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College Football 2011: 25 Things to Watch for on Saturday

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2011

College Football 2011: 25 Things to Watch for on Saturday

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    Week 5 of the college football season is here and the best teams in the nation are starting to surface. There are still a few teams with something to prove and those teams will have that opportunity come Saturday.

    The ACC favorite will be decided moving forward, the best in the Big Ten will be determined and two of the SEC's best face off. We'll also get a look at a future SEC matchup. Here's a look at 25 things to watch for in Week 5.

Big Ten Showdown

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    The eighth ranked Cornhuskers travel to Madison to take on the seventh ranked Badgers. It's one of three top 15 matchups in Week 5, but it will likely be the most watched.

    The quarterbacks will decide this game, so the early nod has to go to Russell Wilson and the Badgers. 

Wilson's Heisman Campaign

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    Wilson is one of the front-runners for the Heisman trophy, but the Badgers haven't played a challenge schedule thus far. Saturday will be their biggest test up to this point.

    A win will only cement them further as the team to beat in the Big Ten. If Wilson dominates, there's a good chance he'll find himself in New York come December.

Martinez Through the Air

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    Taylor Martinez is fun to watch, but he's a better athlete than a quarterback. His playmaking ability out of the pocket is great, but his pocket passing is sub-par.

    When forced into throwing, Martinez tends to struggle. He could easily find himself in that situation come Saturday, which puts the Cornhuskers at a big disadvantage.

Will It Be Rainey in the Swamp?

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    This just in: Chris Rainey makes it rain. Touchdowns that is, as he leaves opposing defenses in his rear view on the way to end zone. Rainey is the Gators' leading rusher and receiver and a big reason why the transformation to a pro-style offense has gone so smoothly.

    Rainey is the X-factor in Saturday's game against Alabama, and can help Will Muschamp pull off an impressive victory against one of the SEC's best.

Will the Tide Continue to Roll?

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    A.J. McCarron had his best day as starter against Arkansas in Week 4 and running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey continued to impress.

    However, McCarron hasn't had to go into an atmosphere like the Swamp and had to play a team of Florida's caliber.

    Yes, Penn State is a tough place to play but they almost lost to Temple the following week, which means they're not among the nations' elite.

    McCarron's success or lack thereof will be the defining factor in this one. The Tide are on upset alert in Week 5.

Impressive Winning ACC Winning Streak on the Line

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    Virginia Tech hasn't lost a conference game since October 29, 2009 when North Carolina upset them at home on a Thursday night.

    On Saturday, the Hokies go for their 12th straight conference win when Clemson rolls into town. The Hokies are 4-0 (as is Clemson), but haven't been challenged like the Tigers have this year.

    This is a big game for the Hokies moving forward and a win will put them at the front of the power rankings in the ACC.

Virginia Tech Hosts Clemson to Determine ACC's Best

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    Clemson ended the nation's longest winning streak and they'll try to end the ACC's longest winning streak on Saturday. Blacksburg is a tough place to play, but teams have won there before in hostile circumstances.

    Tajh Boyd is a better quarterback than Logan Thomas at this point and Sammy Watkins is an incredible talent that the Hokies' defense will have to matchup against.

    The Hokies are favored in this game, but the Tigers have proved far more this season than the Hokies with wins over Auburn and Florida State.

    The Hokies are most definitely on upset alert in Week 5.

Big 12 Unbeatens Face off

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    The 17th ranked Longhorns are on the road this weekend at Iowa State. Both teams are undefeated with three wins this season, but both have big question marks moving forward.

    That being said, Texas has far better athletes than the Cyclones, but the Longhorns have better talent than a lot of teams and have been underwhelming at times this season.

    This is a big game moving forward for both teams because it's a conference opener, and because Texas plays Oklahoma in Week 6. Iowa State faces off against Baylor.

    A loss for either team could start an ugly trend.

Case McCoy

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    It looks like Case McCoy has become the full-time starter for the Longhorns. He's only thrown 25 passes this season in three games, but has completed 19 of those attempts for 225 yards and two touchdowns.

    McCoy isn't going to blow you away with his arm, but he's a solid quarterback that looks like he could get the Longhorns back on track.

    A good performance against Iowa State will be important for the young quarterback as he will prepare for the biggest game of his young career in Week 6.

Aggies vs. Razorbacks in Arlington, Texas

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    It's a noon kickoff (11 a.m. CST) for a future SEC matchup as Texas A&M squares off with Arkansas. Both teams are coming off tough losses, especially the Aggies who blew a 17-point lead at halftime.

    Both teams are matched up pretty evenly on paper, but A&M has the better rushing attack which should help them on Saturday.

    However, turnovers will likely be the deciding factor, much like it was in week 4. Look for the Aggies to come away with a close victory in this one.

Jordan Jefferson Reinstated

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    LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson has had his charges reduced to a misdemeanor after a bar fight in Baton Rouge before the season began.

    Now the LSU quarterback has been reinstated. Jarrett Lee is starting to find his stride for the Tigers and has led them to the top of the polls.

    It will be interesting to see how Les Miles handles this situation.

Jerry Kill Back to the Sideline

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    Despite the health issues that Minnesota's Head Coach Jerry Kill suffers from, you'll find him on the sidelines come Saturday.

    Kill has been suffering from seizures and has wound up in the hospital multiple times this season. Despite his health, Kill will turn his focus to turning around the Golden Gophers program.

Michigan Takes on Minnesota

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    As soon as Kill returns to the sideline he's faced with defending one of the nation's best athletes in Denard Robinson. The Michigan quarterback has been torching defenses with his running ability, but has struggled with turnovers through the air.

