Each week, Athlon will take a deeper look at the fantasy matchups that affect your lineup. Some players will deserve a second look from managers, while others could create some concern. Check out Athlon's College Fantasy Start or Sit for Week 11:
He only completed 59% of his passes and did throw two INTs, but Tannehill led the Aggies to an upset victory over Oklahoma last week. He finished with 225 yards, 2 TDs and added 12 rushing attempts for 24 yards. He has nine TD passes in the last three games, and Baylor's 96th-rated total defense and 105th-rated pass defense should pose no threat. Just ask Brandon Weeden.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois (Minnesota)
The young, entertaining freshman is becoming a fantasy star in the second half of his first season in the college game. He has posted 35.6 and 38.54 total fantasy points in his last two with back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts. The Gopher defense is rated 103rd in scoring defense, 115th in pass efficiency defense and 106th in rushing defense. Expect good things from Zee 'Haase.
Tim Jefferson, Air Force (New Mexico)
After a middling run for three weeks, Jefferson has posted back-to-back useful point totals culminating in his season's second-best game (30.66 TFP). He has scored seven TDs in the last three games, and the Lobos will offer little resistence. They rank 120th in rush defense, 118th in scoring defense and have allowed 30+ points in all but one game this fall (New Mexico State).
Austyn Carta-Samuels, Wyoming (@ UNLV)
He completed only six passes but still managed 19.66 TFP due to his rushing ability. UNLV is slightly better than New Mexico on defense and should be a quality matchup. The Cowboys quarterback, in only his fourth career start, threw for 234 yards and three TDs while adding 34 yards on 12 carries rushing in last year's meeting.
Ryan Colburn, Fresno State (Nevada)
After the bye week, the Bulldogs quarterback broke through last week with his second-best performance of the year (27.16 TFP). This should be a high-scoring affair as the two combined for 66 points last season while Colburn threw for a season-high 362 yards and a pair of scores.
Jeffery Godfrey, UCF (Southern Miss)
The youngster has averaged 25 TFP over his last three games as he has started to throw the ball better. His athletic ability is scary (105 yards rushing and a TD last week), so once his passing ability catches up, watch out. Southern Miss is not a superb matchup, but Godfrey's play-making skill makes him matchup-proof.
QB — Better Think Twice
Ricky Stanzi vs. Dan Persa (Iowa @ Northwestern)
Stanzi kept his TD streak alive last week but did not really deliver the goods against a poor defense in Indiana. Persa has been as consistent a fantasy scorer as there is. But both of these defenses will be up for the task this weekend. The Iowa passer mustered only 134 yards against Northwestern last season (he got banged up) in a low-scoring affair that saw both starting quarterbacks miss significant time.
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State (@ TCU)
The Horned Frogs have not allowed more than seven points in a game since SMU in Week 4. They have allowed more than 10 points only twice this season — Oregon State being the other in Week 1. They are the No. 1 total defense, scoring defense and passing defense in the nation. Enough said.
Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (@ North Carolina)
Taylor has been nothing short of amazing in ACC play this season. But he posted his lowest fantasy total (14.18 TFP) against Georgia Tech since Week 4 against BC (9.48 TFP). Taylor's career passing numbers against the Heels? He has completed 22 of 44 passes for 286 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs. At home, UNC has been much better on defense at home of late (16 ppg over last three), so maybe look elsewhere this weekend.
Kolton Browning, UL-Monroe (@ LSU)
In seven games against non-BCS teams, Browning has averaged 23.4 TFP/game including 27.64 and 33.56 TFP games over his last two weeks. But against BCS competition this fall (granted, it's been SEC teams), Browning has totalled 15.58 fantasy points. A road trip to Baton Rouge isn't going to change that trend.
RB — Deserves A Second Look
Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M (@ Baylor)
Three chances to start. Three straight 100-yard games. Gray took over for the injured Christine Michael with plenty of experience under his belt and he has delivered. As a back-up, Gray posted 119 yards from scrimmage against Baylor last season. Against the 96th-rated rush defense, expect Gray to produce.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin (Indiana)
John Clay and James White are both battling leg issues and will not be 100%. They both could receive carries, but against the Hoosiers, neither should be needed much. Expect the very capable Ball — 21 carries, 127 yards, 2 TDs last week, mostly in the second half — to get the bulk of the carries this week against the 81st-ranked rush defense.
Sam McGuffie vs. Orleans Darkwa (Rice @ Tulane)
Fantasy owners were finally rewarded last week with the Owls tailback. He got his highest carry total of the season (28) and he posted his highest yards total (178) and TFP (23.8). He didn't catch a pass, but had been averaging 4 rec./game, so expect him to get back involved in that part of the game as well. The Green Wave is 98th in the nation in rush defense at 191 ypg allowed. They are also 101st in scoring defense (33.1 ppg). Darkwa has posted 21-114-2, 29-193 and 27-138-2 lines in his last three. CUSA is good for everyone!
