College Football Weekend Preview – Week 9

The intensity just keeps rising in the 2011 college football season.  

Brian Vornbergby Brian Vornberg

Stakes are higher and higher every week and the pressure is mounting on the big boys to stay atop the polls. 

Here is a preview of the top 10 games to look for this weekend:

Syracuse @ Louisville (Saturday, 12pm ET)
– Both teams are coming off of huge wins here.  Syracuse surprisingly manhandled a good West Virginia team last Friday in the Carrier Dome 49-23 and Louisville earned a hard-fought win over an underrated Rutgers squad in order to avoid a 4-game losing streak.  Louisville has one of the most underrated defenses in the country, currently ranked 16th in the nation.  Meanwhile, Syracuse will be looking to become bowl-eligible as they sit at 5-2 and tied for fourth place in the Big East.

Players to Watch:
Louisville – Michaelee Harris (Freshman, WR) – 22 catches, 260 yards, 2 TDs
Syracuse – Dyshawn Davis (Freshman, LB) – 25 tackles, 7 TFL, 4 SCK, 1 FF

BYU @ TCU (Friday, 8pm ET)
The BYU Cougars had a rough start to their first season as an Independent, but have quickly grown accustomed to the type of schedule that they will be facing on a regular basis and have reeled off five straight wins, including a tough road win in Corvallis against the Oregon State Beavers.  The Cougars will be tested yet again when they go to Arlington to face the TCU Horned Frogs in Dallas' new mecca of a stadium in what virtually amounts to a home game for the Frogs.  TCU, also a much-improved team from 6 weeks ago, is coming off a 69-0 shellacking of New Mexico and look to show their high-powered offense off in front of a huge crowd in Arlington.

Players to Watch:
BYU – Cody Hoffman (Sophomore, WR) – 21 kick returns for 513 yards, 1 TD….X-factor
TCU – Casey Pachall (Sophomore, QB) – 1,566 yards passing (69.7%), 17 TD – 4 INT

SMU @ Tulsa (Saturday, 3:30pm ET)
– This game looms large for both teams as whomever wins gets the upper hand on 2nd place in Conference USA's West division.  SMU is coming off of a disappointing 27-3 loss at the hands of Southern Mississippi as their offense never could find it's rhythm.  Meanwhile, no one in the country had a tougher schedule the first four weeks of the season than Tulsa, but they have stayed the course and are currently riding a three-game winning streak and are looking to prove that they are Houston's biggest threat in C-USA.  Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne is back healthy and playing some of his best football ever.

Players to Watch:
SMU – Zach Line (Junior, RB) – 118 rush ypg, 13 TD
Tulsa – Curnelius Arnick (Senior, LB) – 86 tackles (5th in the country), 3 TFL, 1 INT

Wisconsin @ Ohio State (Saturday, 8pm ET)
– For Wisconsin, this game is enormous.  The Badgers are coming off of a shocking last-second loss to Michigan State last weekend.  This team is tough and very close-knit, however, so look for them to be firing on all cylinders from the start.  The Badgers team defense is phenomenal, allowing under 14 points per contest this season and it is crucial that they take advantage of some of Ohio State's big losses while they still can.  For Ohio State, this is a game that could truly turn their season around and get them going in the proper direction for a bowl game appearance.  The young, but talented Buckeye offense will need to gel like they haven't before yet this season to pull out the big win.

Players to Watch:
Wisconsin – Russell Wilson (Senior, QB) – 1,780 yards (73.2%), 16 TD, 3 INT….204.9 passer rating
Ohio State – Andrew Sweat (Senior, LB) – 49 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF….Senior do-it-all leader of the defense

Baylor @ Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30pm ET)
– Can Baylor get back on track after last week's defensive collapse against Texas A&M??  The Bears defense ranks 101st in scoring defense, allowing almost 33 points per game this season.  That is not good news when they are going against an Oklahoma State offense that is averaging almost 49 points per game on offense.  The Bears themselves are averaging over 44 points on offense per game.  Let the offensive fireworks begin!

