College Football: Saturday Preview

    
October 4th, 2008

While BYU did what was expected in handling Utah State for their fifteenth consecutive win, I have to admit that I was wrong about Cincinnati's trip to Marshall. Chazz Anderson played well under center for the Bearcats, who won 33-10 in Huntington. Maybe they will be alright even with two quarterbacks falling due to injury, somewhat similar to what Oregon has been able to do thus far. Will this Saturday be crazier than last week, when multiple ranked teams fell in a variety of ways? It could very well be a bizarre Saturday, with ESPN's College Gameday live in...Nashville for a Vanderbilt game. Here's the schedule and preview for tomorrow's action.

12:00 PM ET No. 6 Penn State at Purdue on ESPN

Penn State has looked rather impressive to start the season, leaping all the way up to number six in the polls heading into their first true road test of the year. RB Kory Sheets has played well as the feature back for the Boilers, but QB Curtis Painter hasn't put up the gaudy numbers many expected from the senior heading into 2008. Now Purdue has to deal with a fierce defense and an explosive offense known as the "HD Offense". Wide receivers such as Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood are household names at this point, but get familiar with QB Daryll Clark. The man can play some football, and he's done well so far. Look for the Lions to win this one to remain undefeated, but there will be some points put up on the scoreboard.
 
12:00 PM ET Duke at Georgia Tech on ESPNU 

After pasting a poor Virginia team last weekend, the Blue Devils head to Atlanta to take on the Yellow Jackets. Duke has already seen the Paul Johnson offense this season, defeating a tough Navy team in Durham last month. But Navy didn't have a back the quality of Jonathan Dwyer, who has been rather productive in the new system. I think Duke can reach bowl eligibility this season, but they won't get one of those necessary wins here. Georgia Tech's defense is one of the toughest that David Cutcliffe's team with face all year long.

12:00 PM ET Iowa at Michigan State on ESPN2 

It's been tough this season to figure out the Hawkeyes, who found a way to blow a lead at home last week in losing to Northwestern. But it's been easy to figure out Michigan State RB Javon Ringer, who has been one of the nation's best backs. That's why the Spartans will win their conference home opener.
 
12:00 PM ET Indiana at Minnesota on Big Ten Network

A toss-up between two teams that have a chance to be bowl eligible come season's end. Indiana made many mistakes in their loss to Michigan State last week, but they've got the offensive firepower to put up some points. Same goes for the Golden Gophers, who hung in there while losing to Ohio State last week. Tim Brewster's program has played well for the most part, and that's why I like them to win this one at home.

12:00 PM ET Boston College at North Carolina State on ESPN GamePlan

Tom O'Brien hosts his former employer for the first time, and it's a game that either team can win. While they haven't been as potent on offense as they were in 2007, Boston College has been opportunistic in getting to a 3-1 record. The Wolfpack are 2-3 on the year, but one of those wins came against a ranked East Carolina team in Raleigh. A win for NC State is more than possible, but I think the Eagles can make enough plays to steal one on the road.

12:00 PM ET Rutgers at West Virginia on ESPN GamePlan 

The Scarlet Knights finally got a win under their belts this season, whipping Morgan State at home last week. But the Bears have no athletes the caliber of either Pat White or Noel Devine, and this one is in Morgantown as well. The Mountaineer offense hasn't been as explosive as expected when the season began, hence the two early losses. But both are still in the hunt for the Big East title, which seems to have a different frontrunner every week. The Mountaineers will move to 1-0 in conference play on Saturday.

12:00 PM ET Akron at Kent State on ESPN GamePlan

I like the Zips to get a good MAC road win in this one, for the Golden Flashes have struggled thus far.

12:30 PM ET No. 1 Oklahoma at Baylor on Fox Sports Net

Robert Griffin III can be an outstanding quarterback for the Baylor Bears one day. On this day he's going to learn just how tough that process can be when Oklahoma shows up in Waco. Also, he can watch one of the nation's best quarterbacks in sophomore Sam Bradford, who is well on his way to the Heisman ceremony as a finalist come December. Sooners will be tested for a little bit, the price you pay for playing this game a week before the Red River Rivalry, but they'll roll.

