Saturday Football Preview

September 19th, 2009

12:00 PM ET  Temple at No. 5 Penn State Big 10 Network

Temple has only played one game this season, and that was a surprising loss to city rival Villanova. Hard to believe that two weeks will turn Al Golden’s squad into a bunch that can beat the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions. Penn State rolls.


12:00 PM ET  No. 8 California at Minnesota        

The Golden Gophers opened up TCF Bank Stadium last week with a win over Air Force, and they worked hard to do it. LB Nathan Triplett racked up seventeen tackles, earning Nagurski Award Defensive Player of the Week honors. But he and the rest of the Minnesota defense will go up a far more prolific offense when the Golden Bears show up. Having experienced early-game doldrums in their trip to Maryland last season (start time: 9 AM PST), expect Kevin Riley, Jahvid Best and the rest of the team ready to go from the start. Minnesota will hang around thanks to the tandem of Adam Weber and Eric Decker in the passing game, but ultimately California will take care of business.


12:00 PM ET  No. 11 Ohio State vs. Toledo            (in Cleveland)

Head coach Jim Tressel was under fire following last week’s 18-15 loss to USC with the charge being that the playcalling was too conservative. Is there a hangover against a Toledo team that has proven that it can put points on the board? The Rockets weren’t as far off as the margin would indicate in their season-opening loss to Purdue, with a couple of missed defensive assignments making all the difference.


But they aren’t going up against Colorado this week either; QB Aaron Opelt and company will be challenged by the physical Buckeye defense. The Ohio State offense won’t turn into “Air Coryell” or Mouse Davis’ “Run and Shoot”, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them put the ball in the air a little more early in the game. Toledo sticks around for about a half, then the Buckeyes’ depth takes over.


12:00 PM ET  Duke at No. 22 Kansas

Duke was well on its way to a 0-2 start last week, trailing at Army going into the fourth quarter. Then David Cutcliffe     sent Sean Renfree into the game for Thaddeus Lewis. The youngster caught fire, leading the Blue Devils on three touchdown drives to pull out the comeback victory. Coach Cutcliffe insisted all week that there’s no controversy; the senior and second team All-ACC quarterback will start this week. But what happens if things get ugly in Lawrence? Renfree could at least see some snaps to give the Jayhawks a different look, but it won’t matter. Todd Reesing will lead the Kansas offense up and down the field in a comfortable KU win.


12:00 PM ET  East Carolina at No. 24 North Carolina

Neither team comes into this game clicking on all cylinders. The Tar Heels needed a fourth quarter rally to win at Connecticut last weekend, while the Pirates were handled at West Virginia. In fact, you could argue that if Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards been healthy for the opener the defending Conference USA champs would be 0-2 since they had to fight to hang onto a 29-24 decision. Butch Davis’ team will be shorthanded on offense due to injuries suffered by C Lowell Dyer (knee) and TE Zack Pianalto (foot), but as long as offensive coordinator John Shoop utilizes both running backs (Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston) Carolina should move to 3-0. ECU QB Patrick Pinkney hasn’t looked too good, with his play essentially being a microcosm of the Pirates’ season to this point. If the ECU defense can force a few turnovers a road win is possible, but it’s hard to see that being the end result.


12:00 PM ET  Eastern Michigan at No. 25 Michigan Big 10 Network     

Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English returns to Ann Arbor, where he spent a couple of seasons as the defensive coordinator under Lloyd Carr. He’s got quite the rebuilding project at EMU, but it should be seen as a positive that Northwestern needed a field goal with just seconds remaining to beat the Eagles last week. But they’ll visit a team that’s played with a vengeance this season after accusations of turmoil within the program came from the outside. Rich Rodriguez has a history of turning around programs in his second year at the helm and looks well on his way to doing that at Michigan. Quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are an absolute handful for opponents in the Wolverines’ spread attack, and they both could be poised for big days against EMU. Michigan wins big.


