College Football: Saturday Preview

    
November 8th, 2008

While last week provided some answers in regards to the national and conference title races sweeping the nation, they didn't do a whole lot to provide clarity in some instances. Florida is in the driver's seat in the SEC East and Alabama can punch their ticket to Atlanta on Saturday, but that's a long ways away from the logjam in the ACC. After Thursday night all 12 teams have at least two conference losses, and a noon matinee in Chapel Hill could give us a frontrunner in the Coastal Division. West Virginia could put a stranglehold on the Big East with a win over Cincinnati, and Penn State will look to continue their march towards perfection. As we get closer to the end of the regular season, we also close in on definitive answers. Here's the schedule for Saturday.

12:00 PM ET Baylor at No. 4 Texas on Fox Sports Net (regional)

The Longhorns should be pretty upset heading into this one, as they were one play away from making it through a treacherous four-game stretch unblemished. Pity Baylor, who has a freshman QB in Robert Griffin III who was the last quarterback to throw an inteception this season. Texas takes the Bears out behind the woodshed in Austin.

12:00 PM ET No. 11 Ohio State at No. 24 Northwestern on ESPN2

This game got a lot more interesting when Northwestern ran back an interception with twelve seconds left to knock off Minnesota last weekend. An interesting note on Ohio State: they're 1-4 under Jim Tressel following bye weeks. But with the Wildcats going without their top two running backs (Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh) and a banged-up QB in C.J. Bacher who may not play, it'll be tough for them to win this game even with the home field advantage. But no one saw them with seven wins heading into this game either. So I'll take the Wildcats in an upset, despite the deck stacked against them.

12:00 PM ET Purdue at No. 18 Michigan State on Big Ten Network

Simply put, Purdue isn't a very good football team. But they can win this game if they make Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer beat them. Hoyer hasn't been the most consistent quarterback out there this season, but when you have a guy like Javon Ringer to hand the ball off to you can get away with some things. That's why Michigan State will win this football game.

12:00 PM ET No. 20 Georgia Tech at No. 19 North Carolina on ESPN GamePlan

Although the Coastal Division race stands to be wide-open until the end of the season, this is a game that both teams need to win if they're to entertain any thoughts of getting to Tampa. See, both have already lost to Virginia Tech and Virginia, two of the other teams in the division that have yet to play each other. The loser of this one is most likely done in the race, while the winner still has some hope despite the need for help down the line. North Carolina is one of those teams that will look like they can be just about anyone one Saturday, and then they lose a game they should win the following week. Georgia Tech seems to be fine provided they avoid the turnovers that have plagued them on occasion this season. Due to their advantage in speed, I like the Heels to win at home. But this will be a wild one.

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

Both teams are holding onto some hope in regards to a bowl game, and despite the fact that they're in last place the Badgers may be the team more equipped to make a run. After the trip to Bloomington they host Minnesota and Cal Poly to close out the season. But which Dustin Sherer shows up under center for Wisconsin will determine this game. If Sherer is a good compliment to their running game, the Badgers will win. If not, the Hoosiers can steal this one and keep their slim bowl hopes alive. Wisconsin wins by a touchdown.

12:00 PM ET Michigan at Minnesota on ESPN

The "Little Brown Jug" is up for grabs in this one, but it really shouldn't be much of a contest. Michigan put up 42 points last weekend...only to have their once-solid defense give up 48. This one is all about the Golden Gophers' ability to recover from a painful loss like the one they suffered at the hands of Northwestern last weekend. That's the sign of a growing program, something that 2nd-year head coach Tim Brewster hopes will turn into a consistent player in the Big Ten for years to come. Look for Minnesota to walk off the field with a jug in tow.

12:00 PM ET Syracuse at Rutgers on ESPNU

Somehow the Orange beat Louisville for the second consecutive season last week, but can they go on the road and knock off a suddenly-hot Rutgers? No. In a game that has turned into a source of contention (who's New York's team?) in recent years, look for the Scarlet Knights to put another nail in the coffin of Greg Robinson's tenure in Syracuse.

