Taylor is rolling. Bench your Badgers. And what about Cam Newton?
Taylor has been on a roll of late.
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 8:
I drafted Taylor specifically because of his matchups in week 7 and 8. He did not disappoint last week with his thrid straight 30-point week. He set season highs for yards and passing touchdowns last week (292-3) and has been running the ball a lot lately. Duke has been giving up big numbers to QBs all season, as well. The Blue Devils rank 97th in pass efficiency defense, 101st in total defense and 112th in scoring defense. Taylor's only 300-yard effort in 2009 came against the Dukies.
Aaron Murray, Georgia (@ Kentucky)
The Florida product is beginning to blossom into the player we all saw as a recruit. He is a special leader with a Drew Brees style of play (Brees from Purdue, not the NFL). He has topped the 220-yard mark in five straight games and has 7 TD strikes in his last three. He will also chip in some rushing yards and maybe even a rushing TD or two. This could be a shootout, so I expect him to throw a lot — to A.J Green.
Nathan Enderle, Idaho (New Mexico State)
This might just be a copy and paste from last week's plug. After a very slow start to the season, Enderle is back in a big way. The burly passer has lines of 347-3, 380-3 and 373-3 in his last three contests. He might be a must start from here on out with the WAC schedule looking very favorable (other than Boise State). The Aggies are 118th in total defense and 114th in scoring defense.
Marc Verica, Virginia (Eastern MIchigan)
Anyone playing the Eagles has a chance to post adequate numbers,
Chris Relf, Mississippi State (UAB)
He may only throw six passes, but his legs could offer plenty of value.
Matt Scott, Arizona (Washington)
Huskies defense doesn't offer much resistence and he is at home.
Stephen Garcia, South Carolina (@ Vanderbilt)
Without Lattimore, Spurrier could turn to Garcia on the road.
QB — Better Think Twice
Cameron Newton, Auburn (LSU)
This is the million dollar fantasy question for week 8. How do you bench the Heisman leader and No. 1 fantasy player in all of the land? I can't tell you to do that, but this will be by far the best defensive test Newton has faced all season. Consider the fantasy performances against the Bayou Bengals this season. Since Week 1, LSU has allowed a total of 698 yards passing (116 ypg) from starting QBs (counting both Mississippi State passers). Their TD to INT ratio? A disgusting 3:8 rate. And rushing yards allowed to QBs this fall? A total of -26 combined yards rushing by opposing starters. Over their last seven meetings, Auburn has averaged just over 13 points per game, topping 20 points only twice — with a high of 24 three years ago. Just some facts for you to agonize over. Have fun making this call Newton owners.
Ben Chappell, Indiana (@ Illinois)
Chappell has been nothing short of amazing this fall — other than the Ohio State game, of course. His last four (not counting OSU) were 366-3, 342-4, 480-3 and 382-4. So a game against Illinois shouldn't worry anyone right? Well, the Fighting Koennings have improved greatly on defense. They have allowed 419 total passing yards to starters in Big Ten play (which includes Kirk Cousins and Terrelle Pryor). Look for the Illini to control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage, leaving Chappell with little opportunity of posting a big number.
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State (Nebraska)
Nebraska is angry. Nebraska is good. Against opposing quarterbacks? They are downright nasty. They rank No. 1 nationally against the pass (117 ypg) this year and have shut down some pretty good fantasy options. Jake Locker threw for 71 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. Nathan Enderle went for 141 yards, 1 TD and 5 INTs. Even in a win, Garrett Gilbert was 4-of-16 for 62 yards and no scores last week through the air. I think the Black Shirts make a statement this weekend as the Huskers roll through Oklahoma State.
Tim Jefferson vs. Andy Dalton (Air Force @ TCU)
Its always tough facing an Air Force team that will possess the ball and take loads of time off the clock. TCU's defense speaks for itself. Jefferson should be nowhere near a starting line-up, and Dalton, who threw a TD in every game last year except against the Falcons, has limited upside too. His 198-0-1, 38-0 line against AFA last year scares me into other options this week.