12:00 PM ET  Louisville at Kentucky ESPNU

The Cardinals were embarrassed in last season’s meeting, turning the ball over seven times in a 27-2 loss at home. Things could get pretty bad in the rematch as well with Steve Kragthorpe’s team not looking too good in its lone game thus far (a win over a really bad Indiana State team). Kentucky, on the other hand, looked like a team possessed in their 42-0 beating of Miami (Ohio) the first Saturday of the year. Mike Hartline, firmly entrenched as the starter, ran the offense confidently and players such as RB Derrick Locke and WR Randall Cobb make life easier as well. Rich Brooks’ team did lose key contributors on defense but one of the best corners in the nation (Trevard Lindley) is back. Lindley picks off Justin Burke and the Wildcats defeat their in-state rival.                                            

12:00 PM ET  Boston College at Clemson  

Clemson’s win over Boston College last year was their first in the series since 1958, and many will expect them to pick up a second consecutive victory. The issue for Dabo Swinney’s team: getting off to a good start. Turnovers, special teams and the inability to stop the run plagued them last Thursday at Georgia Tech and the same can happen here if they aren’t careful. Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani has gone with two quarterbacks in the Eagles’ first two games (both wins), utilizing the skill sets of Dave Shiniskie and Justin Tuggle to the team’s advantage.


Running backs Montell Harris and Josh Haden can pose matchup issues for opponents, something the Eagles will look to exploit in Death Valley. But the best back on the field will likely be senior C.J. Spiller, who can make the play that leads Clemson to the close win over BC. The question for Clemson: how mentally tough is this program? There was an improvement under Coach Swinney after Tommy Bowden was dismissed in the middle of last season. The answer here is “yes”, with Spiller leading the Tigers to a three-point victory.


12:00 PM ET  Wofford at Wisconsin Big 10 Network

Could we have another “Cal Poly” on our hands? That’s the team that gave the Badgers all they wanted and then some last season before falling due to woes in the kicking game. The Terriers can make things difficult for Wisconsin as well, which is what they did in the first half of their game at USF to start the season. But in the end John Clay, Zach Brown and the Badger offensive line will be too much for their FCS-level opponents.                           

12:00 PM ET  Ball State at Army

Ball State lost to New Hampshire last weekend, and to be honest outside of RB Miquale Lewis who has really stepped up for them this season? Have a hard time believing that they’ll travel up to West Point and play well enough on defense to slow down the Army running game. The job for Army: finish. They were in good shape against Duke last weekend until the fourth quarter; look for Rich Ellerson’s team to finish the job this week.


12:00 PM ET  Northern Illinois at Purdue   Big 10 Network

The Huskies have the defense required to make Purdue work on offense. But can QB Chandler Harnish and company produce enough points to have a chance at winning in the fourth quarter? The answer here is no, but not necessarily a convincing one. The Boilers will be challenged but they’ll ultimately prevail.


12:20 PM ET  North Texas at No. 4 Alabama

North Texas will be more competitive this season than they have been in seasons past, but it still won’t be enough to entertain thoughts of upsetting one of the nation’s best teams. Roll Tide.


2:00 PM ET    Furman at Missouri   

Blaine Gabbert and company struggled last week against Bowling Green, needing a fourth quarter rally to take care of the Falcons. Such issues against the Paladins would be cause for a red flag, but it’s hard to see things getting to that point. Tigers win big.                                   

3:30 PM ET    Tennessee at No. 1 Florida CBS

This one could get ugly. Lane Kiffin had some interesting things to say in the offseason, from “singing ‘Rocky Top’ all night long when we beat Florida” to improper allegations of recruiting improprieties. Florida head coach Urban Meyer dismissed the notion that he’d be out for some payback on Saturday, but is that idea shared by his players? Tim Tebow made it known that he “didn’t like anyone talking about Coach” in that manner, and you can bet that if he’s fired up then the rest of the squad is sure to follow. Coach Kiffin has never coached as a visitor in “The Swamp”, and to say the least it’s a unique experience. Cutting to the chase: Tennessee is going to get blown out. What extracurricular activities ensue (ex. - using all timeouts to make them suffer a la Georgia last year) remains to be seen.            


3:30 PM ET    No. 3 USC at Washington    

Pete Carroll heads to Seattle to take on former assistant Steve Sarkisian, who is hoping to turn around a proud program that was once among the best in the nation. The Huskies did end their fifteen-game losing streak last weekend with a win over Idaho, but this isn’t Idaho they’re taking on in the Pac-10 opener. Aaron Corp will likely get the start in place of freshman Matt Barkley (shoulder), and Corp is coming off of a knee injury himself that caused him to miss time in fall camp.


