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Games to Watch - Week 5
Games to Watch - Week 5
Games to Watch - Week 5
By Chris David
Minnesota at Ohio State - Saturday (Big Ten, 12:00 p.m.)
Ohio State bounced back from its embarrassing loss to USC (35-3) on Saturday and stopped Troy State 28-10 in what most would define as another lackluster effort. The Buckeyes' offense have handed the controls to freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who tossed four touchdowns and racked up 205 total yards. The OSU defense (232 YPG) is ranked second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally. Minnesota isn't known for its defense but the school put forth a great effort last week in a 37-3 whitewashing of Florida Atlantic. The Golden Gophers stand at 4-0, largely due to the aerial attack of QB Adam Weber (71.8%, 967 yards, 7 TDs) and WR Eric Decker (32 catches, 454 yards, 4 TDs). Can the duo step up in class against a tougher opponent or will we see the Gophers' club that went 1-11 last year?
Ohio State has won five straight battles against Minnesota, four of them coming by double digits. Last year, OSU pounded Minnesota 30-7 on the road but failed to cover as a 24-point favorite. The combined 37 points helped the 'under' cash for the third time in the last five games. The Buckeyes have burning bankrolls for their followers this year, posting a 0-3 ATS mark. Minnesota stands at 2-1 ATS and a lot of its success has been based off turnovers. The Gophers have forced 13 and only coughed it up twice, which is the best margin (+11) in the Big Ten. Last year, Minnesota was 0-5 SU and 2-3 ATS away from home. Possible look-ahead for OSU, with a road trip to Wisconsin on tap for next week.
TCU at Oklahoma - Saturday (FSN, 7:00 p.m.)
The Mountain West Conference has made some noise this year and it could get louder Saturday when TCU meets Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs smacked SMU 48-7 last week en route to their fourth straight win. The Frogs' success comes from its running game (248 YPG) and strong defense (183 YPG), which is ranked first in the nation. TCU's numbers could be a bit skewed, considering they haven't played anybody. That will chance this week when they face the juggernaut of all juggernauts. Oklahoma's offense is ranked first in scoring (54.7 PPG) and fourth in total yards (556). The defense (196 YPG) isn't too shabby either, ranked first in the Big 12 and 10th nationally. QB Sam Bradford has ripped opponents for 882 yards and 12 TDs while completing 79 percent of his passes. Helping the signal caller is a pair of dangerous running backs in DeMarco Murray (312 yards) and Chris Brown (241 yards).
Most would expect head coach Bob Stoops to have his team ready this Saturday after losing as 25-point home favorites in 2005 to TCU, 17-10. Since that loss, Oklahoma has ripped off 20 straight victories in Norman. Last year, TCU was drubbed 34-13 by Texas. The loss snapped a five-game winning and covering streak for the Frogs against Big 12 opponents. Gamblers have benefited from both TCU (3-0 ATS) and Oklahoma (2-0 ATS) this year. The two schools have won all of their games by double digits.
Alabama at Georgia - Saturday (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.)
The SEC will take center stage again this Saturday, when Alabama and Georgia square off from Athens. Nick Saban is already making his presence felt in his second stanza at Alabama. The Crimson Tide turned some heads last week with a 49-14 road win against Arkansas. The defense held the Razorbacks to 92 rushing yards and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. RB Glen Coffee (404 yards) is a bruiser and QB John Parker Wilson (542 yards, 5 TDs) has made plays when necessary. While that duo has been solid, it's tough to put them in the same sentence with Georgia QB Matthew Stafford (919 yards, 5 TDs) and RB Knowshon Moreno (455 yards, 9 TDs). UGA received another great effort from its defense en route to a dominating 27-10 road victory over Arizona State last week. The Sun Devils QB Rudy Carpenter was sacked four times and the offense was held to 212 yards, including just four yards on the ground.
Georgia has won and covered the last three meetings against Alabama, including a 25-23 victory last year in Tuscaloosa. While most are expecting a defensive battle this weekend, it should be noted the 'over' is on a 3-0 run. 'Bama was 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS on the road last year. Dating back to last season, the Bulldogs are on an 11-0 SU and 7-2 ATS run. The Tide are 3-1 ATS this season, while the Bulldogs have gone 2-0-1 ATS.
