NCF Nation: What to watch 101112

What to watch: Week 7 vs. Stanford

October, 11, 2012
Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

1. Quarterback play. Josh Nunes beat USC, lost to Washington and had fans calling for his job ... then had the best game of his career last week against Arizona. Having to replace all-everything QB Andrew Luck probably doesn't help matters, either. Everett Golson, meanwhile, was yanked from the Purdue game, played great at night at Michigan State, got yanked from the Michigan game and also will be coming off the best game of his career, last week against Miami. Each defense will look to test the opposing quarterback Saturday.

2. Stanford sack. Notre Dame hasn't allowed a sack since Week 3 at Michigan State, but that's bound to change against Stanford's defense. The Cardinal average nearly three a game and had three last week against Arizona. They also are fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (8.6 per game), so the Irish need to avoid negative plays as much as possible.

3. Pink all over. Players and coaches will be decked out in pink accessories as Notre Dame recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Kelly Cares Foundation is also selling Brian Kelly face-ka-bobs. Kelly's wife, Paqui, is a two-time breast cancer survivor who recently reached the five-year cancer-free mark.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
Ten items to track around the Big Ten in Week 7:

1. Follow the Leaders: Neither Wisconsin nor Purdue is the best team in the Leaders Division -- that'd be Ohio State -- and the two squads own just one Big Ten win between them. But since both Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for postseason play, it's a good bet that the Badgers or Boilers will represent the Leaders Division at the Big Ten championship game Dec. 1 in Indianapolis. That likelihood puts an added emphasis on Saturday's game at Ross-Ade Stadium. "It's a huge game for both teams," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. Wisconsin has dropped both of its road games this season, while Purdue comes off of a feeble performance at home against Michigan.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
Andrew Weber/US PresswireTwo of the league's best backs will be on display this Saturday when Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (pictured) faces off with Iowa's Mark Weisman.
2. Big backs on display: The Big Ten has become a spread league, but Iowa-Michigan State games turn the clock back a few decades to the league's glory days. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Iowa's Mark Weisman both resemble some of their Big Ten predecessors at the running back spot. Both are power backs in the truest sense who have bulldozed defenders in their path. Bell leads the Big Ten in rushing yards (776), while both average more than 100 rush yards per game and have been MVPs of offenses that have struggled with the pass game. More than 650 pounds of running back will be on display Saturday at Spartan Stadium, and the defense that best slows down the boulder coming its way likely records a victory.

3. Northwestern's blueprint: Coach Pat Fitzgerald said Northwestern got away from its blueprint in last week's loss to Penn State, as the Wildcats ran far fewer plays than the Lions and wore out the defense with too many three-and-outs. Northwestern is still getting the hang of an offense that features two quarterbacks, one of whom is also an outstanding receiver (Kain Colter), as well as multiple threats in the run and pass game. Northwestern needs to do a better job of staying on the field and getting the ball to its top playmakers -- Colter and running back Venric Mark -- against a Minnesota team that has shown improvement throughout its defense.

4. Buckeye 'backers: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer didn't downplay the loss of senior linebacker Etienne Sabino to a leg injury, calling it a "tremendous blow." The Buckeyes lack veteran depth at linebacker and will need to lean on younger players for the next month. Although Ohio State is heavily favored at Indiana, the Hoosiers' dynamic spread offense provides a good test for a defense that has mediocre numbers on the season (60th nationally in yards allowed, 34th in points allowed). Indiana will make Ohio State's linebackers tackle in space, and it'll be interesting to see how freshman Joshua Perry performs as he fills in for Sabino.

5. Hope floats: Saturday could be a defining game for Purdue's Hope, who appears to have his best team in West Lafayette but needs to show he can turn a corner in a season filled with opportunity. Hope's decision to stick with quarterback Caleb TerBush as his starter continues to upset a portion of Boilers fans, who want to see the bionic-armed, ACL-less Robert Marve get more opportunities to lead the offense. TerBush will start against Wisconsin, but Hope could rotate Marve or make changes depending on the flow of the game. One thing is certain: Purdue needs to come out a lot stronger than it did last week against Michigan.

