1. Auburn at Clemson 12:00 ABC
Auburn’s march to the national championship never should have even begun last year, as Clemson first threw, then kicked away, what should have been a sure win for the Tigers from South Carolina.
Clemson looked horrible against Wofford last Saturday, eeking out an eight point victory. The Terriers only completed two passes against Clemson, but they went for 127 yards and almost were enough as the Clemson defense surrendered 272 rushing yards at almost five yards per attempt.
You have to know that Michael Dyer is eagerly awaiting his shot at the Clemson run defense.
But it’s doubtful his mouth his watering any more than that of Clemson’s Andre Ellington . Remember that Mississippi State that team couldn’t move the ball to save their life against LSU? Ask Auburn what THEY think of the Bulldogs offense. Mississippi State rolled up over 300 yards on the ground.
Expect plenty of points in this one, so for entertainment purposes, it’s worth watching. And while not of the profile of the two Florida schools taking on big time opponents, it’s another game the ACC really needs to win to stop the rampant jokes about the ineptitude of the conference.
It could be easily argued that were Auburn on the road in their first two games, they’d be 0-2. They weren’t, and they aren’t. However, they are on the road this week, don’t expect the good fortune to continue.
If this particular game doesn’t grab your attention, perhaps it’s too much orange, too much Tiger, or not enough defense, there are still some appealing options to tune your television to.
2. West Virginia at Maryland 12:00 ESPNU
Much like the Clemson/Auburn tilt, this is another game the ACC really needs to win to try and starting earning some respect back. Did Maryland roll up 500 yards of offense on Miami because their offense is that good? Or was it because the Hurricanes were missing a pretty heavy portion of their front seven?
It’s hard to really get a read on West Virginia after two games with weaker opponents. However, when you look around the country and see the number of AQ schools struggling with lesser opponents, even FCS foes, there is something to be said for taking your weaker foes and handling them in the manner that is expected of you.
The key of course will be how well Maryland can contain Geno Smith.
For West Virginia, they know they have LSU visiting Morgantown next week, and you can’t help but think the look ahead factor will come into play this week for the Mountaineers. If they realize too late that they are indeed facing a pretty good Maryland team, a lot of luster from that LSU game will be gone.
3. Penn State at Temple 12:00 ESPN
Temple may in fact be 0-35-1 against Penn State since 1943, and they may have indeed been outgained by 237 yards in last year’s battle in Happy Valley, despite only losing by 9. However, if you’re looking for a game that might surprise you, look no further.
If you haven’t heard of Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, take a gander at this one. The pair combined for over 1500 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago for the Owls, and are both back in the backfield in 2011. They’ve already combined for over 400 yards and six scores in just two games this year.
Akron isn’t exactly Alabama, yes, I’m aware, but sleeping too hard on the Owls is a dangerous proposition for Penn State. For the second year in a row Penn State took on Alabama, hoping to prove they have the talent and size and speed to hang with the nation’s big boys. For the second year in a row Penn State was reminded they still have a long ways to go.
The let down of this, couple with Temple’s desire to end the losing streak may mean you just wanna keep this game as part of your early afternoon rotation.
Pittsburgh at Iowa 12:00 ESPN2-
Two years ago, this game would have been a huge matchup. In 2011? Well, how excited do you get about a team who just lost to Iowa State going up against a squad who struggled to beat both Maine and Buffalo? Well, you don’t. It’s the match-up of two sexy names that just don’t bring the sexiness.
Kansas at Georgia Tech 12:30 FSN
That Georgia Tech is playing Kansas in a “revenge” game, speaks volumes. However, the Jayhawks, for all their weaknesses, figure to offer a slightly stiffer test than the first two the Yellow Jackets have faced, don’t they? It will be interesting to see if the Tech offense continues to roll the way they have in the first two weeks.
1. Tennessee at Florida 3:30 CBS
Tennessee hasn’t even played Florida to within single digits since 2006, as part of a six game losing streak for the Vols to the hated Gators. If the trend is to start reversing, this Saturday afternoon better be the day it happens, otherwise……
Tyler Bray is an impressive young quarterback for Tennessee who is just itching to bust out in a big way on a national stage. It doesn’t get a lot more national than this.
