Saturday Football Preview

September 12th, 2009


12:00 PM ET Syracuse at No. 7 Penn State

Greg Paulus had a rather tame "welcome to college football" last weekend, and with the exception of one forced throw played well. Now he and the Orange will hit the road to take on Penn State, where 106,000-plus will say "WELCOME TO COLLEGE FOOTBALL!!!" Last season's meeting got out of hand quickly, and even with QB Daryll Clark losing three prolific weapons the same could happen in the rematch. Doug Marrone's team will fight, but they simply don't have enough talent to beat Penn State right now. Lions win, putting in a little more effort than many will expect.


12:00 PM ET No. 19 North Carolina at Connecticut

If not for Michigan State these two schools would have played for the national title in April. But fans will have to settle for a rematch on the gridiron, and Husky rooters will hope that there won't be a repeat of last season's 38-12 beating. Linebacker Bruce Carter blocked three punts for the Tar Heels and defensive tackle Marvin Austin picked off a pass and scored a touchdown. That was also the first start for Zach Frazer and things didn't go well at all for the Notre Dame transfer.


Frazer threw three interceptions in the loss, and he also threw three in the win over Ohio last weekend. But the play of running backs Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon, along with the always-solid defense, saved the Huskies from disaster. They'll need to take care of the football against a very talented North Carolina team in order to have any chance at an upset. T.J. Yates should have a better week throwing the football and RB Shawn Draughn may be the best back in the ACC that no one talks about. Carolina wins by a touchdown.


12:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan at Northwestern

Look for Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats to pick up where they left off last Saturday, taking care of the Eagles by a sizeable margin.


12:00 PM ET Western Michigan at Indiana

Given the quality of Western Michigan's offensive line Indiana DE Jammie Kirlew could be in store for a big afternoon. Then again, the Hoosiers did have to hang on to beat Eastern Kentucky. This leads to the following question: is it better to beat Eastern Kentucky by a small margin or get blown out by Michigan? Indiana's the pick, but it wouldn't be s surprise if Tim Hiller lit them up and led the Broncos to their second win over a Big Ten opponent in as many years (Illinois).


12:00 PM ET Central Michigan at Michigan State

Dan LeFevour and company had a tough go of it at Arizona last weekend, with the Wildcats exposing their weakness on the lines. The Spartans can do the same, and they will do just that. LeFevour makes a few plays but he'll be kept under wraps by LB Greg Jones and company in a Michigan State victory.

12:00 PM ET Stanford at Wake Forest

The talk by Riley Skinner and company heading into 2009 was their desire to limit turnovers, something that killed the Demon Deacons in 2008. Season opener against Baylor: three interceptions in what turned out to be a three-point loss to the Bears. In comes a Stanford team that, while nowhere near as explosive offensively as Baylor, can make some things happen offensively. Andrew Luck played well in his college debut last week and he's got a dependable option in RB Toby Gerhart to help carry the load. Jim Harbaugh also has a solid defense at his disposal, and they can take advantage of mistakes made by Wake Forest. But this looks like a week in which Skinner and company recover from their opening game loss, taking care of the football in a solid victory.


12:00 PM ET Fresno State at Wisconsin

Similar to their game against Northern Illinois last weekend, the Badgers will be in for a physical affair. Pat Hill's Bulldogs don't back down from BCS opponents (they seem to have a problem recovering from conference losses though), and the same held true in last year's close meeting in Fresno. Bret Bielema will lean on the running back tandem of John Clay and Zach Brown, hoping that they'll run the ball well enough to ensure that QB Scott Tolzien won't have to win the game by himself. This will be a tough, hard-nosed game but look for Wisconsin to escape with the win.

12:00 PM ET Duke at Army

The hiring of Rich Ellerson may have been one of the best hires in the coaching carousel, but it received little attention nationally. The Black Knights got their first win of the season last week at Eastern Michigan and they've got a good shot at going 2-0 for the first time in years. Standing in their way is David Cutcliffe's Blue Devils, who fell to reigning FCS champion Richmond. They've got an outstanding quarterback in Thaddeus Lewis, so they may very well rebound. But the faith here lies in the double-eagle flex defense that Coach Ellerson has brought to West Point along with his high-powered option attack. Army wins by a field goal.