6. Illini try to stop bleeding: The Tim Beckman era is off to a very rocky start as Illinois has dropped four consecutive games by double digits, and Beckman last week committed an NCAA secondary violation when cameras caught him chewing tobacco on the sideline at Wisconsin. Saturday's forecast calls for more pain as Illinois heads to Michigan as more than a three-touchdown underdog. The Illini played decently for three quarters at Wisconsin, and Beckman is stressing the need for a 60-minute effort from his team, which still needs more offensive playmakers to develop and must regain its swagger on defense after allowing a league-worst 28.3 points per game through the first half of the season.

7. Gray day: Minnesota fans are anxiously awaiting the return of quarterback MarQueis Gray from a high ankle sprain. Could it happen Saturday? Coach Jerry Kill says there's a chance, and Gray practiced at about 60 percent on Tuesday. It's unlikely Gray will have his typical mobility, but his presence, even in a limited role, could spark Minnesota in a critical division home game against Northwestern. Max Shortell has passed for 616 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions in place of Gray in Minnesota's last three games.

8. Ferentz eyes 100: The dean of the Big Ten coaches aims for his 100th victory at Iowa as the Hawkeyes visit Michigan State on Saturday. Kirk Ferentz is 99-68 in 14 seasons at the helm in Iowa, and while it looked as though he'd reach the 100-win plateau a little faster back in 2009, it's still a significant achievement. In fact, Big Ten fans could be waiting awhile to see this again. After Ferentz, the coach with the second-most wins at a Big Ten school is Wisconsin's Bret Bielema with 64, followed by Nebraska's Bo Pelini with 42 (36 wins came in the Big 12). Ferentz is 13th on the all-time list of Big Ten victories with 58. He's 18th in all-time win percentage (.593) among coaches who spent at least 10 seasons in the Big Ten.

9. Toussaint's time: Michigan's Denard Robinson got back on track last week against Purdue (235 rush yards), but the Wolverines are still trying to spark top running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. After being suspended for the season opener, Toussaint has just 169 yards on 53 carries (3.2 ypc average) this season. Coach Brady Hoke continues to support Toussaint as the starter and wants to get the junior more opportunities with the ball. Toussaint has recorded no more than 17 carries in a game this season after recording 20 or more carries in four of the final five regular-season games in 2011. Illinois boasts a talented defensive front and has been strong against the run, but Wisconsin had success late in last week's game and Michigan hopes to replicate it with Toussaint.

10. Indiana's opportunity: The wins aren't coming yet, but Indiana is competing a lot better in Kevin Wilson's second year than it did last fall. The Hoosiers dominated the first half against Michigan State and played well during the second half against Northwestern. They need to put four quarters together to finally get over the hump in the Big Ten, where they have dropped 10 consecutive games. Indiana gets another big opportunity to measure up Saturday against Ohio State, which has won 16 straight against the Hoosiers. Although an upset seems tough to fathom, Indiana can hang around in the game because of its offense. A strong performance should boost the Hoosiers before they enter a much more manageable stretch (Navy, Illinois, Iowa).

What to watch in the Big East: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday in the Big East.

1. Pitt's offensive line. In two wins against two nonconference opponents, the Panthers have surrendered just two sacks. In two Big East games? Those numbers balloon to 11, including five last week at Syracuse, making life very difficult for quarterback Tino Sunseri.

2. Louisville's offense in Big East play. It will be an unusually early (11 a.m. ET) start at Heinz Field for the Cardinals, who are also the last BCS conference team to begin league play, per Rick Bozich. The offense couldn't get much going in the muck at Southern Miss (and who can really blame the unit?), but Louisville had late scares at FIU and against UNC in the two weeks prior. Has the team used the bye to help shore up loose ends?

[+] EnlargeRutgers' Jawan Jamison
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaCan Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison make it six games in a row this season in which he gains at least 100 rushing yards?
3. Jawan Jamison going for 100 again. The Rutgers back has matched Ray Rice's school record with five straight 100-yard games to open the season. He broke through last week against UConn's stout run defense and should do it again when Syracuse visits.

