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2011 NCAA College Football – Week Six Preview

Oklahoma vs. Texas with the Cotton Bowl split right down the middle is one of the great traditions in college football.
Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

Week six is here in the college football season, and we’ve got another slate of great games this week, highlighted by the Red River Rivalry in Dallas, a pair of ranked-team matchups in the SEC and some very important conference games.  Here are the highlights for this week’s top 25 teams.

#17 Florida (4-1) at #1 Louisiana State (5-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN]

The Gators’ already tough task of upsetting LSU in Baton Rouge was made even more difficult this week when it was announced that starting quarterback John Brantley, who suffered a leg injury in last week’s loss to Alabama, would be unable to play and will be replaced by Jeff Driskel. The freshman newcomer will be going against a ferocious Tigers defense that has held three of its first five opponents to seven points or fewer.

The Gators, who managed just 15 rushing yards last week against Alabama, will need a better effort this week against an LSU defense that ranks third against the rush (60.4 yards per game). Jarrett Lee will start at quarterback for LSU, but Jordan Jefferson, who played briefly last week after being reinstated to the team, should receive more substantial playing time.

Vanderbilt (3-1) at #2 Alabama (5-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPNU]

A Vandy offense that ranks 117th in the nation in total offense might have trouble ending a 20-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. The Commodores gave up six sacks and managed just 77 yards and five first downs in their last game (Sept. 24 vs. South Carolina). Alabama’s defense, meanwhile, has been dominant, holding a strong Florida running game that had been averaging 259 yards per game to just 15 on the ground last week.

#3 Oklahoma (4-0) vs. #11 Texas (4-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12:00 PM ET on ABC]

With a stadium split equally between crimson and burnt orange set amidst all the sights, sounds and smells of the Texas State Fair, there are few better football environments than the Red River Rivalry. This year’s matchup in the Cotton Bowl holds even more significance as both teams come in undefeated for the second time in seven years. The Texas quarterback tandem of Case McCoy and David Ash has yet to throw an interception this season, but will be going against an Oklahoma defense that has forced 10 turnovers through four games this year. Sooners quarterback Landry Jones has thrown for eight touchdowns and over 870 yards in OU’s last two games.

#4 Wisconsin (5-0) BYE

The Badgers, coming off their beatdown of Nebraska, get a week off before returning to Big Ten action next week at home against Indiana.

Fresno State (2-3) at #5 Boise State (4-0)

[Friday, Oct. 7 at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN]

Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore will attempt to rebound from a sub-par performance last week against Nevada in which he had just his third career multi-interception game and threw for a career-low 142 yards. He should be able to find success against a Fresno State defense that has been prone to giving up big plays and ranks 97th in scoring defense. The Bulldogs’ offense will need to be able to hold on to the ball and get another strong performance from running back Robbie Rouse (four straight 100-plus yard games) to have any chance of pulling the upset on the blue turf.

Kansas (2-2) at #6 Oklahoma State (4-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 PM ET; no television]

The sixth-ranked Cowboys had a week off to recover from their thrilling comeback win over Texas A&M two weeks ago, but they probably don’t need the extra rest to get past Kansas. The Jayhawks have been in a freefall, giving up an average of 51 points in their last three games and ranking last in the nation in scoring defense. This week, they’ll face a so-far unstoppable OSU offense that ranks second in passing offense, third in total yards and sixth in scoring offense. Kansas has lost nine straight conference road games.

Colorado (1-4) at #7 Stanford (4-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 PM ET on Versus]

Although much of the focus will obviously be on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the Buffaloes must slow down the Cardinal running game, which is averaging almost 200 yards per game on the ground. Stanford, which owns the longest winning streak in the nation, at 12 games, is trying to start the season 5-0 for the first time since 1951 and can tie a school record set between 1939 and 1941 with its 13th straight win.  The Buffaloes, meanwhile, are hoping to avoid their 19th straight conference road loss.

