College Football: Saturday Preview

    
October 11th, 2008

Today marked the nationwide opening for the movie "The Express", starring Rob Brown (Ernie Davis) and Dennis Quaid (Ben Schwarzwalder). For those who don't know the story of Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, this is a must-see movie. Had there not been guys like Davis and Jim Brown before him (Brown also plays a role in the film), you may not see guys like Adrian Peterson and LaDanian Tomlinson today. But despite the quality of the film, which was pretty good by the way, there was a secondary thought in my mind: boy has Syracuse Football fallen on tough times.

The talk all over the place may lead many casual fans to believe that there are just two games on the slate Saturday: #1 Oklahoma vs. #5 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and #4 LSU visiting #11 Florida at night. But there are some key football games on the schedule, including a game between two Big Ten teams that may be entertaining thoughts of crashing the party at the top of the league standings in Northwestern and Michigan State. Wisconsin may be on their last breath in regards to the Big Ten pecking order, and they have the honor of hosting Penn State.

And is Notre Dame for real? We'll get their answer as the Irish look to move to 17-1 all-time against North Carolina. The game's in Chapel Hill, so the question of whether or not Charlie Weis' team can win a road game will also be answered. Here's the schedule for Saturday, along with links to the OU/Texas and LSU/Florida previews.

12:00 PM ET No. 5 Texas vs. No. 1 Oklahoma on ABC

A full preview of this game can be read here.

12:00 PM ET Iowa at Indiana on Big Ten Network 

Depending on who you talk to, the heat is beginning to touch the seat of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Or is it simply a down period for a program that was resurrected by Ferentz in the early portion of the current century? Not sure which one it is, but this game matches two teams in desperate need of a conference victory. The Hawkeyes are the better defensive team, led by defensive end Mitch King. But they'll have their hands full with an Indiana offense that possesses a number of weapons, most notably QB Kellen Lewis. How well will Ricky Stanzi play under center for Iowa will determine who wins this game. I'll go with the Hoosiers.

12:00 PM ET Toledo at Michigan on Big Ten Network

It's the last trek outside of Big Ten play for the Wolverines this season, and when going by name recognition you'd assume that Rich Rodriguez's team would have little trouble with Toledo. But Tom Amstutz's Rockets took Fresno State to overtime before a failed two-point conversion did them in. Can they give the Wolverines all they want for four quarters? Can they beat the Wolverines in the "Big House" Yes and yes, but while they can accomplish both I don't see them winning this game. They're not as explosive on offense as Illinois was last weekend.

12:00 PM ET East Carolina at Virginia on ESPN GamePlan

After looking downright terrible in the early portion of the season (to be fair, they did take on two defending conference champs in USC and Connecticut), Virginia blew out Maryland 31-0 in the first game this season in which Cavalier fans were allowed to bring signs. Was it the signs, or was it the improved play of QB Marc Verica? I'd go with the latter, but they'll take on an ECU team that already knows the feeling of losing to one ACC team that they should have beaten (NC State). Look for the Pirates to win the turnover battle and take care of business.

12:00 PM ET Syracuse at West Virginia on ESPNU

Syracuse's 1959 trip to West Virginia was one of the featured games in "The Express", but there are two key differences: While the Mountaineer faithful will bring the noise, they won't be as nasty as that 1959 bunch (according to the movie) and; the Orange don't have the same level of talent this time around. Look for the Mountaineers to retain possession of the Schwarzwalder Trophy that belongs to the winner of this game.

12:00 PM ET Minnesota at Illinois on ESPN

This game has the potential to be a shootout, with both teams having some serious issues on the defensive side of the football. But the Golden Gophers have improved from last season, when they were one of the nation's worst defensive teams. But the Illini will win this game, because they're at home and I don't see the Gophers having an answer for QB Juice Williams.

12:00 PM ET Rutgers at Cincinnati on ESPN GamePlan

Cincinnati QB Chazz Anderson passed his first test at Marshall last Friday night, and now comes his first foray into Big East competition. But to be honest with you, he faces a team that many people may have overrated when the season began in Rutgers (or at the least ignored what the loss of Ray Rice would mean). Head coach Greg Schiano admitted as much earlier this week, stating that he may have "overestimated" the level of talent at his disposal heading into 2008. And while they'll look to spice up a moribund offense with the hurry-up, it won't matter in the Queen City. Cincinnati wins.