4. Cuse hoping to turn a corner. The Orange have scored just 24 points in their past two games, with seven of those points coming on a defensive touchdown. Look for Ryan Nassib, who eclipsed the 300-yard mark in the season's first three games, to air it out more and try to keep the Scarlet Knights' defense honest as Syracuse looks to build off its first Big East win in nearly a year.

5. UConn still looking for offensive answers. It's not that the Huskies scored just three points against Rutgers; it's that there was little reason to believe they could have scored any more had that game lasted another quarter or two. Temple's defense isn't Rutgers', so now is the time for Chandler Whitmer & Co. to move the ball and avoid their first losing streak of the season.

6. Chris Coyer trying to build off Big East opener. The Temple quarterback completed 16 of 20 passes in a win over USF, but is facing a much tougher defense at UConn. Expect the Huskies to stack the box against Montel Harris following his breakout game and see if Coyer can lift his team again.

7. Munchie Legaux seeking better accuracy. There's not a whole lot to find out about Cincinnati as it hosts another overmatched nonconference opponent, this time FCS Fordham. But the Bearcats still have a quarterback in his first full year as the starter, one who has completed just 55 percent of his throws this season. Despite his late-game magic and unblemished record, Legaux has room for improvement before he gets into the heart of Big East play.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
We have a few exciting matchups in the SEC this weekend, so let's check out what to watch in Week 7:

1. Mettenberger's poise: LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger just hasn't looked comfortable in his two SEC starts. Granted, they were on the road, but we all expected a lot more from him. But in two SEC starts, Mettenberger has averaged 163.5 passing yards and has completed 50 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and an interception. It appears his confidence has been shot, and he has to get it back or this offense will be in trouble against such a talented South Carolina defense. Expect that Gamecocks front to put a ton of pressure on Mettenberger, which is something he's struggled against all year. If LSU can't balance its offense with the run and pass, it won't beat South Carolina.

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
John David Mercer/US PresswireCan quarterback Bo Wallace get the Rebels a win against conference rival Auburn this week?
2. Chaney's patience: Tennessee is in must-win mode against Mississippi State, but it has the tall task of putting its offense up against the Bulldogs' vaunted secondary. If Tennessee is going to best Mississippi State's defense, it has to be able to run the ball consistently. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said this week that balance is the key and he has to be more patient with his running game. Rajion Neal has been very impressive during the Vols' last two games, but he'll have to be on top of his game again in order to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Tyler Bray. Chaney wants to run the ball more, but he has a tendency to get too pass-heavy at times when things get rough. His patience in the running game will be important.

3. Ending an embarrassing streak: Could this be the weekend Ole Miss finally gets over the SEC hump? The Rebels haven't won an SEC game in 16 tries and are fresh off a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M. But the Rebels host an Auburn team that has struggled in every phase of the game this year. If Ole Miss is going to turn things around in SEC play, this is the weekend to do it. Auburn is giving up 409.8 yards of offense a game and is last in the SEC in total offense, generating a little more than 300 yards a game. The Rebels have one of the league's best offenses and shouldn't have an issue scoring.

4. Slowing down Marcus Lattimore: South Carolina's running back appears to be getting stronger and healthier each week. He has rushed for 314 yards and five touchdowns in three SEC games and has to be salivating at the thought of facing an LSU defense that surrendered 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Florida's Mike Gillislee last week. Gillislee absolutely wore down the Tigers' front, and that's something Lattimore knows a thing or two about. LSU's offense kept its defense on the field and tired in the Swamp, and South Carolina's defense is capable of doing the same thing to the Tigers, so Lattimore could get plenty of chances to exhaust this unit with his pounding style.

5. South Carolina taking another step: The Gamecocks are all the rage in college football. Steve Spurrier has this team ranked in the top five, and a win Saturday might propel South Carolina into the No. 2 spot. But with all the attention on the Gamecocks, can they keep their composure? Atlanta has been the goal all along, but even this team probably didn't expect to receive the attention it has this early in the year. LSU might be wounded, but this is South Carolina's first true road test. This team will be ready for South Carolina, and the Tigers haven't lost back-to-back games since 2008. If South Carolina is going to take the next step in its SEC journey this year, it has to beat LSU in hostile Tiger Stadium.

