Northwestern in Week 1 at home — and lost. Now, they head to the Meadowlands to face one of the elite teams in the nation. The Orange might have some success through the air against the USC defense, but they will have a very difficult time slowing down the dynamic — and balanced — Trojan attack.
No. 24 Washington at No. 3 LSU
Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers.
No. 83 Fresno State at No. 4 Oregon
The most important thing that we learned in Oregon’s Week 1 win over Arkansas State? That the quarterback’s last name is pronounced MAR-ee-oh-tah.
Florida A&M at No. 5 Oklahoma
Florida A&M scored 14 points last week against Tennessee State. The Rattlers will probably need to score about 50 to win this game. Don’t see that happening.
No. 61 UCF at No. 6 Ohio State
UCF boasts some quality talent on offense. The Knights have an outstanding quarterback (Blake Bortles) and deep backfield that includes former Miami Hurricane Storm Johnson. This game could be interesting into the second half.
Ohio State 31-14
No. 7 Georgia at No. 29 Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo.
Savannah State at No. 8 Florida State
Savannah State’s march of death continues. Last week, the Tigers fell behind Oklahoma State 35–0 after one quarter en route to an 84–0 loss that could have been much, much worse. This week, Savannah State makes the short trip to Tallahassee. This, too, will get very ugly.
Florida State 58-0
No. 116 New Mexico at No. 9 Texas
The Bob Davie era got off to a nice start with a 66–21 win over Southern. Now, however, the real fun starts for the Lobos. They play five of their next seven on the road, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Austin.
No. 71 East Carolina at No. 11 South Carolina
Conner Shaw is questionable for Saturday’s home opener after suffering a bruise to his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Vanderbilt. If Shaw can’t go, sophomore Dylan Thompson would be the next man up. The South Carolina offense sputtered with Thompson in the game last Thursday. He went 0-of-3 (and didn’t come close) and was sacked twice. This could be a struggle if Shaw isn’t healthy.
South Carolina 28-10
No. 101 UL-Monroe at No. 12 Arkansas
Arkansas struggled a bit in the first half with Jacksonville State before pulling away for a 49–24 win. The Hogs had trouble, at times, stopping the Gamecocks’ passing attack. UL-Monroe features a solid quarterback (junior Kolton Browning) and some experienced playmakers at wide receiver. The Hogs’ secondary could be tested.
No. 13 Nebraska at No. 42 UCLA
It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis.
No. 104 Ball State at No. 14 Clemson
Andre Ellington played his way into some (very) early Heisman talk by rushing for 231 yards in the Tigers’ win against Auburn. He can remain in the conversation with a big game against the Cardinals.
No. 91 Air Force at No. 15 Michigan
The Wolverines need a get-well game after their humbling loss to Alabama at Cowboys Stadium. I’m guessing that Denard Robinson will have more than 27 yards rushing.
Austin Peay at No. 16 Virginia Tech
The Hokies’ secondary doesn’t figure to be threatened too much this weekend. Austin Peay threw for 11 yards in a season-opening 49–10 loss at Western Kentucky.
Virginia Tech 61-0
No. 17 Michigan State at No. 111 Central Michigan
Michigan State makes its first-ever trip to Central Michigan in a game that is expected to set an attendance record at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Chippewas’ coach, Dan Enos, was a starting quarterback at Michigan State in 1989-90.
Michigan State 38-10
No. 18 Oklahoma State at No. 51 Arizona
Somehow, Arizona only scored 17 points in regulation vs. Toledo last week despite rolling up 599 yards of offense through the four quarters. The Wildcats will need to be far more efficient this weekend against a powerful Oklahoma State team that puts points on the board in a hurry.
Oklahoma State 34-20
No. 53 Purdue at No. 19 Notre Dame
The matchup to watch in South Bend will be Purdue’s underrated defensive tackle tandem of Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston vs. Notre Dame’s interior offensive line.
Notre Dame 28-17
Grambling at No. 20 TCU
TCU begins its 2012 season after sitting out Week 1 with a bye. Grambling is 0-1 after losing at Alcorn State 22–21.
No. 21 Wisconsin at No. 59 Oregon State
Wisconsin’s 26–21 win over Northern Iowa was a little too close for comfort. Danny O’Brien played well in his debut at quarterback, but the Badgers did not run the ball as efficiently as usual. Montee Ball topped the 100-yard mark but averaged only 3.8 yards on his 32 carries. Oregon State is making its 2012 debut.
Missouri State at No. 22 Louisville
Louisville is feeling pretty good about itself after dominating rival Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. Teddy Bridgewater was terrific at quarterback, and two running backs (Senoris Perry and Jeremy Wright) ran for more than 100 yards.
