Saturday Football Preview

October 17th, 2009

12:00 PM ET  No. 20 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas

The likely game of the day leads off Saturday, and the Red River Rivalry usually doesn't lack for excitement. Although the Sooners are likely out of the BCS title race the Big 12 crown is still on the table, and they should be helped by the fact that Sam Bradford was able to get a week in before taking on the Longhorns. Also of note is the return of WR Ryan Broyles, who many thought would miss this game due to injury. His return gives Bradford arguably his best offensive weapon on the outside, and backs Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray also have the ability to hurt Texas.


As for Texas, despite their lofty ranking there's room for questions given the fact that their schedule leading up to Saturday hasn't been the most daunting. Rest assured their experienced offensive line hasn't seen a front seven the caliber of Oklahoma's to this point in the season, and combining this with the loss of two running backs due to injury it could be tough sledding for Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and company. Historically the team that's ranked lower coming into the game hasn't fared well, winning just fourteen meetings since 1936. But that "trend" gets thrown for a loop on Saturday. Sooners win by a touchdown.


12:00 PM ET  No. 7 Ohio State at Purdue

The Buckeyes have struggled offensively while it's been a case of the defense not holding up its end of the bargain for Purdue. Combining that with the overall disparity in talent, look for Jim Tressel's team to take care of the Boilermakers.


12:00 PM ET  No. 11 Iowa at Wisconsin     

Quite a few people have jumped off of the Badger bandwagon following their loss to Ohio State last weekend. But to be honest Wisconsin was able to move the football; breakdowns in the form of turnovers and the kicking game resulted in a final score not wholly indicative of the sixty minutes of play. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, continue to simply win games thanks to a solid and opportunistic defense combined with an offense that's had a knack for making plays when they're needed most.


But this could be the week in which that doesn't work out for Kirk Ferentz and company. Scott Tolzien has played better than many expected him to in the preseason and playing in front of the home folks will have its benefits. Badgers win by a field goal in what could be one of the more entertaining games of the day.


12:00 PM ET  Louisville at Connecticut     

Back to the scene of the "crime" for the Cardinals, whose loss to the Huskies two seasons ago featured an improperly called fair catch that resulted in Larry Taylor running back the punt for a touchdown. You could argue that the loss was a program-changer for both; the Huskies went on to share the Big East title with West Virginia while the most recent chapter in Louisville football before their win over Southern Miss was the erroneous report that Steve Kragthorpe had been fired.


The Cardinals are still in need of wins at this point in the season, as is a Connecticut squad that's displayed a maddening inability to close out games. Truth be told Randy Edsall's team should be 5-0, but 4th quarter lapses on defense and offensive futility resulted in losses to North Carolina and Pittsburgh. Look for no such issues this weekend, however; Connecticut gets back on the right track thanks to a big day from backs Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman.


12:00 PM ET  Northwestern at Michigan State      

Northwestern is another one of those teams that seems to find ways in which to win football games. Their individual talent won't overwhelm anyone but Pat Fitzgerald and his staff puts each player in a position to optimize their talents, and as a result the team benefits. But can Mike Kafka and company move the ball on a much-improved Spartan defense led by LB Greg Jones? They will but the Michigan State offense will also move the ball, doing just enough to knock off the Wildcats in East Lansing.


12:00 PM ET  Delaware State at Michigan

Hopefully the Hornets enjoy their trip to Ann Arbor; they made news in the offseason by deciding to forfeit their conference game against Norfolk State in order to get their heads beat in for a paycheck. Look for Tate Forcier and company to get back on track following their tough loss at Iowa last weekend. 


12:00 PM ET  Wake Forest at Clemson      

Any person who can accurately project what you're going to get out of each ACC Atlantic team on a weekly basis and be right would be in line for a hefty payday; the six teams in that division have been that wildly inconsistent. Wake and Clemson fit right in; take care of the football and show up ready to play and either team could take control of the division. Yet for some reason both tend to operate on the "control is chaos" theory; the Demon Deacons haven't taken great care of the football while the Tigers have struggled to move the ball on offense at times. So when in doubt go with the more experienced signal-caller; Riley Skinner outplays Kyle Parker in leading Wake Forest to a close victory.