With the SEC East very winnable for all of the usual suspects, much like the Georgia/South Carolina game, the loser faces an uphill battle coming out of the losers bracket. For once though, Florida might be the team who can least afford this loss.
The Vols only play three more road games the rest of the season, and neither Georgia or South Carolina comprise any of those road trips.
For Florida, they play Kentucky next week before an absolutely brutal stretch that consists of LSU in The Swamp, then a road trip into Alabama to take on both the Crimson Tide and the Tigers, and then lastly their clash with Georgia, followed two weeks later by playing South Carolina on the road. Florida can absolutely not afford to enter that stretch with a loss in SEC play, division play no less.
This is going to be SEC football at it’s best. The intensity will be huge, and the defenses will probably be the story of the day. It will come down to which quarterback can make a few more plays.
Florida, with Chris Rainey and Will Demps, surrounds Jeff Brantley with more elite playmakers than Tennessee is able to field around Bray. However, Brantley’s confidence is shaky, and a sluggish start against the Vols could lead to a quick unraveling.
Tennessee’s defense still has SEC caliber athletes on it, if Brantley can’t do the job, the pure athleticism of the likes of Demps and Rainey won’t be enough.
Look for Tennessee to suddenly make the SEC East race very, very interesting.
2. Michigan State at Notre Dame 3:30 NBC
In case you’ve forgotten, last Saturday night the Notre Dame defense forgot to play the fourth quarter against the “other” team from Michigan and promptly collapsed their way to an 0-2 start.
If it’s not their own offense self destructing in the red zone, as was the case against South Florida, it’s their defense completely forgetting what the job of a defense in football actually is.
It doesn’t get easier with Michigan State marching into South Bend. The Spartans are still likely smarting from the whipping they received at the hands of Alabama in the Capital One Bowl in their last appearance in front of the nation. They’d love nothing more than to send Notre Dame to an 0-3 start while affirming that perhaps last year’s 11-2 season was no fluke.
Yes, they’ve been cupcakes, but there is still no way to argue with the results from the Spartans defense. They’ve allowed a mere six points over their first two games, including a stifling performance against Florida Atlantic. The Spartans yielded just ONE first down, and less than 50 yards of offense.
The Spartans offense probably will be the toughest Notre Dame has faced yet. For all of Denard Robinson’s explosiveness, Michigan State may have the more balanced, complete offensive unit. The backfield is deep, and Cousins is considered one of the Big Ten’s elite quarterbacks.
Clearly, on paper, Notre Dame should start this season 0-3, and wouldn’t that be a story. This was the year the Irish were supposed to return to a BCS bowl, and restore the luster to the Golden Dome, and well, all the other garbage we’ve been hearing out of South Bend. In this particular contest we’ll find out if it’s just more smoke being blown up our asses, or if Notre Dame is serious about contending.
Something tells me that this team with shaky confidence is going to be on life support after the Spartans roll through.
3. Texas at UCLA 3:30 ABC
If you listen to coaches and fans of both programs, both would have you believe they’re on the way “back”. Though when it comes to that, Texas clearly has less a distance to travel to get “back”. For many, they have no memory of UCLA being consistently relevant on the national stage.
Losing to Houston in the first week of the season certainly didn’t do anything to help UCLA’s cause. Neither did needing ten fourth quarter points to survive mighty San Jose State last Saturday.
Texas may have beaten BYU on Saturday, but it was anything but pretty, and BYU has looked anything but an elite team. For UCLA, it’s pretty obvious they’re nowhere close to being an elite program. However, for Texas, a loss to these Bruins would cause those tremors of doubt following last year to start turning into full blown concern.
At the end of the day though, Texas just has more talent and is still the better football team. They better hope it shows up on the scoreboard though.
Washington at Nebraska 3:30 ABC
The only things you need to know for this rematch of last year’s bowl game rematch, is this: Jake Locker will not play, Christian Martinez will.
Virginia at North Carolina 3:30 ESPNU
Two programs headed in opposite directions? Very possible. The stunning aftermath of last year’s disappointment in Chapel Hill probably still hasn’t completely settled over the football program. Last year’s run at the ACC title of course never materialized with the amount of key players suspended, and now the coach responsible for the influx of talent at North Carolina is no longer in charge.
