What to watch in college football: Week 8

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
11:00
AM ET

Here are 10 things I’ll be watching in college football this weekend:

1. Can Wisconsin’s mammoth offensive line handle Michigan State’s aggressive defense?

The No. 6 Badgers have one of the country's biggest offensive lines, with their five starters averaging 322 pounds. The No. 16 Spartans' four starting defensive linemen have an average weight of 282 pounds, but they're very aggressive and exceptionally quick. Whichever team controls the line of scrimmage in Saturday night's game at Spartans Stadium figures to have a big advantage. MSU ranks No. 2 nationally in total defense (186.1 yards per game) and No. 8 in sacks (3.5 per game).

2. Is No. 25 Washington capable of knocking off No. 8 Stanford?

Andrew Luck
James Snook/US PresswireCan Andrew Luck and the Cardinal keep the country's longest winning streak alive when they play their first ranked opponent of the season?
The Cardinal will play a ranked opponent for the first time this season in Saturday night’s game at Stanford Stadium. The Huskies are off to their first 3-0 start in Pac-12 play since 1997. Washington quarterback Keith Price has been spectacular, completing 69.4 percent of his passes for 1,466 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is 5-1 against ranked opponents, and the Cardinal have won 15 games in a row, the longest winning streak in the country.

3. Will USC restore order against Notre Dame?

The Fighting Irish knocked off the Trojans 20-16 last season, ending USC’s eight-game winning streak in the series. USC quarterback Matt Barkley missed last year’s game against Notre Dame because of a sprained ankle. He’s coming off a so-so performance in USC’s 30-9 victory over Cal last week, completing 19 of 35 passes for a season-low 195 yards. Notre Dame’s secondary will be tested by receiver Robert Woods, who had only five catches for 36 yards against the Bears.

4. Does No. 20 Auburn have a chance at No. 1 LSU?

The Tigers will go into Saturday's game at Tiger Stadium with a new quarterback, after Auburn coach Gene Chizik benched Barrett Trotter in favor of sophomore Clint Moseley. Moseley, who is more of a running threat than Trotter, provided a spark in the second half of last week's 17-6 victory over Florida. Chizik can only hope Moseley performs better than the past two quarterbacks who faced LSU's defense: Florida freshman Jacoby Brissett and Tennessee's Matt Simms. LSU will probably stack the line of scrimmage to slow down Auburn's running attack, so Moseley will have to make some throws down the field.

5. Can Tennessee’s defense slow down Alabama’s Trent Richardson?

The Volunteers seem to be reeling and Saturday night's trip to No. 2 Alabama isn't good a remedy. The Volunteers rank No. 8 in the SEC in run defense, allowing 155.8 yards per game. Richardson has run for 100 yards or more in six straight games, matching Shaun Alexander's 12-year-old school record. Richardson had 183 yards and four touchdowns in last week's 52-7 rout of Ole Miss. If he reaches 100 yards before halftime, Alabama coach Nick Saban might sit him down in the second half to rest for the Tide's Nov. 5 showdown against LSU.

6. Does No. 4 Oklahoma State have anything to worry about at Missouri?

The Tigers have won 10 consecutive home games and they're coming off their best performance of the season. Missouri quarterback James Franklin had 289 passing yards and 84 rushing yards in last week's 52-17 rout of Iowa State. The Pokes have been spectacular on offense this season, but their defense is allowing 426.7 yards of offense per game. OSU will also have to slow down Missouri tailback Henry Josey, who ran for 100 yards or more in three of the past four games.

7. Where does No. 3 Oklahoma need to improve?

The Sooners haven't had problems beating Texas Tech or winning at home. OU has defeated the Red Raiders seven straight times and it has won 39 games in a row at home. But OU coach Bob Stoops would like to see his offense become more consistent in the red zone. The Sooners have scored only 19 touchdowns in 31 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line. OU settled for four short field goals in last week's 41-17 victory over Kansas.

8. How many points will No. 5 Boise State score against Air Force?

The Broncos are firing on all cylinders like never before, scoring 120 points and totaling more than 1,200 yards of offense in their past two games. Boise State had a school-record 742 yards of offense in last week’s 63-13 rout at Colorado State. Tailback Doug Martin ran for a career-high 200 yards, and quarterback Kellen Moore completed his first 18 passes. The Falcons are allowing 434.7 yards of offense -- 103rd in the country -- heading into Saturday’s game at Bronco Stadium.

9. Will No. 7 Clemson play better defense against North Carolina?

The Tigers’ dream season nearly came to a screeching halt last week, before they rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Maryland 56-45 on the road. Clemson allowed 468 yards of offense against the Terps, including 291 rushing. The Tigers will have to do a better job against the Tar Heels, who have a pretty balanced offense. UNC quarterback Bryn Renner leads the ACC in completion percentage (75.3) and pass efficiency (174.1 rating). Tar Heels freshman Giovani Bernard has gained 100 rushing yards or more in five straight games.

10. Can Georgia Tech get its offense back on track?

The No. 22 Yellow Jackets gained a season-low 296 yards of offense in last week’s 24-21 loss at Virginia. Quarterback Tevin Washington had only two completions and two interceptions and has completed only 30.8 percent of his passes the past two games combined. Georgia Tech’s defense has surrendered 520 rushing yards in the past two games, and Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is coming off one of his best games, throwing for 267 yards with three touchdowns in last week’s 30-24 win at North Carolina.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

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