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College Football Week 4 Previews
College Football Week 4 Previews
WEST VIRGINIA AT COLORADO
Bill Stewart has spent more than nine months as the head coach at West Virginia, but didn't sign a contract until last week.
Shortly before inking his deal, the Mountaineers showed Stewart how much work he has in front of him.
Coming off their worst offensive performance in nearly seven years, the No. 21 Mountaineers try to bounce back Thursday night when they travel to Boulder for their first-ever meeting with Colorado.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made West Virginia -3 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on West Virginia –3.
Stewart led West Virginia (1-1) to a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma on Jan. 2, and a day later was hired as the successor to Rich Rodriguez, who had bolted for Michigan in December. Stewart took over a Mountaineers team that would lose running back Steve Slaton to the NFL, but had quarterback Pat White and speedy tailback Noel Devine among eight returning starters on an offense that scored nearly 40 points per game last season.
That unit looked sharp enough in West Virginia's opener, as White threw a career-high five touchdown passes in a 48-21 rout of Villanova on Aug. 30. A week later, however, the Mountaineers sputtered badly on offense, losing two fumbles and getting just 72 yards passing from White in a 24-3 loss at East Carolina on Sept. 6.
West Virginia was held without a touchdown for the first time since a 45-3 loss to then-No. 1 Miami on Oct. 25, 2001.
"(To) the naysayers out there that want to ruin a guy's season after the first or second game, I'm not going to get all down in the dumps,'' Stewart said. "You can't just put the old gold and blue on. ... You've got to play in the old gold and blue.''
Stewart spent nine months and two games on the job before signing a contract, an issue that was finally settled Friday when the 55-year-old coach put his name on a six-year deal.
Now, Stewart has to figure out how to fix what went wrong against East Carolina. White and Devine each ran for 90 yards, but they should face a stiffer test against Colorado's defensive front. The Buffaloes (2-0) have allowed 59 yards per game on the ground over their first two contests.
"They are a tough group, but we're pretty tough and big also," Stewart said. "Last week, I didn't think some of our linemen played up to their ability. This game will be a good battle for our offensive linemen and it will be a big challenge."
Colorado defeated Colorado State 38-17 in its opener, and figured to have an easy time against Football Championship Subdivision member Eastern Washington on Sept. 6. The Eagles, though, led 24-17 with less than four minutes to play before Cody Hawkins' third touchdown pass tied the score.
Two plays later, Cha'pelle Brown picked off a pass from Eastern Washington's Matt Nichols and returned it 27 yards for a TD, and Colorado held on to win 31-24.
"We have a lot to learn," coach Dan Hawkins said. "We just have to keep pumping the pump and get better, and I think we will."
Colorado has relied mainly on Hawkins' arm to move the ball so far, as he's completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game, however, has struggled to get going, as the Buffaloes are averaging 3.5 yards per carry - 90th in the nation.
Highly touted freshman Darrell Scott has gotten the bulk of the carries, and he's gained 104 yards on 24 rushes along with one touchdown in his first two college games. Scott, one of the nation's top running back recruits, also had three catches for 33 yards against Eastern Washington.
"He's very powerful and elusive when he gets in the open field, and it's tough to bring him down one guy at a time," Dan Hawkins said.
West Virginia is 10-8 against Big 12 opponents.
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LSU at AUBURN
LSU may need to beat Auburn this week to keep alive its hopes of repeating as national champion. That means winning at Jordan-Hare Stadium - something it hasn't done in almost exactly a decade.
Ten years and one day after its last road victory in the series, No. 6 LSU travels to 10th-ranked Auburn in a showdown of SEC powerhouses Saturday night.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made LSU –2.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 84% of bets for this game have been placed on LSU –2.5.
The rivalry between LSU (2-0, 0-0) and Auburn (3-0, 1-0) has been a study in protecting home field of late, as the home team has won each of the last eight matchups. That could spell bad news for LSU this week, as its last win at Auburn came Sept. 19, 1998, by a 31-19 score.
LSU coach Les Miles, though, hopes his team's powerful running game and not the venue will make the difference Saturday.
"I want us to treat this like we would treat any road game, to be honest with you, and that we would want and look forward to going there and playing our style of football," Miles said. "I certainly want to have an aggressive approach and look to score some points. I think the reason we didn't score a lot of points last time was that I don't think we were as good on offense at running the football as we are currently."
The last time LSU visited Auburn was a 7-3 loss on Sept. 16, 2006. The Tigers were held to 42 yards rushing and managed only a field goal despite having JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, at quarterback.
Limiting LSU to such a low rushing output this time could be a tall task for Auburn. LSU has rolled up 482 yards on the ground this season, led by 5-foot-11, 221-pound junior Charles Scott, who's run for 262 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 11.4 yards per carry - fourth-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Last Saturday, Scott ran for 102 yards on just seven carries to power an LSU ground game that picked up 216 yards in a 41-3 victory over North Texas. LSU gained 425 total yards, showing no ill effects from having their Sept. 6 game against Troy postponed due to Hurricane Gustav.
Auburn, though, has held its three opponents to 53.0 rushing yards per game and given up 15 total points on the season.
Auburn's defense was so good last week that it need only a field goal to win. Limiting Mississippi State to 116 yards, Auburn held on for a 3-2 road victory despite committing three turnovers, missing two field goals and handing the Bulldogs their only points with a safety.
"We gave up zero first downs on 14 chances ... You can win a lot of games like that," coach Tommy Tuberville said.
Tuberville's team may not win this week if its offense performs the same way against a fast and talented LSU defense. Auburn was sloppy with ball against the Bulldogs as it continued to adapt to a new spread offense, and will be facing an LSU squad that's allowing 8.0 points, 48.0 rushing yards and 219.0 total yards per game.
"We obviously need to go back to the drawing board a little bit," Tuberville said. "But we did make some plays. You take away the penalties and the fumbles, and I thought we did a decent job at times."
Auburn's Chris Todd was 14-for-26 for 154 yards and Ben Tate ran for 92 yards on 20 carries.
Auburn won't have to contend with one of the cornerstones of LSU's defense this week, as starting linebacker Darry Beckwith left last Saturday's game with an apparent knee injury.
"There is an injury of significance to Darry Beckwith, and it's safe to say he won't be available this week," Miles said. "I think he'll be back pretty soon, but I don't know when."
If LSU is to win a second straight national title, its annual matchup with Auburn could again prove pivotal. Coming off its first loss last year, LSU took on Auburn on Oct. 20 at Baton Rouge, and Demetrius Byrd's 22-yard touchdown catch from Matt Flynn with one second to spare gave LSU a 30-24 victory.