Georgia State at No. 25 Tennessee
After an impressive Week 1 win over NC State in Atlanta,
the Vols return home to Neyland Stadium for what will be a stress-free Saturday. Georgia State poses absolutely no threat.
No. 33 South Florida at No. 26 Nevada
Cody Fajardo did his best Colin Kaepernick impersonation last week, throwing for 230 yards and rushing for 97 in the Wolf Pack’s 31–24 win at Cal. South Florida held Chattanooga to 151 total yards in a 34¬13 win last week.
No. 43 Miami (Fla.) at No. 27 Kansas State
Kansas State is looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense that gave up 542 yards to Boston College last week.
Kansas State 34-28
No. 28 North Carolina at No. 73 Wake Forest
Wake Forest struggled to beat Liberty last week, holding on for a 20–17 win in Winston-Salem. North Carolina, meanwhile, dominated Elon (62–0) with surprising ease.
North Carolina 34-21
No. 63 Duke at No. 30 Stanford
Duke posted a solid Week 1 win, rolling past FIU 46-26 in Durham. The Blue Devils broke open a close game with a 30-point second quarter. Stanford had some trouble in its first game of the post-Andrew Luck era, beating San Jose State 20–17. Josh Nunes threw for 125 yards on 26 attempts for a very un-Luck-like 4.8 yards per completion.
No. 34 Florida at No. 32 Texas A&M
Florida’s search for competent quarterback play continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17-14
No. 35 Auburn at No. 47 Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson.
Presbyterian at No. 36 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech returns home after a gut-wrenching overtime loss at Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Yellow Jackets’ option attack should have little trouble with the Blue Hose defense.
Georgia Tech 50-10
Weber State at No. 37 BYU
BYU was one of the most impressive teams in Week 1, holding the Mike Leach-coached Washington State Cougars to 224 total yards in a 30–6 win in Provo.
No. 57 Penn State at No. 38 Virginia
Penn State is fresh off a humbling loss at home to Ohio in the debut of coach Bill O’Brien. Now, the Nittany Lions take their show on the road against a Virginia team that threw for 361 yards in a 43–19 win over Richmond.
No. 115 New Mexico State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio must avoid a letdown after its big win at Penn State last week. Frank Solich is a veteran coach who will make sure his team is ready to play.
No. 44 Illinois at No. 54 Arizona State
This would be a tough spot for Illinois at full strength, but the Fighting Illlini might be without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who injured his ankle in the win over Western Michigan. Arizona State scored 63 points in the first showing of the Todd Graham Experiment. Now, we will see what happens against a quality defense.
Arizona State 30-24
No. 41 NC State at No. 48 UConn
UConn didn’t allow UMass to cross its own 40-yard line in a 37–0 Week 1 win over the Minutemen. Don’t expect a repeat of that dominant defensive effort, but also don’t be surprised if the Huskies pull off the mild upset.
No. 45 Vanderbilt at No. 48 Northwestern
Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome.
No. 46 Iowa State at No. 52 Iowa
The ’12 season got off to a good start offensively for Iowa State. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21-20
Howard at No. 49 Rutgers
Rutgers survived a mild scare from Tulane in the opener, holding on for a 24–12 win over the Green Wave in New Orleans. Now, it’s time for a tune-up before a difficult road swing through South Florida and Arkansas.
Southern Utah at No. 50 California
The Golden Bears should take out the frustrations from last week’s loss at home to Nevada by pounding a Southern Utah club that gave up 569 yards to Utah State last week.
No. 87 Texas State at No. 56 Texas Tech
Texas State was the biggest mover in the post-Week 1 Athlon 124, jumping from No. 121 in the preseason to No. 87 after its stunning win at Houston. The magical run will end in Lubbock.
Texas Tech 31-17
No. 60 Louisiana Tech at No. 100 Houston
Houston, meanwhile, fell from No. 70 in the preseason to No. 100 after losing at home, 30–13, to Texas State. This is a very important game for first-year coach Tony Levine.
Louisiana Tech 31, Houston 20
New Hampshire at No. 64 Minnesota
This won’t be a gimme for Minnesota. New Hampshire rolled up 531 yards of offense in a 38–17 win at Holy Cross last weekend.
No. 122 Memphis at No. 65 Arkansas State
Memphis lost at home to UT Martin last week in Justin Fuente’s debut as the Tigers’ head coach. This could get ugly. Gus Malzahn will be eager to score a ton of points in his first game in Jonesboro.
Arkansas State 56-10
No. 98 Maryland at No. 66 Temple
People who are surprised that Maryland is a 10-point underdog at Temple must have forgotten that the Terps lost at home to the Owls 38–7 last September.
