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Week 5 game breakdowns
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Virginia Tech at DukeKICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads the series 9-7 (last meeting, 2008, Virginia Tech 14-3).
2009 RANKINGS: Blue Devils: offense 58th (6th ACC), pass 25 (3), run 98 (11), defense 52 (8), pass 57 (7), run 80 (8) Hokies: offense 79th (8th ACC), pass 115 (11), run 16 (2), defense 38 (6), pass 7 (1), run 91 (10)
POLLS: Virginia Tech (6 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 24-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Blue Devils have to find the endzone. In five meetings since Virginia Tech joined the ACC, it has outscored Duke 179-34. But watch Tech's mental focus. Last week was an emotional high, a statement game of sorts, when the team had a mindset of crashing the media coronation of Miami. Will it be ready to play, meaning its lines are pushing Duke around on both sides, or will it make silly errors and allow the Blue Devils an early score to build some confidence? The Hokies will probably give Duke a heavy dose of freshman TB Ryan Williams, then mix in QB Tyrod Taylor with either some misdirection shotgun runs or play-action throws. If Tech can stop the run early and make the Blue Devils one-dimensional, it should get ugly quick.
FAST FACTS: Hokies: Tech is 3-2 against Duke at Durham, 5-0 at Blacksburg and 1-5 at neutral sites. ... The Hokies have won the last eight meetings in the series to take a 9-7 lead. ... Tech has won the last four contests in the series by a combined score of 138-17. ... Tailback Ryan Williams is sixth in the country in rushing yards per game and tied for second in touchdowns scored. Blue Devils: In the last meeting, Duke forced five first half turnovers, but only managed to score three points off the takeaways. Virginia Tech held the Blue Devils to 136 yards of total offense, including only 20 passing yards. ... Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree ranks fourth in the ACC with a quarterback efficiency rating of 149.4. The school single-season record for pass efficiency (min. 200 attempts) is 142.45 by Bennett in 1982. ... Duke ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring offense, averaging 29.0 points per game this season. The 49 points scored last week against N.C. Central were the most since the Blue Devils scored 51 against Wake Forest on Oct. 22, 1994.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hokies:
INJURY WATCH: Hokies:
Michigan at Michigan StateKICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SERIES: Michigan leads 67-29-5 (last meeting, 2006, 35-21 Michigan State).
2009 RANKINGS: Wolverines: offense 30th (3rd Big Ten), pass 88th (10), run 8 (1), defense 89 (9), pass 52 (5), run 69 (8) Spartans: offense 21st (1st Big Ten), pass 8 (1), run 86 (10), defense 71 (7), pass 105 (11), run 44 (4)
POLLS: Michigan (22 AP, 20 coaches)
PREDICTION: Michigan State 24-23
KEYS TO THE GAME: The stronger running game has been the dominant component in this rivalry over the years. The team that has won the rushing side of things has claimed victory in this game in 37 of the last 41 meetings. In one recent stretch, the team with the most rushing yards at the end of the day won this matchup for 26 straight years. The Spartans haven't scored a win over the Wolverines at home since 2001. The Wolverines earned close decisions in 2003, 2005 and 2007, the middle one an overtime thriller.
FAST FACTS: Spartans: MSU won three straight from 1965-67, and on Saturday the Spartans would seem to have a decent chance to follow up last season's win in Ann Arbor with one in East Lansing. ... Trying to avoid a 1-4 start. ... Four of the last six games in the series have been decided by eight points or less, including back-to-back overtime games in 2004-05. Wolverines: This series started in 1898, and the two bitter rivals have met every year since 1945 63 straight seasons. ... Michigan and Michigan State compete for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which dates back to the 1953 season when MSU entered the Big Ten. The wooden trophy stands nearly four feet tall and shows the legendary folk hero Paul Bunyan with his trusty ax and his feet planted over the state of Michigan. ... Michigan leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (37.5 avg.) and rushing offense (240.2 avg.) after scoring more than 30 points in four straight games for the first time since the 2006 season. ... This game marks the fourth time Rich Rodriguez will face off against Mark Dantonio. Rodriguez owns two wins during his days at West Virginia when Dantonio was coaching at Cincinnati, but Dantonio won their first Big Ten matchup last season at Michigan Stadium.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Wolverines:
INJURY WATCH: Wolverines:
Arkansas State at IowaKICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SERIES: First meeting
2009 RANKINGS: Hawkeyes: offense 81st (9th Big Ten), pass 71st (8th), run 60 (7), defense 33 (3), pass 6 (1), run 61 (1) Red Wolves: offense 72nd (6th Sun Belt), pass 100 (8), run 37 (1), defense 68 (1), pass 104 (6), run 25 (1)
POLLS: Iowa (13 AP, 17 coaches)
PREDICTION: Iowa 36-9
KEYS TO THE GAME: A crowd of over 109,000 didn't bother Iowa. Can a 1-2 team (0-1 conference) from the Sun Belt cause any trouble? The oddsmakers don't think so: Iowa is a 20 1/2-point favorite to go to 5-0 on the season and perhaps even climb a little higher in the rankings. The Wolves have to come out biting and show they can be pesky visitors. Iowa was down, 10-0, before rallying at Penn State and could come out a bit flat, something Arkansas State must jump on to have a chance.