T.J. Yates vs. Jacory Harris (North Carolina @ Miami, Fla.)
In BCS only leagues, these two have been solid options. But not this week against the top two pass defenses in the ACC. Miami is fourth nationally in pass defense (150 ypg) and leads the ACC in total defense. The Tar Heels are second in the ACC in pass defense and scoring defense. These two combined for 2 TDs and 4 INTs against one another last season. Look elsewhere.
Big East quarterbacks, The Big East (@ Anyone):
Chas Dodd vs. Tino Sunseri (Rutgers @ Pitt)
You are in serious trouble if you are looking at this one.
Ryan Nassiib vs. Geno Smith (Syracuse @ West Virginia)
Smith isn't a terrible start, but Nassib will be held in check.
Zach Frazer vs. Adam Froman (UConn @ Louisville)
QB flip-flip/suspension doesn't bode well for Huskies, and Froman could struggle against solid D.
B.J Daniels vs. Zach Collaros (South Florida @ Cincinnati)
The USF passer has been a huge dissappointment; Collaros is the top option from this league this week.
Illini will "Feed The Studs" this week against IU.
RB — Deserves A Second Look
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois (Indiana)
While LeShoure has only reached paydirt three times this fall, he has never been below 80 yards rushing and has topped 100 four times. In order to keep Ben Chappell and company off the field, look for the Zookers to feed LeShoure and Jason Ford plenty this weekend. Especially since Indiana couldn't stop Sister Marry's School for the Blind. The Hoosiers rank 89th in total defense, 83rd in scoring defense — including 114 points over their last three.
Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (Washington State)
With three straight 100-yard efforts to his credit, Taylor has apparently won the new Toby Gerhart lottery in Palo Alto. He has scored in two straight games and Washington State, while actually improved from last fall, is still pretty bad on defense — as in 120th in total defense, 118th in scoring defense and 119th in rushing defense.
Keith Payne, Virgina (Eastern Michigan)
With 37 carries over the last two games, even in losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, Payne has actually been an effective fantasy option. He topped 100-yards last week and has scored three times in those two games. Eastern Michigan ranks 117th in rush defense and 119th in scoring defense.
Boom Herron, Ohio State (Purdue)
It is clear that Herron has separated himself from the rest of the talented OSU backs. Herron has 66 carries and six receptions over his last four with touchdowns in six straight games (six total over his last four). Like Nebraska, Ohio State should be rather ornary after a loss this week — especially after a losing to Purdue last fall.
Washaun Ealey, Georgia (@ Kentucky)
This fantasy disappointment had his best outing of the season last week against Vandy. He rushed 17 times for 123 yards and a TD. With Caleb King still out for one more week, and a shootout with Kentucky looming, Ealey should be good for another big performance. All your Georgia Bulldogs should be in the line-up this weekend.
Kenny Miles, South Carolina (@ Vanderbilt)
This could be a bit of a reach, but Marcus Lattimore's high ankle sprain will keep him out of the lineup for most of the game - even though it appears he will suit up. Miles will get the start and could see some success against the 97th-ranked rush defense in the country. One of Miles' three career 100-yard games came against the Dores last fall, so he has a chance to produce this week.
RB — Better Think Twice
John Clay and James White, Wisconsin (@ Iowa)
I put these two names on this list last week, and they proved me very wrong against what most considered the best D-line in the nation. Well, now they are on the road against an even better defensive unit — and a team that always plays well against the Badgers. Iowa leads the Big Ten in rushing defense (83 ypg, 7th nationally) and scoring defense (13 ppg, 6th nationally). Clay posted 75 yards on 21 carries in a 20-10 loss at home to the Hawks last fall.
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State (Nebraska)
Would anyone have guessed that Nebraska is ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense? They have the No. 1 pass defense in the nation, the ninth-best total defense and ninth-ranked scoring defense. Strangely, they have been run on this fall. After getting beaten at home last week, however, I would not want to be Mr. Hunter this weekend. He is a stud, no doubt, but this has the makings of a let down. Play at your own risk.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (@ Vanderbilt)
This one should be a no brainer but needs to be on here. The talented freshman will suit up but will be limited by the high ankle sprain. I do not expect double-digit touches for Lattimore — unless he is needed in the fourth quarter of a close game, in which case, he will do his best Willis Reed impersonation.