12:00 PM ET Pittsburgh at Buffalo

This is a tricky game for the Panthers on the road, who beat the Bulls in last season's meeting by eleven (27-16). Buffalo didn't post the greatest numbers in their win over UTEP last Saturday, but they did enough to get the win. Zach Maynard proved to be a capable game manager and Turner Gill's club did it by committee on the ground. Dion Lewis will be a tough back for Buffalo to shut down, and they'll have to get to QB Bill Stull to prevent him from getting the ball out to some talented receivers. If Stull is on this could be a two-touchdown game; if not this will be tight but Pitt will leave with the win.


12:05 PM ET Iowa at Iowa State

The battle for the CyHawk Trophy hits Ames and a win here would be a huge one in the young career of ISU head coach Paul Rhoads. Iowa didn't look good at all in a 17-16 win over Northern Iowa last week, but the Cyclones didn't exactly dominate against North Dakota State either. Quarterbacks Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) and Austen Arnaud (Iowa State) can get the job done through the air, but the result will likely come down to who can run the football effectively. The Cyclones have won seven of the last eleven in the series including three of the last five in Ames. In an upset, the Cyclones win.


12:21 PM ET Troy at No. 1 Florida

Troy, on paper, looked like a team that could go into Gainesville and hang around for a half or so. Then they opened the season with a subpar performance at Bowling Green, losing 31-14. Not a good way to prepare for the defending national champions. Gators roll.


1:30 PM ET Marshall at No. 14 Virginia Tech

A win here would do wonders to Mark Snyder's program, but given their struggles last weekend combined with the Hokies' pedestrian offensive showing against Alabama likely means that Tyrod Taylor and company will take care of business. Virginia Tech needs to establish their passing game, and this is a good opportunity to work on that aspect of their game.


2:00 PM ET Arkansas State at No. 22 Nebraska

Nebraska beat the team picked by many to finish second in the Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, 49-3 last Saturday. And head coach Bo Pelini wasn't pleased with the performance of the Blackshirts, who gave up more than 300 yards. Not good news for the Red Wolves, who will find out quickly that the Huskers are a better Big 12 outfit than the one they beat in 2008 (Texas A&M).


2:00 PM ET Kent State at Boston College

The quarterbacks looked pretty good for the Eagles in their 54-0 beating of Northeastern last weekend. Kent State does have Eugene Jarvis at running back, but that didn't prevent them from losing last weekend. Same holds true this week, with the Boston College defense playing a major role in the victory.


2:00 PM ET Morgan State at Akron

What's the difference between Penn State and Morgan State? J.D. Brookhart's team will have a very good answer for you following their win over the Bears on Saturday.


3:30 PM ET No. 2 Texas at Wyoming

The Longhorns are the highest-ranked team to ever visit Laramie, and by the end of the day they'll be the highest-ranked team to win in Laramie. Head coach Dave Christiansen has improved the culture at Wyoming, but he doesn't have the talent needed to match a Colt McCoy.


3:30 PM ET Houston at No. 5 Oklahoma State

This could be the highest-scoring game of the day, and it would be unwise to count Kevin Sumlin's Cougars out of this one. Last year's game was a tight one with Houston leading at the half before the Cowboys exploded offensively to put some distance between the two teams. The difference this time around: the Oklahoma State defense. Yes, the same unit that had issues all season in 2008 is no longer the weak link thanks to new defensive coordinator Bill Young. After an opening drive in which Georgia marched down the field last week the Cowboys held the Bulldogs to three points the rest of the game. Not saying that they'll shut down the Cougars in the same fashion, but the Cowboys will do enough to take care of business.


3:30 PM ET No. 9 Brigham Young at Tulane

Fresh off of their win over Oklahoma last weekend the Cougars look to keep their Top 10 ranking, if not improve upon it depending on what happens in other games. Max Hall and company should have no problem doing so. Whether or not they decide to rest RB Harvey Unga for another week remains to be seen, but this shouldn't be the nail biter that last week's game was.