FAST FACTS: Hawkeyes: Iowa's eight-game winning streak is currently tied for second-best in the nation with Texas. Florida holds the longest win streak at 14 games. ... Iowa has not started a season 5-0 since 1995. ... The 12 turnovers Iowa has forced ties with Wisconsin for the league lead. ... Iowa hasn't won a league title since 2002. Red Wolves: The Red Wolves gave up 504 yards of offense and didn't record a sack or an interception in the loss to Troy last week. ... Arkansas State gets a $900,000 guarantee for the Iowa game, according to the Jonesboro Sun. ... Arkansas State is 0-4 against the Big Ten, by a combined count of 172-31. The last game was in 2002. There were two losses each to Illinois and Minnesota.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hawkeyes:
INJURY WATCH: Hawkeyes:
Alabama at KentuckyKICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SERIES: Alabama leads 34-2-1 (last meeting, 2008, 17-14 Alabama).
2009 RANKINGS: Crimson Tide: offense 18th (2nd Big Ten), pass 5th (1st), run 67th (7th), defense 18th (2nd), pass 57th (5th), run 5th (1st) Wildcats: offense 96th (6th Big East), pass 80th (5th), run 87th (6th), defense 73rd (6th), pass 39th (4th), run 60th (5th)
POLLS: Alabama (3 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Alabama 33-7
KEYS TO THE GAME: How Alabama handles the loss of LB Dont'a Hightower will be interesting to watch. But the key to this game will likely be Tide QB Greg McElroy continuing to play smart, efficient football. The coaches put more in his hands than they ever did former QB John Parker Wilson, and so far McElroy has handled it in near-perfect fashion.
FAST FACTS: Crimson Tide: Alabama has forced 53 turnovers in the first 31 games under head coach Nick Saban, an average of 1.71 per game. ... RB Mark Ingram has not lost a fumble in 204 career rushing attempts and 20 career receptions for a total of 224 career touches. ... The Tide is averaging 234.25 rushing yards and 256.25 yards passing per game, which gives UA the eighth-ranked total offense in the nation. ... Alabama is 4-2 against the Associated Press Top 25 over the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Wildcats: Allowed 362 rushing yards to Florida last week. ... The back-to-back games against No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Alabama represent the highest-ranked consecutive opponents the Wildcats have ever played. The previous highest-ranked combo was when Kentucky faced No. 1 Mississippi and No. 7 Auburn in consecutive games back in 1964. ... Kentucky has been splendid in the second quarter, outscoring opponents 35-0. But thanks to Florida's 31-point first quarter, the Wildcats have been outscored 38-10 in the opening quarter, and coach Rich Brooks was putting an emphasis on avoiding a repeat disaster against Alabama. ...
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Crimson Tide:
INJURY WATCH: Crimson Tide:
Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio)KICKOFF: Saturday, 1 ET
SERIES: Miami leads 59-47-7 (last meeting, UC won 45-20 in 2008).
2009 RANKINGS: Bearcats: offense 12th (2nd Big East), pass 5 (1st), run 70 (6), defense 36 (5), pass 27 (2), run 54 (7) RedHawks: offense 85th (7th MAC), pass 41 (5), run 108 (10), defense 92 (10), pass 113 (13), run 98 (7)
POLLS: Cincinnati (10 AP, 11 coaches)
PREDICTION: Cincinnati 49-10
KEYS TO THE GAME: Miami is in rebuilding mode, and the Redhawks look like it. They're 120th dead last in the nation in scoring offense at 11.3 points per game. They're better in scoring defense 119th in that they're second-to-last. Turnover margin? Yep, No. 120. All that spells a shellacking. That's before you consider Cincinnati is 12th in the nation in total offense (476.8 yards per game) and fifth in scoring offense (43.3). And Cincy's defense might be even a bigger deal yet. Miami is 0-4 and has been outscored 167-45. Cincinnati is the clear favorite, but this is a rivalry game. And, the Redhawks historically have been tough on the Bearcats in Oxford. UC's offense needs to score early to squelch MU's hopes for an upset. UC's defense should play inspired after a statistically poor performance in last week's win over Fresno State.
