Looking ahead to week #6, this appears to be a round robin tournament in SEC play, as the top contenders will battle it out for conference supremacy in a great Saturday of action. After the SEC slate of games, the current top four ranked Pac-10 teams will go head-to-head to set up the conference pecking order out west for the remainder of the season. Overall, this looks to be a great weekend of action as numerous games between nationally ranked opponents highlight the first weekend of October. Time for an in-depth review of the games to focus on this Saturday!
GAME OF THE WEEK
#8-Louisiana State at #3-Florida
The best game of the weekend is a top ten matchup between cross-division rivals in the SEC. The LSU Tigers are coming off a 48-17 pasting of Mississippi State this past weekend as JaMarcus Russell had a great game, only missing on 2 passes out of 20 attempts and throwing for 3 touchdowns. Meanwhile in the “Swamp” the Gators took control of a close game in the 4th quarter by scoring two late touchdowns to open up a one point game as Florida knocked off pesky Alabama 28-13. In the last two meetings of these rivals, LSU has emerged victorious by slim margins, 24-21 at UF in 2004 and 21-17 in Death Valley last year. The Gators are in the toughest 4-game stretch of any team in the nation this year, as they follow up the LSU game with a trip to Auburn and then return home after a bye week to take on the Bulldogs of Georgia. Let’s see how these schools matchup on both sides of the football.
The LSU offense is still tough to get a read on, as the Tigers have blasted the lower level teams on their schedule but struggled mightily in their trip to the plains of Auburn, only putting a field goal on the scoreboard. QB JaMarcus Russell is playing really well as he is completing passes at a 70% clip on the season, and even in the loss to Auburn, he still was able to throw for 267 yards. Russell will need to lead this team if they expect to knock off Florida since the LSU running game has not been very effective to this point in the season, with the Tigers' leading rusher having less than 50 yards in 4 of 5 games. The Florida defensive unit has been excellent and forced Alabama QB John Parker Wilson into 3 interceptions on Saturday. Against a QB as accurate and mobile as Russell, the Gator front four must apply pressure and allow the linebackers to roam the middle of the field. If the linebackers are needed to rush the passer on a consistent basis, Russell will be able to pick apart the Gator secondary, and LSU will pile up yardage in the air.
For a guy that has played very well to this point in the season, QB Chris Leak is surprisingly underappreciated as Gator fans clamor to see more of freshman phenom Tim Tebow. On the year, Leak has thrown 13 touchdowns against 3 interceptions and has directed a controlled and workmanlike Gator offense that is averaging 25 points a game in conference play. Of concern to Florida is the potential loss of RB DeShawn Wynn to an ankle injury, which could result in Tebow seeing more playing time since he can provide an additional spark in the running game. Opponents have not found much room to run against the LSU front, including Auburn’s All-SEC back Kenny Irons who only was able to average 2.8 yards per carry in 25 attempts in their week #3 contest. This means that Chris Leak may be relied upon to win this game with his arm and will need to find his favorite target, Dallas Baker, if the Gators are to keep up with LSU. At this point in the season, these teams look to be as even as can be, which makes the home field advantage critical in this contest, meaning the Gators will need their fans to be at their loudest to take any advantage that they can get on Saturday afternoon.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
Oklahoma vs #7-Texas (in Dallas)
The Red River Rivalry heats up yet again and as usual, the Big 12 South Division title looks to be on the line in Dallas, with the winner of this contest claiming 8 out of the past 10 division titles. Oklahoma is coming off a bye week after taking out their frustrations of the Oregon loss on Middle Tennessee State by a score of 59-0, a game which saw the Sooner defense allow only 95 yards of total offense. The Oklahoma offense has been very productive this season as QB Paul Thompson has stepped into a tough situation and performed well above expectations, while RB Adrian Peterson continues to roll along as expected as the Sooners are generating 38.3 points per game so far this year. Texas basically had a bye this past week as the Horns cruised to a 42-0 halftime lead as QB Colt McCoy completed 13 of 15 passes and connected on 2 touchdowns in a 56-3 rout of 1-AA Sam Houston State. Texas will look to spread the ball around, utilizing the talents of WR’s Limas Sweed and Selvin Young and then hammer away at the Sooner front seven with RB Jamaal Charles. With both teams already suffering a defeat, the loser of this game is knocked out of the national title picture for good, and neither of these two programs want to play the spoiler role just yet.
#10-Tennessee at #14-Georgia
A key battle is on tap in the SEC East as the Volunteers of Tennessee invade Athens, Georgia to take on the Bulldogs. Although Georgia is undefeated, the Bulldog offense has really struggled in the past two games, scoring a total of 28 points against teams with a combined 1 win on the season. The QB position has seen 3 different starters in 5 games, and the Dawgs have yet to be able to gain a level of consistency on the offensive side of the ball. The good news for Georgia is that the defense has been tremendous, giving up a total of 24 points in 5 games. Challenging the stifling Georgia defense will be a potent Tennessee attack under the direction of QB Erik Ainge, who is completing 71% of his passes, the majority to All-American candidate WR Robert Meachem. With the play of these two defensive units so far this year, the offenses will have their work cut out for them, and this could easily turn into a low-scoring affair with 17 points being enough to secure the victory.