12:30 PM ET No. 12 Florida at Arkansas on ESPN GamePlan

Florida may have lost to Ole Miss at home last week, but Ole Miss is light years ahead of the Razorbacks right now. They'll call the hogs...and then the Gator athletes will go off and look to avenge last week's defeat. They will.

12:30 PM ET No. 16 Kansas at Iowa State on Versus

A dangerous road game for the Jayhawks, who visit an Iowa State team that gave Oklahoma all they wanted in Ames last season. But Kansas has too much firepower on offense, most notably QB Todd Reesing, to lose this one. But if they get caught looking past the Cyclones, they could be had.

1:30 PM ET Western Kentucky at No. 20 Virginia Tech 

The Hokies will be expected to handle the Hilltoppers, and they will.

1:30 PM ET Alcorn State at New Mexico State

This would be close if Steve McNair had some eligibility left at Alcorn. He doesn't, so look for some impressive numbers from NMSU quarterback Chase Holbrook.

2:00 PM ET UNLV at Colorado State on The Mtn. 

This is a big game for the Rebels, who hope to make a move up in the Mountain West pecking order this season. Colorado State hasn't done much in recent years, but the trip to Fort Collins is a dangerous one for a struggling program looking to make an upward move. As impressive as UNLV has been in recent weeks, most notably their comeback win at Arizona State, it remains to be seen if they can win an important conference game on the road against a team that won't underestimate them. UNLV wins a close one.

2:00 PM ET South Carolina at Mississippi on ESPN GamePlan 

Here are two prime examples as to why the quarterback position is so important in football. South Carolina has lacked stability and consistency under center, hence their early struggles on offense. Ole Miss on the other hand has Jevan Snead to lean on, and he hasn't disappointed so far. The Grove is always ready to party, and they'll have a win to celebrate on Saturday.

2:00 PM ET Ohio at Western Michigan 

The Broncos should win this one on their home turf, primarily because the Ohio offense isn't very good this season.

2:43 PM ET Stanford at Notre Dame on NBC 

People are singing the praises of Notre Dame, and rightfully so after they handled Purdue at home last weekend. But they've got a different challenge this week with a Stanford offense content to hand the ball to Toby Gerhart and let him bang away. But Jimmy Clausen and the Notre Dame offense has played better football of late, so expect them to put up some points as well. As for who wins, Notre Dame will win this game thanks to some deceptively good athletes at the skill positions, most notably wide receivers Golden Tate and Duval Kamara.

3:00 PM ET Army at Tulane

Army almost won at Texas A&M last week, so that's the reason to give them a shot to knock off Tulane. The Black Knights will fight for the full sixty minutes, but it won't be enough in the Superdome.
3:30 PM ET Kentucky at No. 2 Alabama on CBS

The question surrounding this game will be which voice was dominant in the ears of Alabama players this week: the delirious fans now talking national title after their dominant win at Georgia; or the head coach stating that they've accomplished nothing so far? If it's the latter, the Crimson Tide should take care of business. If it was the former, Kentucky could leave Tuscaloosa with a win. But Nick Saban's rebuilding job has been so impressive to watch thus far that you can't expect this team to ignore his wisdom. Roll Tide.

3:30 PM ET No. 7 Texas Tech at Kansas State on ABC

Texas Tech hasn't been as explosive on offense this season by their own standards, but by pedestrian goals they've gotten the job done. And now they head on the road to take on a KSU defense that has been little more than a speedbump when tested this season. Of course, that lone test was a loss at Louisville due to a soft schedule, so look for the Wildcat defense to have its hands full in a Texas Tech win.

3:30 PM ET Arizona State at California on ABC

Both teams own disappointing non-league losses (Arizona State to UNLV; Cal to Maryland), but they're both still in the hunt to win the Pac-10. Rudy Carpenter will once again be under center for the Sun Devils, but who will it be for Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears? Due to slow starts by the offense, Coach Tedford re-opened the competition between Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore. Whoever it is will be without RB Jahvid Best due to injury, so there's one less weapon at their disposal. But due to instability at running back and on the offensive line for Arizona State, I like Cal to win the game.