6. Scoreboard outage in Shreveport: We know that Texas A&M can score points. The Aggies have averaged 51.5 points in four games since their opening loss to Florida. Johnny Manziel and his explosive crew have crippled defenses this year, but they might send Louisiana Tech's defense running. The Bulldogs rank 123rd nationally in total defense, giving up 531 yards a game. They are also giving up 35.8 points per game. Texas A&M has the ability to really light the scoreboard up against this team, but Louisiana Tech has a very talented offense as well. The Bulldogs actually average more yards than the Aggies and are scoring 53.2 points per game. We could have a Big 12 game on our hands.

7. Florida's focus: The Gators are riding high off that emotional win over LSU last week. Coach Will Muschamp was celebrating like a little kid, violently pumping his fists and crowd surfing in the locker room. This was a huge win for him and his team, but now it's time to get back to playing football. But this group of Gators isn't used to success. Florida is ranked No. 4 nationally and is starting to get BCS love, but all that would come to a screeching halt with a loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Commodores are feeling good after that road win against Missouri and are fighting for a bowl berth. Florida is on the road, and with South Carolina up next, the Gators can't get caught looking ahead this weekend.

8. Mississippi State's secondary vs Tennessee's passing game: You have the SEC's top passing offense taking on one of the top secondary units around with arguably the best cornerback duo in Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. Bray has an impressive set of receiving toys to play with, but he'll have his hands full against Banks and Slay, who have combined for seven interceptions and haven't allowed any touchdowns. As a whole, Mississippi State has allowed just three passing touchdowns, while Bray has tossed 14 touchdowns. He has six interceptions on the year, and has had an issue with pressing. He can't afford to force things against this secondary because it will make him pay.

9. Alabama's offensive attack: There aren't a lot of glaring issues with No. 1 Alabama, but it will be interesting to see what the offense looks like this weekend against Missouri. Injuries have Alabama down to three scholarship running backs, while the Tide is looking for another deep threat with DeAndrew White going down with a season-ending knee injury. Players have said that execution issues have hurt the offense at times, and now that this team is down some bodies, the little things have to get cleaned up. The good news for Alabama is that Nick Saban got an extra week to prep and get this offense ready with the bye.