12:30 PM ET Colorado at No. 16 Kansas on ESPN2

Before the season began, I saw Colorado as a possible darkhorse in the Big 12 North race. But they've looked more like a team that will struggle to finish third in the division the past two weeks. Getting whipped by Texas last weekend is understandable. But what  about the loss to Florida State a few weeks ago? Which Colorado team shows up will have a drastic effect on the final margin...but it won't have much to do with who wins. Kansas just has too much on offense, most notably QB Todd Reesing.

12:30 PM ET South Carolina at Kentucky on ESPN GamePlan

Both teams need a win in this one to entertain any thought of getting back into the SEC East picture (South Carolina has already lost to Georgia and Vanderbilt within the division), and neither offense has offered much in the way of consistency the past few weeks. But give the Wildcats credit for fighting back at Alabama last week when they could have folded the tent after falling behind 14-0. Defense will rule the afternoon in Lexington, as both teams are solid on that side of the football. But I have more belief in the Wildcats at home than the Gamecocks on the road.

1:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan at Army on ESPN Classic

Made the mistake last week of picking Tulane to beat Army, and all the Black Knights did was win the game 44-13 (on the road). Not making that mistake this weekend, as they should be able to defeat one of the poorer teams in the MAC.

2:00 PM ET No. 14 Utah at Wyoming on The Mtn. 

The Cowboys can compete at home with a lot of teams. But for Joe Glenn's team to knock off the Utes they'd need a performance of the ages from QB Karsten Sween and I for one don't see that happening. Utah continues their march towards a showdown with bitter rival BYU to end the season.

2:00 PM ET Kansas State at Texas A&M

The fact that there's no television for this game shows just how disappointing the Wildcats and Aggies have been this season. While Kyle Field is one of the nation's tougher environments in which to steal a road win, Mike Sherman's team has already lost twice on their home turf. Will the Wildcats make it three? QB Josh Freeman may be the talk of NFL Draft gurus due to his skill set, but he doesn't have top-level playmakers to get the ball to. In a toss-up, the Aggies get their first conference win under Coach Sherman.

2:30 PM ET No. 13 Vanderbilt at Mississippi State on ESPN GamePlan 

Why are many talking about this game as a possible upset? The Commodores have been living off of the mistakes of others, cashing in when the opportunity presents itself. But behind that 5-0 mark lies a team that is one of the SEC's worst in both total offense and total defense. Lying in wait is a Mississippi State team in need of a positive result in the worst way. The Bulldogs haven't been much better on offense, and they'll lean heavily upon their running game to control things. QB Mackenzi Adams will make a play to help the Commodores get to 6-0, but they're going to work awfully hard to leave Starkville with a win.

2:30 PM ET Ohio at Kent State on ESPN GamePlan

How well the Golden Flashes play in this one will depend upon how effective RB Eugene Jarvis is after missing last week's game due to an injury. Of course it was the kicking game that failed Kent State in their overtime loss to Akron last weekend, so that'll be another area to keep an eye on. The Bobcats, on the other hand, haven't been able to produce much on offense and all that extra time on the field has left the defense in a bad position most of the time. Kent State wins.

3:00 PM ET Nebraska at No. 7 Texas Tech on Fox Sports Net

For those who thought that things couldn't get any worse for the Nebraska defense after last week's primetime pasting at the hands of Missouri...think again. Big days from Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree as the Red Raiders pad some stats in Lubbock.

3:30 PM ET Arizona State at No. 8 USC on ABC

What was thought to be a showcase of the Pac-10's best teams when the season began has now become a game featuring the walking wounded. USC will have LB Rey Maualuga back in the lineup after his missed the Oregon win with a knee injury, but QB Mark Sanchez is a gametime decision due to a bone bruise. Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain would get the start in the Coliseum if the redshirt junior is unable to go. As for the Sun Devils, QB Rudy Carpenter is also a gametime decision, with Danny Sullivan being the guy should Carpenter be unable to play. But according to head coach Dennis Erickson, they're expecting Sullivan to be the guy. But the Trojans will win this one because they've still got loads of talent on defense, and that's bad news for a Sun Devil offensive line that has struggled thus far.