The Tar Heels rolled over James Madison before barely escaping Rutgers in week two, as the Heels prepare for two critical games on their schedule. Virginia visiting Chapel Hill will be followed by a trip to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. That’s two division games right off the bat for North Carolina. Drop one at home to Virginia, a predicted conference bottom feeder, and suddenly the thought that this program is going to suffer a sharp nose dive without Butch Davis becomes very real.
For Virginia, Mike London is still in rebuilding mode, but there are reasons to think progress is happening. For starters, the Cavaliers did return 18 starters, including 10 on defense. Unfortunately it’s a defense that was gashed for 204 rushing yards per game at over 5 yards a carry a year ago.
While the defense showed improvement against Indiana last week, it must be remembered that it was Indiana. What also must be remembered is that Virginia was down with 6:30 to go in the football game.
This game is more about the fact that North Carolina, simply put, cannot afford to lose. If they do, it speaks volumes as to how far the Tar Heels have tumbled.
1. Oklahoma at Florida State 8:00 ABC
I can’t think of too much more that should be said about this game. This is THE game of the day, and we’ve all had this told to us several times over the course of the week by ESPN.
I know Florida State was embarrassed in Norman last year, we all know that. The question is, is this the same Florida State squad that got slaughtered last year, or is this a team improved enough to actually pose a threat to the Sooners?
Florida State fans will point to the fact that to close the 2010 season the ‘Noles took on SEC teams, defeating them both. True, fair enough. However, it wasn’t like Florida State went out and just whipped on SEC teams and beat them physically.
Florida State was +4 in the turnover battle against both South Carolina and Florida. South Carolina in fact had a 106 yard edge in total yards, playing without Stephen Garcia.
Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game also boasted a yardage advantage of over 100 yards. On four other occasions last year (Oklahoma 142, North Carolina 99, Clemson 84, Maryland 78) Florida State was outgained by more than 75 yards.
Yes, the Seminoles boast 16 returning starters, yes E.J. Manuel could be a special talent, and yes they’ve rolled through their first two opponents setting up this battle. But are they good enough to beat Oklahoma?
They’ve got 16 starters back too, ya know, including their own special talent at quarterback. The Sooners also don’t turn the ball over, which is what Florida State will need to force them to do to have a chance.
Granted, the two games Oklahoma lost last season were both on the road, to teams you might say this Florida State squad is better than. So no, it wouldn’t be fair to say Florida State doesn’t have a chance. But it’s fair to say it’s not a good one.
The key may be Greg Reid. Be it via special teams, or perhaps an early interception of Landry Jones, big plays from Reid getting the crowd and momentum on Florida State’s side could go a long way to helping the Seminoles stay in the game. And you know what they say about letting an opponent hang around too long, especially when on the road.
2. Ohio State at Miami 7:30 ESPN
From the standpoint of big time programs, big names, and all the marketing aspects, this game easily becomes must see television.
From the standpoint of what it really matters though, maybe not so much.
For all we know, in a couple of years the NCAA is very likely to tell us that this game never actually happened, so it might just be a foolish waste of time to watch a game that ultimately we’ll be told never took place.
In any event, one storyline that no suspensions, no future vacating of games, no off field troubles can eliminate, is that of the ACC desperately seeking approval from the nation.
To avoid further embarrassment, one can only hope Jacory Harris spent his time while suspended familiarizing himself with the Hurricanes orange jerseys and white helmets, and understanding he’s not supposed to throw the ball to the guys in silver helmets.
If Harris can do that, the Hurricanes might have a chance. And while, beating up on Ohio State is a favorite past-time of the SEC, it’s something the ACC would love to say it did too.
Whatever happens with Oklahoma and Florida State, it’s this game, coupled with Maryland and Clemson that might actually do more to help prove the ACC has a little bit of football depth, and it’s the joke it’s thought by even it’s most ardent defenders to be.
3. Navy at South Carolina 6:00 ESPN2
South Carolina could be on of the most overrated teams in college football right now. Having seen them play twice, I don’t see how someone sees this team as one of the ten best in college football.
