College Football 2011: 25 Things to Watch for on Saturday
The college football season is moving along and a number of teams distinguished themselves as contenders and pretenders in Week 5. The picture is becoming more clear, but for some teams a number of questions remain.
Week 6 could fog that picture even further for a few of those teams, like LSU. Conference play is well underway and there's always a surprise upset or two that no one saw coming.
That being said, let's take a look at the 25 things to watch for on Saturday.
LSU QB Situation
Former starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson announced on Tuesday that he wants his starting job back. No surprise there, but will he get it back is the question.
Jarrett Lee has done a great job of managing games and putting the Tigers in position to win every game this season.
Oh by the way, LSU is the top rated team in the country.
They've beaten Oregon, Mississippi State and West Virginia on the road, all with Lee under center.
Jefferson did make an appearance in last week's game and it's unknown if his role will increase week-by-week.
Lee is still likely on a very short leash and if he begins to struggle you'd have to expect he'll be pulled.
Gamecocks New Man Under Center
Steve Spurrier has pulled the plug on struggling senior quarterback Stephen Garcia.
After flirting with losses multiple times this year, South Carolina finally went down to Auburn.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw will get the start. Considering Spurriers' rocky relationship with Garcia, it will likely remain Shaw's job unless he becomes a liability.
Brantley Out, Driskel in
Florida quarterback John Brantley will miss this week's game against top ranked LSU and freshman Jeff Driskel will get his first career start.
Brantley suffered a high-ankle sprain against Alabama and Driskel replaced him in that game, completing 2-of-6 passes for 14 yards.
On the year, Driskel is 7-for-16 for 73 yards and two picks. That can't mean good things for the Gators this week on the road.
Upset Alert in the Red River Rivalry
Is Oklahoma better than Texas on paper and the football field? Absolutely. But this is the Red River Rivalry, meaning anything can happen.
It's going to be tough for Texas to pull of the upset, but the city of Austin must feel like they're living in the past with the McCoy-Shipley connection still featured on Saturday's.
Case McCoy is a good game manager, but he's not going to blow you away.
The Longhorns are definitely moving in the right direction, and a win on Saturday would silent the critics until they feel the need to sound off again.
Don't bet against the Sooners, but don't be shocked if they fall short.
Auburn's Tough Stretch Continues
Gene Chizik may be without the majority of last year's national championship team, but the 2011 squad has a lot of fight.
They got passed test number one.
They're essentially facing murder's row with their four game stretch against South Carolina and Arkansas on the road.
They also face Florida at home and then back on the road to face-off against LSU.
No one envy's that schedule, and if you want to look at it from a different perspective, Auburn will face five Top-20 teams in six weeks including Clemson.
Can Arkansas Keep It Going?
The Razorbacks stumbled against Alabama, okay they were trampled, and then had a big time comeback against future conference foe Texas A&M.
Now they're getting ready to host the tough-willed Auburn Tigers.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson has put up big numbers this season.
He is coming off a performance against the Aggies in which he threw for over 500 yards and three scores.
Another performance like that will give the 10th ranked Razorbacks another win to add to their resume.
Clemson on Cruise Control
Clemson may have more pressure on them now than they did when beating some of the best teams in the country. Why?
Because everyone is waiting for the Tigers to hit a speed bump.
The past doesn't really matter in college football, but it's definitely emphasized.
Clemson hosts the 1-4 Boston College Eagles on Saturday and really have about a one percent chance of losing this game.
However, people are waiting for Clemson to lose. The Tigers should be 8-0 heading into their October 29th matchup with Georgia Tech with games against Boston College, Maryland and North Carolina.
But winning consistently has been Clemson's problem in the past.
Until they do so for a complete season, questions will remain about whether the Tigers can make it through an entire season unscathed.
Clemson or Georgia Tech
There are two undefeated teams left in the ACC and everyone has jumped on Clemson's bandwagon. But what about Georgia Tech?
Clemson is undefeated, but their wins have come against a good Auburn team, Florida State with a backup quarterback and an overrated Virginia Tech team with no offense.
Georgia Tech doesn't really have a marquee win, but they seem like they can run the ball on anyone.
We won't know the answer to this question until October 29th, unless one falters before then.
Who do you consider the best; Clemson or Georgia Tech?
Who Are the Terrapins?