12:00 PM ET  Bowling Green at Ball State

The MAC tends to provide college football with some of the wilder finishes on a weekly basis, and this meeting sets up to provide such a finish on paper. The Cardinals have played better in recent weeks with RB Miquale Lewis receiving much-needed help from the other members of the offense. Unfortunately that didn't save them a couple of weeks ago when Toledo completed a 51-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining to steal the victory. The Falcons will also play games down to the wire, but they've got an experienced quarterback in senior Tyler Sheehan. Look for him to be the difference in a close BGSU win.


12:21 PM ET  Georgia at Vanderbilt

No matter who you think the heat may be on in Athens there's no mistaking the fact that the Bulldogs cannot afford to lose this game. Vandy has struggled offensively, most recently falling to Army on the road last weekend. But going up against a defense that's been one of the worst in college football this season, Bobby Johnson's team has a chance to knock off Georgia. But it won't happen. Heading into their bye week before facing Florida in Jacksonville, look for Joe Cox and company to get back on the positive side of the ledger.


12:30 PM ET  Mississippi State at Middle Tennessee State

Crucial penalties and turnovers did in the Bulldogs against Houston last week; it would be safe to assume that those areas were focused on in their preparations for the Blue Raiders. The difference? Instead of taking on a gunslinger in Case Keenum Dan Mullen's team will have to deal with a dual threat in the aptly-named Dwight Dasher. More equipped to deal with Dasher than they were Keenum, look for the Bulldogs to take care of business on the road.


1:00 PM ET    Army at Temple

Not sold on Temple as of yet, especially when they're going to be dealing with an unorthodox defensive scheme (Rich Ellerson's double-eagle flex). The Owls have done a better job of both taking care of the football and forcing turnovers in recent weeks, most notably in their blowout of Buffalo. But the Black Knights have shown themselves to be opportunists thus far, and that will make all the difference in Philadelphia in front of a crowd that could end up being pro-Army. Black Knights pick up win number four, moving closer to their guaranteed slot in the EagleBank Bowl.


2:00 PM ET    Miami (OH) at Ohio             

Could the Redhawks be getting closer to winning their first game of the season? Maybe but unfortunately for them they haven't had the benefit of a bye week either during their 0-6 run, and in fact Mike Haywood's team won't have one all season. That works against them this week, and they'll fall to the Bobcats in Oxford.


2:00 PM ET    Wyoming at Air Force          

While some may look at the 20-17 final and think that the Falcons let one slip away against TCU last week, the truth is that Troy Calhoun's team was kept in check by the Horned Frogs. But the Cowboys' defense isn't as stout at Gary Patterson's unit, which should mean better running lanes for the Air Force's ground game. But keep an eye on Wyoming freshman QB Austyn Carta-Samuels; the Pokes haven't lost since Dave Christiansen plugged him into the starting role. But in a high-scoring game look for the Falcons to emerge victorious.


3:00 PM ET    Nevada at Utah State

The Aggies have improved this season but they're catching the Wolf Pack at precisely the wrong time, especially when you consider some of the defensive struggles that Utah State has had of late. Colin Kaepernick and company continue their run with a resounding win in Logan.


3:30 PM ET    Arkansas at No. 1 Florida   

While some may peg this as an "upset alert" game, that's not the prevailing thought here. Tim Tebow is one more week removed from the concussion he suffered in the Gators' win over Kentucky three weeks ago, and even if he weren't one of the nation's best defenses can most certainly pick up the slack. Ryan Mallett has played very well in Bobby Petrino's offense but he and the rest of the Razorbacks may learn firsthand the differences between Texas A&M, Auburn and Florida when it comes to defense. Florida picks up another win on their way to an inevitable rematch with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.