3:30 PM ET Illinois at Michigan on ABC 

After they were whipped at Penn State last weekend in their conference opener, the Illini need a win in the worst way if they want to entertain any thoughts of a Big Ten title. But awaiting them in Ann Arbor is a Michigan team brimming with confidence after storming back from nineteen down to beat Wisconsin last weekend. But all isn't fixed with the Michigan offense because of one win, which is why I like the Illini to even their record at 1-1 in Big Ten play.

3:30 PM ET Temple at Miami (OH) on ESPN GamePlan

Of their last four losses, Temple has lost three by one possession. How much more do they have left in the tank is the question that needs to be answered, and I think they've got enough to win a MAC East road game against a struggling Miami of Ohio team.

3:30 PM ET Southern Methodist at UCF on CBS College Sports 

Neither of these teams is very good this year, with the latest chapter in their futility being written by a UCF team that was hammered 58-3 by UTEP last week. Go with the Golden Knights because they're at home, but I wouldn't be shocked at all if June Jones picked up his first Conference USA win in this one either.

3:30 PM ET Florida State at Miami (FL) on ABC 

Remember when this game had a national title on the line? Now this series is all about two mediocre programs looking to restore the identity that made them two of the best programs in college football in the nineties. The Seminoles, coming off of a win over Colorado in Jacksonville, got a nice boost from RB Antone Smith in the win. But the quarterback position is still struggling. But the Hurricanes, who lost to North Carolina last week, have two freshmen under center in Robert Marve and Jacory Harris. But even with Smith's performance against Colorado last week, Miami RB Graig Cooper is the better back. Miami wins what should be a wild football game, with the Canes winning the turnover battle.

4:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan at Bowling Green

Sorry, but Eastern Michigan isn't very good. Look for the Falcons to pick up a conference win at home.

4:00 PM ET Navy at Air Force on Versus 

No disrespect to Army but this is the game that will decide which service academy walks away with the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. Navy has lost two games this season, but they have already won at Wake Forest so don't expect the Midshipmen to be intimidated in Colorado Springs. But the Falcons will win this game thanks to the home field advantage and a better offensive attack.

5:00 PM ET Nevada at Idaho on ESPN GamePlan

Nevada hasn't been great this year...but they're not Idaho. That's why the Wolf Pack will win this game.

6:00 PM ET No. 13 Auburn at No. 19 Vanderbilt on ESPN

The Commodores, who rank last in the SEC in both total offense and total defense, have been one of the nation's most opportunistic teams so far. And while Auburn has a stout defense themselves, they've also been pretty good at fumbling the football this year. Tony Franklin's spread offense has been shelved by head coach Tommy Tuberville, which may be a good thing considering how loaded they are in the backfield along with the fact that their current talent doesn't fit his system. The Tigers will turn the ball over, but a move back to the past will get them the road win.

6:00 PM ET San Diego State at TCU on The Mtn.

TCU may have been handled by Oklahoma last week, but San Diego State is no Oklahoma. Look for the Horned Frogs to have their way with the Aztecs on both sides of the football.

7:00 PM ET No. 24 Connecticut at North Carolina on ESPN2

The Huskies visit Chapel Hill with a new quarterback (Zach Frazer) and a defense that's done a good job of bending but not breaking. But that philosophy is like playing with fire when you consider how good the North Carolina receiving corps is. Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate both have big-play ability, and Brooks Foster isn't a bad wideout himself. Add to this Greg Little at running back and a solid defense and you have all the makings of UConn's first loss of 2008. While Donald Brown will have another good day on the ground for the Huskies, North Carolina will win this game.

7:00 PM ET Florida International at North Texas on ESPN GamePlan

Mario Cristobal is doing all he can to turn around the FIU program, but they're not ready to win a league game on the road just yet. But they will be someday. The Mean Green get their first Sun Belt win of the season.

7:00 PM ET Maryland at Virginia on ESPNU

Virginia AD Craig Littlepage may have given students back the right to bring signs to the game, but he can't give them last year's team that went 9-4. But this is the kind of game that Maryland comes out flat for and finds a way to lose. Let's see if the Terps can take care of business and cement themselves as a favorite in the ACC Atlantic. Maryland finds a way to win this game.

7:00 PM ET Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana-Monroe 

I'll take Monroe because they nearly won at Arkansas, but neither team is very good this year.