He’s a little more mobile than Barkley, making him more likely to tuck the ball and run on occasion. But with “The Stable” behind him there shouldn’t be much reason for him to be a factor in the running game. For Washington the thought of an upset hinges on what players outside of QB Jake Locker can do offensively. It’s unfair to expect him to carry this team to what would be a defining win in the young tenure of Coach Sarkisian, but he can keep the Huskies around for a bit.


3:30 PM ET    Tulsa at No. 12 Oklahoma

There’s been a lot of talk about the Sooners needing to get Sam Bradford healthy enough to play when they visit Miami on October 3rd. Someone had better tell those folks that Tulsa is no slouch, and given their showing at Arkansas last season may feel that they’ve got something to prove. The Golden Hurricane went into that game undefeated with hopes of making a run and joining the “BCS buster’ conversation with Utah and Boise State. But the offense didn’t click on all cylinders and the defense didn’t fare much better in dealing with the Hogs, who won by ten.


QB G.J. Kinne has played well in replacing the departed David Johnson, and if the Tulsa offensive line can hold its own with Oklahoma’s vaunted front seven there may be some big-play opportunities down the field. Landry Jones and company looked very good against Idaho State last week, but it doesn’t take much effort to beat one of the worst teams at the FCS level. Tulsa will give Oklahoma all they want, provided they survive an early onslaught and the defensive line can win its battle up front with Oklahoma’s inexperienced group. But in the end the running back tandem of DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown will be too much for Tulsa.


3:30 PM ET    No. 19 Nebraska at No. 13 Virginia Tech

This is an intriguing matchup with the Cornhuskers looking to avenge last year’s loss in Lincoln. But the question is this: is it better to have two confidence-building wins (Nebraska), or is it better to be tested even if you failed that test (Virginia Tech)? The Hokies have struggled in the passing game and without some offensive balance it’s going to be tough to defend their ACC title, especially given how well Miami has played.


The Cornhuskers will likely be a part of a three-team race in the Big 12 North, and their stout defense is a big reason why. But how will Zac Lee perform in Blacksburg? He’s yet to make a road trip like this as the starter, leaving many interested to see how he performs on such a stage. The Hokies have the home field advantage, but that passing game…not sure if it’s adequate enough to get them the win if Nebraska succeeds in slowing down the rushing attack. Huskers by a field goal.


3:30 PM ET    No. 18 Utah at Oregon

This is an extremely tough game to call; will Oregon be as explosive on offense as they were against Purdue last week in their second game without LaGarrette Blount? They’ll face a much tougher defense this week in Kyle Whittingham’s group. QB Terrence Cain has played well in replacing Brian Johnson, but Utah has turned the ball over five times in wins over Utah State and San Jose State. The failure to take care of the football could be lethal in Eugene thanks to the Ducks’ quick-strike offense and one of the loudest stadiums in the country. QB Jeremiah Masoli was also Oregon’s leading rusher with eighty-four yards and a touchdown; Utah will need to hit him hard and often if they’re to slow down Chip Kelly’s attack. The pick here is that the Utes take care of the football and make enough plays on defense to escape with their seventeenth consecutive victory.


3:30 PM ET    Wyoming at Colorado

Would it be fair to call this the most important game in the tenure of Dan Hawkins at Colorado? The Buffaloes don’t need this win to simply avoid dropping to 0-3; they need this to avoid what could be a disastrous start given how tough the schedule gets once they hit Big 12 play. And it doesn’t help matters that they’ll face a head coach who’s quite familiar with what they do since Dave Christiansen was most recently the offensive coordinator at Missouri. If the Cowboys can pressure Cody Hawkins (he suffered a concussion at Toledo) things could get ugly; Colorado basically has no one else to turn to at the position due to the desire to redshirt sophomore Tyler Hansen. Look for more plays called for Darrell Scott, who was the best Buffalo on the field in their disturbing loss at Toledo, and a close Colorado victory.


3:30 PM ET    Michigan State at Notre Dame NBC

Is this a “crossroads” game for Charlie Weis and the Fighting Irish? Depends on who you ask but there’s no disputing the fact that the Spartans haven’t lost in South Bend since 1993. This rivalry tends to be a wild affair, so nothing less is to be expected when these two get together on Saturday. But how has Michigan State dealt with loss to Central Michigan, dropping a game they should have been able to close out? Previous coaching staffs would have allowed the hurt to linger, causing the season to tumble downhill (hence the saying “that’s why they’re Michigan State), but that hasn’t been the case under Mark Dantonio. Look for Michigan State to win a close one on the road.