3:30 PM ET No. 16 TCU at Virginia

Virginia's season can go one of two ways in light of their embarrassing loss (seven turnovers...not good) to William & Mary last weekend: they can circle the wagons and fight as if their lives depended on the result, or they can lie down. It's hard to see this team simply giving in to TCU, but it's also hard to see them beating the Horned Frogs. Andy Dalton and company have a solid day on offense while Jerry Hughes raises some you-know-what in the Cavalier backfield. TCU wins by ten.


3:30 PM ET No. 18 Notre Dame at Michigan

It's been said many times throughout the week that this matchup got a lot more interesting thanks to what these two did last Saturday. The Irish and Wolverines won their games by a combined score of 66-7, answering those who wanted to see tangible results. Michigan was thought to be in a state of turmoil given head coach Rich Rodriguez's press conference the Monday before the opener, but that was the idea outside of the locker room. Freshmen quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson played well in the beating of Western Michigan, but they'll face a stiffer test this weekend.


The same goes for Jimmy Clausen and company, who made short work of a Nevada team that some felt could challenge them in the opener. But Clausen should expect pressure from a defense that looked a lot better in its first game under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson than it did in either of the previous two seasons. Which team needs the win more? Notre Dame, a team some felt had to be a serious BCS threat in 2009. But they don't get it. Michigan may not be the more talented team man for man, but the reported turmoil leading up to the Western Michigan game seems to have served as a unifying force. The Wolverines win by a field goal.


3:30 PM ET Howard at Rutgers

The first collegiate start for freshman Tom Savage, and the question has been brought up as to whether he starts the opener had it not been a conference game. Not sure about that but it's a pretty safe bet that the Scarlet Knights take care of the Bison.


3:30 PM ET Idaho at Washington

The Huskies hope to end a fifteen-game losing streak, but they could have their hands full with an Idaho team that looked drastically improved in last week's win over New Mexico State. But Rob Akey doesn't have a player the caliber of Jake Locker, who is talented enough to lead Steve Sarkisian to his first win at Washington. Huskies win by ten.


3:30 PM ET East Carolina at West Virginia

The Mountaineers were embarrassed in Greenville last year, setting the scene for this rematch in Morgantown. Neither team looked great in their opening weekend victories, but at least West Virginia didn't need to hang on for dear life at game's end. If Jarrett Brown and company take care of the football they'll likely win by a decent margin. The ECU offense didn't look too good last weekend with QB Patrick Pinkney tossing a pair of interceptions in the 29-24 win over Appalachian State. West Virginia gets after the senior quarterback and forces a couple turnovers in a ten-point win.


3:30 PM ET Louisiana Tech at Navy

The Midshipmen gave Ohio State all they wanted and then some last week while the Bulldogs hung with Auburn for a half. But with Louisiana Tech having trouble with Auburn's offense what do you think will happen in Annapolis when they take on an option attack that also proved lethal through the air? Look for the Midshipmen to take care of business at home.


4:00 PM ET Southern Methodist at UAB

Neil Calloway's Blazers looked very good last weekend, putting up forty-four points in a win over Rice. It wouldn't be a stretch to see them doing the same to the Mustangs either, thanks to the play of QB Joe Webb. Look for the usual in this Conference USA meeting: lots of points. But at the end of the day Webb will outplay SMU's Bo Levi Mitchell in a UAB victory.


4:00 PM ET UCLA at Tennessee

Do you go with the young head coach with the senior quarterback? Or do you pick the seasoned head coach tutoring a young quarterback? That's the question when the Bruins visit Knoxville with redshirt freshman Kevin Prince calling the shots under center. Last year's meeting was an ugly affair that featured some really bad quarterback play, and of the two starters Jonathan Crompton is the one who still has his job. He played well against Western Kentucky last week, but UCLA is a better defensive team than the Hilltoppers. In the end, look for Tennessee's young talent to make the difference in a close victory.

5:00 PM ET Weber State at Colorado State

Thanks to their win in Boulder on Sunday the Rams can start the season 2-0. And they should do just that, beating the Wildcats in front of the partisans in Fort Collins.


5:30 PM ET Eastern Washington at No. 10 California

Given what the Golden Bears did to Maryland last weekend, it's hard to find a way in which the Eagles hang around past halftime. Jahvid Best and Kevin Riley put up big numbers before taking much of the second half off in a Cal win.