7:00 PM ET UTEP at Southern Miss 

Don't expect the Miners to hang 58 points on Southern Miss, something they were able to do last week against UCF. While Larry Fedora has brought some excitement to the offense for the Golden Eagles, they've still got that stingy defense on campus. Southern Miss wins at home.

7:00 PM ET Northern Illinois at Tennessee

Don't expect the Volunteers to look ahead to Georgia next week, because they need all the wins they can get to ensure the sanity of their fan base...and head coach.

7:05 PM ET Texas A&M at No. 21 Oklahoma State on Fox Sports Net

No Stephen McGee for an A&M offense that has struggled this season, and they're supposed to keep up with one of the Big 12's most prolific offenses? Don't see that happening. But it would be nice to see some progress from the Oklahoma State defense, which hasn't been much better than last year's unit of late.

7:07 PM ET Ball State at Toledo 

As much as I like the Rockets at home, I like Nate Davis that much more. Ball State pulls off a key MAC West win on the road.

7:10 PM ET No. 5 Texas at Colorado on Fox Sports Net 

The Longhorns head into their final test before the Red River Rivalry with a bigger test than the rival Sooners...or so we think. Which Colorado team will show up for this one: the one that beat West Virginia at home or the one that made numerous miscues in losing to Florida State last week? Then again, if Colt McCoy continues to play spectacular football it won't matter. The Buffs will hang around for a while, but Texas will head back to Austin with the win.

7:37 PM ET Washington at Arizona on Versus

This is clearly a game that Arizona should win, with the Huskies being without star QB Jake Locker. But how much has this program grown under Mike Stoops? Usually good for a major upset in November, the Wildcats have struggled mightily in recent years during October. But I don't see them losing to a bad Husky team that got exponentially worse when Locker broke his thumb last week.

8:00 PM ET No. 23 Oregon at No. 9 USC on ABC

Both teams should be more than ready for this game, given the fact that they found a way to lose last weekend. Motivation shouldn't be an issue for the Trojans, who have shown through the years that they're pretty good at getting ready for big games. The "little" ones on the other hand...As for the Ducks, they'll need to do a better job of limiting big plays on defense, something they couldn't do in their loss to Boise State. The Ducks have won six of the last ten meetings, but the Trojans will play well enough to win the game in the Coliseum.

8:00 PM ET No. 14 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin on ABC 

Just like Illinois, the Badgers need a win here if they're to entertain any thoughts of winning the Big Ten. The Buckeyes finally have Beanie Wells back in the lineup, which is key in that he at the very least gives opponents something to think about when he's on the field. Terrelle Pryor will look to take the next step in his development, and playing at USC earlier in the year should help calm him down heading into Camp Randall. Wisconsin will look to pound the football with their running backs, led by P.J. Hill, and control the time of possession. In a defensive struggle, I like the Badgers to keep their Big Ten hopes alive.

8:00 PM ET Rice at Tulsa on CBS College Sports

These two teams will put up a lot of points in this game. But the Golden Hurricane have a better group of skill position players on offense, which means they'll outscore the Owls. But not before QB Chase Clement and WR Jarrett Dillard put up some impressive numbers themselves.

9:00 PM ET No. 4 Missouri at Nebraska on ESPN

Just when some thought that it was time to give the Nebraska defense back its "Blackshirts" moniker, Virginia Tech walked into Memorial Stadium and scored thirty-five points. And that was an offense that struggled for most of the year. With Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin ready to win in Lincoln for the first time in thrity years, look for the Tigers to rack up some numbers in ending that ugly streak.

9:36 PM ET Wyoming at New Mexico on The Mtn. 

Wyoming visits a New Mexico team that while talented hasn't been too consistent on offense this year. A nice change from last weekend, when they went to Provo and had a serious beating laid on them by BYU. But I still like the Lobos, with QB Donovan Porterie making just enough plays to win the game.

10:00 PM ET Hawaii at No. 22 Fresno State on ESPN GamePlan

I like the Bulldogs to use their running game (RB Ryan Matthews is pretty good) to knock off the defending WAC champions. But it will be a close one that isn't decided until the fourth quarter.

10:17 PM ET Washington State at UCLA on Fox Sports Net

The Bruins may have struggled at times this season, but the Cougars are banged up and just flat-out bad. UCLA get the win.