2011 NCAAF Week 7 Weekend Preview

October 13, 2011

At this point in the season, we are getting a better feel for who the top teams in the nation truly are. Separation between the top six or so teams is starting to become more evident, although there are a few other teams hanging on that want to prove they are capable of winning some heavy matchups as well. Unfortunately, one of those teams is Clemson, who while winning their first six games, may have already made it through the toughest part of their season. Unless several of the teams ahead of them (the Tigers are currently ranked 8th in the AP poll) lose, Clemson may be left out of serious national title talks even if they were to win the rest of their games.

Of course, there is another team that could say the same thing. Clemson fans, have you ever heard of that school from Idaho that plays on a wacky blue field?

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.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#11 Michigan at #23 Michigan State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

For the first half of Michigan’s game against Northwestern last Saturday, it looked as if I had made a great pick in choosing Northwestern to upset the Wolverines. However, Northwestern’s offense completely stalled in the second half and Michigan rattled off four rushing touchdowns to run away with the win. Although Michigan State is supposedly a better team on paper than Northwestern, a similar story may result in the 2011 battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.

Michigan State has had their troubles scoring against quality opponents this season. This isn’t to say that Michigan has a juggernaut defense, but the Spartans only managed to put up 13 points in a loss to Notre Dame and 10 points in a win against Ohio State, which consequently was one of the most difficult football games to sit through that I have ever experienced. Michigan State’s offense is noticably one dimensional, as they have had a lot of trouble with the ground game this season, which explains why even a mediocre Big Ten defense like Michigan is bound to have success against the Spartans. The hope for the green and white in this game is that they can force turnovers and keep the ball out of Denard Robinson’s hands. Michigan was in the position they were heading into halftime of last weekend’s game thanks to Robinson’s three interceptions, and if the Spartans can have similar success on defense, they may be able to hand their in-state rival loss number one on the season.

My Pick: 35-24 Michigan

#20 Baylor at #21 Texas A&M (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Texas A&M finally ended their losing streak, but they weren’t far from blowing yet another double-digit lead. The Aggies were up eleven points at halftime, but slowly let Texas Tech creep back in, as the Red Raiders cut the deficit to five points with enough time to attempt an onside kick. The Aggies escaped, but it is evident that the problems that came back to bite them in both the Oklahoma State and Arkansas games are still prevalent.

Luckily for Baylor fans, the Bears strength is a direct counter to Texas A&M’s weakness. For as bad as Texas A&M’s defense has seemed to be in the last three weeks, Baylor’s offense is that good. The Bears have finally joined the rest of the Big 12 powers as a team that can score on almost every play, as well as a team that frequently puts up north of 30 points per game. Much of this success is thanks to RG3 (Robert Griffin III, for those of you who still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon), who would be one of the most celebrated players in the country if he played for a big name school. This game will probably come down to which team can score more points. There is almost no doubt that there will be a lot of offensive fireworks in this one.

My Pick: 45-41 Texas A&M

#6 Oklahoma at #21 Texas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

My statistic about the Texas’ lack of success against Oklahoma when they are ranked 11th proved to be pretty ominous. Texas was exposed for what they are; a young team full of good athletes that just haven’t reached their potential yet. In a few years, the Longhorns will probably be a pretty scary team. For now though, the state of Oklahoma is probably the one scaring Texas.

Texas was hurt by two things last Saturday in addition to their lack of experience. Those two things were Landry Jones and turnovers. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, it’s going to be like facing the same team in consecutive weeks. Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden has more passing yards, touchdowns, a better quarterback rating, better completion rate, and throws for more yards per game on average than Jones. If Texas’ defensive backs were overwhelmed last weekend, they should be even more concerned this Saturday. As far as turnovers are concerned, Oklahoma State has more forced turnovers than any team in the Big 12, and is smelling blood after watching the young Longhorn offense fumble the ball five times against the Sooners. Similar to Florida (a young team that was ranked too highly), Texas could be out of the rankings after this weekend after falling to two teams that are simply better than them this season.

My Pick: 36-20 Oklahoma State

#1 LSU at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Tennessee probably feels like they should have won last year’s game against LSU, but as fate would have it, Les Miles was able to add another game to a list of crazy ones that LSU seems to have been a part of since Miles has been head coach. However, with a year under his belt, Tyler Bray may be ready to offer a strong attempt at revenge. The Volunteers have been very strong offensively in every game this season with the exception of last Saturday’s contest with Georgia. Considering the lopsided scores of many of LSU’s games this season, Tennessee will need to be able to keep pace with the Tigers on offense if they don’t want to experience a similar result.

