Thursday, September 20, 2012

College Football 2012 - Week 4 Preview

Big 10
What I am watching:  Can Michigan seize control as the perceived best team in the Big 10 (at least the best that is not on probation) by winning at Notre Dame?  We are waiting for someone to carry this flag, someone to be talked about nationally from this conference.  Michigan already has one eyesore against Alabama.  If they stumble again in South Bend, the Wolverines will be a non-story for the balance of 2012.  As much as Michigan State has struggled against the Fighting Irish, Denard Robinson will be looking to move to 4-0 against the non-conference rival, including a thriller last year in Ann Arbor.

Upset alert:  Louisiana Tech over Illinois.  The Illini have a tough test this week against a Bulldogs offense that is averaging 56 points and over 600 yards a game.  The Illinois defense struggled two weeks ago against Arizona State, so don't be shocked if Louisiana Tech comes in and outscores the home team.  Last week:  Western Michigan over Minnesota (should have been Ball State over Indiana or Notre Dame over Michigan State).

Player on the spot:  Max Shortell, QB, Minnesota.  Last week Shortell stepped in for injured starter Marquies Gray and threw for 260 yards and 4 TD's in a close win over Western Michigan.  Gray is out this week, so Shortell gets the starting nod agaisnt Syracuse as the Golden Gophers try to get to 4-0.  A similar performance will be needed, as the Orange can put up points with Ryan Nassib.  Last week:  Montee Ball, 37 rushes, 139 yards, 1 TD in a 16-14 victory over Utah State.

What I am watching:  If you are not watching Clemson at Florida State, you are missing out.  The ACC title is likely on the line this week, as these two teams have separated themselves from the rest of the conference.  It is a great match-up, Clemson's high-powered offense against the immovable Florida State defense.  Clemson won the battle last year, but they caught the Seminoles at the perfect time.  The winner also enters the BCS Title Game discussion, but with the struggles of the conference as a whole, the winner will likely need to be one of two unbeaten teams left standing in the end to get to the Title Game.

Upset alert:  Army over Wake Forest.  Army is always tough to deal with defensively and got their turnover problem fixed in a close loss to Northern Illinois last week.  The Demon Deacons were throttled by Florida State and this may have shaken any confidence built up from beating North Carolina the week before.  Wake should win over an Army team that struggles on the road, but they better be ready for runs from all angles. Last week: Virginia over Georgia Tech (should have been Pittsburgh over Virginia Tech)

Unit on the spot:  NC State rushing defense.  Don't overlook the Citadel's visit to Raleigh this week.  The Wolfpack offense better come ready to score, because the defense will be tested by a team that has rushed for 479 yards and 463 yards already this year.  Last week:  Chase Rettig, 24-44, 291 yards, 1 TD in a 22-13 loss to Northwestern.

What I am watching:  How does LSU look taking the show on the road for the first time this year and can South Carolina handle another tough home test as Missouri comes calling?  The SEC provides us with marquee games almost every week.  This week is a bit quieter, but LSU, South Carolina and even Georgia should not overlook this week because Auburn, Missouri and Vanderbilt are all capable of the upset.

Upset alert: Rutgers over Arkansas.  The Hogs are reeling and face a Rutgers defense that is on the top of its game.  Tyler Wilson may be back for Arkansas, and we will see if his presence makes the difference for a team in need of a lift.  Last week:  Louisiana-Monroe over Auburn (close, but should have been Western Kentucky over Kentucky, Florida over Tennessee)

Player on the spot:  Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt.  Teams have run the ball on Georgia this year and Stacy will need to build on last week's 174 yard effort in order for the Commodores to stay with the Bulldogs.  Last week:  James Franklin, did not play (shoulder) in a 24-21 victory over Arizona State

Big 12
What I am watching:  Kansas State's visit to Oklahoma.  The Big 12 schedule is going to be full of these games, but this week's conference opener is between two of my top three in the conference right now.  The Sooners pounded the Wildcats a year ago, but it seems like a different Oklahoma team between then and now.  Oklahoma needs a win to validate their ranking and expectation.  Kansas State can validate themselves in a close loss and can vault themselves with the upset.

