Articles By Mitch Light

Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-7
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here's a look at every game of the Week 7 college football schedule.

Braden Gall's Week 7 Picks Against The Spread

Friday

No. 72 Hawaii at No. 92 San Jose State

San Jose State’s two-game winning streak was snapped last weekend, but the improved Spartans played relatively well at BYU. I’m still trying to figure out how Hawaii lost to UNLV by 20 points last month.
Hawaii 41, San Jose State 20

Saturday

No. 1 Alabama at No. 82 Ole Miss
The Alabama defense has allowed 14 points or less in all six games this season. Not a good sign for Ole Miss, which has struggled to move the ball against quality competition.
Alabama 38, Ole Miss 6

No. 2 LSU at No. 41 Tennessee
With Tyler Bray out of the lineup, few are giving Tennessee much of a chance against the mighty LSU Tigers, but keep in mind that the Matt Simms-led Vols came oh-so-close to beating LSU in Baton Rouge last season. The Tigers scored the winning touchdown on the final play from scrimmage after the Vols’ infamous 13-man defensive alignment.
LSU 31, Tennessee 14

No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 83 Kansas
Kansas has given up 42 points or more against each FBS opponent it has faced. Oklahoma has scored 113 points over the past two games. Not a good matchup for the Jayhawks.
Oklahoma 58, Kansas 10

No. 102 Indiana at No. 4 Wisconsin
Indiana has played better in recent weeks, but this is still a team that has lost to Ball State and North Texas this season. The Hoosiers trip to Madison will not be fun.
Wisconsin 55, Indiana 7

No. 5 Boise State at No. 97 Colorado State
It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost to San Jose State at home — that would be Colorado State —can be competitive with Boise State.
Boise State 48, Colorado State 17

No. 17 Arizona State at No. 6 Oregon
ESPN College GameDay will be making a rare appearance on the West Coast for a clash between two of the elite teams in the Pac-12. Arizona State, with its slick new uniforms, is in complete control of the South Division with a 3–0 record that includes a win over USC. A win in Eugene could possibly put the Devils in position to host the league title game. That, however, is easier said than done.
Oregon 35, Arizona State 24

No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 25 Texas
Oklahoma State and Texas have met 25 times. Oklahoma State has won only three of those games — in 1944, 1997 and 2010. The Pokes are favored to pick up win No. 4 in this series.
Oklahoma State 38, Texas 24

No. 8 Clemson at No. 55 Maryland
Maryland has been in a funk since opening the season with a win at home vs. Miami, but the Terps did show some life last week in a five-point loss at Georgia Tech. Showing life will not be enough against Clemson.
Clemson 31, Maryland 21

No. 9 Stanford at No. 63 Washington State
The improved Cougars need to find three more wins on the schedule to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2003. Stanford will not be one of those wins.
Stanford 48, Washington State 10

No. 10 Georgia Tech at No. 67 Virginia
The Jackets scored a season-low 21 points last week, but still managed to beat Maryland and remain undefeated. This team could run the table in the regular season.
Georgia Tech 31, Virginia 20

No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Wake Forest
Wake Forest was known as a rushing team early in Jim Grobe’s tenure, but the Deacs are getting it done through the air thanks to the emergence of quarterback Tanner Price.
Virginia Tech 34, Wake Forest 24

No. 46 Ohio State at No. 14 Illinois
Illinois is favored over Ohio State for the first time since 2001, when Ron Turner’s Illini won the Big Ten title with Kurt Kittner at quarterback.
Illinois 24, Ohio State 21

No. 15 Michigan at No. 27 Michigan State
Michigan State is in the midst of its longest winning streak (three games) against the boys from Ann Arbor since the mid-1960s, when Duffy Daugherty & Co. outscored the Wolverines 78–14 in a three-game stretch.
Michigan State 28, Michigan 24

No. 18 Kansas State at No. 43 Texas Tech
The Wildcats are one of the surprise teams in the nation. I’ve picked against them in each of the last three weeks. I should jump on the bandwagon … but I’ll go with the high-scoring Red Raiders at home.
Texas Tech 34, Kansas State 30

No. 20 South Carolina at No. 40 Mississippi State
With Connor Shaw running the show, South Carolina rolled up a Steve Spurrier-era high 639 yards against Kentucky last week. Mississippi State should offer some more resistance.
Mississippi State 21, South Carolina 13

No. 23 Baylor at No. 21 Texas A&M
These two programs have played every year since 1945, but Texas A&M’s departure to the SEC most likely means the end of the rivalry.
Texas A&M 38, Baylor 34

No. 24 Georgia at No. 56 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt’s defense has been strong, but the Commodores have only scored three points in the last two games.
Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 10

No. 26 Florida at No. 30 Auburn
It’s safe to say that a defending national champion has never been a home underdog to a team that is coming off consecutive losses of at least 28 points.
Auburn 28, Florida 23

No. 80 Colorado at No. 28 Washington
Washington quarterback Keith Price has thrown at least three touchdowns in every game this season.
Washington 37, Colorado 21

No. 34 Miami (Fla.) at No. 29 North Carolina
Miami tailback Lamar Miller might be receiving some Heisman buzz if the Hurricanes had won a few more game. The sophomore has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first five games, including 184 vs. Ohio State and 166 vs. Virginia Tech.
Miami (Fla.) 27, North Carolina 20

No. 31 Florida State at No. 65 Duke
We thought the Florida State defense would be stout this year. We thought wrong. The Noles have given up 70 points in their last two games.
Florida State 34, Duke 21

No. 32 South Florida at No. 81 Connecticut
The Bulls are coming off a surprisingly one-sided loss (44–17) at Pittsburgh. Connecticut’s 43–16 loss at West Virginia, however, was not a surprise.
South Florida 31, Connecticut 14

No. 88 Purdue at No. 34 Penn State
The Nittany Lions might be tough to watch on offense, but this team has been solid on defense all season. It should be another ugly win for Joe Paterno & Co.
Penn State 21, Purdue 13

No. 70 UCF at No. 35 SMU
It’s C-USA East vs. C-USA West. It’s the running game vs. the forward pass. It should be an SMU victory.
SMU 29, UCF 23

No. 58 Navy at No. 37 Rutgers
Navy has lost three in a row for the first time since 2002, when Paul Johnson’s first Midshipmen club went 2–10.
Rutgers 34, Navy 27

No. 47 Iowa State at No. 38 Missouri
Iowa State’s three wins have come by an average of 2.7 points per game. Its two losses have come by an average of 23 points.
Missouri 31, Iowa State 17

No. 59 Utah at No. 39 Pittsburgh
Pitt has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the nation this season. One week after pounding South Florida, 44–17, at home, the Panthers were beaten soundly at Rutgers, 34–10.
Pittsburgh 31, Utah 14

No. 44 USC at No. 49 California
Cal shocked USC, 34–31, in 2003 in what was the first big win of the Jeff Tedford era. The Bears have lost seven straight in the series since that breakthrough victory in Berkeley, with the last two being decided by an average of 30.5 points.
California 31, USC 24

No. 53 Northwestern at No. 48 Iowa
Last week, in a 13–3 loss at Penn State, Iowa was held without a touchdown for the first time since 2007, when the Hawkeyes lost at Purdue, 31–6.
Iowa 28, Northwestern 27

No. 76 Louisville at No. 50 Cincinnati
The schedule has been far from grueling, but Cincinnati has held every team not named Tennessee to 14 points or less this season. Louisville ranks 112th in the nation in scoring offense.
Cincinnati 31, Louisville 13

No. 51 Toledo at No. 104 Bowling Green
The Rockets are one of the hidden gems in college football this season. They are 3–3 overall, with a controversial overtime loss at Syracuse, a five-point loss at Ohio State and a 40–15 loss to Boise State. This is a very solid team.
Toledo 41, Bowling Green 21

No. 89 Buffalo at No. 52 Temple
Buffalo is 2–4, but three of the four losses have come against BCS conference foes. Last week, the Bulls upset Ohio, 38–37. This is another big test.
Temple 31, Buffalo 24

No. 110 UAB at No. 60 Tulsa
UAB is one of three winless teams in the nation (New Mexico and FAU are the others). With dates against Tulsa, UCF, Marshall and Houston looming, it might be a while before the Blazers get off the mat.
Tulsa 48, UAB 14

No. 95 Northern Illinois at No. 61 Western Michigan
This is a huge game in the MAC West. Western Michigan has won four of five since opening the season with a weather-shortened loss at Michigan. The Broncos are very potent on offense.
Western Michigan 37, Northern Illinois 27

No. 64 BYU at No. 86 Oregon State
BYU swept a three-game homestand in less-than-inspiring fashion, beating UCF (24–17), Utah State (27–24) and San Jose State (29–16). Now, the show goes on the road against an Oregon State team that is rejuvenated after last week’s 10-point win over Arizona.
Oregon State 27, BYU 16

No. 120 New Mexico at No. 73 Nevada
The Lobos are looking for their first win of the year and their first win under interim head coach George Barlow. It’s not going to happen in Reno.
Nevada 48, New Mexico 14

No. 91 Ball State at No. 74 Ohio
Ohio’s 38–37 loss at Buffalo last week was very damaging. The Bobcats should be favored in every remaining game, with the possible exception of the home date vs. Temple on Nov. 2.
Ohio 31, Ball State 17

No. 87 Rice at No. 75 Marshall
Marshall’s offense, led by a true freshman quarterback (Rakeem Cato), has scored 17 points or less in all but one game this season. Rice has scored 24 or more in each of its last four games.
Marshall 24, Rice 21

No. 78 Utah State at No. 96 Fresno State
Utah State took out the frustration of three painfully close early season losses by pounding Wyoming, 63–19, last weekend in Logan.
Utah State 31, Fresno State 20

No. 101 North Texas at No. 79 UL-Lafayette
UL-Lafayette is the surprise of the Sun Belt, with a 3–0 league record that includes wins over both Troy and FIU. The Cajuns will be bowl-eligible after this weekend.
UL-Lafayette 33, North Texas 13

No. 90 East Carolina at No. 118 Memphis
It’s been a bit of a struggle for East Carolina, which has lost four of five games this year. Memphis, however, is good for what ails any team in college football.
East Carolina 41, Memphis 7

No. 93 UTEP at No. 108 Tulane
Tulane is 2–0 when it scores 47 points or more this season, and 0–4 when it doesn’t.
Tulane 22, UTEP 21

No. 114 Eastern Michigan at No. 94 Central Michigan
Eastern Michigan is 3–3, but two of those wins have come against FCS opponents and the other was against Akron, one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks.
Central Michigan 37, Eastern Michigan 14

No. 112 UL-Monroe at No. 98 Troy
Troy has dominated the Sun Belt in recent years but has had some trouble with UL-Monroe. The Warhawks have won two of the last three and three of the last six in the series.
Troy 28, UL-Monroe 20

No. 116 UNLV at No. 99 Wyoming
UNLV has been outscored in its four losses by an average of 37 points per game.
Wyoming 38, UNLV 21

No. 105 Miami (Ohio) at No. 115 Kent State
Miami broke into the win column for the first time last week, topping Army, 35–28, in Oxford. Win No. 2 should be much easier.
Miami (Ohio) 27, Kent State 10

No. 111 Idaho at No. 107 New Mexico State
New Mexico State is 2–3, with wins over Minnesota and New Mexico. The Aztecs have not defeated three FBS teams in the same season since 2004.
New Mexico State 21, Idaho 20

No. 109 Western Kentucky at No. 117 Florida Atlantic
Western Kentucky is coming off its first win of the season, a 36–33 double-OT thriller over rival Middle Tennessee. Bobby Rainey, the most underrated tailback in the nation, had his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
Western Kentucky 23, Florida Atlantic 14

Last week — 43-7
Season - 316-57
 

Teaser:
<p> Week 7 action is highlighted by Arizona State-Oregon, Michigan-Michigan State and Oklahoam State-Texas.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 08:03
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-7
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here are previews and predictions for the 10 best college football games this weekend.


Michigan (+1.5) at Michigan State
Michigan State is in the midst of its longest winning streak (three games) against the boys from Ann Arbor since the mid-1960s, when Duffy Daugherty & Co. outscored the Wolverines 78–14 in a three-game stretch. For the streak to reach four games — something that hasn’t happened since the early ’50s — the Spartans will have to find a way to slow down Denard Robinson. The junior quarterback was terrific in Michigan’s win at Northwestern last weekend, throwing for 337 yards and two touchdowns and adding 117 yards and two scores on the ground. Last year, State limited Robinson to 86 yards rushing, a season-low at the time, and forced him into three interceptions in a 34–17 MSU win in East Lansing. The guess here is that the Spartans will do just enough to slow down the Michigan attack.
Michigan State 28, Michigan 24

Arizona State (+15) at Oregon
ESPN College GameDay will be making a rare appearance on the West Coast for a clash between two of the elite teams in the Pac-12. Arizona State, with its slick new uniforms, is in complete control of the South Division with a 3–0 record that includes a win over USC. Oregon will be in a battle with Stanford and possibly Washington for the top spot in the North. The Ducks’ chances at the title, however, took a hit last Thursday when star tailback LaMichael James was sidelined with an elbow injury. He is hoping to play some this weekend, but he could also be out for several weeks — it’s too early to tell. Oregon is deep at running back, but James is a true difference-maker who is very difficult to replace.
Oregon 35, Arizona State 24

Oklahoma State (-7.5) at Texas
Oklahoma State and Texas have met 25 times. Oklahoma State has won only three of those games — in 1944, 1997 and 2010. The Pokes are favored to pick up win No. 4 in this series— and it’s easy to see why. Led by quarterback Brandon Weeden and wideout Justin Blackmon, O-State boasts arguably the nation’s most explosive offense. Last week, the Cowboys led Kansas 56–7 at the half before cruising to a 70–28 win. Texas is solid on defense, but the Horns are fresh off of a humbling 55–17 loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. OU quarterback Landry Jones had little trouble picking apart the Texas defense. Not a good sign with Weeden & Co. coming to town.
Oklahoma State 38, Texas 24

Virginia Tech (-7) at Wake Forest
Clemson is still the frontrunner in the Atlantic Division, but this clash in Winston-Salem this week could possibly be a preview of the ACC title game. Wake Forest is 3–0 in the league after last week’s impressive 35–30 win over Florida State. The Deacons, known as a rushing team early in Jim Grobe’s tenure, are getting it done through the air thanks to the emergence of quarterback Tanner Price. Virginia Tech has a fine quarterback of its own. Sophomore Logan Thomas, a first-year starter, played his best game last Saturday, throwing for 310 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Hokies’ thrilling 38–35 comeback win over Miami (Fla.). The key to the game, however, could be Wake’s ability (or inability) to slow down Tech tailback David Wilson. If he runs wild, the Hokies should win the game.
Virginia Tech 34, Wake Forest 24

Baylor (+9.5) at Texas A&M
Texas A&M got back on track last weekend, holding on for a 45–40 win at Texas Tech in what could be the Aggies’ last trip ever to Lubbock. A&M once again jumped out to a big lead at the half (31–20), but this week found a way to hold on — though there were definitely some tense moments in the fourth quarter. Baylor, too, rebounded from a difficult loss two weeks ago. The Bears rolled past Iowa State 49–26 behind another strong performance from Robert Griffin III, who threw for over 200 yards and rushed for over 100. These two programs have played every year since 1945, but A&M’s departure to the SEC most likely means the end of the rivalry.
Texas A&M 38, Baylor 34

Ohio State (-4) at Illinois
Illinois is favored over Ohio State for the first time since 2001, when Ron Turner’s Illini won the Big Ten title with Kurt Kittner at quarterback. The 2011 Illini, predicted by most to finish no better than fourth in the Big Ten Leaders, are one of the more surprising teams in the nation with a 6–0 overall record and a 2–0 mark in league play. Sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase is playing very well at the quarterback position, and Ron Zook’s club is making the right plays at the right times to win games. Ohio State, on the other hand, is not winning games; the Buckeyes have lost three of their last four (their worst stretch since 2004) due in large part to poor play at the quarterback position. True freshman Braxton Miller was showing signs of life Saturday night at Nebraska before going down with an ankle injury. Miller is expected to play this week — which is a very good sign. Joe Bauserman, the Buckeyes’ other option at quarterback, completed only 1-of-10 attempts for 13 yards in relief at Nebraska.
Illinois 24, Ohio State 21

Florida (-2) at Auburn
It’s safe to say that a defending national champion has never been a home underdog to a team that is coming off consecutive losses of at least 28 points. But that’s what we have this weekend at Auburn. The Tigers, fresh off a 38–14 loss at Arkansas, return home to face a Florida team that has been thoroughly beaten the past two weeks by the elite in college football, Alabama and LSU. Jeff Driskel is expected to be back at quarterback after missing the LSU game, but he is still just a true freshman, and he has yet to start a game in his career. That’s hardly comforting — even against a Tiger defense that has given up 34 points or more in four of six games this season. Auburn is having quarterback problems, as well. Junior Barrett Trotter completed only 6-of-19 attempts for 81 yards against Arkansas last week. Don’t expect to see the forward pass too much in this game.
Auburn 28, Florida 23

Miami (Fla.) (+3) at North Carolina
The Hurricanes are a few plays away from being 4–1 or even 5–0. Their three losses have come by eight points (Maryland), four points (Kansas State) and three points (Virginia Tech), with none of the games decided until the final minute. Instead, Al Golden’s team finds itself 2–3 overall and 0–2 in league play with two crucial ACC Coastal Division games looming, this trip to UNC and a home date with Georgia Tech. Had the Canes come out on top in a few more of the games, tailback Lamar Miller might be receiving some Heisman buzz. The sophomore has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first five games, including 184 vs. Ohio State and 166 vs. Virginia Tech. Carolina is 5–1, with the only loss coming by seven points at undefeated Georgia Tech. Interim coach Everitt Withers has done a solid job keeping his team focused. This is a key game for Carolina, which hits the road for three of its next four games. A win here keeps the Heels in the Coastal Division race.
Miami (Fla.) 27, North Carolina 20

USC (-3) at California (Thu)
Cal shocked USC, 34–31, in 2003 in what was the first big win of the Jeff Tedford era. The Bears have lost seven straight in the series since that breakthrough victory in Berkeley, with the last two being decided by an average of 30.5 points. The 2011 Bears jumped out to a 3–0 start but have lost back to back games at Washington and Oregon. They led Oregon 15–14 at the half last Thursday night before getting ambushed in the final two quarters en route to a 43–15 loss. USC hasn’t been overly impressive this year, but the Trojans are 4–1 with all four of the wins coming vs. BCS conference foes. The offense has been productive, but Monte Kiffin’s defense has been torched for a total of 84 points the past two weeks. Cal, which is playing its games at AT&T Park in San Francisco, won’t have a boisterous home crowd, but Bears are ready to end their losing streak vs. USC.
California 31, USC 24

South Carolina (-2.5) at Mississippi State
It’s been an interesting week at South Carolina. First, Steve Spurrier refused to address the media while a columnist from Columbia was in the room because of something that columnist wrote several months ago. Then, a few hours later, the school announced that Stephen Garcia had been kicked off the team. All this came a few days after the Gamecocks’ dominating 54–3 win over Kentucky in which USC rolled up a Spurrier-era high 639 yards of offense. Yards and points have been hard to come by at Mississippi State, which is off to a disappointing 3–3 start. The Bulldogs have totaled less than 220 yards in each of their past two SEC games and struggled to score in their non-conference wins over Louisiana Tech and UAB. No announcement has been made, but there is a strong possibility that Tyler Russell will get the start at quarterback over Chris Relf.
Mississippi State 21, South Carolina 13

Last week — 7–3 (3–7 vs. spread)
Season — 38–22 (29–30–1 vs. spread)

Teaser:
<p> Previews and predictions on 10 key games in Week 7.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 08:51
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-has-pac-12-south-title-wrapped
Body:

By Mitch Light

If it were a political race, the networks would already have declared Arizona State the winner of the Pac-12 South. Yes, we are barely into October, but it’s quite clear that the Sun Devils will be playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 2 — likely in Palo Alto or Eugene.