6:00 PM ET Jacksonville State at Florida State

The good news for the Gamecocks: QB Ryan Perrilloux returns from suspension, giving them a better chance of exploiting the Seminole secondary. Bad news: defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews had ample time to get after his secondary, so they should put up a much better performance. Add to that an improved Florida State offense and you've got all the makings of a serious whipping at Doak Campbell.


6:00 PM ET James Madison at Maryland

The CAA went 2-0 against the ACC last weekend; if they get number three here then something's seriously wrong. Chris Turner, Da'Rel Scott and company take out the anger from the Cal loss on the Dukes, but this will be a closer game than it probably should be. JMU is traditionally one of the better teams in the best conference at the FCS level, which means it shouldn't be a surprise if they stick around for a while.


6:00 PM ET Murray State at North Carolina State

There's no other way to put it: the Wolfpack put up a poor offensive performance in their loss to South Carolina last week. They shouldn't have the same difficulties with the Racers, taking care of the FCS outfit to pick up their first win of the season.


7:00 PM ET Florida International at No. 4 Alabama

This is the first game of the season for the Golden Panthers, who boast a better talent base now that head coach (and renowned recruiter) Mario Cristobal has infused the roster with young talent. But it's not enough to knock off the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide.


7:00 PM ET Vanderbilt at No. 11 LSU

Many believe that the Commodores are a better team in 2009 than they were in 2008, and all that team did was end a twenty-six year bowl drought. We'll find out more about them in Baton Rouge, and Tiger Stadium is hardly a welcoming place for visitors (especially at night). Jordan Jefferson made a few big plays last week but Les Miles' team ended up with more of a fight than anticipated at Washington.


Will Russell Sheppard get some snaps? The highly-touted freshman didn't play in Seattle, so maybe the Tigers will use the SEC opener to showcase his talent. LSU should put up a better performance on defense, and the combination of that with a 100-yard night from Charles Scott should be enough to bring home the win.


7:00 PM ET Idaho State at No. 13 Oklahoma

Landry Jones makes his first start in place of Sam Bradford, and truth be told this will be more about the rhythm that he and the Sooner offense can establish as opposed to any threat the Bengals can pose (they lost 50-3 at Arizona State last weekend). Another important area to watch: the Oklahoma offensive line, which missed numerous blitz pickups in the loss to BYU.


7:00 PM ET South Carolina at No. 21 Georgia

Neither team played well offensively last week, but at least the Gamecocks left with a win. Joe Cox will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs, and he'll have to navigate a fast, tough South Carolina defense between the hedges. Stephen Garcia didn't look much better in his first start of the season, but he did enough to make sure his team didn't lose the game. This is traditionally a close game, and South Carolina won the last meeting in Athens two years ago. If Georgia can get some consistency out of the passing game they'll win by a field goal. That's the pick.

7:00 PM ET Bowling Green at No. 25 Missouri

Bowling Green pulled off a surprise in their first game under new head coach Dave Clawson last week, soundly defeating reigning Sun Belt champion Troy 31-14. Gary Pinkel's Tigers also pulled off a stunner, but not by beating Illinois. Hardly anyone saw a 37-9 final coming, with QB Blaine Gabbert passing his first test with flying colors. Missouri was thought to be on the way down; maybe it's time to correct that thought. Look for the Tigers to take care of business at home.


7:00 PM ET Mississippi State at Auburn

If you prefer offense with your football then you likely turned off last year's meeting. And seeing the final score of 3-2 (MSU won)? You likely joked about their baseball teams playing instead. Things could be different this time around with Dan Mullen running things at Mississippi State. Auburn also has a new head coach in Gene Chizik, but his area of expertise is defense. He's got the bright mind of Gus Malzahn to rely on to put points on the board. Auburn went through the tougher test last weekend, and it pays dividends on The Plains in a close victory.


7:00 PM ET Air Force at Minnesota

It's opening night for TCF Bank Stadium and the Golden Gophers didn't run out looking for the first available cream puff to kick things off. Instead, they host a dangerous Air Force team coming off of a 72-0 whipping of Nicholls State. Troy Calhoun's option attack can give teams fits on the ground and through the air when needing a change of place. Minnesota has the prolific tandem of QB Adam Weber and WR Eric Decker, but they'll need a solid ground attack in order to keep the ball away from the Falcons. In a toss-up, look for Minnesota to escape with a close victory.