No. 97 Kent State at No. 67 Kentucky
Perhaps no coach in American needs a win this week more than Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, who is 0–1 after losing badly to rival Louisville in Week 1.
No. 68 UL-Lafayette at No. 105 Troy
UL-Lafayette has an opportunity for a big early season road win in the Sun Belt. Troy played well last week in a win at UAB, but UL-Lafayette is a more formidable foe with a bunch of offensive weapons.
No. 80 UTEP at No. 70 Ole Miss
Ole Miss hosts a UTEP team that went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma into the fourth quarter before losing 24–7. The key to avoiding the upset for Ole Miss will be slowing down tailback Nathan Jeffery, who rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries vs. Oklahoma.
Ole Miss 17-14
No. 72 Toledo at No. 93 Wyoming
Toledo gave up 624 yards but only 24 points in a Week 1 overtime loss at Arizona. Wyoming isn’t as skilled as Arizona, but the Cowboys did manage 345 yards of offense last week against a very good Texas defense.
Wyoming 41, Toledo 34
No. 114 Rice at No. 74 Kansas
Rice ranked last in the nation among the 117 teams that played last week by giving up an average of 9.36 yards per play in its loss to UCLA. That is not good.
No. 113 Tulane at No. 76 Tulsa
Tulsa has won all seven meetings (by an average of 30 points) between these two teams since Conference USA formed in 2005. Don’t expect this game to be any different.
Eastern Illinois at No. 77 Western Michigan
Eastern Illinois scored 49 points and rolled up 522 yards vs. Southern Illinois last week. Western Michigan should win, but the Broncs will have to play well.
Western Michigan 38-17
North Dakota State at No. 78 Colorado State
Jim McElwain began his tenure in style, beating rival Colorado 22–17 in Denver. Now, he makes his debut at home against a North Dakota State team that outgained Robert Morris 495-to-88 in a 52–0 win.
Colorado State 24-14
Maine at No. 79 Boston College
Boston College opened the season with 41–32 loss at home to Miami, but the Eagles did show signs of significant improvement on offense, recording 542 total yards.
Boston College 34-10
Eastern Washington at No. 81 Washington State
The Mike Leach era opened with a six-point, 224-yard effort against BYU. Not exactly what the Cougar faithful had in mind. Wazzu will have an opportunity to pick up a W this week, but it might not be easy. Eastern Washington won at Idaho last Thursday night.
Washington State 27-10
Tennessee-Martin at No. 82 Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois came close to knocking off Iowa in Chicago despite picking up only 201 yards of offense (73 on one play). The Huskies should have more success in Week 2.
Northern Illinois 37-14
No. 124 Idaho at No. 84 Bowling Green
These are not good times for the Idaho Vandals. The team without a conference — the school recently declared its Independence — lost last week 20–3 at home to Eastern Washington.
Bowling Green 34-0
No. 119 Akron at No. 86 FIU
FIU has to be a bit disappointed after losing its opener by 20 points at Duke. The Golden Panthers will take out their frustrations on Terry Bowden and the Zips.
UC Davis at No. 88 San Jose State
The Spartans played well in their opener, falling 20–17 at Stanford. Last year, the lost to Stanford 57–3.
San Jose State 31-10
Sacramento State at No. 89 Colorado
Jon Embree’s second season at his alma mater didn’t start in fine fashion. The Buffs lost to rival Colorado State — and didn’t look good doing so.
No. 90 Indiana at No. 12 UMass
The Hoosiers avoided disaster by holding on for a seven-point win over Indiana State in Week 1. Now, they hit the road to play a UMass team that has yet to advance the ball past its own 40-yard line this year.
Western Carolina at No. 92 Marshall
Marshall had some trouble on the defensive end last week, getting torched by West Virginia for 69 points. The Herd will be eager to do the torching this Saturday.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 94 SMU
SMU did some good things on offense in a 59–24 loss at Baylor last Sunday. The Mustangs picked up over 500 yards of offense but were undone by some costly turnovers. This has a chance to be a good team.
No. 96 Army at No. 95 San Diego State
San Diego State played well defensively in its 21–12 loss at Washington last week, holding the Huskies to a total of 326 yards. Army is making its 2012 debut.
San Diego State 24-17
Southern Illinois at No. 103 Miami (Ohio)
The Red Hawks held their own early vs. Ohio State before being overwhelmed by the Buckeyes’ offense in a 56–10 loss. Zac Dysert threw for 303 yards to lead the one-dimensional Miami attack.