BIlal Powell, Louisville (UConn)
The nation's fourth leading rushing has topped 200 yards in back-to-back games and has scored in every contest. So why would you bench him? First of all, Memphis, Arkansas State, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky and Cincinnati are not good on defense. UConn is. Powell's worst game of the season came against the Cards' only tough competition, Oregon State, when he rushed for only 83 yards. Again, play at your own risk. In fact, he is a perfect sell high guy. His schedule is brutal the rest of the way and should offer an opporutnity to significantly upgrade another position in a trade.
WR — Some names still sitting on our waiver wire
Lance Lewis, East Carolina (Marshall)
Has 19 receptions over his last three with scores in each game.
Cole Beasley, SMU (Houston)
Posted 24 catches for 321 yards and 2 TDs over his last three.
Justin Veltung et al, Idaho (New Mexico State)
Now that the Vandals are into WAC play, they will continue to post big numbers.
Doug Baldwin et al, Stanford (Washington State)
Great 8-98-2 line last time out and Wassu is terrible.
Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech (Duke)
He has caught 8 passes in each of last two. Should be good again this week.
Top 10 DEF/ST Spot Starts:
1. Stanford (Washington State)
2. Mississippi State (UAB)
3. UConn (@ Louisville)
4. Va. Tech (Duke)
5. Virginia (Eastern Michigan)
6. Miami, Fla. (North Carolina)
7. South Carolina (@ Vanderbilt)
8. Penn State (@ Minnesota)
9. Toledo (Ball State)
10. West Virginia (Syracuse)
LSU (+6) at Auburn
The SEC’s only two undefeated teams get together at Jordan-Hare Stadium for an epic battle. Auburn is led by junior quarterback Cam Newton, who has emerged as the top Heisman Trophy candidate in his first season with the Tigers. Newton, the SEC leader in rushing and passing efficiency, has topped the 100-yard passing and rushing mark in the same game four times this season. This week, however, he must solve the LSU defense, which is allowing only 242.1 yards and 14.4 points per game. Les Miles’ club still has issues on offense, but this team did take a big step forward two weeks ago, scoring 33 points and totaling 385 yards in its win at Florida. The Tigers — from LSU — will remain undefeated. LSU 27, Auburn 24
Wisconsin (+5.5) at Iowa
The Big Ten race is wide open, thanks in large part to Wisconsin’s 31–18 win over then-No. 1 Ohio State last Saturday night. Iowa is one of three league teams without a loss, but the Hawkeyes still have to play Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Northwestern — though all but the Northwestern game are at home. The Hawkeyes have been very steady on offense and dominant on defense, limiting opponents to 13.2 points per game. The key in this game will be Iowa’s ability to slow down Wisconsin’s two-headed monster at tailback, John Clay and James White. The Badgers were able to run on Ohio State last weekend, netting 184 yards on 43 carries. The Hawkeyes can’t let happen this weekend. Iowa 24, Wisconsin 14
Nebraska (-5.5) at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is arguably the biggest surprise of the nation’s 10 remaining undefeated teams. The Pokes lost 17 starters from the 2009 team that went 9–4 and were expected to take several steps back this fall. But Mike Gundy’s team is 6–0 overall and 2–0 in league play after last week’s impressive 34–17 win at Texas Tech. Nebraska figured it would also be undefeated at this point, but the Huskers were upset at home by Texas Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for only 21 yards — 126 below his season average — and was benched in the third quarter. He will return as the starter this week and should have the Cornhuskers offense back on track. Nebraska 31, Oklahoma State 17
Washington (-6.5) at Arizona
While most of the nation was tucked away in bed, Washington edged Oregon State in a double-overtime thriller in Seattle late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Washington and Arizona are both 2–1 in league play and this is a game both teams must win if they want to remain relevant in the Pac-10. The Wildcats will be without quarterback Nick Foles, who dislocated a kneecap in the win over Washington State last weekend. His replacement is Matt Scott, a junior who actually beat Foles out for the starting assignment early last season. Don’t expect the Arizona offense to suffer much. Arizona 34, Washington 24
Oklahoma (-3) at Missouri
Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the initial BCS standings, hits the road for a tough test at surprising Missouri, which is 6–0 overall and has won its two Big 12 games (vs. Colorado, at Texas A&M) by a combined score of 56–9. The Tigers are known for their offense — powered by the right arm of junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert — but they have been incredibly stingy on defense through six games. Mizzou is allowing only 10.8 points per game (second in the nation) and only one team, San Diego State, has scored more than 13 points. Oklahoma was a bit shaky early in the season — with closer-than-expected wins over Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati — but Bob Stoops’ club appears to have hit its stride in recent weeks. Oklahoma 28, Missouri 20
Michigan State (-5) at Northwestern
The Spartans, the only 3–0 team in the Big Ten, start a two-game road trip this week that will determine their postseason fate. With wins at Northwestern this week and Iowa next week, Michigan State will take complete control of the league race. Northwestern had a great opportunity to enter this game undefeated but lost at home two weeks ago to undermanned Purdue. Now, after a bye week, Pat Fitzgerald’s club must deal with a Michigan State team playing with a ton of confidence. The Spartans might not be great at any one facet of the game, but there isn’t one thing that this team does not do well. The one word that best describes Mark Dantonio’s club — solid. Michigan State 30, Northwestern 20
Georgia (-3.5) at Kentucky
Georgia has flexed its muscles the past two weeks, rolling past Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined scored of 84–14. Sure, the level of competition wasn’t great, but the Bulldogs have looked very good, especially on offense. Aaron Murray can do it all at quarterback, and he has a bunch of weapons at his disposal. Kentucky is sky-high after its comeback win over South Carolina, but the Wildcats will have a tough time making it two straight wins in league play. UK should be able to score some points, but the Wildcats have some issues on defense. In four SEC games, they are giving up an average of 38.8 points. Georgia 34, Kentucky 30
Georgia Tech (+6) at Clemson
Expectations weren’t too high at Clemson this season, but the Tigers have still been a bit of a disappointment. They snapped a three-game losing streak last week, beating Maryland 31–6, but they managed only 213 yards of total offense. This isn’t a great Georgia Tech team, but the Jackets have won three straight overall and sit at 3–1 in league play. As usual, Paul Johnson’s club has been very productive on the ground (second in the nation in rushing) and very unproductive through the air (119th in the nation in passing). The Jackets have won four straight in this series, all by 10 points or less. Make it five in a row. Georgia Tech 24, Clemson 21
North Carolina (+6.5) at Miami (Fla.)
Nothing is official, but Butch Davis will have a tough time holding on to his job at North Carolina due to the off-the-field issues that have tarnished the program. Miami’s Randy Shannon could also be out of a job, but his problem has been his team’s product on the field. The Canes are 4–2 overall, but it’s tough to overlook how poorly they played — and how poor the energy level was — in their 45–17 loss at home two weeks ago to Florida State. There have been some bright spots, like a dominating 31–3 win at Pittsburgh and a 30–21 win at Clemson, but the production on the field hasn’t matched the talent level on the roster. Miami 27, North Carolina 23
Kansas State (+6) at Baylor
Here’s a sign of progress: Baylor is favored against a Big 12 opponent for the third time this season after only being favored a total of two times in league play the previous three seasons. The Bears are 5–2 overall and 2–1 in the Big 12 after last week’s 31–25 win at Colorado. Kansas State is also 2–1 in the league, with wins over Iowa State and Kansas and a loss to Nebraska. The winner of this game will already be bowl eligible — a big step for both programs. K-State hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2006 while Baylor’s postseason drought dates back to the 1994 Alamo Bowl. For Baylor, the wait will soon be over. Baylor 34, Kansas State 27
Last week: 5–5 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 46–24 overall (34–32–4 against the spread)
Chizik's Tigers will face thier biggest test on Saturday.
Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2) at No. 21 Arkansas (4-2, 1-2)
11:21 p.m., CT, TV: SEC Network
Difficult to believe the teams have the same SEC records. Arkansas almost deserves a mulligan or two, having hung in – but fallen – to Alabama and Auburn. Ryan Mallett bounced back pretty quickly (too quickly?) from his concussion and should be ready to get the Hogs back to .500 in the league.
Ole Miss has played better the past three weeks, but, realistically, it can only hope to hang in the same way it did a week ago at Alabama. You know, honestly, Arkansas hasn’t had a thorough performance all season. Not against anyone of relevance. Seven-point wins against Georgia and Texas A&M are far from impressive, in addition to the losses to Alabama and Auburn. Here’s a chance for a quasi-quality win. Those still count when it comes time for bowl recognition.
Player to Watch: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB. The quick recovery from the concussion is impressive - we think - but is he really back? Or will he see little Troy Aikmans flying around the field?
No. 6 Louisiana State (7-0, 4-0) at No. 5 Auburn (7-0, 4-0)
2:30 p.m., CT, TV: CBS
Congrats, LSU, for making it this far. One question: How’d you do it? Bad news for the Tigers and Les Miles is they’ve got Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas among their final four conference games. Hint: You can’t beat those teams by putting chips on red or black. Sorry to disappoint.
John Chavis has formed a formidable defense for LSU, but not one prepared for Cam Newton. Truth: What defense is? Newton just seems to show up every week, no matter the opponent. You halfway expect him to run for 187 yards against the AFC All-Pro Team. Heck, maybe he would.
Is there any way the Hat can hang around for another fourth-quarter miracle? Auburn likes playing games that last into the final quarter – but it likes winning them convincingly. Look for a Miles fake field goal call on the first possession.
Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn QB. He’s been the guy to watch. He will be this week. He’ll cement his case for a Heisman against another top-five opponent. He’s already our pick for the award – and we’ve got a vote.
No. 19 South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) at Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2)
6 p.m., CT, TV: FSN
The road doesn’t work out so hot for the Gamecocks, but games don’t work out so well for the Commodores. Quite the quandary. Someone has to come out ahead. Got to be the Gamecocks, who already spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the scarlet letter of losing to Vanderbilt.
Really, though, the Gamecocks’ offense is too good to bog like the ’07 and ’08 versions, even without Marcus Lattimore, who will sit because of an ankle injury. Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery are due for a big road game. Why not Vanderbilt? Seems like a perfectly acceptable place for that to happen.
This is a crucial game for South Carolina’s passing defense, which is 110th in the country through six games. Despite returning experience and talent, the Gamecocks have really struggled in that area. Fortunately for South Carolina, Vanderbilt’s struggled even more throwing the ball (70 yards for Larry Smith at Vanderbilt). The Gamecocks are second in the country in sacks – and Vanderbilt’s allowed 15 this season.
Player to Watch: Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina CB. Gilmore had a bad day at the office last week, blowing the final coverage and dropping a punt. Time to make up for it for the All-SEC-level performer.
No. 7 Alabama (6-1, 3-1) at Tennessee (2-4, 0-3)
7 p.m., ET, TV: ESPN
This doesn’t seem fair. Can’t Derek Dooley get a head start before his first Third Saturday in October game? The first six games of the season don’t count.
There’s no way Alabama loses again in this regular season. At least until the final week, when Auburn comes to Tuscaloosa. The Tide got that whole business out of its system, even if that loss at South Carolina might’ve knocked it out of the national title equation. Tennessee will pay for such sins. The Volunteers plan on employing two quarterbacks this week, adding Tyler Bray in with Matt Simms. Yeah, that should fix everything.
Player to Watch: Mark Ingram, Alabama RB. About time he appears in a big way. He’ll make a run at this Heisman, yet, even if he doesn’t win it again.