Dennis Erickson’s club is already 3–0 in the league, with wins over USC, Oregon State and Utah. UCLA is the only eligible team — USC can’t play in the league title game — in the South with fewer than two losses, but does anyone really consider the Bruins, who have wins over Washington State and Oregon State, to be a legitimate threat? Didn’t think so.

The other three teams in the division — Colorado, Utah and Arizona — are a combined 0–9 in the Pac-12.

So there you have it: Arizona State will win the Pac-12 South. It’s over.

Now, let’s move on to the next issue: Can this team win the entire league and play in a BCS bowl for the first time? The key is hosting the Pac-12 title game. Here’s how that can happen:

• Arizona State somehow beats the LaMichael James-less Oregon Ducks this weekend in Eugene.

• Arizona State wins the rest of its league games — quite manageable, with Colorado, Arizona and Cal at home and UCLA and Washington State on the road. Note: No Stanford!

• Oregon beats Stanford in Palo Alto on Nov. 12. This is the big component, because even if ASU wins the Pac-12 South with a 9–0 record, an undefeated Stanford team out of the North would be ranked higher and earn the right to host. However, an undefeated ASU team would host over a one-loss Stanford or a one-loss Oregon.

So if you thought that this week’s game at Oregon was big — and it is, ESPN College GameDay will be on hand — it’s even bigger when you take a look at the long-term ramifications.
Erickson, however, isn’t really concerned with any big-picture talk. He’s far more concerned with the task at hand — beating a very good Oregon team on foreign soil.

“We have to learn how to go at warp speed,” he said earlier this week. “They are what they are. They do it week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out since Chip (Kelly) has been there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team as fast offensively. It’s unbelievable watching.”

Erickson believes his team is in the right frame of mind for what figures to be the biggest game for the program since its trip to Eugene in November 2007, when ASU, 8–0 at the time, lost to 7–1 Oregon, 35–23.

We’re a confident football team,” said the veteran coach. “They believe in each other. I don’t know if you even call it confidence — they have a strong belief in each other and a strong belief that their teammate is going to do the job he’s supposed to do and give the effort he’s supposed to. In the first six football games we’ve done that extremely well.”

Arizona State will have to do everything extremely well to win Saturday night.

Around the Pac-12

• Cal’s Zach Maynard has completed only 51.4 percent of his passes, the lowest among any of the top 50 quarterbacks in the nation in yards passing per game. All but eight of the top 50 passers have completed at least 60.0 percent of their attempts.

• Oregon has 14 plays from scrimmage of at least 40 yards. No other team in the league has more than eight.

• Utah leads the Pac-12 in turnovers committed (13) and ranks second in turnovers forced (13).

• Washington’s Keith Price has thrown at least three touchdowns in each game this season.

• Andrew Luck has only thrown more than one interception in a game only twice in his two-plus years as the starter at Stanford. He was picked off twice against Notre Dame and Oregon last season.

• UCLA is over .500 in league play after three games for the first time since 2007, when Karl Dorrell’s final Bruin team opened with a 4–0 Pac-10 record.

• Arizona has averaged 33 points in its last three losses.

• LaMichael James has four carries of at least 40 yards. Only one other player in the league has more than one — USC’s Curtis McNeal has two.
 

Teaser:
<p> With the Pac-12 South title all but wrapped up, Arizona State could put itself in position for a possible BCS bowl with a win at Oregon on Saturday.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 16:30
Path: /college-football/kansas-defensive-struggles-are-epic
Body:

By Mitch Light

Toben Opurum spent his first season at Kansas on the offensive side of the ball, leading the Jayhawks in rushing as a true freshman in 2009. He scored a touchdown in each of his first six games. He knows what it’s like to score points.

The past two seasons, Opurum has learned what it’s like to give up points — a lot of points. In 2010, his first season on the defense, Kansas ranked 98th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up an average of 34.4 points per game. This fall, the Jayhawks have taken several large steps back.

After five games, Kansas ranks 120th in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. The Jayhawks have given up at least 42 points in all four games against FBS opponents, including 66 vs. Georgia Tech and 70 vs. Oklahoma State. Last week, KU trailed O-State 56–7 at halftime.

“It is embarrassing, and is something I do not want to be a part of,” said Opurum, when asked what it’s like to see an opponent score 70 points. “We cannot do anything about it right now. We need to put it behind us and continue to work hard.”

Turner Gill is now 5–12 in his one-plus season as the boss in Lawrence, but only two of those wins (Georgia Tech and Colorado in 2010) have come against BCS conference opponents. Last season, Kansas was outgained by a staggering 219.4 yards in its eight Big 12 games. This year, the Jayhawks have allowed an average of 632.7 yards per game to three the BCS conference foes they have faced. To be fair, KU has played Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State — three of the top offensive teams in the country — but its defensive numbers are still alarmingly bad.

Here are a few more stats to chew on: The Kansas defense is allowing 7.8 yards per play, the worst in the nation by almost a full yard. The Jayhawks have given up 34 touchdowns, 15 more than any other team in the Big 12. They have yielded 21 plays of 30 yards or more, nine more than any other team in the Big 12.

“We just have to keep improving,” Gill said after the O-State game. “We have some work to do on that side of the ball, or all sides of the ball for that matter. We just have to keep working. We have to improve.”

The Jayhawks don’t have much time to figure things out. The mighty Oklahoma Sooners — featuring an offense that has scored 113 points the past two weeks — visit Lawrence this week, and KU still has dates with Kansas State (which beat the Jayhawks 59–7 last year), Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M and Missouri.

“We have people getting mad and we have people that are sad,” cornerback Greg Brown said. “We need to keep our heads up because it is still early in the season and we can still turn it around.”

AROUND THE BIG 12

• Texas A&M lost seven straight games in Lubbock from 1995-2007, but has now won two in a row on the road vs. the hated Red Raiders. With the Aggies off to the SEC, it’s highly unlikely that these two teams will meet in the near (or distant) future.

• A big key to Kansas State’s 6–0 start has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats lead the Big 12 in total defense (298.8 ypg) and rank second in scoring defense (16.6 ppg). Last year, K-State ranked 11th in total defense (445.7 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (29.1 ppg).

• The Big 12 is home to three of the top 10 scoring teams in the country — Oklahoma State (first, 51.4 ppg), Texas Tech (eighth, 45.8 ppg) and Oklahoma (tied for ninth, 45.0 ppg).

• Texas has given up 50 points or more three times in the Mack Brown era, all to Oklahoma — 63 points in 2000, 65 in ’03 and 55 in ’11.

• Iowa State’s three wins have come by an average of 2.7 points per game. Its two losses have come by an average of 23 points.

• The losing team has averaged 35.7 points in Texas A&M’s last three games.

• Missouri’s Henry Josey ranks 11th in the nation in rushing (117.6 ypg) despite not having more than 14 carries in any single game this season.

• Baylor has scored 35 points or more in five straight games (in the same season) for the first time in school history.
 

Teaser:
<p> Kansas Jayhawks have taken a step back in 2011</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 12:06
Path: /college-football/aj-mccarron-passing-every-test-alabama
Body:

By Mitch Light

It was far from the most stressful environment, and his team was favored by more than four touchdowns. But AJ McCarron made a nice statement Saturday night in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide cruised past Vanderbilt, 34–0. Alabama’s sophomore quarterback played the best game of his short career against a Vanderbilt team that entered the game ranked 11th in the nation in total defense and fourth in the nation in passing efficiency defense.

McCarron had season-highs in completions (23), attempts (30), passing yards (237) and touchdowns (four). And most important, he did not throw an interception against a Commodore defense that had picked off 14 passes in its first four games. McCarron, who threw two picks in the first game of the season against Kent State, has now gone
21 quarters without throwing an interception.

“AJ played pretty well,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, never one to offer effusive praise for his players. “He didn’t turn the ball over which was really important.”

The quarterback position was one of the few question marks for this Alabama team. McCarron beat out Phillip Sims in the preseason for the starting assignment and is trying to prove that he has what it takes — both physically and mentally — to run Alabama’s pro-style offense. He is 6–0 as a starter, with wins at Penn State and at Florida on his resume.

Alabama has already shown that it can run the ball with success. The Crimson Tide will need to prove that it can pass the ball — and do so in big spots — to be a championship team. Saturday night, McCarron and his offense took a step in the right direction.

“I definitely think we are an offense that can run and pass at will when we are clicking on all cylinders,” said tight end Brad Smelley. “I think we showed tonight that if you try to load the box, we can definitely make plays over the top and find the zones and the spaces that are open in there. We are a two phase team so we can run and pass.”

Alabama was particularly effective on third down against Vanderbilt, converting a season-high 70.6 percent (12-of-17). For the season, McCarron has completed 29-of-46 passes (63.0 percent) on third down with 23 of those 29 completions resulting in a first down.

If that type of production in the passing game continues, no one will question McCarron’s ability to be a championship quarterback.

AROUND THE SEC

• Tennessee’s Tyler Bray had thrown at least two touchdown passes in 10 straight games before being shut out by Georgia on Saturday night. Bray will be out of action for 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb.

• In two SEC games, Tennessee’s tailbacks have rushed for only 49 yards on 30 carries.

• In a 38–14 loss to Arkansas, Auburn was held scoreless for three straight quarters in the same game for the first time in the Gus Malzahn era.

• Vanderbilt’s average of 4.4 yards per play against Alabama was the highest of any Crimson Tide opponent this season. The Commodores, however, only had 43 offensive snaps, resulting in 190 total yards.

• Kentucky attempted a total of 26 passes for 17 yards in its 54–3 loss at South Carolina. The Cats averaged 0.65 yards per attempt.

• Arkansas has 109 plays of 10 yards or more this season. Kentucky and Vanderbilt each have only 44 such plays from scrimmage.

• Florida has been outgained 819 to 425 over the last two weeks.

• LSU has only allowed four sacks in six games. The Tigers are the only team in the league that is giving up less than one per game.

• South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore broke a two-game stretch of sub-100-yard games. He gained 102 yards on 22 carries against Kentucky, though he was held without a touchdown for the first time this season.

Teaser:
<p> Quarterback position no longer a question mark for the Tide</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 07:23
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-6
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here's a look at every game of the Week 6 college football schedule.

Friday

No. 5 Boise State at No. 89 Fresno State
Fresno State plays its old nemesis Boise State, which has jumped to the MWC after dominating the WAC for the pat decade. The Bulldogs gave up 38 points last week in a home loss to an Ole Miss team that had scored two touchdowns in three previous games vs. FBS opponents.
Boise State 41, Fresno State 10

Saturday

No. 56 Vanderbilt at No. 1 Alabama
Vanderbilt is good enough on the defensive end to keep things relatively interesting for a while, but the Commodores’ offense — statistically among the worst in the nation — is going to find yards extremely difficult to come by against a dominant Alabama defense.
Alabama 38, Vanderbilt 7

No. 19 Florida at No. 2 LSU
LSU’s Tiger Stadium would be very close to the top if you are making a list of venues that would not be ideal for a true freshman to make his first collegiate start. One positive for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel: At least the game is not at night.
LSU 21, Florida 10

No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Texas (Dallas)
Texas has some decent wins — BYU at home and UCLA and Iowa State on the road — but we’re still not sure if the Horns are good enough to challenge OU and Oklahoma State for the Big 12 title. The big key is at quarterback: Are Case McCoy and David Ash good enough to make plays on a big stage against an elite opponent? We’ll find out.
Oklahoma 26, Texas 17

No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 68 Kansas
What happens when one of the nation’s elite offensive teams plays one of the worst defensive teams in the country? A lot of points. That’s what happens.
Oklahoma State 55, Kansas 21

No. 85 Boston College at No. 8 Clemson
One team is undefeated with quality wins over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia. The other team has yet to beat an FBS opponent. Go with the good team.
Clemson 44, Boston College 10

No. 82 Colorado at No. 9 Stanford
When Colorado opted to bolt to the Pac-12, I’m pretty sure the Buffs weren’t planning on losing at home to Washington State in their first game in their new league.
Stanford 48, Colorado 14

No. 45 Ohio State at No. 11 Nebraska
What had the potential to be one of the most hyped regular-season games in recent Big Ten history is almost an afterthought.
Nebraska 24, Ohio State 10

No. 57 Maryland at No. 12 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has scored at least 35 points and accumulated at least 400 yards of offense in all five games this season. This team is a legitimate threat to win the ACC title.
Georgia Tech 41, Maryland 20

No. 18 Auburn at No. 13 Arkansas
Auburn keeps finding ways to win. The Tigers had been dreadful on offense yet managed to shut down South Carolina in a 16–13 victory in Columbia. Slowing down the Hogs will be a much more difficult challenge.
Arkansas 41, Auburn 33

No. 35 Miami (Fla.) at No. 14 Virginia Tech
The teams picked by many, including Athlon Sports, to finish 1-2 in the ACC Coastal Division, are each 0–1 in league play. The key in this game will be Miami’s ability (or inability) to stop Hokie tailback David Wilson.
Virginia Tech 20, Miami (Fla.) 17

No. 15 Illinois at No. 104 Indiana
The Fighting Illini hit the road for the first time this season after sweeping a five-game home stand — the final three by exactly three points. Indiana showed some fight last week in a 16–10 loss to Penn State, but the Hoosiers will have to play a perfect game to beat Illinois.
Illinois 28, Indiana 13

No. 16 Michigan at No. 55 Northwestern
This game opened with Michigan as a 3.5-point favorite but quickly shot up to over a touchdown. That’s quite interesting, especially since Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has been cleared to play after tweaking his Achilles in last week’s loss at Illinois.
Michigan 34, Northwestern 27

No. 84 Connecticut at No 17 West Virginia
Connecticut’s three losses have come by an average of 4.7 points, but those defeats haven’t exactly come against the most formidable foes — Iowa State and Western Michigan at home and at Vanderbilt.
West Virginia 30, Connecticut 10

No. 77 Kentucky at No. 20 South Carolina
South Carolina lost to Kentucky last year yet still won the SEC East for the first time. The Gamecocks, still smarting from last week’s loss at home to Auburn, will send out Connor Shaw at quarterback for the second time this season.
South Carolina 27, Kentucky 10

No. 21 Arizona State at No. 50 Utah
The Utes are still looking for their first Pac-12 win, and the quest must go on without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn, who is out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury.
Arizona State 28, Utah 20

No. 33 Missouri at No. 22 Kansas State
Missouri is one of the better two-loss teams in the nation, with its defeats coming at Arizona State in overtime and at Oklahoma, by only 10 points.
Missouri 30, Kansas State 21

No. 23 Texas A&M at No. 46 Texas Tech
The last two weeks have been quite painful for Texas A&M fans. For the season, the Aggies have outscored their opponents 115–34 in the first half but have been outscored 59–35 in the second half.
Texas A&M 34, Texas Tech 27

No. 24 Florida State at No. 41 Wake Forest
This game will test Florida State’s mental toughness. Wake Forest, arguably the most improved team in the nation this season, is good enough to win if the Noles aren’t ready to play.
Florida State 28, Wake Forest 20

No. 52 Air Force at No. 25 Notre Dame
The Irish are over .500 for the first time this season and are playing very good football. They have given up an average of 12 points in their last three games.
Notre Dame 31, Air Force 17

No. 42 Iowa State at No. 26 Baylor
Baylor lost a nine-point lead in the final six minutes last week at Kansas State. Iowa State, too, suffered its first loss of the season, getting pounded at home by Texas, 37–14.
Baylor 41, Iowa State 21

No. 76 Louisville at No. 28 North Carolina
We thought Louisville would take a few steps back this season, but we didn’t foresee losses at home to both FIU and Marshall.
North Carolina 28, Louisville 10

No. 29 Georgia at No. 34 Tennessee
With John Brantley’s injury at Florida and South Carolina’s surprising loss at home to Auburn, this game suddenly takes on great importance in the wide-open SEC East.
Georgia 35, Tennessee 30

No. 31 Pittsburgh at No. 60 Rutgers
Pittsburgh’s 44–17 win over South Florida last Thursday was among the most impressive performances of the week. Tailback Ray Graham ranks third in the nation in rushing (146.8 ypg).
Pittsburgh 27, Rutgers 16

No. 43 Iowa at No. 36 Penn State
Penn State has been brutal on offense this season against teams not named Indiana State and Eastern Michigan, scoring 11 points against Alabama, 14 against Temple and 16 against Indiana.
Iowa 24, Penn State 14

No. 38 TCU at No. 61 San Diego State
TCU hasn’t had two losses at this juncture of the season since 2007. Loss No. 3 might be right around the corner. San Diego State is a solid team with very good talent on offense.
San Diego State 27, TCU 24

No. 39 Mississippi State at No. 110 UAB
UAB is one of four remaining teams without a win, but the Blazers haven’t played that badly over the past two weeks, losing 28–23 at East Carolina and 24–23 at Troy. Starting quarterback Bryan Ellis remains sidelined with a concussion.
Mississippi State 38, UAB 17

No. 79 at East Carolina at No. 48 Houston
East Carolina ranks 100th in the nation in scoring defense, which is a huge improvement from last season (120th). Case Keenum and the Cougars shouldn’t have much trouble putting some points on the board.
Houston 50, East Carolina 28

No. 51 Southern Miss at No. 49 Navy
Southern Miss has played very well since a Week 2 loss at Marshall, stringing together wins over SE Louisiana, Virginia and Rice. Navy must regroup after a heartbreaking overtime loss to rival Air Force.
Navy 33, Southern Miss 28

No. 114 Eastern Michigan at No. 53 Toledo
Toledo deserves a ton of credit for the way it bounced back from the controversial overtime loss at Syracuse. Beating Temple so soundly, 36–13, on the road made quite a statement.
Toledo 48, Eastern Michigan 10

No. 54 Temple at No. 53 Ball State
Temple followed up its 38–7 win at Maryland with a head-scratching 36–13 loss at home to Toledo. Ball State is improved under first-year coach Pete Lembo, but the Cardinals have a tough time stopping the run. Expect to see a heavy dose of Bernard Pierce
Temple 28, Ball State 21

No. 58 Arizona at No. 100 Oregon State
Arizona finally gets a bit of a break after playing three top-10 teams (Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon) and USC in consecutive weeks. Winning in Corvallis is never easy, but Arizona should be able to score enough points to knock off the Beavers.
Arizona 38, Oregon State 28

No. 62 Washington State at No. 67 UCLA
The Cougars are only three games away from bowl-eligibility after opening the season with a 3–1 record. Marshall Lobbestael has been great at quarterback in relief of the injured Jeff Tuel. The guess here is that the Cougs keep the magic going for at least one more week.
Washington State 28, UCLA 17

No. 90 San Jose State at No. 63 BYU
San Jose State has won two straight for the first time since October 2008, beating New Mexico State at home and winning at Colorado State. BYU is winning despite not playing very good football. The Cougars were fortunate to beat UCF and Utah State on consecutive Friday nights at home.
BYU 21, San Jose State 17

No. 92 Central Michigan at No. 65 NC State
The Pack are 2–3 but have yet to defeat a FBS opponent. This isn’t what NC State was expecting to see in the fifth year of the Tom O’Brien era.
NC State 27, Central Michigan 13

No. 69 Ohio at No. 107 Buffalo
Ohio didn’t play its best last week in a 17–10 win over Kent State, but the Bobcats are having a really nice season. This is a road game Frank Solich’s team needs to win to remain a strong contender in the MAC East.
Ohio 27, Buffalo 17

No. 70 FIU at No. 119 Akron
FIU has lost back-to-back games after its 3–0 start, but the trip to Akron should get the Panthers back on the right track.
FIU 34, Akron 10