3:30 PM ET Tennessee at No. 10 Georgia on CBS

This looks like a blowout on paper, but keep in mind that the Volunteers have won the last two meetings in Athens and three of four overall. But given the level that the Tennessee offense has played at this season, not sure if a close game is in the cards. But Georgia will win a game that's closer than many think due to their own injury situation, with a number of key contributors either missing the game (the Dawgs are down to their 3rd string tight end) or banged up heading into it.

3:30 PM ET Purdue at No. 12 Ohio State on ABC

Purdue QB Curtis Painter was called out by his head coach earlier this week, with Coach Joe Tiller stating that while they wouldn't be making a change at the position more production would be needed. And an awakening for Painter would be the Boilermakers' best shot at winning this game, but can they actually engage the Buckeyes in a shootout? The answer most likely will be "no", with Terrelle Pryor picking up his second conference win as a Buckeye.

3:30 PM ET Notre Dame at No. 22 North Carolina on ESPN

This game is huge for Notre Dame, as much for the perception of the program as its development. The Irish haven't fared too well on the road the past couple of seasons, and a win in Chapel Hill would do wonders for the confidence of this young team. But an issue that has come up of late for them has been team speed, something that Butch Davis' Tar Heels certainly don't lack. Can the Irish secondary contain the ACC's best receiving corps? Can the front seven slow down a capable stable of running backs as well? Don't see that happening, but Notre Dame should hang around in this one.

3:30 PM ET No. 23 Michigan State at Northwestern on ESPN2

Like fellow scholars Vanderbilt, the Wildcats of Northwestern head into this game with a 5-0 record and dreams of winning the Big Ten. But if Pat Fitzgerald's team wants to move to 6-0, they're going to have to slow down one of the nation's best running backs in Javon Ringer. Ringer is second in the nation in rushing despite the lack of a consistent passing game to keep defenses honest. Northwestern will counter with a solid tailback of their own in senior Tyrell Sutton, but his quarterback (C.J. Bacher) has performed better this season than the Spartans' Brian Hoyer. A big day from Hoyer could deliver Michigan State a huge road win, but the Wildcats have just enough to get the job done. Northwestern wins what should be a fun game to watch.

3:30 PM ET TCU at Colorado State on CBS College Sports

Let's be honest here: even though the game is in Fort Collins, the Rams don't stand much of a chance against one of the Mountain West's best defenses in TCU. And look for Horned Frogs QB Andy Dalton to make some plays with both his arm and legs in the win.

3:30 PM ET Gardner-Webb at Georgia Tech

Gardner-Webb did beat Kentucky last season...but that was in basketball. Keep an eye on two Yellow Jackets in this one: RB Jonathan Dwyer and WR Demaryius Thomas. They both have gamebreaking ability.

3:30 PM ET Western Michigan at Buffalo

Buffalo head coach Turner Gill has done an admirable job in turning around what was one of the nation's worst football programs just a few seasons ago. But can he deliver the Bulls and their faithful their first-ever MAC title? A win here would go a long way in accomplishing that feat, but they'll have their hands full with the Broncos. QB Drew Willy will make enough plays to get Buffalo the win.

3:45 PM ET UCF at Miami (FL) on ESPNU

Miami's been a team in search of an identity this season, but that's a whole lot better than a UCF team that's been on the receiving end of some ugly beatings after winning Conference USA in 2007. But to assume that the Golden Knights would play as poorly as they did at UTEP a few weeks ago (a 58-3 beating) wouldn't be a smart thing to do. If Miami goes in expecting the UCF team that took USF to overtime then they should be fine. If not, they'll have to expend a lot more energy than many think they should.

4:00 PM ET Temple at Central Michigan

The Owls have dealt with some painful losses this season, and on the surface it wouldn't help to be playing their fifth road game of the season at defending MAC champion Central Michigan. But Temple is coming off of a win at Miami (Ohio) and are 2-2 on the road this season. One of the losses was the Hail Mary at Buffalo; the other came at Penn State. Dan LeFevour leads one of the conference's more potent offenses for CMU head coach Butch Jones, but the Chippewas don't exactly strike fear in the hearts of their opponents with their defense. That's why Temple can, and will, pull off the upset on the road.