3:30 PM ET    Middle Tennessee at Maryland

After two games, what can you make of this Maryland football team? The beating at Cal wasn’t much of a surprise although it didn’t help the national perception of the ACC any. But to get taken to overtime by James Madison last week, not to mention losing starting corner Nolan Carroll to a broken leg? Not a good way to head into a payback game. Middle Tennessee took care of the Terps in Murfreesboro last season 24-14, and if Maryland isn’t careful they could have their hands full with QB Dwight Dasher. He’s a dual threat quarterback with some speed; shutting him down could be a challenge for Maryland if they don’t take care of business. There’d be a little more confidence in picking Middle Tennessee if Joe Craddock was still on the team, but he isn’t. Terps win it by a touchdown.


3:30 PM ET    Indiana at Akron      

The Hoosiers have started every season since 2004 with a 2-0 record, but in the third game they’re just 2-3. On the other side of this is an Akron program that is 1-19 all-time against current members of the Big Ten. Akron has already played Penn State and that didn’t go so well while the Hoosiers have a win over one of the favorites in the MAC in Western Michigan. Akron has also suspended starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain indefnitely, so look for the Hoosiers to do just enough to get to 3-0.


3:30 PM ET    Alcorn State at Central Michigan

After beating Michigan State Dan LeFevour and company will look to avoid the letdown against the Braves. They should have little problem in doing so.


3:30 PM ET    Virginia at Southern Miss

Al Groh is in trouble. The Cavaliers, 0-2 with losses to William & Mary and TCU, need wins but in front of them is a schedule that doesn’t lend itself to running off a win streak. Heading to Hattiesburg 1-1 would have been permissible, but the state they’re in right now (now QB Vic Hall either) could potentially make this a “resume game” for Coach Groh and his staff. In other words, if Virginia gets embarrassed the staff would be wise to prepare there resumes. They’ll show the requisite pride, but Larry Fedora’s got the better team. Golden Eagles will take care of business in front of the home folks.


3:30 PM ET    UAB at Troy

UAB looked like they were turning a corner in their first game of the season, soundly defeating Rice. Well, either Rice is worse than I (and others) thought or UAB isn’t as good as they looked since SMU did a good job of taking care of the Blazers last week. Troy lost a game they should have won at Bowling Green to start the season, and no one was expecting them to win at Florida last week. Plain and simple, the Trojans need this game, and the Sun Belt favorites will get their first win of the season.


3:35 PM ET    Arizona at Iowa

The first true test for Arizona QB Matt Scott, and he’s going on the road without one of the best tight ends in the nation in Rob Gronkowski (back). How well Arizona performs will depend upon their running game; if Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin are effective they’ve got a good chance. Also, which Iowa team shows up: the one that survived Northern Iowa or the one that went on the road and pasted Iowa State last week? The answer is likely somewhere in between, and the Hawkeyes will have enough to pull out a close win at home. If this game were played at Arizona maybe it’s a different story (Scott’s comfort level) but that’s an argument for another day.


5:00 PM ET    Nevada at Colorado State

The Wolf Pack have had two weeks to stew over their disappointing performance at Notre Dame, with the question being what can they do if teams take away QB Colin Kaepernick. RB Vai Taua did eclipse the 100-yard mark in the 35-0 loss, but does Nevada have a capable playmaker at wide receiver? Maybe Tray Session can step into that role, but if this all falls upon the shoulders of Kaepernick Nevada will be in trouble despite the fact that he is the reigning WAC Player of the Year.


Meanwhile, what Steve Fairchild has done in Fort Collins has been something else, beginning with a bowl victory in his first season on the job (2008). A win here puts QB Grant Stucker and company at 3-0 heading into Provo to take on BYU. Colorado State is a tough football team that isn’t afraid to line up and smack you in the mouth. Keep an eye on this team; they may not be at the level of the BYU/TCU/Utah triumvirate, but they’ll likely be right behind those three in the Mountain West standings.


5:00 PM ET    San Diego State at Idaho

Even in their season-opening loss to UCLA the Aztecs looked like a new team under Brady Hoke, who took over for the fired Chuck Long. SDSU looks like a tougher football team, and a more disciplined one to boot. Idaho has performed better and has a conference win to boot (New Mexico State). The Kibbie Dome is a tough place for visitors to play because it’s an unorthodox facility compared to other stadiums. But the thought here is that Coach Hoke and company can get the job done on the road, winning by ten points.