Asher Clark and Nathan Walker, Air Force (New Mexico)
Clark, Walker and all of the rest of the Falcons are worth a look this weekend against the lowly Lobos. Clark has had double-digit carries in every game this season and is always capable of a 100-yard game and a TD. Walker is coming off his best career game — 110 yards, TD — last weekend against Army and should be in the mix as well.
Alvester Alexander, Wyoming (@ UNLV)
The Cowboys running back has returned to fantasy relevance after a month-long absence. Alexander totalled 21.5 fantasy points in four combined games. In his last two since, he has 30 carries for 239 yards and 4 TDs. UNLV ranks 116th in rushing defense and 115th in scoring defense.
Really deep back-ups who could reward in a tight spot:
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (Kansas)
Michael Ford, LSU (UL-Monroe)
Bryan Kariya, BYU (@ Colorado State)
Davin Meggett, Maryland (@ Virginia)
Lattimore is a tricky decision this weekend.
RB — Better Think Twice
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (@ Florida)
This is one of the trickiest decisions anyone will have to make this season. Lattimore might be the single most talented running back in the nation, but he is battling a knee injury. He will not be 100% no matter what he says. However, for the Cocks to win this game, the freshman needs at least 25 carries. Over the last two games, however, Florida has allowed a total of 172 yards on 72 carries for an average of 2.3 yards per carry. For the record, I am playing Knile Davis of Arkansas or Stevan Ridley of LSU over Lattimore this weekend.
James Sims, Kansas (@ Nebraska)
The Huskers have been run on of late, but I do not expect that trend to continue this weekend. Sims had a career day last weekend with 123 yards and 4 TDs against Colorado. There were 97 points scored in that game, and I cannot see these two offenses combining for those type of numbers despite this rivalry turning into a higher-scoring affair in recent years. Before the 52-point outburst against the Buffs, Kansas had totalled 40 points scored in four Big 12 games. Expect a return to normalcy this weekend.
Shane Vareen, Cal (Oregon)
The Ducks have not been elite against the run but have been solid enough. They are allowing around 125 yards per game on the ground, and Cal should roughly hit that mark this weekend. So it is very difficult to bench the Cal back. However, with the nation's No. 1 offense likely moving up and down the field, and a back-up quarterback taking snaps for the Bears, it is hard to see Vareen posting a huge game. Especially since he has four games of 67 yards or less this season.
Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (@ North Carolina)
Williams had seven. Evans had 15. Taylor had 9. Wilson had 7 and two other players registered a carry against Georgia Tech last week as well. Against Duke two weeks ago (in a 44-7 blowout) not one player had 10 carries, but five had at least six. The trend is clear: Frank Beamer has no problem divvying up the carries. Against a solid UNC defense, they are not worth gambling on.
Vick Ballard et al, Mississippi State (@ Alabama)
Ballard bounced back last week with a solid outing against Kentucky after the gametime benching that angered so many onwers two weeks ago. Although I expect Dan Mullen to implement a similar game plan to that of the Florida game (49 carries for 212 yards), I cannot see any Bulldog having a huge game. Mississippi State has totalled 10 points in the last two games against Bama. Both losses.
Other names to stay away from:
Jared Hassin, Army (@ Kent State)
If I told you the Golden Flashes were the nation's No. 1 rush defense, would you believe me?
Evan Royster, Penn State (@ Ohio State)
Has a total of 129 yards in three career games against OSU. And they are No. 4 against the run.
John Clay and James White, Wisconsin (Indiana)
Too much risk with the injury issues and a healthy/productive Montee Ball.
Anyone getting carries, (USC @ Arizona)
This could be a quarterback battle — and there are simply too many names to risk it.
WR — Waiver Wire Spot Starts
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (@ Baylor)
Clearly has a rapport with Tannehill — 24 receptions in last three and back-to-back 100 yarders.
Dwayne Frampton, Arkansas State (Western Kentucky)
Has 24 catches over his last three including a score in three out of four games.
Denarius Moore, Tennessee (Ole Miss)
Has totalled 51.3 fantasy points over last two and Ole Miss secondary is nothing special.
Roy Roundtree, Michigan (@ Purdue)
Massive showing last weekend (41.1 TFP) and could be used again as ground game is slowed.
Jeremy Kerley, TCU (San Diego State)
Somehow reaches the endzone every week — five straight to be exact.
Jonathan Warzeka, Air Force (New Mexico)
Any Falcon is worth a look, especially a WR that has 34 carries, 242 yards, 3 TDs on the ground.
Nick Harwell, Miami-Ohio (@ Akron - Week 12)
Yes, he has already played this week. But 29 rec., 441 yards, 3 TDs over last three needs to be mentioned.
Top 10 DEF/ST Week 10 Spot Starts
1. NC State (Wake Forest)
2. Boston College (@ Duke)
3. Oregon State (Washington State)
4. Air Force (New Mexico)
5. Illinois (Minnesota)
6. Rutgers (Syraucse)
7. Virginia Tech (@ North Carolina)
8. Arkansas (UTEP)
9. Wisconsin (Indiana)
10. Syracuse (@ Rutgers)
1. Oklahoma State's final three games are at Texas, at Kansas and Oklahoma at home in the Bedlam Series. What will their record be in those three games?