Are the Terrapins good, bad or in between? It's hard to tell. They had a nice win over Miami in Week 1, but the Hurricanes are struggling this season.
They then come back against West Virginia after being down big, but lose in the end. Plus, Temple came to town and embarrassed Randy Edsall's squad.
Two wins, one against Towson as well, and two losses.
Maryland has a very good quarterback in Danny O'Brien. So you have to think they're good for an upset now and then.
It's hard to believe that's all the Terrapins are good for after last season's performance.
Maryland hasn't made much noise on the field with their play this season, but they certainly have made a statement with their uniforms.
Love them or hate them, it's always fun to see what Under Armour is going to roll out next.
They say they're not trying to be like Oregon, but their actions have contradicted such claims.
Who knows what design Kevin Plank is going to send out this week. Hopefully for Maryland it will bring them some luck as well.
Can the Hokies Find Some Offense?
Virginia Tech was ranked 11th in the AP poll last week.
Now the Hokies are ranked 21st after Clemson came into Blacksburg, unleashed the Tiger and left nothing but the feathers of the Hokies mascot behind.
The Hokies were once again humiliated on national television, nothing new, and didn't score an offensive touchdown.
The defense played a good game, but there was no offense, primarily through the air.
Right now, David Wilson is a one man show on the Hokies offense.
Until Frank Beamer's squad figures out how to move the ball through the air, it's going to be tough for the Hokies to win.
Back-to-Back Home Losses for the Hokies?
The last time Virginia Tech lost two games in a row at home was in 2002.
However, that was separated by a triple overtime road loss to Syracuse, back when the Hokies were in the Big East.
The last time the Hokies lost consecutive home games in back-to-back weeks was 1995. That's right; 1995.
That is quite a streak and it's one that's in serious jeopardy come Saturday.
Luckily for the Hokies, Miami isn't much of a hurricane this season. Quarterback Logan Thomas has to figure out the quarterback position or the Hokies are in for a long fall season.
Look for Thomas to play a motivated game and to lead the Hokies to victory through the air.
Tide Needs McCarron to Step Up
Alabama hosts Vanderbilt this week, and although the Commodores are having a good season, no one really has the Tide on upset alert.
However, Alabama needs to get quarterback A.J. McCarron on the right page.
Alabama ranks 80th in passing. Luckily for Nick Saban, he has two stud running backs in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.
But the passing game will remain a concern until it turns around for the better.
Saban would like that be the case by the time LSU comes to town in the first week of November.
Undefeated Wildcats on Upset Alert
Kansas State is 4-0. More impressively, they've done so with the 115th rated passing the game in the nation.
Adding to that picture, the Wildcats rank 70th in points scored. So how are they 4-0.
The first two games were against Eastern Kentucky and Kent State, so no surprise there.
They then beat Miami who was coming off an impressive win against Ohio State, but neither Ohio State or Miami look very good this year.
Their most impressive win came against Baylor last week, but the Bears only had one win respectable win that came against TCU.
Maybe the Wildcats just know how to win, or maybe they've been lucky so far.
Either way, it's unlikely they care. That being said, having Missouri in town puts the Wildcats on upset alert in Week 6.
The Seminoles Look to Get Back on Track
After losing two games in a row to Oklahoma and Clemson, the Seminoles had a bye week.
E.J. Manuel should be good to go after missing the game against Clemson, but the passing game hasn't been the problem.
Backup quarterback Clint Trickett played well, but the running game has been non-existent.
The Seminoles are averaging 79 yards on the ground per game, which is good for 115th best in the nation.
That has to change for the Seminoles moving forward and will likely be a point of emphasis against Wake Forest in Week 6.
Can Pittsburgh Captialize on Momentum
The Pitt Panthers are coming off a very impressive win against 16th ranked South Florida, scoring 44-points in the victory and holding the bulls to only 17-points.
In Week 6, Pitt travels to New Jersey to take on the 3-1 Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers has next to no running game and their only impressive win came against Syracuse last week.
Pittsburgh should win this game easily and continue to look like the team to beat in the Big East; other than West Virginia that is.
West Virginia Begins Conference Play
The 16th ranked Mountaineers will host the 2-3 Connecticut Huskies on Saturday.
West Virginia responded nicely after being demolished by LSU at home, beating Bowling Green 55-10.