Miami (Ohio) 33-10
Texas Southern at No. 106 North Texas
Think the talent differential is great between North Texas’ first two opponents? First LSU. Now Texas Southern.
North Texas 33-10
Illinois State at No. 107 Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan needs to get out of this game as healthy as possible with trips to Purdue and Michigan State looming.
Eastern Michigan 30-17
Morgan State at No. 110 Buffalo
Buffalo can’t be too disappointed with its performance at Georgia. The Bulls picked up 347 yards of offense and only trailed 24–16 at the half.
Northern Arizona at No. 112 UNLV
UNLV missed a golden opportunity to beat a Big Ten team, losing to Minnesota in triple-overtime. The Rebels should improve to 1-1 against a Northern Arizona team that gave up 66 points to Arizona State in Week 1.
Nicholls State at No. 118 South Alabama
South Alabama dropped its first game as an FBS school last week, falling to Texas-San Antonio (another FBS newbie) 33–31 in Mobile.
South Alabama 31-10
No. 120 FAU at No. 121 Middle Tennessee
This game is depressing. Middle Tennessee lost at home to McNeese State last week, while FAU “escaped” with a 10–7 win over Wagner. Both teams desperately need a win.
Middle Tennessee 20-3
Last Week: 55-9
College football’s second week of action features the debut of the two newest members of the SEC and a huge road trip for Nebraska.
10 Biggest Games of Week 2
Georgia (-3.5) at Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo. On a positive note, it doesn’t appear the Bulldogs will miss Isaiah Crowell too much; true freshman Todd Gurley, a 6-1, 218-pound North Carolina native, ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who underwent major shoulder surgery in the spring, was relatively sharp in the Tigers’ 62–10 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He completed 13-of-21 for 131 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Franklin, one of the top playmakers in the SEC when healthy, will have to be at his best on Saturday.
Georgia 27, Missouri 21
Florida (+2.5) at Texas A&M
The other new SEC member, Texas A&M, also plays its first league game this weekend. It will also be the first game of the season for the Aggies, who had their opener vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, quarterback Johnny Manziel will make his first career appearance against an outstanding Florida defense that gave up fewer than 300 yards per game in 2011. Speaking of quarterbacks, Florida’s search for a competent signal-caller continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17, Florida 14
Miami (Fla.)(+7) at Kansas State
Beating Boston College, even on the road, is no reason to get overly excited, but Miami has to feel good about its offense after a 41–32 win in Chestnut Hill. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris was sharp (28-of-45 for 207 yards), but the big story for the Canes was true freshman tailback Duke Johnson, who ran for 135 yards and two scores on only seven rushes. The Miami defense, however, was not quite as impressive. Boston College, which ranked 112th in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense last season, rolled up 542 total yards — 441 through the air and 101 on the ground. Kansas State struggled early against FCS foe Missouri State before pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 51–9 win. The Wildcats are looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense.
Kansas State 34, Miami (Fla.) 28
Nebraska (-5) at UCLA
It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis. There was some bad news in Lincoln, however. Tailback Rex Burkhead went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee in the first half and isn’t expected to play this weekend. UCLA pounded Rice in Houston in coach Jim L. Mora’s debut with the Bruins. Tailback Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards and three scores on 15 carries, and quarterback Brett Hundley, playing in his first career game, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. This is one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. Nebraska has the edge in the trenches, so go with the Huskers.
Nebraska 27, UCLA 21
Washington (+23.5) at LSU
Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers. Washington features some high-quality offensive players — most notably quarterback Keith Price — but its defense will have a tough time against quality competition. LSU will be tested for the first time after disposing of North Texas in predictable fashion (41–14) in Week 1. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, in his first start at LSU, completed 19-of-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown. If he plays well — and gives the Tigers’ offense balance — this team will very difficult to beat.
LSU 30, Washington 17
Purdue (+14.5) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame returns to the mainland after an impressive 50–10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson was solid in his first career start, but the Irish got it done with their rushing attack. With starter Cierre Wood back in South Bend while serving a two-game suspension, Notre Dame turned to Theo Riddick (19 carries, 107 yards) and George Atkinson III (nine for 99) to power a ground game that averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Purdue had no trouble with Eastern Kentucky, the alma mater of Boilermakers coach Danny Hope. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush was suspended for the opener, leaving Robert Marve and Rob Henry, who have played significantly at Pudue, to handle the snaps. On Monday, Hope announced that TerBush will get the start for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 28, Purdue 17
Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern
Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome. Rodgers and Matthews figure to test the Wildcats’ shaky secondary with frequency. Northwestern, too, will present some problems on offense for Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are likely to play two quarterback; Kain Colter, the starter (if healthy), is a runner who is developing as a passer, while Trevor Siemian is a polished passer who came off the bench to lead NU’s game-winning drive at Syracuse. This is an important game for two programs who are hoping to find six wins to reach bowl-eligibility.