Steven: I’ll go with 2-1. I think the Cowboys will split the Texas and Oklahoma games and Kansas should be an easy win. Although the Longhorns have struggled, I’m hesitant to write them off against the Cowboys this Saturday. You never know what’s going to happen in the Bedlam Series, and Oklahoma has experienced its share of struggles on the road, but I’ll give the Sooners an edge in that matchup. Even if the Cowboys finish 1-2 over the last three games, this season was still a success when you consider the significant personnel losses coming into this year.
Mitch: I'll go with 2-1. Chalk up the Kansas game as a win, even on the road, and I believe the Pokes will split the two games against Texas and Oklahoma. They are favored to beat Texas this week and might be favored to beat OU in Stillwater, but it will be tough to sweep UT and OU in the same season -- even with the Longhorns' struggles. Mike Gundy should be up for National Coach of the Year. With all of the turnover on both sides of the ball, it's amazing that this team has only one loss this late in the season.
Braden: The Pokes have not won in Austin since 1944 and have only beaten the Longhorns twice in 24 tries. They will win at Kansas and lose to Oklahoma (who really doesn't play well on the road). So that leaves this weekend. They certainly have the momentum and the talent while Texas appears to have given up on Mack Brown. The pick is 2-1. But they will have to win one of the two brutal match-ups.
2. If Oregon and Auburn played in a cornfield in Iowa today, who would be favored?
Steven: Tough call. I could see either team favored with a likely spread of three points. However, I’d give the Ducks a slight edge over Auburn. Even though the Tigers are solid against the run, I’m not sure they could keep Darron Thomas and LaMichael James in check for a full game. Even though Oregon’s defense isn’t going to resemble the 2009 Alabama unit, it’s not bad either. If this game does end up being the national championship, it should be an impressive display of offensive fireworks.
Mitch: You need to ask the boys in Vegas this question, but my guess would be Oregon by 2.5. That wouldn’t necessarily be my prediction (I'd have to think about that a bit longer), but I believe Oregon would be favored.
Braden: Oregon would be favored by four points. Oregon's offense is more complete than Auburn's, and their quarterback isn't much worse than Mr. Newton. Darron Thomas has been excellent this year and is a dynamic playmaker in his own right.
3. Would any rumor-innuendo-investigation-potential transgression affect the way you would vote for the Heisman?
Steven: I don’t think it’s fair for rumors to decide how someone votes for the Heisman. If there is proof of something, then it absolutely comes into play. If the player is eligible and there are no outstanding investigations hanging over his head, then he would get my vote, regardless of a rumor. It’s too easy to start rumors, and anyone can bring in anonymous sources to get a story going. When it becomes fact is the point it should start affecting Heisman ballots.
Mitch: Rumor and innuendo would not affect my vote — actual evidence of wrongdoing would. That is what makes this Cam Newton situation so interesting. There is new evidence coming out every day, but there is nothing out that proves Auburn and/or Newton did anything wrong. I have my own thoughts on what may or may not have happened, but until something comes out that proves there was some wrongdoing, I would still vote for Cam Newton. But stay tuned.
Braden: If the Reggie Bush-USC sanctions or the NFL agent investigations had not just taken place, I would say no. And in reality, if Newton is eligible, then all that should matter is what happens on the field. However, there are some voters who have already stated that this will impact their vote. Whether it is right or wrong, this story will impact Newton's Heisman chances. And in the end, where there is smoke, there is fire.
The Buffs will head to the Pac-10 with a new coach.
4. Where does the Colorado coaching job rank in the Pac-10?
Steven: Colorado certainly isn’t the worst job, but it’s probably in the middle of the Pac-10. The Buffaloes have shown they can be relevant nationally with the 1990 title, but the facilities and budget will prevent it from being one of the elite jobs in this conference. I’d certainly rate USC, Oregon, UCLA and Washington ahead of it, with Arizona, Arizona State and California battling it out with Colorado for the next spot.
Mitch: We ranked all 120 coaching jobs in our preseason magazine, and had Colorado 31st, which ranked behind four Pac-10 schools -- USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. So I'd say CU ranks fifth in the current Pac-10 landscape. We ranked schools on the attractiveness of the position, not on how good the programs are right now. Obviously, Arizona and Stanford are in better shape than Colorado right now, but if you strip the rosters away from all of the schools and start over, we believe the Colorado is a better job.
Braden: Colorado has a national championship in the last 20 years. Aside from USC, that is as many national titles as the rest the conference combined. That being said, Oregon has elevated itself into a new level of play and Washington and UCLA are better jobs as well. Arizona, Stanford, Cal and Arizona State are in the same ballpark, but currently Cal and Arizona might be better jobs. I will go with the 6th or 7th best job in the conference.