Is it because they won a weak SEC East last year? Do people remember how they closed the year? a 56-17 blowout loss to Auburn, followed up by a loss in the bowl game to Florida State.
The early returns this year don’t much to convince you that this team is elite either.
The vaunted Gamecock defense of a year ago has allowed 39.5 points and over 400 yards per game over their first two contests. They just watched Georgia freshmen Isaiah Crowell pace the Bulldogs to 188 yards on the ground.
Consider this as well, which is more frightening if you are a Gamecock fan, South Carolina has forced 8 turnovers in two games, and STILL allowed 40 points per game.
So you have a defense that’s got some issues that need to be worked out, so how do you work on them? You get to defend the triple option from Navy.
Navy has averaged almost nine wins a year the last eight seasons for a reason, because they can run the football. Clearly, Delaware and Western Kentucky are not South Carolina, this much is known.
But this is a dangerous game for the Gamecocks. They need to work on fundamentals on defense and getting back to what they do best, and they get the wrench of defending this offense this week.
Fortunately for South Carolina, beginning this week with Navy they play four straight home games, with the toughest opponent, per the national rankings, being a weakened Auburn team.
Unfortuantely for South Carolina, Auburn is next on the schedule, and Auburn’s offense has shown plenty of scoring ability. So does South Carolina spend time this week putting in extra preparation for the Navy offense, or do they try and patch up their own holes with an eye towards Auburn next week.
There’s also the little matter of coming off a huge SEC road win giving themselves the upper hand in the East, while preparing for a revenge game against a foe they desperately want a crack at.
I’m not saying Navy will win, but this is a trap game if there ever was one.
Syracuse at USC 8:00 FX
USC has been anything BUT impressive in their early season home victories over Minnesota and Utah, and Lane Kiffin has made it clear that he doesn’t have very many good players on his team. But, he has more good players than a Syracuse team who had to hang on to beat Rhode Island at home last week.
However, one would also think Syracuse is a better team than Minnesota, and the Gophers arguably could have beaten the Trojans in week one. With Toledo, Rutgers, and Tulane in the following weeks, a Syracuse shocker tonight could leave the Orange sitting pretty looking at potentially a second straight eight win season.
It also makes them even more attractive to the ACC.
Utah at BYU 9:15 ESPN2
It’s not the season’s final game. It’s not even a conference game. It’s no longer two non-AQ heavyweights doing battle trying to crash the BCS party. So, in many ways, nationally, it’s no longer that revelant.
What it is though, is a nasty rivalry. And a really competitive one at that. Amazingly, 12 of the last 14 games have been settled by a touchdown or less. That probably doesn’t change this year.
Oklahoma State at Tulsa 10:00 FSN
The suspension of Tulsa’s Damaris Johnson takes away the bulk of the luster from this game. Instead, of watching two elite receivers and playmakers get their hands on the ball all night, we should just be watching Justin Blackmon help Oklahoma State roll to a lopsided victory.
LATE LATE Night
Stanford at Arizona 10:45 ESPN
If for no other reason than it’s a chance to watch Andrew Luck, eyes should be peeled to this football game. Considering Landry Jones will have just finished going up against Florida State, take the time to check out to other prime Heisman candidate.
As for the results of the game itself, whether or not there is a chance for it to be competitive will be determined by the status of Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner. As of now Criner is listed as questionable, sans one of the nations elite receivers, as good as Nick Foles is at quarterback, the chances of Arizona keeping pace with Stanford become slim to none. This is a Wildcat offense that is averaging less than 60 yards per game on the ground, so taking away their biggest threat on offense in the passing game would be too much to overcome.
Furthermore, the Wildcats just haven’t been the same since their 42-17 blowout loss to Stanford last season. Arizona was ranked 13th in the country with a 7-1 record. They are 1-6 since that loss. Make it 1-7, and with Oregon and USC looming on the schedule, it may make it to 1-9 and head coach Mike Stoops may not make it to the second week of October.
So there you go, keep your remote clicking, the drinks cold, and the wife off your case. Enjoy your Saturday.