That game was just the latest chapter in the long history of tight, thrilling contests between the teams. Eleven of the last 18 matchups have been decided by a touchdown or less, including four in a row. The schools have split their last 12 meetings.
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UTAH at AIR FORCE
On a banner weekend for the Mountain West Conference, Utah's lopsided win Saturday wasn't even among the league's more impressive victories.
The 20th-ranked Utes would still like to prove, however, that they're among the conference's elite teams.
They can take a step in that direction this Saturday when they visit Air Force for a battle of early unbeatens, hoping to bottle up the Falcons' prolific ground game.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Utah -7 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 70% of bets for this game have been placed on Utah -7.
The Mountain West had already gained some early national attention with BYU joining Utah in the top 25, but the league really began turning heads on Saturday. All four of the conference's teams playing against Pac-10 opponents emerged with victories, including BYU's 59-0 rout of UCLA and UNLV's overtime upset at then-No. 15 Arizona State.
Utah (3-0, 1-0) had to settle for trouncing lowly Utah State 58-10, but it still moved up two spots in the polls after running back Matt Asiata scored three touchdowns and the defense held the Aggies to 116 total yards.
"We really wanted to play a complete game," senior quarterback Brian Johnson said. "We played pretty well on offense and our defense did an awesome job, but we still haven't played near our potential."
One thing they certainly have yet to correct is punt returns. Three different Utes returned eight punts for a total of minus-2 yards against Utah State, also fumbling three times and turning the ball over twice on punts. Coach Kyle Whittingham said his top priority this week would be to find a reliable return man.
"It is tough to figure out why we had that issue on Saturday with more than one guy," Whittingham said. "We have got to get it fixed. That will cost us down the road if we don't."
They may have to solve the problem immediately, as Air Force (3-0, 1-0) presents perhaps Utah's toughest conference test until a matchup with BYU in the regular-season finale Nov. 22.
The Falcons opened their Mountain West slate with a 23-3 win at Wyoming on Sept. 6, then claimed a 31-28 non-league victory over Houston on Saturday. The game was played in Dallas due to Hurricane Ike.
Quarterback Shea Smith failed to complete any of his seven pass attempts against the Cougars, but he ran for 93 yards and three touchdowns as part of an overwhelming ground game. Eight different Air Force runners totaled 380 yards and four touchdowns.
The windy and rainy conditions contributed to Air Force's lopsided offense, but keeping it on the ground was nothing new for the Falcons. They rank second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with an average of 358 rushing yards - and second-to-last with 30 passing yards per game.
"There are two schools of thought when you play Air Force," Whittingham said Monday. "Some teams like to grind and methodically match them, keeping their defense on the field. Some teams play wide open and spread out and usually have a speed advantage. We are still formulating our plan."
Utah had trouble containing the Falcons on the ground last year, as Air Force rolled up 334 rushing yards in a 20-12 win on Sept. 8 in Salt Lake City.
That defeat ended a four-game winning streak for the Utes in the series. The last time they visited Colorado Springs, on Nov. 18, 2006, they held the Falcons to 116 rushing yards and kicker Louie Sakoda connected on a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Utah a 17-14 victory.
Sakoda, now a senior, is 7-for-7 on field goals so far in 2008, with four of them from 40 yards or longer.
Air Force hasn't lost a game at Falcon Stadium since Utah's victory, going 6-0 there last year and starting this season with a 41-7 win over Southern Utah on Aug. 30.
The Falcons have lost eight straight games against top-25 teams, however, since a 23-21 victory at then-No. 23 California on Sept. 21, 2002.
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EAST CAROLINA at NC STATE
East Carolina vaulted into the Top 25 by opening the season with back-to-back upset wins over ranked opponents.
In their first game since shedding their underdog status, the Pirates found they still have plenty of room for improvement.
After narrowly escaping their first loss, the 15th-ranked Pirates look to put together a more complete performance as they try to start 4-0 for the first time in nine years by visiting North Carolina State on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made East Carolina –7.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 86% of bets for this game have been placed on East Carolina –7.5.
East Carolina (3-0) scored two touchdowns in the final 3:36 to stun then-No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 in both teams' season opener Aug. 30. The Pirates didn't need any late heroics in their next game, a 24-3 victory over then-No. 8 West Virginia on Sept. 6.
Those wins put the Pirates in the Top 25 for the first time since 1999.
"We've come a long way," coach Skip Holtz said after the 2-0 start. "There was a time when we couldn't win three in a row."
Holtz's team got that third consecutive victory last Saturday against Conference USA rival Tulane, but the Pirates had to overcome four turnovers to do so. They were held to a season-low 316 total yards while giving up a season-high 312 in the 28-24 victory.
"It was a great win; you can't take any of them for granted," Holtz said. "To go on the road and come off the two emotional football games that we just came off of and to come out here and play the way we did and still get a win in this game, I am as excited as I can be."
While Holtz likely would've preferred a better all-around performance, he was impressed with his team's ability to come up big when it counted. Patrick Pinkney completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jamar Bryant with 1:41 left for the game-winning score.
"The one thing I was really proud of offensively was when it was time to play, and they were really challenged and had to make a play, they really stood up," Holtz said. "I thought they did a great job in a couple of crucial situations."
East Carolina is in position to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 1999, but getting there won't be easy after two key players were injured last week. Starting linebacker Quentin Cotton is likely out for the season with a right knee injury, robbing the Pirates of one of their most experienced defensive players. The team will also be without starting left tackle Stanley Bryant, who's out indefinitely with a left knee injury.
Though both injuries come as blows to East Carolina, Holtz is eager for the Pirates to get back on the field and continue their strong start.
"I don't think what we've done to this point is relevant," he said. "As I continue to say, the polls will take care of themselves. We're not worried about those. I think there's one poll that matters, and that's the one that comes out in December. That's the one we'll talk about and the one that we're striving for."
East Carolina's next test is an N.C. State team that's coming off a 27-9 loss to Clemson. Freshman quarterback Russell Wilson was 10-of-21 for 92 yards and an interception as the Wolfpack (1-2) totaled 288 yards against a unit that had allowed an average of 423.0 in its first two games.
Still, N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien saw some encouraging signs from his offense.
"I think the quarterback took a step forward and that helped the offense take a step forward," he told the team's official Web site. "After a couple of hiccups, Russell settled down and played much better. That's what you expect to see. We have to build on that."
The Wolfpack beat the Pirates 34-20 last Oct. 20 to take a 15-10 advantage in the all-time series. Holtz expects another battle against N.C. State, which has won 13 of the teams' 20 meetings in Raleigh.
"This is a very talented football team," he said. "Over the past couple of years, we have tried to recruit most of the players currently on their roster. When I turn and look at their talent and the game film from last year, I know that we've got one heck of a challenge.