5. Who is the best one-loss team in the nation?
Steven: Some very good choices – Stanford, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and LSU – are all worthy of being in this discussion. Considering its only loss came to the No. 1 team in the nation, I’ll go with Stanford. The Cardinal have one of the nation’s best quarterbacks (Andrew Luck) and rank among the best with the offensive line. The offense is balanced with the rushing of Stepfan Taylor, and there is no shortage of weapons for Luck when he drops back to pass. Although the defense isn’t elite, first-year coordinator Vic Fangio was a good hire and brought some much-needed improvement.
Mitch: I'll go with Stanford, but you can make a strong case for LSU, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Stanford's only loss is at No. 1 Oregon, and the Cardinal have dominating wins at UCLA, Notre Dame and Washington, plus a very big win over Arizona at home. LSU also has some very good wins (West Virginia, at Florida, Alabama), but I believe Stanford is the better team.
Braden: Stanford and Ohio State are the best one-loss teams. LSU has no business being a one-loss team. Wisconsin has injury issues. Nebraska is also a great team but has youth and inexperience in spots that Stanford and Ohio State do not. The defense of the Buckeyes gives them the edge over Stanford in my book.
Year Three of the Campus Challenge returns as Mitch returns to defend his championship. The rules: Each person picks a quarterback, running back and wide receiver to make up his "team" for the week in an effort to amass as many passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards and total touchdowns as possible. Whoever has the best stats as the end of the year wins. All players selected must be from a BCS conference team playing an FBS opponent, and each editor can only use a player once during the season.
Players who have been selected by all three editors: Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Kendall Hunter, Northwestern's Dan Persa, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, Michigan's Denard Robinson,
South Carolina (+6.5) at Florida
It’s winner take all in the SEC East this Saturday in Gainesville. South Carolina, seeking its first-ever trip to the league title game, is only 2–2 since knocking off No. 1 Alabama in early October. The Gamecocks struggled in every phase of the game in a 41–20 loss at home to Arkansas last Saturday night. Stephen Garcia completed less than 50 percent of his passes (for the first time this season), Marcus Lattimore was held to a season-low 30 yards, and the defense was torched for 443 yards. Florida, meanwhile, has hit its stride offensively. Using a nifty three-quarterback rotation, the Gators have scored 89 points the past two weeks in wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt. Their winning streak should be at three very soon. Florida 34, South Carolina 21
Penn State (+18) at Ohio State
Joe Paterno picked his 400th win last weekend, as Penn State overcame a 21–0 deficit in the second quarter en route to a 35–21 win over Northwestern. Getting win No. 401 will be a bit more difficult. Ohio State dropped off the radar a bit with its loss at Wisconsin last month, but this is still a very good team. Since that loss in Madison, the Buckeyes beat Purdue and Minnesota by a combined score of 101–10. Also, they’ve had a week off to prepare for Penn State. The Nittany Lions seem to be energized with Matt McGloin taking the majority of the snaps at quarterback, but Ohio State is simply too good on both sides of the ball. Ohio State 30, Penn State 14
USC (+4) at Arizona
Arizona’s Pac-10 title hopes took a big hit last weekend with a 42–17 loss at Stanford, but this is still a big game for the Wildcats. With a trip to No. 1 Oregon and a rivalry game with Arizona State looming, they need to take care of business this weekend. A victory over USC will clinch a third-straight winning season in Pac-10 play — something that hasn’t happened at Arizona since the early 1990s. USC, on the other hand, is hoping to avoid its first losing conference season since 2000, the final year of the Paul Hackett era. The Trojans (and their 97th-ranked defense) play their final three league games on the road — at Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA. Arizona 34, USC 27
Clemson (+7) at Florida State
Good luck trying to get a read on the ACC. Virginia Tech has separated itself with a 5–0 league record, but there are five teams with two losses and two others with three. Florida State had a golden opportunity to seize control of the Atlantic Division but lost at NC State and at home to North Carolina in consecutive weeks. The Noles have shown signs of being an elite team but can’t find the consistency necessary to take that next step. Clemson has recovered from an 0–2 start in league play to win three of its past four. Now at 3–3, the Tigers will be in great shape in the division race with a win at Florida State. That, however, will be difficult. The Tigers are 0–4 on the road this season and have struggled to score against solid competition. Florida State 24, Clemson 14
Georgia (+8.5) at Auburn
With a win over Georgia, Auburn can secure its first trip to the SEC Championship Game since 2004 and, more important, remain among the top two teams in the BCS Standings. The Tigers have been phenomenal on offense and just good enough on defense. That sometimes-suspect defense will be tested by a Georgia team that has a ton of weapons. The Bulldogs have averaged 39.8 points over their last four SEC Games — three lopsided wins and an overtime loss to Florida. It’s tempting to go with Georgia in the upset, but it’s tough to jump on the bandwagon of a team whose best win this season is at Kentucky. It won’t be easy, but Auburn will remain undefeated. Auburn 35, Georgia 30
