Thursday, December 1, 2011
What to watch in college football
By Mark Schlabach
Here are five things I'll be watching in college football this weekend:
1. Can No. 14 Georgia keep it close against No. 1 LSU in the SEC championship game?
The Tigers are one victory away from completing a perfect regular season and earning a trip to the Jan. 9 Allstate BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. The Bulldogs have won 10 games in a row since losing their first two and they're playing with a lot of confidence entering Saturday's SEC championship game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. But Georgia hasn't played a defense as physical and menacing as LSU's. Can Georgia's offensive line protect quarterback Aaron Murray, who has thrown 14 touchdowns in his past four games? Will Georgia tailback Isaiah Crowell be able to start and finish a game? Georgia might have the second-best defense LSU has faced this season, behind Alabama's, which held the Tigers to only nine points. Will LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson continue to make big plays?
2. Will No. 10 Oklahoma beat No. 3 Oklahoma State for the ninth straight time?
Will Mike Gundy get the Cowboys their first win in the Bedlam Series since 2002?
The Pokes are still in the BCS national championship race, although they'll need some help from voters and computers to pass No. 2 Alabama in the BCS standings. OSU hasn't beaten the Sooners since 2002, losing eight games in a row in the Bedlam series. Saturday night's game will be played in Stillwater, and the Sooners aren't as explosive without leading rusher Dominique Whaley and star receiver Ryan Broyles. The Pokes haven't played since a 37-31 loss in double overtime at Iowa State on Nov. 18. They had five turnovers in the loss to the Cyclones and can't afford to turn it over against OU. The last team with the ball might win the game.
3. Which team will win the Big East?
If No. 23 West Virginia beats South Florida on the road on Thursday night and Cincinnati defeats Connecticut at home on Saturday, there will be a three-way tie for first place in the Big East standings. The Mountaineers, Bearcats and Cardinals will finish tied, and the tiebreaker would be decided by the highest BCS standing, which would favor the Mountaineers. West Virginia has been inconsistent in coach Dana Holgerson's first season, and the Bearcats are unpredictable without injured quarterback Zach Collaros. Big East football might be mediocre again this season, but at least it has been dramatic to season's end.
4. Will No. 15 Wisconsin get revenge against No. 13 Michigan State?
The Spartans derailed the Badgers' national championship hopes with a dramatic 37-31 victory in East Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 22. The Spartans won the game on quarterback Kirk Cousins' 44-yard touchdown pass to Keith Nichol on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game. Both teams lost in their next games, but recovered to win out to claim their divisions. The Spartans will have to slow down tailback Montee Ball in Saturday's inaugural Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Ball has 29 rushing touchdowns and five touchdown catches; his 34 touchdowns are five shy of tying former Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 touchdowns set in 1988.
5. Will No. 5 Virginia Tech win the ACC again?
The Hokies are one victory away from winning their fifth ACC championship in only eight seasons in the league in Saturday's ACC championship game in Charlotte, N.C. Virginia Tech will try to avenge its 23-3 loss to Clemson at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., on Oct. 1. The No. 13 Tigers held the Hokies to only 258 yards and no touchdowns at home for the first time since 1995. The Tigers, who have lost three of their past four games, will have to limit Hokies tailback David Wilson, who has run for 1,595 yards with nine touchdowns. Wilson has already tied an ACC record with nine rushing touchdowns this season and he's 61 yards shy of breaking Ryan Williams' school single-season rushing record.