No. 74 Marshall at No. 71 UCF
This is a key MAC East showdown between a Marshall club that already has a win over Southern Miss (and Louisville, out of conference) and the defending division champs.
UCF 21, Marshall 18

No. 72 Syracuse at No. 108 Tulane
Syracuse is a very uninspiring 3–2, with overtime wins over Wake Forest and Toledo (thanks to the Big East refs) and a seven-point victory over Rhode Island. Tulane has lost to Duke and Army in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 93–33.
Syracuse 21, Tulane 17

No. 98 Western Michigan at No. 98 Bowling Green
WMU quarterback Alex Carder was brilliant in the Broncos’ 38–31 win at UConn last week, throwing for 479 yards with five touchdowns and no INTs. Three different Western Michigan players had over 100 yards receiving.
Western Michigan 37, Bowling Green 27

No. 78 Arkansas State at No. 111 UL-Monroe
Arkansas State avoided what would have been a bad loss last week, holding on for a 26–22 win at Western Kentucky. UL-Monroe has been pounded by three very good teams (Florida State, TCU and Iowa) and beat Grambling with ease. We’ll find out more about the Warhawks this weekend.
Arkansas State 27, UL-Monroe 14

No. 116 UNLV at No. 81 Nevada
The Wolf Pack are playing at home for the first time this season after opening the year 1–3 on the road. UNLV shouldn’t put up too much of a fight. The Rebs are bad.
Nevada 41, UNLV 13

No. 97 Wyoming at No. 86 Utah State
At some point, Utah State will catch a break. Right? This team is too good to be 1–3 at this point.
Utah State 31, Wyoming 17

No. 117 Memphis at No. 87 Rice
Memphis showed signs of life last week but couldn’t make a stop on defense when it counted in a 38–31 loss at Middle Tennessee. So was this a one-week blip or are the Tigers really getting better? We’ll find out (but my guess is the former).
Rice 41, Memphis 17

No. 102 Minnesota at No. 88 Purdue
I think Jerry Kill was a great hire and still believe he will do well at Minnesota, but his first season with the Gophers has been a disaster.
Purdue 31, Minnesota 17

No. 115 Kent State at No. 93 Northern Illinois
The Huskies’ 48–41 loss at Central Michigan was one of the more surprising scores last weekend. You have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat to stay relevant in the strong MAC West.
Northern Illinois 37, Kent State 12

No. 94 Troy at No. 101 UL-Lafayette
UL-Lafayette is off to a solid start under first-year coach Mark Hudspeth. The Cajuns are already 2–0 in the Sun Belt — highlighted by a win at FIU — and will be in great shape in the league race with a win over Troy.
UL-Lafayette 28, Troy 27

No. 96 Army at No. 105 Miami (Ohio)
As expected, the Black Knights have the most unbalanced offense in the nation, ranking second in rushing (368.4 ypg) and 120th in passing (45.0 ypg).
Miami (Ohio) 31, Army 21

No. 99 Louisiana Tech at No. 112 Idaho
Idaho came close to a shocking upset at Virginia last weekend, falling to the Cavs 21–20 in overtime. Louisiana Tech, like Idaho, is looking for its first win over an FBS opponent.
Louisiana Tech 27, Idaho 17

No. 117 FAU at No. 103 North Texas
FAU is on stop No. 5 of a five-game, season-opening road trip. All four have ended in defeat, though the Owls are showing signs of improvement.
North Texas 27, FAU 20

Last week — 41-12
Season — 273-50

Teaser:
<p> Week 6 action is highlighted by LSU-Florida, Oklahoma-Texas and Tennessee-Georgia</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 15:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-6
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here are previews and predictions for the 10 best college football games this weekend.


Oklahoma (-10) vs. Texas
Alabama and LSU are stealing a lot of the national headlines, but Oklahoma, still ranked No. 1 by the coaches, is also playing very good football. Landry Jones, as expected, has been superb at quarterback, ranking fourth in the nation in total offense (but third in his own league) with a 362.5 yards-per-game average. The defense, outside of a shaky first half against Missouri, has been strong, as well. Texas appears to be much improved after last year’s surprising five-win season, but Mack Brown’s team has yet to face a high-quality opponent. The Horns have some decent wins — BYU at home and UCLA and Iowa State on the road — but we’re still not sure if Texas is good enough to challenge OU and Oklahoma State for the Big 12 title. The big key is at quarterback: Are Case McCoy and David Ash good enough to make plays on a big stage against an elite opponent? We’ll find out.
Oklahoma 26, Texas 17

Florida (+14) at LSU
LSU’s Tiger Stadium would be very close to the top if you are making a list of venues that would NOT be ideal for a true freshman to make his first collegiate start. One positive for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel: At least the game is not at night. Driskel, regarded by most as the top prep quarterback in the nation last year, was forced to play the entire second half against Alabama last week. He completed 2-of-6 attempts for 14 yards. The Gators will need far more production this week against a ferocious LSU defense that yielded only 155 yards to Kentucky last Saturday. Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will do his best to put Driskel in favorable situations, but it will be very, very difficult for the Gators to muster enough offense to win this game in such a difficult environment.
LSU 21, Florida 10

Auburn (+10) at Arkansas
After giving up an average of 36.7 points and 534.3 yards in its first three games, Auburn somehow managed to shut down South Carolina last week in a surprising 16–13 win in Columbia. The Tigers are still last in the SEC in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense (and that includes a Week 4 win against FAU, arguably the worst offensive team in the nation), but there are signs of hope after limiting the Gamecocks to season lows of 289 yards and 13 points. Now, however, comes the most difficult test of the season. Arkansas leads the SEC in total offense (471.8 ypg) and rolled up nearly 600 yards in its 42–38 come-from-behind win over Texas A&M over the weekend. The Hogs don’t have much balance — they rank ninth in the league in rushing — but the passing attack is nearly unstoppable (against teams not named Alabama).
Arkansas 41, Auburn 33

Missouri (-3) at Kansas State
Kansas State is emerging as one of the surprise teams in the nation. Bill Snyder, who turns 72 this week, has the Wildcats off to a 4–0 start, highlighted by wins at Miami (Fla.) and over Baylor. K-State is getting great play from junior dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein, who has thrown only two interceptions in 85 attempts and is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. Missouri is one of the better two-loss teams in the nation, with its defeats coming at Arizona State in overtime and at Oklahoma, by only 10 points. The Tigers have a potent dual-threat quarterback, as well. In his first season as a starter, James Franklin has been extremely efficient in the passing game (61.1 percent, seven TDs, one INT) and effective running the ball, as well. K-State is a nice story, but Missouri has the better team.
Missouri 30, Kansas State 21

Ohio State (+11) at Nebraska
What had the potential to be one of the most hyped regular-season games in recent Big Ten history is almost an afterthought now. Ohio State, due in part to its personnel issues and coaching drama, has been a huge disappointment. The Buckeyes, coming off an uninspiring 10–7 loss at home to Michigan State, have been brutal on offense against quality opponents. Nebraska received a rude welcoming to the Big Ten last Saturday night, suffering a sobering 48–17 loss at Wisconsin. The Huskers will continue to beat up on mediocre (and even good) competition, but will have a tough time defeating top-10 teams until they prove they can make plays consistently in the passing game. Ohio State’s defense is good enough to put pressure on Nebraska, but the Buckeyes won’t be able to score enough points to win in Lincoln.
Nebraska 24, Ohio State 10

Georgia (-1) at Tennessee
With John Brantley’s injury at Florida and South Carolina’s surprising loss at home to Auburn, this game suddenly takes on great importance in the wide-open SEC East. Georgia has won three straight after opening the season with losses to Boise State and South Carolina. The Dawgs are getting outstanding play from true freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell (100-plus yards in all three SEC games), and the defense has been strong in recent weeks. Tennessee flexed its muscles in a 41–10 win over Buffalo on Saturday. The Vols are now 3–1, with three easy wins at home and a 10-point loss at Florida. We know Tennessee can throw the ball — even without Justin Hunter. The key for the Vols — this week and going forward — will be the running game. This team must show the ability to have some balance on offense.
Georgia 35, Tennessee 30

Michigan (-7.5) at Northwestern
This game opened with Michigan as a 3.5-point favorite but quickly shot up to over a touchdown. That’s quite interesting, especially since Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has been cleared to play after tweaking his Achilles in last week’s loss at Illinois. Persa, when healthy, is one of the most effective quarterbacks in the nation due to his ability to run and throw. The same, obviously, can be said for Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who continues to put up amazing numbers for the surprising Wolverines. The key for Michigan, though, will be on the defensive side of the ball. The Wolverines are drastically improved statistically, but the early season schedule hasn’t been too taxing. They will be tested this weekend in Evanston.
Michigan 34, Northwestern 27

Florida State (-11.5) at Wake Forest
You can make a strong case that Wake Forest is the most-improved team in the nation. A year ago, the Deacs slumped to 3–9 overall, losing five games by 30 points or more. This year, a much more seasoned Wake team is off to a 3–1 start, which almost assuredly would have been 4–0 had starting quarterback Tanner Price not been hurt in the second half of a Week 1 overtime loss at Syracuse. Florida State’s shot at a national title ius gone after losing back-to-back games to Oklahoma and Clemson. The Seminoles will regain the services of quarterback EJ Manuel, who missed most of the second half against Oklahoma and the entire game vs. Clemson. This game will test Florida State’s mental toughness. Wake Forest is good enough to beat the Noles if they aren’t ready to play.
Florida State 28, Wake Forest 20

Miami (Fla.) (+7.5) at Virginia Tech
The teams picked by many, including Athlon Sports, to finish 1-2 in the ACC Coastal Division, are each 0–1 in league play. Virginia Tech struggled mightily on the offensive end in a 23–3 loss to Clemson at home. The Hokies managed 258 yards of offense and were held without a touchdown in an ACC game for the first time since losing at Boston College, 22–3 in 2006. David Wilson has been terrific at tailback, but Tech is really struggling in the passing game. Miami throttled Bethune-Cookman, 45–14, last week, but the Canes still have to be upset about their 28–24 loss at home to Kansas State two weeks ago. It’s been a strange first season for Al Golden; his team has a dominating win against Ohio State yet has lost to Maryland and Kansas State. The big concern for Miami this week is stopping Wilson and the Hokies’ running game. The Canes rank 105th in the nation in run defense, allowing over 200 yards per game.
Virginia Tech 20, Miami (Fla.) 17

Iowa (+4) at Penn State
Penn State has been brutal on offense this season against teams not named Indiana State and Eastern Michigan, scoring 11 points against Alabama, 14 against Temple and 16 against Indiana. The quarterback situation is a mess, and there doesn’t appear to be any resolution in the near future. This team will have to win this season by running the ball and playing defense. We’re still trying to get a handle on Iowa. The Hawkeyes let a lead get away (actually five leads) in a triple-overtime loss to Iowa State and then stormed back from 17 down in the fourth quarter to beat Pittsburgh one week later. James Vanderberg has been very good at quarterback, throwing only one interception in 129 attempts, and the running game has potential with Marcus Coker carrying the load. The Hawkeyes have the potential to be very good on offense.
Iowa 24, Penn State 14

Last week — 6–4 (8–2 vs. spread)
Season — 31–19 (26–23–1 vs. spread)

Teaser:
<p> Previews and predictions on 10 key games in Week 5.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 14:47
Path: /college-football/cougs-hot-start-has-paul-wulff-hot-seat
Body:

By Mitch Light

You can remove the name Paul Wulff from the list of coaches on the hot seat. For now, at least.

Wulff entered his fourth season at Washington State, his alma mater, with a 2–25 record in league games and an overall mark of 5–32. And the Cougars weren’t just losing — they were getting pounded, with regularity. Of those 32 losses, 15 came by at least 30 points. Washington State, simply put, was beyond bad.

The Cougs showed some signs of progress late last season, most notably in a 31–14 win at Oregon State in mid-November, but it was clear that Wulff needed to win some games in ’11 to save his job.

Consider his job saved. Washington State is now 3–1 after rallying from 10 down in the final minutes to knock off Colorado, 31–27, in Boulder on Saturday. The Cougs haven’t exactly faced a grueling slate — they own wins over Idaho State, UNLV and CU — but when you have averaged 1.7 wins over the previous three seasons, any win is a good win.

“Honestly, I think this was the best win of my life,” cornerback Daniel Simmons said after the game. “We’re moving in the right direction, and we’re very excited about what we’re going to do We kept working and kept believing, and that’s what it’s about. We worked so hard over the summer and this is the end result.”

The Cougars’ hot start is even more impressive when you factor in that they have been without starting quarterback Jeff Tuel for the last three games. Considered to be one of the few true Pac-12-quality players on the Washington State offense, Tuel suffered a broken clavicle in the opener against Idaho State. With Tuel sidelined, Marshall Lobbestael, who had six career starts heading into this season, has been sensational running the Cougars’ attack. He has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,335 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. In the win at Colorado last week, Lobbestael threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the final three minutes.

“Practice pays off, and you have to practice these types of situations like we’ve practiced these past two weeks and how we practiced fourth quarters,” Lobbestael said following the game.

Tuel has been cleared to return to action, but Wulff indicated earlier in the week that Lobbestael will remain the starter — for now.

“We’re just going to give (Tuel) some quality reps and let him work himself back into shape,” the coach said.

Lobbestael expects Tuel to regain the starting assignment in the near future. And the fifth-year senior sounds like he is more than okay with the move, when and if it happens.

“Wait until you see this offense with Jeff,” Lobbestael said. “I’m not ragging on what I’ve done … but I’m excited to see what he can do this year. Everyone else should be too. That’s all I’m saying. I’m just going to keep preparing like I have been and my goal is just to be ready to play, whether that’s the first snap or second or third string.”

Whether it’s Tuel or Lebbestael running the show, Washington State will need to scratch and claw to get to six wins and become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2006. This week, the Cougars are a 3.5-point underdog at UCLA, one of the weaker teams in the league. There is a chance that Washington State will be favored only one more time the rest of the season, when struggling Oregon State visits Pullman on Oct. 22.

AROUND THE PAC-12

• Keith Price is getting a lot of pub at Washington — and deservedly so — but tailback Chris Polk has also been a huge part of the Huskies’ success on offense. The one-time USC commitment has rushed for 100 yards in four of the five games this season, with a high of 189 yards on 29 carries in UWs’ 31–14 win at Utah.

• Stanford has won 12 straight games dating back to last October, and all but two of the Cardinal’s wins during that stretch have come by at least 10 points.

• Stanford has only committed one turnover all season. That ties Northwestern for the fewest in the nation.

• USC has given up 40-plus points in back to back games for the first time in school history.

• Oregon State has only scored seven touchdowns this season. Only UAB (six) and FAU (five) have scored fewer.

• USC’s Robert Woods leads the Pac-12 with 55 receptions, 23 more than the league’s No. 2 receiver, Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton.

• Arizona is the only team in the league that has given up over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. Opponents are averaging 7.3 yards per play against the Cats’ defense, by far the most in the Pac-12.

• Opponents are only converting 23.9 percent on third down against Arizona State. That number leads the nation.

Teaser:
<p> Washington State's hot start has coach Paul Wulff off the hot seat</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 14:57
Path: /college-football/surprise-suprise-k-state-4-0
Body:

By Mitch Light

When Kansas State was trailing Eastern Kentucky, 7–3, late in the fourth quarter back in Week 1, even the most optimistic Wildcat fan would have had a tough time envisioning that this team would be 4–0 and that the K-State offense would be capable of scoring 28 points and 36 points in back-to-back wins over Miami (Fla.) and Baylor.

But that is exactly where the Wildcats find themselves, thanks in large part to the emergence of junior Collin Klein. The dual-threat quarterback has thrown only two interceptions in 85 attempts and is averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. In the 36–35 win over Baylor, Klein threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns and added 113 yards on the ground and another score. Not bad for a guy who was almost moved to wide receiver during spring practice.

The Wildcats are also getting solid production from the tailback position — but the man carrying the load is sophomore John Hubert, not former (over)hyped recruit Bryce Brown. The diminutive Hubert — he’s listed at 5-7, 185 — beat out Brown, a transfer from Tennessee, in preseason camp and has carried the ball 60 times for 343 yards in four games. Brown, meanwhile, has not had a carry since the opener and was not with the team during Saturday’s win over Baylor.

While Brown has been a bust, his brother, linebacker Arthur Brown — another transfer (from Miami) and former decorated recruit — has been playing extremely well in his first season back in his native Kansas. In the win against Baylor, Brown made three key plays in the fourth quarter, including an interception with the Cats trailing 35–33 with under six minutes remaining.

“He plays inspired football, and … he has a nose for the football,” says 72-year-old K-State coach Bill Snyder. “He knows how to find it and goes and gets it.”

Despite its hot start, Kansas State isn’t considered by most to be a legitimate threat in the Big 12. On the other hand, the Wildcats appear well on their way to exceeding the expectations placed on them by a certain preseason publication (hint: it starts with Athlon and ends with Sports) that predicted a ninth-place finish in the league.

AROUND THE BIG 12

• Kansas is allowing six touchdowns per game. Oklahoma has given up a total of seven touchdowns for the season.

• Missouri is the only team in the league that has over 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing.

• Iowa State is 3–1 despite ranking 118th in the nation in turnover margin (-2.00 per game).

• Texas is now 4–0 all-time in Ames and has averaged 44.3 points in the four wins over the Cyclones.

• Texas A&M has outscored its opponents 115–34 in the first half but has been outscored 59–35 in the second half.

• Texas Tech has won seven straight games dating back to last November. The Red Raiders' last loss came on Nov. 13 at Oklahoma.

• Baylor has scored at least 35 points in all four games this season after hitting that mark only three times all last season. The Bears had not scored 35 or more in four straight games since 1916, when Charles P. Mosley’s club opened the season with wins of 75–0 over Texas State, 62–0 over SMU, 37–0 over Trinity and 46–0 over Howard Payne.

• Oklahoma and Texas A&M have only allowed two sacks through four games. Kansas State has been sacked the most in the league, 10 times.

• Missouri tailback Henry Josey leads the league in rushes of at least 10 yards (20), 20 yards (seven) and 30 yards (five).
 

Teaser:
<p> Bill Snyder's Kansas State Wildcats are once again exceeding expectations</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 11:21
Path: /college-football/auburn-gets-defensive
Body:

By Mitch Light

The Auburn Tigers averaged 41.3 points in their first 25 victories of the Gus Malzahn era. But in the 26th win — arguably one of the most unlikely — the Tigers scored only 16 points and managed only 358 yards despite running a season-high — by 29 snaps — 92 offensive plays. Still, despite those offensive struggles, Auburn found a way to get it done, edging South Carolina 16–13 in Columbia for a precious SEC road win.

The Tigers, shockingly, won this game on defense. A unit that entered the weekend ranked 110th in the nation in total defense, 112th in rushing defense and 90th in scoring defense, somehow, some way found a way to slow down a South Carolina offense that features elite offensive talent in the form of tailback Marcus Lattimore and wideout Alshon Jeffery. The same Auburn defense that gave up 38 points and 448 total yards to a Utah State team that featured a true freshman quarterback limited South Carolina to a season-low 289 yards. The same Auburn defense that gave up 34 points to Mississippi State (which, by the way, has averaged 14 points since playing the Tigers) and 38 points to Clemson held South Carolina to its lowest total since a 20–7 loss to UConn in the 2009 Papajohns.com bowl.

Auburn’s plan of attack on the defensive end was to slow down Lattimore, who entered the weekend averaging 152.8 yards per game. That, however, is easier said than done — especially for a defense that was giving up 226.5 yards per game on the ground.

“I knew for all intents and purposes we had to stop 21 (Marcus Lattimore) running it, or it would be hard to win,” head coach Gene Chizik said after the game.

Mission — somehow — accomplished.

