Qualk Talk: Week Five College FB Matchups

William QualkinbushSenior Analyst ISeptember 28, 2007

IconAfter a long week of work and school, I'm ready for a great weekend of college football!

As always, there are some very intriguing games on the schedule. However, the depth that was so evident last week just isn't there this week.

In the games that do matter, though,  there are some key matchups that will make the difference one way or another.

#5 West Virginia's Backfield vs. #18 South Florida's Front Seven

This is the matchup that matters most for anybody who plays the Mountaineers this season.

Pat White and Steve Slaton make up the most dangerous QB-RB combo in the country; West Virginia is averaging 7.2 yards per carry, with Slaton and White doing most of the damage.

And then there's super freshman Noel Devine, whose 11.1 yards per carry leads all D-I rushers.

South Florida's stout run defense will have their hands full. They're No. 13 nationally against the rush this year, holding opponents under 80 yards per game.

This will be, by far, their toughest test yet. But if they can pass it, a win should be the end result.

Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall vs. #21 Penn State's Defense

The Lions were thoroughly pounded last week vs. Michigan, as Mike Hart carried the ball 44 times for 153 yards and Michigan dominated the time of possession. 

Penn State's suddenly vulnerable run defense will get another test from Rashard Mendenhall, the Big Ten's second-leading rusher, behind only—you guessed it—Hart.

The Nittany Lions are still fifth nationally against the run, but they couldn't stand up to a physical Michigan O-line last week. Look for Mendenhall and versatile quarterback Juice Williams to run the ball down Penn State's throat as they gun for an upset.

#16 South Carolina's Chris Smelley vs. Mississippi State's Secondary

So Steve Spurrier has a new quarterback—that's not surprising.

What is surprising is that he didn't go with Smelley in the first place, given Blake Mitchell's continued misbehavior and inconsistency.

Still, Smelley is a young QB with relatively little game experience, and Mississippi State's pass defense is no slouch, ranking 17th nationally. They also have an outstanding pass rusher in Titus Brown, who is among the nation's leaders with four sacks. 

After an opening game beatdown from LSU, this Bulldog team has rebounded nicely—and will be looking for blood against a banged-up Gamecock squad in Columbia.

#13 Clemson's Cullen Harper vs. Georgia Tech's Secondary

Harper has established himself as a possible Heisman darkhorse early in the season.

The junior is among the nation's leaders in almost every meaningful passing statistic, and has thrown for 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. He will be facing a Georgia Tech secondary that is beaten up both physically and mentally.

While the Yellow Jackets have been strong against the run, they're vulnerable against the pass, ranking 72nd nationally and allowing 238.5 yards per game through the air. Harper should have plenty of fun if his running game can get going in Atlanta.

#9 Wisconsin's P.J. Hill vs. Michigan State's Front Four

Hill is the guy that comes to mind when somebody says "powerful, clock-eating tailback" (which very rarely happens).

He has been the Badgers' workhorse in a Ron Dayne mold, swallowing yardage in chunks and carrying defenders with him. He averages 128 yards per game on the ground—good for 10th in the country—but will face a very athletic Spartan defensive front in this one, led by speedy end Jonal Saint-Dic.

MSU has been decent against the run, but that line cannot allow Hill to work between the tackles.

#6 California's Offense vs. #11 Oregon's Offense

Let's be real—this game will be about points, points, and more points.

Both offenses are incredibly explosive, and both teams have glaring defensive weaknesses.

Nate Longshore and Dennis Dixon are both playmaking quarterbacks, with Longshore a pocket passer and Dixon a dual-threat guy. DeSean Jackson is Cal's primary weapon on just about every play, and Oregon likes to counter that with the rushing ability of Jonathan Stewart.

First one to 50 wins.

Auburn's Brandon Cox vs. #4 Florida's Secondary

Cox is in need of an emotional lift after a disappointing 2-2 start for the Tigers. It only gets tougher as the Gators play host to Tommy Tuberville's bunch.

With his job on the line, Cox will look to take advantage of a Gators secondary that features a lot of youth and plenty of question marks. Florida is 82nd against the pass this season, which is cause for concern in Gainesville.

Cox will have to make plays to give his team a boost, something that isn't exactly in his job description.


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