7:00 PM ET Ohio at North Texas

Last year's North Texas squad would have made this an easy pick, regardless of where this game is being played. But redshirt freshman Riley Dodge played very well on the road in leading the Mean Green to a win over Ball State, and he could very well be on to something. Boo Jackson and Theo Scott were knocked around in the Bobcats' loss to Connecticut, but can they keep their turnovers in check enough to win on the road? Not sure how many the Mean Green this year, but I think they'll exceed expectations. North Texas by a touchdown.


7:00 PM ET Hawaii at Washington State

The definition of a toss-up, with the Warriors struggling with Central Arkansas and the Cougars were whipped by Stanford last weekend. The game will be played in Seattle as well, and the effect of that is likely negligible. The pick here is Hawaii, but there's no telling what could happen.


7:00 PM ET Kansas State at UL Lafayette

The Ragin' Cajuns get Bill Snyder at home, and the locale may not matter one bit. The Wildcats were far from impressive in their win over Massachusetts, but does Lafayette have enough offense to knock them off? The opening returns weren't good, but when you lose players such as QB Michael Desormeaux and RB Tyrell Fenroy it should come as no surprise that you'll struggle early on. Head coach Ricky Bustle will pull out all the stops, and he could possibly have a trick up his sleeve that leads the team to an upset. The pick is Kansas State, but don't be surprised if the Ragin' Cajuns pull off the upset at home.


7:00 PM ET Illinois State at Illinois

The Fighting Illini were embarrassed in St. Louis last weekend, getting nothing done on either side of the football. That shouldn't be an issue against the Redbirds, even with WR Rejus Benn likely being held out due to an ankle injury.


7:00 PM ET New Hampshire at Ball State

If Ricky Santos were still in a UNH uniform they'd be given more of a chance here. But he graduated a few seasons ago, meaning that the Cardinals should recover from last week's loss to North Texas.


7:00 PM ET Memphis at Middle Tennessee State

The Tigers hung around with rival Ole Miss for about three quarters last week, but was that due to their own play or the flu that ran through the Ole Miss locker room in the days leading up to the game? Middle Tennessee never mounted a serious threat at Clemson in their opener, but they were able to beat Maryland at home in 2008. Look for Arkelon Hall to lead the Tigers to a close win on the road, with Memphis winning the turnover battle.


7:00 PM ET Texas Southern at UL Monroe

The Warhawks took on Texas last week, falling by the final score of 59-20. They could very well reverse that score against Texas Southern this weekend.


7:00 PM ET UCF at Southern Miss

Southern Miss is one of the favorites to win Conference USA's East Division, and they'll host a UCF squad that needed a fourth quarter rally to beat Samford. If the Knights win it would be a surprise to say the least. Larry Fedora's team lays one on UCF.


7:00 PM ET Rice at Texas Tech

Taylor Potts didn't look great in the Red Raiders' win last week, but he should be fine against the Owls getting used to life without three of the most prolific offensive weapons in school history. And it didn't help matters that the Rice defense gave up forty-four points in a loss at UAB last week. It could be a longer season for David Bailiff and company than originally anticipated. Look for Texas Tech to win comfortably.


7:30 PM ET Southeast Missouri State at No. 23 Cincinnati

Point blank: this one could get out of hand. Tony Pike and company roll up big numbers in a Cincinnati win. The bigger concern will be staying healthy ahead of their trip to Oregon State next weekend.


7:30 PM ET No. 24 Kansas at UTEP

UTEP could pose a threat to the Jayhawks, but Mike Price's program has seemed to lack toughness (and discipline) in the years following his solid debut (eight wins in each of his first two seasons). The Jayhawk defense may give up a few points, but Todd Reesing and company will more than make that up on the other end. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.


7:30 PM ET USF at Western Kentucky

USF makes the trip to Western Kentucky because they're not financially in the position to throw money around for guarantee games. WKU got blasted in their first game as a full FBS member (Tennessee) and the same is likely to happen here.


7:30 PM ET Western Illinois at Northern Illinois

Sunday's headline: Huskies maul Leathernecks. Don't expect QB Chandler Harnish and company to light up the scoreboard, but Jerry Kill's team will hit you in the mouth...repeatedly. Northern Illinois recovers from a close loss at Wisconsin.