Vanderbilt 34, Northwestern 24
Iowa State (+4) at Iowa
Iowa State scored a total of 15 points en route to losing three straight to Iowa from 2008-10. Last year, however, the Cyclones erupted for 44 points in a three-point win in Ames. The ’12 season got off to good start offensively for Paul Rhoads’ club. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. Yards will be tougher to come by in Iowa City this weekend. Iowa gave up only 201 total yards (73 on one play) in an 18–17 win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Take out that one big play — a run by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch — and the Iowa defense gave up an average of 2.4 yards per play. Offensively, Iowa had to be thrilled to get a big game from tailback Damon Bullock. A sophomore who rushed for a total of 20 yards last season, Bullock carried the ball 30 times for 150 yards. Now, Iowa just needs to keep him healthy. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21, Iowa 20
Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average of 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson. Mississippi State barely broke a sweat in a win over in-state “rival” Jackson State. The Bulldogs’ offense showed nice balance, with 202 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. They have some playmakers at the wide receiver position; it will be up to quarterback Tyler Russell to get them the ball.
Auburn 24, Mississippi State 21
Pittsburgh (+4) at Cincinnati (Thu)
Paul Chryst appears to be the ideal fit at Pittsburgh, but his tenure as the Panthers’ head coach got off to a miserable start — a 31–17 loss to FCS foe Youngstown State. The most alarming part of the loss? It wasn’t a fluke. The Penguins were the better team. Youngstown State outgained Pitt (381 to 369), converted 11-of-16 on third down and did not commit a turnover. Tino Sunseri, who struggled in Todd Graham’s system, completed 19-of-30 for 239 yards but missed on some key throws. He will need to play better to give this team a chance to be successful. Despite their poor showing, the Panthers are only a four-point underdog on the road to a Cincinnati team that has won or shared three of the past four Big East titles. The Bearcats, however, must replace several significant contributors on both sides of the ball, most notably tailback Isaiah Pead, quarterback Zach Collaros and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. We’ll find out early this season if the 2012 Bearcats are rebuilding or if they have reloaded for another Big East title run.
Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 17
Last week: 9–1 overall (7–3 against the spread)
College football's first weekend of action features games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Here's a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 24 Boise State at No. 18 Michigan State (Fri.)
Much of the focus will be on the first-time starters at quarterback, Joe Southwick for Boise State and Andrew Maxwell for Michigan State, but the key matchups will be on the line of scrimmage. Michigan State will look to attack Boise State’s inexperienced defense — only one full-time starter is back — with a heavy dose of tailback Le’Veon Bell.
Michigan State 28–14
No. 98 San Jose State at No. 21 Stanford (Fri.)
Josh Nunes gets his first start at Stanford after beating out Brett Nottingham for the right to replace Andrew Luck at quarterback. The Cardinal have won four straight and eight of nine vs. San Jose State, including a 57–3 win in last year’s opener.
No. 28 NC State vs. No. 37 Tennessee (in Atlanta) (Friday)
It’s always dangerous to put too much stock in one game, but Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could really use a win to begin his third season in Knoxville. Dooley is 11–14 overall, and only one of the wins (vs. Cincinnati in 2011) came against an FBS team that ended the season with a winning record.
Villanova at No. 73 Temple (Fri.)
Temple opens up with Villanova for the fourth straight season. The Owls rolled last year, winning 42–7, but struggled in ’10 (won 31–24) and lost in ’09 (lost 27–24). Villanova went 2–9 last year and won only one game in the Colonial.
Wagner at No. 120 Florida Atlantic
FAU scored 17 points or less in nine of 12 games en route to a 1–11 season in the final year of Howard Schnellenberger’s legendary career. Carl Pelini, the brother of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, is now in charge in South Florida.
Florida Atlantic 20–10
No. 108 Hawaii at No. 1 USC
Norm Chow makes his debut as a head coach against the No. 1 team in the land. Chow and current USC coach Lane Kiffin served on the same USC staff from 2001-04, with Chow as the offensive coordinator and Kiffin a the tight ends (’01) and wide receivers (’02-04) coach.
No. 104 North Texas at No. 2 LSU
When he signed with Georgia as a 4-star recruit in 2009, Zach Mettenberger probably didn’t think it would be four years before he would be starting his first game in the FBS ranks. But that is the reality for the 6-5, 230-pound fourth-year junior who arrived at LSU after a stop at Butler (Kan.) Community College.