5:00 PM ET    Florida International at Rutgers

FIU head coach Mario Cristobal should be quite familiar with his surroundings Saturday afternoon, having served as an assistant under Greg Schiano before taking the head job in the same city in which he grew up. The Golden Panthers have some talent, definitely more than they did before Cristobal arrived on campus. But it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to win at Rutgers, due in large part to the Scarlet Knight offensive line. Rutgers could play sloppily but they will win.


5:00 PM ET    Connecticut at Baylor

The Huskies suffered a painful loss last week, blowing a 10-0 lead in losing to ranked North Carolina. Now they’ve got to rebound on the road against one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country (Robert Griffin III) without the services of their starting quarterback (Zach Frazer). Cody Endres will be ready to go despite battling a stomach illness that also hit DE Lindsey Witten (nation-leading seven sacks). Connecticut’s defense should be able to hold its own, but it’s hard to see the offense scoring enough points to win on the road. Baylor wins by two scores.


5:00 PM ET    SMU at Washington State    

SMU is looking for a 3-0 start, and they can get the job done even though they’ll be on the road. The Cougars are definitely beatable, and June Jones’ team will exploit that in a seven-point victory.


6:00 PM ET    Gardner-Webb at North Carolina State

NC State takes on their second consecutive FCS opponent, and the same this week should be the same as last: a blowout victory.


6:00 PM ET    Navy at Pittsburgh

There are a few differences between last season’s meeting in Annapolis and the rematch at Heinz Field. Navy’s quarterback situation is much more stable this time around thanks to Ricky Dobbs, and the Panthers no longer have LeSean McCoy. But they do have freshman Dion Lewis, who is one of the best first-year running backs in the country. Outside of Scott McKillop the Pitt defense returns most of its key contributors, meaning that they’ve got the tools necessary to slow down Navy’s option attack. Navy will keep things close throughout, but in the end the Panthers will have enough offense to move to 3-0 on the season.


6:30 PM ET    Elon at Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons notched a huge comeback victory against Stanford, possibly saving their season in the process. Look for Riley Skinner and company to handle Elon with ease.                                              

6:45 PM ET    No. 17 Cincinnati at Oregon State

When it’s all said and done this could end up being the most exciting game of the day. Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers goes into this one banged up but will play, and it’s a good thing that he will. Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme has performed well for the Bearcats, giving the unit added versatility that they lacked last season in running the 4-3. Add this to an explosive offense and they’ve got a very good chance of not just winning this game but also repeating as Big East champions.


But non-conference teams traditionally struggle in Corvallis, which can be a loud stadium along with the fact that it isn’t the easiest place to get to. Both teams can use the boost in national perception that a win would bring, as can their respective conferences. But look for Cincinnati to take one more step towards proving the masses who gave them no shot at a conference title wrong.


7:00 PM ET    Florida State at No. 7 Brigham Young

Let’s see: Florida State pass defense has struggled against Miami and Jacksonville State. Not a good thing when you’re flying across the country to take on one of the best passing attacks in the country. The Cougars, in front of a frenzied home crowd, will roll to a big victory. The Seminoles, on the other hand, go into next week’s game against USF in danger of falling to 1-3 on the season.


7:00 PM ET    UL Lafayette at No. 9 LSU  

What’s the difference between Kansas State and LSU? Ask UL Lafayette when this game ends because they should have the answer. Tigers take care of business at home.                                 

7:00 PM ET    Texas State at No. 15 TCU  

Virginia only scored twice on TCU because they decided that they had nothing to lose once down 31-0 and went deep. Texas State can use that strategy early, but it won’t matter. Jerry Hughes picks up multiple sacks in what should be an easy victory for the Horned Frogs.


7:00 PM ET    Rice at No. 16 Oklahoma State       

Houston was able to go into Stillwater and beat the Cowboys last weekend, so it’s possible for their city rivals to do the same right? No. This isn’t the Rice that had Chase Clement, Jarrett Dillard and James Casey last season, something that’s become quite obvious in their 0-2 start. The Cowboys make it a 0-3 beginning for David Bailiff’s young team.


