College Football: Saturday Preview

    
September 20th, 2008

Friday night brought about the second straight nailbiter between the Big 12 and Big East, with Connecticut hanging on to the 31-28 win over Baylor to move to 4-0. Donald Brown was as good as advertised on the night, rushing for two touchdowns and 150 yards on the night. But the Husky defense had its hands full with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who accounted for 254 yards of total offense and four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing).

The Huskies survived two key red-zone interceptions thrown by Tyler Lorenzen, but they clearly need more from the passing game heading into their Big East opener at Louisville next Friday. As for the Bears (2-2), fans can't help but see this young team and smile about the future of the program. But the conference opener in two weeks will be a major test with Oklahoma visitng Waco. Now for the Saturday schedule and game previews.

12:00 PM ET Troy at No. 13 Ohio State on Big Ten Network 

I think the Buckeyes will have an easier time in handling these Trojans, unlike what happened in the LA Coliseum last Saturday. No Beanie Wells and who the starting quarterback will be is a gametime decision, but the sky isn't falling in Columbus and the Bucks will be fine.

12:00 PM ET No. 15 East Carolina at North Carolina State on ESPN 

The Pirates pulled one out at Tulane last week in the game's final two minutes, but can they do the same in Raleigh? NC State hasn't looked too impressive in games against South Carolina and Clemson, but with running backs as talented as Andre Brown and Curtis Underwood, Jr. State could get some things done on offense. Then again, West Virginia didn't have much success against the Pirates a few weeks ago. Want an unheralded defensive player to watch? How about NC State's Nate Irving, who ranks fourth in the ACC in tackles per game (9.3) and has three picks and a fumble recovery. But I like the Pirates to pick up a close win on the road.

12:00 PM ET Temple at No. 16 Penn State on Big Ten Network 

After back-to-back losses on the final play of the game, Temple heads to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. I don't like the looks of this for the Owls, but expect to see a little more fight from Coach Golden's team than you would from previous Temple squads.

12:00 PM ET Mississippi State at Georgia Tech on  ESPN GamePlan

The Jackets had two costly turnovers in their loss at Virginia Tech last week, but at least their offense showed some spark. Can't say the same for the Bulldogs, especially the passing game. I like Tech to win a defensive struggle.

12:00 PM ET Florida Atlantic at Minnesota on Big Ten Network 

The Owls won the last meeting between the two schools, defeating the Golden Gophers 42-39 in 2006. But Tim Brewster's program has improved over the past two seasons, which could mean that Minnesota takes care of business before they head into Big Ten play. But QB Rusty Smith is the best offensive player in the Sun Belt, and FAU won't have to deal with the harsh weather that plagued them against Michigan State last week. And Minnesota doesn't have a running back as good as MSU's Javon Ringer either. I'll take the Owls by a field goal.

12:00 PM ET Iowa at Pittsburgh on ESPN2

This one is a true toss-up. Going off of preseason hype the Panthers should take care of business here, but games aren't played on paper. Can the Hawkeyes slow down LeSean McCoy? Can either team get consistent production from their passing games? Both teams have solid receivers, most notable Andy Brodell (Iowa) and Derek Kinder (Pitt), but the quarterback position hasn't been consistent for either team. Who wins this one rests upon the shoulders of Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) and Pat Bostick (Pitt), but I'll take the Panthers since they're at home in this one.

12:00 PM ET Central Michigan at Purdue on Big Ten Network 

Central Michigan gave up fifty-plus in both meetings with the Boilermakers last season, and their defense really hasn't improved much in 2008. I like the Boilers to rack up some big numbers and recover from their overtime loss to Oregon.

12:03 PM ET Ohio at Northwestern on Big Ten Network

Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats move to 4-0 after taking care of a Bobcat team that has shown little in the way of a threat via the pass.

12:30 PM ET No. 9 Alabama at Arkansas on ESPN GamePlan

It would be easy to cite Arkansas' two close wins over Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe and say they'd be lucky to finish within 21 points in this one. But Bama struggled with Tulane in their home opener a couple of weeks ago, and you never know what to expect in the SEC. Maybe having the Texas game postponed helped the Razorbacks, giving them an extra week to work out the kinks in anticipation of the first SEC opener for Bobby Petrino. I'm going with the Crimson Tide in this one, but this will be a four quarter ballgame.

1:00 PM ET South Carolina State at No. 23 Clemson 

Stat-padding time for the Tigers, as they take care of the school from nearby Spartanburg.

