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Thursday, October 27, 2011
What to watch in college football: Week 9

By Mark Schlabach


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

1. Will Oklahoma bounce back against Kansas State?

The No. 9 Sooners were stunned by unranked Texas Tech 41-38 last week, ending their 39-game home winning streak. OU hasn’t lost consecutive conference games since a four-game slide in 1998. The Wildcats are off to a 7-0 start but haven’t beaten OU since the 2003 Big 12 championship game. Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein ran for 10 touchdowns in the past three games, but the Cats are averaging only 153.9 passing yards per game. The Red Raiders were able to expose OU’s secondary while totaling 572 yards of offense last week.

2. Should Clemson be on upset alert?

Heading into Saturday night’s game at Georgia Tech, the Tigers are aiming for their first 9-0 start since 1981, when they finished 12-0 and won a national championship. Georgia Tech has dropped two games in a row, scoring only 28 points and averaging only 253 yards of offense in losses to Virginia and Miami. But Tech’s triple-option offense might pose problems for Clemson’s defense, which surrendered 83 points in victories over Maryland and North Carolina. The Tigers scored 115 points and had 1,026 yards of offense in their last two games.

3. What does USC have to do to upset Stanford?

Robert Woods
The Trojans could use another big game from Robert Woods, who had 12 catches for 224 yards in last year's game against Stanford.
The No. 6 Cardinal will be going for their 16th consecutive victory in Saturday night’s trip to USC. The Trojans will have to slow down Stanford’s running game, which ran for a school-record 446 yards in last week’s 65-21 rout of Washington. The Trojans will need another big game from receiver Robert Woods, who had 12 catches for 224 yards with three touchdowns in last season’s 37-35 loss to Stanford. USC quarterback Matt Barkley has thrown nine touchdowns with only one interception during a three-game winning streak.

4. Who starts at quarterback for Florida?

Gators coach Will Muschamp said senior John Brantley is ready to go for Saturday’s game against No. 22 Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla. But Brantley hasn’t played since injuring his ankle early in the Gators’ 38-10 loss to Alabama on Oct. 1 and hasn’t practiced much over the past three weeks. Brantley might get a chance to play against the Bulldogs, but don’t be surprised if freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett take most of the snaps. Georgia has to do a better job of taking care of the football -- it has had 12 turnovers in its three consecutive losses to UF.

5. Who’s going to run the ball for South Carolina?

The No. 13 Gamecocks begin life without star tailback Marcus Lattimore, who will miss the rest of the season after tearing knee ligaments in a 14-12 victory over Mississippi State on Oct. 15. Freshman Brandon Wilds will get the start in Saturday’s game at Tennessee, after running for 75 yards on 13 carries so far this season. Quarterback Connor Shaw will have to carry a bigger load on offense, and former USC basketball player Bruce Ellington might get some snaps out of “Wildcats" plays. Volunteers freshman quarterback Justin Worley makes his first start after senior Matt Simms was benched last week.

6. Should Oklahoma State be worried about Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III?

The No. 3 Cowboys’ defense has held up so far this season but will be tested by Griffin, who has thrown 22 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Baylor’s defense has been exposed by strong passing attacks, giving up 681 yards of offense in a 55-28 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 15. The Bears allowed 725 yards in a 55-28 loss to OSU last season. Griffin played very well against the Aggies, throwing for a school-record 430 yards with three touchdowns. Baylor has lost five straight and 14 of 15 games to the Pokes.

7. Can Michigan State get up for another big game?

The No. 11 Spartans just completed a trifecta of emotional victories, defeating Ohio State (17-7), Michigan (28-14) and Wisconsin (37-31). The Spartans defeated the then-No. 6 Badgers on quarterback Kirk Cousins’ 44-yard touchdown pass to Keith Nichol on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game. Now Michigan State has to regroup to play at No. 14 Nebraska on Saturday. MSU’s defense, which allowed 220 rushing yards to the Badgers, will have to slow down Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez and I-back Rex Burkhead. The winner gets the inside track to winning the Big Ten’s Legends division.

8. Will Wisconsin rebound to beat Ohio State?

The Badgers saw their BCS national championship hopes all but end with last week’s loss at Michigan State. But Wisconsin can still win the Big Ten’s Leaders division and play in the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 3. The Buckeyes had an extra week to prepare, after upsetting Illinois 17-7 on Oct. 15. Ohio State completed only one pass for 17 yards against the Illini, but tailback Dan “Boom” Herron ran for 91 yards with two touchdowns in his first action of the season.

9. Can Texas A&M’s defense shut down another opponent?

Missouri’s trip to Texas A&M on Saturday night will be a matchup of potential future SEC teams. The No. 16 Aggies have struggled defending the pass all season, but they were much better in last week’s 33-17 victory over Iowa State, allowing only 305 yards of offense. Missouri has won four of its last five games against Texas A&M. Tigers quarterback James Franklin struggled in last week’s 45-24 loss to Oklahoma State, completing only 14 of 27 passes for 184 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

10. Can Penn State do it again?

The Nittany Lions have won six games in a row heading into Saturday’s game against Illinois, and they’ve done it with a menacing defense and mediocre offense. Penn State tailback Silas Redd has been very good lately, with four straight 100-yard games. But the Nittany Lions remain unsettled at quarterback, although Matt McGloin played well in last week’s 34-24 victory at Northwestern. The Illini have lost two straight games after a 6-0 start.