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Week 6 game breakdowns
Boston College at Virginia TechKICKOFF: Saturday, 12 ET
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads 11-6 (last meeting, 30-12 Virginia Tech in 2008)
POLLS: Virginia Tech (5 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 30-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: On paper, the BC running game appears to have a shot to do some damage here, but the real key to this game figures to be how well the Eagles can neutralize the Tyrod Taylor/Ryan Williams 1-2 punch on the other side of the ball. The Eagles also have to stay away from the mistakes and penalties that have hurt them and, as always, beware the Frank Beamer special teams. The Hokies will have to match BC's toughness on both lines and run the ball more consistently than they did at Duke. One reason the Eagles have had regular-season success against Tech the last three years is that line play. That hasn't been a strength for Tech. That means being able to run the ball and keep the Eagles from establishing their running game. While BC QB Dave Shinskie is 25 years old, he's just a freshman, and you don't want a freshman trying to win in Blacksburg with a one-dimensional attack.
FAST FACTS: Golden Eagles: QB David Shinskie, the 25-year-old freshman known as "Uncle Dave" among his BC teammates, makes his third straight start when the Eagles visit No. 5 Virginia Tech this week. "He's progressing just like a freshman would," says his coach, Frank Spaziani. "He's making some progress, but in no means is he a polished, accomplished signal caller and field general. There's just not enough experience. But once again, he's getting better every week, he's learning and we see improvement there. We need to see a lot more." ... The Eagles hope their second road game turns out better than their first, when the offense totaled just 54 yards in a 26-7 loss to Clemson in a game in which the defense kept things from getting completely out of hand. Will that experience help this young team? "How much do you put on experience?" said Spaziani. ""The experience of going down there has to help some, but then again, it wasn't a good experience. This is a similar situation, so we're going to have to buckle our chinstraps." ... Virginia Tech is the latest ACC foe raising money for cancer-stricken linebacker Mark Herzlich's Uplifting Athletes. The Hokies were hoping to raise $5,094 for the charity, $5,000 plus the additional $94 for Herzlich's uniform number. ... Spaziani is 5-1 as a head coach. Hokies: Have won 11 straight games since a Matt Ryan-led comeback gave the Eagles a stunning 14-10 win in 2007. ...
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Eastern Illinois at Penn StateKICKOFF: Saturday, 12 ET
SERIES: First meeting
POLLS: Penn State (AP 14, 12 coaches)
PREDICTION: Penn State 54-7
KEYS TO THE GAME: Penn State, which is allowing 86.4 rushing yards per game, must shut down EIU tailbacks Mon Williams and Chevon Walker. The Nittany Lions, who turned the ball over just once last week, must continue to avoid mistakes on offense and protect quarterback Daryll Clark, whose health is vital to the team's future success. Coach Joe Paterno if he isn't quite caught up with the recently redefined distinctions of Division I football teams (Football Bowl Subdivision versus Football Championship Subdivision). "You can put all the quotes A, AA, below BCS, above BCS," Paterno said Tuesday. "I can't follow all that stuff. I had trouble with the alphabet when I was a kid." But don't try telling the coach that Eastern Illinois, the 25th-ranked FCS team, won't give his Nittany Lions, the 14th-ranked FBS team, all they can handle this Saturday. "I think Eastern Illinois is a solid program," Paterno said. "They're 4-1. The coach has been there for a long time. They're solid. If you look at the stats and everything else, you'll see just how steady they've been." The Nittany Lions are familiar with at least one Panther senior quarterback Jake Christensen, who transferred from Iowa this spring. Christensen was the starter when Penn State beat the Hawkeyes 27-7 in 2007.