FAST FACTS: Bearcats: Cincinnati is ranked No. 10 in this week's Associated Press poll and No. 11 in the USA Today coaches poll, its highest ever weekly rankings. The Bearcats' previous best was No. 12 in both the AP and USA Today polls entering the 2009 FedEx Orange Bowl. UC also was ranked 12th in the AP poll on Nov. 8, 1954. ... The Bearcats are 25-0 when leading after three quarters during head coach Brian Kelly's tenure. ... The "Battle for the Victory Bell" is the nation's oldest non-conference college football rivalry. .. The Bearcats' offense had possession for just 16:18 against Fresno State, but it still racked up 357 yards. RedHawks: Have had five turnovers each of the last two weeks. ... Miami failed to score for more than six quarters to start the season but has 45 points in the six quarters since, 33 of them with Zac Dysert at quarterback. ... QB Zac Dysert was 31-for-53 for 337 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions at Kent State last week. He also ran for 107 yards on 17 carries, often turning failed pass attempts into gains. ... Miami gained 552 yards last week but turned the ball over five times for the second straight week. Six of the 10 flubs have been fumbles and holding onto the football was a priority in practice this week. ... No. 10 Cincinnati is the highest-ranked team ever to come to Oxford.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bearcats:
INJURY WATCH: Bearcats:
LSU at GeorgiaKICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SERIES: LSU leads Georgia 66-33-3 (last meeting, 2008, Georgia 52-38).
2009 RANKINGS: Bulldogs: offense 74th (9th SEC), pass 42 (4), run 90 (11), defense 67 (11), pass 67 (11), run 42 (6) Tigers: offense 105th (12th SEC), pass 90 (7), run 74 (10), defense 49 (9), pass 10 (3), run 74 (10)
POLLS: LSU (4 AP, coaches) Georgia (18 AP, 14 coaches)
PREDICTION: Georgia 27, LSU 23
KEYS TO THE GAME: The next two weeks the Tigers have Florida, coming off of a bye week and likely with Tim Tebow under center, next week likely will make or break LSU's season. The Tigers' offense has looked mostly broken to start the season. With Georgia's defense allowing 29.75 points per game, LSU might have found exactly what it needs to get healthy at just the right time. Georgia has enough talent to stay with LSU at home, but the Bulldogs will need to avoid the careless turnovers (12) that have plagued them early this season. Georgia's defense has struggled against the pass, and might have a tough time with LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who is gaining confidence each week. The secondary will have a test in covering experienced LSU receivers Brandon LaFell, Terrance Tolliver and R.J. Jackson. Georgia's offensive line will need to keep pressure off quarterback Joe Cox and contain LSU defensive end Rahim Alem, who has 12 career sacks.
FAST FACTS: Bulldogs: Have overcome 12 turnovers, three in each of its first four games. ... The Bulldogs have won their three games by an average of six points. ... Georgia opponents have scored 56 points off 12 turnovers. Meanwhile, Georgia has scored just six points off turnovers this season. ... Georgia has trailed in all four of its games this season. Tigers: WR Brandon LaFell has five touchdown catches in the first four games, the most for an LSU player in that short of a span since Carlos Carson started off 1977 with six TD catches in his first four games. Five of Carson's scoring catches came in one game. LaFell had two touchdown catches against Louisiana-Lafayette and two against Mississippi State. ... LSU ranks 10th in the league in total defense (333.5 yards per game). ... Georgia remains the only SEC team coach Les Miles has failed to beat in his tenure at LSU. Of course, Miles, who is in his fifth season at Baton Rouge, has had only two opportunities last year and in the 2005 SEC championship game. But the combined score of those two Georgia wins is 86-52.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bulldogs:
INJURY WATCH: Bulldogs:
Penn State at IllinoisKICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SERIES: Penn State leads 13-3 (last meeting, 2008, 38-24 Penn State).
2009 RANKINGS: Nittany Lions: offense 56th (7th Big Ten), pass 40 (3), run 80 (9), defense 9 (1), pass 23 (3), run 11 (1) Fighting Illini: offense 82nd (10th Big Ten), pass 110 (11), run 35 (3), defense 90 (10), pass 102 (10), run 59 (6)
POLLS: Penn State (15 AP, 13 coaches)
PREDICTION: Penn State 38-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: In 2005, Penn State responded from its first loss of the season with a 56-point half and a 63-10 defeat of Illinois in Memorial Stadium. Two years later, the Nittany Lions responded from their first loss of the season with a turnover-filled, 27-20 loss to the Fighting Illini. The 2009 Nittany Lions will once again head to Champaign trying to get the taste of defeat out of their mouths. You can break down the Xs and Os anyway you want in this one, but this game will be all about attitude. The Illini are dragging so low after their horrid games against Missouri and Ohio State, they need only a little discouragement to keep heading south. But if Illinois can produce a big play or two early (think Arrelious Benn's kickoff return for a TD in the 2007 game), then the hosts might awaken. From a strategy standpoint, the Illini must establish either the run or the pass. They've done neither in their first two games against FBS foes. Penn State must give quarterback Daryll Clark ample time to throw the ball and Clark must regain the rhythm that made him the league's top quarterback in 2008. The Nittany Lion defense needs to find a way to slow Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, who has caught 10 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns and returned a kickoff for another score in two previous games against Penn State.