Upset alert:   Louisiana-Monroe over Baylor and Kansas State over Oklahoma. We will go with a double dip here.  I will stick with ULM, since this is the last week they will be mentioned nationally.  The wind may have come out of their sails with the OT loss vs Auburn, but they have proved they can play with the big boys and Baylor has chosen to visit ULM this week.  And despite Bill Snyder's troubles against Oklahoma, the Wildcats are primed for an upset to shake-up the top 10 some more.  Last week:  Sam Houston State over Baylor (should have been Sam Houston State over Baylor through halftime).

Player on the spot:   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma.  Jones has yet to be flashy this year and the Heisman talk has all but disappeared.  A big performance against K-State could ignite that talk once again.  Last week:  Charlie Weis, coach, Kansas, lost 20-6 to TCU

What I am watching:  The PAC-12 is the first conference with a full conference slate this weekend.  The only game between ranked teams is Arizona at Oregon, the first real test for the Ducks.  The scoreboard operator should be busy, as both teams employ up-tempo high-octane offenses.  It will be an indication of how good the Oregon defense is and whether the Ducks are a National Title contender.  Similar to Kansas State, Arizona can be validated with a close loss and vaulted with a win.

Upset alert:   Oregon State over UCLA.  The Beavers are well-rested having only played one game and take on a Bruin team that appears to good to be true.  If Oregon State can bottle up Johnathan Franklin like they did Montee Ball, a second upset in two games could be in the works for the Beavers. Last week:  UNLV over Washington State (should have been Stanford over USC)

Player on the spot:  Matt Barkley, QB, USC.  Call me Captain Obvious, but USC needs to get back on track this week against Cal and Barkley needs to be the man who leads them there.  Forget the offensive line struggles, Barkley needs to find ways to get the ball to his playmakers and get the season going again.  Last week:  Jon Hayes, 18-27, 196 yards, 2 TD in a 24-21 upset over BYU.

Big East
What I am watching:  How does Louisville handle their first road test against a Florida International team that beat them a year ago?  The Cardinals also must figure out what happened in the 2nd half last week when they almost squandered a 36-7 halftime lead to North Carolina.  The offense has looked good with an emerging Teddy Bridgewater, but was the defense exposed some last week?  Seems like a danger game for the Cardinals as they start a 3-game road trip.

Upset alert:  Western Michigan over Connecticut.  I missed last week on both WMU as a winner and Connecticut as a victim.  I am a slow learner.  The Broncos won at Connecticut last year, so Alex Carder and company should be confident.  Last week: Maryland over Connecticut (should have been Rutgers over South Florida)

Player in the spotlight: B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida.  It seems as Daniels goes, so do the Bulls.  Last week the turnover bug hit again in a loss to Rutgers.  This week Daniels and the Bulls head on the road against a Ball State team coming off an upset of Indiana.  If BJD can protect the ball and be the good Daniels, South Florida should be too much for Ball State.   Last week:  Teddy Bridgewater, 23-28, 279 yards, 3 TD in a 39-34 victory over North Carolina.

Non-BCS Conferences
What I am watching:  I am always watching for how many victories the Non-BCS schools can accumulate against the BCS conferences.  Ohio, Nevada, Colorado State, Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe,Rice, Western Kentucky, Ball State and Fresno State have done it the first three weeks with the victories over Penn State, California, Colorado, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana and Colorado (again) respectively.  Last season the total was 15.  Which games this week might add to the current 9?  Let's watch these 7...Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe, Army at Wake Forest, Connecticut at Western Michigan, Kansas at Northern Illinois, South Florida at Ball State, Louisiana Tech at Illinois, Louisville at FIU.
Upset alert:   Hawaii over Nevada.  Trips to Hawaii are fun, but are often rewarded with an L at the end of the trip.  The Wolfpack have lost 7 straight on the island and must focus to come away victorious there for the first time since 1948.   Last week:  East Carolina over Southern Mississippi (got one right!!)

Players on the spot:  Derek Carr, QB and Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State.  The Bulldog tandem is off to a great start and they must continue as they visit a tough Tulsa team this week.  Rouse has been especially good in 2012, with 473 total yards and 7 TD's in 3 games.  The Tulsa defense has rebounded after Iowa State got them in week 1, so this will be a great test for Carr and Rouse.  Last week:  Rakeem Cato, 44-65, 432 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT in a 27-24 loss to Ohio.

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