3:30 PM ET    No. 6 USC at No. 25 Notre Dame

Remember when the New England Patriots got to the point where you'd have to see them lose before ever daring to pick against them? USC may have gotten to that point in this particular series; they've won the last seven and besides the "Bush Push" game in 2005 these meetings haven't been close. Yes the Irish are more explosive offensively, bringing actual artillery to the battle instead of the pea shooters on display in the last two meetings. But what makes the nation think that Jimmy Clausen and company have enough to move the ball at will against one of the country's best defenses?


There's also the matter of freshman quarterback Matt Barkley getting his first start in the rivalry; going up against defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's many blitzes will be tough but this is a kid who's already won at Ohio State. Add to these factors the emotional boost Pete Carroll's team received in the hospital release of RB Stafon Johnson (and his subsequent visit with the team) and you've got a Trojan victory. Notre Dame is more competitive this time around but it's tough to go with them at this point.


3:30 PM ET    Minnesota at No. 14 Penn State      

The Nittany Lions have looked quite impressive against teams ill-equipped to challenge them, and they did get off to a good start against Iowa in September. But the second half of that game, especially the fourth quarter, showed just how far Joe Paterno's team had to go in order to be considered a serious Big Ten contender. Now they've got to deal with one of the nation's best receivers in senior Eric Decker, who has been borderline unstoppable this season. But look for Penn State to win due in large part to the fact that their defense can account for the other Golden Gophers on the field. Decker posts his usual numbers but it won't be enough.


3:30 PM ET    Texas Tech at No. 15 Nebraska

Taylor Potts may be healthy enough to return after getting knocked out of the New Mexico game with a concussion, but it seems as if many of the players favor junior Steven Sheffield and he will likely get the start in Lincoln. But a possible quarterback controversy will be the least of the Red Raiders' problems; how do they go about slowing down DT Ndamukong Suh? For those who don't think he can have as much of an impact against a spread offense, you should have tuned in last week when he kept the Huskers alive while the offense struggled. Once Zac Lee and company got it going in the fourth quarter the Tigers really had no chance. Suh adds another piece of evidence to the idea that he's the best player in college football and Nebraska picks up the win.


3:30 PM ET    No. 23 Houston at Tulane    

The Cougars get back to their task of navigating Conference USA, and with one loss to their credit (UTEP) already they need to keep from slipping up before taking on Tulsa in November. Joe Kemp is improving for the Green Wave but they don't have the firepower (or the defense) necessary to hang with Case Keenum and company. Cougars roll.


3:30 PM ET    California at UCLA  

This represents the game in which the Golden Bears finally get back on track; they're not going up against an offense anywhere near explosive as the Oregon or USC units they lost to by a combined 79-6. While it will still be tough sledding for the Cal offense due to the quality of the UCLA defense look for Jahvid Best and company to pick up a much-needed victory.


3:30 PM ET    NC State at Boston College 

This should be entertaining; Tom O'Brien makes his second trip back to Boston College since leaving for Raleigh and both teams still entertain serious thoughts of winning the wide-open ACC Atlantic. Russell Wilson remains one of the conference's best quarterbacks but for the Wolfpack to get beat the way they did by Duke last week you have to wonder whether or not they have enough to stay in the race. Boston College did nothing offensively last week in their loss to Virginia Tech, but as long as Coach Spaziani got his team to move on from that defeat they can win this game. And they will.


3:30 PM ET    Rice at East Carolina

The Pirates haven't looked their best thus far, splitting their first six games. But they should still have enough to take care of the slumping Owls, who took on a lot of personnel losses following a successful 2008 campaign. David Bailiff will get things rebuilt but 2009 looks like a lean year for his team. Pirates continue to rely on a solid defense and an offense that simply has to avoid making crucial mistakes.


3:30 PM ET    Marshall at West Virginia   

Two of the nation's most productive running backs will be on display in Noel Devine and Darius Marshall, and the latter gives the Thundering Herd a puncher's chance at pulling the upset. If the Mountaineers fail to take care of the football they could be in for more of a battle than the outsiders would expect. But make no mistake about it, this is a rivalry game and both coaches place a great deal of importance on winning this game. West Virginia pulls away in the fourth quarter but it won't be easy.  