7:00 PM ET    Charleston Southern at USF

The Bulls have been the masters of the slow start in their first two games, and that’s not the best trait to have when they visit Florida State next week. These first three games for Jim Leavitt’s team were more about eliminating bad habits and establishing team chemistry; Charleston Southern is not going to beat them.


7:00 PM ET    Central Arkansas at Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers won two games last season, both coming against FCS opponents. In their first season as a full-fledged FBS member they’ve gotten a taste of just how far they have to go in losses to Tennessee and USF. But they could be walking into a trap, with Central Arkansas already having taken Hawaii the distance in the season opener before losing. Look for Central Arkansas to win on the road with a late score.


7:00 PM ET    Northwestern at Syracuse

The Wildcats can lose this game if they play like they did against Eastern Michigan last week. Pat Fitzgerald’s team needed a field goal late in the fourth quarter to beat the Eagles, and Doug Marrone’s Orange have the ability to fight them to the final whistle as well. The key for Syracuse: their receivers must step up to the plate. There have been too many drops for Coach Marrone’s liking in the first two games, possibly meaning that they’ll be ready to step up on Saturday night. That’s the gamble here. Greg Paulus picks up his first win as a college quarterback, which will also be Coach Marrone’s first as a college head coach.


7:00 PM ET    Cal Poly at Ohio

If WR Ramses Barden and former head coach Rich Ellerson (now at Army) were still at Cal Poly then a win at Ohio would be far more reasonable. The Mustangs can still pull it off given the inconsistent nature of Ohio’s quarterback play thus far, but those two make a huge difference.


7:00 PM ET    Mississippi State at Vanderbilt

The Bulldogs are an improved team under Dan Mullen, but there was so far to go from where they finished 2008. They had a hard time slowing down Auburn last weekend, and the Tigers weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut themselves last year. Vanderbilt was actually the worst offensive team in the SEC last year but they found a way to win games. The same happens here thanks to the presence of QB Mackenzi Adams.


7:00 PM ET    Utah State at Texas A&M

The Aggies have already shown signs of improvement under new head coach Gary Andersen, but it’s hard to see them having enough talent to knock off Texas A&M. The Aggies in maroon reign supreme after this battle.


7:00 PM ET    Bowling Green at Marshall

Not sure how good this Marshall team is, and the Falcons do have a win over a Troy squad picked to win the Sun Belt for the second consecutive year. Look for the Falcons to pick up their second win of the season behind the play of QB Tyler Sheehan.


7:00 PM ET    Iowa State at Kent State

Kent State will start a true freshman at quarterback due to injury, which to some would be a reason not to pick them to beat the Cyclones. However, Paul Rhoads’ team looked pretty bad in their 35-3 home loss to in-state rival Iowa last week. Austen Arnaud and company don’t look as bad this week, but RB Eugene Jarvis makes some plays on the ground in a close win for the Golden Flashes.


7:00 PM ET    Nicholls State at Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs didn’t have much staying power in losses to Auburn and Navy, two teams that gashed them on the ground repeatedly. Saturday they take on a Nicholls State team that doesn’t have the same level of talent or offensive efficiency as those two and that will show on the scoreboard. Bulldogs romp.


7:00 PM ET    Florida Atlantic at South Carolina

The Owls certainly haven’t ducked anyone in the early going, already having taken on Nebraska in the season opener. QB Rusty Smith can get some things done through the air provided he’s given enough time to do so. Keep an eye on South Carolina’s young secondary and one of the nation’s best linebackers in senior Eric Norwood. Offensively the Gamecocks snapped out of their slumber to post thirty points (seven came on a Norwood pick) in a close 41-37 loss to Georgia. If Stephen Garcia can keep the interceptions to a minimum South Carolina should take care of business.


7:00 PM ET    Miami (OH) at Western Michigan

Through two games the Redhawks have been outscored 90-0. They’ll score on the Broncos, but QB Tim Hiller and company will post a lot more in a blowout win for WMU.


7:30 PM ET    Southeastern Louisiana at No. 5 Mississippi          

This will be an easy win for the Rebels, whose primary goal (other than winning) will be to get through the game with a clean bill of health.


7:30 PM ET    Air Force at New Mexico

Mike Locksley has a lot of work to do in turning around the New Mexico program. He learns just how much there is to be done within the Mountain West when the Falcons visit in his first conference game.