"We certainly have to play better than we did last week. I think it's going to take more of an effort like we put together for West Virginia if we want to have a chance to go over there and have a chance to be successful."
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BUFFALO at MISSOURI
Chase Daniel and the Missouri offense frequently look unstoppable. No defense has stopped them even for one possession recently.
Daniel and the nation's highest-scoring offense look to put up more eye-popping numbers Saturday when the fifth-ranked Tigers host Buffalo.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Missouri -34 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Missouri -34.
Through their first three games, the Tigers (3-0) have made scoring look easy. They've racked up 173 points - most in the nation and an average of an astounding 57.7 per game - while averaging 10 yards per play.
Heisman hopeful Daniel is the biggest reason why. Despite leaving the last two games early with the outcome well in hand, the senior quarterback has already thrown for 973 yards with 10 touchdowns and only one interception while completing 72.2 percent of his passes. With Daniel at the helm, Missouri is averaging nearly 40 points in the first half alone.
"We want to score every time we touch the ball," Daniel said. "We know that's probably not going to happen."
In the last two weeks, though, it has happened. The Tigers have scored in their last 13 possessions with Daniel in the game - 12 touchdowns and a field goal, including the first 10 possessions of last Saturday's 69-17 rout of Nevada.
"You look at him - it looks like he's playing better," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said of Daniel, a Heisman finalist in 2007. "Certainly he has raised the bar to the highest level."
Daniel threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns against the Wolf Pack. He has 9,153 career passing yards, easily surpassing four-year starter Brad Smith's old school record of 8,799.
Four Missouri players - tight end Chase Coffman and wideouts Jared Perry, Jeremy Maclin and Tommy Saunders - already have more than 200 receiving yards this season, and all are averaging at least 14 yards per catch. All four players also have scored multiple touchdowns, led by Maclin's four.
All the offense through the air opens up room on the ground, and sophomore running back Derrick Washington has taken advantage with 272 yards, a 7.8 yards-per-carry average and six scores.
"Derrick Washington has come in and played at a very high level," Pinkel said. "When you lose a starter like (2007 leading rusher) Tony Temple, and you wonder why we might be executing so well, it's because a tailback comes in and is playing at such a high level."
The Bulls (2-1) may be hard-pressed to keep up with Missouri's offense, but they've shown the ability to score frequently so far in 2008, with 88 points in their first three games.
The most dramatic of those points were the most recent. Drew Willy's 35-yard touchdown pass to Naaman Roosevelt on the game's final play gave Buffalo a 30-28 victory over Temple last week in a wild Mid-American Conference opener.
"Great win for our program," Buffalo coach Turner Gill said after a game that featured three lead changes in the final 2:27. "Great win for our community. Great win for this university. I'm proud of our players.
"You always talk about believing. You always talk about not giving up, you always talk about finishing. Our theme is about being relentless to the finish."
For Roosevelt, the touchdown capped a day in which he caught eight passes for 132 yards to earn MAC East Offensive Player of the Week honors. The junior wide receiver has 18 receptions for 351 yards and three scores in 2008.
Willy has begun his senior season in fine form, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for 792 yards, eight TDs and two interceptions.
As these schools prepare to meet for the first time, Pinkel is showing respect for Buffalo's program.
"Turner Gill has done a great job at the University of Buffalo," Pinkel said. "He has really got a football team that is well coached and disciplined. ... Defensively they're a good team, good blitz package, they do a lot of good things. It'll be a challenge."
Buffalo is off to its best start since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999, and is seeking its first 3-1 start since 1996.
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FLORIDA at TENNESSEE
Before Urban Meyer was hired, Florida had lost three of its last four meetings with Tennessee in a conference clash that often has helped decide the SEC East.
Meyer has helped tip the rivalry the other way.
He'll look to stay perfect in four meetings with the Volunteers on Saturday when his fourth-ranked Gators travel to Knoxville in the conference opener for both teams.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Florida –7.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida –7.5.
Either Florida (2-0) or Tennessee has played in 13 of the 16 SEC championship games since the conference added the game in 1992, the same year coach Phillip Fulmer took over the Volunteers.
Fulmer won his first game against Florida, but lost the next five and seven of eight overall when Steve Spurrier was coaching the Gators. Fulmer got the best of Spurrier in their final meeting, in 2001, and Tennessee also beat Florida twice in the three years Ron Zook was coaching the Gators.
But since Meyer's arrival, Florida hasn't lost to Tennessee in the series that has kicked off its conference schedule for 11 of the last 12 seasons. The Gators won 16-7 at home in 2005, came back from 10 down to win 21-20 in Knoxville in 2006 - eventually going on to win the national title - and stomped the Volunteers 59-20 last season in Gainesville behind four touchdowns from Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
"Certainly, this wasn't the representation that we intended it to be down here today," Fulmer said after that loss.
Meyer, despite having come out on top all three times he's faced Fulmer's Volunteers (1-1), said this week he isn't taking that edge for granted.
"It's as talented of a team as I've ever coached against," Meyer said of Tennessee. "That's from the first game to this game."
Last year's win over the Volunteers was part of the Gators' 4-0 start, but they lost four of their final nine games, including a Capital One Bowl defeat to Michigan.
With Tebow winning the school's third Heisman and 16 starters returning, expectations were high again in Gainesville entering Meyer's fourth season. Florida opened with a 56-10 rout of Hawaii, then used a 17-point fourth quarter to put away rival Miami 26-3 on Sept. 6.
Tebow had nine touchdowns - three rushing - through two games in 2007, and though he's only thrown for three TDs this year, the junior thinks the impressive fourth quarter against the Hurricanes was the first step on the way to big things for his offense.
"We got a lot of momentum going and that was huge," Tebow said. "When you're dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds, momentum is everything. And when you lose it, you have to find a way to regain it. We were able to do that and get things moving again."
With a defense that has seven sacks, six forced turnovers and two interception returns for touchdowns through two games, Tebow hasn't had much to worry about even when the offense hasn't been clicking.
One of the biggest concerns for Tennessee, aside from trying to keep Tebow bottled up, will be receiver Percy Harvin.
Recognized as one of the fastest players in the country, Harvin didn't play in the opener and only touched the ball six times against Miami. But he's ready to face the Volunteers, who couldn't catch him last season. Harvin had nine carries for 75 yards and a touchdown in last year's meeting, and also caught four balls for 120 yards.
"Yeah, we're going to involve him a little bit more this week," Meyer said. "That's a hell of a toy. That's a talented guy."
Tennessee will carry some momentum into the game after an overtime loss at UCLA in its opener. The Volunteers had two weeks to recover, and did so convincingly in their home opener last Saturday against UAB.