Virginia Tech at Nebraska - Saturday (ABC, 8:00 p.m.)
Just when everybody wanted to write Frank Beamer and the Hokies off after losing to East Carolina in Week 1 the school has rebound with three straight wins, including a pair of 20-17 triumphs over G-Tech and UNC. It can be argued that V-Tech had no right winning either of the contests, but the defense came up big - again. The offense still needs a lot of work and it will be up quarterback Tyrod Talor, who is more successful running than passing. The defense will be expected to step up again this week in Lincoln against a Nebraska offense that is balanced (450 YPG) and explosive (40 PPG). It appears the attack still favors to air it out with QB Joe Ganz (64%, 719 yards, 5 TDs) but RB Marlon Lucky and the ground game just posted 330 yards in its last win.
The two schools meet for the first time since 1996 when Nebraska handled Virginia Tech 41-21 in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska owns an all-time 9-2 record against the ACC, including a 20-17 road victory against Wake Forest last year. The Cornhuskers have opened the year 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS. The defense is holding teams to 14.3 PPG, which is tremendous drop from the 37.9 PPG surrendered last year. The 'under' has gone 2-1. The Hokies' sluggish offense (271 YPG) is ranked 112th in the country, which has helped the 'under' go 2-1. V-Tech is 2-1 both SU and ATS in its last three games against Big 12 opponents, with the loss coming in last year's Orange Bowl to Kansas, 24-21.
Illinois at Penn State - Saturday (ABC, 8:00 p.m.)
The pastry party in Happy Valley is officially over, as Penn State concluded its cupcake schedule last Saturday with a 45-3 blowout win over Temple. Even though the competition for the Nittany Lions has been inferior, the team did exactly what was expected if not more. PSU outscored the four opponents by 171 points (211-40). Quarterback Daryll Clark has been effective in the "Spread HD" offense, while running back Evan Royster has proven to be a reliable horse. The defense has held strong despite dealing with suspensions and injuries all season long. That unit will face its toughest test this week when Illinois and the multi-dimensional Juice Williams (949 total yards, 9 TDs) visit State College. Dan Dufrene (300 yards) has filled in nicely at running back for the departed Rashard Mendenhall. The offense will need to put points on the board since the Illini defense is ranked second to last in the conference for rushing defense (163 YPG)
This is a big revenge spot for PSU, who lost to Illinois 27-20 in Champaign last year. The Lions put up 427 offensive yards but turned the ball over four times and gave up a kickoff return touchdown. Prior to this loss, PSU had won nine of 10 against Illinois since joining the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are 3-0 ATS this year, while the Illini are 0-2 ATS. Last year, Ron Zook's team was 4-1 both SU and ATS on the road. PSU hasn't lost SU as a home favorite since 2004. After giving up 52 in Week 1 to Missouri, the Illinois defense has surrendered 21 and 17 points albeit to Eastern Illinois and Louisiana-Lafayette. The total has gone 1-1. Illinois should come prepared and rested for this battle after having a bye last weekend.
Other Games to Watch
North Carolina at Miami-Florida
UNC and head coach Butch Davis had an opportunity to make a statement in the ACC last week but lost to V-Tech 20-17 on a late field goal. The Tar Heels can redeem themselves on the road against a Miami, Fl. team that is finally showing glimpses of excellence.
Colorado at Florida St
After upsetting WVU last Thursday in Boulder we're going to find out if Colorado is for real this week when it travels to Florida State. The Seminoles are reeling and head coach Bobby Bowden is still searching for a quality quarterback.
Wisconsin at Michigan
The Badgers enter Big Ten play undefeated but that could all change with a trip to Ann Arbor . After this battle, Wisconsin hosts Ohio State and Penn State in back-to-back weeks. Can you say double look-ahead?
Marshall at West Virginia
Don't look now but the best football team in West Virginia is wearing green, at least this year. The Thundering Herd are 3-1 and would love nothing more to hand their intrastate rivalry, West Virginia, its third loss in a row.