Lattimore was held to season lows of 17 carries and 66 yards. As a whole, the South Carolina offense struggled to sustain drives all game long. The Gamecocks only had one drive that went for more than 50 yards and only one drive that lasted more than five plays.

Clearly, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier envisioned his team having more success.

“(Auburn) hadn’t been playing very well defensively,” Spurrier said. “We made them look like about the best defense in the league most of the night. I think we had two long balls and that was about it. We got nothing consistently.”

South Carolina will have an opportunity to get back in the win column next week when struggling Kentucky visits Columbia, while Auburn braces for a three-game gauntlet that features trips to Arkansas and LSU sandwiched around a home game vs. Florida.

Can Chizik and the Tigers keep the magic going?

AROUND THE SEC

• Vic Ballard only had eight carries in Mississippi State’s 24–10 loss at Georgia, his fewest against an FBS opponent since his Week 2 last season vs. Auburn.

• LSU only gave up 155 yards of offense to Kentucky, and almost half of those (70) came on a fourth quarter drive with the Tigers holding a 35–0 lead.

• Consider this: Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense (8.4 ppg) and has already played Florida, Arkansas and Penn State.

• Kentucky (139.4 ypg) and Vanderbilt (124.3 ypg) combined are averaging 263.2 passing yards per game — a total that would rank third in the SEC behind Arkansas and Tennessee.

• Stephen Garcia has now thrown 50 interceptions in his South Carolina career.

• Tennessee continues to lead the SEC in third down conversions at 62.1 percent. Next on the list is LSU at 46.5 percent. The Vols were 10th in the league last year at 36.5 percent.

• Ole Miss should get Fresno State on the schedule every year. Over the last two years, the Rebs are 5–10 vs. FBS opponents, with two of the wins coming against Fresno State. Last year, Ole Miss scored a season-high 55 points vs. the Bulldogs (averaged 26.4 vs. all other FBS team). Last Saturday, Ole Miss broke out with 38 points vs. FSU after averaging 11.0 points in three previous games vs. FBS competition.
 

Teaser:
<p> Auburn's win at South Carolina headlines Week 5 SEC Notebook</p>
Post date: Monday, October 3, 2011 - 16:29
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-5
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here's a look at every game of the Week 5 college football schedule.

Friday

No. 85 Utah State at No. 58 BYU
The Cougars are looking for revenge after losing last year at Utah State, 31–16, on national television. It won’t be easy, but BYU should survive.
BYU 27, Utah State 21

Saturday

No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Florida
The key for the Alabama offense is to get a lead early so it can lean on its running game and not put quarterback AJ McCarron in a position where he has to make plays to win the game. Not saying he can’t do it, but Nick Saban would feel much more comfortable with the ball in the hands of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.
Alabama 24, Florida 17

No. 73 Kentucky at No. 2 LSU
Kentucky gave up 405 rushing yards in a 48–10 loss at home to Florida last week. Expect to see a lot of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford for the red-hot Tigers.
LSU 30, Kentucky 14

No. 81 Ball State at No. 3 Oklahoma
Pete Lembo is doing a fantastic job in his first season at Ball State. The Cardinals are 3–1 with wins over Indiana, Buffalo and Army. Should Oklahoma, which is plays Texas in two weeks, be on upset alert? Don’t think so.
Oklahoma 34, Ball State 10

No. 80 Nevada at No. 4 Boise State
Nevada is the only team that has defeated Boise State in the regular season since the start of the 2008 season. That Wolf Pack team, however, had Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. This one does not.
Boise State 41, Nevada 17

No. 7 Nebraska at No. 10 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been outstanding on both sides of the football in the early going, ranking No. 8 in the nation in total offense and No. 7 in total defense. Quarterback Russell Wilson, a transfer from NC State, could be the missing piece in a national title run for the Badgers. This team, on paper, has very few weaknesses.
Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 21

No. 14 Clemson at No. 8 Virginia Tech
I don’t trust Clemson. I want to trust the Tigers. I want to believe that this year’s club is different, but Clemson has been one of the most schizophrenic programs in the nation over the past decade (or more). Whenever you fall in love with the Tigers, you end up getting hurt. I don’t want to get hurt.
Virginia Tech 22, Clemson 17

No. 12 Texas at No. 39 Iowa State
Iowa State has won its three games by a total of eight points. Texas has won its three games by a total of 55 points. Go with Texas.
Texas 31, Iowa State 14

No. 69 UCLA at No. 9 Stanford
The Bruins’ specialty is running the ball. Stanford leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 36.0 yards per game.
Stanford 41, UCLA 14

No. 13 Texas A&M vs. No. 15 Arkansas
Both teams are explosive on offense, with a ton of talent at the skill positions. The key for Arkansas will be finding some balance; against Alabama, Ronnie Wingo Jr. ran for only 35 yards on 11 carries. The Hogs will have to be better in the running game to remain a threat in the SEC West.
Arkansas 34, Texas A&M 30

No. 27 Auburn at No. 16 South Carolina
Marcus Lattimore will get the ball early and often against an Auburn rush defense that is allowing 226.5 yards per game.
South Carolina 37, Auburn 27

No. 97 Bowling Green at No. 17 West Virginia
Bowling Green has been a bit of a surprise in 2011, with a 3–1 mark highlighted by last week’s 37–23 win at Miami (Ohio). The Falcons, however, have not faced a team with West Virginia’s level of talent.
West Virginia 48, Bowling Green 21

No. 18 Georgia Tech at No. 66 NC State
Note to Athlon staff (which picked Tech to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal): Never doubt a Paul Johnson-coached team.
Georgia Tech 38, NC State 20

No. 20 Baylor at No. 31 Kansas State
The stat of the year so far: Robert Griffin III has more touchdown passes (13) than incomplete passes (12). That won’t continue, but the Bears’ winning ways should.
Baylor 30, Kansas State 27

No. 53 SMU at No. 21 TCU
SMU is 5–16 vs. TCU since returning from the Death Penalty in the late 1980s. None of the last four games — all won by the Frogs — has been decided by less than 14 points.
TCU 35, SMU 21

No. 55 Northwestern at No. 23 Illinois
Dan Persa is scheduled to make his 2011 debut — and that is a very good thing for the Northwestern offense. Persa has missed the first three games of the season while recovering from an Achilles injury sustained late last season. Will his return be enough for the Cats? The guess here is no.
Illinois 31, Northwestern 24

No. 101 Minnesota at No. 24 Michigan
Not much has gone well for the Golden Gophers in 2011 — from Jerry Kill’s medical problems to the losses at home to New Mexico State and North Dakota State.
Michigan 48, Minnesota 21

No. 99 Oregon State at No. 25 Arizona State
Oregon State expects freshman tailback Marcus Agnew back in the lineup this weekend. It will help — but not enough.
Arizona State 37, Oregon State 17

No. 26 Notre Dame at No. 87 Purdue
The Irish are 0–2 when gaining over 500 yards of offense and 2–0 when gaining under 400 yards.
Notre Dame 35, Purdue 17

No. 28 Mississippi State at No. 36 Georgia
You would never know it because of all of the talk about Mark Richt’s job security, but Georgia is actually playing pretty decent football. The Dawgs are 2–2, with the losses coming to Boise State and South Carolina, two teams ranked in the top 10 in the AP poll.
Georgia 28, Mississippi State 20

No. 20 North Carolina at No. 75 East Carolina
Good news for East Carolina: Its defense, statistically the worst in the nation last season, appears to be much improved. Bad news: The Pirates’ offense, among the best in the nation in 2010, has taken a few steps backward.
North Carolina 31, East Carolina 21

Bethune-Cookman at No. 32 Miami (Fla.)
Miami has scored exactly 24 points in all three games this season. Prediction: Miami will score more than 24 points this week.
Miami (Fla.) 48, Bethune-Cookman 14

No. 33 Penn State at No. 104 Indiana
Kevin Wilson’s first season in Bloomington hasn’t quite gone as planned. The Hoosiers are 1–3 with losses to Ball State, Virginia and North Texas.
Penn State 31, Indiana 10

No. 64 Toledo at No. 34 Temple
Temple is fresh off one of the most impressive first-half performances you will see by any team this season. The Owls led Maryland 31–0 in College Park at the break.
Temple 34, Toledo 24

No. 35 Michigan State at No. 37 Ohio State
It’s tough to get an accurate read on Michigan State. The Spartans have dominated three very weak opponents (Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan) and got beat handily by the one solid team they have faced (Notre Dame).
Michigan State 21, Ohio State 10

No. 38 Washington at No. 45 Utah
Utah has had two weeks to celebrate its surprisingly easy 54–10 win over BYU in the Holy War. The Utes have nice balance on offense with Jordan Wynn at quarterback and junior college transfer John White emerging as the primary ball-carrier. The defense, as usual, is solid.
Utah 28, Washington 27

No. 107 Buffalo at No. 40 Tennessee
The Vols have a tune-up with Buffalo before beginning a four-week stretch that features games with Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina.
Tennessee 41, Buffalo 9

No. 56 Arizona at No. 41 USC
Arizona has now lost its last eight games against FBS competition. This year, the Cats’ three losses have been by an average of 25 points.
USC 35, Arizona 21

No. 44 Wake Forest at No. 84 Boston College
The Eagles picked up their first win of the season, but they had to step out of FBS play to do so, beating in-state rival UMass 45–17. The pressure is mounting on third-year coach Frank Spaziani. A loss at home to Wake Forest won’t help his cause.
Wake Forest 31, Boston College 17

No. 46 Texas Tech at No. 70 Kansas
Kansas is last in the nation in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. That is hard to do.
Texas Tech 51, Kansas 30

No. 47 Cincinnati at No. 102 Miami (Ohio)
Cincinnati has won five straight in this rivalry that dates back to 1888 — and none has been very competitive.
Cincinnati 37, Miami (Ohio) 20

No. 51 Air Force at No. 49 Navy
Air Force snapped a painful seven-year losing streak to Navy last season with a 14–6 win in Colorado Springs. The Falcons’ winning streak will not reach two.
Navy 31, Air Force 24

Towson at No. 50 Maryland
After the Terps’ 38–7 loss at home to Temple last week, first-year coach Randy Edsall said the following: “This is a process. It wasn’t going to get changed overnight.” Change what? Maryland won nine games last season. This isn’t a rebuild.
Maryland 41, Towson 14

No. 86 Rice at No. 57 Southern Miss
Rice is just now playing its first opponent not in a BCS conference after opening with losses to Texas and Baylor and a win vs. Purdue. Southern Miss recovered nicely from its surprising loss at Marshall by pounding SE Louisiana and posting a quality win at Virginia.
Southern Miss 31, Rice 27

No. 79 Duke at No. 59 FIU
FIU didn’t handle success well, losing at home to UL-Lafayette a week after improving to 3–0 with a win at Louisville. Duke has righted the ship a bit after losing to Richmond and Stanford to open the season. Going with Duke in an upset — yes, FIU is favored.
Duke 27, FIU 20

No. 103 North Texas at No. 61 Tulsa
After facing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State in the first month of the season, Tulsa gets a break with a visit from North Texas. But don’t chalk this up as a sure win; the Mean Green beat Indiana last week.
Tulsa 38, North Texas 20

No. 65 Rutgers at No. 63 Syracuse
The Orange are among the least-impressive 3–1 teams in the nation. They were fortunate to beat Wake Forest (Deacs’ quarterback got hurt with a 29–14 second-half lead) and Toledo (the extra point was no good) at home, and also struggled with Rhode Island.
Rutgers 24, Syracuse 21

No. 112 Idaho at No. 67 Virginia
Virginia has lost some momentum with back-to-back losses after its 2–0 start, Mike London’s team is clearly better in Year 2. If they plan on reaching a bowl game — which is still very possible — beating Idaho at home is a must.
Virginia 33, Idaho 10

No. 93 Marshall at No. 68 Louisville
Marshall has scored a total of two offensive touchdowns in its three losses — not a huge surprise with a true freshman (Rakeem Cato) at quarterback. Louisville has trouble scoring, as well, but the Cards should do enough to win this one at home.
Louisville 24, Marshall 13

No. 113 Kent State at No. 71 Ohio
Ohio lost its first game of the season last week, falling at Rutgers 38–26. This is a very good team that will challenge Temple in the MAC East. Kent State? Not a good team.
Ohio 41, Kent State 3

No. 72 Northern Illinois at No. 110 Central Michigan
Points are very hard to come by for the once-powerful Chippewas, who are averaging 11.3 points in three games vs. FBS competition.
Northern Illinois 38, Central Michigan 13

No. 74 Hawaii at No. 98 Louisiana Tech
Hawaii’s 40–20 loss at UNLV two weeks ago remains the most surprising result of the year so far. Last week, UNLV lost at home to Southern Utah, 41–16.
Hawaii 41, Louisiana Tech 33

No. 77 Washington State at No. 76 Colorado
Washington State is vastly improved, but I’m not quite sure the Cougars, without starting quarterback Jeff Teul, can go on the road and win this game.
Colorado 31, Washington State 20

No. 78 Arkansas State at No. 116 Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky opened the season with a relatively impressive 14–3 loss to Kentucky in Nashville but has since lost to Navy and Indiana State at home by a combined score of 84–30. This one could get ugly.
Arkansas State 41, Western Kentucky 14

No. 108 San Jose State at No. 82 Colorado State
San Jose Sate snapped a 13-game losing streak last week with a 34–24 win over New Mexico State. A new streak will begin Saturday.
Colorado State 28, San Jose State 20

No. 90 Western Michigan at No. 83 Connecticut
Connecticut has been brutal on offense, and I’m not sure the Huskies will score enough points to beat Western Michigan, even at home.
Western Michigan 24, Connecticut 17

No. 89 Ole Miss at No. 88 Fresno State
Ole Miss scored a season-high 55 points against Fresno State last season. That game, however, was in Oxford, and the Rebels had Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback.
Fresno State 28, Ole Miss 24

No. 105 UAB at No. 91 Troy
UAB is one of seven winless teams in the nation. It’s likely they will be on that list after this week’s action.
Troy 31, UAB 20

No. 120 Memphis at No. 94 Middle Tennessee
The Tigers are more than a three-touchdown underdog at Middle Tennessee — and it’s still not enough. I don’t think the boys in Vegas, who don’t miss much, realize how bad this team is.
Middle Tennessee 41, Memphis 10

No. 95 Tulane at No. 93 Army
One week after posting a huge win over Northwestern, the Black Knights were pounded at Ball State, 48–21. Tulane, too, has been inconsistent, following up a 49–10 win at UAB with a 48–27 loss at Duke.
Army 30, Tulane 20

No. 118 Florida Atlantic at No. 100 Louisiana-Lafayette
FAU showed enough last week at Auburn — the Owls scored 14 points and managed over 300 yards of offense — to move from No. 120 to No. 118 in our rankings.
Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Florida Atlantic 3

No. 109 New Mexico State at No. 119 New Mexico
It’s time once again for the biggest game in the Land of Enchantment. The 2011 edition, however, will be without Mike Locksley, who was dumped after a coaching tenure that can only be described as a debacle. The Aztecs will be looking for their third straight in the series.
New Mexico State 21, New Mexico 20

No. 117 Akron at No. 114 Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan, an 8.5-point favorite, has not been favored over another FBS team since Sept. 5, 2009, when Army visited Ypsilanti. (Army won, 27–14). The last time the Eagles were more than a touchdown favorite? You have to go back to Nov. 11, 2000, when they beat Central Michigan 31–15 as a 9.5-point favorite.
Eastern Michigan 28, Akron 20

Last week — 41-16
Season — 232-38

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin hosts Nebraska; Bama visits Florida; Clemson takes on Virginia Tech</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 16:40
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-5
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here are previews and predictions for the 10 best college football games this weekend.

Nebraska (+9) at Wisconsin
It’s a likely preview of the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game as Nebraska invades Madison for the first time since 1974. Neither team has been forced to break much of a sweat en route to their respective 4–0 records, though Nebraska did have a bit of a challenge two weeks ago against Washington. Wisconsin has been outstanding on both sides of the football in the early going, ranking No. 8 in the nation in total offense and No. 7 in total defense. Quarterback Russell Wilson, a transfer from NC State, could be the missing piece in a national title run for the Badgers. This team, on paper, has very few weaknesses.
Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 21

Alabama (-3.5) at Florida
Alabama has been tested twice this season, and Nick Saban’s club has passed each test with ease, beating Penn State 27–11 in Happy Valley and dismantling Arkansas, 38–14, last weekend in Tuscaloosa. Now, it’s a trip to Gainesville to face a Florida team that has cruised to a 4–0 record with an average margin of victory of 31.3 points per game. Florida has been living off the big play, with running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps doing most of the damage. Big plays, however, are tough to come by against Alabama — Arkansas had just one that went for more than 19 yards on Saturday. The key for the Alabama offense is to get a lead early so it can lean on its running game and not put quarterback AJ McCarron in a position where he has to make plays to win the game. Not saying he can’t do it, but Saban would feel much more comfortable with the ball in the hands of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.
Alabama 24, Florida 17

Texas A&M (-3) vs. Arkansas
The third annual Southwest Classic pits two teams who must rebound from very disappointing performances last weekend. Arkansas proved to be no match for powerful Alabama in a 38–14 loss in Tuscaloosa. Meanwhile, Texas A&M jumped out to a 20–3 lead against Oklahoma State in College Station, but the Pokes responded with 27 straight points in the second half to hand the Aggies a painful 30–29 loss. Both teams are explosive on offense, with a ton of talent at the skill positions. The key for Arkansas will be finding some balance; against Alabama, Ronnie Wingo Jr. ran for only 35 yards on 11 carries. The Hogs will have to be better in the running game to remain a threat in the SEC West.
Arkansas 34, Texas A&M 30

Clemson (+7) at Virginia Tech
Clemson, off to a 4–0 start, has been one of the most impressive teams in the nation. The Tigers are averaging 37.8 points per game, led by first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd and an outstanding set of skill-position players. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is emerging as one of the elite true freshmen in the nation, averaging 7.3 receptions and 108.3 receiving yards per game. Now, it’s time to see if Clemson can take its show on the road. Virginia Tech has been good, but not great, en route to its 4–0 start. The offense is leaning heavily on tailback David Wilson, who is seventh in the nation in rushing at 129.0 yards per game. The defense has put up very good numbers against a soft schedule. We’ll find out a lot more about Bud Foster’s group this weekend.
Virginia Tech 22, Clemson 17

Auburn (+9.5) at South Carolina
Auburn gave up an average of 534.3 yards in its first three games, but the most alarming stat so far this season might be the 307 yards the Tigers allowed to FAU in last weekend’s 30–14 Auburn win. Prior to Saturday, the Owls had a total of 185 in their first two games, lopsided losses at Florida and Michigan State. The AU defense has serious issues. South Carolina, however, isn’t quite right on offense, despite the presence of a fifth-year senior quarterback (Stephen Garcia) and elite talent at running back (Marcus Lattimore) and receiver (Alshon Jeffery). In Saturday’s 21–3 win vs. Vanderbilt, Garcia was picked off four times and Lattimore was held to 77 yards on 20 carries. Steve Spurrier, to no one’s surprise, is not happy with the play of his team’s offense. The Gamecocks will have a great opportunity to get back on track this week.
South Carolina 37, Auburn 27

Baylor (-3.5) at Kansas State
It kind of flew under the national radar, but Kansas State picked up a very impressive road win over the weekend, edging Miami (Fla.) 28–24 on the strength of a brilliant goal line stand. The Hurricanes had a 1st-and-goal at the K-State 2-yard line with 1:52 remaining but failed to score on four straight plays, the last of which ended with quarterback Jacory Harris being tackled inside the 1-yard line. The Wildcats, now 3–0, return home with a ton of confidence to face a Baylor team that is also 3–0. The Bears rolled past Rice, 56–31, on Saturday and have won their three games by a combined score of 154–79. The stat of the year so far: Robert Griffin III has more touchdown passes (13) than incomplete passes (12). That won’t continue, but the Bears’ winning ways should.
Baylor 30, Kansas State 27

