College Football: Friday Preview

September 11th, 2008

Before we get to the preview of tomorrow night's games, one between ranked teams and the other originally scheduled for Saturday, I have to get a couple of things out there in regards to North Carolina's 44-12 pasting of Rutgers.

1. You could make a case that Ray Rice was the biggest loss for any team in America heading into this season.

Yes, the Scarlet Knights ran for 140 yards on the night. But the fact that they really don't have a workhorse at running back to take some of the pressure off of Mike Teel has been quite a problem in their 0-2 start. Mason Robinson ran for 82 yards on sixteen carries tonight, which isn't bad at all (5.1 yards per carry), but tonight showed that despite the quality of their receivers Rutgers is in serious trouble when they have to lean on the passing game in order to make plays. Give credit to the Tar Heels in picking off four passes (one for a touchdown), but tonight's effort was deplorable for the home team. And I didn't even mention the leadership lost with the departure of Rice.

2. Despite this impressive effort, I can't tell you which UNC team will await Virginia Tech on the 20th.

This game in Chapel Hill now sets up to be a big one, with the ACC Coastal setting up to be an absolute dogfight. But this team is so young in certain areas that it's hard to predict which Carolina outfit will be on display in that game. Is it the team that struggled with McNeese St. for three quarters, or the one that effectively ended tonight's game within the first five minutes of the third quarter (you could make a case this one was over at halftime)? The Tar Heels are a definite threat to win the Coastal division, but this is still a young football team.

3. Rutgers will struggle to reach bowl eligibility.

The Big East has looked balanced so far this season...and that's not a good balance, which could be exactly why Rutgers shouldn't have an issue with bowl eligibility. But what have they really shown in their first two games that would lead anyone to believe that they can reach that 6-win mark? The offense has sputtered and the defense has blown assignments in both games, which have led to big plays for Fresno State and North Carolina. The only good news may be that San San Te made both of his field goal attempts on the night. At Navy next weekend certainly isn't a shoo-in, they may head to Annapolis an underdog in fact, but at least they return home with Morgan State before plunging into conference play. Their four Big East road games: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida. Uh oh.

#13 Kansas @ #19 USF (8 PM EST on ESPN2)

The first showdown of many this weekend takes place in Tampa, where both teams are in need of a marquee win. Kansas could use it to show that they've got the ability to match last season's Orange Bowl run. But there's a bit more on the line for the Bulls, who didn't look great in surviving their trip to UCF last weekend. Add to this their conference affiliation (Big East), and you could have a league public relations office in crisis mode should the Bulls get blown out. The Big East, 3-8 against FBS opponents so far, hasn't lost one of those eight games by fewer than ten points. Kansas QB Todd Reesing and his talented corps of receivers will test a USF secondary that looked as young as they are at times in Orlando last week.

The Bulls also have some talent on the outside, and it'll be Matt Grothe's job to get them the ball in advantageous positions. But the backfield is a little banged up, most notably Mike Ford, who missed the UCF game due to an ankle injury. No announcement had been made in regards to his availability as of today. As much as I'd like to pick the Bulls to defend their home field, I don't know if anything short of a record night by DE George Selvie and the rest of the front four can slow down Kansas through the air. I like the Jayhawks in a close one.

Washington State @ Baylor (8:30 PM EST on Fox College Sports/Fox Sports Net Southwest)

Originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, the Bears host the Cougars on Friday night in anticipation of Hurricane Ike. I'll be perfectly honest with you: neither of these teams has looked very good so far. But at least the Bears have some hope in the form of freshman QB Robert Griffin III. Griffin, the future of the program for new head coach Art Briles, has the athletic ability to make plays with both his arm and legs. As for the Cougars, they've looked dreadful in blowout losses to Oklahoma State (in Seattle) and California (at home). I have a hard time thinking that they'll be able to fix their many issues on the road in a game played a day earlier than expected. I like the Bears.

Beanie Wells update:

The Jim Tressel comment about Wells being "doubtful" for Ohio State's game with USC on Saturday was misinterpreted. Coach Tressel was answering the inquiry with the thinking that "if the game were played Thursday night" Wells would be categorized as doubtful. Wells is now a game-time decision to play against the Trojans.