Thursday, October 21, 2010

What to watch, Week Eight

All times Eastern


There isn't much here, though I think its important to peek in on UCLA-Oregon tonight (9pm, ESPN. Oregon is the top ranked offense in the country and, even more amazing, they rank 3rd in rushing and the two teams ahead of them are pure option teams (Air Force and Georgia Tech). Take a look at these guys during the middle innings of tonight's NLCS game.


Start off Saturday with Notre Dame vs. Navy (12pm, CBS). The game is being played at Giants Stadium. Did you know that while Navy has "hosted" Notre Dame since the early days of college football, the Irish have never played in Annapolis. Even stranger is that while Navy had a long losing streak against the Irish, the last four wins that Navy has earned in the series have all been in South Bend (last ND loss in Navy's "home" game: 1960 in Philadelphia). After that nostalgia, the interesting thing to watch is if Navy struggles with the tempo that the Irish run their offense. Brian Kelly loves to keep things moving. Navy has some of the most fit players around, but their size could be an issue, particularly if they get their ground game rolling.

Michigan St. at Northwestern (12pm, ESPN) is the other prime matchup in the early afternoon and this game could have a few points scored in it. Both Kirk Cousins and Dan Persa rank in the top 10 in passing efficiency, but the key will be Michigan St.'s ground game. Michigan St. may be the most complete team in the Big Ten. Shame that its been overlooked based on Ohio St. gaudy early season ranking.

Another item to take note of is Rutgers visiting Pittsburgh (12pm, Big East Network). Its a very average game in the Big East, but it will be interesting to see how well Rutgers can keep their focus on the field after the spinal injury to DT Eric LeGrande. Conflicting reports exist as to whether LeGrande has had any movements in his lower extremites. From some reports from doctors, the 1st three days after a spinal injury are most important. Here's hoping the young man continues to make progress and one day walk again.

LSU at Auburn looks real good based on record with two undefeated teams. I don't see it that way (3:30pm, CBS). LSU has been able to get by on great defense (3rd in overall defense) and anemic offense (92nd in offense). Cam Newton could enhance his Heisman status with a win here.

Wisconsin at Iowa (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN) should be a lower scoring, defensive battle. Ricky Stanzi and Bryan Tolzien both get the job done through the air in an efficent manner, and both defenses are top shelf (Wisconsin 23rd, Iowa 13th). The key for the Badgers will be their use of John Clay and if they can control the clock.

Nebraska at Oklahoma St. (3:30pm, ABC) has an "irresistable force vs. immovable object" battle to it with Oklahoma St.'s 2nd ranked offense 9th ranked defense. The battle is even more granular when just taking into account the passing game. The Cowboys rank 3rd in passing offense where the Blackshirts are the top passing defense. The most striking stat to me is that WR Justin Blackmon for OK State averages slightly over 159 receiving yards per game. Nebraska allows 117 passing yards total per game.

North Carolina at Miami (FL) (7:30pm, ESPN) features a pair of ball hawking secondary. The problems with that are two-fold for the Hurricanes. One is that Jacory Harris is more than willing to throw INTs this year (nine), though last week was his 1st INT-free week since the opener vs. Florida A&M. The other bad thing is that UNC Tyler Yates has only thrown one pick this season and seems to have, so far, progressed in the area of reading defenses and managing the offense. UNC themselves are on a four game winning streak and their two losses were by six points each, so its safe to say that they've been able to keep their off-field problems off the gridiron.

Another game that might look better on paper is Oklahoma at Missouri (8pm, ABC) with both teams coming in undefeated. My believe though is that the Tigers have yet to have been tested defensively and that Oklahoma's extremely quick no-huddle attack could expose Mizzou's flaws, particularly with pass defense where Mizzou has been average (58th) and Oklahoma is...not (12th). Could be another big day for Landry Jones.

Last game of the day is the Air Force at TCU game (8pm, CBS College Sports). Air Force's top ranked rushing offense meets up with the 2nd best rushing defense in the Horned Frogs. The real key is Air Force's rushing defense (91st), which is a poor matchup for the Falcons as TCU ranks 10th. Ronnie Hillman for San Diego St. had two long TD runs of 65 and 44 yards (191 total on the ground) and may be a recurring problem for the Falcons. Air Force must maintain tempo or this could get out of hand.

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