FAST FACTS: Nittany Lions: Have won their last 13 regular-season non-conference games and their last 18 at Beaver Stadium. ... Just 33 of Penn State's 119 players have junior or senior eligibility. ... Eight different players have scored Penn State's 18 touchdowns. Only tailback Evan Royster (four touchdowns rushing, one receiving) has scored more than two. Panthers: EIU ranks first in the Ohio Valley Conference in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense. ... Coach Bob Spoo is tied with Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer for fifth place on the Division I coaching seniority list with both joining their current schools in 1987. Joe Paterno (1966) is first. ... EIU is ranked No. 25 in the FCS. ... This will be Eastern Illinois fourth game against a Big Ten opponent with the Panthers having twice faced Illinois (2006, 2008) and once facing Spoo's alma mater Purdue (2007). ... EIU is 4-21 against FBS opponents. ... EIU faced No. 24 Illinois losing to the Fighting Illini 47-21 after missing an opportunity to take the lead late in the second half. The Panthers faced Kansas State in third week of the season in 2002 when the Wildcats were the first team receiving votes in both major polls. EIU trailed in that game 15-13 at the end of the first quarter before KSU pulled away for a 63-13 win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Auburn at ArkansasKICKOFF: Saturday, 12 ET
SERIES: Auburn leads Arkansas, 10-7-1 (last meeting, 2008, 25-22, Arkansas)
POLLS: Auburn (AP 17, 19 coaches)
PREDICTION: Arkansas 35-31
KEYS TO THE GAME: Auburn's rise from anonymity has been gradual despite a bigger-than-advertised win over West Virginia two weeks ago that started pollster stirring. The Tigers are deserving of their ascent into the national polls, but how good is Gene Chizik's team? Arkansas' offense is good enough to score on most anyone. They pass relentlessly and will play at a frenetic pass. Auburn's offense has been outstanding, too, setting up a he who holds the ball last storyline. All indications point to this SEC West battle resembling a shootout, with two of the game's more notable offensive minds (Bobby Petrino and Gus Malzahn) squaring off against each other. The defensive edge, if there is one, goes to Auburn, but even the notoriously tough Tigers have had their fair share of issues on this side of the ball. If the Tigers can muster up just a little bit of pass defense and continue doing what they do on offense, this game could get lopsided in favor of the road team with quickness.
FAST FACTS: Razorbacks: Arkansas has scored 40 or more points in three of its first four games, marking the first time since 1916 and only the third time in school history that the Razorbacks have accomplished that feat. ... The Razorbacks have allowed seven sacks through four games, compared to the 17 allowed through four games a year ago. Tigers: Auburn has already scored 207 points this season, which is just one fewer than Auburn scored all of last year. ... Auburn has scored in every quarter this season, including at least one touchdown in 17 of 20 quarters. ... Auburn has recorded five straight games of 400 or more yards of offense for the first time since the 1994 season. ... Auburn is tied for seventh nationally in first downs (24.2) and has had at least 20 in all five games. ... Auburn is tied for fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+1.6) and tied for seventh in interceptions (eight) and turnovers forced (13). ... Auburn has come from behind to win in four of its five games this season. ... Chris Todd has 12 touchdown passes this season. Last year, Auburn had just seven touchdown passes as a team during the entire season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Razorbacks: None. Tigers:
Oklahoma State at Texas A&MKICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 ET
SERIES: A&M leads 17-7
POLLS: Oklahoma State (15 AP, 15 coaches)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 34-27
KEYS TO THE GAME: Contending with the Aggies' high-powered offense begins with trying to bring down bulky 6-5 QB Jerrod Johnson. He is a threat to produce big yards with either his arm or his feet. Watch out for WR Ryan Tannehill, who plays sparingly because he backs up Johnson at quarterback, but is as good as any of the Aggies snagging passes and gaining yards after the catch. DE Von Miller, a hybrid who lines up some at linebacker, is a dangerous pass rusher.
FAST FACTS: Aggies: The Aggies will be seeking their first win over a Big 12 South opponent since beating Texas at Kyle Field in 2007. ... Texas A&M's move to a no-huddle offense has the team riding high in the total offense ranking (No. 2 nationally this week), and it also leads to the Aggies running significantly more plays than ever before. The Aggies ran 350 plays during the non-conference schedule or 87.5 plays per game, which is tied for most in the NCAA FBS with Houston. Only four FBS teams are averaging more than 80 plays per game: A&M, Houston, Texas (82.0) and Middle Tennessee State (80.3). ... The Aggies are averaging 545.3 yards per game and are the only team in the nation ranked in the top 15 in all four major offensive categories. Last year the Aggies averaged just 340.9 total yards per game and ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in all four categories. ... The Aggies already have 16 quarterback sacks and rank No. 4 in the NCAA FBS in sacks just a season after posting only 16 sacks for the entire 2008 season and ranking No. 100 in the NCAA statistics. Cowboys: The game in College Station represents Oklahoma State's latest road opener since 1975 when the Cowboys traveled to Missouri for an Oct. 11 road debut against the Tigers. ... Bill Young may be able to give tours of the Texas A&M campus by the end of the weekend. For the third straight year, Young will be bringing a defense to College Station. In 2007, Young and the Kansas Jayhawks were 19-11 winners over the Aggies. In 2008, Young was the defensive coordinator at Miami when the Hurricanes picked up a 41-23 victory at A&M. ... Don't think the A&M-OSU series has been tight over the last seven meetings? During that time, the Cowboys have outscored the Aggies by a 221-217 count. ... OSU has scored at least 40 points 17 times in Mike Gundy's 54 career games. The Cowboys spent an off week trying to get numerous injured players healed, including two dangerous playmakers, WR Dez Bryant and RB Kendall Hunter. But Bryant has since been suspended for a violation of NCAA bylaws related to interaction with NFL and former NFL players. CB/KR Perrish Cox also is hobbled. Although Oklahoma State may not be at full strength, its attack is diverse enough to challenge any defense. The Cowboys pride themselves on balance, and even unleashed true freshman RB Jeremy Smith, who rushed for 160 yards in a Sept. 26 romp against Grambling. The OSU defense continues to adjust under first-year coordinator Bill Young, so expect the Aggies to attack with some success in what could be a shootout.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Iowa State at KansasKICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 ET
