The third weekend of the season is now upon us, and it's safe to say that this is one of the most anticipated Saturdays in recent history. Of course you have some big games beginning with South Florida hosting Kansas tomorrow, and the showdown Saturday night between Ohio State and USC. But is there really a better way to kick off the weekend than a matchup between teams from two leagues in desperate need of a big non-conference performance? That's what we have tonight, and here's a preview of the game.
North Carolina @ Rutgers (7:30 PM on ESPN)
Neither team looked too good in their opening efforts, with North Carolina hanging on to defeat McNeese St. 35-27 and Rutgers falling to Fresno State 24-7. On display in this game will be two wide receiving corps capable of matching up with just about anyone in the country. The Heels feature the versatile Brandon Tate, who set a school record for all-purpose yards in their opener (397 yards), including a punt return for a touchdown. But to focus solely on Tate would be a risk Rutgers couldn't take with Hakeem Nicks on the other side of the field. Nicks is right up there with Clemson's Aaron Kelly and Duke's Eron Riley when talking about some of the best wideouts in the ACC. The Scarlet Knights counter with the tandem of Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. The defenses in this one will certainly have their hands full.
The question marks for both teams: the running game (Tate led UNC in rushing in their opener with 106 yards on three carries; RB Kordell Young led Rutgers with 94 yards on 26 carries) and the kicking game. The Tar Heels' Chris Barth missed his lone field goal attempt against McNeese State, and Rutgers' San San Te didn't exactly have a sparkling debut either. I like this game to be close for four quarters, but home field advantage should win out in the end. Rutgers wins.
And a couple notes regarding games this weekend:
Hurricane Ike changes the schedule for Texas teams.
As a result of Hurricane Ike making landfall this weekend, a few games have either been postponed or moved up on Saturday. Texas and Arkansas have moved their game back to September 27th, and the Stanford-TCU game will be played at 1 PM EST instead of the originally scheduled 7 PM EST. Also, the Air Force-Houston game will be played at SMU (in Dallas) due to evacuations of the Gulf Coast.
Beanie Wells now not such a sure bet to play on Saturday.
In his weekly press conference, head coach Jim Tressel stressed the importance of Wells getting in some work during the week of preparation in advance of their showdown with USC. But Wells is still dealing with soreness in his big toe, and he hasn't had any contact in practice as a result. There's still the possibility that he will play, but we should know a lot more about his status tomorrow.
Virginia will be without the services of starting QB Peter Lalich when they play at Connecticut on Saturday.
Lalich is being left in Charlottesville to deal with legal issues involving a possible violation of his probation stemming from an underage drinking charge received over the summer. Lalich heading into the season was the only Cavalier quarterback to have taken a snap at the collegiate level, and his loss (for however long it is) is a serious blow to a team that has struggled on offense thus far. Sophomore Marc Verica will be the man under center for the 'Hoos.