Texas A&M (-3) at Baylor
Baylor missed an opportunity to take control of the Big 12 South race, losing 55–28 at Oklahoma State. But the fact that we are talking about Baylor and a division title in November is a credit to Art Briles and his staff (and also a knock on Texas and, to a lesser degree, Oklahoma). Texas A&M is playing as well as any team in the league. The Aggies have won three straight, capped off by Saturday night’s 33–18 win over Oklahoma. Texas A&M rolled up 382 yards of offense, with Ryan Tannehill (2–0 as the starter) throwing for 225 and Cyrus Gray rushing for 122 on 21 carries. It was the Aggies’ first win over Oklahoma since 2002. They are seeking their second straight over Baylor. They will get it. Texas A&M 38, Baylor 30
Oklahoma State (-5.5) at Texas
Texas’ epic struggles have been the most surprising story in college football this season. One of the true superpowers in the sport — UT has won 10 games or more in nine straight seasons — has lost five of its past six games, including three straight to Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State. Last week, the Horns hit a low point, falling behind K-State 39–0 after three quarters. Now, Texas finds itself as an underdog at home for the first time since Nebraska came to town in 1999. Oklahoma State has also been a big surprise — on the positive side. The retooled Pokes sit atop the Big 12 South standings with a 4–1 record. It should be 5–1 after Saturday. Oklahoma State 28, Texas 20
Mississippi State (+13.5) at Alabama
Mississippi State returns to the field for the first time since the death of defensive end Nick Bell. It will no doubt be an emotional night for the Bulldogs, who will be searching for their seventh straight win. State has been getting it done with defense and its running game. Over the last three SEC games (all wins), the Bulldogs have completed a total of 20 passes and given up an average of 12 points. Alabama must refocus after seeing its dream of a repeat national title end with a loss in Baton Rouge. Nick Saban will have the Tide ready to play, but it might be difficult for this team to play with the same intensity. After all, it’s the first time since the end of the 2007 season that Alabama is playing in a game that will not impact the national title chase. Alabama 20, Mississippi State 13
Miami (Fla.) (-2.5) at Georgia Tech
It’s the battle of the backup quarterbacks, with Stephen Morris expected to get the start once again for the Hurricanes and Tevin Washington in for his first-ever start for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech, at 5–4 overall and 3–3 in the SEC, has been a mild disappointment this season. Despite the relative struggles, the Jackets need only one more ACC win to keep alive one of the more impressive streaks in college football; Tech has had a non-losing conference record in 15 straight seasons. A win over Miami this week or Duke next week will increase the streak to 16 years. The guess here? It happens this week. Georgia Tech 27, Miami 24
Kansas State (+13) at Missouri
After opening the season with seven straight wins, Missouri has lost two straight — both on the road. The Tigers averaged 34.7 points in their seven wins but have managed a total of 34 points in their two losses. Last week against Texas Tech, Blaine Gabbert had his worst game as a starter, completing only 12-of-30 passes for 95 yards and, for the first time this season, no touchdowns. Speaking of not throwing touchdown passes, Kansas State completed a total of two passes in its shockingly easy 39-–14 win over Texas last week. Backup quarterback Collin Klein threw for only nine yards but led the team with 127 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 attempts. This is only the Wildcats third road game of the season and just their second trip outside the state of Kansas. Missouri 28, Kansas State 17
Last week: 8–2 overall (6–4 against the spread) Season: 67–33 overall (50–44–4 against the spread)
Ole Miss (4-5, 1-4) at Tennessee (3-6, 0-5), Noon ET
How’d CBS get stuck with this one? This is supposedly the fourth-best game of the week? Yowzers.
Tennessee fans have their arms impatiently crossed, tapping their feet. All the Derek Dooley one-liners in the world can’t fill the void of a winless SEC season. Starting 0–5 in the SEC is no bueno, even if Conan is delivering the jokes.
Ole Miss, in Knoxville, presents the best opportunity of the season so far for an SEC win. (At least until Vanderbilt.) It had to feel good for the Vols to beat up on someone, anyone, last week in Memphis. But a 50–14 win against one of the worst teams in the country will not cure the SEC ills.
The Rebels have a little speed on offense that will give UT fits. But watch Vols quarterback Tyler Bray, all 185 pounds of him, as he continues to grow into his role (and body).
Player to Watch: Denarius Moore, Tennessee WR. Scorched South Carolina’s secondary two weeks ago. Ole Miss’ might be worse.
Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5) at Kentucky (5-5, 1-5), 12:21 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Good thing for the non-conference schedule, eh Kentucky? Wins against Louisville, Western Kentucky, Akron and Charleston Southern — plus one late rally against South Carolina — have the Wildcats in position for bowl eligibility, with a victory against either Vanderbilt or Tennessee.
Bet on the former. The Commodores have been coming apart for weeks, unraveled even more by the loss last week of Zac Stacy. He’s the team’s backup running back, playing in the place of Warren Norman, lost for the year after dislocating his wrist.
Getting to six wins should be a breeze for UK. Now, can it get to seven, causing all the demons surrounding the UT series to scurry?