UAB (2-4) at No. 24 Mississippi State (5-2)
6 p.m., CT, TV: ESPNU
The last time Neil Calloway and UAB went into an SEC stadium, things worked out pretty darned well. There were even reports of a moral victory parade by the Vulcan Statue. The Blazers ran up 544 yards and took Tennessee to double overtime before a fluky bowout in Neyland Stadium. (UAB deserved the win. Seriously.)
Mississippi State provides a far better challenge than the challenged Volunteers, but there’s also the letdown factor at play. Gamble that the Bulldogs’ play will sink after a landmark victory at Florida, even if the Gators aren’t the Gators you’re used to seeing. Even with the flat-lining moments, expect Dan Mullen to get just enough out of his guys to outplay UAB. They’ll become bowl-eligible before November, a terrific sign for a program on the rise.
Player to Watch: Josh Zahn, UAB K. Dude was 2 for 7 on field goals at Tennessee. If the Blazers have got any shot at all in this one, they’ll be in field-goal range – and Zahn has to be on.
Georgia (3-4, 2-3) at Kentucky (4-3, 1-3)
7:30 p.m., ET, TV: CSS
The Wildcats keep drawing the tough ones at home. Oh, wait, that’s good. Randall Cobb had us confused. Why not a third consecutive game to go to the final minutes? Of course, Kentucky would prefer not to have to furiously rally the way it has against Auburn and South Carolina. It ran out of fuel before it could pass Auburn, but it did manage to scoot past ailing South Carolina a week ago. Still difficult figuring out how the Gamecocks left Cobb, of all players, wide open on fourth down.
Georgia looks like a different football team, but so would a lot of teams after playing Tennessee and Vanderbilt. This is a tougher test than many might believe. Even without Derrick Locke, and it does appear UK will miss him again this week, Kentucky has enough firepower to stay with the improving Dawgs. Between Cobb and an emerging Mike Hartline, the Wildcats are equipped for a run at the division. What, you say? Although it might seem that UGA is the new contender in the East, bear in mind that UK, if it makes it through this week, still has Vandy and Tennessee down the line – plus that all-important tiebreaker with the Gamecocks.
Player to Watch: Mike Hartline, Kentucky QB. What a step Hartline took a week ago. How about another? Is he really the best pocket passer in the league, as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator asserted?
Martinez needs to rebound this week against Oklahoma State.
Iowa State at Texas, Saturday, 11 a.m.
Texas believes it got its swagger back in last week’s rugged upset of Nebraska. Now it’s time to strut it.
The Longhorns, following a three-game stretch that has included losses to UCLA and Oklahoma and the emotional road win over the Huskers, return home to face a reeling Cyclones squad that has surrendered 120 points the past two weeks.
Texas, hoping to climb back into the South Division race, added a wrinkle to its struggling offense at Nebraska with quarterback Garrett Gilbert running some option — effectively. The Longhorns will be looking to build on that success, needing to get more playmakers involved.
For the Cyclones, this is the next step in a gauntlet that has included games against national powerhouses Utah and Oklahoma. Talent-wise, Iowa State just can’t match up.
Nebraska at Oklahoma State, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Few figured the Cowboys to be the unbeaten one when these teams met in Stillwater. Yet Oklahoma State continues to be among the surprise squads in the Big 12, entering at 6–0 overall and 2–0 in conference play.
Nebraska, meanwhile, finds itself in a need-to-win, if not must-win situation concerning its North championship hopes, coming off a home loss to Texas.
This is a clash of style and cultures. The Cowboys like to spread it and throw it, while mixing in enough of the running game with Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle to create explosive balance.
The old-school Huskers prefer to pound the running game, with tailbacks Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez the focus. The mentality of Martinez could be in question, after he was benched in the third quarter of the Texas loss and seemed to pout on the sideline.
Nebraska carries history and tradition into the matchup and owns a decided series advantage. But the “new money” Cowboys have won three of the last four.
The key matchup: OSU’s passing tandem of quarterback Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, both among the nation’s leaders, against a Huskers secondary led by projected first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara.
Kansas State at Baylor, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Baylor, at 5–2, can sniff bowl eligibility for the first time in the history of the Big 12. According to oddsmakers, the Bears are favored to achieve that against the Wildcats. Not that it’ll be easy. Baylor has never reached six wins as a member of the Big 12.
Kansas State, an ugly night against Nebraska aside, seeks the same bowl-eligible status at 5–1. The Wildcats will challenge Baylor’s defense with a steady dose of Daniel Thomas off tackle, testing how far the Bears have truly come. And ’Cats quarterback Carson Coffman is coming off one of his best games, accounting for five TDs in a 59–7 rout of archrival Kansas.
For the Bears, the storyline is the same as always: Robert Griffin III. Baylor’s electric quarterback has lifted the program to this point and is capable of taking it further — perhaps this week, if he can replicate the way Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez carved up K-State in the run game.
Texas Tech at Colorado, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Red Raiders and Buffaloes have their eyes on possible bowl bids, if they can just get eligible. This game looms large for both teams, with each entering at 3–3 overall.
Tech and Colorado have endured similarly uneven seasons, marked by encouraging wins and distressing losses. It was more of the latter for both a week ago, with the Red Raiders falling at home to Oklahoma State and the Buffs losing at Baylor. That’s put an added emphasis on this matchup.
Tech, which has never won at Folsom Field, hopes to get quarterback Taylor Potts back on track after a rough outing against the Cowboys. He threw for just 226 yards and a score, modest numbers for Potts.
The Buffs continue to seek balance, with mixed results. They may need more from quarterback Tyler Hansen through the air, if Potts gets it going again for the Red Raiders.
Texas A&M at Kansas, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Both teams are skidding. Combined, they’re 0–4 in the conference and occupying the basements of their respective divisions in the Big 12. One, for at least a week, gets a reprieve.
The Aggies never figured to be in this spot, but have slumped as quarterback Jerrod Johnson has slumped. The preseason pick for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Johnson has been mostly offensive of late, in a bad way. He’s turned the ball over at an alarming rate and in last week’s loss to Missouri failed to produce altogether. The Aggies fan base even wondered if Johnson should be benched. A&M needs Johnson — the good Johnson — so that isn’t likely, yet.
Kansas’ problems are more far-reaching, yet also include shaky quarterback play. The Jayhawks biggest issues have come on defense, where they’ve allowed an average of 57 points in conference play.
Oklahoma at Missouri, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Once again these two meet in a Big 12 showdown. For once, the Tigers would like to show up. The Sooners have won seven straight in the series and 19 of the past 20 meetings. And lately, the stakes have been high, with the last two clashes in the Big 12 title game — both OU romps. Still, there’s reason for optimism this time, with Mizzou bringing a different asset into the game: a stout defense. The Tigers are allowing just 10.8 points per game, ranking second nationally in scoring defense. That includes a shutout of Colorado and a 30–9 win at Texas A&M to open league play.
The Tigers’ offense is high-charged, as usual, behind quarterback Blaine Gabbert and wideout T.J. Moe forming a dynamic combination.
As far as the spotlight, it’s homecoming in Columbia, ESPN GameDay is on hand, and at No. 11, the Tigers occupy their highest point ever in the BCS Standings. Furthermore, Mizzou is seeking its first 7–0 start since 1960.
On the other side, the Sooners are No. 1 in the BCS, trying to navigate one of the tougher road trips on a hopeful run to a title game berth. OU will attack Missouri’s improved defense with a balanced attack. Landry Jones-to-Ryan Broyles rates among the nation’s most productive connections. And running back DeMarco Murray is the school’s all-time touchdown leader, quite a feat at a tradition-steeped school like Oklahoma.
