2011 NCAA College Football – Week Eight Preview
A big showdown in the Big Ten highlights another solid week of college football coming up. Wisconsin and Michigan State square off in what could be a preview of the first Big Ten Championship Game. Elsewhere around the country, look for some great matchups and potentilal shootouts in the Big 12 and Pac-12. Here are all the highlights from the Top 25:
#19 Auburn (5-2) at #1 Louisiana State (7-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on CBS]
After struggling on offense all season (ranking 105th nationally in passing, 86th in total offense and 78th in scoring), Auburn is finally making a change and giving Clint Moseley his first career start at quarterback. He is replacing Barrett Trotter, who started every game this season after coming in as Cam Newton’s replacement, but went just eight of 27 for 114 yards in his last two games. It could be a rough intro for Moseley, who’ll be going against a ferocious LSU defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally of most defensive statistics. LSU has won each of their seven games this season by double digits. They are seeking their first 8-0 start since 1973.
Tennessee (3-3) at #2 Alabama (7-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 7:15 PM ET on ESPN2]
The Volunteers lost to #1 LSU last week, and things don’t get any easier this week with a trip to #2 Alabama. This season, Alabama has outscored their opponents by an average of almost 33 points per game, and no game has been closer than 16. Running back Trent Richardson is second in the nation in rushing and just tied a school record with his sixth straight 100-yard game. Starting last week in place of the injured Tyler Bray, Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms was just six of 20 for 128 yards and two interceptions. And he’ll likely get no help from a running game that ranks 114th in the nation. As good as LSU’s defense was, this week he’ll face one that might be even better. The Crimson Tide leads the nation in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. Alabama has won four in a row in this series, while the Vols have lost eight straight games to Top 25 teams.
Texas Tech (4-2) at #3 Oklahoma (6-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 PM ET on ABC]
Oklahoma’s offense ranks fourth in the nation in yardage and sixth in scoring, but it has occasionally struggled in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on just 56 percent of their trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line. That’s been good enough to outscore most teams, but they’ll face tougher challenges as the season progresses. While the Sooners defense has shone flashes of the brilliance that made Bob Stoops’ defenses so dominant in the early 2000s, they still have to face four of the top seven offenses in the country: Oklahoma State (second nationally at 551 yards per game), Baylor (third, 550), Texas Tech (sixth, 534) and Texas A&M (seventh, 525). Texas Tech has lost 26 of their last 29 road games against ranked teams, while Oklahoma is riding the nation’s longest home winning streak at 39 straight games.
#4 Wisconsin (6-0) at #15 Michigan State (5-1)
[Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN]
Wisconsin has won all of its games by at least 30 points. But the Badgers have not seen a defense like Michigan State’s. The Spartans, who completely shut down Michigan’s do-it-all quarterback Denard Robinson last week, are second in the nation in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and James White form arguably the best running back tandem in the nation. Look for the Badgers to try to pound the ball early to try to set up some plays in the passing game for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Air Force (3-3) at #5 Boise State (6-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on Versus]
The Broncos will be going for their 35th straight home win in a battle of two high-powered offenses. Air Force and Boise rank 10th and 12th, respectively, in the nation in total offense. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore is closing in on history, needing just one more win to tie Colt McCoy’s record for most victories by a quarterback (45) and two touchdown passes to pass Ty Detmer for fourth on the career touchdown list. The Falcons defense, which ranks 111th in scoring defense, will have a tough task dealing with the dual threat attack of Moore and running back Doug Martin, who rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns last week.