Tennessee had 548 yards of offense - its most in nearly two years - and beat the Blazers 35-3.
"We're headed in a good direction that we can be balanced," Fulmer said after the Volunteers rushed for 266 yards and passed for 282. "We're looking forward to the preparation for (Florida)."
Tennessee got 100 yards from tailback Arian Foster and 93 from Lennon Creer in the victory. Running against Florida's defense, though, has proved to be a different story for Foster and the Volunteers. Foster, a senior, has 17 carries for 39 yards in three games against the Gators, who have limited Tennessee to 92 yards on 69 carries over their last three meetings.
The Volunteers haven't had a rushing play longer than six yards against Florida in the last two matchups.
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GEORGIA at ARIZONA
Georgia won't get as much notice for finally heading west as coach Mark Richt might have hoped.
Even though the third-ranked Bulldogs are unbeaten, much of the expected luster from their visit to Arizona State on Saturday night has waned because they'll face a team which dropped out of the AP poll this week following an embarrassing loss.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Georgia -7 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Georgia -7.
This game marks the first time Georgia has been as far west as Tempe, Ariz., for a regular season matchup since visiting Southern California in 1960 and losing 10-3. The program hasn't traveled this far for any game since going to Honolulu for the 2000 Oahu Bowl.
"The bottom line was we wanted to ... play a game on the other side of the country and give our players the experience and our fans the experience and allow the other side of the country to maybe take a little more notice of Georgia and not look at them as such a regional team," Richt said.
The Bulldogs (3-0) have not left SEC territory for a regular season game during Richt's seven-plus seasons at the helm. They haven't played a Pac-10 team since a 41-7 home win over Oregon State in 1987 and have never faced Arizona State (2-1).
Knowing the preseason No. 1 team in the nation was coming to its campus created plenty of hype in Tempe, particularly with the Sun Devils' No. 15 preseason ranking being their highest since 1998. They maintained that position in the Top 25 with relatively easy wins over Northern Arizona and Stanford, but Arizona State was stunned at home by UNLV 23-20 in overtime last Saturday and dropped out of the rankings.
"I don't know if we should have been in there to start with," coach Dennis Erickson said.
The loss came against a UNLV team which had just two wins in each of the last four seasons.
"I wish they'd won it just so maybe they'd be flying a little higher right now," Richt said of the Sun Devils. "They'll probably have a little chip on their shoulder and be a little tougher to match up against."
Georgia had a struggle of its own last Saturday. After scoring 101 points in blowout wins over Georgia Southern and Central Michigan, the Bulldogs were held to 252 total yards in a 14-7 victory at South Carolina.
They totaled more than 530 yards of offense in each of their previous two wins, but star tailback Knowshon Moreno was held to 79 yards on 20 carries last week after entering the game averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. Matthew Stafford threw for a season-low 146 yards, was sacked four times and did not have a touchdown pass after tossing two in each of the first two games.
"We just got to go back, correct our mistakes and get ready for Arizona State," Georgia defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "We got another big one on the road, and we'll see if we have an answer for that."
Irvin and the Bulldogs defense appear to be facing their biggest challenge yet. They are second-to-last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 236.3 yards per game, and are matched against an Arizona State passing offense that leads the Pac-10 (324.7 ypg).
Rudy Carpenter tops the conference with 975 passing yards, a 71.3 completion percentage and a 183.6 quarterback rating.
The Bulldogs could slow down the Sun Devils by getting pressure on Carpenter, but they have only six sacks this season despite having returned nine starters from a defense which led the SEC with 42 last year.
The Sun Devils are 7-9 when Carpenter, a four-year starter, has been sacked more than three times, compared to 19-3 when he isn't.
Carpenter was only sacked twice last week but he also attempted just 23 passes, his fewest in 13 games. It seems likely he'll get more chances Saturday after Arizona State rushed 36 times last week - the first time this season it tried more runs than passes - and was held to 3.6 yards per attempt.
"I'm not concerned because I know the character of our team, and I know how they are," Carpenter said. "For me, being a leader on this team, I've got to make sure that all that negative energy and all the bad feelings they had from last week, hopefully they use that as some type of motivation and, I don't know, I guess you could say a rally cry to take all that anger out on somebody else."
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TROY STATE AT OHIO STATE
Ohio State had to carry the weight of blowout losses in the previous two BCS championship games for eight months before getting a chance to play again.
They won't have to endure an offseason of criticism before returning to the field after their latest big loss - just one week's worth.
After suffering their worst defeat in nearly 14 years, the No. 13 Buckeyes will try to bounce back Saturday at home when they host unbeaten Troy.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Ohio State –21.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Ohio State –21.5.
Ohio State (2-1) had lost just three times in its past 35 games before traveling to top-ranked Southern California last week, and two of those losses had come with the national title at stake. The Buckeyes were heavy favorites to beat Florida in the 2007 BCS championship game and lost 41-14, then fell behind by three touchdowns in last season's title game en route to a 38-24 loss to LSU.
Last Saturday in Los Angeles, the end result was even worse for Ohio State. Playing without injured tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells, the Buckeyes turned the ball over three times and couldn't stay close to the No. 1 Trojans, losing 35-3.
It was Ohio State's most-lopsided defeat since a 63-14 loss to Penn State in October 1994.
Limping back to Columbus, which was stricken by power outages due to high winds over the weekend, coach Jim Tressel simply wanted his players to put the loss behind them.
"I was hoping on Sunday when we got back to watch the film the power would be out, but it wasn't," Tressel said.
"We were never able to take control on offense or defense. We must now roll up our sleeves and realize we can't play like this and win."
Ohio State ran for 71 yards on 34 carries without Wells, who is listed as questionable against Troy (2-0). Tressel said he'll see how the running back responds in practice this week.
"His cutting work and push-off and more football-oriented stuff will begin again (Tuesday)," Tressel said. "If he can handle that, we can upgrade him from questionable to probable."
The Buckeyes also face a cloudy situation at quarterback. Todd Boeckman was first-team all-Big Ten as a junior, throwing for 2,379 and 25 touchdowns, but freshman Terrelle Pryor - expected to be a change of pace for a few series a game - now could be a threat to take even more playing time.
Boeckman looked overmatched against USC, throwing for just 84 yards while tossing two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He was also sacked four times.
Pryor, who at one point early in the game was alternating snaps with Boeckman, played more in the second half. He finished 7-for-9 for 54 yards while also running for 40, giving the Buckeyes an ability to make plays from outside the pocket that Boeckman doesn't provide.
Tressel said he and his staff felt if Ohio State had to play a game early in the week, the split between Pryor and Boeckman would be "50-50."