Mississippi State (+6.5) at Georgia
You would never know it because of all of the talk about Mark Richt’s job security, but Georgia is actually playing pretty decent football. The Dawgs are 2–2, with the losses coming to Boise State and South Carolina, two teams ranked in the top 10 in the AP top 25. Aaron Murray is playing extremely well at quarterback, and freshman Isaiah Crowell is emerging as a reliable every down back. Mississippi State is in a bit of a funk. There is no shame in losing at home to LSU, but it had to be a bit troubling that West Virginia rolled up 543 yards of offense against LSU one week after MSU managed only 192 in a 17–6 loss to the Tigers. Then, Dan Mullen’s club avoided disaster by surviving in overtime against a mediocre (at best) Louisiana Tech team.
Georgia 28, Mississippi State 20

Northwestern (+8) at Illinois
Dan Persa is scheduled to make his 2011 debut — and that is a very good thing for the Northwestern offense. Persa has missed the first three games of the season while recovering from an Achilles injury sustained late last season. You can make a strong case that no player in the country meant more to his team than Persa did to the Wildcats last season. Illinois remained unbeaten with a tougher-than-expected 23–20 win at home vs. Western Michigan last week. The Illini have a relatively soft Big Ten schedule and some people have thrown out the possibility that Ron Zook’s club could run the table in the regular season.
Illinois 31, Northwestern 24

Michigan State (+3) at Ohio State
This game had the potential to be huge — a possible Big Ten title game preview. But with Ohio State’s relative struggles coupled with Michigan State’s disappointing showing at Notre Dame two weeks ago, this has clearly taken a backseat to the Nebraska vs. Wisconsin epic clash in Madison. It’s tough to get an accurate read on Michigan State. The Spartans have dominated three very weak opponents (Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan) and got beat handily by the one solid team they have faced (Notre Dame). Ohio State has issues on offense (despite its 37-point effort against Colorado). The Buckeyes are starting a true freshman quarterback in Braxton Miller who will have to deal with a Michigan State defense that is solid on all three levels.
Michigan State 21, Ohio State 10

Washington (+7.5) at Utah
Keith Price isn’t getting a lot of attention nationally, but Jake Locker’s replacement at Washington is off to a great start. In his first season as the starter, Price has guided the Huskies to a 3–1 start, with the only loss coming in a 51–38 decision at Nebraska in a game in which he threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, Price has completed 75-of-112 passes (67.0 percent) for 983 yards with 14 touchdowns (the most in the nation) and only three interceptions. Those numbers are good enough to rank him No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 9 in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 176.58. Utah has had two weeks to celebrate its surprisingly easy 54–10 win over BYU in the Holy War. The Utes have nice balance on offense with Jordan Wynn at quarterback and junior college transfer John White emerging as the primary ball-carrier. The defense, as usual, is solid.
Utah 28, Washington 27

Last week — 7–3 (4–6 vs. spread)
Season — 25–15 (18–21–1 vs. spread)

Teaser:
<p> Previews and predictions on 10 key games in Week 5.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 09:57
Path: /college-football/sleeping-giant-stillwater-awake
Body:

By Mitch Light

We may have just witnessed the most important 25 minutes in the history of Oklahoma State football. With a national television audience watching, the high-flying Pokes turned a 20–3 deficit into a 30–20 lead in 25 minutes of breathtaking football in front of a stunned crowd at Kyle Field. Oklahoma State improved to 4–0 on the season and recorded a breakthrough win that vaulted it into the top-5 in the Associated Press poll.

The sleeping giant in the Big 12 is no longer asleep. A program with tremendous facilities and seemingly unlimited financial resources is well-positioned to be a major player in a reconfigured league that no longer includes Nebraska and Texas A&M.

“You should be able to recruit there,” said one Big 12 assistant coach in the ‘Scouting the Cowboys’ section in our 2011 preview magazine. “Their facilities are unbelievable. They have a very personable head coach. They have a good recruiting base. In my opinion, they should be able to recruit better than Texas A&M and Texas Tech. Their facilities are like the Taj Mahal.”

The Pokes have been consistently competitive throughout the past four decades with some pockets of tremendous success — Pat Jones won 10 games three times in a five-year stretch in the ‘80s — but the program has never been a major player on the national level.

That could be changin, as Athlon's Braden Gall writes. The right coach is in place. The school has solid leadership. And the team is winning big games and doing so in exciting fashion — with an explosive offense. This will only help the Cowboys continue to attract top-flight talent to Stillwater.

Some might claim that Oklahoma State has a ceiling due to the presence of the University of Oklahoma — a top-5 program nationally — in its own state. I don’t buy it. Auburn recently won a national title, and the Tigers are a clear No. 2 in their own state. Florida and Florida State each won a national title in a four-year stretch in the late 1990s. (And yes, I realize that Florida produces a ton more talent than the state of Oklahoma, but both OU and OSU make a killing in nearby Texas, equally as fertile as Florida.)

Obviously, we don’t know how the rest of the 2011 season will play out, but if O-State continues to win games — and take a look at the schedule; it’s not overly taxing — we could be looking back at the comeback in College Station as the defining moment of a special season in Stillwater.

Also Read: Our Week 4 Big 12 Power Rankings

Around the Big 12

• K-State quarterback Collin Klein is very quietly having a great junior season. Klein has been efficient throwing the ball (34-of-57 for 335 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception) and is averaging over 100 yards per game rushing. In last week’s win at Miami (Fla.), Klein threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns and added 93 yards rushing and one TD.

• Missouri tailback Henry Josey’s 12.4 yards-per-attempt average leads the nation among players with at least 20 attempts. Josey has 533 yards on 43 carries.

• The Kansas defense has given up 14 plays of 30 yards or longer. That is tied with Clemson and North Texas for the most in the nation.

• In three games, Kansas has not forced a turnover. The Jayhawks’ offense has only committed one turnover.

• Baylor’s Robert Griffin III leads the nation with a completion percentage of 85.4, but the Bears have also completed five of the six passes that Griffin has not attempted this season. Backup quarterback Bryce Petty is 3-of-4 for 53 yards, and receiver Kendall Wright is 2-of-2 for 55 yards and one touchdown.

• Texas Tech ranks 111th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 225.7 yards in wins against Texas State (256 yards), New Mexico (109) and Nevada (312 yards). Good thing the Raiders don’t have Georgia Tech on the schedule.
 

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma State has what it takes to be one of the elite programs in the nation.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 17:21
Path: /college-football/price-has-been-right-washington
Body:

By Mitch Light

He was one of the most decorated players in school history. The face of Washington football for four seasons, Jake Locker became the first quarterback from the UW ever selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Locker’s gone, yet quarterback is still a position of strength for the Huskies. The man to thank for that is Keith Price, a sophomore from Compton, Calif. In his first season as the starter, Price has guided the Huskies to a 3–1 start, with the only loss coming in a 51–38 decision at Nebraska in a game in which he threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, Price has completed 75-of-112 passes (67.0 percent) for 983 yards with 14 touchdowns (the most in the nation) and only three interceptions. Those numbers are good enough to rank him No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 9 in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 176.58.

Price was at his best in last Saturday’s win over California in the Pac-12 opener, completing 19-of-25 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has completed at least 57 percent of his attempts in each game and has thrown at least three touchdowns in each game.

Last season, Locker completed only 55 percent of his passes and threw for at least three touchdowns only twice.

This isn’t to say that Price is a better player than Locker — though surely some Washington fans are making that argument — but it’s clear that the Huskies are getting more production from the quarterback position with Price running the show.

“He’s playing phenomenal football for us right now,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said after the Nebraska game. “He’s been lights-out. He’s got an innate ability to extend plays and keep his vision and find open receivers downfield.”

Price is thriving despite playing on two injured knees. He sprained his right knee in the second quarter of a Week 1 win against Eastern Washington and sprained the left knee against Nebraska. It hasn’t hindered him in the passing game too much, but he hasn’t been able to use his legs as much as planned.

In four games, Price has netted only 12 yards rushing.

“The only thing mechanically is just not being able to really run,” Sarkisian said last week. “He’s still quick and elusive. We see that in the pocket. We see it in some suddenness on the about 6-, and 7-yard runs. He just hasn’t been able to open up and go like the way he can.”

AROUND THE PAC-12

• Oregon State is 0–3 for the first time since 1996. The Beavers were 0–3 12 times from 1972 through 1990.

• UCLA completed only seven passes in its 22–19 win over Oregon State. It is the fifth time since the start of last season that the Bruins have completed fewer than 10 passes. They are 3–2 in those games, with wins over Houston, Texas and Oregon State and losses to Kansas State and Washington.

• USC is last in the Pac-12 and 113th in the nation in turnover margin (-1.5 per game). The Trojans have forced three turnovers — only seven teams have forced fewer.

• When not playing LSU, Oregon is averaging 600 yards per game and 9.0 yards per play. The Ducks averaged 4.1 yards per play against LSU.

• Arizona has allowed teams to score on 20 of 22 trips inside the red zone, with 16 touchdowns and four field goals.

• Colorado ranks 118th in the nation with 9.5 penalties per game.

• Despite playing only three games, the Stanford defense leads the nation in yardage lost on sacks. The Cardinal have recorded 14.0 sacks for a combined 114 yards lost.

• Washington ranks last in the Pac-12 in passing defense by more than 60 yards per game. The Huskies are giving up 327.5 yards per game; Stanford is next at 265.7 per game.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jake Locker is now in the NFL, but quarterback is still a position of strength for Washington.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 12:59
Path: /college-football/big-plays-fuel-florida-offense
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

We are only four games into his first season as the offensive coordinator at Florida, but the sample size is big enough to declare the hiring of Charlie Weis a success at Florida.

Weis, the former head coach at Notre Dame and most recently the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, has breathed new life into a Florida offense that stagnated for much of Urban Meyer’s final season in Gainesville. Fresh off of a 48–10 win at Kentucky, the Gators rank 22nd in the nation in total offense (461.8 ypg), up from 82nd last season (350.9 ypg).

The 2011 Gators are getting it done with the big play. Last season, Florida had 180 plays from scrimmage that went for 10-plus yards (ranking 50th in the nation) and 49 plays that went for 20-plus yards (tied for 78th in the nation). This year, under Weis’ guidance, those numbers are way up — 75 plays of 10-plus yards in only four games (tied for fifth nationally) and 23 plays of 20-plus yards (12th in the nation).

Weis is putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers, which is why most of the Gators’ big plays are coming in the running game. Chris Rainey already has 17 runs of at least 10 yards — five more than he had all last season. And fellow running back Jeff Demps currently leads the nation with eight rushes of 20 yards or more.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a defensive coach, praised the way his offensive coordinator is using Rainey and Demps after the duo each topped 100 yards vs. Kentucky.

“The thing that concerns you (as a defensive coach) is that Charlie does a great job of creating space plays for them that creates a lot of one on ones,” says Muschamp. “One missed tackle against those two guys, and they can take it the distance. They are great guys, have great speed, great in the open field, catch the ball well, run the ball hard, they are competitive and tough. They have all the intangibles that good football players have.”

Now comes the hard part.

Rainey, Demps and the rest of the Florida offense are about to embark on as difficult of a two-week stretch as possible, with dates against No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 LSU looming in the next two weeks. A year ago, the Gators were swept by the two SEC West powers thanks largely to an offense that managed only 281 yards against Alabama and 243 against LSU.

Weis will have a chance to earn his reported $765,000 salary in the coming weeks.

Also Read: Our SEC Power Rankings for Week 4.

AROUND THE SEC

• Vanderbilt’s Trey Wilson leads the nation with 109 yards in interception returns, while fellow starting cornerback Casey Hayard is tied for third with 96 yards in returns. The Commodores as a team have intercepted 14 passes, five more than the No. 2 team in the nation, Ohio. One more stat: Vanderbilt has intercepted 11.5 percent of its opponents’ passes.

• Alabama has given up 15 points or less in 23 of its 31 games since the start of the 2009 season.

• Alabama is giving up 1.8 yards per rushing attempt to lead the league. Kentucky is last at 5.1 per attempt.

• Ole Miss quarterbacks Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt combined to complete 12-of-30 attempts in the Rebels’ loss to Georgia. In two SEC games, Mackey and Stoudt are 27-of-60 with seven interceptions.

• Georgia freshman Isaiah Crowell is living up to the hype. The Columbus, Ga., native is tied for fourth in the SEC in rushing with 411 yards, an average of 102.8 per game.

• SEC teams have combined to convert 33 of their 64 fourth down attempts. South Carolina and Kentucky lead the league with 10 fourth down tries each; the Gamecocks are 6-of-10, while the Cats are only 2-of-10.

but also allowed seven drives of at least 30 yards. In their first three games, the Tigers gave up a total of eight drives of at least 30 yards.
 

Teaser:
<p> Charlie Weis is Pushing the Right Buttons for New-Look Gators</p>
Post date: Monday, September 26, 2011 - 17:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-4
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here's a look at every game of the Week 4 college football schedule.

Friday
No. 47 UCF at No. 65 BYU

The Cougars must regroup after last week’s shockingly one-sided — as in 54–10 — loss at home to hated rival Utah. BYU must find a way to run the ball if it hopes to have any success this season.
UCF 28, BYU 21

Saturday
No. 13 Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama

We’ll find out if a great defense (Alabama) can stop a great offense (Arkansas) Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. My guess: Go with defense.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 24

No. 32 Missouri at No. 2 Oklahoma
There could be some concern for a letdown by Oklahoma after last week’s huge win at Florida State, but the Sooners will be ready to play after losing at Missouri last October.
Oklahoma 31, Missouri 17

No. 3 LSU at No. 14 West Virginia
ESPN’s College GameDay will make its first-ever trip to West Virginia for what figures to be a wild night in Morgantown. This won’t be easy, but LSU should prevail as long as it doesn’t turn the ball over too many times.
LSU 24, West Virginia 17

No 58 Tulsa at No. 4 Boise State
After Saturday, Tulsa will have played three of the best offensive teams in the country — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa. Brutal.
Boise State 44, Tulsa 20

No. 5 Oregon at No. 54 Arizona
This is Week 3 of a four-game gauntlet for Arizona that features road trips to Oklahoma State and USC sandwiched around home games against Stanford and Oregon. The Cats lost the first two by an average score of 37–12.
Oregon 37, Arizona 14

No. 6 Nebraska at No. 98 Wyoming
Wyoming is 3–0, but only one of its wins (at Bowling Green) has come against an FBS opponent. This should be nothing more than a tune-up for Nebraska before the Huskers’ big showdown at Wisconsin on Oct. 1.
Nebraska 41, Wyoming 3

No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 7 Texas A&M
The winner of Saturday’s showdown between the Cowboys and Aggies will emerge as a serious threat to challenge Oklahoma for supremacy in the Big 12.
Texas A&M 44, Oklahoma State 37

No. 9 Florida State at No. 25 Clemson
It’s looking doubtful that EJ Manuel will be able to play after injuring his shoulder last week against Oklahoma. Still, I believe the Noles are good enough on defense to win in Death Valley without their starting quarterback.
Florida State 28, Clemson 21

No. 10 Virginia Tech at No. 89 Marshall
There is no shame in losing to Ohio. There is, however, shame in Marshall losing 44–7, especially after beating Southern Miss the week before.
Virginia Tech 38, Marshall 7

South Dakota at No. 12 Wisconsin
Wisconsin is probably ranked too low in our poll. The Badgers will have a chance to prove their worth next week when Nebraska comes to town.
Wisconsin 51, South Dakota 10

No. 15 Florida at No. 70 Kentucky
Kentucky is averaging only 274 yards of offense, and it’s not as though the Wildcats have faced a difficult schedule. Western Kentucky, their Week 1 opponent, lost at home last weekend to Indiana State, 44–16. Central Michigan, UK’s Week 2 foe, lost at Western Michigan, 44–14, last weekend. And Louisville, which beat Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday night, has a loss at home to FIU on its resume.
Florida 31, Kentucky 14

No. 51 Vanderbilt at No. 16 South Carolina
The key against South Carolina is trying to find a way to keep Marcus Lattimore in check. He has been a beast in 2011, with an average of 29 carries and 178 yards in the Gamecocks’ three wins. Vanderbilt’s run defense has been stout, but the Dores have yet to see a back like Lattimore.
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 13

No. 18 USC at No. 31 Arizona State
USC, the only team in the nation with three wins vs. BCS conference opponents, hits the road for the first time this season in a game that figures to go a long way in determining the winner of the first-ever Pac-12 South Division title. USC’s probation will prevent it from playing in the league title game, but you know Lane Kiffin’s club would still love to claim a division crown.
Arizona State 27, USC 24

No. 85 Rice at No. 19 Baylor
Rice will face its third BCS conference opponent in as many weeks, after splitting games with Texas (loss) and Purdue (win). Baylor has too many weapons. The Bears should win big.
Baylor 44, Rice 17

Portland State at No. 20 TCU
The Horned Frogs rank 103rd in the nation in total defense after three games. That is stunning.
TCU 38, Portland State 3

No. 104 UTEP at No. 21 South Florida
UTEP quarterback Jay Hall, filling in for the injured Nick Lamaison, has completed ony 17-of-48 passes for 254 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Not the type of efficiency Mike Price is looking for at the quarterback position.
South Florida 34, UTEP 10

No. 33 North Carolina at No. 22 Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are 3–0 and putting up insane numbers on offense. They lead the nation in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense, thanks in large part to their 66-point, 768-yard effort against Kansas last weekend.
Georgia Tech 31, North Carolina 24

No. 97 Western Michigan at No. 23 Illinois
Earlier this week I posed the following question: Can Illinois, with a relatively soft remaining schedule, run the table?
Illinois 33, Western Michigan 14

No. 60 San Diego State at No. 24 Michigan
Brady Hoke takes on his former team, and he left behind a very good quarterback in Ryan Lindley and a great tailback in Ronnie Hillman.
Michigan 35, San Diego State 24

No. 71 Kansas State at No. 26 Miami (Fla.)
Miami was one of the most impressive teams in the nation last weekend with its thorough beatdown of Ohio State. The Canes are playing with some swagger. That’s bad news for K-State.
Miami (Fla.) 27, Kansas State 14

No. 27 Notre Dame at No. 52 Pittsburgh
The Irish are 0–2 in games in which they have totaled over 500 yards of offense and 1–0 in games in which they have less than 300 yards. The key: Limiting turnovers. In the losses to South Florida and Michigan, the Irish had a combined 10 turnovers, several in the red zone and several at inopportune times.
Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 20

No. 120 Florida Atlantic at No. 28 Auburn
Florida Atlantic has scored a total of three points in two games and is averaging less than 100 yards of offense. Let’s see if Auburn, which is giving up well over 500 yards per game, can slow down the Owls.
Auburn 51, Florida Atlantic 7

No. 102 Louisiana Tech at No. 29 Mississippi State
Louisiana Tech led Houston 34–14 early in the fourth quarter last week before getting outscored 21–0 in the final 13 minutes. It will be interesting to see what kind of emotional state this team is in when it heads to Starkville.
Mississippi State 38, Louisiana Tech 13

No. 63 Temple at No. 30 Maryland
Temple had a 10–7 lead over Penn State deep into the fourth quarter last week. This is a good team with a great running back in Bernard Pierce. I smell an upset.
Temple 24, Maryland 21

No. 109 Central Michigan at No. 34 Michigan State
These aren’t great times for Central Michigan. The Chips have lost 10 of their last 11 games vs. FBS opponents and last week lost to rival Western Michigan, 44–14, for the first time since 2005.
Michigan State 38, Central Michigan 13