SERIES: Kansas leads the all-time series 48-34-6
POLLS: Kansas (16 AP, 15 coaches)
PREDICTION: Kansas 38-18
KEYS TO THE GAME: KU is one of 13 remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS. QB Todd Reesing has played three times against Iowa State and is a combined 42 of 57 for 607 yards and eight touchdowns... He was three of five for 35 yards and one touchdown as a freshman, 21 of 26 for 353 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore and 18 of 26 for 319 yards and three touchdowns last year. An off week helped Kansas heal any bumps and bruises in advance of the start of Big 12 play. Iowa State opened conference play Oct. 3 with a 24-23 loss against Kansas State in Kansas City, Mo. The Cyclones now travel just a few miles farther for its next game and even plans to stay at the same hotel in suburban Kansas City. The Cyclones carry a 10-game losing streak in Big 12 games, but stand 3-2 under first-year coach Paul Rhoads. Iowa State would do well to turn the game into a grind, preventing the big-play possibilities of the Kansas offense. The Cyclones are looking for balance on offense, but will want to test a solid Kansas run defense, especially if RB Alexander Robinson's groin injury is healed.
FAST FACTS: Jayhawks: KU is playing its fourth home game in its first five contests. After this week the Jayhawks will then play four of their next six on the road before playing Missouri at a neutral site. ... KU has posted a 26-4 home record in the last five seasons. ... KU has won nine straight home games vs. Big 12 North opponents since losing to Colorado in 2004. ... KU is 14-4 in its last 18 games against Big 12 North opponents. ... KU is opening Big 12 play at home for the first time in the last five years and just the third time in the last 11 seasons. In fact, KU will start league play at home for just the fifth time in 14 years in the Big 12 Conference. ... KU is 41-49-5 all-time in homecoming games, including 4-3 in the Mark Mangino era. KU lost last year's homecoming game to Texas Tech. KU is 7-6 against Iowa State in homecoming games, including four straight victories. ... KU is looking to post a 5-0 record for the fourth time (11-0 in 2007, 7-0 in 1995, 7-0 in 1968) since 1921. ... KU is 27-7 in its last 34 games dating back to late in 2006. ... KU has won four straight games, which have come after a bye week. Cyclones: Gave up 14 fourth-quarter points in a 24-23 loss to Kansas State last week. ... Iowa State has lost 10 consecutive games in the Big 12. ... Iowa State has not won in Lawrence, Kan., since 2001, when it throttled the Jayhawks 49-7.
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Kentucky at South CarolinaKICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 ET
SERIES: South Carolina leads Kentucky, 16-6-1 (last meeting, 2008, 24-17 South Carolina).
POLLS: South Carolina (25 AP)
PREDICTION: South Carolina 34-14
KEYS TO THE GAME: It will be interesting to see if South Carolina can run the football successfully against Kentucky's defense. The Gamecocks have rushed for more than 200 yards in two of their past three contests. But those performances came against the defenses of Florida Atlantic and South Carolina State. It's safe to say Kentucky's defense will provide a sterner test.
FAST FACTS: Gamecocks: Steve Spurrier has never lost to Kentucky. He is 16-0 all-time against the Wildcats. The Gamecocks have won nine straight times against the Wildcats, their longest active streak against a Division I FBS team (Carolina has won 15 straight over FCS foe Wofford). ... A Gamecock win would tie Coach Spurrier with Lou Holtz for sixth all-time at Carolina with 33 victories as the South Carolina head coach. ... South Carolina is part of the AP Top 25 for the first time this season at No. 25. The Gamecocks are still just outside the USA Today Coaches Top 25, coming in at 27th this week. ... Senior linebacker Eric Norwood set the school record for career sacks with his 27th and 28th against Ole Miss. He is now tied for eighth in SEC history in the category. Norwood also has 49.5 career tackles for loss; he is one away from entering the league's top 10 in that category as well. ... Senior wide receiver Moe Brown is only 84 yards away from 1,000 receiving yards in his career. He would become the 22nd player at South Carolina to achieve that milestone. Wildcats: Looking for first win over ranked team since beating LSU at home in 2007. They also look to chart their first road win over a ranked team since winning at No. 17 Louisville, 22-17, in 2002. UK's last road win over a ranked SEC team was in 1998 when UK upset No. 21 LSU in Baton Rouge. ... With South Carolina on the schedule this week, Kentucky will be taking on one of the top three defenses in the SEC for the third-consecutive game. Florida, Alabama and USC rank 1-2-3 in the league in total defense. ... UK ranks in the top five of six SEC statistical categories. The Cats are tied for first in fourth-down conversions (66.7 percent); third in kickoff return average (28.3); tied for third in sacks allowed (five); fourth in punt return average (10.7); fifth in third-down conversions (41.4 percent) and "Blue Zone" defense (76.5 percent). ... RB Derrick Locke leads the SEC and ranks 10th in the nation in all-purpose yards. He averages 173.0 all-purpose yards per game. He also ranks second in the league and 11th nationally in kick off returns with an average of 33.9.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Alabama at MississippiKICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SERIES: Alabama leads Ole Miss 45-9-2 (last meeting, 2008, 24-20 Alabama).
