Saturday Morning Splurge
Penn State hopes to avenge last year's Iowa loss and prove it's a top five team
The surging Hurricanes head to Virginia Tech to battle for ACC supremacy
Plus: BCS busters to watch, Florida's wideout worries and a Heisman red flag
The 10 storylines to watch this Saturday:
Will Penn State gets its revenge? Last season, the 9-0 and third-ranked Nittany Lions arrived in Iowa, where Hawkeyes kicker Daniel Murray and the Iowa City wind promptly swept away their BCS title dreams. Joe Paterno's not biting on the revenge angle -- "I don't know what revenge has got to do with it in football," he told reporters this week. "It's not like they sneaked up on us and stuck us in the back with a knife or something." -- but the 110,000 heading to Beaver Stadium for White Out night surely are. The Hawkeyes will test the Nittany Lions again, but that's a good thing; Penn State's 3-0 on the season, but against competition that's gone a combined 2-6. It's time for the Nittany Lions to show they deserve that top five ranking -- and to get their comeuppance while they're at it.
Is the ACC about to experience a changing of the guard? Miami's back. You might have heard. After earning their first top 10 ranking since 2005, the 'Canes head to Blacksburg to challenge Virginia Tech for ACC supremacy. Miami has a little more than conference bragging rights on the line, though -- if it wins this one it'll set up a potentially epic Week 5 clash with Oklahoma, which itself would set up a possible championship run. Quarterback Jacory Harris' arm and swagger have turned him into college football's It-boy, and many have credited his offensive line for allowing just one sack on the season. But while Harris didn't face much pressure against Florida State or Georgia Tech, he'll see plenty from a relentless Virginia Tech front. That said, Tech, always known for its defense, has struggled mightily against the run this season (107th nationally). Harris has worn the crown well, but maybe it's time to pass it along to running back Graig Cooper.
Who will boast the best BCS buster credentials after gameday? Let's momentarily ignore Boise State and its lavishly iced cupcake of a schedule and instead focus on Houston and TCU, who face season-defining tests this week. The Cougars battle Texas Tech in a contest sure to make shootout enthusiasts shriek with glee. Beating another Big 12 South team would make Houston the best buster out there, but Texas Tech hung tough against No. 2 Texas last week and won't be surprised by an offense it also runs. TCU, meanwhile, looks for its second win over an ACC opponent (provided we're counting wins against Virginia this season, that is) when it heads to Clemson. The Horned Frogs typically win with defense, but their success could depend on which defense Clemson fields: the one that allowed 301 rushing yards to Georgia Tech in Week 2, or the one that held Boston College to 55 total yards in Week 3.
Will off-field distractions hurt Kansas? Maybe the Jayhawks didn't get the memo, but Houston's not the only Conference USA team capable of knocking off a Big 12 team this weekend. Instead of trading jabs and punches with the maddeningly popular Kansas basketball team -- twice -- Kansas' football team needed to focus fully on a Southern Miss squad coming to town with the nation's second longest win streak in tow. Luckily for Kansas, red-hot QB Todd Reesing didn't dislocate any fingers. Or get tossed down a flight of stairs.
Will Florida continue to struggle at wide receiver? Rich Brooks has made great strides at Kentucky, leading the long forlorn Wildcats to three straight bowl wins. But there's one thing he hasn't been able to do any better than his predecessors: beat Florida. The Gators have now taken a whopping 22 straight from the Wildcats, including a 65-3 beatdown at The Swamp last season. But there's a chink in the ole championship armor, as injuries and (those increasingly dreaded) flu-like symptoms have decimated Florida's receiving corps. Kentucky's not an elite SEC team (in fact the Cats, now 2-0, could easily lose their next four to conference foes Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Auburn), but its pass defense is its greatest strength. Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow won't find it any easier passing the ball with Trevard Lindley, one of the nation's best pure cover corners, patrolling the secondary.
Can one win really turn South Florida into a recruiting power house? If SI.com recruiting guru Andy Staples says so, it must be true. The Bulls have only fielded a football team since 1997, and while that's a relatively brief existence, it's a long time to wait to face the big boys hogging all the best Sunshine State talent. If South Florida can beat one of Florida's Big Three on its own turf, it'll instantly become a much more attractive destination for elite high school prospects. Unfortunately for the Bulls, their first crack at a recruiting coup comes one week after record-setting senior quarterback Matt Grothe went down for the year with a torn ACL. But they've still got All-America defensive end George Selvie, who's more of a threat than anyone on the Seminoles' defensive line. Of course, Florida State just embarrassed a BYU squad many thought would earn a BCS berth, but lest we forget, that same Seminoles squad barely scraped by against Jacksonville State the week prior. The fate of South Florida's program could depend on which set of 'Noles show up this week.
Will Colt McCoy return to Heisman form? On the bright side, McCoy and the Longhorns offense have looked plenty potent in the third and fourth quarters the last two weeks. On the not-so-bright side, they've looked borderline comatose in the first and second. To quantify the contrast: McCoy has completed 60 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and three picks in the first half, compared to 77 percent for four touchdowns and one pick in the second. Maybe McCoy should start snacking on pb&j and pedialyte before kickoff instead of during halftime (as he did last week while suffering from the flu) to give himself the energy he needs against a physical UTEP squad.
Are QBs Jimmy Clausen and Matt Barkley healthy? Healthy enough, at least. Clausen expects to play, but admitted his turf toe injury could affect the way he plants his foot while throwing, thus impacting his play-making ability. Just the fact that he's suiting up is good news for perpetual hot seat occupant Charlie Weis, who already lost electric receiver Michael Floyd for the season and could be without tailback Armando Allen. Barkley, meanwhile, will start for the Trojans after missing last week's upset loss to Washington with a sprained shoulder. That's really, really good news for Aaron Corp, who would never recover from stinking it up against both Apple Cup participants.
Does Georgia Tech still know how to run the ball? Remember when the Yellow Jackets ran for 300-plus yards in victories over Jacksonville State and Clemson to start the season? Yeah, me neither. Miami nullified Tech's triple option attack, holding the Jackets to 95 rushing yards in the loss, 60 of which came on the first drive. It's unlikely Josh Nesbitt, Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen will stay quiet for long, but a stout North Carolina defense boasts a three-headed monster of its own: defensive tackle Marvin Austin and linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, who have helped the Heels hold their 2009 opponents to a paltry 1.8 yards per carry.
What does Cal have that Oregon doesn't? That's easy: a Heisman-worthy running back (Jahvid Best), a quarterback who's gotten the job done (Kevin Riley) and a perfect record. What, conversely, does Oregon have that Cal doesn't? Even easier: a suspended running back (LeGarrette Blount), a quarterback who hasn't thrown a touchdown through three games (Jeremiah Masoli) and a gazillion uniform combinations. Always looking for new ways to forsake the fashion gods, the Ducks will reportedly break out a throwback uni when the Bears come to town. Warning: Yellow helmets may be involved.
More College Football
College Football Truth & Rumors