"Terrelle has been very impressive," Tressel said. "There's not many freshmen that I've had with very limited reps that have been able to conceptually pick up as much as he has, and he's a pretty special player."
After losing by 32 to USC, Ohio State this week will face a group of Trojans coming off an even more lopsided win. Troy piled up a school-record 736 yards of total offense last Saturday in a 65-0 victory over Alcorn State.
The Trojans, members of the Sun Belt conference, have made a regular habit of visiting top-level opponents since joining Division I-A in 2001. They're 1-13 against ranked teams with the lone win coming at home over Missouri in 2004, but they've come close on the road. Since 2004, they've lost by four points at LSU, seven at Florida State and 10 last season at Georgia.
"It is the chance of a lifetime," linebacker Bear Woods said of Troy's first meeting with Ohio State. "It is a great opportunity for this program and for me."
Troy's offense is led by a pair of sophomores - quarterback Jamie Hampton and tailback DuJuan Harris (6.7 yards per carry). Hampton threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns - running for another score - against Alcorn State in his second career start.
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ALABAMA at ARKANSAS
Last September, Alabama upset then-No. 16 Arkansas to give coach Nick Saban his first win over a ranked opponent since he was hired to restore the program to national prominence.
That process has gone smoothly for Saban and the ninth-ranked Crimson Tide, and now one year later, first-year Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is hoping for similar results as he enters his first big test since taking over the Razorbacks.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Alabama –9.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama –9.5.
Petrino and the rebuilding Razorbacks host Saban and the Crimson Tide on Saturday in each team's SEC opener.
Saban led Alabama to a 7-6 record during the team's transition season in 2007, and all six of those losses were by seven points or fewer. Saban's first year gave Crimson Tide fans reason to be optimistic about the program's future, and a 41-38 home victory over Arkansas was one of the highlights.
Alabama blew two 21-point leads in that game, but scored with eight seconds left to secure the win - its first in conference play under Saban, who now has the Tide (3-0) in the AP's top 10 for the first time since the final poll of the 2005 season.
Petrino hopes he can turn around the Razorbacks (2-0) just as quickly. Arkansas went 8-5 last season, finishing outside the Top 25 despite featuring two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden and fellow first-round NFL draft pick Felix Jones in the backfield.
Petrino, who spent the majority of last season as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, would benefit greatly from a win over Alabama. That could be a challenge, however, as the Crimson Tide have put together three dominating efforts to start the season.
Alabama outgained Western Kentucky 557-158 in a 41-7 rout last Saturday.
"We started the game out but most importantly we finished," Saban said. "That's what we wanted to try to accomplish. The goal in this game was to go prove that you could play to your capacity, you could play your best football."
John Parker Wilson completed 17 of 27 passes for 215 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and became the Crimson Tide's all-time leader in total offense with 6,321 yards. Ten Alabama receivers had at least one catch last week.
"It was good to come out and start the way we did. We were able to sustain the whole game," Wilson said. "A bunch of guys caught the ball which is good. It makes it hard on the defense when you can spread it around like that. You don't have to rely on one person. The more guys that get touches, the better we are going to do as a team."
Alabama can be just as proud of its defense, which despite the loss of six starters, has allowed only one offensive touchdown in the first three games. The Tide lead the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing defense, holding opponents to 42.7 yards per game. They're giving up only 1.9 yards per carry, and haven't allowed a run longer than 13 yards.
"Ever since the fall camp started I knew what kind of potential this defense had and I knew we would be better anyway just because everybody understood it a lot better," said defensive end Lorenzo Washington, last year's starting nose tackle.
That doesn't bode well for Arkansas, which was scheduled to play at Texas last Saturday before the game was pushed back to Sept. 27 because of severe weather brought on by Hurricane Ike.
The Razorbacks started slowly in their last game Sept. 6, but salvaged a 28-27 victory over Louisiana-Monroe after Casey Dick completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Williams with 1:22 remaining.
That was a familiar scenario for Arkansas, which has trailed at halftime of both of its games and has led for a total of 3:11 in the second halves.
"We moved the ball, but didn't get points. That was certainly something that was a concern of mine," Petrino said. "You look at the first half stats and the number of rushes and the number of carries, the yardage we had, we should've been up by 14 or 21 points and we weren't. That always comes back to haunt you."
Though he's frustrated with his team's sluggish starts, Petrino is just as pleased with the way it's been able to close out games.
"I was proud of the way our team held together," he said. "Our young guys, our freshman guys are getting better. They learned a lot the last two games. ... We played harder, we played faster and we won the game, and that's the most important thing, that we came away with the win."
Another strong finish could be the key to beating Alabama, as the teams' last two meetings have been decided by a total of four points. The Tide lead the all-time series 10-8, and Saban is 4-2 in his career against the Razorbacks, dating to his tenure with LSU.
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WAKE FOREST at FLORIDA STATE
Florida State has dominated two inferior opponents to open the season. Now comes the hard part - trying to do so against a team on its level.
The 24th-ranked Seminoles can take a big step in their resurgence when they host No. 18 Wake Forest on Saturday in the ACC opener for both squads.
After blowing through Football Championship Subdivision teams Western Carolina and Chattanooga by a combined score of 115-7 the previous two weeks, the young Seminoles (2-0) are brimming with confidence, but have yet to face a formidable foe like Wake Forest.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Florida State -4 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Wake Forest +4.
"This game will tell us a lot about us," said Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, who has 375 career wins, tied with Penn State's Joe Paterno for the most in Division I history.
Bowden's team is ranked for the first time since its last game with Wake Forest (2-0) on Oct. 11. The Seminoles were No. 21 in the nation with a 4-1 record, but lost 24-21 to the unranked Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest also beat Florida State the previous year, 30-0 in Tallahassee for its first win in this series since 1973 and the Seminoles' only home shutout in Bowden's 33 years at the school. A win Saturday and the Demon Deacons will join Clemson (2005-07) as the only ACC teams to beat Florida State three years in a row.
"We won't ever play a more talented football team. They've got talent everywhere," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, who's just 2-5 in ACC openers. "They probably have as good a skill group as you'll ever see with speed and athletic ability. They have everything you would expect out of a Florida State football team.
"One good thing is our guys know they can win."
Wake Forest enters this game first in the ACC and fourth nationally in turnover margin. The Demon Deacons have forced eight turnovers in their first two games ? both against BCS conference teams ? while turning it over just three times.
While the Seminoles beat up on FCS schools, the Deacons won at Baylor before edging Mississippi 30-28 two weeks ago on a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left.
The Seminoles will still be without a half-dozen players, who remain suspended until next weekend as part of an academic cheating scandal in 2007. Florida State does return defensive tackle Budd Thacker and receiver Preston Parker, who were suspended for other reasons.