POLLS: Alabama (3 AP, coaches) Mississippi (20 AP, 16 coaches)
PREDICTION: Alabama 30-22
KEYS TO THE GAME: No. 3 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC West) is playing to close the gap on nationally ranked Florida and Texas, while Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1 SEC West) is still looking to live up to the preseason hype. The key to the Tide has been remarkable consistency. Alabama is averaging 228.2 yards rushing and 234.6 yards passing, adding up to an average of 462.8 yards in total offense, 14th in the NCAA. The team's 25 touchdowns share the lead in the SEC with Auburn. That kind of balance keeps opposing defense from ganging up to stop either the run or the pass, and keeps this team from becoming frustrated or impatient when one aspect isn't working. "We know our coaches will make adjustments," said running back Mark Ingram. "And sooner or later, everything will be fine." While the style of offense has changed from last year's pound-it-between-the-tackles approach, the constant has been ball control. Through five games, Alabama leads the SEC in time of possession, averaging 33 minutes, 17 seconds per game, nearly two minutes better than the second-best team. Defensively, the Tide has been stifling. Alabama is fourth in the NCAA in rushing defense (64.4 yards per game), 10th in pass defense (157.8 ypg), second in total defense (222.2 ypg) and 13th in scoring defense (14.4 ppg). Plus, the Tide is allowing opponents to convert only 27.1 percent of third-down chances. And Alabama leads the SEC in sacks with 15. All of this from a team that has had to deal with the potential distractions of having a player arrested, a player shot, suspensions for alleged NCAA violations, the flu, and a season-ending injury to one of the teams' top players linebacker Dont'a Hightower. The consistency is a testament to Nick Saban's constant emphasis on staying focused and concentrating only on the task at hand. For all the intangibles associated with this game, the top key might be for Ole Miss to get off to a good start with QB Jevan Snead. He hasn't exactly lived up to his high accolades this year, but a good start and a great finish on national television might just be the best thing for the Rebels.
FAST FACTS: Crimson Tide: Alabama is fourth in the NCAA in rushing defense (64.4 yards per game), 10th in pass defense (157.8 ypg), second in total defense (222.2 ypg) and 13th in scoring defense (14.4 ppg), while Ole Miss has given up an average of 10.8 points and 274 yards per game. ... Rebels: The last four Alabama-Ole Miss games have been decided in the final minute. But Alabama has won 19 of the last 22 and five straight since Ole Miss won in Oxford in 2003. ... Saturday marks the home Southeastern Conference opener for the Rebels, a situation in which they have not won since 2004. ... In their last eight games, the Rebels have outscored opponents by an average of 39.0 to 11.3 points per game. ... Coach Houston Nutt is 5-8 against top-5 teams, including last year's win over then-No. 4 Florida. Three of the losses were by four or less points.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Wisconsin at Ohio StateKICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SERIES: Ohio State leads 52-17-5 (last meeting, 2008, 20-17, Ohio State)
POLLS: Ohio State (9 AP, 8 coaches)
PREDICTION: Ohio State 26-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: It's a battle of the Big Ten's only 2-0 teams in a national prime-time telecast. What could be greater? Well, from the Badgers' perspective, they could stop letting the Buckeyes off the hook. Wisconsin led 17-10 in the third quarter at The Horseshoe in 2007 before falling 38-17. Last year at Camp Randall, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor scored in the waning moments to give the Bucks a 20-17 win. ... Wisconsin scored more points in its worst game (28 vs. Northern Illinois) than Ohio State allowed in its worst game (27 vs. Navy). Wisconsin possesses the league's best rushing offense while Ohio State owns the league's best rushing defense. The Buckeyes don't throw the ball frequently or well, but the Badgers never got a handle on sophomore QB Terrelle Pryor last year. Long story short, Wisconsin's improving lines need to play to no less than a stalemate in order to get in position for a huge road win.