No. 75 Colorado at No. 35 Ohio State
Colorado receiver Paul Richardson followed up his 11-catch, 284-yard breakout performance vs. Cal by catching four passes for 27 yards against Colorado State. The Buffs will need a big day from Richardson to keep things interesting in Columbus.
Ohio State 24, Colorado 10

No. 114 Eastern Michigan at No. 36 Penn State
Penn State has scored a total of 25 points in its two games against FBS opponents. The Nittany Lions will need to show drastic improvement on offense to be a factor in the Big Ten.
Penn State 31, Eastern Michigan 0

No. 37 Georgia at No. 88 Ole Miss
Ole Miss has one touchdown — which came in garbage time of a 30–7 loss to Vanderbilt — in two games against FBS opponents. Georgia shouldn’t have too much trouble in Oxford.
Georgia 30, Ole Miss 13

No. 81 Nevada at No. 38 Texas Tech
The Wolf Pack are finding life without Colin Kaepernick to be quite difficult. They lost their opener at Oregon, 69–20, before struggling to beat San Jose State, 17–14, last week.
Texas Tech 49, Nevada 14

No. 40 California at No. 44 Washington
California will look to attack a Washington defense that has really struggled in ’11. The Huskies rank 108th in total defense and 107th in scoring defense after giving up 27 points to Eastern Washington, 32 to Hawaii and 51 to Nebraska. The UW pass defense has been especially bad, allowing well over 300 yards per game.
California 31, Washington 27

No. 110 Louisiana-Monroe at No. 42 Iowa
ULM has actually played relatively well so far in 2011. The Warhawks “held” Florida State to 372 yards and 34 points in Week 1 and actually led TCU 17–14 after the first quarter last week (before losing 38–17).
Iowa 37, Louisiana-Monroe 10

No. 107 Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 46 FIU
The Golden Panthers are emerging as one of the top stories of the 2011 season. Mario Cristobal’s club is 3–0 with a pair of impressive wins — at Louisville and vs. UCF. FIU simply needs to take care of business in its first Sun Belt game of the year.
FIU 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 14

Georgia State at No. 48 Houston
Houston is riding high after last week’s thrilling comeback win over Louisiana Tech. Case Keenum leads the nation in total offense (382.7 ypg) and will have an opportunity to pad those numbers against Bill Curry’s Georgia State Panthers.
Houston 51, Georgia State 0

Tennessee State at No. 53 Air Force
Here’s the good news for Tennessee State: The Tigers held Murray State to 77 yards rushing last week. The bad news: Murray State thew for 630 yards en route to a 58–27 win.
Air Force 51, Tennessee State 14

No. 57 SMU at No. 119 Memphis
Memphis remains in a heated battle with FAU for team No. 120 in our weekly college football rankings. A bad performance this week against SMU — which is almost a given — could vault the Tigers over the Owls to 120.
SMU 51, Memphis 7

No. 78 Southern Miss at No. 59 Virginia
This is a big swing game for both teams. Virginia has been solid so far in Mike London’s second season, with wins over William & Mary and at Indiana and a loss at North Carolina. This is the type of game the Cavs needs to win to show they are making progress as a program.
Virginia 27, Southern Miss 21

No. 62 Toledo at No. 61 Syracuse
Syracuse is 2–1, but the Orange haven’t played all that well this season. Toledo is 1–2, but the two losses have come against Ohio State (27–22) and vs. Boise State (40–15). The Rockets have a ton of talent on offense.
Toledo 31, Syracuse 28

No. 64 Ohio at No. 67 Rutgers
Ohio has been very solid so far in 2011, with convincing wins over New Mexico State, Gardner-Webb and Marshall. We’re still not sure about Rutgers; the Knights took care of business vs. NC Central and then played relatively well in a loss at North Carolina.
Ohio 21, Rutgers 20

No. 69 UCLA at No. 100 Oregon State
This is an absolute must-win for two programs who have struggled in non-conference play. Oregon State freshman tailback Marcus Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards in the opener but didn’t play in Week 2, is likely out again with a hamstring injury. Still, I like the Beavers to break through for their first win.
Oregon State 28, UCLA 21

Cal Poly at No. 72 Northern Illinois
After averaging 45.5 points in their first two games — a win over Army and a loss at Kansas — the Huskies were held to seven points and 237 yards of offense in a humbling 49–7 setback to Wisconsin. It’s time to get back in the win column.
Northern Illinois 41, Cal Poly 10

No. 99 Colorado State at No. 73 Utah State
Utah State has put up some gaudy numbers in its two games (split with Auburn and Weber State). The Aggies, led by true freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton and junior tailback Robert Turbin, rank fifth in the nation in total offense. Colorado State looks to be improved in 2011, but Utah State is the better team.
Utah State 30, Colorado State 17

UC Davis at No. 74 Hawaii
Hawaii’s 40–20 loss at UNLV last week was one of the most surprising results in the first three weeks of the season. The Warriors should bounce back in fine fashion against UC Davis, but you have to wonder about this team going forward.
Hawaii 41, UC Davis 10

No. 103 UAB at No. 76 East Carolina
Neil Callaway entered the season on the hot seat. It’s now scorching, after the Blazers lost their home opener to Tulane, 49–10.
East Carolina 47, UAB 14

Central Arkansas at No. 79 Arkansas State
Arkansas State has been pretty good this season despite its 1–2 record. The Red Wolves blew out Memphis, 47–3, and played competitive games against Illinois (33–15) and Virginia Tech (26–7).
Arkansas State 48, Central Arkansas 10

No. 80 Army at No. 90 Ball State
Army is fresh off a huge 21–14 win over Northwestern. Ball State is 2–1 after beating Buffalo, 28–25, in Muncie. This is an important game for two teams who will scratch and claw to reach bowl eligibility.
Ball State 28, Army 24

No. 82 Connecticut at No. 108 Buffalo
Connecticut has lost its last two games — at Vanderbilt and vs. Iowa State — by a total of seven points. The Huskies have been solid on defense, but the offense, most notably the quarterback position, has been brutal.
Connecticut 24, Buffalo 10

No. 91 Tulane at No. 83 Duke
Duke atoned for its loss at home in Week 1 to Richmond by winning at Boston College last weekend. Sean Renfree was outstanding throwing the ball, but the Blue Devils continue to struggle in the running game. Tulane is feeling good about itself after winning convincingly, 49–10, at UAB last week. This is a game Duke simply has to win.
Duke 30, Tulane 24

Massachusetts at No. 84 Boston College
Boston College is 0–3 for the first time since 1991, Tom Coughlin’s first season as the boss in Chestnut Hill. Losing to UMass isn’t an option at this point.
Boston College 31, Massachusetts 14

No. 87 Fresno State at No. 111 Idaho
Fresno State played relatively well in losses to California and Nebraska but struggled in a win over North Dakota. Idaho beat the same North Dakota team soundly two weeks ago, but comparative scores are also dangerous. Fresno State is the better team.
Fresno State 31, Idaho 21

No. 92 Middle Tennessee at No. 93 Troy
Rick Stockstill has done a solid job at Middle Tennessee but has yet to beat Troy in five tries.
Troy 31, Middle Tennessee 24

North Dakota State at No. 94 Minnesota
The Golden Gophers picked up the first victory of the Jerry Kill era, but this is no time to let up. North Dakota State beat Minnesota in 2007 and lost 10–9 in ‘06 when a field goal attempt was blocked in the closing seconds.
Minnesota 28, North Dakota State 17

No. 101 Bowling Green at No. 95 Miami (Ohio)
It’s a key MAC East showdown between two teams planning on staying in the race all season long. Miami has been impressive in its two losses at BCS conference opponents, losing at Missouri, 17–6, and Minnesota, 29–23.
Miami (Ohio) 31, Bowling Green 20

No. 96 Indiana at No. 116 North Texas
Indiana is playing its second game away from home vs. a non-BCS conference foe. The Hoosiers lost their opener to Ball State in Indianapolis, but should have a more favorable result in Denton this weekend. The Mean Green have played a tough schedule, losing to FIU, Houston and Alabama, but they are in major rebuilding mode.
Indiana 31, North Texas 14

Southern Utah at No. 105 UNLV
Credit Bobby Hauck and his staff for keeping this team together. After two alarmingly lopsided losses at Wisconsin and Washington State by a combined score of 110–24, the Runnin’ Rebs shocked Hawaii last week with a thorough 40–20 win in Vegas. They should improve to 2–2 this week, but things are rarely easy for UNLV football.
UNLV 41, Southern Utah 27

No. 106 New Mexico State at No. 112 San Jose State
San Jose State is 0–3, but the Spartans are clearly an improved team. They lost two weeks ago by 10 points at UCLA and lost last week by three to Nevada. This week, Mike MacIntyre should record his first win over a FBS opponent as the head coach at SJSU.
San Jose State 27, New Mexico State 17

South Alabama at No. 113 Kent State
It’s been a rough first three weeks for Darrell Hazell, who is 0–3 as a head coach with the three losses coming by a combined score of 105–19. South Alabama gave NC State some problems last week in a 35–13 loss.
South Alabama 21, Kent State 20

VMI at No. 117 Akron
Akron has scored a total of 17 points in three games, but the Zips should make their way into the win column this week against a VMI club that is 0–3 in the FBS ranks.
Akron 21, VMI 7

Sam Houston State at No. 118 New Mexico
This will not be easy for New Mexico. Sam Houston Sate is 2–0 with convincing wins over Western Illinois and Central Arkansas.
New Mexico 27, Sam Houston State 21

Last week: 56-13
Season: 189-22

Teaser:
<p> LSU heads to Morgantown; A&amp;M, O-State collide in College Station</p>
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2011 - 08:26
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-4
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here are previews and predictions for the 10 best college football games this weekend.

Oklahoma State (+4) at Texas A&M
The winner of Saturday’s showdown between the Cowboys and Aggies will emerge as serious threat to challenge Oklahoma for supremacy in the Big 12. Oklahoma State, which edged A&M last season, 38–35, in Stillwater, has been nearly unstoppable on offense. The Pokes rank first in the nation in passing offense, second in total offense and third in scoring offense. Texas A&M’s numbers aren’t quite as gaudy through two games, but this team is also loaded on the offensive side of the ball, with a veteran quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) and a deep set of skill position players. The key to game will be on defense: The team that comes up with a key stop in the fourth quarter will have a great chance to win. This could be one of the most entertaining games of the 2011 season.
Texas A&M 44, Oklahoma State 37

LSU (-5.5) at West Virginia
ESPN’s College GameDay will make its first-ever trip to West Virginia for what figures to be a wild night in Morgantown. Both teams are 3–0 and both are coming off impressive wins; WVU held on to beat Maryland, 37–31, on the road, while LSU was dominant on the defensive end in its 19–6 win over Mississippi State in Starkville. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is putting up outstanding numbers operating Dana Holgorsen’s Texas Tech-inspired attack, but he will be facing by far his stiffest test. LSU boasts a ferocious defensive line and arguably the best set of cornerbacks in the nation in Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne. This won’t be easy, but LSU should prevail as long as it doesn’t turn the ball over too many times.
LSU 24, West Virginia 17

Arkansas (+11.5) at Alabama
We’ll find out if a great defense (Alabama) can stop a great offense (Arkansas) Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. Last year, the Razorbacks threw for 357 yards vs. Bama in Fayetteville but lost the game, 24–20, due to two fourth quarter Ryan Mallet interceptions. Taking care of the ball will be of paramount importance for Bobby Petrino’s club. Alabama, as expected, is putting up great numbers on defense and has allowed only two touchdowns in three games. Offensively, Bama is leaning on its one-two punch at tailback of Trent Richardson (105.0 ypg) and Eddie Lacy (101.3 ypg). To beat Arkansas, however, the Tide will have to make some plays in the passing game. AJ McCarron was solid in his only true test this season, completing 19-of-31 for 163 yards without an interception at Penn State in Week 2. If he can duplicate that performance, Alabama should win the game.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 24

Florida State (+2) at Clemson
It’s always dangerous to jump on the Clemson bandwagon, but the Tigers looked very good against Auburn Saturday afternoon (though who hasn’t looked good against Auburn?). The offense is loaded with speed, and sophomore Tajh Boyd looks to be an ideal triggerman for Chad Morris’ attack. Florida State must regroup after the 23–13 loss to Oklahoma. The Seminoles still have a lot to play for — they remain the team to beat in the ACC — but their national title hopes took a huge hit. Quarterback EJ Manuel is questionable this weekend after being forced out of the OU game with a shoulder injury. If he is able to play, the Seminoles should get back on the winning track.
Florida State 28, Clemson 21

USC (+2.5) at Arizona State
USC, the only team in the nation with three wins vs. BCS conference opponents, hits the road for the first time this season in a game that figures to go a long way in determining the winner of the first-ever Pac-12 South Division title. USC’s probation will prevent it from playing in the league title game, but you know Lane Kiffin’s club would still love to claim a division crown. Arizona State let a great opportunity slip away Saturday night at Illinois, losing a tough 17–14 game to the Illini despite giving up only 240 yards of offense. The Sun Devils, who beat Missouri in overtime the previous week, must now turn their attention to league play; this date with USC begins a string of nine straight Pac-12 games. The key for ASU will be to slow down the Trojans’ outstanding pass-catch duo of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, the nation’s leader with 11 receptions per game.
Arizona State 27, USC 24

North Carolina (+6) at Georgia Tech
It’s only been three games, but Georgia Tech has been one of the more impressive teams in the nation in 2011. The Yellow Jackets are 3–0 and are putting up insane numbers on offense. They lead the nation in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense, thanks in large part to their 66-point, 768-yard effort against Kansas last weekend. Georgia Tech’s option attack worked to near perfection, producing 604 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 50 carries. North Carolina, too, is 3–0, with wins at home over James Madison, Rutgers and Virginia. Bryn Renner, the Tar Heels’ first-year starter at quarterback, is completing an amazing 81.4 percent of his passes, but his TD-to-INT ratio of 5-to-4 must improve. UNC’s rushing defense, as usual, is stout, but Tech’s option will be very tough to slow down.
Georgia Tech 31, North Carolina 24

Notre Dame (-6.5) at Pittsburgh
The Irish are 0–2 in games in which they have totaled over 500 yards of offense and 1–0 in games in which they have less than 300 yards. The key: Limiting turnovers. In the losses to South Florida and Michigan, the Irish had a combined 10 turnovers, several in the red zone and several at inopportune times. They still turned it over three times in the win against Michigan State, but two of three were around midfield and the third was in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. Pittsburgh is in a fragile state emotionally after collapsing last week at Iowa. The Panthers led 27–10 in the fourth quarter but Iowa scored three times in the final 10 minutes to claim a 31–27 win.
Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 20

Vanderbilt (+16) at South Carolina
Vanderbilt’s 3–0 start has been fueled by its defense. Neither UConn nor Ole Miss — Vanderbilt’s last two victims — are very skilled on offense, but the Dores were downright dominant in both games. Those two teams averaged only 213.5 yards of offense and combined to score one offensive touchdown against Vanderbilt. The Commodores lead the nation with 10 interceptions and have scored on a pick-six in each of their first three games. The key against South Carolina is trying to find a way to keep Marcus Lattimore in check. He has been a beast in 2011, with an average of 29 carries and 178 yards in the Gamecocks’ three wins. Vanderbilt’s run defense has been stout, but the Dores have yet to see a back like Lattimore.
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 13

California (+1.5) at Washington
The Golden Bears are quietly off to a nice start in 2011, with wins over Fresno State, Colorado (on the road) and Presbyterian. Cal is getting solid play from quarterback Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, and the Bears feature one of the best unknown big-play threats in the nation in sophomore receiver Keenan Allen. Jeff Tedford’s club will look to attack a Washington defense that has really struggled in ’11. The Huskies rank 108th in total defense and 107th in scoring defense after giving up 27 points to Eastern Washington, 32 to Hawaii and 51 to Nebraska. The UW pass defense has been especially bad, allowing well over 300 yards per game. Look for Maynard and Allen to shine.
California 31, Washington 27

NC State (+7.5) at Cincinnati (Thu)
These two teams are both 2–1, with three of the four victims coming from the FCS ranks and the fourth, Akron, among the worst teams in the FBS. Both teams failed their only test, with Cincinnati losing at Tennessee, 45–23, and NC State losing at Wake Forest, 34–27. There is still a lot of football to be played, but with NC State struggling and Russell Wilson thriving at Wisconsin, Tom O’Brien’s decision to let Wilson walk isn’t going to sit well with most of the Wolfpack faithful.
Cincinnati 30, NC State 20

Last week — 5–5 (5–5 vs. spread)
Season — 18–12 (14–15–1 vs. spread)

Teaser:
<p> Previews and predictions on 10 key games in Week 4.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 08:31
Path: /college-football/special-season-store-illini
Body:

By Mitch Light

Take a look at Illinois’ remaining schedule in 2011 and tell me if I’m crazy for believing this football team can win 11 games. The Illini, already 3–0, still have five more home games, and three of their four road games are against the three weakest teams in the Big Ten — Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota. The other road game is at Penn State, a team that escaped Philadelphia with a 14–10 win over Temple last weekend. The home games are against Western Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. My guess is that Illinois will be favored in all but one remaining game, vs. Wisconsin.

So there you have it: The Illini, who don’t play Nebraska or Michigan State, could be playing for the inaugural Big Ten Leaders Division title when the Badgers visit Champaign on Nov. 19.

It’s always a bit dangerous to put too much faith in a Ron Zook-coached team, but this is a solid club that has a lot of key pieces in the right places. It all starts with Nathan Scheelhaase, the dual-threat quarterback who is off to a very strong start to his sophomore season. And as always, the Illini have a strong running game. The main man this year is senior Jason Ford, who is running behind a veteran offensive line. Defensively, the Illini lost some serious star power in tackle Corey Liuget and linebacker Martez Wilson, but this is still a very strong group that held Arizona State to 14 points in last week’s thrilling three-point win in Champaign.

So what happens if my not-so-outlandish scenario comes to fruition and Illinois takes advantage of a relatively soft Big Ten schedule? Could this be a top-10 team? Let’s take it one step further. What happens if Illinois wins all the games it’s capable of winning — including beating Ohio State at home and winning at Penn State — and then somehow knocks off Wisconsin at home in late November? Could the Zooker actually be 13–0 and headed to the BCS National Championship Game in a season in which he was mentioned on the Hot Seat in our preseason annual?

It’s possible. Dare to dream Illini.

AROUND THE BIG TEN

• Nebraska has nine plays from scrimmage of at least 40 yards, the most in the Big Ten. The Huskers also lead the league in plays of 20-plus yards (18) and 30-plus yards (12).

• The three leading rushers in the Big Ten are quarterbacks — Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (128.0 ypg), Michigan’s Denard Robinson (117.3 ypg) and Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray (109.3 ypg).

• Wisconsin has only forced one turnover in three games. Three other teams have only forced one and two teams (Kansas and UAB) have yet to force a turnover.

• Northwestern only ran 57 plays from scrimmage in a 21–14 loss at Army after averaging 80.5 plays in wins over Boston College and Eastern Illinois.

• Michigan ranks seventh in the league in total offense (403.7 ypg) but leads the Big Ten in yards per play (7.7).

• Michigan State has now lost two straight games to Notre Dame in South Bend after winning six straight at Notre Dame Stadium.

Teaser:
<p> Kind schedule could lead to Big Ten title for Illinois.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 16:54
Path: /college-football/man-named-steele-has-iowa-state-hot-start
Body:

By Mitch Light

There are two things you need to know about Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz.

The first: He might have the most normal name in his family. Jantz’ father is named Foxx, who has a twin brother named Wolf and another brother named Stig. Steele has brothers named Truk and Brogan.

The second, and far more important to Cyclone fans: He is a winner.

Jantz, a transfer from junior college who won the job in preseason camp, has led Iowa State to a 3–0 start by making the right plays at the right time. The Cyclones have won their three games — over Northern Iowa, Iowa and UConn — by a total of eight points and have trailed in those three games a combined 10 times.

