2011 NCAAF Week 2 Weekend Preview

September 9, 2011

Last year, the “Weekend Preview” posts were a staple of my college football coverage throughout the regular season. Since they were fun for me to write, I’ve decided to bring that series back for a second season.

There are several interesting games this weekend, which may surprise some people considering that there is only one matchup featuring two ranked teams. Don’t let that fool you, though. There are a few unranked teams that may find themselves in the Top 25 once the new polls are released on Sunday as a result of their performance on Saturday.

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more games to keep an eye on and some storylines that will keep people talking.

Top 5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#3 Alabama at #23 Penn State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This is the only game on the Saturday slate that pits two ranked teams against each other. Last season, the Penn State defense was shredded by Greg McElroy, but thankfully for Nittany Lions fans the Crimson Tide no longer has McElroy calling the plays. In fact, Alabama’s quarterback situation mirrors that of Penn State’s; both teams had multiple quarterbacks sharing time in their opening game.

Penn State should feel a little more confident in stopping the passing game because of that, but will still have to deal with Trent Richardson and the Crimson Tide rushing attack. Richardson was used sparingly in Alabama’s 48-7 win over Kent State, but will likely be used more in this game because he will be needed. If Penn State can slow down Richardson, they have a chance at keeping the game close. Don’t count on a shocker in this one, though.

My Pick: 34-17 Alabama

#11 Virginia Tech at East Carolina (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Virginia Tech was dominant on offense last weekend, but this weekend’s game will not be a cakewalk by any stretch. East Carolina has been the thorn in Virginia Tech’s side before, and can do it again if the Hokies are not focused. The Pirates showed that they can put up a lot of points, but the key for them in this game will be tightening up a defense that was just as bad as the offense was good. Either East Carolina will have learned what mistakes they made against Marcus Lattimore and the South Carolina offense and correct them, or will repeat the same mistakes and will have to suffer through a long game.

Thanks to David Wilson’s 160 rushing yards last weekend, the Hokies should feel confident that they will have success against East Carolina’s porous defense. However, there is a chance that they could have trouble stopping East Carolina’s offense. Virginia Tech has been known to slip up early in the season, and part of that reputation is thanks to the Pirates. East Carolina will be looking for a repeat of 2008, when the Hokies came into Bank of America stadium and were flat on offense. This game has the potential to be much closer than many people expect.

My Pick: 44-37 Virginia Tech

#12 South Carolina vs. Georgia (Saturday, 4:30 PM ET)

Georgia did not look good on the big stage last Saturday night. In fact, their 35-21 loss to Boise State suggests that the game was closer than it truly was, when you consider how ineffective their secondary was at stopping the Broncos’ inexperienced receivers. The Bulldogs don’t get a break, as they get to take on South Carolina, who is a legitimate dark horse national title contender.

A win for Georgia would be the kind of marquee victory that could end up saving Mark Richt’s job. However, they will need to be much better defensively if they want a chance to win this game. They won’t have the challenge of trying to stop Kellen Moore, but Stephen Garcia can make you pay if you don’t put pressure on him. Georgia was also shaky against the run last weekend, and will really need to clamp down to stop Marcus Lattimore. Although this game will ultimately come down to a battle between South Carolina’s offense and Georgia’s defense, it will likely still be a high scoring affair.

My Pick: 35-27 South Carolina

BYU at #24 Texas (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Texas has cracked the Top 25 once again, but it could be a very short stay. The Longhorns looked good in their opener against Rice, but are young and will get their first true test against the Cougars. BYU will be one of the tougher defenses the Longhorns face the entire season, and it will be interesting to see how the green Texas squad reacts.

For BYU to win, they will have to have a much better offensive performance than they did against Ole Miss last weekend. The Cougars have a talented quarterback in Jake Heaps and the problem wasn’t gaining yards against the Rebels, it was coming away with something to show for their work. The defense will keep BYU in the game, but the offense will have to come through for the Cougars to leave Austin as winners. I think that BYU has a great chance to upset a talented but young Texas team that may have prematurely been voted into the Top 25. It doesn’t mean much to this game in particular, but the Cougars have never lost to Texas in two previous meetings.

My Pick: 24-17 BYU

Utah at USC (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Utah has a great chance to make a statement in their first conference game as a member of the Pac-12. However, both the Utes and the Trojans will be hoping they can play better than they did in their season openers. USC was looking good in the first half of their game against Minnesota, then laid an egg on offense in the second half, narrowly escaping with a 19-17 win. Utah was unimpressive in a 27-10 win over Montana State, disappearing offensively in the second half much like the Trojans.

Utah will need to key on receiver Robert Woods to avoid being carved up by Matt Barkley. On offense, the Utes will hope that John White can eclipse 150 rushing yards once again; if he does, Utah will probably be in good shape. This game will probably come down to which offense can produce for all four quarters, but it will be interesting to see if USC’s defense is any better than it was last year. I think it will be a close one, but I like Utah to take an early season Pac-12 South division lead.

My Pick: 34-31 Utah

5 More to Flip To

Toledo at #15 Ohio State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Buckeyes face their second MAC opponent in a row, and this one isn’t nearly as woeful on offense.

#16 Mississippi State at Auburn (Saturday, 12:20 PM ET)

Auburn was lucky to escape Utah State, and will welcome a Mississippi State team that may be a force in the SEC this season.

#25 TCU at Air Force (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

TCU could be looking at back-to-back losses for the first time in awhile. The option offense makes Air Force tough to stop for any defense.

Cincinnati at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Bearcats will roll into Tennessee boasting an offense that put up 72 points. Forget the fact that it was against Austin Peay, 72 points is a lot of touchdowns…

Notre Dame at Michigan (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Michigan will be playing under the lights in the Big House for the first time in history. That is really the only story, because anyone who truly believes that the team that wins this game is back on the track to prominence is mistaken.

Storylines for the Weekend

How will Georgia respond?

I feel like this is word for word a storyline that I used last season…oh yea, that’s because it is. The Bulldogs put themselves behind the eight ball yet again if they don’t come up big against South Carolina this weekend. The Boise State game wasn’t promising, but at least it wasn’t for SEC position. The Gamecocks are a serious contender for the SEC East title, and Georgia would be doing themselves a huge favor by knocking off South Carolina. Unlike last year, though, I don’t know if Mark Richt is feeling confident about his job either way. Only a win will keep him from feeling the heat of the hot seat.

The Big Ten’s somewhat secret Trap Game Weekend

It may not seem like it, but several Big Ten teams play games that are potential trap games, especially for the teams ranked in the Top 25. Toledo will test Ohio State much more than Akron did last weekend, Iowa State will play tough in their rivalry game against Iowa, and Wisconsin should be wary of an Oregon State team coming off of a humiliating loss at home to Sacramento State. Michigan and Penn State are the teams in the marquee games this weekend, but the outcomes of their games won’t be as telling as some of the other games featuring Big Ten teams. If the Big Ten is really bad, we’ll find out pretty quickly this season. Here’s the catch, though; if the conference is really good, we won’t be able to tell from this weekend’s games.

– K. Becks

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