FAST FACTS: Badgers: Sophomore TB John Clay earned the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Week award while senior DE O'Brien Schofield took the Defensive Player of the Week award. Clay, the league leader in rushing, carried 32 times for a career-high 184 yards and the first three-TD game of his career. Schofield, the league leader in tackles for loss, earned two sacks and 1.5 other tackles for loss against Minnesota. ... The Badgers lead the Big Ten in five statistical categories: Scoring offense (35.0 points per game), rushing offense (217.2 yards per game), passer efficiency (152.94 rating), turnover margin (plus-5) and sacks allowed (2). The Badgers are tied for second nationally in sacks allowed. Buckeyes: The Buckeyes have forced 12 turnovers through the first five games, an average of 2.4 per contest. ... The Buckeyes have a streak of seven consecutive seasons of at least eight wins, tying them with USC, Texas Tech and West Virginia for eighth-longest in the country. Georgia has the longest such streak at 12 seasons.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Baylor at OklahomaKICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SERIES: Oklahoma leads 18-0
POLLS: Oklahoma (19 AP, 21 Coaches)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 38-10
KEYS TO THE GAME: Baylor's running game was cut in half by Kent State last week, but should have RB Jay Finley back from a two-game absence. Establishing the run will take the pressure off the quarterback, whether it's Nick Florence or Blake Szymanski. QB Sam Bradford and coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday the decision on whether to play him or not rests primarily with Bradford. The doctors aren't really part of the process any more. And what's holding Bradford back is the durability and recovery time for his arm, which apparently looked great the Tuesday before the Miami game, but sore and worn by Thursday. Bradford said he wants to be able to trust himself and his body and, thus far, the arm won't let him do that. A decision is likely by Thursday, perhaps Friday. Clearly, this is not the season the Sooners or Bradford were hoping for, yet all of conference play awaits. It all starts with beating Baylor. Stoops on Tuesday had liked what he had seen this week. "Our guys yesterday had a great attitude in how they practiced, I've said that all along, there wasn't anybody hanging their head," he said. Turnovers are huge to the Sooners now because they're margin for error has been slimmed dramatically. OU needs big plays from its wide receivers, for now and later. Now, because their best playmaker, Ryan Broyles, is out. For later because this is a group that needs to develop fast.
FAST FACTS: Sooners: Oklahoma has two losses this season both one-point setbacks to nationally-ranked foes away from Norman. ... Oklahoma has won 26 straight home games, the longest current streak in the nation, and a school record. The current record was set with the win over Tulsa. The previous mark was set at 25 before loss in the 1953 season opener to Notre Dame, 28-21. ... Bob Stoops' teams are 61-2 at home and the Sooners have won 45 of their last 46 on Owen Field. ... Other long OU home streaks and the years they ended include 21 (1975), 20 (1957). Bears: Have lost 18 straight games in the series and 18 in a row to ranked opponents. ... Only three of 18 all-time meetings with Sooners had a single-digit victory margin. ... The Bears have lost 11 straight Big 12 road games by a combined score of 462-174. The last road win was at Colorado on Oct. 7, 2006. ... The Bears have at least one rushing touchdown in 15 straight games, the second-longest streak in school history. The record is 33 straight, from 1951-54.
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Florida A&M at Miami (Fla.)KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 ET
SERIES: Miami leads 6-1
POLLS: Miami (11 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Miami 41-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: After four consecutive games against teams ranked at the time of their meeting, the Hurricanes are ready for a breather, right? But they can't let down too much, as the Rattlers are coming into the game with a 4-0 mark. Miami needs to keep running the football and avoid the kind of mistake or turnover that would provide Florida A&M with early opportunities. Running quarterbacks have given Miami problems in the past, and FAMU's Curtis Pulley averages nearly 73 yards a game rushing while throwing for 212.