1:00 PM ET UCF at Boston College on ESPNU

UCF may be without Kevin Smith, who's now showing his wares in the NFL, but their overtime loss to USF shows just how dangerous they can be. Now they visit a Boston College team that looked downright anemic in their home loss to Georgia Tech, and an upset could be brewing in this one. BC's lost a lot more than just Matt Ryan on offense, notably running backs L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender and tackle Gosder Cherilus. Will Chris Crane get all the snaps under center for the Eagles, or will Dominique Davis see even more time in order to add some spice to the BC attack? Davis will get chances to make plays, and with their lack of playmakers he could be the long-term answer this season. But I don't think it'll matter in this one. I like the Knights.

1:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan at Maryland

As long as they remain focused on the task at hand, I expect the Terrapins to follow up their win over California with a win over the Eagles.

1:00 PM ET Akron at Army on ESPN Classic

Army hasn't looked too good to start the year, and that's a good reason to go with the Zips.

2:00 PM ET Buffalo at No. 5 Missouri 

The Tigers are dealing with some injuries, but they should have little trouble with the Bulls. Expect big numbers from Chase Daniel.

3:00 PM ET Wyoming at No. 14 Brigham Young on The Mtn.

If this game were in Laramie, I'd give the Cowboys a chance. But it's in Provo. And after watching what happened to UCLA last weekend, I don't give them much of a chance. But they will score.

3:00 PM ET Indiana State at Northern Illinois on ESPN GamePlan

I like the Huskies in this one.  

3:00 PM ET Louisiana-Monroe at Tulane 

This should be a close game, with both teams owning close calls against SEC teams so far this season. But I like Tulane to get their first win of the season in this one.

3:11 PM ET Arizona at UCLA on Fox Sports Net

The Pac-10 opener for two teams that fell to Mountain West opponents last weekend. But turnovers did in the Wildcats at New Mexico; UCLA just got flat-out whipped by BYU. I like the Wildcats to kick off conference play 1-0 thanks to a potent offense and a defense that will go up against an erratic UCLA offense. Will either team challenge USC at the top of the Pac-10? No. But this game could go a long way in determining bowl eligibility come season's end.

3:30 PM ET No. 4 Florida at Tennessee on CBS 

There's been talk (from Florida LB Brandon Spikes) that the Vols quit in last season's 59-20 beating. The natives in Knoxville are restless for a game that annually sets the tone for the SEC East race even though the winner isn't always guaranteed a spot in the SEC Championship Game (Tennessee recovered from their beating to represent the East). The running game will ultimately decide this one: can Florida get anything from a rusher not named Tim Tebow? And how effective can a running back group led by Arian Foster be for the Volunteers? As much as I'd like to stress the running game, I compare Tebow to Jonathan Crompton. No disrespect to Crompton, but I'd take Tebow in a big game. Gators win, but Tennessee won't be accused of quitting at game's end.

3:30 PM ET Boise State at No. 17 Oregon 

How is there no national coverage for this game? You've got two teams that come season's end could be in the running for a BCS berth and there's not one network to pick this game up? Wow. The Ducks are already down two quarterbacks on the season, losing Justin Roper in overtime at Purdue last week. Chris Harper and Jeremiah Masoli will see action for the Ducks, but look for backs Jeremiah Johnson and LaGarrette Blount to get a lot of work in this one. As for the Broncos, freshman QB Kellen Moore ranks tenth in the nation in pass efficiency, and a loaded backfield relieves some of the pressure to make plays. I like the Broncos to keep it close, but a freshman in one of the nation's roughest environments for a visitor...I like the Ducks.

3:30 PM ET Houston at Colorado State 

Houston fought back last week, only to lose by three to Air Force. But I like the Cougars to win a close one in Fort Collins this week.  Look for some good numbers from Cougar QB Case Keenum.

3:30 PM ET Notre Dame at Michigan State on ABC

This game will be a stiffer test for the Irish than last weekend's 35-17 win over Michigan. This series boasts a number of close games, but the Spartans dominated their meeting in 2007. But the Spartans need to show a little more on offense other than Javon Ringer. Then again, if he keeps running the ball the way he has so far this season maybe not. I think we learn a bit more about Notre Dame in a close loss this week than we have in either of their two wins to open the season. 

3:30 PM ET Virginia Tech at North Carolina on ABC

Virginia Tech proved me wrong last week in knocking off Georgia Tech. Tyrod Taylor has been the man on offense since the removal of his redshirt, and look for more of the same in this one. But the Heels boast one of the nation's best offensive threats in WR Brandon Tate, who went off on Rutgers last Thursday. Are the young Tar Heels ready to compete for a conference title? We'll find out here, but given the way the ACC has played to this point in the season one loss won't eliminate anyone this early in the season. I'll take the Heels by a field goal in this one.

3:30 PM ET Northeastern at Syracuse on ESPN GamePlan

This is the Orange's best chance to win a game this season. If they lose, will there be a coaching change come Monday? I don't think that question will need an answer, for the Huskies aren't very good.