7:30 PM ET    Buffalo at UCF

The Knights needed a fourth quarter rally to beat Samford earlier this season. Not sure if there’s any way in which they’d be expected to beat the defending MAC champs when UTEP couldn’t do it two weeks ago. Turner Gill and company get back on the right track following their loss to Pittsburgh last week.


7:45 PM ET    No. 23 Georgia at Arkansas

Georgia QB Joe Cox looked a lot better last week than he did in the first game of the season, a 24-10 loss at Oklahoma State. Can he do the same on the road against an Arkansas team hoping to throw its hat into the SEC West ring? Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has yet to experience an SEC conference game firsthand, and the Michigan transfer will learn for himself the difference in speed between the two leagues. How he deals with the Georgia defense, which should perform better than it did last week in the win over South Carolina, will go a long way in determining the winner. But at the end of the night that Bulldog defense will be too much for Arkansas to handle, but they’ll hang around.


7:45 PM ET    West Virginia at Auburn      

Auburn led the Mountaineers in last season’s game 17-3 at one point. The final score: WVU 34-17 and it wasn’t even that close once the Mountaineers got rolling. West Virginia showed a national television audience that they’ve got some speed as well, and those jets will be on display in the heart of SEC country on Saturday. But Gene Chizik has brought a new attitude, and in offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, a new offense that has succeeded in both putting up points and running the football in 2009. The key: how well does West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown play on the road? The prediction here is that he doesn’t get rattled and plays well, picking up a big win for the Mountaineers and the Big East.


8:00 PM ET    Texas Tech at No. 2 Texas

Last year’s game was a classic, with the Red Raiders knocking off the Longhorns in Lubbock. The scene shifts to Austin, and Mike Leach will bring along a team missing defensive starters DE Ra’Jon Henley and SS Franklin Mitchem due to injury. How well can QB Taylor Potts perform in his first conference game as the starter? How much has the Texas secondary improved since last season, when they were among the worst in the country in pass defense?


The Longhorns usually dominate when the game is played in Austin, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise if that were to happen on Saturday night. But the Red Raiders should have enough sticking power to make things interesting in the second half. They just won’t have enough to derail a team that’s on a mission to claim the conference title they felt they should have played for last season.


8:00 PM ET    UTEP at New Mexico State

The toughness of the Miners has been questioned on more than a few occasions the past couple of seasons, but they should have enough to beat a pretty bad New Mexico State team.


8:00 PM ET    Tennessee-Martin at Memphis

The Tigers had a tough time in their first two games, falling to Ole Miss and Middle Tennessee. They should have no such issues with the Skyhawks, picking up their first win of the season.


9:00 PM ET    San Jose State at Stanford   

The Spartans were able to hang around against Utah last week due to some silly mistakes by the Utes. Stanford can make those same errors, but the offensive system that Jim Harbaugh runs tends to lend itself towards the Cardinal not turning the ball over. Toby Gerhart goes for at least 100 yards on the ground and QB Andrew Luck makes a few things happen in the passing game. San Jose State doesn’t have enough offense to beat Stanford so they’ll need to force some turnovers.


10:00 PM ET  UL Monroe at Arizona State           

Another confidence-building game for first-year starting quarterback Danny Sullivan ahead of next week’s trip to Georgia. Just not sure how the “Murderer’s Row” of Idaho State and UL Monroe will prepare them for a solid SEC team.


10:15 PM ET  Kansas State at UCLA

Despite the fact that the Wildcats lost at UL Lafayette last weekend this is a risky pick. The Burins will be without QB Kevin Prince due to injury, and he’s the best quarterback they’ve got. It’s most likely Kevin Craft under center on Saturday night, and he didn’t exactly shine in 2008. But he’ll have enough weapons around him to ensure a win over what is a mediocre football team.


11:00 PM ET  Hawaii at UNLV

Let’s see: UNLV gave Oregon State all it wanted last weekend, losing on a field goal in the game’s final seconds. Hawaii, on the other hand, struggled with Central Arkansas in their opener but took care of Washington State last weekend. UNLV is much better than Washington State, and that’s even if starting QB Omar Clayton can’t go due to a knee injury. Mike Clausen was outstanding in replacing Clayton against Oregon State and there’s little doubt that he can get the job done should his name be called. Just like Colorado State and Air Force, the Rebels could be a spoiler in the Mountain West. They’ll beat Hawaii.