College Football: Three Games, Two Views

    
October 24th, 2008
We're going in a different direction for a couple of game previews this weekend, with two writers giving their outlook on three big contests instead of just myself. Billy Palmer, who has done some work for collegehoops.net in the past, will be contributing to our football coverage for the remainder of the season. And with this being the first Saturday following the initial BCS standings, there isn't a better time to start than right now. The three big games that we'll be discussing are #6 Oklahoma State @ #1 Texas (3:30 PM EST on ABC), #7 Georgia @ # 13 LSU (3:30 PM EST on CBS) and #3 Penn State @ #10 Ohio State (8 PM EST on ABC).

#6 Oklahoma State (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) @ #1 Texas (7-0, 3-0 Big 12)

Billy Palmer: Obviously, the experts think this game won't be all that close. With Texas being a near two touchdown favorite, you'd think Oklahoma State wouldn't have much of a shot. Well, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend". We all know how deadly the Longhorn offense is, but Oklahoma State has an answer for the Texas scoring machine. If you're thinking "Oklahoma State has no defense", well you're right. Like people say, sometimes your best defense is a good offense.

The key to this game is the ability of Oklahoma State to move the ball on the ground versus the Texas defense. The Cowboys are averaging 283 yards a game on the ground (5th nationally). The Pokes have one of the most exciting, yet still much unknown, running backs in Kendall Hunter. Throw in a bowling ball back Keith Toston and a mobile QB Zac Robinson and you have the potential to give the Longhorn D fits. If Oklahoma State gets the running game going and keeps Colt McCoy on the sidelines this game could get very interesting. McCoy has been super all year and keeping him off the field is the only way Oklahoma State has a chance.

Raphielle Johnson: I agree with Billy's emphasis on how the Texas defense defends the Oklahoma State ground game, but I look at Texas' young secondary (with two freshman safeties) and wonder what they'll do to slow down prolific wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant leads the Big 12 in receiving yards per game (115.6 ypg) and has already racked up eleven receiving touchdowns. Despite how well the Cowboys run the football, Texas has to keep an eye on Bryant. But Missouri was able to slow him down two weeks ago, only to have Damian Davis step up and catch two touchdown passes in the 28-23 win.

But despite the number of weapons at Mike Gundy's disposal, you can't ignore what first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has done on the Forty Acres. Texas has been successful on defense because they've made teams one-dimensional by stopping the run (allow just 48.1 yards per game; 1st in the Big 12), and their offense has been explosive. If Oklahoma State is to win this game, they've got to apply pressure to Colt McCoy. Whether that is by blitzing or relying on the front four while seven drop into coverage doesn't matter, so long as they get the job done.

Key to the Game

BP: Oklahoma State's ability to run the football.

RJ: Oklahoma State defensive line vs. Texas offensive line

Prediction

BP: Oklahoma State will get 150 yards on the ground from Kendall Hunter and 250 yards on the ground overall to shock the #1 team in the land by a score of 35-31.

RJ: Texas 42-31. I just don't see the Longhorns losing at home this season. And can the Cowboys really stop Colt McCoy? Oklahoma couldn't.

#7 Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC East) @ #13 LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC West)

BP: We have two teams coming off huge wins last weekend. Georgia defeated Vandy 24-14 at home last week and LSU went on the road to beat a pesky South Carolina team 24-17. Fortunately, the wife was out of the house last weekend and I was able to overdose on football. I'm a Big 12 guy but I love the SEC toughness so I watch as much SEC as I can. You know this game will be close because every time CBS puts an SEC game on in the afternoon time slot it turns out to be a nail biter.

I've seen both teams play a couple times this year and I'm going to be dead honest with you, Georgia is just a flat out better team. If you take away the first half against Alabama they've been a very consistent team all year on offense and defense. LSU has been solid on defense but their offense sputters at times. So I believe the key to this game is what Jarrett Lee can do at QB for the Tigers against the Georgia defense. Lee doesn't have to throw for 300 yards on Georgia to win, which is a good thing because he doesn't really have the talent to do that. All Lee needs to do is to keep a high completion percentage and sustain long drives without turning the ball over. If he does this LSU is going to have a great shot at winning this game at home.