    Not to say that Michigan is in danger of losing, but a sloppy performance against an inspired Golden Gophers football team could catch the Wolverines off guard.

Will Missouri Jump Ship?

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    The SEC currently has 13 schools in its conference starting next season. They will be looking for a 14th team and you'd have to think they're looking sooner than later.

    Who they choose is anyone's guess. Right now, Missouri looks like the lead candidate, but reports have come out that they're leaning towards staying in the Big 12. However, word of mouth has proven to be just that so far.

Temple

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    Despite the departure of former head coach Al Golden, Temple is having a very good season. They could easily be 4-0, but instead are 3-1 after a loss in the waning minutes against Penn State on the road.

    The Owls also shocked Maryland last week, and dominating them in a 38-7 win. Maybe the Owls are motivated because they want back in a BCS conference, but whatever happens in the future, this program is no longer an afterthought.

    They host Toledo in Week 5.

Illinois Tries to Remain Undefeated

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    Illinois is off to an impressive 4-0 start and host Northwestern on Saturday. The Illini have been led by a strong rushing attack and a stout defense.

    Through the air, Ron Zook's squad leaves much to be desired. Saturday is the start of conference play for both teams, but Illinois has a great chance to be 6-0 heading in to their Week 7 matchup with Ohio State.

    As long as they continue running the ball effectively, the wins should keep coming.

Spartans Invading Columbus

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    Mark D'Antoni and Michigan State travel to Ohio State to open up Big Ten conference play in Week 5. The Spartans have looked good in three of their four games, but they were dominated by Notre Dame.

    Ohio State's loss came to the hands of Miami, on whom the jury is still out. Both teams have question marks but the Spartans seem to be the stronger the team at this point in the season. We will know on Saturday.

Braxton Miller vs. Nation's Top Defense

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    Did I forget to mention that Michigan State ranks first in the nation in total defense? That can't bode well for young Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, making only the second start of his young career.

    Miller's legs may save him a time or two in this one, but he will have to figure out a way to gain yards through the air in order for the Buckeyes to win.

Boilermakers Look to Take Fight out of the Irish

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    Purdue is off to a 2-1 start, but their lone loss was to the Rice Owls. Plus, their two wins came against Southeast Missouri State and Middle Tennessee.

    Notre Dame is coming off a tough win against Pittsburgh and the Irish continue to struggle with consistency on offense. 

    Look for Notre Dame's defense to pave the way to their third victory in Week 5.

LSU

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    The Tigers are the top rated team for the first time this season after jumping Oklahoma in the polls after last week's impressive victory over West Virginia.

    However, a quarterback controversy could be brewing in Baton Rouge. Jefferson has been reinstated, but will he become quarterback? It's hard to know which direction Les Miles will go here, but this could end up being a big distraction.

    Luckily for the Tigers, Kentucky's coming to town. And as long as that defense is on the field, you'll need to play a near perfect game to beat LSU.

Upset Alert in Columbia

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    It feels like South Carolina is constantly on upset alert mostly because of its quarterback play. Steve Spurrier has arguably the best running back in the country in Marcus Lattimore and a strong defense as well.

    Auburn's best win this year came against Mississippi State, but they did end up losing to Clemson in Week 3. 

    On paper, South Carolina looks like the better team and the Gamecocks should win. However, they play the games for a reason and the SEC is always unpredictable.

Auburn Begins Tough Stretch

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    Gene Chizik can't be too excited about the next four teams his squad has to face. Weeks five and six, Auburn has to travel to No. 10 South Carolina and No. 18 Arkansas.

    They come home to face No. 12 Florida and then go back on the road to take on top ranked LSU. 

    Is Missouri sure they want to play in the SEC?

    Auburn is 3-1 at the moment, but Saturday could easily be the start of a four game slide for the defending national champs.

Baylor on the Road

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    Don't look now but the Baylor Bears are in the top 15. There's no doubt why they've made it there: Robert Griffin III.

    Griffin III is currently one of the front runners to win the Heisman, but Baylor hasn't played a formidable opponent since Week 1.

    Kansas State is 3-0 and coming off a big win against Miami on the road, so this could be a tough test for the Bears.

    The Wildcats have a strong defense but struggle to score points, which is why it's going to be tough for them to win on Saturday. It will be close enough that Baylor should be on upset alert.

Dallas vs. Fort Worth

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    No, these aren't two schools you haven't heard of. It's SMU traveling over to Fort Worth to take on TCU. Both teams are 3-1 and have been dominating opponents since losing in Week 1.

    The Mustangs lost big to Texas A&M and despite an incredible comeback against Baylor, TCU couldn't beat the Bears.

    SMU has a better passing game and the Horned Frogs have a better running game. TCU also has the edge on defense and probably has a few more athletes as well.

    However, this game could go down to the wire with the Mustangs pulling the upset.

ACC Looks to Rebound

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    Week 4 was a good week for the ACC and Week 5 was a disaster. Maryland lost to Temple, Virginia lost to Southern Miss, N.C. State was embarrassed by Cincinnati and Miami lost to Kansas State.

    On top of that, one of the preseason favorites to make the ACC championship game, Florida State, lost for a second straight week.

    Now, more uncertainty faces this conference. At least we should know who the front runner to win the conference is after Clemson and Virginia Tech face off. Georgia Tech will remain in the conversation as well.

    Key non-conference games to watch this week:

    Duke at FIU

    Idaho at Virginia

    North Carolina at East Carolina

    Bethune-Cookman at Miami

    Towson at Maryland

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