FAST FACTS: Hurricanes: Miami has come up with only four takeaways all season and hasn't had an interception since S Randy Phillips picked off a pass in the opener at Florida State. But defensive coordinator John Lovett is confident the picks will come. "We start getting 11 guys to the ball, the turnovers will come," Lovett said. ... Kickoff coverage has improved substantially with walk-on Alex Uribe taking over, and the stress on Matt Bosher on field goals and punts has been substantially reduced. "That's the one kicking duty that you put the most force in your leg," Shannon said, referring to kickoffs, "and you can really tear some things up." Shannon has been particularly pleased with the hang time Uribe has gotten on his kickoffs. Oklahoma averaged just over 17 yards a return with a long runback of only 23 yards. Rattlers: Have dropped six straight games in the series since a 16-13 upset in 1979. ... QB Curtis Pulley remains the club leader in rushing with 291 yards on 47 carries with one (1) TD, while having passed for 846 yards on seven (7) TDs, completing 64 of 96 aerials with just one (1) interception ... Diminutive freshman tailback Eddie Rocker has run for 185 yards on 35 carries in four games, ranking as the club's number two rusher, while junior speedster Philip Sylvester has run for 84 yards on on 24 carries and two (2) TDs the past two games ... A pitched battle is in progress for the club receiving lead between Isaac West (18 catches, 342 yards, 2 TDs) and Kevin Elliott (18 receptions, 254 yards and 3 TDs), while Adrian Smith is in the mix too (10 grabs, 71 yards) ... Defensively, LB Bryan Parker holds the club takedown lead with 31 tackles and 4.5 stops for loss, followed by FS Greg Harvey (26 tackles) and LBs Alvis Graham and John Williams with 19 tackles each..... All-America return ace LeRoy Vann, who now holds the school career record for TD punt returns (7), and is tied for the NCAA FCS career standard (7) ... Vann now has 392 yards and 4 TDs on 16 punt returns this season leaving him 86 yards shy of the single-season school record for punt return yards (478, by Howard Huckaby in 1988) ... He also has 254 yards on 10 kickoff runbacks.
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Colorado at TexasKICKOFF: Saturday, 7:15 ET
SERIES: Texas leads Colorado 10-7 (last meeting, 2008, 38-14 Texas)
POLLS: Texas (2 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Texas 49-16
KEYS TO THE GAME: The trips don't get any easier for the Buffaloes, who come off a loss at West Virginia to meet No. 2 Texas. Colorado will be the first North Division team to visit Royal-Memorial Stadium since it was expanded to more than 100,000. Since the inception of the Big 12, the Buffs' only victory in Austin was in 1997. They've lost four straight and six of the last seven in the series. Texas ranks fifth nationally in total offense with a 521.2-yard average and first in scoring with 49.5 points per game. Ouch. Colorado has had difficulty stopping opponents all season and this will be the most potent attack the Buffs have faced. Texas uses a committee approach among its rushers, though RB Vondrell McGee is coming off a 100-yard game. The UT offense, of course, features the talents of QB Colt McCoy, who hasn't been as precise throwing the ball this season, but he is breaking in some new receivers. WR/PR Jordan Shipley could be the most underrated playmaker in the Big 12, although he leads the conference in receptions and punt return average. Texas has struggled at times to get going on offense, but Colorado is not properly positioned at times on defense and certainly not as athletic as the Longhorns. Hitting the Buffs for a big plays has been easy, so figure on McCoy to throw deep. Look for any speedy backs, namely RB/KR D.J. Monroe, to bolt into the open field either off a rush or return. Comfortable margins allow defenders to tee off on Colorado QB Cody Hawkins, an accurate thrower with a suspect arm.
FAST FACTS: Longhorns: 'Horns are off to a 4-0 start for the seventh time in the last nine years. ... Texas has won six of seven and four in a row vs. Colorado. ... During Mack Brown's 12 seasons at Texas, the Horns have registered 22 second-half comebacks, including 12 fourth-quarter comebacks. Buffaloes: Colorado is 15-18 all-time in the state of Texas, including a 5-8 mark this decade and a 5-5 mark in night games (2-0 versus Texas); among its most prominent wins in the Lone Star State would including the '71 Bluebonnet Bowl (29-17 over Houston), a 29-22 win over Texas in 1990, which many point to as the turning point in CU's national championship season; and the 2001 Big 12 title game where the underdog Buffs toppled UT, 39-37, in Irving ... This is just the second night game in Austin between the two schools (1990 and 2009) ... Colorado will return home for Family Weekend on October 17 against Kansas; 4,500 tickets remain for that one, which was selected for prime time broadcast by Fox Sports Net (5 p.m. MDT); that now makes no less than eight national telecasts for CU in 2009
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TCU at Air ForceKICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 ET
POLLS: TCU (10 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: TCU 23-12
KEYS TO THE GAME: Assuming TCU's rushing defense holds serve and keeps Air Force in relative check, the Frogs should cruise in their Mountain West Conference opener. The key for the TCU defense is to be sound and disciplined and keep the Falcons out of the third-and-short situations. One of the biggest questions for Air Force will be whether it has put last Saturday's gut-wrenching loss to Navy behind it. That's step one for pulling an upset over the 10th-ranked Horned Frogs. Step two would be playing virtually turnover and penalty-free something the Falcons haven't done in recent weeks. And step three would be getting some points on the board against TCU's stingy defense. The Falcons haven't scored an offensive touchdown since the third quarter of their game at New Mexico on Sept. 19.