3:30 PM ET    Akron at Buffalo       

The Bulls haven't shown much to make people believe that the defending MAC champs have enough to contend for the title in 2009, but the same goes for an Akron squad that was expected to play a role in the MAC East race as well. The winner will hold onto a sliver of hope when it comes to getting to Detroit while the loser will essentially be eliminated from the race. Look for the Bulls to survive thanks to WR Naaman Roosevelt.


3:30 PM ET    Central Michigan at Western Michigan     

Before the season began this was seen as the game that would ultimately decide who would win the MAC West. The Broncos were pasted by Northern Illinois earlier this season so a win by them wouldn't achieve true distance, but it could still establish a true favorite the rest of the way. The two best quarterbacks in the conference will be on display in CMU's Dan LeFevour and WMU's Tim Hiller, and both offenses have the ability to rip off forty points on any given Saturday. The winner will likely be the team that can put together a couple of stops, and the team better equipped to do so looks to be the Chippewas.


4:00 PM ET    Colorado State at No. 12 TCU

The Horned Frogs allowed Air Force to hang around last week with turnovers; the Rams blew a 17-3 lead in losing to Utah thanks to turnovers. But it's hard to expect Gary Patterson's team to put the same kind of performance at home following a week in which the importance of holding onto the football was drummed into their heads. Look for Jerry Hughes and company to get after Grant Stucker on one side of the football while Andy Dalton leads the offense to a much better performance in the TCU win.


4:00 PM ET    Virginia at Maryland                       

The Cavaliers have made a habit of rising from the dead in recent years; they've won two straight following three losses to begin the season. Maryland hasn't been the model of consistency either, going into last week's game with Wake Forest tied for first in the ACC Atlantic and nearly getting their doors blown off before fighting back for a loss that looked far more respectable on the scoreboard (42-32) than it actually was. Look for the rivals to play a closer ballgame, and it will be the suddenly-revived Cavaliers who win. Why? They seem to have this "come back from a brutal start" stuff down to a science.


4:00 PM ET    Kent State at Eastern Michigan

Another week, another case of "if Andy Schmitt were healthy Eastern Michigan would have a chance". Look for the Golden Flashes to find a way to win this game on the road.                                           

4:00 PM ET    New Mexico State at Louisiana Tech         

The job that DeWayne Walker has done in Las Cruces has been overshadowed in his own state by turmoil at the other state school and within the WAC by Robb Akey's Idaho Vandals. There's still a long way to go for the Aggies to get back to respectability but they are making strides. Can they knock off the Bulldogs on the road? It's definitely possible but the pick here is that Phillip Livas finally gets going for Louisiana Tech, who wins this one by ten.


5:00 PM ET    Hawaii at Idaho

Leading the WAC right now is Idaho, and with the way that Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz played last week in place of the injured Greg Alexander there's a good chance that the Vandals will remain atop the conference. Nathan Enderle and the rest of the Vandals have been pushed around for two years; it's quite obvious that they've decided that's going to stop in 2009. It's a struggle but the Vandals get the job done at the Kibbie Dome.


6:00 PM ET    No. 4 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Georgia Tech


This is a very intriguing football game and should the Hokies win they'd leave Atlanta with a stranglehold on the Coastal Division crown. But they'll have their hands full with Paul Johnson's option attack, one that can rip a defense to shreds if that unit doesn't take care of its assignments. It will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Bud Foster cooks up for the Yellow Jackets; this is a unit that he had to challenge before the Miami game for their struggles defending the run and Cody Grimm and company came through in grand fashion.


Two of the conference's best running backs will also be on display in Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, but this one could ultimately come down to which offense hits a big play through the air. Enter Demaryius Thomas, a dangerous receiver for the Yellow Jackets with the ability to slip downfield for big plays. He makes the play that wins the game, thus making the Coastal Division race far more compelling than it would be if the Hokies were to win.