8:00 PM ET No. 3 USC at No. 8 Ohio State

The game of the weekend takes place in Columbus, with the Buckeyes hoping to avenge last season's embarrassing defeat at the Coliseum. Terrelle Pryor had a limited role in that game, but you can argue that he was the most effective Buckeye in the 35-3 defeat. He's matured some but it also has to be remembered that there are seven new starters on Jim Tressel's offense. Defensively they struggled against Navy, who offered a challenge drastically different from the one they'll face Saturday night.


As for the Trojans the skill positions remain loaded but they've got a true freshman quarterback in Matt Barkley who plays beyond his years. How will he handle 100,000-plus in his first road test? So long as he doesn't try to take it all on his shoulders he should be fine. Can the USC defense contain Pryor? If so, the task of stopping the Buckeye offense becomes all the more simple. The final margin won't be as bad as last season's, but the result will be the same. USC has too much for Ohio State to handle.

8:00 PM ET Miami (OH) at No. 12 Boise State

Boise State's offense left quite a few points on the board in their win over Oregon, but there should be little worry about that happening again this week. Mike Haywood's RedHawks gave up forty-two to a far less prolific Kentucky squad last week. Sixty points for Boise? Maybe.


8:00 PM ET Prairie View A&M at New Mexico State

DeWayne Walker should pick up his first win as NMSU head coach, beating a school best known for a record-long eighty game losing streak during the 1990s. If the Aggies, who were offensively inept in a 21-6 loss to Idaho, find a way to lose this one then the fans in Las Cruces should worry.


8:00 PM ET Tulsa at New Mexico

The Lobos went on the road and gave up forty-one points to a Texas A&M team that isn't exactly a household name when it comes to the nation's most prolific offenses. So a visit from the Golden Hurricane, who were among the best in college football last season, isn't exactly what the doctor ordered. And new quarterback G.J. Kinne looked pretty good in their win over Tulane, who likely has a better idea of what Tulsa can throw at you since they're in the same conference. Tulsa wins big.


8:30 PM ET Southern Utah at San Diego State

Brady Hoke didn't get his first win as San Diego State head coach last week, but they did look a lot better in losing to UCLA than they did in many of their losses last season. The Aztecs look to have a new mindset, meaning that there may be hope that someone can take advantage of the talent in Southern California and build a winner there. Coach Hoke picks up win number one with a sound beating of Southern Utah.


10:00 PM ET Northern Arizona at Arizona

Arizona will win this game, with the focus being on QB Matt Scott. The Wildcats need to establish further chemistry in the passing game, and they cannot leave as many points on the field as they did in the 19-6 over Central Michigan. They may get away with that in the first two games of the season, but the trip to Iowa and the Pac-10 slate may not be as forgiving of such miscues.


10:15 PM ET Purdue at Oregon

Finally Chip Kelly and company can get back to the business of playing football, and they'll be taking on a Purdue squad that looks far more potent on the ground than in season past. The Boilermakers rushed for 315 yards in their win over Toledo last week, but they'll have a tough time duplicating that feat at Autzen Stadium, traditionally of the loudest stadiums in the nation. Jeremiah Masoli should put up a better performance but how do the Ducks go about replacing LaGarrette Blount? They'll find a way to make it all work out, beating the Boilers in front of a frenzied home crowd.


10:30 PM ET No. 17 Utah at San Jose State

Terrence Cain had a solid debut at quarterback for the Utes, leading Utah to their fifteenth consecutive win in the process. The Spartans forced two early turnovers at USC...and then things got out of hand. San Jose State should be more competitive in their home opener, but look for Utah to take care of business on the road.


11:00 PM ET Oregon State at UNLV

This could be a tricky road trip for the Beavers since Mike Sanford's team has improved over the last couple of seasons. But Oregon State, normally a slow starter that finishes fast, may be in store for a fast start in 2009. Sean Canfield played well against Portland State, and with the presence of the Rodgers brothers he doesn't have to do anything spectacular for the Beavers to win. James and Jacquizz have big nights, setting up a game between undefeated squads between themselves and Cincinnati next weekend.