12:00 PM ET Louisville at Pittsburgh on ESPN GamePlan 

Maybe last week's win at Notre Dame was the Panthers turning the page in their development, going from a team that finds ways to lose football games instead of finding a way to win them. Louisville has some talent, especially on offense, but this is a game that the Panthers have to win if they want to have any shot at the Big East crown. And with QB Bill Stull back in the lineup, Pittsburgh will win this game and keep their season rolling towards a showdown with West Virginia on the 29th.

12:00 PM ET Illinois at Western Michigan on ESPN GamePlan 

This is a dangerous football game for the Illini, who take a break from Big Ten play to visit the Broncos in Kalamazoo. For the Broncos, this game represents a chance to make themselves all the more appealing to bowl representatives who may be considering a third (or fourth) team from the MAC. Only a half-game behind Central Michigan and Ball State in the MAC West, WMU has a quarterback in Tim Hiller who has already thrown twenty-eight touchdowns and is approaching 3,000 yards through the air. Illinois may be in some trouble in this one, facing one of the best passing attacks that they've seen all year. And look for Western Michigan, provided their defense slows down Juice Williams, to win this game.

12:30 PM ET No. 13 Georgia at Kentucky on ESPN GamePlan

A Georgia team in a bad mood following last week's embarassing loss to Florida + a Kentucky team that has struggled on offense = Georgia win. But Kentucky has a solid defense that should keep them in the game for about a half.

1:00 PM ET Arkansas at South Carolina on ESPN GamePlan

While Arkansas needs wins to reach bowl eligibility, the Gamecocks have a chance to get to a warm destination should they win out. And with Steven Garcia playing well at quarterback and one of the SEC's better defenses, look for the Gamecocks to win this one going away.

1:00 PM ET Wyoming at Tennessee on ESPN GamePlan

The ongoing saga in Knoxville added with the fact that Tennessee isn't that good this year would normally be the recipe for a monumental upset in Neyland Stadium. But for as bad as Tennessee has been at times, Wyoming has been even worse. Tennessee will have little trouble in winning this one for their soon-to-be departed head coach.

1:37 PM ET Iowa State at Colorado on Versus

Colorado has practically fallen off the face of the college football landscape since their win over West Virginia, but for as poor as the young Buffaloes have played recently they have more talent than the Cyclones. Colorado wins in Boulder.

2:00 PM ET Utah State at No. 10 Boise State on ESPN GamePlan

I don't see the Boise State team busses getting lost on their way to the stadium, so there really isn't a chance for Utah State to spoil the Broncos' quest for an undefeated season. Boise wins big.

2:00 PM ET San Diego State at No. 15 Brigham Young on The Mtn.

At some point BYU will wake up from the trance that has stuck with them since that loss at TCU. And it could be this week. But even if it isn't, SDSU seems to be playing out the string at this point. Cougars roll in hopes to getting to that season finale against Utah with the Mountain West title on the line.

2:00 PM ET Bowling Green at Ohio 

I'll take the Falcons in this one, for their offense has been a bit more impressive throughout the season than Ohio's unit.

2:30 PM ET Tennessee-Martin at Auburn 

There really isn't a way in which the Auburn Tigers can lose this game. But if they do, I pretty much guarantee a press conference with a funereal feel to it on Monday.

2:30 PM ET Kansas at Nebraska 

No television for this one, but that shouldn't erase any of the hard feelings in Lincoln over last season's affair. Kansas took out decades of frustration on the Huskers in Lawrence, not stopping until they'd hung 76 points on Bill Callahan's last team. How many times do you think the number 76 was brought up in the months leading into the rematch? But while Nebraska is better equipped to hang with the Jayhawks, they still aren't good enough to beat them. Kansas by a touchdown.

3:00 PM ET Army at Rice

Army has played some decent football of late, but unless Rice turns the ball over at an alarming rate the Black Knights don't have enough to slow down the combination of Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillard.

3:00 PM ET Memphis at Southern Methodist

Anything that the Tigers don't take for themselves will be made up for by the Mustangs' maddening ability to turn the ball over. SMU is one of the worst in America in turnover margin, something that should help the Tigers pick up a conference road win.