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 7 Michigan (at Arlington, Texas)
There is one school of thought that says that it’s best to play Alabama early, especially with so many new starters on the defense. That’s probably true, but the Crimson Tide defense should be more than ready to slow down the Wolverines.
No. 64 Arkansas State at No. 4 Oregon
Two of the top offensive minds in college will meet in Eugene, with Gus Malzahn making his head coaching debut against Chip Kelly and the Ducks. Ryan Aplin leads an Arkansas State offense that should be able to score some points, but the Red Wolves won’t be able to stop the Oregon attack.
No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 105 UTEP
UTEP is 0–9 vs. current power conference teams during the 11-year Mike Price era. That will be 0–10 sometime last Saturday night.
No. 99 Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 Ohio State
Don’t expect much production on the ground from Miami on Saturday. Last year, there were 68 players in the nation who had more rushing yards than the entire Miami team. The Redhawks netted only 886 yards on the ground.
Ohio State 41–14
No. 111 Buffalo at No. 8 Georgia
Mark Richt said earlier this week that “Coach (Jeff) Quinn is in his third season. He’s doing an outstanding job there — no doubt about it.” Quinn is 5–19 overall and 3–13 in the MAC. Not sure what is “outstanding” about that.
Murray State at No. 9 Florida State
Murray State averaged 39.9 points in 10 games vs. FCS competition last year but scored only nine in a season-opening loss at Louisville last year.
Florida State 44–10
No. 88 Wyoming at No. 11 Texas
Wyoming could be a sleeper in the Mountain West, but the Cowboys will be outmatched in Austin on Saturday. The Longhorns will run all over a Wyoming defense that ranked 115th in the nation in stopping the run in 2011.
No. 83 Marshall at No. 12 West Virginia
Marshall is 0–11 all-time against West Virginia and only twice has the game been decided by less than 10 points — 24–21 in 2010 and 17–15 in 1911. Last year, the Herd held WVU to 291 yards, by far the fewest of the season for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia 38-14
Jacksonville State at No. 13 Arkansas
Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe was on the losing end the last time Arkansas lost to an FCS (or Division I-AA school). That was in 1992, when the Hogs lost 10–3 to The Citadel in the season-opener. Crowe was fired after the loss.
No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 14 Nebraska
Southern Miss won 12 games last year but figures to take a step back with quarterback Austin Davis no longer around. New coach Ellis Johnson, formerly the defensive boss at South Carolina, will turn to junior Chris Campbell, who has yet to throw a pass in college.
No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 30 Auburn
Don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense, now coordinated by Brian VanGorder, is vastly improved in 2012. But also don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense struggles in Week 1, even though Clemson is missing All-America wideout Sammy Watkins. The Tigers still have weapons.
Northern Iowa at No. 17 Wisconsin
Danny O’Brien makes his debut at quarterback for the Badgers, but the Wisconsin offense will still feature heavy doses of tailbacks Montee Ball and James White.
Savannah State at No. 19 Oklahoma State
Savannah State is 2–20 over the last two seasons with both wins coming over North Carolina Central. This is a colossal mismatch.
Oklahoma State 51-6
No. 65 Navy vs. No. 20 Notre Dame (Dublin, Ireland)
The storyline for this game — other than the fact that it is being played in Ireland — is the debut of redshirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback for Notre Dame. Golson is far from a finished product, but he is an outstanding athlete who has taken care of the ball — a huge focus for the Irish this season — in scrimmages.
Notre Dame 34-14
No. 95 San Diego State at No. 25 Washington
Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz will make his debut for San Diego State against a familiar foe. Katz lost his only start vs. UW — he threw for 206 yards but was picked off three times in a 35–34 loss in 2009 — but Oregon State went 2–1 vs. the Huskies in his three seasons in Corvallis.
No. 94 Bowling Green at No. 26 Florida
Florida is hoping to find some answers at quarterback this Saturday. Here’s a question: Will Matt Schilz, Bowling Green’s third-year starter, be the best quarterback on the field? My guess is yes.
Missouri State at No. 27 Kansas State
K-State struggled in its 2011 opener vs. an FCS team, holding on to beat Eastern Kentucky 10–7. It shouldn’t be so difficult this time around. Missouri State went 2–9 last season and was among the worst defensive teams in the nation.
Kansas State 41–0
Elon at No. 29 North Carolina
North Carolina is the better team, but the best player on the field might be Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette, who caught 113 passes for 1,639 yards last season, including 11 for 180 in the opener vs. Vanderbilt.
North Carolina 33–14
SE Louisiana at No. 31Missouri
The Lions from Southeastern Louisiana gave up a total of 99 points in two games vs. FBS foes last year — 47 to Tulane and 52 to Southern Miss. Points should be easy to come by for the Tigers.