FAST FACTS: Nittany Lions: PSU has not lost consecutive games since the fourth and fifth games of the 2007 when the second loss came at Illinois. ... Penn State QB Daryll Clark has thrown six interceptions through four games and 129 pass attempts. He threw six interceptions in 13 games and 321 attempts in 2008. ... The Nittany Lions have achieved a near-equal balance of run and pass this season. They've run the ball 134 times and thrown 136 passes. Illini: QB Juice Williams' longest completion this season went for 24 yards. ... Against Ohio State and Missouri, the only FBS opponents U of I faced to date, the offense has one touchdown and one field goal. ...
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Nittany Lions:
INJURY WATCH: Nittany Lions:
Ohio State at IndianaKICKOFF: Saturday, 7 ET
SERIES: HOME leads the series 1-0 (last meeting, XXXX, xx-xx HOME).
2009 RANKINGS: Buckeyes: offense 18th (2nd Big Ten), pass 5th (1st), run 67th (7th), defense 18th (2nd), pass 57th (5th), run 5th (1st) Hoosiers: offense 96th (6th Big East), pass 80th (5th), run 87th (6th), defense 73rd (6th), pass 39th (4th), run 60th (5th)
POLLS: Buckeyes (9 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Buckeyes 42-10
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Hoosiers have playmakers on both sides of the ball. Freshman tailback Darius Willis ran for a career high 155 yards last week against Michigan and Jammie Kirlew leads the league in tackles for loss with 8.5. Ohio State's ground game has really taken off the last two weeks, but Indiana ranks second in the league in run defense, allowing 2.7 yards per carry. The Hoosiers haven't beaten the Buckeyes since 1988, and OSU is playing awfully well right now, which means the losing streak isn't likely to be snapped. Indiana, however, believes it can stick with any team in the conference, and the Hoosiers have the opportunity to prove to everybody that it's for real this week. A loss by the Hoosiers won't be shocking, but the team needs to feed off the energy of a full house at Memorial Stadium to play above and beyond its talent level. Emotion on the sideline will be a huge issue for IU this week. Indiana has to convert in the red zone and can't allow points to be left on the field. Settling for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns haunted IU last week, and the Hoosiers can't continue to struggle in the red zone if they are going to win games in the Big Ten. IU must limit its turnovers and needs to get the Buckeyes off the field on third down. Indiana's offense must grind out the clock to limit OSU's explosive offense.
FAST FACTS: Buckeyes: Ohio State has a 15-game road winning streak within the Big Ten. Michigan holds the record at 17. ... RB Dan Herron has scored at least one touchdown in eight consecutive games. ... Safety Kurt Coleman's loss (suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit vs. Illinois) is a big blow to a defense working on consecutive shutouts. Hoosiers: Indiana's five starters on the offensive line have started three consecutive games together. That didn't happen once last season. ... Despite giving up 36 points to Michigan last week, the Hoosiers still rank fourth in the Big Ten in points allowed, giving up just 22.2 per game. ... Since the start of the 2007 season, Indiana has recorded 84 sacks, second most in the Big Ten behind Penn State in that span. ... Indiana hasn't played Ohio State since the 2006 season. ... WR Tandon Doss has recorded two 100-yard plus receiving games this season and is the second-leading receiver in the Big Ten in terms of yardage.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Buckeyes:
INJURY WATCH: Buckeyes:
Mississippi at VanderbiltKICKOFF: Saturday, 7 ET
SERIES: Ole Miss leads, 46-35-2 (Last meeting, 2008, Vanderbilt 23-17)
2009 RANKINGS: Rebels: offense 65th (8th SEC), pass 93 (8), run 37 (7), defense 27 (6), pass 13 (4), run 27 (5) Commodores: offense 61st (7th SEC), pass 102 (11), run 29 (5), defense 19 (5), pass 3 (2), run 87 (11)
POLLS: Mississippi (21 AP, 18 coaches)
PREDICTION: Mississippi 27-22
KEYS TO THE GAME: Vandy upsetting a Top 20 team would not only make a statement to the rest of the SEC, but it would prove to Vandy that it can live up to last year's standard. Vandy will catch an opponent with something to prove after its first loss last week, but the Commodores have the athletes and discipline to earn a win. Recreating last week's offensive balance would help, although it's hard to see the Commodores going over 200 yards rushing and passing against an SEC opponent like they did at Rice. Vandy's defense needs to put some pressure on Rebels QB Jevan Snead, so look for defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler to dial up blitzes from everywhere.