FAST FACTS: Falcons: In the last four seasons, TCU has beaten Air Force three times by an average of 32.0 points. Air Force's lone victory in the past four seasons (in 2007) came by a field goal in overtime. ... Last season's 44-10 loss to TCU was the worst loss (as far as margin of defeat) in Troy Calhoun's tenure as Air Force's head coach. ... Air Force's defense has scored as many touchdowns as its offense (four) in four games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. Horned Frogs: TCU is 55-1 under Gary Patterson when holding opponents to 17 points or less. Its only blemish was last year's 13-10 loss to Utah. ...
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Florida at LSUKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: Florida leads LSU 29-23-3 (last meeting, 2008, 51-21 Florida).
POLLS: Florida (1 AP, coaches) LSU (4 AP, coaches)
PREDICTION: Florida 34-21
KEYS TO THE GAME: Tim Tebow, coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday, will be a game-time decision. Whether Tebow plays or not, the Tigers are going to have to have their running game going to keep the Gators off the field. The running game also looks to be the key on the other side of the ball as well, as the Tigers need to slow a Gator attack that is churning out more than 307 yards a game on the ground. LSU coach Les Miles knows the game won't be won or lost with the decision whether Tebow goes or doesn't. "I'm told that (Backup QB John) Brantley has good feet and can move it and run the football as well," Miles said. "Their offense has great, strategic definition, and I suspect that they'll do similar things. They'll speak to the talents of the guys that they have, but we're going to prepare for the Florida offense and adjust that feel based on who's the quarterback." Tebow ran for 22 yards and a touchdown on a dozen carries and was 14-of-21 passing for 210 yards and two scores in Florida's 51-21 romp over the Tigers in Gainesville last year.
FAST FACTS: Gators: winner of this matchup has gone on to win the BCS National Championship in each of the past three years. ... Urban Meyer holds a 6-1 record at UF against top-five teams, a 10-2 mark against top-10 opponents and is 17-5 against the top 25. ... Meyer is 28-3 in his career when having more than a week to prepare for a game. ... Florida is looking to repeat as the top rushing team in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in school history. The Gators are averaging 307.5 yards rushing per game and seven yards per carry. In 2008, Florida averaged 231.1 yards per game to lead the league. ... Florida QB Tim Tebow was named as one of 50 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, formerly known as the Draddy Trophy, by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The trophy, commonly known as the "Academic Heisman," is awarded annually to a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility. It requires the player to hold a grade point average of at least 3.2, demonstrate outstanding football ability and show strong leadership and citizenship. Tigers: This is the second straight year that LSU will host the nation's No. 1 ranked team last year No. 1 Alabama escaped Tiger Stadium, 27-21, in overtime. ... LSU is 2-8-1 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll. One of those wins came against top-ranked Florida in Tiger Stadium in 1997. ... LSU goes into the Florida game having won 21 straight night games in Tiger Stadium. The streak goes to 32 straight in games played on a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. ... TE Richard Dickson now holds the school record for career receiving yards for a tight end with 890, topping the 881 set by David LaFleur. Dickson has 80 catches in his career, seven short of the record held by Mitch Andrews. Dickson is tied for with Brad Boyd for career touchdown catches for a tight end with 10. ... RB Charles Scott has gone over 2,000 yards rushing for his career after compiling 95 yards against Georgia. Scott has 2,049 yards heading into the game against Florida. The senior has 30 rushing touchdowns, one short of fourth-place Terry Robiskie on LSU's all-time list.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Georgia Tech at Florida StateKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: Florida State leads 12-8-1
POLLS: Georgia Tech (22 AP, 23 coaches)
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 21-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: For the Seminoles, they need something to go well immediately in this game. They need to score first, stop Georgia Tech, maybe force a turnover, or get a big play out of special teams. They need to get their crowd behind them. If things start off badly, this could get very ugly, especially with an upset fan base as it is. But the obvious issue for FSU is stopping Georgia Tech's triple option and preventing Tech from faking to a pass and finding a wide open receiver downfield. This game rests on FSU's defense. If the Seminoles can somehow slow Tech's offense and allow some goodwill to flow to their sideline, then FSU will score points. FSU's offense is capable of making plays against Tech.