4:00 PM ET Miami (OH) at Northern Illinois on ESPN GamePlan 

Before the season began, Miami (OH) was thought to be a serious contender in the wide-open MAC East Division. But a loss at Northern Illinois may be the first nail in the coffin for Miami, with the main problem being their anemic offense that hasn't provided much relief for the defense. That's why Jerry Kill's budding program at NIU will win this one in DeKalb.

4:05 PM ET New Mexico State at Nevada on ESPN GamePlan

This one sets up to be a WAC shootout that'll go a long way in deciding the pecking order behind Boise State (not so sure about Fresno State after last week's home loss to Hawaii). New Mexico State's Chase Holbrook and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick are two of the conference's best quarterbacks, and neither defense has produced much in 2008. The Wolf Pack will win this game because it's in Reno, but to do so they'll have to eclipse forty points.

5:00 PM ET Arkansas at No. 20 Auburn on ESPN GamePlan

Five games in and the "Tony Franklin Experience" is over on The Plains. Offensive line coach Steve Ensminger will take over the playcalling duties for Tommy Tuberville's Tigers, with the hope being that Auburn can produce something on the scoreboard. Luckily for them, they'll be taking on an equally inept Arkansas offense that's been blown out in consecutive weeks by Texas and Florida. But Bobby Petrino will look across the field and see an Auburn offense that may be worse than his despite the disparity in talent. The differences: the Jordan-Hare crowd and a still-powerful Auburn defense. War Eagle.

5:00 PM ET Arizona at Stanford 

The Wildcats find themselves tied atop the Pac-10 standings, and a win here would set up a first-place showdown with Cal next weekend. QB Willie Tuitama has been slinging the ball to the likes of WR Mike Thomas and TE Rob Gronkowski, and RB Nic Grigsby has put up some solid numbers as well. But the trip to The Farm is a tricky one, especially when it comes to slowing down a back the caliber of Stanford's Toby Gerhart. Arizona will win this game by forcing Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard to win it with his arm.

6:00 PM ET New Mexico at No. 9 Brigham Young on The Mtn.

Rocky Long's Lobos will make the Cougars work because they refuse to lie down for anyone. But I don't see them winning in Provo, especially with BYU being one of the nation's most balanced teams. BYU keeps the ball rolling in 2008.

6:00 PM ET Bowling Green at Akron 

A toss-up game in the MAC West, with the winner throwing their hat in the ring to challenge favorites Central Michigan and Western Michigan. QB Tyler Sheehan has already led the Falcons to a win at Pittsburgh, so winning in the Glass Bowl shouldn't be terribly difficult. Head coach J.D. Brookhart's Zips are coming off of an overtime win at rival Kent State, but they lack the offensive weapons needed to knock off Bowling Green.

6:30 PM ET Washington State at Oregon State on Fox College Sports 

Oregon State may be inconsistent, but Washington State is a flat-out bad football team. Beavers defend their home turf with a win in this one.

7:00 PM ET No. 25 Ball State at Western Kentucky 

Ball State hits the road with their Top 25 ranking, and you'd have to wonder if there would be any kind of hangover following the good news. Unfortunately for WKU, they host a team looking to honor a fallen teammate (WR Dante Love, whose career is finished due to a severe neck injury) by winning every game. The Cardinals will pick up another win thanks in large part to QB Nate Davis.

7:00 PM ET Iowa State at Baylor on Fox College Sports

When's the last time that Baylor has been a favorite in a conference game? Not sure of the exact date, but it's a good sign of the work that Art Briles has been able to get done in just his first season in Waco. The record isn't impressive (2-3), but they've been competitive. And that's a definite start. As for Cyclones, they've been helped by a weak early schedule, and QB Austen Arnaud has been coming into his own in recent weeks. Arnaud and Baylor's Robert Griffin II are two of the Big 12's quarterbacks of the future, and the Bears will win a conference home game that should be entertaining to watch.

7:00 PM ET Louisiana-Lafayette at North Texas

Neither team is very good, but North Texas will defend their house this week. They were unable to do so last weekend when Florida International won in Denton.

7:00 PM ET Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State on ESPN GamePlan

Arkansas State has won at Texas A&M and given Arkansas all they wanted in Fayetteville. So they should be able to take care of business against the Warhawks.