Chattanooga at No. 34 South Florida
Chattanooga went 5–6 last year with a future NFL Draft pick (B.J. Coleman, seventh round to Green Bay) playing quarterback. The Mocs don’t have a future pro under center this year.
South Florida 44-10
Richmond at No. 36 Virginia
Richmond opened the 2011 season with three straight wins, highlighted by a 23–21 victory at Duke, but then lost its final eight games. That’s not very Spider-like.
No. 54 Nevada at No. 38 California
This is a tricky opener for the Golden Bears. Two years, ago Cal made the short trip to Reno and came home with a 52–31 loss. Zach Maynard must play well for Cal to win.
No. 79 Toledo at No. 43 Arizona
RichRod’s first game at Arizona is against a Toledo team that knows how to put points on the board. The Rockets averaged 42.2 points per game last season and hit the 60-point mark on two occasions.
No. 59 Ohio at No. 44 Penn State
The Bill O’Brien era begins Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions host Ohio, one of the top mid-major programs in the nation. Ohio is fresh off a 10-win season and features one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation, junior Tyler Tettleton. A true dual-threat, Tettleton threw for 3,202 yards and 28 touchdowns (with only 10 INTs) and added 658 yards on the ground in 2012.
Penn State 21–13
Youngstown State at No. 45 Pittsburgh
With Ray Graham out with an injury, don’t be surprised if Pitt freshman Rushel Shell has a huge — as in 200-plus yards — game in the coaching debut of Paul Chryst.
No. 46 Rutgers at No. 113 Tulane
Tulane has some solid skill-position players — most notably quarterback Ryan Griffin and tailback Orleans Darkwa — but Rutgers’ defense will be a bit too strong for the Green Wave.
Jackson State at No. 47 Mississippi State
Jackson Sate went 9–2 in the FCS ranks last season but shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State 41–10
No. 48 Miami (Fla.) at No. 86 Boston College
I realize expectations aren’t high at Miami this fall, but it’s got to be a bit alarming that the Hurricanes are only favored by two points over a Boston College team that is picked by most to finish in last place in the ACC Atlantic — even behind Maryland.
No. 49 Northwestern at No. 67 Syracuse
Syracuse is eager to get the 2012 season off on a good note after losing the final five games in 2011. Northwestern opens the season with three straight non-conference games vs. BCS foes. The Wildcats host Vanderbilt and Boston College in the next two weeks.
No. 50 Iowa vs. No. 85 Northern Illinois (Chicago)
Northern Illinois brings a nine-game winning streak into the 2012 opener, but the Huskies only return three starters on offense. They figure to take a step back in the competitive MAC West.
No. 77 Western Michigan at No. 52 Illinois
Western Michigan went 1–3 outright vs. teams vs. BCS conferences in 2011, with a win at UConn, a lopsided loss at Michigan (34–10) and close losses at Illinois (23–20) and vs. Purdue (37–32) in the Little Caesers Pizza Bowl. This is a team with a senior quarterback (Alex Carder) and a veteran offensive line that will not be intimidated by playing on the road at a Big Ten school.
Western Michigan 30–27
Eastern Kentucky at No. 53 Purdue
It will be an emotional day for Purdue coach Danny Hope. He served as the head coach at Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater, from 2003-07 and guided the Colonials to a 35–22 record in five seasons.
Liberty at No. 57 Wake Forest
Wake Forest ended the 2011 season with five losses in its last six games, with the only win coming at home vs. Maryland. Liberty, a solid FCS team, will not be a pushover.
Wake Forest 31–17
Northwestern State at No. 58 Texas Tech
Northwestern State scored a total of 10 points in two games vs. FBS competition last year — three vs. LSU and seven vs. SMU. Texas Tech should roll in Week 1.
Texas Tech 48–7
No. 74 Tulsa at No. 60 Iowa State
Iowa State is the only AQ conference home team that is an underdog vs. a non-AQ conference opponent. Tulsa is solid, but the Golden Hurricane didn’t play well last year against top competition. I think the wrong team is favored.
Iowa State 33–28
Nicholls State at No. 61 Oregon State
Oregon State was stunned at home in its 2011 opener, losing in overtime, 29–28, to Sacramento State. Don’t expect a repeat. Nicholls State went 1–10 last season, with its only win coming vs. Evangel.
Oregon State 41–0
No. 68 FIU at No. 80 Duke
Duke rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to win at FIU, 31–27, last season. The Golden Panthers had little trouble moving the ball, with 392 yards passing and 176 yards rushing. However, two of their top skill players (quarterback Wesley Carroll and wideout T.Y. Hilton) are gone.