Even without the suspended players, Florida State has looked impressive on both sides of the ball. The Seminoles are the only team in the country to rank in the top 10 nationally in total offense, total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense.
Florida State is No. 1 overall in total defense, allowing 170.0 yards per game, and has received excellent quarterback play from Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson. Ponder became the first Seminole since Charlie Ward in 1992 to throw for six touchdown passes in his first two career starts. Richardson has thrown for two scores and rushed for three others, including a 55-yard touchdown run against Chattanooga that broke a quarterback school record he tied the previous week.
Wake Forest, though, figures to present a much sterner test for the Seminoles. Besides winning the last two meetings, the Deacons have won 10 of 13 overall on the road and are coming off a bye week after repeatedly being tested by Ole Miss on Sept. 6.
The game featured seven lead changes before quarterback Riley Skinner led Wake on the final drive that led to Sam Swank's winning field goal.
"In college football, momentum's the name of the game," said Swank, the nation's active career leader with 65 field goals made. "Coming off a big win like Ole Miss - over a very talented team like Ole Miss - really puts a lot of confidence in our guys. And that's definitely something that we feel we may need going into the hostile environment of Doak (Campbell Stadium). I think our guys will handle themselves well, and hopefully we'll come out with a 'W.'"
Skinner set career highs with 32 completions and 43 attempts in the win over Ole Miss and continues to be among the most accurate passers in the NCAA. He's completing 74.7 percent of his passes this season after leading the nation last year at 72.4 percent.
Florida State had won 14 in a row over Wake Forest before the last two seasons. The Seminoles lead the all-time series 21-4-1.
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WYOMING at BYU
After a controversial road win two weeks ago, BYU was the subject of doubts over whether it had been deserving of its lofty spot in the Top 25.
There will be no such debate this week.
Coming off one of the most dominating performances in school history - and still carrying the nation's longest winning streak - No. 14 BYU looks to open Mountain West Conference play on a similar note Saturday when it hosts Wyoming.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made BYU -29 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on BYU -29.
Not only was the Cougars' 59-0 win over UCLA on Saturday the third-biggest shutout victory ever for the program, but it came against a BCS conference opponent that had been ranked 23rd as recently as Sept. 6.
BYU (3-0, 0-0) scored 35 points in the second quarter and Max Hall threw six touchdown passes in the first half, finishing with seven TD throws to tie a school record despite spending most of the second half on the bench.
The Cougars rolled up 521 total yards even though no individual player had more than 110 yards from scrimmage. Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta and Harvey Unga each caught two touchdowns from Hall.
"That's what you want in an offense - not just one person or one player gets all the touches or all the success," Hall said. "Four different guys caught touchdown passes. It's very hard for defenses to defend that."
As impressive as Hall's performance was, BYU's defense may have played even better. The Cougars forced four turnovers and allowed nine rushing yards on 16 carries in handing UCLA its first shutout loss since 2001.
The win provided a big response to critics after the team barely escaped Seattle with a victory the week before. BYU appeared to give up the tying touchdown in the final seconds against winless Washington, but Huskies quarterback Jake Locker was penalized - questionably - for celebration and the 35-yard extra-point attempt was blocked.
Despite the fact that the 28-27 win was their 12th straight victory, the Cougars dropped three spots in the poll to No. 18. Saturday's win more than erased that fall - and quieted the criticism.
"We were just tired of it," defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen said. "We were ready to come out and make a statement ... and shut people up."
In addition to extending their winning streak, the Cougars will be looking to begin another season of dominance in the Mountain West. They've gone undefeated in conference play each of the past two years, winning 16 straight league games since a 41-34 loss to Utah on Nov. 19, 2005.
The Mountain West has been getting plenty of buzz after going 4-0 against the Pac-10 last weekend, but Wyoming (2-1, 0-1) hasn't received much of it. The Cowboys opened league play with a 23-3 home loss to Air Force on Sept. 6, then needed a last-second field goal to beat Football Championship Subdivision opponent North Dakota State 16-13 on Saturday.
Wyoming trailed 13-0 midway through the third quarter of that game, but came back with three Jake Scott field goals and a strong effort from running back Devin Moore, who finished with 21 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown.
"Once we started running the ball in the second half, the game started turning our way, and we started to get into a rhythm," coach Joe Glenn said.
The Cowboys have relied on their running game this season, with Moore and fellow senior Wynel Seldon combining for 459 yards in three games. Quarterback Dax Crum, however, has only 273 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions in those contests, also getting sacked nine times.
Wyoming ended last season with four straight losses in conference play, including a 35-10 home defeat to BYU. It has also lost four straight to the Cougars, dropping seven of eight overall in the series.
The Cowboys haven't won in Provo since 1987.
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TEMPLE at PENN STATE
Joe Paterno's offenses at Penn State have sometimes been described as predictable, but this season, opposing defenses don't know what's coming next.
They certainly aren't stopping it when it does.
The No. 16 Nittany Lions hope to keep one of college football's most potent offenses humming Saturday at Beaver Stadium when they go for their 26th straight win over Temple.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Penn St -28 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Penn St -28.
Paterno's teams have been known primarily for running the ball and defense throughout his 43 seasons on the sidelines, but this year it's been a multidimensional offense that has Penn State climbing up the rankings.
The Nittany Lions (3-0) are among the nation's top 25 in both passing (273.0 yards per game) and rushing (263.0 ypg), resulting in the country's eighth-ranked total offense and fourth-highest scoring team.
Penn State has put up 55.3 points per game with its new "Spread HD" offense, a system designed to take advantage of mobile quarterback Daryll Clark and the speed of senior receivers Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams. The Nittany Lions have put away all three of their games by the second quarter, and on Saturday at Syracuse, they gained nearly 400 yards in the first half of a 55-13 victory.
"It's always a good thing when you score early," said Paterno, who won his 375th game as Penn State coach. "I'm just not sure how good we're going to be yet. We haven't faced any adversity yet, so we'll see."
The Nittany Lions have scored at least 35 points in the first half in each of their three wins, the first time they've done that since 1994. That team averaged 47.0 points, ranking as one of the top 10 offenses in college football over the last 15 years.
Clark has been the catalyst for this offense, completing 60.3 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions, often not seeing much action beyond halftime. He's also averaging 9.4 yards per carry, and tailback Evan Royster has averaged 8.1 while scoring six touchdowns.
Penn State, which was 75th in the country in passing a year ago, threw for 344 yards on Saturday to match the 10th-most all-time under Paterno. Butler (seven catches, 110 yards) and Norwood (five catches, 113 yards) each had two touchdowns against Syracuse.
"We never let down," said receiver Chaz Powell, who had two catches for 37 yards. "They keep telling us at every game, go out there at halftime and play as if (it's) 0-0. Keep fighting and show the world that you can play ball."