Jantz recovered from a slow start against UConn — he was intercepted three times in the first quarter — to rally Iowa State from a 10–0 deficit in the first half and a 20–17 deficit in the fourth quarter. The week before, ISU trailed Iowa on five different occasions, including twice in overtime, before winning 41–38 on the final possession of the third extra session.

Jantz, a native of Agoura Hills, Calif., has made plays with his legs as well as his arm. In the first two games, he combined to rush for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He was bottled up against UConn (negative-10 yards rushing on three attempt due in part to a leg injury suffered just before the half), but his ability to tuck the ball and run will cause problems for opposing defenses all season.

Iowa State is 3–0 for the first time since 2005 and one of only five 3–0 teams in 2011 that already has two wins over BCS conference opponents.

“The confidence continues to build as we find a way to win football games,” says Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. “I have a confident group of young men to begin with. They have to focus on improving and moving forward.”

Moving forward, Iowa State’s schedule will become far more difficult. After a week off, the Cyclones begin a five-game gauntlet that features home games with Texas and Texas A&M and road dates against Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech. In addition, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma await in the month of November.

AROUND THE BIG 12

• Kansas has allowed 45 points or more in six of its last nine games vs. BCS conference opponents. The 2011 Jayhawks rank 119th in the nation in rushing defense and total defense.

• Of the five quarterbacks who have not yet thrown an interception on the list of top 25 leaders in passing efficiency, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege have the most touchdowns — eight each.

• Western Illinois had 44 total yards against Missouri last week and only one of the Leathernecks possessions lasted for more than three plays.

• Last Saturday against UCLA, Texas true freshman Malcolm Brown had what figures to be the first of many 100-yard games in a Longhorn uniform. Brown carried the ball a season-high 22 times for 1110 yards and scored the first touchdown of his career in Texas’ 49–20 win over the Bruins.

• Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 with 24 plays from scrimmage that have gone for at least 20 yards.

• Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones attempted only 27 passes in the Sooners’ win at Florida State. It was the fewest he has thrown since becoming the starter at OU early in the 2009 season.

• Texas A&M will not play a game outside College Station in the month of September for the first time since 1984.
 

Teaser:
<p> Cyclones headline Athlon's Big 12 Notebook</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 13:05
Path: /college-football/can-vanderbilt-sustain-success-in-sec
Body:

By Mitch Light

Vanderbilt’s hot start has made national news. The Commodores, fresh off a dominating 30–7 win over Ole Miss, are 3–0 under first-year head coach James Franklin.

But despite the epic struggles this program has endured over the past five decades, this is not uncharted territory for Vanderbilt football. In fact, this is the third time in the past seven years the Commodores have opened a season with a 3–0 mark — something that only 31 of the other 119 FBS programs can claim.

The key for the 2011 Commodores is to avoid the late-season collapse that derailed the two previous Vanderbilt teams that opened with (at least) a 3–0 record. In 2005, Jay Cutler and the Dores won their first four games, including three over BCS conference opponents, before a home loss to Middle Tennessee (0–5 at the time) started a six-game losing streak. That Vanderbilt team did end the season with a win at Tennessee — the school’s first over the Vols since 1982 — but the final record was 5–6.

Then, in 2008, the Dores raced out to a 5–0 start, highlighted by a 14–13 win over Auburn on a day when ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasted live from campus. That Vanderbilt team proceeded to lose six of its last seven regular-season games but did manage to qualify for a bowl game — the first since ’82 — with a 6–6 record.

Vanderbilt’s combined record after its two recent fast starts (4–0 in ’05 and 5–0 in ’08) is a combined 3–12.

So what’s in store for Franklin and the ’11 Commodores? Can this team, predicted unanimously to finish in last place in the SEC East, maintain this pace and remain relevant throughout the season? Or are the Dores simply of a product of a soft early schedule that has featured home games against Elon, UConn and Ole Miss?

We obviously won’t know the answer to these questions for a few months, but the best guess is that Vanderbilt has what it takes to win at least six games. The schedule gets much more difficult in the short term — road dates at South Carolina and Alabama are on the horizon — but the Dores still have games remaining vs. Army, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest.

The key for Vanderbilt will be to maintain its high level of play on the defensive side of the ball. Neither UConn nor Ole Miss are very skilled on offense, but the Dores were downright dominant in both games. Those two teams averaged only 213.5 yards of offense and combined to score one offensive touchdown against Vanderbilt. The Commodores lead the nation with 10 interceptions and have scored on a pick-six in each of their first three games.

The offense has struggled to move the ball with consistency but has been able to come through with some big plays at key times. Vanderbilt ranks 10th in the SEC in total offense but is tied for the league lead with nine plays of 30-plus yards. Against Ole Miss, Zac Stacy scored on a 77-yard touchdown run and also scampered 34 yards on a nifty Statue of Liberty play that set up another score.

“We’re going to have to be creative and aggressive and put our kids in situations to be successful,” Franklin said after the game. “Everyone has to buy into it. To get to where we need to be, we’re going to have to take some risks and take some chances.”

So far, those risks have paid off.

AROUND THE SEC

• Of Tennessee’s 69 offensive snaps vs. Florida, only 14 were running plays involving the Vols’ tailbacks. Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane combined for only 27 yards on those 14 attempts.

• Kentucky is averaging only 274 yards of offense, and it’s not as though the Wildcats have faced a difficult schedule. Western Kentucky, their Week 1 opponent, lost at home last weekend to Indiana State, 44–16. Central Michigan, UK’s Week 2 foe, lost at Western Michigan, 44–14, last weekend. And Louisville, which beat Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday night, has a loss at home to FIU on its resume.

• LSU has not lost a game by more than 10 points since November 2008, when the Tigers were pounded at home by Ole Miss, 31–13. Since that game, LSU has lost seven games by an average of 5.6 points.

• South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore leads the nation in both rushing (178.0 ypg) and rushing attempts (87). Robbie Rouse of Fresno State is second in attempts with 80. In the SEC, Mississippi State quarterback Chris Relf is second with 56. Lattimore has 16 carries of 10 yards or more and five of 20 yards or more.

• Florida has only punted six times in three games.

• Alabama is the only team in the nation with two players averaging at least 100 yards rushing — Trent Richardson (105.0 ypg) and Eddie Lacy (101.3 ypg).

• The Auburn defense has been on the field for 273 plays, the most in the nation. Tulsa, at 265, is next on the list nationally. Mississippi State, at 211, is next in the SEC.
 

Teaser:
<p> Commodores headline Athlon's Week 3 SEC Notebook</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 09:48
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-3
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here's a look at every game of the Week 3 college football schedule.

No. 115 North Texas at No. 1 Alabama
Dan McCarney will do a very good job as the coach at North Texas, but his tenure in Denton is off to a rough start, with lopsided losses to FIU and Houston. An 0–3 record is an almost certainty.
Alabama 44, North Texas 6

No. 2 Oklahoma at No. 4 Florida State
There’s a school of thought — which we at Athlon Sports subscribe to — that the winner of this early season non-conference clash will end up playing Alabama in the national championship game.
Florida State 31, Oklahoma 27

No. 5 Boise State at No. 62 Toledo (Fri)
Boise State will need to play well to beat Toledo on the road. The Rockets are very good at the skill positions, and they gave Ohio State a legitimate scare in Columbus last weekend. I was tempted to pull the trigger on the upset.
Boise State 34, Toledo 24

Missouri State at No. 6 Oregon
Missouri State gained a total of 163 yards in a 51–7 loss at Arkansas in Week 1. Oregon is fresh off of a 69–20 win over Nevada. On paper, this is the biggest mismatch of the week.
Oregon 55, Missouri State 0

No. 89 Arkansas State at No. 7 Virginia Tech
Arkansas State made Illinois sweat (33–15) in Week 1 and blew out Memphis (47–3) last Saturday. This is a solid team, but Virginia Tech should be able to dominate at the line of scrimmage.
Virginia Tech 31, Arkansas State 20

No. 43 Washington at No. 8 Nebraska
This is the third meeting between these two clubs in the past 13 months. Nebraska won in Seattle last September but lost to the Huskies 19–7 in the Holiday Bowl. The rubber match will go to the Huskers.
Nebraska 31, Washington 20

No. 110 Idaho at No. 9 Texas A&M
The Aggies were quite impressive in an easier-than-expected 46–14 win over SMU in Week 1. This one is expected to be easy — and it will be.
Texas A&M 44, Idaho 10

No. 10 Oklahoma State at No. 58 Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane gave up 663 yards to Oklahoma in a 47–14 loss two weeks ago. The Cowboys’ offense is just as potent.
Oklahoma State 41, Tulsa 24

No. 11 Stanford at No. 55 Arizona
The Cardinal have given up one offensive touchdown in two games. Arizona’s rebuilt offensive line is in for a rough evening.
Stanford 31, Arizona 14

No. 12 Wisconsin at No. 73 Northern Illinois (Soldier Field)
Northern Illinois is very good on offense, but the Huskies have really struggled on the defensive end in 2011. They are giving up an average of 278 yards rushing. Not a good stat when you are about to face the Badgers.
Wisconsin 44, Northern Illinois 14

No. 92 Troy at No. 13 Arkansas
Troy led at Clemson at the half before getting outscored 30¬–3 in the final two quarters. The Trojans are good, but not good enough to pose too much of a threat to Arkansas.
Arkansas 41, Troy 17

No. 54 Navy at No. 14 South Carolina
Navy’s option attack will give South Carolina some problems, but the Gamecocks should be able to move the ball with relative ease.
South Carolina 31, Navy 17

No. 15 West Virginia at No. 23 Maryland
Maryland looked very good, especially on offense, in a Week 1 win over Miami (Fla.). Florida State is clearly the team to beat in the ACC Atlantic Division, but don’t be surprised if the Terps remain in the race all season.
Maryland 31, West Virginia 27

No. 37 Tennessee at No. 16 Florida
Florida has been dominant in wins over FAU (41–3) and UAB (39–0), but the new-look offense is about to face a different caliber of athletes this week. We’ll know far more about the Will Muschamp/Charlie Weis era at Florida by Saturday evening.
Florida 34, Tennessee 24

No. 17 Ohio State at No. 30 Miami (Fla.)
Expect a lot of the focus to be on each school’s respective off-the-field issues with the NCAA — and rightfully so.
Ohio State 20, Miami 17

No. 44 Syracuse at No. 18 USC
Syracuse is 2–0, but the Orange needed to rally from 15 down in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest in overtime and only defeated Rhode Island 21–14 last weekend. This team is a work in progress.
USC 28, Syracuse 10

No. 19 Texas at No. 67 UCLA
The Bruins rushed for 264 yards in a shocking 34–12 in Austin last season. Texas is ready for some payback.
Texas 30, UCLA 14

Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Baylor
The Bears haven’t played since their thrilling 50–48 win over TCU on Sept. 1. Don’t expect any rust.
Baylor 48, Stephen F. Austin 13

No. 108 Louisiana-Monroe at No. 21 TCU
The Horned Frogs bounced back nicely from the loss at Baylor with an impressive 35–19 win at Air Force. TCU led 21–0 midway through the second quarter and 35–9 late in the third.
TCU 41, Louisiana-Monroe 3

No. 22 Michigan State at No. 29 Notre Dame
I still maintain that Notre Dame is a pretty good football team despite its 0–2 record. But it’s time for the Irish to overcome adversity and win a game.
Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 21

Florida A&M at No. 24 South Florida
The Bulls should be 4–0 when they hit the road for a huge showdown at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29.
South Florida 38, Florida A&M 3

No. 25 Arizona State at No. 33 Illinois
This has the chance to be one of the best games of the day, and it features two of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks — Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase.
Illinois 21, Arizona State 14

No. 26 Auburn at No. 45 Clemson
I think it’s safe to say that no defending national champion has ever been an underdog in two of its first three games in the ensuing season.
Auburn 34, Clemson 28

No. 113 Eastern Michigan at No. 27 Michigan
With wins over Howard and Alabama State, Eastern Michigan is 2–0 for the first time since 1989. The Eagles will not be 3–0.
Michigan 51, Eastern Michigan 10

Western Illinois at No. 31 Missouri
Missouri lost in overtime at Arizona State last Friday night, but the Tigers got a huge performance from sophomore quarterback James Franklin. He completed 26-of-42 for 319 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and added 84 yards on the ground. That is a very good sign for Gary Pinkel’s club.
Missouri 38, Western Illinois 0

No. 32 Penn State at No 81 Temple
It’s either a compliment to Temple or an indictment of Penn State that the Nittany Lions are only a 7.5-point favorite. Owl tailback Bernard Pierce (148.5 ypg) will be the best skill position player on the field.
Penn State 21, Temple 14

No. 34 UCF at No. 65 FIU
This is an underrated showdown between two very good teams that are coming off solid wins over BCS conference opponents. UCF dominated Boston College 30–3 in Orlando, while FIU upset Louisville 24–17 on the road. UCF’s defense has given up a total of three points.
UCF 28, FIU 10

Coastal Carolina at No. 35 Georgia
The Bulldogs need a win — any win. And they will get it against Coastal Carolina, and its entertaining head coach, David Bennett.
Georgia 38, Coastal Carolina 10

No. 66 Virginia at No. 36 North Carolina
Virginia survived a second half collapse at Indiana (the Cavs led 23–3 at one point — to beat the Hoosiers 34–31 on a field goal on the final play of the game. Mike London’s team must have success running the ball to have a chance to knock off UNC in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina 27, Virginia 17

No. 38 Northwestern at No. 86 Army
Army’s stats are predictable: No. 2 in the nation in rushing (353.0 ypg) and No. 118 in passing (74.5 ypg). To beat a solid team from a BCS conference, the Black Knights will have to find some balance on offense.
Northwestern 30, Army 17

No. 69 Kansas at No. 39 Georgia Tech
Kansas’ 28¬–25 win over Georgia Tech last September was one of the head-scratchers of the 2010 season. Both teams have looked very good on offense in ’11 against inferior competition.
Georgia Tech 38, Kansas 28

No. 40 Texas Tech at No. 116 New Mexico
New Mexico has scored one touchdown in two games this season. The Lobos will need about eight touchdowns to beat Texas Tech.
Texas Tech 56, New Mexico 10

No. 41 Iowa State at No. 74 Connecticut
The boys in Vegas know what they are doing, but I was a bit surprised that Iowa State, which beat Iowa last week, is a 4-point underdog to a UConn team that had less than 200 total yards in a loss at Vanderbilt.
Iowa State 24, Connecticut 14

No. 48 Pittsburgh at No. 42 Iowa
Pittsburgh is a rather soft 2–0 under first-year coach Todd Graham, with a 35–16 win over Buffalo and a 35–29 win over FCS opponent Maine.
Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 24

Gardner-Webb at No. 46 Wake Forest
Wake Forest has been one of the most improved teams in the nation in 2011. The Deacs are getting great play from quarterback Tanner Price (when healthy).
Wake Forest 41, Gardner-Webb 10

No. 50 Utah at No. 47 BYU
The road team hasn’t won in this series since 2006, when BYU edged Utah 33–31 in Salt Lake City. BYU has only scored one offensive touchdown this season, but the Cougs have played at Ole Miss and at Texas.
BYU 24, Utah 20

Presbyterian at No. 48 California
The Golden Bears are off to a nice start, with wins vs. Fresno State and at Colorado (ot). The pass-catch combo of Zach Maynard and Keenan Allen, who happen to be half-brothers, has been highly successful.
California 44, Presbyterian 0

No. 51 Houston at No. 102 Louisiana Tech
Shouldn’t these two teams be in the same conference?
Houston 41, Louisiana Tech 21

South Alabama at No. 53 NC State
NC State’s season has already taken a wrong turn, with a surprising loss at home to Wake Forest in the ACC opener.
NC State 41, South Alabama 3

No. 117 Akron at No. 56 Cincinnati
Akron has scored a total of three points this season, losing 42–0 at Ohio State and 41–3 at home vs. Temple. The Bearcats should hit 50 with ease.
Cincinnati 55, Akron 10

Northwestern State at No. 57 SMU
SMU has been a bit of a disappointment this season, losing 46–14 at Texas A&M and struggling at home vs. UTEP. J.J. McDermott gets his second straight start at quarterback.
SMU 45, Northwestern State 10

No. 95 Louisville at No. 59 Kentucky
Neither team has played well through the first two weeks of the season. Points will be at a premium. Look for UK true freshman Josh Clemons to have a big day carrying the ball with Raymond Sanders out with an injury.
Kentucky 17, Louisville 7

No. 61 Hawaii at No. 118 UNLV
UNLV is in the conversation as the worst team in the nation after its 59–7 loss at Washington State last week.
Hawaii 47, UNLV 13

No. 63 Ole Miss at No. 64 Vanderbilt
The Commodores have won four of the past six in this East vs. West battle. Both teams are struggling on offense. Whoever wins the turnover battle will likely win the game.
Vanderbilt 20, Ole Miss 17

No. 70 Washington State at No. 66 San Diego State
Washington State appears to be vastly improved, but the Cougars have yet to play a quality opponent. We’ll find out just how much progress Paul Wulff’s club has made after Saturday’s trip to San Diego.
San Diego State 27, Washington State 14

No. 87 Duke at No. 68 Boston College
The usually rock-solid Boston College program is on shaky ground. The Eagles managed only 137 yards of offense in a 31–3 loss at UCF last week. A loss at home to Duke isn’t possible, is it? Yes.
Duke 28, Boston College 20

No. 71 Marshall at No. 84 Ohio
Marshall very quietly recorded a huge win last weekend, knocking off C-USA East power Southern Miss 26–20. Now, the Herd step out of conference play to face a very solid Ohio team.
Ohio 23, Marshall 21

No. 112 Kent State at No. 75 Kansas State
The Wildcats trailed Eastern Kentucky 7–0 heading into the fourth quarter before rallying for a 10–7 win in the opener two weeks ago. Not good.
Kansas State 27, Kent State 10

No. 78 Colorado vs. No. 96 Colorado State (at Denver)
CU receiver Paul Richardson caught nine passes for 284 yards and two scores in last week’s overtime loss to California.
Colorado 28, Colorado State 17

No. 79 Nevada at No. 111 San Jose State
I thought Nevada would hang with Oregon last weekend. I was wrong. The Pack trailed 31–7 at the half en route to a 69–20 loss. This week, the competition gets easier — much easier.
Nevada 41, San Jose State 20

SE Louisiana at No. 80 Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles have been a disappointment so far, struggling to beat Louisiana Tech at home and then losing at Marshall. The usually high-octane USM offense has averaged only 19.5 points.
Southern Miss 31, SE Louisiana 14

North Dakota at No. 83 Fresno State
Fresno State returns home after difficult matchups at California and at Nebraska. This one shouldn’t be too much trouble.
Fresno State 37, North Dakota 7

SE Missouri State at No. 85 Purdue
Purdue has been in two games that ended with a blocked field goal; the Boilers were on the blocking end against Middle Tennessee and the got-blocked end at Rice. This one better not come down to a field goal attempt.
Purdue 38, SE Missouri State 10

No. 109 Tulane at No. 88 UAB
UAB might be without standout tailback Pat Shed due to a sports hernia. It shouldn’t matter.
UAB 31, Tulane 10

No. 107 Buffalo at No. 90 Ball State
This is a key MAC game for two teams that appear to be improved in 2011. Ball State already has a win over Indiana on its resume, while Buffalo played well in a season-opening loss at Pitt before beating Stony Brook last week.
Ball State 27, Buffalo 21

No. 93 Miami (Ohio) at No. 101 Minnesota
It was a rough week for Minnesota. The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State in a game that was overshadowed by head coach Jerry Kill’s sideline seizure. Kill appears to be fine. We’re not sure about his team.
Minnesota 27, Miami (Ohio) 24

South Carolina State at No. 94 Indiana
Kevin Wilson is still searching for his first win as the head coach at Indiana. The search should end Saturday.
Indiana 41, South Carolina State 14

No. 104 Central Michigan at No. 97 Western Michigan
Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit is 0–5 vs. hated rival Central Michigan. He might not be around next season if his record dips to 0–6.
Western Michigan 28, Central Michigan 24

No. 103 Wyoming at No. 98 Bowling Green
The competition hasn’t been strong — Idaho and Morgan State — but Bowling Green looks to be much improved on offense. The Flacons are averaging 45.0 points and 525 yards per game.
Bowling Green 38, Wyoming 20

No. 114 UTEP and No. 100 New Mexico State
I’m still shocked that New Mexico State won at Minnesota last week. Quarterback Andrew Manley threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Aztecs, a three-touchdown underdog, to a 28–21 win.
New Mexico State 28, UTEP 20

Nicholls State at No. 105 Louisiana-Lafayette
The Rajin’ Cajuns are showing some fight under first-year coach Mark Hudspeth. Their win at Kent State last week was the school’s first non-conference road win (vs. an FBS foe) since 2006, when Ricky Bustle’s club won at Houston 31–28.
Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Nicholls State 10

Indiana State at No. 106 Western Kentucky
One week after giving up 190 yards of offense in a loss to Kentucky, the Hilltoppers were torched for 510 yards in a 40–14 home loss to Navy.
Western Kentucky 28, Indiana State 17

Austin Peay at No. 119 Memphis
It’s difficult to describe how much of a train wreck Memphis football is right now. Still, don’t be tempted to pick Austin Peay in this one; the Govs lost at Cincinnati 72–10 two weeks ago.
Memphis 30, Austin Peay 14
 

Teaser:
<p> Predictions on every game of the Week 3 college football schedule.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2011 - 09:04
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-3
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Here are  previews and predictions for the 10 best college football games this weekend.