#6 Oklahoma State (6-0) at Missouri (3-3)
[Saturday, October 22 at 12:00 PM ET on FX]
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden had his worst game of the season (just 218 yards passing) last week at Texas, but was still able to his extend his perfect road winning streak (8-0 as a starter) thanks to a strong running game and a special teams touchdown. The Cowboys rank second in the nation in total yards, passing yards and points scored. But this week they’ll be facing a Missouri offense that, while not as explosive, can certainly put up some numbers of their own (currently 13th in the nation in both rushing yards and total yards). Tigers quarterback James Franklin accounted for 373 total yards and five touchdowns in Mizzou’s pummeling of Iowa State last week. Missouri’s chances of pulling off an upset could hinge on its ability to hold on to the ball– it ranks 11th nationally in having the fewest turnovers, but are facing a Cowboys defense that has forced 20 turnovers this season (3rd in the nation).
#22 Washington (5-1) at #7 Stanford (6-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 PM ET on ABC]
The two quarterbacks will be the focal points in this game. While most observers know about Stanford’s Heisman candidate Andrew Luck, Washington’s Keith Price is quietly making a name for himself, as well. Replacing the departed Jake Locker, Price has stepped in and led the Huskies to their best start in 10 years, throwing 21 touchdowns (second in the nation) and just four interceptions this season. As good as Luck’s numbers have been (71.3 completion percentage, over 1700 yards, 18 touchdowns and three interceptions), the Cardinal defense has been equally important to Stanford’s hot start, ranking fifth in the nation in scoring defense (11.2 points per game). Stanford is seeking to extend their nation’s-best winning streak to 15 games.
North Carolina (5-2) at #8 Clemson (7-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPN]
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has run the Tigers’ read-option offense to near perfection, throwing for more than 2,000 yards, 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But this week, he’ll face a challenge against a North Carolina defense that ranks 24thin the nation in scoring defense. The Tarheels’ offense hasn’t been anything spectacular (63rd nationally in total offense; 66th in scoring), but could see some success against a Clemson defense that ranks 57th overall and has been susceptible to big plays.
#9 Oregon (5-1) at Colorado (1-6)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on Fox Sports Net]
It is unknown if Oregon star running back LaMichael James (elbow) or quarterback Darron Thomas (knee) will be available for the Ducks’ high-powered offense, which currently ranks fifth in the nation in total yards and third in scoring. But honestly, they probably won’t need them against a dreadful and injury-riddled Colorado team that ranks 98th in the nation in points scored and 113th in points allowed.
#10 Arkansas (5-1) at Ole Miss (2-4)
[Saturday, October 22 at 12:21 PM ET on SEC Network]
Since losing to Alabama three weeks ago, the Arkansas offense has rebounded with a vengeance, putting up 80 points and over 1,000 yards in wins over then-#14 Texas A&M and #15 Auburn. The Rebels, meanwhile, are heading in the opposite direction, coming off the school’s worst loss since 1981, a 52-7 drubbing to Alabama. Worse, a defense that already ranks 106thin the nation in yards allowed will be without two starters, defensive end Wayne Dorsey and cornerback Marcus Temple, who are out for the season with injuries suffered last week against Alabama. Ole Miss is trying to avoid losing 10 straight SEC games for the first time in school history.
#11 West Virginia (5-1) at Syracuse (4-2)
[Friday, October 21 at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN]
In last year’s game, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was sacked five times and threw three interceptions — in the first half. This year, however, Smith is off to the kind of start that has to have the Orange defense worried. The Mountaineers’ signal-caller is fifth in the FBS in passing yards per game and has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. Meanwhile, Syracuse ranks 112th nationally in pass defense. Both teams are coming into this game off a bye week.
#12 Kansas State (6-0) at Kansas (2-4)
[Saturday, October 22 at 12:00 PM ET on Fox Sports Net]
Kansas State hasn’t been flashy during its undefeated start, relying on solid defense (21st nationally in scoring defense) and a power running game (25th in rushing). But that should be more than enough to get past a Kansas defense that has hit bottom and then started digging deeper. The Jayhawks rank last in the nation in both scoring and total defense. During their current four-game losing streak, they have given up an average of 627 yards per game and been outscored by over 31 points per game. In his last 15 Sunflower Showdowns, Wildcats coach Bill Snyder is 14-1 against the Jayhawks.