FAST FACTS: Seminoles: With 1,423 passing yards in five games this season, QB Christian Ponder has climbed from 21st to 11th on the Florida State career passing yardage list. He climbed six spots with his 341 yards against Boston College. ... Senior WR Rod Owens has already established single-season career bests for receptions (19) and yardage (213) through five games. ... Florida State enters Saturday's game against Georgia Tech averaging 403.4 yards of total offense per game (285.4 passing and 118 rushing). The last time the Seminoles averaged more than 400 yards of total offense per game was during the 2003 season, when they averaged 403 yards. Florida State has accumulated more than 500 yards of total offense once this season (512 in its 54-28 victory over Brigham Young) and has eclipsed 400 yards of total offense in four games. Yellow Jackets: Tech has lost all six previous meetings in Tallahassee. ... Tech is averaging 442.5 yards of offense the last two weeks. In those games, the Jackets have controlled the ball for 78:09, compared to 41:51 for their opponents. ... WR Demaryius Thomas is the only ACC receiver averaging more than 100 yards per game (107.2). ... Under coach Paul Johnson, Tech is 11-1 when leading at halftime. ... Louisville transfer Anthony Allen has made an immediate impact, scoring touchdowns in four of five games. The A-back is a dangerous runner and receiver and one of Tech's primary kick returners.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Michigan at IowaKICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SERIES: Michigan leads 40-10-4 (last meeting, 2006, 20-6, Michigan)
POLLS: Iowa (12 AP, 14 coaches)
PREDICTION: Iowa 24-20
KEYS TO THE GAME: Michigan is still much improved over last season, but has regressed the last two weeks in barely beating Indiana and losing to Michigan State in overtime. Iowa RBs Brandon Wegher and Adam Robinson were each held to less than 50 yards against an Arkansas State defense that sold out to stop the run. Iowa must run the ball more effectively against a Michigan defense allowing 4.2 yards per carry. The defense must do a better job of getting off the field on third downs. The Wolverines' inability to run the ball was their downfall at Michigan State 28 yards in 28 carries. That makes it easy to figure out the average, but it also illustrates how inept the rushing game was. Iowa has a reputation for lining up and daring you to try and run the ball on the Hawkeyes, so Michigan needs to come up with a solution in short order. One of the drawbacks of that ultra-cushy first month schedule was that after opening with four straight home games, the Wolverines would have to go on the road for two straight. Those two would be rugged tests for this very young team, with rival Michigan State now followed by an always stubborn and physical Iowa.
FAST FACTS: Hawkeyes: Iowa is ranked 12th in the AP poll and 14th in the coaches poll, its highest ranking since it was eighth in the AP poll on Sept. 6, 2005. ... Iowa's nine-game winning streak is the second-longest in the nation, behind Florida. Wolverines: Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is just 3-7 through his first 10 games against Big Ten competition. ... The Wolverines have leaned hard on youth this season, playing 10 true freshmen through the first five games. Eighty-four of the 122 players on Michigan's roster are either freshmen or sophomores. ... The Michigan defense is third in the Big Ten in stopping opponents inside the red zone. Michigan has allowed 11 scores in the 15 trips opponents have made inside the 20 yardline six touchdowns and five field goals.
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BYU at UNLVKICKOFF: Saturday, 10 ET
SERIES: BYU leads UNLV, 13-3 (last meeting, 2008, 42-35 BYU).
POLLS: BYU (18 AP, 20 coaches)
PREDICTION: BYU 36-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: UNLV coach Mike Sanford would not tip his hand on who his starting quarterback would be this week. Backup Mike Clausen, a sophomore left-hander, got the nod in last week's loss at Nevada and was solid, completing 26-of-50 passes for 276 yards and touchdown. Normal starter Omar Clayton sat out with a bruised throwing shoulder and sore knee. He ranks 30th in the nation in passing with an average of 245.8 yards per game and is closing in on John Beck's Mountain West Conference record of 15 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Clayton has thrown a TD in each of his past 13 games. After allowing 559 yards rushing to Nevada in a 63-28 loss, the Rebels must now contend with the top rusher in the Mountain West Conference in powerful Harvey Unga (345 yards on 56 attempts, 6.2 avg.). Unga had a career-high 177 yards on 25 carries against the Rebels as a freshman two years ago at Sam Boyd Stadium in leading the Cougars to a 31-14 victory. The Rebels must find a way to contain Unga while also putting pressure on BYU quarterback Max Hall. Hall has to play under control and not give UNLV anything easy. He has 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. The second number is wholly unacceptable. Teams seem to figure out new ways each week to rattle him a couple of times, though Hall has also shredded most defenses with long and short drives alike.
FAST FACTS: Rebels: QB Omar Clayton, who sat out the Nevada loss with a sore shoulder and knee, has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 13 straight games, dating to Aug. 30, 2008. ... UNLV is 5-23 all-time against ranked opponents, including just 1-12 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Cougars: BYU has 15 turnovers this season, including 10 Max Hall interceptions. ... The Cougars are 152-45 when nationally ranked in the Top 25. A ranked BYU team has won 21 of its last 25 games dating back to 2006. ... Mackey Award candidate Dennis Pitta has caught a pass in 35 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 23, 2004 (at Air Force), prior to his mission.
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