Last year’s game was marked by strong defensive performances by both teams, as well as uncharacteristic turnovers by LSU. The Tigers handed the ball over to Tennessee four times in last year’s game, while Tennessee did not commit any turnovers. If the Volunteers want to be a part of the biggest upset in college football this season, they are going to need to find ways to take the ball away from LSU. While that may be difficult to do, I still see this one being closer than many people think regardless of the turnover ratio.

My Pick: 24-22 LSU

#18 Arizona State at #9 Oregon (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

College GameDay is in Eugene this weekend, and the atmosphere will be great in Autzen Stadium on Saturday night. However, I believe that the Sun Devils are ready for their biggest test of 2011 and have a great shot at pulling off the upset. Arizona State does two things really well that are key in stopping the Oregon Ducks; they have a powerful offense that is capable of reeling off big plays, and they have an opportunistic defense that can force turnovers. If both sides of the ball play to their potential, they are going to give the Ducks all they can handle for the entire game.

Oregon’s offense is statistically slightly better than it was last season, but as Auburn showed in the national title game and LSU confirmed once again in the season opener, the Ducks can be beaten with physical defensive play. Arizona State’s defense is going to be key, because they are banged up and are trying to make it through the tougest part of their schedule by patching up holes. They may catch a huge break though if LaMichael James does not play due to an elbow injury suffered last Thursday. One last thing working in the Arizona State’s favor; they are very unlikely to commit seven turnovers as they did in last year’s game. In what should be a highly entertaining Saturday night showdown, I’m picking the Sun Devils to assure that Oregon will not be making it back to the national title game.

My Pick: 40-35 Arizona State

5 More to Flip To

#15 South Carolina at Mississippi State (Saturday, 12:20 PM ET)

Both teams now start quarterbacks that did not start at the beginning of the season. Marcus Lattimore aside, that decision probably affects South Carolina more than it does Mississippi State.

UCF at SMU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

If you have the means to watch this game, take the opportunity to do so. These are the best teams in Conference-USA, and you might start to wonder if a Big 12 offense and an SEC defense are actually playing…they’re that good.

Ohio State at #16 Illinois (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

As bad as their offense has been lately, the Buckeyes have a shot at upsetting what has been a dream season so far for an Illinois team that has been shaky at times this season.

Florida at #24 Auburn (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

This is more the type of Top 25 team Florida can handle…

#17 Kansas State at Texas Tech (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Kansas State is an exciting fourth quarter team, and Texas Tech scores a lot. What’s not to like?

Storylines for the Weekend

The Dash for Boise State

With the announcement that they will be joining the Big 12 conference instead of the Big East, TCU has set everyone in the Big East camp’s hair on fire. Frantically looking for a “replacement”, the conference has audibly begun considering Boise State for admission. While it would seem even more outrageous for a team from Idaho than a team from Texas to join a conference that includes teams from New York, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, Boise State has to be listening. However, it would be wise for someone to get into the Big 12 commissioner’s ear about pursuing the Broncos. Boise State has made a name for itself as a college football powerhouse over the past decade, and would be the rare team of that caliber that would actually want to be in the conference. Saving the Big 12 isn’t a matter of just getting the current schools to say they’re in it for the long haul; they have to be looking to expand just like all the other power conferences that want to survive.

The Beast or the Least?

The SEC East has a big weekend ahead of them. The division of college football’s toughest conference that, at least for the past couple of years, has been the weaker one has a chance to make a statement on Saturday. Tennessee has a huge game against LSU, Florida takes on Auburn, and South Carolina will look to avoid falling apart after their former starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team earlier in the week. Strong performances, but ultimately wins, by these teams would say a lot about the East division as a whole. Poor performances would just confirm the opinions of most around the country, and result in irrelevancy for teams in the East division for the remainder of the season.

– K. Becks

2 Responses to 2011 NCAAF Week 7 Weekend Preview

  1. Guest on October 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Rumor is Garcia threw his helmet at the old ball coach when he was told he was being dismissed. The helmet was then intercepted!!!

    • K. Becks on October 18, 2011 at 7:27 am

      I enjoyed that one…

      We’ll see how South Carolina does in the rest of the season. With Lattimore gone as well, I can see them losing as many as four out of their final five games.

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