3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) at Texas A&M on ABC

Texas A&M was embarassed in the Orange Bowl last season, beginning the slide that eventually cost Dennis Franchione his job. But now the young Hurricanes head to College Station to play in an environment every bit as intimidating as The Swamp was two weeks ago. But the Aggies haven't looked too smooth on offense due to the new system brought in by Mike Sherman. Who wins this game? I like the Hurricanes to get a big road win for a young team on the rise. If Arkansas State can win at Kyle Field, why can't Miami?

3:30 PM ET Rutgers at Navy on CBS College Sports

Rutgers needs a win here in the worst way, and the man caught in the crosshairs right now has to be QB Mike Teel. Despite ranking third in the Big East in passing yards per game, the senior has thrown five picks and just one touchdown. When you have playmakers on the outside the caliber of Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, that kind of ratio won't get the job done. Can the RU offense recover against a Navy defense that's been lit up in consecutive games by Ball State and Duke? Can the Knights slow down Navy's rushing attack? QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada should be even closer to full strength this weekend after missing the second half last week due to heat issues. He missed the first two games of the season due to a hamstring injury. I like the Midshipmen to end their two-game losing streak while extending Rutgers' skid to three.

3:30 PM ET Marshall at Southern Miss

Marshall gave Wisconsin a run for a half, then beat Memphis the next week. But I don't see them winning in Hattiesburg. Take the Eagles.

4:00 PM ET No. 20 Utah at Air Force on Versus

Many have talked about the Utes being a possible threat for a BCS berth, but that'll all go down the drain should they fall at Air Force. A bad trend for Utah of late: slow starts in their last two games against UNLV and Utah State. But they woke up to blow out both teams to reach 3-0. A slow start in Colorado Springs could flush everything down the drain. Head coach Troy Calhoun has yet to lose at home during his tenure at Air Force, but the Falcons haven't won a home game in this series since 2001. Utah's defense, ranked second in the conference against the run, will have its hands full with QB Sheas Smith and running backs Kyle Halderman and Kyle Lumpkin. All three rank in the league's top ten in rushing yards per game. Utah could be a threat to reach the BCS should they win out. But I don't think they win this game.

4:00 PM ET Alabama State at UAB

The Blazers should win this one, and I believe they will. 

4:00 PM ET Idaho at Utah State on ESPN GamePlan

Two of the worst teams in the FBS get together in the WAC opener for both. The Aggies gave Utah some trouble early in last week's game...then they were promptly blown out when the Utes decided to play. Idaho beat Idaho State two weeks ago (I picked the Bengals by the way), but they haven't won a road game since 2006 when they won at Louisiana Tech. They also won at Utah State in 2006, which started a three-game win streak that season for the Vandals. I'll take Idaho to win this one.

5:00 PM ET No. 12 South Florida at Florida International on ESPNU

This game shouldn't be close. But their only prior meeting was a one-point USF win a couple of years ago. I don't see the Bulls underestimating the Panthers this time around. USF wins comfortably.

7:00 PM ET Rice at No. 7 Texas on Fox Sports Net

Uh oh. Rice has Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillard, but they don't have enough athletes across the board to match up with Texas. Hook 'em.

7:00 PM ET Massachusetts at No. 11 Texas Tech

One team stands to score a lot of points in this one. And that team isn't UMass. Red Raiders roll.

7:00 PM ET No. 18 Wake Forest at No. 24 Florida State on ESPN2 

I think I might be the only person in America wondering why the Seminoles are ranked right now. Yes, they're 2-0. But who did they beat in those games? Two poor FCS opponents in Western Carolina and Chattanooga, and all of a sudden the talk from some is that the 'Noles are "back". I personally don't think so, but don't take that as saying they've got no shot to beat the Demon Deacons. WR Preston Parker is back after serving a two-game suspension for off-field transgressions, but FSU is still missing a number of contributors for a third game due to an academic scandal. A little motivation for Coach Bowden's bunch: Wake's 30-0 whipping of the Seminoles in their last trip to Tallahassee. QB Christian Ponder gets his first true test under center, and he may do well. But I still like Wake to pull out a close win on the road.

7:00 PM ET Sam Houston State at No. 19 Kansas 

The Jayhawks will roll in this one.

7:00 PM ET Ball State at Indiana on Big Ten Network 

A test for the Hoosiers, who really didn't have to sweat out wins over Western Kentucky and Murray State. Ball State QB Nate Davis could be the best quarterback the Hoosiers encounter this season, and WR Dante Love can hurt defenses in a variety of ways. But Kellen Lewis is pretty good in his own right, and IU returns enough firepower on offense to match the Cardinals score for score. I like the Hoosiers to move to 3-0, but they'll have to put in a little more work in this one.

7:00 PM ET Murray State at Western Kentucky

I like the Hilltoppers in this one.