Geno Smith should lead the WVU to victory again in Week 6, and the Mountaineers should continue to roll through Big East play.
The only two teams left that pose any threat to West Virginia are Pittsburgh and South Florida who they play in the last two weeks of the season.
The Best Team No One Is Talking About
If you had to list off the Top-10 teams in the country, Oklahoma State is probably the team you'd forget about.
We've heard basically nothing about the Cowboys in the media.
They had an impressive come from behind win against Texas A&M.
They're the second rated passing team in the nation, rank 6th in scoring and have an average defense.
That and they're the second best team in the small state of Oklahoma, and clearly not the most popular.
If you look at Oklahoma State's schedule, they could easily be undefeated heading into their matchup with Oklahoma in the last week of the season.
That's good enough to become a dark horse candidate for a national title appearance.
Utah Looks for First Pac-12 Win
Arizona State is off to a 4-1 start and the Utah Utes remain winless in Pac-12 play. The Sun Devils play their opponents close, and really do nothing great.
They have an average passing game to below average rushing attack with a solid defense.
However, Utah has struggled offensively this season, and don't have any impressive wins despite a good defense.
It will tough for Utah to beat Arizona State, but it is a home game and you know the Utes want to get that first conference win.
Upset Alert in State College
Penn State doesn't have a great offense, but their biggest problem has been scoring points.
They're averaging 23 points per game, but are giving up only 12, which ranks in the Top-10 nationally.
Iowa's offense is better overall, they average 37.8 points per game, but give up about 24 points per game on defense.
Something's got to give in this one. Both teams have one loss.
Even though Penn State's came against Alabama and Iowa's came against Iowa State, the Nittany Lions are on upset alert because of their offense.
It will be up to their defense, once again to come through with a win.
Baylor's problem has been defense. Nothing more.
If the Bears had won last week, you'd have to think that quarterback Robert Griffin III would be at the top of most people's Heisman list.
Griffin III has put video game like numbers this year as he tries to will the Bears to victory despite a weak defense.
Luckily for Baylor, Iowa State's defense also gives up a lot of points. The Bears should have the advantage come Saturday, considering they're at home as well.
Can the Aggies Play Solid for Four Quarters?
Texas A&M has dominated the first half in each of their last two games, but have lost both because of huge second half collapses.
Whatever the reason may be, the Aggies are much better than they have played in each of those second halfs and can still make some noise in the Big 12.
They have a big game this week on the road against Texas Tech who is undefeated, although they've played a weak schedule.
Look for the Aggies to dominate the Red Raiders in Week 6 and gain some momentum for the weeks ahead.
The Aggies are still a team to be reckoned with; they just need to learn how to close out games.
Michigan Looks to Continue Strong Play
Don't look now, but the Wolverines are ranked 12th in the nation and give up only 10.2 points per game.
Denard Robinson has been lighting it up on the ground, which has allowed the Wolverines to rush for more than 272 yards per game, which ranks 7th best in the nation.
However, as soon as a team figures out how to slow down Robinson's rushing ability the Wolverines will be in trouble.
Robinson is still a poor passer and remains a liability when asked to do so.
Northwestern is a solid team, has Dan Persa back undercenter and will be a tough out for the Wolverines, especially at home.
Michigan is on upset alert in Week 6. Look for this game to go down to the wire.
Thursday Night Football
Oregon has quietly entered the Top-10 once again.
Once some of these teams play each other in conference play the Ducks could find themselves right back in the national championship mix.
The Ducks' rushing attack remain their strongest asset, but their defense still gives up too many points.
California isn't the strongest opponent the Ducks have faced all season, but they're not a gimme either.
Oregon should win by a couple of touchdowns, but if they get caught looking ahead to their matchup with Arizona State they could be in trouble.
Either way, Oregon should come out on top.
Friday Night Lights
Boise State has two games they could lose left on their schedule: Fresno State and TCU. The Bulldogs are 2-3 this season, but they've played a tough schedule.
They lost to California in Week 1, and lost by 13 to Nebraska in Week 2. However, they kept it very close with the Cornhuskers through three quarters.
They also lost to Mississippi. Although, the Bulldogs do have more losses than wins heading into Week 6, they're still an opponent worth paying attention to.
If the Broncos take them likely, which they're unlikely to do, they could find themselves out of the national championship picture quicker than you can "I told you so."