FAST FACTS: Rebels: A streak of 45-point games was snapped at South Carolina, but UM is still averageing 41.3 points over its last seven games. ... QB Jevan Snead has completed a touchdown pass in each of his last 12 games. ... For the third time in its first four games, Ole Miss plays on the road. ... A win would give UM a 3-1 start for the first time since 2002, when it started 5-1 before losing five straight. The Rebels are trying to start 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference for the second straight season. Commodores: The defense notched four sacks at Rice, including two from DE Theron Kadri. The Commodores rank third in the SEC in sacks and are tied for 12th nationally, continuing a three-year trend of getting to the quarterback. ... PK Ryan Fowler converted field goals of 23, 33 and 37 yards in the win at Rice. ... Forced five turnovers and sacked the quarterback four times last week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rebels:
INJURY WATCH: Rebels:
Georgia Tech at Mississippi StateKICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 ET
SERIES: Georgia Tech leads, 3-0 (last meeting, 2008, 38-7 Georgia Tech)
2009 RANKINGS: Yellow Jackets: offense 50th (4th ACC), pass 116 (12), run 4 (1), defense 37 (5), pass 81 (8), run 30 (2) Bulldogs: offense 76th (10th SEC), pass 112 (12), run 26 (4), defense 31 (7), pass 31 (8), run 56 (8)
POLLS: Georgia Tech (25 AP, NR coaches)
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 33-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: Neither team has a proficient passing attack, but Tech improved last week with Josh Nesbitt hitting 7-of-11 throws. The Yellow Jackets want to build on that in this non-conference matchup. After limiting the Tar Heels to a paltry 17 rushing yards, the energized Jackets defense will be challenged by MSU's Anthony Dixon, who went over 100 yards with two scores last week. How LBs Brad Jefferson and Sedric Griffin hold up could determine the outcome. A disciplined effort on defense is key for the Bulldogs. Georgia Tech will get its yards in the triple-option. The key is not get too worried about that and make the Yellow Jackets have to string together lots of first downs to score. State can't allow big plays, so look for the coaches to put an added emphasis on the secondary to contain the inevitable mistakes up front that the triple option will provoke.
FAST FACTS: Yellow Jackets: Tech rushed for more than 400 yards in last year's meeting. ... Josh Nesbitt took quite a pounding in last week's 24-7 win over the Tar Heels. He ran a career-high 32 times for 97 yards. ... --Tech is averaging 32:21 in time of possession, compared to their opponents' 27:39. ... Tech ranks fourth in the ACC in total offense (387.2 yards) and fifth in total defense (321.2 yards). ... B-back Jonathan Dwyer (81.5 yards per game) and QB Josh Nesbitt (77.5 yards per game) rank No. 2 and No. 3 in rushing in the ACC. ... DE Derrick Morgan leads the ACC with 5.5 sacks. ... Tech has outscored its opponents 48-7 in the first quarter. Bulldogs: State takes on its second consecutive ranked foe when No. 25 Georgia Tech comes to town. State lost to then-No. 7 LSU 30-26 last weekend. No. 12 Houston visits Scott Field next weekend. ... RB Anthony Dixon's average of 107 yards per game is 16th-best in the nation and second-best in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldog rushing attack is 26th-best in the nation and fourth-best in the SEC. ... State will play host to Georgia Tech for the first time ever Saturday. In fact, it is Georgia Tech's first-ever trip to the state of Mississippi and that's despite Tech being an SEC member for the first three decades of the league's existence.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Yellow Jackets:
INJURY WATCH: Yellow Jackets:
Cal Davis at Boise StateKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: Boise State leads 3-0
POLLS: Boise State (5 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Boise State 52, Cal-Davis 10
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Broncos get a break in the middle of four road games. It's their only home game in a 48-day stretch, so they should be excited. Whether the Broncos can maintain that excitement level against the overmatched Aggies will determine whether this is a game for a while.