Players to Watch:
Baylor – OFFENSE – 549 ypg (#2 in the country)
Oklahoma State – OFFENSE – 548.6 ypg (#3 in the country)

Clemson @ Georgia Tech (Saturday, 8pm ET)
– Clemson has had a tough schedule to work through thus far and this will be yet another test for them as Georgia Tech's rushing offense is very hard for any defensive coordinator to prepare for.  The Tigers look to stay undefeated and maintain their stranglehold on 1st place in the ACC's Atlantic division.  Meanwhile, Georgia Tech started the season 6-0 before losing their last two games as the offense has struggled to continue to produce the way they were before the recent two-game skid.  Will they play spoiler to Clemson's outstanding season?
Players to Watch:
Clemson – DeAndre Hopkins (Sophomore, WR) – 30 catches, 510 yards, 4 TD (157 yards, 1 TD last weekend versus UNC)
Georgia Tech – Tevin Washington (Junior, QB) – 1,139 yards passing, 460 yards rushing, 19 total TD

Navy @ Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30pm ET)
– Ask anyone on USC's team and they will tell you — Notre Dame just doesn't play inspired football these days.  This is the culture that Brian Kelly continues to try and change in South Bend, Indiana.  Tommy Rees and the Fighting Irish are definitely capable of putting up points, but when it comes to making plays in the clutch this team is nowhere near where it has the potential to be.  Navy has had a tough go of it as well losing five straight contests, dropping them to 2-5 on the season.  The Midshipmen defense allowed East Carolina's QB Dominique Davis to throw for an FBS-record 26 straight completions last week as they lost in a close one 38-35.

Players to Watch:
Navy – Running Attack – averaging over 325 rushing ypg (#3 in the country)
Notre Dame – Tommy Rees (Sophomore, QB) – 1,693 yards passing (65.5%), 14 TD, 7 INT

Michigan State @ Nebraska (Saturday, 12pm ET)
– Kirk Cousins and the Spartans looked spectacular in their last-second victory over Wisconsin last weekend.  The passing attack was firing on all cylinders as WRs Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham were running wild.  The Spartans will need to continue those offensive ways as they head to Lincoln to face a daunting Nebraska defense which has underachieved so far this year, partly due to a key injury to star DT Jared Crick.  Can "Sparty" and head coach Mark Dantonio pull off another huge win or will Nebraska step up and win their biggest game of the season?

Players to Watch:
Michigan State – Denicos Allen (Sophomore, LB) – 37 tackles, 11 TFL, 6 sacks
Nebraska – Rex Burkhead (Junior, RB) – 752 yards rushing, 10 TD…..130 rushing yards first 2 games, 622 in five games since

Georgia vs. Florida (Saturday, 3:30pm ET) 
– The Georgia Bulldogs have won five straight games after losing their first two and are now sitting at 5-2 and trying to prove that they are a legitimate contender in the SEC's East division.  Winning this year's edition of the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" would certainly do just that.  Florida is heading in the opposite direction having lost three straight games under first-year head coach Will Muschamp.  Their offensive struggles have been brought to the fore recently having scored a total of 27 points in their last three games combined, dropping them to 71st in the country in scoring offense.

Players to Watch:
Georgia – Isaiah Crowell (Freshman, RB) – 608 rushing yards, 4 TD (87 ypg)
Florida – Lerentee McCray (Junior, DL/LB) – 22 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT



Oklahoma @ Kansas State (Saturday, 3:30pm ET)
– This is the biggest matchup of the Big 12 season thus far, pitting the #9 Sooners against the #8 Wildcats.  QB Landry Jones and the Oklahoma Sooners are coming off of a disappointing loss to Texas Tech last weekend which ended their streak of 39 consecutive wins in Norman.  The normally sound Sooner defense (41st overall in the country) was shredded by Seth Doege and the Red Raiders for 572 yards and 41 points (452 yards through the air alone).  As for the Kansas State Wildcats, they are hoping to continue their stellar run of wins under one of the greatest coaches in history to go virtually unnoticed — Bill Snyder.  Snyder has completely turned around a defense that ranked 106th nationally in 2010 to one that currently ranks 30th and is giving up over 100 yards less per contest (445 to 337).  The Wildcats are hoping that this game is the catalyst for the beginning of a rough three-week stretch which sees them play three top-20 teams in a row.  Either way, under coach Snyder Kansas State has become very relevant again in the Big 12 and are earning their Wildcat "stripes".

Players to Watch:
Oklahoma – Landry Jones (Junior, QB) – 2,589 passing yards (3rd in the country), 65.3%, 21 TD, 7 INT
Kansas State – RUSH DEFENSE – 13th nationally (93.86 ypg)