No. 121 Texas State at No. 70 Houston
Dennis Franchione and Texas State make the short trip to Houston to face Houston and new coach Tony Levine. The Cougars, who won 13 games last year, will send out sophomore David Piland to replace record-setting quarterback Case Keenum. Piland threw for 2,669 yards and 24 touchdowns two years ago while filling in for the injured Keenum.
Central Arkansas at No. 71 Ole Miss
After leading Arkansas State to its first-ever Sun Belt title in 2011, Hugh Freeze is now charged with making Ole Miss relevant in the brutal SEC West. Winning this week won’t be a problem. Winning more than four games this year could be.
Ole Miss 30–7
William & Mary at No. 72 Maryland
I can’t even imagine what would happen to Randy Edsall if he opened Year 2 with a loss to an FCS school that went 5–6 last year.
Lamar at No. 76 UL-Lafayette
Mark Hudspeth did a tremendous job in his first season at UL-Lafayette, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9–4 record capped with a thrilling 32–30 win over San Diego State in the New Orleans bowl. The Cajuns should win with ease in Week 1.
Appalachian State at No. 78 East Carolina
This won’t be easy for ECU. Appalachian State went 8–4 last year and is ranked No. 8 in the 2012 FCS preseason top 25 by Athlon Sports. The Pirates, though, are set up for a nice season in Conference USA. If Rio Johnson plays well at quarterback, ECU should contend in the East Division.
East Carolina 30–17
South Dakota State at No. 81 Kansas
Charlie Weis makes his debut at KU against a South Dakota State club that went 5–6 last year and lost to Illinois 56–3 in its only game vs. an FBS opponent. Dayne Crist, a former top recruit at Notre Dame, is the starting quarterback at Kansas.
No. 91 Colorado State vs. No. 84 Colorado (Denver)
This rivalry has lost some of its luster in recent years, but it’s still an important game in the Centennial State. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who won two national titles with the Tide, is the man in charge at Colorado State. The Rams will need a big game from underrated tailback Chris Nwoke.
Weber State at No. 87 Fresno State
New Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter has a defensive background, but the Bulldogs will be fun to watch on offense this fall with star power at quarterback in Derek Carr (David’s brother) and tailback Robbie Rouse.
Fresno State 44–14
Indiana State at No. 89 Indiana
The Hoosiers were the only AQ conference team that did not beat an FBS opponent last year. Indiana lost to Ball State in Indianapolis and at North Texas. Indiana State will make Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers sweat, but IU should prevail.
Idaho State at No. 92 Air Force
Idaho State is bad. Very bad. The Bengals went 2–9 last year and ranked in the 100s in the FCS ranks in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Air Force option attack could roll up over 400 yards on the ground.
Air Force 44–0
Austin Peay at No. 101 Western Kentucky
Austin Peay lost its two games vs. FBS opponents last season by a combined score of 99–16 — and one of those games was against Memphis. The Governors will be hard-pressed to keep this game close.
Western Kentucky 41–10
No. 109 Troy at No. 106 UAB
Troy rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter to beat UAB 24–23 last fall in a game that featured some questionable officiating down the stretch. “Everybody saw the game — bad calls by some Sun Belt referees,” UAB safety Jamie Bender said after the game. This year, the Blazers will be at home, with Conference USA officials.
Tennessee-Martin at No. 115 Memphis
The Larry Porter era mercifully came to an end after two miserable seasons. Now, it’s Justin Feunte’s turn to make Memphis a factor as it gets ready to make the move from Conference USA to the Big East. The first season figures to be a struggle, but the first week should produce a victory.
Southern at No. 117 New Mexico
Bob Davie is back in coaching for the first time since 2001. He inherited a New Mexico program that has been alarmingly uncompetitive in recent years. This is a big rebuilding project.
New Mexico 21–3
No. 124 UTSA at No. 123 South Alabama
It’s classic battle between two of the four new members of the FBS ranks. Since we’ve got South Alabama ranked higher and the Jags are at home, the pick is obvious.
South Alabama 34-30
No. 75 Kentucky at No. 23 Louisville
Establishing a running game is always important, but it takes on extra meaning in this intra-state rivalry. Consider the following: The team that has won the rushing battle has won the last 13 Kentucky-Louisville games.
No. 93 SMU at No. 40 Baylor
Former Texas Longhorn Garrett Gilbert, a one-time Gatorade National Player of the Year, makes his debut as the starting quarterback at SMU. He will be operating behind an offensive line that features five new starters.
Virginia Tech 24–17
— by Mitch Light