6:00 PM ET    No. 18 BYU at San Diego State

The Aztecs will put up more resistance than UNLV did last week but it won't matter. Max Hall, Harvey Unga and Dennis Pitta play a major role in the Cougars moving down the field at will, and that's what's going to happen in San Diego. Cougars roll.


7:00 PM ET    No. 17 Kansas at Colorado   

The Buffaloes hung with Texas for a half last week but the relative lack of skill eventually proved to be too much. Expect Tyler Hansen, whose redshirt they burned last week, to see a lot of playing time but it ultimately won't matter. Todd Reesing makes a living off of finding receivers Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, and things won't be any different against the Colorado secondary. Jayhawks roll.


7:00 PM ET    Baylor at Iowa State 

Even without Robert Griffin III, who they've had a few weeks to get used to playing without, it's hard to see the Bears losing in Ames. It's certainly possible, especially if QB Austen Arnaud gets hot, but it's an unlikely scenario. Baylor wins by a touchdown.


7:00 PM ET    Illinois at Indiana     

With both teams struggling at this point in time it's easier to go with the team that's got more talent on paper. It's too difficult to sit here and attempt to analyze what's going through both team's minds. If this comes down to a battle of wills, look for the Hoosiers to win. Illinois, however, shows some signs of life and doesn't allow the game to get to that point.


7:00 PM ET    UL Lafayette at Western Kentucky

Look for Ricky Bustle's team to pick up the conference victory on the road; the Hilltoppers have a long way to go before they're a viable threat in the Sun Belt.                           

7:00 PM ET    UAB at Ole Miss       

The Rebels looked very bad offensively last week; those who placed the blame solely upon the shoulders of QB Jevan Snead must also consider the fact that the offensive line was dominated by Alabama's front four. Look for the preseason Heisman candidate to have more time to find receivers and Dexter McCluster to make more plays as well, but this is a dangerous game due to the presence of UAB QB Joe Webb. Rebels win but this will be tougher than many expect it to be.


7:00 PM ET    Troy at FIU

Troy has begun to look like the team picked to win the Sun Belt and that's bad news for FIU. The Golden Panthers put up a fight at home but it won't be enough to slow down the Trojans.


7:00 PM ET    Texas A&M at Kansas State

The Aggies had the ultimate awakening two weeks ago in Arlington; yet to be tested they were soundly whipped by Arkansas 47-19 despite outgaining the Hogs. Why did it get out of hand? A pair of costly fumbles turned the tables on what was a competitive football game. But Kansas State doesn't have as much talent as Arkansas and it's debatable whether or not they can slow down Aggies QB Jerrod Johnson. If A&M can slow down K-State's Brandon Banks in the return game they should return to College Station with the win.


7:00 PM ET    Memphis at Southern Miss  

Memphis beat UTEP at home last week; just one week after the Miners stunned Houston in El Paso. The Golden Eagles have lost two straight, and while they can point to injuries to key players that's a part of football. Look for Larry Fedora's team to bounce back in Hattiesburg, getting back into the thick of the Conference USA East race.


7:00 PM ET    Northern Illinois at Toledo

Northern Illinois doesn't have the most explosive offense around, but when you can lean on a tenacious defense there's only so much that Chandler Harnish and company have to do in order to rack up wins. Toledo may have run roughshod on Colorado's defense a few weeks ago but they were pasted by Western Michigan last week. More of the same for the Rockets, although playing at home will mean a much closer result.


7:30 PM ET    No. 9 Miami (FL) at UCF

The Golden Knights did give Texas a run for their money in the opening game for their on-campus facility, which should give them some hope when the Hurricanes show up in Orlando. Unfortunately for them that hope will be short-lived as Jacory Harris and company take care of business.


7:30 PM ET    Kentucky at Auburn 

Auburn didn't look too good in their loss to Arkansas last week, but they aren't going up against an offense on the level of the Razorbacks this weekend. The Tigers get back on the right track with a win over the Wildcats despite the dangerous nature of WR Randall Cobb and RB Derrick Locke.