Player to Watch: Randall Cobb, Kentucky WR. Been a while since he had a monster game, hasn’t it? That’s what Vandy’s good for, correct?
Georgia (5-5, 3-4) at No. 2 Auburn (10-0, 6-0), 2:30 p.m., CT
This Cameron Newton fellow seems to be in the news quite often lately. He already was, but it was pertaining to his play. Now the headlines relate to whether he’s eligible to play. What a captivating character in college football.
The NCAA is about all that can stop Newton this season. He has roughly 400 more yards than Tim Tebow had in his Heisman season, even if the TDs aren’t quite level (42-34) through 10 games. Newton has one definite advantage that Tebow didn’t: Auburn is 10–0 through 10; the Gators were 7–3.
Don’t be at all surprised if this off-field firestorm only works to further inspire an incredibly talented kid. He might have to give it all back one day — might — but that doesn’t stop what’s happening right this second.
It’s a fun thought that Georgia would hang around, but Newton wills the Tigers to be undefeated headed into the Iron Bowl.
OK, what we know about UTEP: This is where Mike Price wound up. The Miners are bowl-eligible. Donald Buckram was one of college football’s leading rushers a year ago, having run for nearly 1,600 yards. Injuries have derailed Buckram’s senior season. He has just 70 carries and 316 yards, with a single-game high of 81 yards.
Arkansas looked like the best team in the league last week, with one of the top performances this season. The defense, holding South Carolina to 10 points in minutes that mattered, showed it has made steps this season. It was physical and sure in its tackling. Best-kept secret in the South: The Hogs have a lot more than Ryan Mallett. (But he’s good, also.)
Don’t let UTEP’s six wins (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, New Mexico State, Memphis, New Mexico, Rice, SMU) fool you. This team is fully prepared to get dominated.
Player to Watch: Knile Davis, Arkansas RB. Davis has run well lately. Let him go, run the clock. Get to Mississippi State and LSU.
Louisiana-Monroe (4-5) at No. 5 Louisiana State (8-1), 6 p.m. CT
After Saturday, Louisiana-Monroe will have played as many SEC West games as the SEC East teams. Isn’t that a bit excessive? Even the East teams don’t want to play the West. ULM would probably be in a bowl game if not for that intense scheduling.
This is the first of three games that could lead to a very interesting scenario for LSU. At 11–1, with only a loss to Auburn, would LSU get national championship game consideration? That’s still a long way off. For now, it’s about continuing offensive success. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, and especially Jefferson, played well last week against Alabama. LSU fans would love to see more of that before Ole Miss and Arkansas close out the season.
Player to Watch: Les Miles, LSU coach. Not a player, but gosh he’s fascinating.
No. 17 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) at No. 11 Alabama (7-2, 4-2), 6:15 p.m. CT
An ESPN analyst continues to say this is Mississippi State’s “Super Bowl.” No, that was Florida. (And it won.) This is its “Pro Bowl,” we’ll say. (Are we the only ones daydreaming about that game at Auburn next season, by the way? Wow. Lot of power packed into that one, huh?)
Curious to see how Alabama responds to losing its second game. Greg McElroy called it the “end of the world.” So, what happens after that? Guess none of us know, really. The Tide is equipped, in terms of talent. But will the team’s minds stick with it?
Mississippi State is a hungry bunch. Beyond all the Newton news, don’t forget this is the Bulldogs’ first time back on the field since teammate Nick Bell died last week after a brief fight with cancer. Expect that to be MSU’s motivations in what would be yet another signature win for Dan Mullen’s early tenure.
Player to Watch: Vick Ballard, Mississippi State RB. His 12 TDs are actually the most of a running back in the league. Ball control is clearly a key to the Bulldogs’ success.
No. 22 South Carolina (6-3, 4-3) at No. 24 Florida (6-3, 4-3), 7:15 p.m. ET
What a strange road to get here for these two teams. Florida’s used to already having the East wrapped up by now, having won a record 10 division titles since the split. South Carolina, meanwhile, isn’t used to having this shot. It happened only one other time, a decade ago, and the Gators had to erase an early deficit to escape the Gamecocks in 2000.
That game was in Gainesville. So is this one. That’s a huge deal, although it bears mentioning that some of the mystique seems to have temporarily vacated the Swamp. Florida has already lost two at home this season, to LSU and Mississippi State. And then there’s Urban Meyer this week, begging fans to be “out of control” and to wear all blue. Since when is Florida a school that has to resort to ridiculous fashion gimmicks? Just play ball.
South Carolina actually might be the more talented team, which feels bizarre to say, but will it behave like the more talented team? A knee injury, in part, caused Marcus Lattimore to have a forgettable night last week against Arkansas (season-low 30 yards), but he’s far from alone. Only receiver Alshon Jeffery (99 yards) could be singled out as having a decent night against the Razorbacks. The 41–20 loss was exceptionally bad.
You’ll know by the end of the first quarter who wins the game. If South Carolina shows up — even if it doesn’t have the lead, meaning, if it’s tied or close — it’ll win. In a season of the unexpected, why not have the Gamecocks become the fourth team to win the East?
Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina RB. The Gamecocks have to be able to run the ball. Maybe Lattimore makes his impact catching passes out of the backfield, too.
The Big Ten’s biggest contest of the week pits two clubs trying to hang on to the momentum that carried them through the first half of the year. Northwestern’s season took a turn for the worse in the second half of last week’s loss to Penn State. The defense must do a better job of holding Iowa’s running game in check this week, and it must do a better job of protecting its quarterback (conference-worst 31 sacks) against an aggressive Hawkeye front four. As for Iowa’s offense, Adam Robinson is expected to return to the backfield, which is welcome news for Ricky Stanzi. The Hawkeyes gained just 65 yards on the ground in last year’s 17–10 loss to the Wildcats. Having a healthy Robinson in tow should tip the scales back in Iowa’s favor. Stanzi was knocked out of that contest, so he has added motivation for this week’s contest.
Illinois had everyone convinced that it owned one of the conference’s best defenses until Michigan bent that unit every which way possible. Now the Illini can work out their aggression on a Minnesota offense that has scored just 18 points in its last two contests combined. Senior quarterback Adam Weber has been subpar, but then again he hasn’t had much help around him. The Gophers average just 3.5 yards on the ground and have registered the fourth-most penalties (57) in the conference. All Illinois must do to take control of this game is avoid turnovers and keep plugging away with their two-headed backfield of Nathan Scheelhasse and Mikel Leshoure. The duo should tear up a Gopher defense allowing 200.5 rushing yards per game.
Purdue’s bowl hopes are riding on this contest; Danny Hope’s team must win two of its last three to become bowl-eligible. With a trip to East Lansing and a home date against Indiana still on tap, most would agree Purdue’s best chance is to win its two home games. Denard Robinson is expected to start for Michigan after passing a wave of concussion tests. The real question is: Will he finish? The Wolverines were led by Tate Forcier in the clutch again last week, and one can only wonder how the coaching staff will satisfy both players — both now and next season. One encouraging thing Michigan saw in its win last week was improved play from its receiving corps. Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway both gained more than 100 yards, and both may see plenty of action again this week against a Boilermaker pass defense allowing 218.2 yards per game. Purdue is expected to feature Sean Robinson under center again this week. The freshman performed much better last week than his statline suggests, and he has the ability to give Michigan’s subpar defense fits, both with his feet and arm.
Another week, another winnable game for Wisconsin. That’s the scary part. The Badgers have a long history of playing to the level of their opponent, something Bret Bielema must shake so his squad can get through these final three games unscathed. If they do, Wisconsin will walk into a prime BCS berth. Wisconsin may be without John Clay, who has never really been healthy since the start of the year. The team does expect to see freshman James White back in the lineup and can also rely on Montee Ball, who gained more than 100 yards last week with White and Clay on the sideline. Regardless of who runs the ball, Wisconsin should have a field day against a Hoosiers defense allowing 5.2 yards per carry. On the opposite sideline, Indiana hopes to play with fewer mental mistakes this week. They let the Iowa contest slip away and have three weeks to win two games for bowl eligibility. The Hoosiers have gotten a lot of mileage out of their opponents’ mistakes this year (they lead the Big Ten in the category) but may not see the same benefits this week against a well-disciplined Badger group that gives up just 31.4 yards of penalty per contest.
Penn State (6-3, 3-2) at Ohio State (8-1, 4-1), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
In terms of career wins, this game tops every other bill in the country — 637 between Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel. The road team has won this game in each of the last three years, including a 24–7 Ohio State win last year in which the Buckeyes outgained the Nittany Lions on the ground, 228 to 76. Ohio State runs a more balanced offense these days, but it can also be said that Penn State’s offense has made considerable progress in these past few weeks. Led by Matt McGloin, the Nittany Lions stomped on Michigan and Northwestern. Now McGloin faces his stiffest test to date. He has held up fine under pressure, but fans can expect the Buckeyes to test his poise early by stacking a few extra bodies near the line of scrimmage. And as a bonus, the Buckeyes return Ross Homan — one of the Big Ten’s top linebackers. Ohio State’s quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, is 24-of-42 with 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in two starts against Penn State. Last year Pryor did the most damage with his feet (five carries for 50 yards, including a first quarter score).
Kansas State (6-3, 3-3) at Missouri (7-2, 3-2), Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
The Tigers are trying to avoid a familiar funk — the extended losing streak. Mizzou, after jumping into BCS title game talk, has lost two straight and now get a Wildcats team riding into Columbia on the strength of a rousing win over Texas.
It was just a year ago that the Tigers started 4–0, only to drop three straight on their way to a disappointing finish. The flashbacks are obvious, particularly after they were shut out in the second half at Texas Tech. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the driving force during Mizzou’s 7–0 start, is now scuffling and needs to rebound to right the Tigers path to bigger, better bowl games.