RJ: The play of LSU quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch will be a key in this one, but I see a troublesome spot on the Georgia offense: left tackle. The Bulldogs are now on their third left tackle this season due to injury, and even though Clint Boling played well against Vanderbilt last week the Commodores don't have an end the caliber of senior Tyson Jackson. Overall, the Georgia line is young with three freshmen and two sophomores making up the starting five. And they'll have to deal with a hostile crowd and a defensive line that's essentially NFL-ready across the board. That's the matchup I'm looking at as to which way this game will go, for if the Dawgs can keep QB Matthew Stafford upright, they can take advantage of a pass defense that ranks ninth in the SEC.

Another area to watch: penalties. While LSU hasn't been great in this category, ranking ninth in the SEC with an average of 53.2 penalty yards per game, Georgia has been abysmal. The Bulldogs, who are one of the nation's worst in this area, are hit with an average of eighty penalty yards per game. Too many on the road could get them in some serious trouble.

Key to the Game

BP: The play of LSU QB Jarrett Lee

RJ: Georgia's offensive line play

Prediction

BP: Jarrett Lee will go 20-29 for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns as LSU wins in one of the best games of the year 24-17.

RJ: In a low-scoring affair, I like Georgia to win this one 17-13 on the road. In true road games, Mark Richt is 27-4 at Georgia.

#3 Penn State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) @ #10 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten)

BP: If you'd have asked me at the beginning of the year what I thought of Penn State I probably would've told you that I thought they had inexperience at QB and would be a decent team but probably a 4 or 5 loss team. Man oh man, Billy was wrong! All they have done is come out and absolutely hammer everybody they've played to this point. The first half against Michigan last week was a little scary but they turned around to obliterate the Wolverines. However, I still have a problem with Penn State.

Yeah, they are 8-0 and ranked in the top 5 but who have they played? Oregon State was a nice win at home but they are 4-3.They beat then #22 Illinois 38-24, and the Fighting Illini are also at 4-3 on the season and now unranked. I think you get my point right? My big problem with Penn State is that they've really not played anybody of consequence as of yet. Therefore, I think the key to this game is how the entire Penn State team reacts to playing in a game against a quality opponent, on the road, with such big stakes at hand. If they can come out with the same swagger they've had all year they'll be fine, but this Ohio State team isn't like any other team they've played up to this point. Ohio State is legit, that's a given. Can Penn State prove they are for real?

RJ: I believe in Penn State, but there is the question mark of what they can do on the road against a top opponent. Yes, they blew out Wisconsin. But so did Iowa. Add to this the fact that as a Big Ten member the Nittany Lions have never won in Columbus and you have a serious mental hurdle that Coach Paterno's team will have to overcome. Daryll Clark has looked very good running the "HD Offense", save the first half last weekend, so while Ohio State's defense will pose quite a challenge I don't see that as the deciding factor.

Instead, how about Ohio State's ability to get some big plays through the air, something they haven't been able to do with consistency this year. Coach Tressel's team ranks dead last in the Big Ten in passing offense, and while it's entertaining to watch QB Terrelle Pryor and RB Beanie Wells run to their heart's content you can bet that guys like LB Navorro Bowman will be looking to stop the run. If Penn State can't take away the run they're going to be in trouble, for Ohio State leads the conference in time of possession. Less time on the field, especially with the new clock rules, will mean fewer opportunities for the Penn State offense to score.

Key to the Game

BP: Penn State's state of mind heading into the Horseshoe

RJ: Penn State's run defense

Prediction

BP: Penn State goes to the Horseshoe and after about 2 quarters realizes they're in for the fight of their life. The pressure gets to Daryll Clark and the Penn State offense as Ohio State runs away in the 2nd half 34-20.

RJ: While it could be argued that this Penn State team hasn't been seriously tested on the road, I see a different level of focus with this team that I haven't seen since their last Big Ten title in 2005. It's for that reason, along with a rush defense that ranks second in the conference (behind Ohio State), that the Lions will win a close one 21-17.