Boston College (1-4) at #8 Clemson (5-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:00 PM ET on Comcast Sports-Mid Atlantic and Fox Sports South]

After knocking off three straight ranked opponents, Clemson should get a little bit of a breather this week with a struggling Boston College team coming into town. The Eagles have been equally troubled on both sides of the ball, ranking 98th nationally in total offense, 103rd in scoring offense and 85th in total defense. They’ll be facing a Clemson offense that has been putting up almost 470 yards and 35 points per game. Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd leads the ACC in total offense and has thrown just two interceptions to go with his 14 touchdowns. Clemson is seeking its first five-game winning streak since 2000.

California (3-1) at #9 Oregon (3-1)

[Thursday, Oct. 6 at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN]

California ranks ninth in the nation in rushing defense, but will be challenged to stop the nation’s leading rusher, LaMichael James. After a slow start, James has exploded for 200-plus yards in each of the Ducks’ last two games, including a school-record 288 yards two weeks ago against Arizona. Oregon leads the nation in scoring, rolling up 52 points per game). Cal has lost eight straight games to top 10 opponents while the Ducks are riding an 18-game home winning streak.

#15 Auburn (4-1) at #10 Arkansas (4-1)

The Razorbacks will try to follow up their come-from-behind win over then-#14 Texas A&M by knocking off the defending national champions. Auburn’s defense, which has struggled much of this season (106th in total defense), did a decent job last week slowing down South Carolina’s star running back, Marcus Lattimore, holding him to 66 yards, which is 86 fewer than his average coming into the game). But things will get tougher this week going against an Arkansas team featuring the top-ranked offense in the SEC and quarterback Tyler Wilson, who set a school record last week with 510 passing yards.

#12 Michigan (5-0) at Northwestern (2-2)

Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa returned to action last week for the first time since rupturing his Achilles’ tendon last year and almost helped the Wildcats upset then-#24 Illinois. This week, he’ll face a different challenge, going against a much-improved Wolverines defense that has helped Michigan to its highest ranking since 2007. Michigan ranked 110th in total defense last year, but has completely turned things around, ranking 32nd in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. While the Persa vs. Michigan defense is certainly a good matchup, the Northwestern defense, which gives up 414 yards per game (94th nationally), could be in for a bigger struggle against Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson, who leads the Big Ten in rushing yards and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Maryland (2-2) at #13 Georgia Tech (5-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12:00 PM ET on ESPNU]

Georgia Tech is off to its best start since its national championship season in 1990, thanks largely to a potent running attack that leads the nation in rushing. The Yellow Jackets are also second in both total offense and scoring offense. Maryland has lost five of its last six games to ranked opponents, giving up an average of almost 36 points per game in those six meetings.

Ohio State (3-2) at #14 Nebraska (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8:00 PM ET on ABC]

The Cornhuskers will attempt to recover from their humiliating loss to Wisconsin last week, returning to Lincoln for their first-ever Big Ten home game. Ohio State’s offense has been terrible, ranking 108th in the nation. But they are facing a shaky Blackshirts defense that is still trying to find answers after giving up 48 points and 486 points to the Badgers last week. To give themselves a shot at pulling the upset, Ohio State’s defense must limit Nebraska’s powerful running game (ninth in the nation) and force erratic quarterback Taylor Martinez (50.5 percent passing, four touchdowns, five interceptions) to make plays with his arm. The Buckeyes are going into this game shorthanded, since they will again be without running back Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey (suspensions). They will also now be missing starting receiver Verlon Reed, who tore a knee ligament last week and is out for the season.

Connecticut (2-3) at #16 West Virginia

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12:00 PM ET on Mid-Atlantic Sports Net and SportsNet New York]

Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith is averaging nearly 342 passing yards per game, good for fifth nationally. However, West Virginia had struggled to run the ball (306 yards through the first four games) before exploding for 360 on the ground last week against Bowling Green. Head coach Dana Holgorsen showed what he could do last year with a balanced attack at Oklahoma State. If the Mountaineers offense can keep this newfound success in the running game going, they should be heavy favorites to win the Big East.

Kentucky (2-3) at #18 South Carolina (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12:20 PM ET on SEC Network]

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has been benched (again) after throwing six interceptions in the last two games. He will be replaced by sophomore Connor Shaw, who was named the starter for the season opener, but struggled and was pulled in favor of Garcia. But this should be a good opponent for Shaw to work out any kinks. The Wildcats have the worst scoring offense in the nation and are going against an opportunistic South Carolina defense that is third in the nation in forcing turnovers.  Expect a strong dose of Marcus Lattimore, the SEC’s leading rusher, for the Gamecocks’ offense.

