Saturday Morning Splurge
No. 2 Texas hopes to avoid another season-crushing loss to Texas Tech
Lane Kiffin will come to eat his words when Florida rocks Tennessee
Plus: USC's upset alert, Arkansas' big test, the J-school bowl and more
The 10 storylines to watch this Saturday.
Can Texas Tech upset Texas ... again? Can it? Yes. Will it? No. Mike Leach's teams put up points in bunches regardless of personnel, so it's no surprise new quarterback Taylor Potts has picked up right where Graham Harrell left off, throwing nine TD passes in his first two games. But though the Red Raiders' offensive firepower remains intact, the Longhorns have three key factors working in their favor this time: 1) Home-field advantage; 2) A determination not to let the thirst for revenge cloud their focus; 3) The peace of mind that comes from knowing Michael Crabtree isn't suiting up for the Raiders -- or anyone else.
Speaking of revenge, how will Urban Meyer get back at Lane Kiffin? It's not often a game in which there's a four-touchdown favorite generates this much intrigue, but then again, it's not often a rookie head coach (wrongly) accuses a coaching giant of cheating. It's not clear if Meyer forgives, but it's pretty apparent he doesn't forget. Two years ago, Georgia players celebrated their first touchdown against Florida by storming the end zone and performing the now infamous "Gator Stomp." All the while, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt egged on his players. When the teams met again last year, Meyer got his payback by calling two timeouts in the final minute despite leading 49-10. You know, just to rub it in. Meyer has instructed the Gators not to discuss Kiffin or his comments -- but after all, championship teams do their talking on the field, and payback plans ought not be shared. At the end of the day, setting defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham loose on poor Vols QB Jonathan Crompton is probably the cruelest possible punishment.
Should USC be on upset alert? Yes indeedy. Freshman sensation Matt Barkley's out with a bum shoulder and senior leader Taylor Mays is nursing an injured knee. Washington, meanwhile, appears to be the picture of health and sunny optimism. What's more, new Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt both worked as coordinators at USC under Pete Carroll and know how the USC coach thinks. (Though, thanks to Twitter, so too do we all.) Of course, that could be a curse as well as blessing. Sarkisian knows a coach who thinks too much can often suffer from "paralysis by analysis." If the Huskies hope to take down the Trojans, they'll most assuredly need all their limbs.
Will the ACC make a statement? Miami looked like the real deal while soundly handling Georgia Tech on Thursday night, but the rest of the conference has left much to be desired. Sure, the league recovered from an abysmal opening weekend by going 8-1 in Week 2, but that's not the full story, as North Carolina barely escaped Connecticut and Florida State almost lost a shocker to Jacksonville State. This week, more stiff nonconference tests await. Carolina can jumpstart the resurgence by taking care of business against always dangerous East Carolina, Virginia Tech can do wonders for its BCS hopes, and for the league, by beating a rising Nebraska team and Florida State can scoot back into the rankings by dashing BYU's title hopes. As for the conference cellar-dwellers, it's unlikely Duke will put up a fight against Todd Reesing and Kansas, but Maryland can certainly help the cause by, you know, not losing to Middle Tennessee for a second year in a row.
Will the MAC strike again? MAC teams stole the headlines in Week 2, as Toldeo spanked Colorado, Central Michigan shocked Michigan State and Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan nearly toppled Missouri, Northwestern and Indiana, respectively. The MAC's giving the Big 12 a break this week and will instead focus on stoking the Big Ten bonfire come high noon on Saturday. The potential enforcers: Toledo, Temple, Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois; the potential victims: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Purdue. Just what recently under-fire Jim Tressel needs ... a matchup against Toledo QB Aaron "Coach Killer" Opelt. Somewhere, Dan Hawkins is commiserating.
Is this the week Arkansas shows it can challenge in the SEC? Asked about first-year Razorbacks QB Ryan Mallett, Georgia corner Brandon Boykin told local media: "All I know is he's from Michigan, he's really tall and he has a big arm." True on all fronts. What's more, the 6-foot-7 gunslinger's sporting a robust 210.25 quarterback rating, and while that's due solely to his 17-for-22 performance against Missouri State, it should still worry a Georgia squad that gave up 37 points to South Carolina in a narrow Week 2 win. Even in victory, the Dawgs looked vulnerable; the Hogs, meanwhile, look like a team poised to ride an explosive offense to a breakthrough season. But Georgia enters this game having played two formidable opponents. Not so for Arkansas (no offense, Bears fans). If Arkansas pulls it off, next week's matchup with Alabama will increase exponentially in importance.
How will Notre Dame bounce back after losing a heartbreaker to Michigan? Going into the season, many predicted Notre Dame's light schedule would yield at least nine wins. Well, Michigan was supposed to be one of those Ws. Charlie Weis' seat got a little less toasty after Week 1, but the burners don't stay on simmer for long in South Bend. Saturday, the Irish face a Michigan State squad eager to prove it's legit after blowing it last week against Central Michigan. Weis better hope his oft-hailed (by him) "schematic advantage" shines through against the Spartans, because after expressing his displeasure with the Big Ten officials who called the Michigan game, he won't get any help from the Big Ten officials calling this one.
Which Pac-10 speedster will make the most of his time in the nonconference spotlight? Cal RB Jahvid Best and Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers are off to scorching starts, and their Heisman hopes could get a boost this week when they face off against Big Ten and Big East foes, respectively. West Coast teams often struggle when heading East, but Cal attempted to avoid that by arriving in Minnesota a day early. That should help Best and Co. avoid the jet lag that paralyzed them against Maryland last season and shine in a highly visible noon time slot. Quizz and Co., meanwhile, get Cincinnati at home. With many tuning in to see if the Bearcats have what it takes to repeat as Big East champs, the Beavers could steal the show.
Will we still be talking about BYU after this weekend? Yes, and very likely as a player in the BCS championship race. Heading into the season it was clear Oklahoma would be BYU's toughest test (the Cougars passed with top marks), but that Florida State would be the team standing between the Cougars and history. The Seminoles may just be another middle-of-the-pack BCS team, but they're still a BCS team, and one with a storied history and plenty of talent at that. A win here (and nine more after...) could give BYU the ammunition it would need to make a case for a title-game berth. Look for senior QB Max Hall to find versatile tight end Dennis Pitta early and often and exploit an athletic but inexperienced FSU secondary.
Who will win the J-school bowl? Let's be honest. Syracuse isn't making it to a bowl this year. That's why the Orange need to make the most of the unofficial J-school bowl, in which Syracuse and Northwestern battle for sports media bragging rights. For the second year in a row, Northwestern alum Stewart Mandel and I have placed a little wager on the game between our alma maters. The stakes: loser must publicly proclaim winner's college the superior journalism school. Don't mock. Aside from Cory Wootton and Arthur Jones, this is all we have.
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