Oklahoma (-3.5) at Florida State
There’s a school of thought — which we at Athlon Sports subscribe to — that the winner of this early season non-conference clash will end up playing Alabama in the national championship game. Both teams have looked sharp in the early going, but it must be noted that Florida State has played arguably the softest schedule of any top-25 team, beating Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern by a combined score of 96–10. The key for Florida State will be its ability to move the all on the ground on an OU defense that was mediocre against the run last year and showed some vulnerability in its season-opening win against Tulsa. Oklahoma has tremendous weapons on offense, and has the ability to be dominant through the air and on the ground. This should be a classic.
Florida State 31, Oklahoma 27

LSU (-3) at Mississippi State (Thu)
A bit of the shine was removed from this Thursday night showdown with Mississippi State’s loss at Auburn, but it’s still a huge game in the SEC West. The Bulldogs can’t afford an 0–2 start in league play if they plan on being a factor in the division race. LSU took care of business on Saturday against FCS foe Northwestern State, cruising to a 49–3 win its home-opener. Expect the Tigers to lean heavily on their running game, especially after Auburn gashed Mississippi State for 235 yards on 36 carries Saturday afternoon.
LSU 24, Mississippi State 17

Tennessee (+9.5) at Florida
You can make a strong case that Tennessee boasts the nation’s best quarterback/two-receiver combo, with Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers — all sophomores. Through two games, Bray has completed 78.5 percent of his passes for 698 yards with seven touchdowns and no INTs. Hunter and Rogers have combined for 502 yards and five touchdowns on 31 receptions. Florida has been dominant in wins over FAU (41–3) and UAB (39–0), but the new-look offense is about to face a different caliber of athletes this week. Tennessee has some issues on the front seven — mainly a lack of depth — but the Vols’ secondary is solid. We’ll know far more about the Will Muschamp/Charlie Weis era at Florida by Saturday evening.
Florida 34, Tennessee 24

Arizona State (+1.5) at Illinois
This has the chance to be one of the best games of the day, and it features two of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks — Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase. Arizona State is fresh off of an emotional, nationally televised overtime win over Missouri on Friday night. Now, the Sun Devils have another opportunity to make a statement, this time against a team that could surprise in the Big Ten Leaders Division. Illinois is very solid at the quarterback position and features a veteran offensive line that will open plenty of holes for senior tailback Jason Ford. This game won’t impact either team’s chances in their respective leagues, but it will go a long way in determining their postseason destinations.
Illinois 21, Arizona State 14

Ohio State (+2.5) at Miami (Fla.)
Expect a lot of the focus to be on each school’s respective off-the-field issues with the NCAA — and rightfully so. Ohio State is playing with an interim head coach (Luke Fickell) and a lineup that is lacking some of its best playmakers due to suspension. We are still in the early stages of the mess at Miami, but the Canes do have one thing working in their favor — the return of starting quarterback Jacory Harris (though some UM fans might argue that is not such a good thing). Harris was picked off four times in last season’s 36–24 loss to Ohio State in Columbus. He is capable of being a brilliant playmaker — but he’s also capable of making some very bad decisions. He will have to be at his best for the Canes to win.
Ohio State 20, Miami 17

Michigan State (+4.5) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame is 0–2 despite rolling up over 500 yards of offense in each of its first two games. The Irish have yet to win due to their inability to protect the ball (10 turnovers in two games) and because their defense allowed Michigan to march 58 yards and 80 yards for touchdowns in the final 2:16 of Saturday night’s epic game in Ann Arbor. Michigan State is coming off an astoundingly lopsided 44–0 win over a very bad Florida Atlantic team. The Spartans allowed only 48 yards of total offense and gave up only one first down — for the entire game. MSU, now 2–0, will be tested for the first time this season when it heads to South Bend. The Spartans had won six straight at ND before losing, 33–30, two years ago. This one is tough to call, but at some point the ball has to bounce Notre Dame’s way.
Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 21

Auburn (+3) at Clemson
I think it’s safe to say that no defending national champion has ever been an underdog in two of its first three games in the ensuing season. Auburn edged Mississippi State last week, 41–34, despite giving up 198 yards in the air and 333 yards on the ground. Through two games — both at home — the Tigers rank 111th in the nation in total defense and 118th in rushing defense. Now, they hit the road for the first time against a Clemson team that struggled with — but still beat — Troy (CU trailed 16-13 at the half before pulling away) and Wofford (35–27). Expect Clemson to lean heavily on tailback Andre Ellington, who is averaging 127 yards rushing. It’s always dangerous to pick against Auburn — so I won't.
Auburn 34, Clemson 28

West Virginia (+1.5) at Maryland
West Virginia has been a slow starter in 2011, with a total of three points in the first quarter of wins over Marshall and Norfolk State. Dana Holgorsen needs to find a way to get his team going a bit earlier now that the schedule is more difficult, starting with this week’s trip to Maryland. The Terps looked very good, especially on offense, in a Week 1 win over Miami (Fla.). Danny O’Brien was terrific at quarterback, completing 31-of-44 attempts for 348 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Florida State is clearly the team to beat in the ACC Atlantic Division, but don’t be surprised if Maryland remains in the race all season.
Maryland 31, West Virginia 27

Pittsburgh (+3) at Iowa
Pittsburgh is a rather soft 2–0 under first-year coach Todd Graham, with a 35–16 win over Buffalo and a 35–29 win over FCS opponent Maine. Graham’s teams at Tulsa were among the most explosive in the nation, but that has yet to translate at Pittsburgh — despite the inferior competition. Iowa must bounce back from a heartbreaking 44–41 triple-overtime loss at rival Iowa State. The Hawkeyes led five different times during the game but couldn’t stop ISU when it mattered. This is still a solid team that should be balanced on offense with James Vanderberg at quarterback and Marcus Coker at tailback.
Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 24

Utah (+3.5) at BYU
The road team hasn’t won in this series since 2006, when BYU edged Utah 33–31 in Salt Lake City. BYU has only scored one offensive touchdown this season, but the Cougs have played at Ole Miss and at Texas. Utah, too, has been sluggish on offense, scoring 27 points in the opener against Montana State and 14 last week at USC. The Utes will need a big game from junior college transfer John White, who is emerging as their primary ball-carrier.
BYU 24, Utah 20

Last week — 6–4 (2–7–1 vs. spread)
Season — 13–7 (9–10–1 vs. spread)
 

Teaser:
<p> Previews and predictions on 10 key games in Week 3.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 08:26
Path: /college-football/graham-lone-bright-spot-panther-offense
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

Take a quick look at Pittsburgh’s stats and you will notice that running back Ray Graham leads the nation in rushing with a 161.0-yard average. That, however, is one of the few bright spots.

Yes, the Panthers are 2–0, but it is a very soft 2–0, with a 35–16 win over Buffalo and a 35–29 win over FCS opponent Maine. Todd Graham’s teams at Tulsa were among the most explosive in college football, but that has yet to translate at Pittsburgh — despite the inferior competition. The Panthers rank 62nd in the nation in total offense (395.5 ypg) and are tied for 45th in scoring (35.0 ppg). Those numbers aren’t bad, but we expected to see much more production from Pitt after home games against a team that went 1–7 in the MAC last year (Buffalo) and team that went 4–6 against FCS opponents in 2010 (Maine).

Graham is remaining upbeat, but he admits the offense has been a disappointment.

“Offensively it’s just decision-making,” he says. “We’re really close. We sit there and watch the film but we’re not executing the system. Somebody asked me, ‘Are you where you thought you would be?’ No, I thought we would be doing better than how we are executing what we’re doing. In this offense you can’t ad-lib. You’ve got to be extremely disciplined every play to read your key and distribute the ball and this offense is a timing offense.”

Graham has placed some of the blame on the offensive line — “We’ve got two new guys playing up front on the offensive line that have made some errors which are not surprising,” he says — but Pittsburgh must get better play from quarterback Tino Sunseri. The junior has completed 58 percent of his attempts but only has one touchdown pass in 63 attempts. This offense simply needs gaudier numbers from the quarterback position. And Graham believes Sunseri can deliver — even though he temporarily pulled his quarterback in favor of Trey Anderson against Maine.

“Tino Sunseri is our quarterback,” he said earlier this week. “We’ve got confidence that he’s going to get it done. Has he played well? No, he hasn’t played well. He’s made some good plays, but he’s got to play better and execute our system, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I’ve seen him do it in practice, I’ve seen him do it in games, and in this system there’s no question I think he can be successful and he’s a guy that has come a long way in his work ethic and all those things.”

Sunseri and the Panthers now dive into a very difficult part of the schedule. This weekend, they head to Iowa and then return home for dates with Notre Dame and South Florida. Despite the early season struggles, this is still a quality football team, one that should be in the hunt for the Big East title.

AROUND THE BIG EAST

• Connecticut has struggled offensively, but the Huskies appear to have found their next big-time running back. With expected starter D.J. Shoemate out with an injury, redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs, a lightly recruited 2-star prospect, has rushed for 259 yards on 51 carries through two games. Against Vanderbilt, McCombs accounted for 123 of the Huskies’ 193 total yards of offense.

• Louisville has scored a total of seven points in the second half of its games against Murray State (a win) and FIU (a loss).

• Rutgers’ four running backs netted 18 yards on 20 carries in a 24–22 loss to North Carolina. Through two games, prized freshman Savon Huggins has 32 yards on 17 carries.

• Cincinnati has given up at least 27 points in 13 straight games against BCS conference opponents.

• The West Virginia defense has yet to allow a touchdown this season.

• South Florida’s B.J. Daniels threw for a career-high 359 yards in the Bulls’ 37–7 win over Ball State. Daniels’ previous best was 286 yards in a win over Cincinnati last season.
 

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh's sluggish attack headlines Athlon's Big East Notebook</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 15:15
Path: /college-football/it-time-panic-oregon-state
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

We knew what Oregon State was missing. We were aware that the Beavers would be without arguably the most exciting offensive player in school history (Jacquizz Rodgers) and without a player considered by many to be the top defensive lineman in the Pac-10 in 2010 (Stephen Paea). And we understood that James Rodgers, one of the most versatile playmakers in college football over the past few years, would be out indefinitely while recovering from a knee injury.

Still, we expected Oregon State to be good. Not great. But pretty good — as in fourth in the very tough Pac-12 North, with a predicted conference record of 4–5 and an overall mark of 6–6.

Why the optimism? Mike Riley. The Beavers’ veteran head coach always seems to do more with less, somehow getting his team to remain a factor in the league race.

So when it was time to make our predictions, we simply gave Riley and the Beavers the benefit of the doubt, assuming they would find a way to thrive despite the loss of some great players.
Well, look who’s 0–2. It’s still early, but the signs aren’t good for Oregon State, which opened the season with a stunning loss to FCS foe Sacramento State (which lost the following week to Southern Utah) and a 35–0 defeat at Wisconsin.

It might not be time to panic in Corvallis — after all, the 2008 Beavers recovered from an 0–2 start to finish 9–4 — but it’s hard to find many expected wins when you take a look at the final 10 games on the Beavers’ slate.

So what’s the problem? Well, the offense has struggled to get going, even with the emergence of true freshman Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards against Sacramento State before missing the Wisconsin game with a hamstring injury. And the quarterback situation is a mess. Strong-armed Ryan Katz, the 2010 starter, was pulled in favor of Sean Mannion during the Wisconsin game. On Tuesday afternoon, Riley announced that Mannion will start against UCLA, but both quarterbacks will likely play.

The numbers aren’t horrible defensively, but the Badgers did give up 29 points to an FCS school and have really struggled against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks are 40-of-57 for 485 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers have resulted in a national ranking of 116th in passing efficiency defense. It hasn’t helped that senior cornerback Brandon Hardin, one of only three returning starters on defense, has yet to play due to a shoulder injury.

Riley, to his credit, isn’t panicking. He, better than most, understands that there is plenty of time to get his team turned in the right direction. Oregon State has had a winning record in six of eight seasons since Riley returned to Corvallis despite having a combined record of 15–17 in the month of September. Clearly, his teams have a knack for improving as the season progresses.

“I really have hopes for this team,” the coach said after his team was shut out by Wisconsin. “I think there was a lot of stuff today, particularly defensively that was better. So we can build on that. Offensively, I know we can do better.”

They better do better, or Oregon State could be headed for back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the late 1990s.

AROUND THE PAC-12

• Washington State is 2–0 for the first time since 2005 after rolling to wins of 64–21 over Idaho State and 59–7 over UNLV. The level of competition has been very poor, but it’s clear that Paul Wulff’s program is making some progress. The Cougars went 2–10 last season, but ended the year with a shocking 31–14 win at Oregon State and a competitive 35–28 loss to rival Washington in the Apple Cup. The win over UNLV was especially noteworthy because Washington State had to play without quarterback Jeff Tuel, who is out 4-6 weeks with a broken collarbone. Senior Marshall Lobbestael, who had three starts as a redshirt freshman and three as a sophomore, stepped in and completed 24-of-32 for 361 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

• Colorado has already given up 13 plays of 20-plus yards, the most in the Pac-12.

• Washington’s Keith Price has attempted 25 passes in each of his first two games. He completed 17 for 102 yards against Eastern Washington and 18 for 315 yards against Hawaii. His yards per attempt jumped from 4.1 to 12.6 in one week.

• Not much went well for Arizona in last Thursday’s trip to Oklahoma State, but the Wildcats, who played without Juron Criner, did get some production from junior Dan Buckner. A transfer from Texas and former big-time recruit, Buckner caught 10 passes for 142 yards and scored a touchdown.

• Stanford has given up one offensive touchdown in two games, and it came in the final minute of a 44–14 win at Duke. The Cardinal’s opponents have converted only 6-of-30 third down attempts.

Teaser:
<p> Beavers' struggles headline Athlon's Pac-12 Notebook</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 12:22
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-makes-statement-sec-east
Body:

By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)

This might sound a bit obvious, but beating Georgia is a very good sign for South Carolina football. Consider the following: The Gamecocks are a combined 25–23 in the SEC in the six seasons in which they have defeated Georgia. On the other hand, they are 36–67–1 in conference games in the 13 seasons in which they have lost to the Bulldogs, and only once, in 2005, has South Carolina had a winning SEC record without beating Georgia.

So it’s clear that the Georgia game serves as a pretty accurate barometer for South Carolina. When the Gamecocks are good enough to beat Georgia, they are usually good enough to be a factor in the SEC East.

This season, Carolina will be more than a factor — I think at this point it’s clear to call Steve Spurrier’s club the favorite (despite what you might have read in Athlon Sports’ 2011 preview). Until we see what Florida looks like against a quality opponent, it’s hard to make the argument that South Carolina isn’t the best team in the SEC East.

Sure, the defense has been shaky, but Steve Spurrier’s club boasts some serious star power on both sides of the ball. South Carolina might have the best running back (Marcus Lattimore) and best wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) in the SEC — and maybe the nation. Defensively, true freshman Jadeveon Clowney is already showing signs why he was one of the most hyped recruits of the past decade, and junior Stephon Gilmore is one of the elite cornerbacks in college football. And we can’t forget about Melvin Ingram, a 271-pound defensive end who recorded nine sacks last season and scored two touchdowns, one on a 68-yard fake punt, in the win over Georgia.

“I think Melvin Ingram deserves a lot of credit for making some huge plays,” Spurrier said after the game. “He’s a heck of an athlete.”

Lattimore, however, is the key to this team. The sophomore tailback carried the ball 27 times for 176 yards against Georgia, with 94 of his yards coming in the decisive fourth quarter. I’d estimate that a team that has its tailback rush for 90-plus yards in the fourth quarter has about a 99 percent chance of winning that game.

Lattimore’s heroics allowed South Carolina to win despite a subpar game from quarterback Stephen Garcia. In his first start of his senior season, Garcia completed only 11-of-25 passes for 142 yards, and he was intercepted two times. The Gamecocks will need Garcia to play well to win an SEC championship, but they don’t need him to be the best quarterback in the league. His supporting cast is good enough — especially at the skill positions — for his team to win without 300-yard, four-touchdown games each week.

With the Georgia hurdle behind them — and successfully cleared — the Gamecocks now return to Columbia for a four-game home stand against Navy, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Kentucky. It will be a surprise if South Carolina is not 6–0 (and 4–0 in the SEC) when it hits the road for dates with Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Around the SEC

• Tennessee ranks fourth in the nation with a 66.7 percent success rate on third down, having converted 20 of 30 opportunities through two games. Last season, the Vols ranked 88th in the nation on third downs (36.5 percent).

• UConn marched 72 yards on 13 plays in its first drive (ending in a field goal) against Vanderbilt, but the Commodores only gave up 121 total yards on 52 plays the rest of the game.

• The LSU defense has only given up one play of 20-plus yards this season — even more impressive when you consider that the Tigers opened up against Oregon.

• It’s not all bad news at Georgia. Freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell looks like he will be a major contributor this season. He rushed for 118 yards on 16 carries against South Carolina and has a healthy 5.7-yard average in two games against quality competition.

• Auburn is 2–0 but ranks 111th in the nation in total defense (489.5 ypg) and 118th in rushing defense (280.0 ypg). It’s still too early to put too much stock in national rankings, but defensive coordinator Ted Roof can’t be pleased with those numbers.

• Ole Miss will have to tighten up its run defense, as well, after Southern Illinois rushed for 223 yards on 38 carries in last week’s 42–24 Rebel victory.

• Alabama has allowed a total of three points in the first half of its two games this season.

• Kentucky coach Joker Phillips raved about Josh Clemons in preseason camp, and the true freshman came through with a 14-carry, 128-yard effort against Central Michigan on Saturday. Clemons gave Kentucky its first lead of the game late in the third quarter when he broke free for an 87-yard touchdown. In two games, he has 165 yards on 25 carries.
 

Teaser:
<p> Gamecocks' win over Georgia headlines SEC Notebook</p>
Post date: Monday, September 12, 2011 - 17:11

Pages