FAST FACTS: Broncos: Boise State has won 58 straight games when rushing for at least 200 yards, dating to the 1998 season finale. The Broncos have topped 200 yards in each of their past two games. ... Boise State leads the nation in sacks allowed, with two. ... The Broncos' No. 5 ranking this week matches their best ever. They were No. 5 in the AP poll at the end of the 2006 season. The Broncos need to clean up some recurring problems and those will be the focus in this game missed tackles, botched scoring kicks and poor offensive starts.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Broncos:
INJURY WATCH: Broncos:
Southern Cal at CaliforniaKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: USC leads 61-30-5 (last meeting 2008, 17-3 USC)
2009 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 35th (3rd Pac-10), pass 64 (4), run 24 (4), defense 53 (7), pass 93 (9), run 32 (6) Trojans: offense 29th (1st Pac-10), pass 67 (5), run 16 (3), defense 6 (2), pass 16 (3), run 5 (1)
POLLS: Southern Cal (7 AP, coaches) Cal (24 AP, 19 coaches)
PREDICTION: Southern Cal 30-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: USC has won five in a row against Cal, but the Bears have won nine straight overall at home. The winner of this game puts itself in the middle of the Pac-10 race, and the loser will feel like it has been eliminated, although that is not necessarily true. Jeff Tedford is 1-7 against USC, but most of the games have been close, and the Bears upset then-No. 3 USC in three overtimes in 2003. The Trojans went on to a share of the national championship that year. This could be a low-scoring game because neither offense has shown high-scoring capabilities. Cal's defense has two goals: prevent Joe McKnight, or any of the USC running backs, from breaking away for a long run, and creating some turnovers. Jeff Tedford said it is nearly impossible to beat the Trojans without getting some takeaways. The Bears must put the outcome in Matt Barkley's hands, and it will be up to Cal's secondary to adequately cover USC's receivers because getting a pass rush against USC's top-flight offensive line will be difficult. Cal's offensive success will live or die with the performance of QB Kevin Riley, who needs to get off to a good start to gain confidence. When he does not start well, he tends to struggle. Riley will need to pick out receivers in a hurry, because USC's pass rush will not give him much time.
FAST FACTS: Bears: QB Kevin Riley has thrown 115 consecutive passes without an interception as of Oct. 1. That dates back to last season. ... Cal's game against USC will be the Bears' first home sellout of the season, and the game has been sold out for more than two months. ... Although Cal has lost five in row to USC, the Bears have played the Trojans fairly well since Jeff Tedford became head coach. Last year, Cal trailed just 10-3 before USC scored with less than three minutes left, and both the 2007 and 2006 games were tied after three quarters. Cal was inside the USC 10-yard line in the closing seconds of a six-point loss in 2004, Cal upset USC in three overtimes 2003, and Cal led the Trojan 21-3 in 2002 before losing by two. The only lopsided game was USC's 35-10 victory in 2005. ... A second loss will not eliminate the loser of the Cal-USC game from Pac-10 title contention. Teams with two conference losses shared the Pac-10 title in two of the past three seasons, with Cal and USC both going 7-2 in 2006 and USC and Arizona State finishing with 7-2 conference marks in 2007. Only four times in the past 17 seasons has a team gone unbeaten in Pac-10 play, and on three of those occasions it was USC, which already has a conference loss this year. Trojans: Lead the nation in sacks with 18. ... USC beat Cal 17-3 last season it marked the first time a Jeff Tedford-coached team had failed to score a touchdown. ...
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bears:
INJURY WATCH: Bears: None. Trojans:
Southern Methodist at TCUKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: TCU leads 42-39-7
2009 RANKINGS: Horned Frogs: offense 28th (3rd MWC), pass 66 (6), run 15 (2), defense 12 (1), pass 29 (2), run 7 (1) Mustangs: offense 26th (3rd CUSA), pass 7 (2), run 97 (8), defense 98 (7), pass 26 (1), run 36 (4)
POLLS: TCU (11 AP, 10 coaches)
PREDICTION: TCU 27-7
KEYS TO THE GAME: It's the Dallas-Ft. Worth Duel, the battle for the Iron Skillet. And the pressure is all on TCU, which arrives with a top 11 national ranking in both polls. Coach Gary Patterson knows that ranking could be fleeting. "In 2005, we went from being ranked 65th to going into the top 25 and back out of it within a week," Patterson said. To avoid a similar dive, the Frogs need to control the clock and avoid giving up big plays, meaning taking care of the ball. SMU is no juggernaut sorry, 'Stangs, that's the kind of label you earn losing to Washington State while TCU has already won a big game (at Clemson) on the road. Patterson effectively schemed to take Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller out to of the Tigers' gameplan last week and tightened kick coverage. If SMU earns the upset, it clearly won't come easily. TCU is 51-6 in its last 57 home games at Amon G. Carter stadium. TCU's defense is as good as it gets, but much of its success has come from its ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback. In June Jones' pass-happy offense at SMU, the quarterback usually gets rid of the ball before opposing defenders can cause any disruption. The Horned Frogs secondary will be tested.