10. An Arkansas revival: Don't look now, but Arkansas is slowly crawling out of the canyon it created with a terrible September. Bowl hopes were dashed, but last week's win over Auburn has given this team new life. You still don't know what you're going to get from coach John L. Smith, but his players showed a lot of pride last week. The Razorbacks are dealing with a ton of injuries, but face a Kentucky team riddled with injuries as well. A win for the Razorbacks would really put them right back in the bowl hunt.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
A few storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12:
    [+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
    Kyle Terada/US PresswireCardinal quarterback Josh Nunes has solidified his starting job.
  1. Game of the week: Which Stanford team shows up at No. 7 Notre Dame? Is it the explosive offense that racked up more than 600 yards against Arizona? Or the struggling offense which failed to score an offensive touchdown at Washington? The Irish have one of the nation's best defenses, but Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes put to rest any questions about his starting job with his five-touchdown performance against the Wildcats. But for the Cardinal to be considered serious contenders in the Pac-12 North, they are going to have to get it done on the road.
  2. Speaking of the road: Heck of a time to make your first collegiate start -- midseason and on the road. But that's the challenge in front of Oregon State backup quarterback Cody Vaz. With the news that Sean Mannion will be out at least 2-4 weeks with a knee injury, the junior steps in after having not played since 2010. Head coach Mike Riley created a minor media buzz during spring ball when he said Vaz had closed the gap with Mannion. Fortunately for the Beavers, the running game is starting to click with Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew, and the wide receiver duo of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks is playing well. Vaz has some support.
  3. Is he for real? Anyone recognize the guy in blue wearing No. 15 last week? After his first interception last week, Cal quarterback Zach Maynard was, dare we say, prolific. He completed 83.3 percent of his throws and tossed four touchdowns in the Bears' upset against UCLA. This coming a week after he completed 32.1 percent at home against Arizona State. The yards, touchdowns and completion percentage were all season highs. Has the light finally come on?
  4. No peeking: Can the Sun Devils resist the urge to look beyond Colorado to their showdown next week with Oregon? Head coach Todd Graham said it shouldn't be hard. But then again, these are college players, and you have to wonder if the 1-4 Buffs are being overlooked. The good news is we'll find out tonight, since it's the national Thursday game.
  5. Rally the troops: It's a good thing for Washington that USC isn't still ranked in the top five. The Huskies have been outscored 93-24 in their two games against top five programs this year. After the 41-3 loss to LSU, the Huskies had Portland State to beat up on. It's not going to be as easy this week with the No. 11 Trojans coming to town. Steve Sarkisian has had some success against the Trojans, and he obviously knows the program very well. Can he get the Huskies to put last week's debacle at Oregon behind them?
  6. About those Trojans: Head coach Lane Kiffin talked at length this week about how tough it is to come into the season with a high preseason ranking -- ya know, like No. 1. But the Trojans showed last week that maybe the fork-sticking was premature. After spotting the Utes 14 points, quarterback Matt Barkley calmly led a USC offense that looked potent and efficient. And in the process, he pulled himself back into the Heisman race -- though there is still work to be done on that front. Nov. 3 is still high noon for the Trojans, and the better they look leading into that game against Oregon, the better it will be for the conference. And, aside from the first three minutes last week, the Trojans looked pretty good.
  7. Swing game? If the Utah Utes hope to make a bowl game this season, this game might be the turning point. They face a UCLA team that showed its youth against Cal on offense, and a fairly seasoned defense looked porous. The Utes have to travel to Oregon State next week, where they'll see the Vaz-led Beavers (Utah knows a little something about overcoming-quarterback-injury adversity). Then it's five straight games against unranked teams to close out the season. A win puts them back at .500 and still in the bowl hunt. The Bruins are two wins away, but face a tougher second-half schedule, including closing out the season with USC and Stanford. A win by the Bruins puts them on the verge of bowl eligibility.

What to watch for in the Big 12: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on this week across the Big 12.

1. Frogs stick together. It's been a trying couple of weeks for the Horned Frogs, but can this team rally without its best player, quarterback Casey Pachall? It didn't get the job done at home last week against Iowa State. Baylor is a better team, and TCU is going on the road. What do these guys have in their tank?

2. Tackling ain't for dummies. Texas' tackling issues have been obvious and continued last week against West Virginia. Longhorns coach Mack Brown admits it's an issue but says plenty of other people will be missing tackles against the Cowboys and Mountaineers. Probably, but there are plenty of good offenses across the Big 12. Oklahoma is one of them. Can the Longhorns get back to looking like what most people thought this defense would look like?

3. Keep the bad man at bay. We've seen Good Landry in this game -- he was on full display last year in the Sooners' blowout rivalry win. Texas is putting big-time pressure on quarterbacks this year, even if its linebackers and defensive backs are having tackling issues. That means plenty of opportunities for Bad Landry to make an appearance. Can Landry Jones be all good, fight off the pressure and avoid mistakes?

[+] EnlargeJared Barnett
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireCan Jared Barnett work his home upset magic on another top-10 foe with K-State visiting?
4. Perhaps his first name should be "David" instead of Jared. Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett was the quarterback in the Cyclones' two most impressive performances last season, with apologies to Steele Jantz's comeback victory over Iowa. Barnett torched Texas Tech 41-7 and showed up later to knock off No. 2 Oklahoma State, the best win in school history. Can Barnett play giant-killer once again with Kansas State coming to town?

5. Time to bounce back. The last we saw Baylor's defense, it was having fun giving up 70 points on the road to West Virginia. TCU will be a much different task, with a much less capable arm at quarterback. The Bears will be without one of their best defenders, cornerback Demetri Goodson, who's out for the year with a broken arm. How does BU's defense look, and can it force TCU into some mistakes?