3:30 PM ET No. 1 Alabama at No. 16 LSU CBS 

See "Three Games, Two Views" for more information.

3:30 PM ET No. 3 Penn State at Iowa on ABC

The final road game of the season for the Nittany Lions, but this a tricky football game. RB Shonn Greene is the only back in the nation to rush for more than 100 yards in every game this season, so he'll be the focal point for a stout Penn State defense. So the question regards Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi. He's played better of late, but can he be consistent enough to knock off one of the nation's best football teams? No. Look for Penn State to survive this one thanks to their balance on offense and the ability to take away Greene and put this one on the arm of Stanzi.

3:30 PM ET No. 6 Oklahoma at Texas A&M on ABC

Texas A&M has played better on offense of late behind QB Jerrod Johnson. But he's nowhere near Sam Bradford, who leads one of the country's most explosive offenses. Look for Oklahoma to pull away in the second half due to their prolific attack.

3:30 PM ET Clemson at No. 22 Florida State on ABC

Does Papa Bowden head into this one looking to avenge his recently-dismissed son Tommy? No, for the ACC Atlantic race is far too wild to focus on personal vendettas. But the Tigers aren't necessarily out of the race either, despite the fact that they'd need a lot of help to win the division thanks to losses to Maryland and Wake Forest. Clemson has the talent to win this game, and the Seminoles had to suspend a couple of players (including WR Bert Reed) due to a violation of team rules earlier in the week. Which means that despite how disappointing this season has been, Clemson goes on the road and throws the Atlantic race into complete chaos.

3:30 PM ET North Carolina State at Duke 

With four games to go the Blue Devils have a chance to win two and reach bowl eligibility. And if they do that, David Cutcliffe should receive at least one vote for ACC Coach of the Year. And with struggling NC State visiting Durham, win number five could be on the way. And look for Duke to do just that.

3:30 PM ET Marshall at East Carolina on CBS College Sports

The winner of this one takes control of the Conference USA East race, and it comes down to one record: 1-3, as in Marshall's record on the road this season. ECU uses the quarterback tandem of Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass to reach bowl eligibility and move one step closer to a East Division title.

3:30 PM ET Virginia at Wake Forest on ESPNU

Another toss-up game in the ACC, and this one may come down to Wake's ability to hold onto the football. If they give Virginia too many opportunities to put points on the board, the Demon Deacons could very well flush their chances to win the Atlantic Division down the drain. Look for Riley Skinner and Josh Adams to have solid days in a close Wake Forest victory.

3:30 PM ET Southern Miss at UCF 

UCF lost a heartbreaker to ECU on Sunday night, but this is another game that they can win. And they will find a way to knock off the Golden Eagles at home.

3:30 PM ET Louisiana-Monroe at Middle Tennessee State

The Blue Raiders will defend their home turf and win a close one. Outside of Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette there isn't much rhyme or reason to the Sun Belt race.

3:30 PM ET Stanford at Oregon on Fox Sports Net

Jeremiah Masoli was playing well at quarterback leading into their game at Cal last week, but he and the rest of the Ducks struggled in the loss in Berkeley. Look for both teams to run the ball in this one, with backs Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and Jeremiah Johnson (Oregon) having decent days. But in Masoli and LaGarrette Blount the Ducks have a pair of trump cards that Jim Harbaugh doesn't have a Stanford just yet. Oregon wins at Autzen.

3:30 PM ET Western Kentucky at Troy on ESPN GamePlan

Another taste of life in the Sun Belt for WKU, who will join the league next season. But right now they don't have enough right now to beat one of the best teams in the conference, especially on the road. Trojans win.

4:00 PM ET Hawaii at New Mexico State on ESPN GamePlan

Hawaii heads across the Pacific for another conference game, this time to take on a banged-up New Mexico State team. Warriors win, but they won't embarass the Aggies to the level that Boise State did last week.

4:00 PM ET North Texas at Florida Atlantic

Do you see North Texas really winning this game? I don't either.