FAST FACTS: Horned Frogs: Fresh off its second road win at an ACC opponent in the opening three weeks. ... The Horned Frogs are playing at home as a top-10 team for the first time since Nov. 15, 2003 when they were 10th-ranked and posted a 43-10 victory over Cincinnati. ... During the post-World War II college football boom, TCU and SMU students created a traveling trophy called the Iron Skillet that was presented to the winner of the annual football game between the rivals. The tradition eventually died and the skillet was lost. In 1993, the tradition was revived. ... Gary Patterson is 6-1 as a head coach versus SMU. As an assistant coach, Patterson was 2-1 against the Mustangs. Patterson was on the 1995 Navy staff when the Midshipmen won 33-2 in Dallas. As defensive coordinator at New Mexico during the 1996-97 campaigns, Patterson split a pair of meetings with SMU. ... While defensive coordinator at TCU (1998-00), Patterson game planned twice against June Jones when the current SMU head coach was at Hawaii. Mustangs: Have forced 14 turnovers and lead the nation with 11 interceptions. ... The game is last of three straight road games for SMU, which is in a stretch of 35 days away from Gerald J. Ford Stadium. ... SMU wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders leads the nation in receptions per game (11.7), ranks fourth in receiving yards per game (130.67) and rates second in punt return average (29.4). With 28 career TD grabs, Sanders is second among active players in touchdown catches - one behind Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State. He's also fi fth in catches (222) and yards (2,844) among current FBS student-athletes. ... SMU started 10 underclassmen at Washington State.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Horned Frogs:
INJURY WATCH: Horned Frogs:
Oklahoma at MiamiKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: The Oklahoma-Miami series is tied 3-3 and has featured huge games. In 1973, OU went 10-0-1, but only clipped Miami 24-20. In 1975, OU won 20-17 at Miami on the way to the national championship. In 1985, OU lost 24-17 to Miami but won the national championship anyway. In 1986, a 28-16 loss at Miami was OU's only blemish. In 1987, Miami beat OU (11-0 at the time) 20-14 at the Orange Bowl. From there, the rivalry lay dormant until 2007, when the Sooners rolled 51-13.
2009 RANKINGS: Sooners: offense 18th (6th Big 12), pass 32 (6), run 33 (8), defense 5 (1), pass 21 (3), run 1 (1) Hurricanes: offense 52nd (5th ACC), pass 24 (2), run 93 (10), defense 50 (7), pass 89 (10), run 86 (9)
POLLS: Oklahoma (8 AP, coaches) Miami (17 AP, 21 coaches)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 21-15
KEYS TO THE GAME: Sam Bradford might make a difference. If he plays and plays well, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner clearly gives OU a trump card. If he plays and is ineffective because of lingering shoulder soreness or rust from a layoff that began during the season-opening loss to BYU, it might just boost Miami. Well, it's not the game it might have been had Miami been able to knock off Virginia Tech last Saturday, but it's still one of the most intriguing games of the week as the No. 8 Sooners travel to the No. 17 Hurricanes. Oklahoma has the experience edge, and needs to play like it. Defensively, OU can't let Miami's best player, QB Jacory Harris, beat the Sooners. Harris has thrown for 806 yards and five touchdowns through three games, most of it in two victories over Florida State and Georgia Tech. Offensively, the onus is back on the offensive line, which played its best game against Tulsa, but will be tested anew by Miami, which will have the best athletes the Sooners have faced.
FAST FACTS: Sooners: OU is starting a tough stretch with Miami, Baylor (without Robert Griffin) on Oct. 10, then No. 2 Texas, then No. 18 Kansas. ... Have lost three of last four vs. Miami. ... Under Stoops, OU produced its career leader in passing and receiving, its No. 3 and No. 5 career rushers and school record holders for season rushing, passing and receiving yards. ... Of 82 off ensive records at OU, 54 were set under Stoops. ... OU scored a TD in every game since Nov. 7, 1998. ... OU has rushed for 200 yards 42 times under Stoops, 36 in the last six years. Hurricanes: Miami plays its first nonconference game of the season when the Hurricanes take on their fourth straight Top 20 team Saturday night as they welcome No. 8 Oklahoma to Land Shark Stadium. ... Miami has wins at No. 18 Florida State and vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech, which propelled the Hurricanes into the AP Top 10 at No. 9 last week for the first time since the final regular season poll of the 2005 season. ... QB Jacory Harris ranks 24th nationally in passing efficiency (152.62), has 806 passing yards in three games and has already accounted for six touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sooners:
INJURY WATCH: Sooners:
Houston at Texas-El PasoKICKOFF: Saturday, 9:05 ET
SERIES: Tied 3-3 (UTEP leads 3-1 in El Paso)
2009 RANKINGS: Cougars: offense 2nd (1st CUSA), pass 2 (1), run 81 (5), defense 97 (6), pass 51 (2), run 96 (8) Miners: offense 120 (12), pass 105 (11), run 115 (12), defense (109), pass 87 (8), run 115 (12)
POLLS: Houston (12 AP, 15 coaches)
PREDICTION: Houston 44-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: Houston isn't overlooking UTEP, coach Kevin Sumlin insists. The Cougars could be a top-10 worthy team is upsets continue to rattle the college football landscape. If that's the goal, the Cougars have to find their killer instinct. And that's not all about scoring points. Although the Cougars gave up 28 points to Texas Tech, they made a huge goal-line stand in the fourth quarter to help keep the team in the game. Houston does need to tighten up its pass defense after giving up 321 yards to the Red Raiders, especially with a dangerous quarterback like UTEP's Trevor Vittatoe coming up. Vittatoe has struggled this year, so if the defense can hold firm early, he may crack and try to force things too much to get things going. If UTEP can't sustain some drives, whether by passing or running, Houston will be able to wear out the UTEP defense with its short passing game. The Cougars like to go to RB Charles Sims out of the backfield and let him make some yardage, so UTEP linebackers must be aware of where he is when he goes out for a pass. The Miners need Trevor Vittatoe to step forward and resemble the quarterback who threw four touchdowns against Houston last year.