#19 Illinois (5-0) at Indiana (1-4)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 2:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network]

Illinois is off to its best start in 60 years, but will play its first road game of the season this week. The Illini needed a last-minute touchdown last week against Northwestern to stay undefeated. The Hoosiers are seeking their first win of the year over an FBS foe. Illinois is expected to be without two starters: wide receiver Darius Millines (foot injury) and linebacker Jonathan Brown (suspension).

Missouri (2-2) at #20 Kansas State (4-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC]

The Cardiac Cats have scored two big upsets (Miami and Baylor) with some last-minute theatrics and are ranked for the first time since 2007. However, Kansas State has given up 400-plus yards each of the last two weeks, and it will be a challenge for them to stay in the top 25 with Missouri (11th in the nation in total offense) coming to town. However, Missouri has struggled to turn those big yards into touchdowns, often stalling on drives (just 29.2 percent on third down conversions). Be careful if this one comes down to special teams — Missouri kicker Grant Ressel had only missed three field goals in his two-year career, but has missed four in the Tigers’ last three games. A Kansas State win would make the Wildcats 5-0 for the first time since 2000 and snap a five-game losing streak to the Tigers.

Miami (2-2) at #21 Virginia Tech (4-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 PM ET on ABC/ESPN]

The Hokies look to rebound from their loss to Clemson last weekend. Expect Virginia Tech to pound the ball with running back David Wilson, the nation’s third-leading rusher, going against a Hurricanes defense that has given up nearly 500 rushing yards the last two weeks and ranks 105th in the country against the rush. Since returning from suspension, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has been solid if unspectacular, completing 69 percent of his passes for 570 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. For Miami to win in Blacksburg, Harris will need to perform well and not turn the ball over against a Hokies’ defense that is tied for fourth in the nation in interceptions.

#22 Arizona State (4-1) at Utah (2-2)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 PM ET on Fox Sports Net]

Junior Jon Hays, a transfer quarterback from Nebraska-Omaha, will get his first start for Utah after starter Jordan Wynn suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s loss to Washington. Hays will need a short learning curve because he will be going against a Sun Devils defense that has already forced 13 turnovers this year. Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler has had at least two touchdown passes in each of the Sun Devils wins, but he did turn the ball over four times (three interceptions and a fumble) last week.

#23 Florida State (2-2) at Wake Forest (3-1)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12:30 PM ET on ACC Network affiliates]

Expect to see some big passing numbers as the ACC’s top two passing offenses face off. Both offenses have been largely one-dimensional this year, ranking 16th or better in passing but 99th or worse in rushing. That could mean a slight edge for the Seminoles, as they also boast the ACC’s top pass defense. Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was injured in the ‘Noles loss to Oklahoma, is expected to play this week, but coach Jimbo Fisher has refused to say whether Manuel or freshman Clint Trickett will start.

#24 Texas A&M (2-2) at Texas Tech (4-0)

[Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:00 PM ET on FX]

After suffering two straight second-half meltdowns in losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas, the Aggies will try to right the ship in a trip to Lubbock, who overcame a halftime deficit last week to beat Kansas and remain unbeaten. Texas A&M currently has the worst pass defense in the country (giving up nearly 337 yards per game), and things won’t be any easier this week against a Red Raiders offense that is 10th in the nation in passing. Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege has completed more than 73 percent of his passes this year, for 14 touchdowns and just one interception. However, Texas A&M’s offense is more than potent enough to turn this one into a real shootout. This is the 70th time these two have played, but it will be the last time they meet as conference opponents.

Iowa State (3-1) at #25 Baylor (3-1)

Both teams had exceeded expectations early on, going undefeated through their first three games. But disappointing losses last week now have both needing a win to keep a strong season going. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III has been phenomenal, throwing for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns in three of the Bears’ last four games. He leads the nation in passer rating, completion percentage and touchdowns. For Iowa State to have a chance, they must do a better job of holding on to the ball — the Cyclones have turned the ball over at least three times in every game this season.

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