Can Helfrich get the best from his Ducks this Thursday?
The Week 11 college football schedule provides us with a lot of intriguing storylines.
After recent stellar play, two running backs will be thrown under the microscope to determine whether their performances were a fluke or not. At the same time, one team will be faced with overcoming adversity after dropping its first game and losing its star running back in the same night.
These are just some of the events college football fans are interested in.
Here are six specific players, coaches and teams to keep an eye on this weekend.
Belton (center) must prove his performance was not a fluke.
Week 11 Matchup: Penn State (5-3) at Minnesota (7-2), Nov. 9, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Running back Bill Belton had quite the showing for the Nittany Lions last weekend.
The junior rushed for 201 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries to lead Penn State to a 24-17, overtime victory over Illinois. In the process, he became the first back in school history to rush for 200 yards since Larry Johnson accomplished the feat in 2002.
But more importantly, Belton added some consistency to a Nittany Lion rushing attack that had been stagnant this season.
Over the team’s previous four games, he had rushed for 85 yards or more in all but one contest. It was obvious Belton had the potential, but nobody expected last weekend’s explosion.
Now, against the Golden Gophers, it’s time for Belton to prove if his performance was a fluke or not. Especially against a run defense that ranks No. 39 in the nation.
All eyes will be on Belton this weekend.
Cameron has done quite a job with the Tigers offense in his first year.
Week 11 Matchup: No. 13 LSU (7-2) at No. 1 Alabama (8-0), Nov. 9, 8 p.m. ET on CBS
The Tigers offense has been one of the biggest surprises in the SEC this year.
Through nine games, the unit ranks No. 15 in scoring (40.2 PPG), No. 22 in total offense (480.0 YPG), No. 31 in rushing (200.6 YPG) and No. 28 in passing (279.4 YPG). In comparison, last year, LSU ranked No. 57, 87, 52 and 94 in these categories, respectively.
That improvement can be credited to the work done by first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
But his most impressive work has to be with quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
The senior has thrown for 2,492 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 65.4 percent passing for a quarterback rating of 177.1. Those are all significant improvements over his marks from last season (58.8 CMP%, 2,609 YDS, 12 TDs, 7 INTs, 128.3 RAT).
Furthermore, after throwing for 250 yards or more in just three of 13 contests last year, Mettenberger has accomplished the feat in seven of nine games in 2013.
It will be interesting to see if Cameron can help his quarterback navigate a Crimson Tide defense that ranks No. 9 against the pass (179.0 YPG) while conceding just 9.8 points per game.
Can Morris get the Hurricanes back on track?
Week 11 Matchup: Virginia Tech (6-3) at No. 11 Miami (7-1), Nov. 9, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
To say the Hurricanes were embarrassed last weekend would be an understatement.
In a highly anticipated showdown with ACC-foe Florida State, Miami fell flat on its face. The team was outgained 517-275 and did very little to show it belonged among the nation’s elite, falling 41-14.
To make matters worse, the Hurricanes also lost running back Duke Johnson for the remainder of the season, via ESPN’s Andrea Adelson.
But while the team’s BCS title hopes are all but gone, Miami is still in the running for an ACC title. However, it all depends on how the team recovers from the loss.
Next up, the Hurricanes take on a Hokies squad that has seen better days itself.
But poor offense aside, Virginia Tech actually boasts one of the nation’s top defenses. The unit ranks No. 8 in scoring (16.9 PPG) and No. 3 in total defense (253.2 YPG).
It will be imperative that Miami’s inconsistent quarterback Stephen Morris (59.5 CMP%, 1,655 YDS, 12 TDs, 10 INTs, 145.2 RAT) shows up to play on Saturday.
If not, the wheels on this season will surely soon come completely off.
Roland (left) was a key contributor in the Cowboys upset over the Red Raiders last weekend.
Week 11 Matchup: Kansas (2-6) at No. 14 Oklahoma State (7-1), Nov. 9, 4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1
For much of the season, the Cowboys were under the belief that they lacked a viable rushing attack.
Over the last two games, running back Desmond Roland has assured the team that that’s not the case.
On Oct. 26 against Iowa State, the junior broke out to the tune of 219 yards of rushing and four touchdowns on 26 carries. He added another 96 yards and three scores on the ground against Texas Tech the following week.
Behind Roland’s effort, Oklahoma State scored 50 or more points in consecutive weeks for the first time since early September.
Fortunately, a Jayhawks defense that ranks No. 104 against the run (206.0 YPG) is up next. The unit has allowed 18 touchdowns on the ground while conceding a generous 4.93 yards per carry.
Expect Roland to keep on rolling.
Helfrich faces his toughest challenge of the season on Thursday.
Week 11 Matchup: No. 3 Oregon (8-0) at No. 5 Stanford (7-1), Nov. 7, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
It’s been quite a breeze for first-year Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich.
His team is 8-0, the offense has proven to be one of the best in the nation and the defense has been pretty good as well. Oregon has scored 55 or more points in six of eight games while limiting opponents to under 20 points in all but two contests.
In fact, no team has finished within 21 points of the Ducks.
But one could argue that Helfrich has yet to be tested by a quality opponent.
That changes when Oregon travels to take on the Cardinal on Thursday, a team that derailed the Ducks perfect season a year ago.
Other than a blemish against unranked Utah, Stanford has all the makings of a formidable opponent, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Will history repeat itself?
Is Baylor's offense for real? We'll find out Thursday.
Week 11 Matchup: No. 10 Oklahoma (7-1) at No. 6 Baylor (7-0), Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1
The Bears could score with just about anybody this season.
Through seven games, the team ranks No. 1 in scoring (63.9 PPG), No. 1 in total offense (717.3 YPG), No. 1 in passing (417.3 YPG) and No. 7 in rushing (301.1 YPG). Furthermore, Baylor has put up 59 or more points in all but one game this year.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, the team hasn’t really played anybody of note. In fact, the team’s seven opponents have a combined record of 28-34.
The Sooners are easily the Bears' toughest opponent to date.
Thus far, Oklahoma’s defense has been pretty stout. The unit ranks No. 14 in scoring (18.8), No. 10 in total defense (314.3 YPG), No. 28 against the run (134.8 YPG) and No. 10 against the pass (179.5 YPG).
On Thursday, we’ll get a good, long look at just how good this Baylor offense is.
But more importantly, we’ll find out whether the team deserves to be a BCS title contender or not.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.