Michigan State at Northwestern, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Aside from an Oct. 30 visit to Iowa City, this may be the most dangerous contest remaining on Michigan State’s schedule. Why? Because Northwestern is a disciplined and opportunistic club (+5 turnover ratio). Last year the Wildcats knocked off 8–2 Wisconsin at Ryan Field. Their coach, Pat Fitzgerald, does not care about ‘statement games,’ only playing winning football. It helps to have a quarterback as talented as Dan Persa, who hopes to take advantage of a Spartans secondary giving up 213.3 passing yards per contest. Michigan State has a capable passer, too (Kirk Cousins) and a pair of backs ready to make amends for last week’s poor showing. How well Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker bounce back will be a deciding factor in the outcome of this contest. Another deciding factor: Penalties. Northwestern ranks 10th in the league, having committed 46 penalties this season for an average of 65.8 penalty yards per contest. The Spartans rank dead last (55, 73.0).
Penn State at Minnesota, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Interim coach Jeff Horton will try to keep the Gophers focused for this week’s contest against the Nittany Lions. As bad as Minnesota’s record may appear, this club has played a number of tight games at home this year, including a one-point loss to Northwestern and a 32–21 loss to USC. Minnesota’s best weapon last week was junior wide receiver Da’Juan McKnight, who will try to crack a Nittany Lion secondary that has allowed the fewest number of yards and completions among all Big Ten schools. As for Penn State’s offense, the verdict is still out, but things have not gone well for Joe Paterno’s squad. Quarterback Rob Bolden has thrown seven interceptions as compared to just four touchdowns, and running back Even Royster still hasn’t found his legs. If the offense cannot move the ball against a Gopher defense allowing more than 400 yards per game, fans will know there is more to Penn State’s struggles than inexperience.
Purdue at Ohio State, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Quick: Name the three Big Ten teams unbeaten in conference play. Michigan State, Iowa and … Purdue? Yep, it’s been an easy path so far for the Boilermakers, but the back stretch is unfriendly, beginning this week against an agitated Ohio State squad. The Buckeyes now have to play catch-up to both Wisconsin and conference leader Michigan State. Terrelle Pryor has an opportunity to flex his leadership abilities by rallying the unit on Saturday. If the line can keep Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan under wraps, Pryor should have a big day against a Boilermaker unit allowing 220.8 passing yards per game. Ohio State’s defense is still recovering from being manhandled by Wisconsin’s rushing attack. Purdue has a capable rushing tandem in quarterback Rob Henry and running back Dan Dierking (126 yards last week). The Boilermakers will try to run early, and may find some success with linebacker Ross Homan out of the lineup.
Indiana at Illinois, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
With its 4–2 record, the Hoosiers need to pick up at least a couple of conference victories in order to secure a bowl bid. No luck so far. This week’s contest with Illinois provides as good an opportunity as any. In last year’s contest, Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell passed for 333 yards and threw three touchdowns in a 27–14 victory — Indiana’s only win in Big Ten play. Chappell is the current leader in the conference in passing yards (1,858) and touchdowns (16). To stop Indiana, Illinois’ underrated defense must frustrate Chappell and limit Tandon Doss, who leads the nation in all-purpose yards (202.0 per game). The Illini will try to exploit an Indiana run defense allowing opposing ball carriers an average of 5.5 yards per carry — a number sure to make Nathan Scheelhasse and Mikel Leshoure salivate.
Wisconsin at Iowa, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
Much more is riding on this game than the Heartland Trophy. A win would push Wisconsin further up the polls and leave the Badgers in a good position to challenge for the conference crown; a win for Iowa would keep its perfect Big Ten mark intact. Ultimately, the team that has the most success running the football will win this contest. Sounds simple, but these are two very similar, very basic football teams. In last year’s game, Adam Robinson averaged 4.6 yards per carry to help Iowa beat the Badgers for the sixth time in the last eight years. Robinson is one of five Big Ten backs this season who are averaging more than 100 yards per contest, and he leads the conference in attempts per game (21.5). Of course, Wisconsin has a couple of backs it thinks are special, too. The combination of John Clay and James White is unlike anything the top-ranked Hawkeye run defense has faced this year. Fans can expect the Badgers to use the same formula that worked in last week’s upset — a heavy dose of Clay early, blended later on with some play-action passing and White’s quickness. Again, simple, but difficult to stop.