FAST FACTS: Cougars: QB Case Keenum is averaging 386.7 passing yards per game. ... Keenum now has 16 300-yard passing performances during his career. That total tied with David Klingler for the second-most all-time. Keenum trails his former teammate Kevin Kolb, who threw for 17 300-yard games from 2003 to 2006. ... Houston has won the last three games vs. UTEP. ... It is the longest Cougar winning streak in the series... With a win against the Miners on Saturday, it will be the longest winning streak by either team in the series. ... Houston has not lost to UTEP since a 44-41 setback in double overtime in El Paso on Sept. 16, 2005. ... Last two games have been decided by a combined eight points (34-31 in 2007; 42-37 in 2008). ... UTEP has posted a 3-1 in El Paso in the all-time series. ... UTEP won the first three games in the series, beginning in 1946 through 2005. ... Miners: The Miners have averaged 43.5 points per game in Conference USA openers under Mike Price. ... Houston rallied from a 28-9 third quarter deficit to beat UTEP, 42-37, on Nov. 22, 2008. ... UTEP and Houston have combined to average 70 points per game in their four meetings since 1950. ... This is the Miners' second straight game against a Top 25 team (lost 64-7 to Texas). ... UTEP is 4-0 in Conference USA openers, beating Houston at home in 2005 (44-41 in double overtime), SMU at home in 2006 (24-21), SMU on the road in 2007 (48-45 in overtime) and UCF at home in 2008 (58-13). The Miners are also 4-0 in C-USA home openers, including a 48-47 triumph over Tulsa in 2007.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cougars:
INJURY WATCH: Cougars:
Washington State at OregonKICKOFF: Saturday, 9:15 ET
SERIES: Oregon leads 41-38-7, and have won the past two meetings by a combined score of 116-21.
2009 RANKINGS: Ducks: offense 88th (7th Pac-10), pass 102nd (10th), run 47 (5), defense 43 (5), pass 25 (4), run 60 (8) Cougars: offense 101st (8th Pac-10), pass 62 (3), run 101 (10), defense 120 (10), pass 115 (10), run 92 (9)
POLLS: Oregon (16 AP, 25 coaches)
PREDICTION: Oregon 44-12
KEYS TO THE GAME: Since Chip Kelly's arrival in 2007, the Ducks are 13-3 at Autzen, averaging 40.0 points per game at home. The Cougars have to be prepared to get off the bus running. Oregon hopes for a steady hand from QB Jeremiah Masoli. He is 50-of-89 for 632 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, on the season. Masoli was 21 of 25 for 253 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Cal. Oregon ran all over Washington State in last season's meeting, and has re-discovered its running game this season following the season-long suspension of LeGarrette Blount because of his punch after the Boise State game. Redshirt freshman LaMichael James has emerged as the new go-to guy, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the past two games, and the Ducks have ample depth with Andre Crenshaw, Kenjon Barner and Remene Alston. Oregon got talented TE Ed Dickson more involved in the offense last week, and that trend should continue. For Washington State, The Jeff Tuel Era begins in a rather inhospitable environment. WSU hasn't won a road game since the 2007 Apple Cup against Washington.
FAST FACTS: Ducks: The Ducks have the longest current Pac-10 winning streak, in terms of conference games, having won four straight dating to last season. UO has won five consecutive Pac-10 games at Autzen Stadium. ... FR RB LaMichael James became the 29th player in UO history to record multiple 100-yard rushing efforts with his 118-yard day vs. Cal, his second straight game eclipsing the century mark. ... Oregon is ranked for the first time since the preseason polls, coming in at No. 16 in the AP top 25, No. 25 in the USA Today (coaches) poll, and No. 23 in the Harris Poll. The latter two polls are utilized when factoring BCS rankings. ... Chip Kelly is the first UO rookie coach since Prink Callison in 1932 to win his first three games in Eugene. ... The Ducks are 10-0 in games when SR PK Morgan Flint scores at least one point. Cougars: WSU leads the Pac-10 in one defensive category red zone defense holding foes to just 10 scores in 17 tries, and just seven TDs. That includes four turnovers. ... Punter Reid Forrest continues to be a bright spot, leading the Pac-10 at 45.3 per attempt. ... Washington State is allowing 503 yards per game and 32.8 points per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ducks:
INJURY WATCH: Ducks: