College Football: Saturday Preview

    
November 29th, 2008

Friday gave viewers some interesting displays in how not to play football, topped off by UCLA QB Kevin Craft's play in the Bruins visit to Arizona State. Three interceptions, all of which were of the pick-six variety, and as I write this there are still nine minutes left in the game. Oh, not to mention a fumble of his that was also run back for a score. Other displays of ineptitude include a once-dominant LSU defense getting gashed on the ground by Arkansas, then giving up the gamewinning touchdown pass with under a minute to go to keep "The Boot" in Fayetteville for another year.

And West Virginia WR Wes Lyons failing to get out of bounds on the game's second-to-last play (not to mention sitting on the ground staring at an official while time was ticking off the clock), forcing the Mountaineers to go for the end zone instead of getting up to three plays (get the first down on fourth down, then spike and go for it all on second down). Of course Lyons was then called for offensive pass interference, which didn't matter since the pass from Pat White was incomplete (Lyons had also gone out of bounds on the final play, ruling him ineligible).

Luckily for the football viewer, however, Eastern Michigan QB Andy Schmitt put together the following stat line in the Eagles' 56-52 upset of rival Central Michigan: 58-80, 516 yards 5 TD and 1 INT. Schmitt also ran for thirty-eight yards and a touchdown in the win. Here's the schedule for Saturday, which will hopefully provide better football in regards to the fundamentals.

12:00 PM ET No. 22 Georgia Tech at No. 11 Georgia on CBS

The Bulldogs have won the last seven games in this series, dubbed "Clean, Old Fashioned Hate". But those previous seven didn't feature a Georgia Tech offense that showcased the option attack. That's the wrench thrown into this one by first-year head coach Paul Johnson, led by RB Jonathan Dwyer and QB Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt missed time earlier in the season due to injury, but he's in good condition these days and could make some plays against the Georgia defense. On the other side of the football, that young Bulldog offensive line will once again be tested by a solid front four, this one led by senior DE Michael Johnson. Georgia Tech tends to struggle putting points on the board in this series of late, not eclipsing twenty points in any of those seven losses. Look for the same formula here: low-scoring close game, but Mark Richt stays undefeated against the Yellow Jackets.

12:00 PM ET Syracuse at No. 16 Cincinnati on ESPN GamePlan

Cincinnati, thanks to Pittsburgh beating West Virginia, already knows that they've got at least a share of the Big East title and the conference's automatic BCS berth wrapped up. But how this game goes will depend on the Bearcats' state of mind: do they want to share, or will they be greedy and take the entire title for themselves? They'll be greedy, and given the fans' excitement in throwing oranges last weekend it may be a good idea for Syracuse to supply Otto the Orange with extra security. They may carry him off to Miami.

12:00 PM ET Miami (FL) at North Carolina State on ESPN GamePlan

A Wolfpack win here gives the ACC another bowl-eligible team, while the Hurricanes will be looking to improve their bowl standing with a road victory. They went to Boise a few years ago, and although Miami beat Nevada not too many fans made the trip and no one looked to be big fans of the cold. For the few older players on this team that should be the message sent to the many key youngsters playing in this game. Russell Wilson will keep the Pack in this one, but Miami has just enough to pick up their eighth win of the year.

12:00 PM ET South Carolina at Clemson on ESPN2

This bitter rivalry game is also the final audition for interim head coach Dabo Swinney, who now knows that one competitor for the full-time gig is now off the list (Lane Kiffin is rumored to have accepted the Tennessee opening). Steve Spurrier is still looking for that guy under center who he can trust to manage the football game, so much so that Steven Garcia and Chris Smelley may once again alternate snaps to some degree in this game. Clemson has been one of the most disappointing teams in America this year, but this game offers them a shot at redemption along with sealing a bowl berth. The Tigers get it done by a field goal.

12:00 PM ET Virginia at Virginia Tech on ESPN

A win here gives the Hokies a shot at defending their ACC title in Tampa next weekend; a loss means that Georgia Tech will go as the Coastal Division representative. Virginia lost their chance last week, and the uneven play on offense has been the main reason why. The Hokies haven't been much better, but when you take care of the football and win the battle with your defense and special teams there's a strong likelihood that you're going to be successful. Using that same formula, Frank Beamer's team punches their ticket to Tampa.

12:40 PM ET Kansas vs. No. 13 Missouri on Fox Sports Net

The Border War hits Kansas City again, and the game will be in Arrowhead until 2012. But unlike last year's game that captivated the country (it was the highest-rated regular season game), there isn't anything on the line besides bragging rights. The Tigers will be right back on this field next week to take on the South Division champ, while Kansas would like to salvage something from a season that has gone downhill in recent weeks. The reason for the difference at KU: defense. A unit that was one of the nation's best under Bill Young last season has struggled since he took over the defense at Miami. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin exploit the Jayhawk defense and outscore Todd Reesing.

1:04 PM ET UAB at UCF

Nothing on the line here, with this being the finale for both teams. UCF wins this one at home.

2:00 PM ET Arkansas State at North Texas

The Red Wolves need to win out to have a shot at the Sun Belt title, and they need at least one win in their last two to reach bowl eligibility. They get win number six in Denton. 

2:30 PM ET Nevada at Louisiana Tech on ESPN GamePlan

One of the better coaching jobs in college football has been largely ignored, with Derek Dooley leading Louisiana Tech to a 7-4 record in just his second season in charge. With Colin Kapernick leading Chris Ault's "Pistol" attack this game has a chance to be high-scoring, but even with the weapons brought to the table by the Wolf Pack look for the Bulldogs to finish their season with an eighth win.

3:00 PM ET New Mexico State at Utah State on ESPN GamePlan

The Aggies may have suffered through an injury-plagued season, but they've still got enough talent to win in Logan. This is also the final game for USU head coach Brent Guy, but he won't be going out a winner.

3:00 PM ET Southern Miss at Southern Methodist

Southern Miss has been a disappointment in the first year of the Larry Fedora era, but they're nowhere near as bad June Jones' Mustangs. Golden Eagles win.

3:30 PM ET Auburn at No. 1 Alabama on CBS

Another edition of the Iron Bowl, and this is the one that the Crimson Tide and their fans have to get for their collective sanity. Six straight Auburn wins, so even though Nick Saban's team goes into this game a heavy favorite there's always that doubt creeping around. Tommy Tuberville, depending on who you ask, may need this to save his job (personally I feel that people down in Auburn are panicking and ignoring the previous success under Tuberville) and he's not going into this one with a stacked deck on offense. Be it the spread or a traditional attack the Tigers have been a poor football team on that side of the ball, and it doesn't stand to get much better going up against one of the best defensive minds in all of football (not just college; football period). Look for John Parker Wilson to lead Alabama to their first win in the series since Dennis Franchione was in charge.

3:30 PM ET No. 4 Florida at No. 20 Florida State on ABC (regional)

Do the Seminoles have any shot at beating the Gators in this game? It's a small one, but they do thanks in large part to their defense. To expect Christian Ponder to win the game on his own would be asking for trouble, so that staunch defense will have to play the game of its life to knock off Tim Tebow and the mighty Gators. Graham Gano may allow FSU to at least be competitive in the kicking game, but that's another phase where they'll be fighting an uphill battle. Can't see the Seminoles winning this one, and they'll need a near-miracle to do the unthinkable.
 
3:30 PM ET Baylor at No. 7 Texas Tech on Versus

Oklahoma hung sixty-five on Texas Tech last week, so expect the Red Raiders to welcome the Bears to Lubbock in grand fashion. But if Baylor were to pull off the upset, Texas would be headed to the Big 12 Championship Game next weekend.

3:30 PM ET Maryland at No. 21 Boston College on ABC (regional) 

It's been too tough to figure out which Maryland team will show up on a weekly basis, but if the one that played in College Park last week (blown out by Florida State) gets off that plane Ralph Friedgen will have a tough time pulling out the win. Boston College will be without Chris Crane due to a broken collarbone, but Dominique Davis led the Eagles to victory at Wake Forest last week. With a week of preparation as the starter under his belt, look for Davis to make the plays necessary to get BC to Tampa.

3:30 PM ET North Carolina at Duke on ESPNU

Duke will be competitive in this one, but they don't have enough talent to take back the bell. North Carolina wins and touches up that coat of light blue paint on the bell from last season.

3:30 PM ET Tulane at Memphis

Tigers win a close one at home.

3:30 PM ET Houston at Rice on CBS College Sports

Not only is the rivalry within the city of Houston on the line, but a trip to the Conference USA Championship Game is also up for grabs. A Cougar win means that Kevin Sumlin gets a shot at winning a conference title in his first season in charge, while a Rice win would send Tulsa to the title game. Case Keenum will run things for Houston, but the combo of Chase Clement and Jarrett Dillard is more than capable of matching Houston score for score. At times this season it's been Houston that's struggled with turnovers, and that's why the Owls will win this one by a field goal. But beware: last time I went against Houston they hung seventy on the Golden Hurricane.

3:30 PM ET Tulsa at Marshall 

Tulsa needs a win to keep pace in the West Division of Conference USA while the Thundering Herd will once again miss out on a bowl game. David Johnson puts up some impressive numbers in the Golden Hurricane victory.

4:00 PM ET Florida International at Florida Atlantic

The Owls need a win to reach six for the season, but they'll be going up against an FIU team that has improved substantially in Mario Cristobal's second season. The fact that this team, which finished 2007 with just one victory, has a shot to finish with six should they win their last two is amazing and should earn Coach Cristobal a vote for Sun Belt Coach of the Year. But they'll have to settle for the prospect of winning five games, because Rusty Smith is too good to let the Owls fall in his final home game.

6:30 PM ET Kentucky at Tennessee on ESPN2

The final game of the Phil Fulmer era in Knoxville, and he'll be looking to leave undefeated against Kentucky. Even though they've closed the gap in recent years, the Wildcats have just about invented ways in which to lose to Tennessee so they'll need to take full advantage of this opportunity. Look for freshman QB Randall Cobb to make the decisive play in a close Kentucky victory.

7:00 PM ET Vanderbilt at Wake Forest on ESPNU

Both teams blew good opportunities to pick up a seventh win last week, but look for Riley Skinner to lead the Demon Deacons to victory. And given the ability of both teams to hand the ball over via turnovers, this may not be the most aesthetically pleasing football game on television.

7:07 PM ET No. 23 Oregon at No. 17 Oregon State on Versus

It's the "Civil War", and there's a lot more than mere bragging rights riding on the result. A Beaver victory means that Oregon State makes their first trip to Pasadena since the 60's and would relegate USC to hoping for a BCS at-large selection. But should Oregon State lose to the Ducks they'd have to root hard for UCLA next week, and after watching Kevin Craft tonight I have a hard time believing that the Bruins would be able to pull that one off. Sean Canfield will most likely be the guy under center for OSU, but it's not like he came off the bench for an injured Lyle Moevao last week without any starting experience. The concern is how well they can run the ball if Jacquizz Rodgers is unable to go. Jeremiah Masoli will lead an Oregon attack that prefers to run the football but can hurt you through the air should you relax too much. But Oregon State seems to be a team of destiny, and they'll complete the mission on Saturday.

8:00 PM ET No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 12 Oklahoma State on ABC

Another installment in the Bedlam Series, and it's bedlam when the Cowboys win a game since the series has been so dominated by the Sooners (wins: Oklahoma 79, OK State 16). Oklahoma State has their best team in years, but to expect them to keep up with Sam Bradford and company is unrealistic (I wish that would have been my impulse before last week's game). Boomer Sooner, and it'll make for a very interesting argument in regards to who should play for the Big 12 title next week.

8:00 PM ET Notre Dame at No. 5 USC on ESPN

Does anyone really know how much Charlie Weis' buyout is? One person says that the amount is "stupefying" while another can come out and state that the funds wouldn't be an issue should it come to that. Of course all of these sources are unknown, as is the status of Weis in 2009. A win here would end all of that talk and punch Notre Dame's ticket to the Gator Bowl. No. The Trojans assault Jimmy Clausen and beat the Irish like they stole something.

11:00 PM ET Washington State at Hawaii on ESPN GamePlan

The Cougars's reward for beating Washington: a trip to Hawaii. Not really, but they really don't have much of a chance to win this game. Hawaii is far better than Washington, and it'll show on the field in this one.