#13 Nebraska (5-1) at Minnesota (1-5)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC/ESPN2]
While Bo Pelini’s defense was expected to be the Cornhuskers’ strong suit this season, instead it has been the offense carrying the load, scoring at least 34 points in each of Nebraska’s wins this year. Running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez rank third and fifth, respectively, in the Big Ten in rushing. However, if there was ever a week for the Nebraska defense to gain some confidence, which it could certainly use after losing star defensive tackle Jared Crick for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in the team’s last game, this could be it. The Gophers rank last in the Big Ten in both total offense and scoring and have put up just 390 yards total in their last two games.
#14 South Carolina (6-1) BYE
The Gamecocks have the week off and will need it to break in a new running back in place of star Marcus Lattimore, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. South Carolina will return to action next week at Tennessee.
Boston College (1-5) at #16 Virginia Tech (6-1)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:00 PM ET on Fox Sports Net]
While Virginia Tech’s defense has been banged up with injuries in recent weeks, this should be a great week for them to get healthy, facing a BC offense that ranks 105th in the nation in yardage and 108th in points scored. The Eagles’ only win this season has come against FCS Massachussetts. After a slow start, Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas has really turned it on in Virginia Tech’s last two games, throwing for 590 yards and five touchdowns in two come-from-behind wins.
#17 Texas A&M (4-2) at Iowa State (3-3)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN]
The Aggies’ offense has proven it can play with anybody, ranking seventh in the nation in yardage and 12th in scoring. Look for their running back tandem of Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray to post big numbers against a reeling Cyclones defense that ranks 110th in the nation in rushing defense and has given up an eye-popping 689 yards on the ground in their last two games. Iowa State has not announced who will start at quarterback this week, but whoever it is will need some help — the Cyclones’ offensive line has given up 12 sacks during their current three-game losing streak, while A&M’s Wrecking Crew defense leads the nation with an average of 4.33 sacks per game.
#18 Michigan (6-1) BYE
After losing to in-state rival Michigan State, the Wolverines have a week off to regroup and prepare for next week’s matchup with Purdue.
#20 Georgia Tech (6-1) at Miami (3-3)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN]
Georgia Tech will attempt to rebound from its first loss of the season with a challenging matchup against an inconsistent but talented Miami team. The Yellow Jackets are still posting big offensive numbers (second nationally in rushing yards, ninth in total yards, 10thin scoring), but have been slowed down somewhat in recent weeks, losing to Virginia and needing a late comeback to beat Maryland. In this game, the pressure will be on the Georgia Tech defense to make a play and get its offense back on the field. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who threw 15 interceptions last season, has thrown only three this year and none in his last three games.
Marshall (3-4) at #21 Houston (6-0)
[Saturday, October 22 at 3:30 PM ET on Charter Southeast Sports]
Under the leadership of quarterback Case Keenum, Houston’s offense has been virtually unstoppable, leading the nation in passing yards and total yards, while ranking fourth in scoring. This week, they should have a relatively smooth ride going against a Marshall team struggling to find any offensive success (114th in total offense, 118th in scoring).
#23 Illinois (6-1) at Purdue (3-3)
[Saturday, October 22 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPN2]
The Illini will look to bounce back after suffering its first loss of the season last weekend to Ohio State. Purdue has lost 22 of its last 23 games against ranked opponents. Look for this game to be decided on the ground, with Purdue’s 24th-rated rushing offense going against Illinois’ 18th-rated run defense.
#24 Georgia (5-2) BYE
After starting off the season 0-2, the Bulldogs have rolled off five straight wins. They now have a week off to prepare for their annual showdown in Jacksonville with archrival Florida.
#24 Arizona State (5-2) BYE
The Sun Devils lost a tough one to Oregon last week, but should have a couple of weeks to recover with a bye this week and a trip to a woeful Colorado team next week.