5:00 PM ET Arizona at Washington State 

This has been one of the Pac-10's wildest series of late, with overtime periods and hail marys being a part of its history the last fifteen years or so. But neither team has been as bad as Washington State is this season. Arizona should roll in this one, but if you know the recent history of their program, you know that the sixth win of the season (and bowl eligibility) won't come as easy as it should.

6:00 PM ET Colorado State at Air Force on The Mtn.

Air Force wins this one, but the Rams will put up a few points in defeat.

6:07 PM ET Oregon State at UCLA on Fox College Sports Pacific

UCLA has found a way to hang around in some games this season, and they should do the same in this one. But Oregon State is a team that in recent years has caught fire in the second half of a season, which is why they will not lose this game. A win here also keeps them in the driver's seat for the Pac-10's automatic bid to the BCS, regardless of what USC does against Cal later in the evening.

7:00 PM ET Kansas State at No. 14 Missouri on Fox Sports Net

Ron Prince's reign in Manhattan will come to an end when the season is over, not even getting a fourth season to turn things around. And with such a somber attitude around the team, it's not a good time to have to visit Missouri. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin put up big numbers in a Missouri rout.

7:00 PM ET Cincinnati at No. 25 West Virginia on ESPNU 

A West Virginia win at home makes them the clear frontrunner in the Big East, while a Cincinnati win would throw the race for a loop. It seems like Bearcat quarterbacks are finding their health at just the right time, with Dustin Grutza able to practice this week. He most likely won't play, but Tony Pike and Chazz Anderson have played well when called upon this season. But can Cincinnati slow down Pat White and the many weapons at his disposal. It'll be a close one, but look for the Mountaineers to win and keep their stranglehold on the Big East race.

7:00 PM ET UTEP at Louisiana-Lafayette on ESPN GamePlan

Has UTEP's defense improved enough to win a game that they should win on the road? I say yes. Miners win a close one.

7:00 PM ET Arkansas State at Florida International

Arkansas State escapes this one and wins by a field goal, staying in the Sun Belt race as a result.

7:07 PM ET Arizona State at Washington

Both teams are banged-up, and they aren't very good. But a less than 100% Rudy Carpenter is better than anyone that Tyrone Willingham can put out on the field, meaning that the Huskies will finish one more weekend looking for their first win of the season.

8:00 PM ET No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 2 Texas Tech on ABC (regional)

See "Three Games, Two Views" for more information.

8:00 PM ET No. 5 Florida at Vanderbilt on ESPN2

Could this be a trap game for the Gators? Yes, but they've looked so focused since that loss to Ole Miss that they might not stop until Urban Meyer is holding up another crystal ball in January. Vanderbilt will compete, but they simply lack the athletes to pull this one off. Gators roll. 
 
8:00 PM ET No. 21 California at No. 7 USC on ABC (regional) 

See "Three Games, Two Views" for more information.

8:00 PM ET Louisiana Tech at San Jose State

San Jose State has one of the better defenses in the WAC, but can it compensate for one of the worst offenses in the conference? Yes, so look for the Spartans to win a close one over the Bulldogs.

8:00 PM ET Notre Dame at Boston College on ESPN 

This is an entertaining rivalry to watch, with BC having the upper hand in recent years. But Notre Dame has seen an improvement in their offensive production this season, led by the maturation of QB Jimmy Clausen. Does Boston College have enough in the secondary to slow down the Irish passing game? Can Chris Crane and the offense protect the football and not give Notre Dame a short field? Boston College by a field goal.

8:00 PM ET Tulane at Houston on CBS College Sports

RB Andre Anderson is out once again for the Green Wave, vritually eliminating any chance they had of keeping up with the Cougars on the scoreboard.

10:00 PM ET New Mexico at UNLV

Expect a lot of rushes in this one, a game between two teams that need all the wins they can get from this point forward to reach bowl eligibility. And given the hot seat under head coach Mike Sanford heading into the season, these may be desperate times for the Rebels. Look for the Lobos to win by a field goal and move one step closer to a bowl game. And with the New Mexico Bowl being played on their home field, they could be a lot closer to that goal than you'd think.