7:30 PM ET    Stanford at Arizona  

Two of the more intriguing teams in the Pac-10 get together in Tucson with the winner having a very good chance of finishing in the top four of the final standings. The Wildcats moved the football at will last week but fell apart at the worst possible time, practically giving a game to Washington. As for Stanford the run through the conference slate finally ended with a loss to Oregon State, and things will get tougher on the schedule for both teams in the second half of the season. The key to stopping Stanford is to slow down RB Toby Gerhart, who has the strength to not only run guys over but to also carry them for a few yards. The Wildcats on the other hand are a bit banged up in the backfield but if Nick Foles can continue to produce in the passing game they should be fine. As a matter of fact that's the forecast. Foles plays well, leading the Cats to the win.


7:45 PM ET    No. 22 South Carolina at No. 2 Alabama

For the first time under Steve Spurrier the Gamecocks have won five straight games. But none of those wins have come against teams as good as the Crimson Tide, who are considered to be the best team in the nation in some circles. All three phases have been accounted for with skill and consistency, and they rarely make costly mistakes. And while Stephen Garcia has improved his decision-making the sight of Alabama's defense isn't a good thing at this point in time. Rolando McClain leads the defense and Mark Ingram does the same on offense, resulting in yet another win for Alabama.


8:00 PM ET    Florida Atlantic at North Texas

The Owls have yet to win a football game but they're due. No way can Rusty Smith and company lose their fifth straight, especially when coming off of a much-needed bye week. Riley Dodge has a good game for the Mean Green but it won't be enough to derail the Owls.


8:00 PM ET    Navy at SMU

It wouldn't be a surprise if this was one of the day's ten highest-scoring games; both have the ability to put a lot of points on the board, albeit in far different ways. The Midshipmen will look to control the game on the ground, and if they get to consistently gaining 5+ yards on first down the Mustangs will be in trouble. June Jones, on the other hand, will use the pass to control tempo and that will place added pressure on the Navy defensive backs.


Navy's got a very good linebacking unit, led by Clint Sovie and Ross Pospisil, but they may be rendered ineffective by the system they'll be going up against. The pick here is Navy because of their ability to run the football. A year from now this could be a game that the Mustangs win; not sure if their defense is ready to take that step just yet.


9:15 PM ET    Missouri at No. 16 Oklahoma State

Last year's meeting announced the arrival of the Cowboys on the Big 12 scene; people had to watch this team for their play on the field as opposed to what they thought may come out of the mouth of head coach Mike Gundy. Blaine Gabbert had performed very well in place of Chase Daniel up until last week when he and the Tigers ran into Ndamukong Suh and the Nebraska defense. Oklahoma State doesn't have the same caliber of defense so expect Missouri to move the football effectively. But can they slow down QB Zac Robinson? Yes, but not enough to leave Stillwater with the win. Pokes win by a field goal.


10:00 PM ET  No. 24 Utah at UNLV

The Rebels don't give up as many points as they did to the Utes' bitter rival BYU last weekend, but they won't be much closer in the final margin either. It looks like things are unraveling quickly for UNLV right now.


10:00 PM ET  San Jose State at Fresno State

Getting right to the point the Spartans don't have enough on offense to keep up with the Bulldogs, who should get a big day from RB Ryan Mathews in front of the home folks.


10:15 PM ET  Washington at Arizona State           

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and when a pass ricochets off the foot of a receiver and into the hands of a defender who returns the pass for a score that qualifies as lucky. Can Washington build on the momentum gained in the win over Arizona against a solid Sun Devil defense? That likely will depend on how well the Sun devils do at containing Jake Locker, and freshman LB Vontaze Burfict is athletic enough to match the junior quarterback stride for stride.


The issue for Arizona State is QB Danny Sullivan, who many have questioned all season long. Dennis Erickson has said that Sullivan is his guy, but for that to remain true the senior needs to get the ball in the hands of his skill position players in spots where they're most effective. Look for that to happen on Saturday night, allowing the Sun Devils to pull out the close victory.