K-State carries momentum and a quarterback quandary into the game. Collin Klein provided the spark against Texas in his first career start, using his speed and mobility to inject another element into the Wildcat run game, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Still, Carson Coffman, who sat against the Longhorns with an ankle sprain, remains in play in a decision that could go all the way to game time.
Iowa State (5-5, 3-3) at Colorado (3-6, 0-5), Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
The focus in Boulder has shifted away from the playing field and to speculation on who will be the team’s next coach, after Dan Hawkins was fired earlier this week. With the program heading to the brave new world of the Pac-10 Conference next fall, identifying and hiring the right successor is critical.
And yet, there is a game to be played as interim coach Brian Cabral tries to pull the Buffaloes — including starting quarterback Cody Hawkins, son of the fired coach — together.
On the heels of the program’s worst meltdown, a demoralizing loss that saw Kansas score 35 unanswered points to post an unlikely rally to victory, it won’t be easy. Still, Cody Hawkins says he remains committed as the Buffs try to end a five-game losing streak.
For Iowa State, it’s another chance to reach bowl eligibility, narrowly missing last week when a two-point try in overtime failed in a 31–30 loss to Nebraska. After a rough stretch of the schedule, the Cyclones have rebounded nicely, yet need this win to avoid a must-win situation in their season finale against Missouri.
OU’s recent road woes — a 6–6 record in its last 12 away from home — resurfaced a week ago in a loss at Texas A&M. The Sooners will surely enjoy returning to the comforts of home, where they own the nation’s longest current winning streak at 35 games.
The Sooners are a drastically different team at home, going beyond the winning. They’re more explosive on offense and dominant on defense. And they’ve won seven of eight meetings against Tech in Norman. Quarterback Landry Jones, too, is much better on Owen Field, and needs to be in what shapes up as a big game for both schools.
The Red Raiders, after posting perhaps their biggest win of the season — an upset of Missouri — possess rejuvenated bowl hopes. Tech’s defense shut down the Tigers over the final half and will need an even bigger effort to be competitive in Norman. Same for quarterback Taylor Potts, who came off the bench to lead three touchdown drives against Mizzou.
OU maintains South Division title hopes, but can’t afford any slipups before a likely showdown at Oklahoma State to close the regular season.
The Battle of the Brazos comes with a caveat: The loser is eliminated from the Big 12 South race.
Of course, neither figured to be a contender. Baylor has no such history of even flirting with first place. Three weeks ago, A&M stood 0–2 in conference play and seemed headed for major disappointment. Yet here they are, bidding to stay relevant deep into November.
All focus begins with the quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III is the face of Baylor’s rise, both in the conference and nationally. A&M’s three-game winning streak corresponds to the shift of Ryan Tannehill from wide receiver to behind center.
The Bears find themselves regrouping, after stumbling on the big stage a week ago, losing 55–28 at Oklahoma State. A&M enters after what may be the biggest win of coach Mike Sherman’s era, a 33–19 upset of Oklahoma.
A&M’s improving defense against Baylor’s Griffin-led offense produces the key matchup. Aggies linebacker Michal Hodges had 19 tackles against the Sooners and will have his radar directed at Griffin, as will sackmaster Von Miller.
Kansas (3-6, 1-4) at Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), Saturday, 6 p.m.
That was some celebration in Lawrence last week, at least for those who stuck around to witness the Jayhawks’ wild rally from a 45–17 hole to beat Colorado.
Back to reality, with the downtrodden Jayhawks going to Nebraska, where they’ve dropped 21 straight games. Back to Lincoln, too, for KU coach and former Nebraska star Turner Gill.
The Huskers’ latest standout quarterback, Taylor Martinez, is expected back after missing last week’s narrow win over Iowa State with an ankle injury. Nebraska occupies the driver’s seat in the Big 12 North and can move within a game of clinching by beating Kansas.
If KU has a chance, however fleeting, it comes with a suddenly sparkling running game. The Huskers have struggled to stop the run, ranking No. 73 nationally in rushing defense. And freshman running back James Sims may have enjoyed a breakout against Colorado, rushing for a career-best 123 yards and four touchdowns.
Oklahoma State (8-1, 4-1) at Texas (4-5, 2-4), Saturday, 7 p.m.
The Cowboys haven’t won in Austin in a long, long time — 1944 to be exact. But the Longhorns haven’t been this bad in a long, long time, either. And even if they weren’t, this might represent OSU’s best chance for a breakthrough in years. As it is, the Cowboys are actually favored on the road. And they’re decisive favorites.
The Cowboys’ unexpected rise to first place in the Big 12 South is built around their talented trio: quarterback Brandon Weeden, wideout Justin Blackmon and running back Kendall Hunter, any of whom could emerge as the player of the year in the league. OSU’s offense will be the most versatile and dangerous the Longhorns have seen and should be geeked after K-State gashed the Texas defense a week ago.
The pressure will be on a Texas offense that has struggled to find an identity all year long and now deals with talk of a possible change at quarterback, with sentiment for Case McCoy to get a shot in place of Garrett Gilbert, who has thrown a Big 12-high 14 interceptions.