Paterno is 24-0 against Temple, including victories the last two seasons by a combined 78-0. Penn State has not lost in 33 games in this series since 1941, though the teams did play to a 7-7 tie in 1950.
The Owls (1-2) don't have a winning record this season, though they could easily be 3-0 if not for a pair of crushing last-second defeats.
Temple led Connecticut 6-0 on Sept. 6 before eventually falling 12-9 in overtime, but that loss wasn't nearly as unsettling as what happened last Saturday. Adam DiMichele threw an 11-yard touchdown pass - his third of the game - to Bruce Francis to put the Owls up 28-24 at Buffalo with under a minute to play, but the Bulls completed a Hail Mary pass as time expired to win 30-28.
"There's no way to describe it, and there's no way to rationalize it, and that's it," said Temple coach Al Golden, a Penn State tight end from 1987-91 and former assistant to Paterno. "We didn't do our job. They finished the game and we didn't."
DiMichele is in his third season as Temple's starting quarterback and he's gotten progressively better each year. The Owls' problem is that DiMichele is also their top running threat.
He's led them in rushing in their last two games, gaining 111 yards on 22 carries. Running backs Marquise Liverpool and Joe Jones are averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Penn State is 16th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 64.3 yards per game.
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BOISE STATE at OREGON
Oregon averted disaster with a late comeback win in its cross-country trip last weekend. The Ducks are now hoping their new running back tandem can help them overcome the loss of another quarterback.
With Justin Roper sidelined, LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson will try to keep No. 17 Oregon unbeaten on Saturday when it hosts Boise State in the first-ever meeting between the recent Northwest powers.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Oregon -10.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Oregon -10.5.
The Ducks (3-0) had the country's top offense heading into a trip to Purdue last Saturday, but scored only six points in the first half and found themselves trailing by two touchdowns. Oregon rallied in the second half though behind the running back duo of Blount (132 yards) and Johnson (96 yards).
Blount tied the score with a five-yard run late in the third quarter, and the teams traded field goals in the fourth before heading into overtime. Each kicked a field goal in the first session, but after the Boilermakers missed a kick in the second overtime, Blount scored on a three-yard run to give the Ducks a 32-26 double-overtime win.
"I think it's a great test for us," coach Mike Bellotti said. "No matter the hole we get ourselves in, we can dig ourselves out of it. We are a very explosive team. Our team really gained confidence from this game."
They may be a bit less explosive without Roper, who's expected to miss two to four weeks after partially tearing a ligament in his left knee at Purdue. Roper struggled in that game, going 20-for-48 for 197 yards and two interceptions.
Losing quarterbacks is nothing new for Oregon. Roper was starting because of a knee injury to projected starter Nate Costa, who will miss the season after having surgery. Senior Dennis Dixon had the Ducks on track for a spot in the national championship game last season before tearing his ACL in mid-November.
With Roper out, Oregon is expected to use Jeremiah Masoli and true freshman Chris Harper at quarterback, though Masoli will "probably" get the start against Boise State, according to Bellotti.
In the meantime, the Ducks will likely ride Blount and Johnson without trying to make their inexperienced quarterbacks do too much. Johnson, the smaller, quicker back, has been a successful backup for four seasons and is dealing with a shoulder injury suffered two weeks ago, but Blount - a junior college transfer - is making quite an impression.
"Even where there wasn't a hole, he made some yardage, and he rarely got tackled by the first guy," Bellotti said. "He's a big, strong back that's getting more comfortable with the offense. Jeremiah's not 100 percent healthy, so obviously LeGarrette's role is going to increase."
Boise State (2-0) started 10-1 last season before losing its final game of the regular season and its bowl game, but the Broncos are off to a fast start in 2008. They put up 582 yards of offense in beating Idaho State 49-7 in their opener, then forced three Bowling Green turnovers last Saturday in a 20-7 win.
Boise State has the nation's 28th-ranked defense, allowing 257.0 yards per game. The pass defense (148.0 ypg) is tied for 16th.
"We played very good red zone defense," said coach Chris Petersen after the Broncos forced a late turnover with Bowling Green inside the 20-yard-line. "They had to earn that one touchdown they got, so give a lot of credit to our guys on the defensive side of the ball."
Quarterback Kellen Moore has only two starts under his belt, but he hasn't looked like a typical redshirt freshman. Moore is 32-for-42 (76.2 percent) for 454 yards and two touchdowns in the two victories.
He also has one of the best running backs in Boise State history lined up behind him, as Ian Johnson needs 875 yards the rest of the season to become the Broncos' all-time leading rusher.
Johnson, a two-time all-WAC selection, has 184 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries this season.
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FRESNO STATE at TOLEDO
Last week, Fresno State was an underdog looking to gain attention by beating a higher-ranked team at home, but the Bulldogs struggled offensively and missed opportunities in a tight defeat.
On Saturday, they'll be on the other side of that scenario, hoping to justify their No. 25 ranking when they visit upset-minded Toledo for the first time.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Fresno St -7 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 91% of bets for this game have been placed on Fresno St -7.
Fresno State (1-1) had billed last Saturday's matchup with then-No. 10 Wisconsin as one of the biggest home games in school history, but the Bulldogs fell just short in a heartbreaking 13-10 loss.
Kevin Goessling missed three field goals, including a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter, but coach Pat Hill didn't pin the loss on freshman. After racking up 163 yards in Fresno State's opener, running back Ryan Mathews managed just 54 on 17 carries Saturday, and the Bulldogs turned the ball over twice without a takeaway.
"This game does not fall on (Goessling) or any player," Hill said. "It was a team loss. There were so many missed opportunities on offense, defense and special teams."
"We can't blame anybody but ourselves," Mathews said. "We need to execute a little bit better."
The Bulldogs jumped into the poll after winning 24-7 at Rutgers in their Sept. 1 opener and stayed ranked this week despite dropping four spots following the loss. Voters likely took into account a defense that's allowed 20 total points in two games, both against BCS conference opponents.
"I think it shows there's a lot of respect for Wisconsin and a lot of respect for the Bulldogs," Hill told Fresno State's official Web site. "That was a big-time game with two very good football teams and unfortunately someone had to lose. ... We will bounce back."
It won't necessarily be easy against Toledo (1-1), especially in the Rockets' home opener. Toledo is 35-6 at the Glass Bowl since coach Tom Amstutz took over in 2001, including three wins in as many tries against ranked teams.
Two of those victories came in 2003, when the Rockets beat then-No. 9 Pittsburgh 35-31 and then-No. 21 Northern Illinois 49-30. Despite stumbling to 5-7 finishes each of the last two years, Toledo went 9-4 at home over that span.