#12-Oregon at California
Talk about teams that are rolling right now, Oregon and California meet in a huge Pac-10 clash on Saturday night. California rebounded from their opening week disappointment against Tennessee to roll over their next 4 opponents by a combined score of 174-67. The key to the Golden Bear offense is a line that has really developed quickly and is allowing QB Nate Longshore plenty of time to find his talented receivers and providing Heisman candidate Marshawn Lynch with room to run. Oregon followed Cal’s lead in thrashing Arizona State 48-13 as the Ducks put together an all-around great effort. The top stat on the day was the Oregon defense limiting a good ASU passing offense to 33 yards in the air on the afternoon. The winner of this contest steps into the role as the lead challenger to USC’s Pac-10 supremacy.
Arkansas at #4-Auburn
Auburn returns home after surviving a Thursday night scare in their visit to South Carolina as the Tiger defense did not play its best game of the season. The question mark in this contest will be whether or not Arkansas will be able to take advantage of the Auburn secondary as QB Mitch Mustain struggled in his last game versus Alabama. The Hogs will have to try to establish their power running game with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones leading the charge in order to soften up the aggressive and attacking Auburn defense. The Auburn offense has been solid but not spectacular and likely will continue to rely on RB Kenny Irons to direct the unit. Arkansas must generate its best offensive output of the year and find a legitimate passing threat to have any shot of pulling off the upset on the road.
#13-Clemson at Wake Forest
Wake Forest is off to a 5-0 start, but the Deacons will take a monumental step up in competition when they host Clemson. Season to date, Wake’s biggest win is an opening day 20-10 victory at home versus an average Syracuse squad. The Deacons have relied on their defense to win games, but the stop troops will have to contend with a Clemson unit that is averaging 43.4 points per game. Leading the Clemson offense is running back James Davis who already has 11 touchdowns and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry on the season. The final piece to the Tiger puzzle is to get QB Will Proctor to be as effective in passing the ball as the running game, and if he is able to take his game to the next level, the offense will be unstoppable and Clemson could be making reservations for the ACC championship game. CU looks to be a solid favorite in this game, but if Wake can find a way to stage the upset, the Deacons immediately become contenders in a wide open ACC race.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Maryland at #15-Georgia Tech - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
Georgia Tech is coming off a tremendous effort in hammering Virginia Tech on the road. The Jackets need to stay focused on the job at hand against a Maryland team that is still looking to find its offensive rhythm.
Purdue at Iowa - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Iowa needs to get over its loss to Ohio State in quick fashion as Purdue is dangerous and the Boilers want to get back on track after getting dominated by Notre Dame. The Hawks spent a tremendous amount of energy preparing for the Buckeye visit, so this game will provide a great measuring stick of how this team handles adversity and bounces back.
Michigan State at #6-Michigan - Saturday 3:30 PM CDT
The Wolverines are rolling, clearly establishing themselves as a national title contender, while the Spartans are coming off a total embarrassment as they lost at home to Illinois. With Ohio State on the horizon, the Spartans season could unravel very quickly without a great effort on Saturday.
Penn State at Minnesota - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Although not a matchup featuring great records, these two teams have lost 5 games to opponents with a combined record of 22-3. Penn State needs this one to work out the offensive kinks before Michigan visits next week, while the Gophers are focused on simply getting one in the win column in conference play after an 0-2 start.
Nebraska at Iowa State - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Nebraska needs an impressive performance after struggling to overcome a gutsy effort from Kansas in an OT win last weekend. Iowa State needed a late touchdown to avoid a shocking upset, knocking off in-state 1-AA rival Northern Iowa.
Missouri at Texas Tech - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
Missouri is off to a 5-0, but their biggest win to date is a 28-13 victory over winless Colorado so the Tigers still need a real test. Tech is coming off a huge win over division rival Texas A&M, a game that saw them score the winning touchdown with 26 seconds left to play.
Southern Miss at Tulsa - Tuesday 6:30 PM CDT
A key Conference USA battle in mid-week as the winner of this dual establishes themselves as a conference favorite along with Houston. Both teams are off to 3-1 starts, and this is Tulsa’s first conference battle while Southern Miss is looking to build on last week’s win over Central Florida.
Navy at Air Force - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT
Navy is coming off their best performance of the season as the Midshipmen put up 605 yards of total offense in their 41-17 rout of UConn. Air Force is looking to get a jump on the Commander-In-Chief Trophy, and the Falcons are off to a solid 2-1 start, with their lone loss being a 31-30 battle at Tennessee.
Texas Christian at Utah - Thursday 8:00 PM CDT
Utah was brought down to earth last weekend as Boise State came to Salt Lake City and rolled over the Utes 36-3, while TCU saw its 13-game winning streak snapped at home in a 31-17 loss to BYU. TCU needs this game to stay in the conference race, while Utah looks to get off to a 2-0 start in the Mountain West.
Washington at #2-USC - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT
USC is still not clicking on all cylinders as they held off a late Washington State comeback last weekend to move to 4-0. The Washington defense played a great game versus Arizona, holding the Wildcats to -7 yards on the ground, as the Huskies are playing their best football in years.
South Carolina at Kentucky - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT
Kentucky looks much improved over last year, already equaling its win total of 3. Carolina needs to bounce back from the disappointment of falling 5 yards short of forcing Auburn into OT as the Wildcats are a dangerous bunch.
Nevada at Hawaii - Saturday 11:00 PM CDT
After struggling out of the gate, Nevada is looking very good, and the Wolfpack enters this game fresh off a 31-3 thrashing of UNLV. Hawaii, at home, is an offensive juggernaut as QB Colt Brennan has already thrown for 14 touchdowns in 4 games.