7:00 PM ET Vanderbilt at Mississippi

Both teams have played better in the early going than many expected them two, especially an Vanderbilt team that would move to 2-0 in the SEC with a win. But they'll have their hands full with Jevan Snead and an Ole Miss offense that has improved leaps and bounds from 2007. Can Chris Nickson continue to play error-free football? If he can then Vandy has a shot to get the win on the road. If not, the Rebels will win the game. I like Ole Miss.

7:00 PM ET Portland State at Washington State 

This should be the first win of the Paul Wulff era at Washington State. Key word: should.

7:00 PM ET Kent State at Louisiana-Lafayette 

I like the Golden Flashes to get the road win. Lafayette isn't very good.

7:00 PM ET Middle Tennessee at Arkansas State 

Both teams own wins over BCS opponents (Middle Tennessee over Maryland, Arkansas State over Texas A&M), but the Blue Raiders should be in desperation mode after dropping their season (and conference) opener to Troy. A loss drops them to 0-2 in the league, something they cannot afford. I like the Blue Raiders on the road in a mild upset.

7:00 PM ET Southeastern Louisiana at Louisiana Tech on ESPN GamePlan

Coach Dooley gets another win for the Bulldogs.

7:00 PM ET Wofford at South Carolina 

The Gamecocks should win this one, and it may be a good environment in which to figure out the mess at quarterback. Chris Smelley didn't turn the ball over against Georgia last weekend, but it seems as if Coach Spurrier still isn't convinced as to who should be the man. Maybe this tuneup will help.

7:05 PM ET New Mexico at Tulsa 

New Mexico may have knocked off Arizona at home last week, but that's a whole different animal from playing an explosive Tulsa offense on the road. Golden Hurricane will win this one.

7:06 PM ET Tennessee Tech at Western Michigan

Broncos will win this one with ease.

7:30 PM ET Miami (OH) at Cincinnati

Tricky game for the Bearcats, but I think they'll be up to the task in what was once a huge rivalry. The question mark is new starter Tony Pike under center, replacing Dustin Grutza (broken leg) for the Bearcats.

7:45 PM ET No. 6 LSU at No. 10 Auburn on ESPN

The ultimate slugfest in the SEC, a game in which the strong survive and the weak are swept aside. LSU won last year's game on the final play, and it's fitting for a series that recently has come to be decided annually by one big play. Both teams have a wealth of talent and experience at every position except for one: quarterback. But unlike LSU's Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee, Auburn's Chris Todd and Kodi Burns will play in front of friendly faces in this one. Turnovers will decide this one and despite everything leading me to believe that Auburn will win, I like Charles Scott to have a big night in an LSU victory. The home team has won the last eight in this series, so that probably wasn't a wise selection.

8:00 PM ET No. 3 Georgia at Arizona State on ABC

Arizona State was probably more excited for this game than any other group in America. That would be a godo explanation for their second half collapse in losing to UNLV last week. But there's plenty of talent awaiting the Bulldogs in the desert despite ASU's struggles running the football so far this year. Georgia has also had issues on the offensive line, but they've got Knowshon Moreno carrying the football. They'll be west of the Mississippi for a regular season game for the first time since 1960, so you have to wonder if that will play tricks with their minds. The crowd at Sun Devil Stadium will be eager for the upset, but I saw too many bad habits in their loss last week to pick them this weekend. Georgia wins.

8:00 PM ET Nicholls State at Memphis

In terms of a "hot seat", the only coach in need of a win this weekend more than Tommy West at Memphis may be Syracuse's Greg Robinson. An 0-4 start for a team expected by some to be a player in Conference USA's East Division? Not too good. But I like them to beat Nicholls State.

8:00 PM ET TCU at Southern Methodist on CBS College Sports 

The Mustangs can sling the ball around, but they haven't encountered a team as physical as the Horned Frogs thus far. And SMU hasn't shown themselves to be big fans of defense either. TCU wins.

8:15 PM ET No. 25 Fresno State at Toledo on ESPNU 

I like Fresno State to erase the memory of last week's loss and take care of the Rockets. But in recent history the Bulldogs have allowed tough losses to snowball into losing skids. Let's see if they can prevent such a repeat.

9:00 PM ET San Jose State at Stanford 

This should be a close game, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if the Spartans won this game. But I'll take the Cardinal.

9:00 PM ET Iowa State at UNLV on The Mtn.

Iowa State showed little firepower in their 17-5 loss to rival Iowa last week. Now they go to Las Vegas to take on a team coming off of an upset win at Arizona State. A recipe for a road win as far as I'm concerned. I like the Cyclones.

9:05 PM ET New Mexico State at UTEP

Expect a lot of points in this one, but the Miners have shown themselves to be little more than a speed bump on defense. I like the Aggies, who could be a darkhorse in the WAC race.