Amstutz hopes the road back to a winning season began Saturday, when his team won 41-17 at Eastern Michigan, getting 168 rushing yards and two first-quarter touchdowns from DaJuane Collins.
The Rockets led 14-7 at the half and scored 27 points in the third quarter, when Aaron Opelt threw all three of his touchdown passes. Toledo's defense forced five turnovers in the game and allowed 265 total yards in difficult weather conditions.
"At halftime we came in and said we need to come out and explode," Collins said. "In the third quarter, everything seemed to click for us, offense and defense. Everything we did worked."
Very little worked for Toledo the first time the schools met, as Fresno State cruised to a 44-14 home win Sept. 27, 2005.
The Bulldogs blocked a punt and a field goal against Wisconsin, giving them 75 blocked kicks in 142 games since Hill took over in 1997.
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RICE at TEXAS
Hurricane Ike ravaged the Gulf Coast last weekend, forcing the postponement of sporting events throughout the region. Though the area is far from fully recovered, Texas and Rice - two of the college football teams most affected - are ready to resume play.
The seventh-ranked Longhorns look to pick up where they left off before the storm as they go for their 10th straight win over Rice on Saturday at Texas Memorial Stadium.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Texas -30.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on Texas -30.5.
Ike made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds early Saturday morning, flooding streets, blowing out skyscraper windows and cutting power to millions of people across southeast Texas.
Rice's campus in Houston was hit hard, but the Owls (2-1) were in Nashville, where they lost to Vanderbilt 38-21. They returned to Houston on Monday evening, and classes and practice resumed Tuesday.
Texas (2-0) was scheduled to host Arkansas further inland in Austin last Saturday, but the game was postponed due to severe weather.
"The decision was made on the side of precaution for safety of all those that are evacuating and on the road and trying to not be a negative for a very, very difficult situation," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It wasn't about football, it was about people. It was about their lives and their homes."
Though recovery from the storm will continue for the foreseeable future, the Longhorns are eager to get back on the field Saturday to continue their strong start. They've won their first two games by a combined 94-23.
"We have to just get back to work," defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "The show must go on. We've been going through this hurricane stuff and now we have to flip the script and start focusing on our opponent this week and go from there."
Quarterback Colt McCoy has been one of the keys to Texas' early success. The third-year starter struggled to take care of the ball in 2007, when he had 18 interceptions - two fewer than the highest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
He's completed 44 of his 58 attempts for 504 yards, seven TDs and only one pick this year. That interception came in the Longhorns' last game Sept. 6, when he also had four touchdowns as Texas cruised to a 42-13 win over UTEP.
"He is playing really well and he is showing great leadership," Brown said. "The interception was not his fault, so really, he's played without a turnover from his spot, and at the same time, he's been really competitive."
McCoy deflects most of the praise for his strong start.
"Give credit to the offensive line, they've given me a ton of protection, and the receivers are catching the ball," he said. "It's just like (offensive coordinator Greg) Davis says, we're just playing the game. Just do what they tell you to do, take care of the ball. When you put Ws on the board, good things are going to happen."
Good things typically happen for Texas when it meets Rice. The Longhorns, who have won nine straight games over the Owls, are 37-1 against them since 1966 to improve to 68-21-1 in the all-time series, which dates to 1914.
McCoy completed 20 of 29 passes for 333 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Longhorns' 58-14 rout of the Owls in Houston last Sept. 22.
Rice hopes to snap its skid against its former Southwest Conference rival as the Owls try to rebound from last week's loss to Vanderbilt. After totaling 98 points in winning their first two games and 21 points in the first half last Saturday, the Owls were outscored 17-0 after halftime.
"We had opportunities, we just didn't take advantage of them," said quarterback Chase Clement, who was 25-for-39 for 299 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
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SOUTH FLORIDA at FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
It took a last-second field goal for South Florida to secure a victory in a high-scoring affair last Friday, as the Bulls jumped seven spots to No. 12 in the rankings after beating a fellow Top 25 team.
They're hoping things are a bit easier on Saturday, when they visit Florida International - owner of the worst-ranked offense in the Bowl Subdivision.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made South Florida -29.5 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game. Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on South Florida -29.5.
After beating Central Florida 31-24 in overtime on Sept. 6, the Bulls appeared headed for more extra football last Friday against then-No. 13 Kansas, as the teams traded comebacks and went into the final minute tied at 34-34.
First, Kansas blew a 20-3 lead, allowing 31 straight points to South Florida (3-0). But the Bulls gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and needed Maikon Bonani's 43-yard field goal as time expired to ensure their third consecutive 3-0 start and fourth straight win over a ranked opponent.
Matt Grothe threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing score, while standout defensive end George Selvie notched his first sack of the season. But the hero at the end was Bonani, a freshman in his first game as the team's kicker after junior Delbert Alvarado struggled to start the season.
"He's a great kicker. We saw it in practice," safety Nate Allen said. "We had confidence in him sitting over there. We didn't think it was going to overtime, and he nailed it."
USF coach Jim Leavitt toned down the excitement, however, hoping to keep his team grounded as it climbs the rankings. The Bulls started last season 6-0 and reached No. 2 in the country before losing three straight games.
"It's so early. I don't think one game makes a season," Leavitt said. "Our players have to keep it in perspective."
They'll also need to avoid a letdown against an FIU team that has won once in its last 26 games, including a pair of blowout losses to start this season.
After falling 40-10 at Kansas in their opener on Aug. 30, the Golden Panthers (0-2) lost 42-0 at Iowa on Sept. 6. Neither sophomore Wayne Younger nor junior Paul McCall has been effective at quarterback, and the team's 5.0 points and 178.5 yards per game both rank last in FBS.
Still, Leavitt and the Bulls have reason to be wary of FIU. Even as the Golden Panthers were en route to an 0-12 season in 2006, they nearly notched a road win at USF, which finished 9-4 that year.
On Sept. 9 that year, USF turned the ball over three times and trailed 20-7 at the half, needing a 29-yard touchdown pass from Grothe to Taurus Johnson with under three minutes to play to earn a 21-20 win in the schools' only meeting.
"I think we were thinking a little bit ahead," Grothe said. "Luckily we won that game. It was a little scary."
"We are expecting a 60-minute battle, if not more," Leavitt said. "We are going to have to play at a very high level to have a chance to win."
Not only is the game FIU's home opener, but it will also be the first contest at the new FIU Stadium as the Golden Panthers hope to follow the footsteps of USF as young Florida program seeking success.
"Obviously, it's a program under construction and development," athletic director Pete Garcia told the school's official Web site. "This is one of the first phases we're getting to and in the next few years there's going to be a lot of exciting things happening here."