7:00 PM ET Middle Tennessee State at Florida International 

Head coach Mario Cristobal picked up the first Sun Belt road win of his coaching career when the Panthers won at North Texas last week. But they'll have their hands full with a Middle Tennessee State team full of confidence after they beat defending Sun Belt co-champion FAU last Tuesday. The quirky schedule also gave the Blue Raiders a few extra days to get healthy, something that's invaluable in the middle of a football season. Look for QB Joe Craddock to lead MTSU to the win.

7:30 PM ET Utah State at San Jose State on ESPNU

Brent Guy's Aggies are a little better than they were in 2007...but they still don't have what it takes to win a WAC game on the road just yet.

8:00 PM ET No. 17 Oklahoma State at No. 3 Missouri on ESPN2

This one sets up to be an old-fashioned shootout in Columbia. Many know all about the Missouri attack, but what about Mike Gundy's Cowboys? QB Zac Robinson leads one of the nation's best offensive attacks. But while OSU comes into this game ranked seventeenth in the country, there's a feeling among some that they've been underrated. Why? A defense that was porous last season hasn't really been tested so far. They'll get all they want and then some from Gary Pinkel's Tigers. And that lack of confidence in the Oklahoma State defense is exactly why the Tigers are the pick here.

8:00 PM ET No. 4 LSU at No. 11 Florida on CBS

This preview can be read at http://www.collegehoopsnet.com/college-football-3-lsu-11-florida-preview-115192 .

8:00 PM ET No. 6 Penn State at Wisconsin on ESPN

The Badgers made history when the schedule came out, drawing Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State to begin conference play. Never had that happened in the history (11-team era) of the Big Ten, and now we know why no one wants to be the second. Wisconsin blew a 19-0 halftime lead and lost at Michigan, then couldn't stop the Buckeyes from driving down the field for the gamewinning touchdown in Madison last week. Do they have enough to slow down the vanted "HD Offense"? Doubt they have the weapons to keep up on the scorebord should a shootout take place, but they do have three running backs (P.J. Hill, Zach Brown and John Clay) that can grind the clock and keep the ball out of Penn State QB Daryll Clark's hands. Bret Bielema's bunch will come out angry, but they just don't have enough to keep the Nittany Lions from winning this game.

8:00 PM ET No. 15 Boise State at Southern Miss on CBS College Sports

Hattiesburg is a tough place to play, but the Broncos have already won at Oregon. A tougher defense awaits them in this intersectional battle, but QB Kellen Moore, RB Ian Johnson and the rest of the Boise State offense have enough to get the job done.

8:00 PM ET Tulsa at Southern Methodist 

Why even lie about this one: SMU is in some serious trouble because they turn the ball over too much (QB Bo Levi Mitchell has already thrown fifteen picks), and they're defense isn't very good. Tulsa wins this one big.

9:05 PM ET Tulane at UTEP 

The Green Wave, who looked terrible in their loss to Army last week, visit El Paso to take on a UTEP team that hasn't been much better to start the season. But the last team down on its luck to visit UTEP was UCF, and all they did was lose 58-3. The Miners get a win here.

9:30 PM ET Air Force at San Diego State on The Mtn.

Air Force will win this game because they do a good job of not shooting themselves in the foot, while the Aztecs can't seem to stay out of their own way at times.

10:00 PM ET Idaho at Fresno State on ESPN GamePlan

The Bulldogs should be p.o.'d following their loss to Hawaii last week. Add to this an Idaho team still finding its way under head coach Robb Akey and you have all the makings for a Bulldog win.

10:15 PM ET UCLA at Oregon on Fox Sports Net

Both played in the L.A. area last weekend, with the Ducks falling hard to USC and UCLA taking care of Washington State. But playing in Autzen Stadium will be an entirely different experience for QB Kevin Craft. Truth be told, the Bruins are in some serious trouble up in Eugene.

12:05 AM ET Louisiana Tech at Hawaii

Speaking of trouble, you've got a struggling Louisiana State team flying out to Hawaii to take on a Warrior team that's full of confidence after winning at Fresno State last week. And Georgia Tech transfer Taylor Bennett has taken a little longer than hoped to produce in the Tech system. Hawaii will win this one to pick up their second conference win.