6. Get your binoculars out; we're QB-watching. Once again, Oklahoma State faces the question: Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh? Lunt is back practicing after injuring his knee, and coach Mike Gundy says he's "day to day." Does OSU try to get him on the field now and ease him in against an opponent it should beat easily? Or does it stick with Walsh and give Lunt more time to heal?

7. Keep on running it up. West Virginia looked good running the ball against Texas, but that hasn't been the case as much since Shawne Alston went down. Alston's status is in doubt, but can Andrew Buie keep it going against Texas Tech and keep relieving that pressure on Geno Smith? Texas Tech's defensive line is underrated and can get a push up front.

8. They're not perfect, but they're pretty dang close. Kansas State's game against Iowa State might be the most physical game it's played all season, including against Oklahoma. So far, the Wildcats have just nine penalties, four fewer than any other team in the nation and 11 fewer than any other team in the Big 12. The Wildcats also have just three turnovers this season. If they keep doing that, Iowa State doesn't have much of a chance to win. Will K-State keep it up?

9. Total carnage, or improvement? Kansas looked decent against TCU, but Oklahoma State will be the first bona-fide, powerful Big 12 spread offense the Jayhawks have seen this season. If you want to win in the Big 12, these are the offenses you have to figure out how to slow down. KU's defense has looked improved, but this is the best offense the unit has seen. If OSU scores 50 points without much resistance like last year, KU is going to feel a lot like not much progress is being made.

10. Learning how to Doege. Texas Tech senior quarterback Seth Doege had one of his worst outings ever and just his second three-interception game last week in a loss to Oklahoma. If he doesn't play well, Texas Tech has absolutely zero shot to win this game. Will he bounce back and silence the ridiculous calls for him to be benched in favor of Michael Brewer?

What to watch in the ACC: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
Four teams have a bye this week, so there are only four conference games. There are still plenty of plotlines to keep an eye on. Here’s a look at what to watch in Week 7, in no particular order:

1. Duke’s bowl eligibility. The Blue Devils are the only team in the ACC that can become bowl eligible this weekend, and a win at Virginia Tech would be historic for Duke’s program. At 5-1, Duke is off to its best start since 1994, which also is the last time the program went to a bowl game.

[+] EnlargeDuke's David Cutcliffe
Mark Dolejs/US PRESSWIREDavid Cutcliffe could have his Blue Devils bowl eligible this weekend.
2. The Coastal Division standings. Miami and Duke are the only two teams still undefeated in league play, and they both have tough tests this weekend. Miami hosts North Carolina, which already has one conference loss but is ineligible, while Duke travels to Virginia Tech. The Hokies already have lost to UNC, so another Coastal Division loss this weekend would create further separation in the race.

3. Florida State’s attitude. How do the Noles respond from last week’s loss to NC State? Do they come out angry in the first quarter, looking to take it out on Boston College? Or do they start flat, and allow BC to hang around like South Florida did? There should be no sign of an upset, but it will be interesting to see how long it will take FSU to bounce back. Last year’s loss to Oklahoma turned into a three-game losing streak.

4. Virginia Tech’s defense. North Carolina’s 48 points against the Hokies last week were the most Virginia Tech has ever allowed an ACC opponent. This is not what Virginia Tech fans are used to seeing from defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s groups. The Hokies will have a legitimate test against Duke, which has the No. 4 scoring offense in the ACC and leads the league with fewest sacks allowed.

5. Miami’s rushing defense vs. Giovani Bernard: The UNC sophomore is averaging 9.1 yards per carry, and rushed for 262 yards last week against the Hokies. Miami’s rushing defense is No. 116 in the country, allowing 250 yards per game.

6. UNC’s defensive line vs. Miami’s offensive line. The Canes have allowed just one sack -- Sept. 29 against NC State -- in the past four games. During that span, the Canes have averaged 492.8 yards of total offense. UNC senior defensive tackle Sylvester Williams is third in the ACC with five sacks, and UNC is fourth in the ACC with 2.5 per game.

7. Turnovers in Charlottesville. Virginia has struggled to create turnovers this season and ranks 119th in the country out of 120 teams in turnover margin. They have gained three and lost 15 this year. Maryland hasn’t fared much better. The Terps are No. 115 in the country in turnover margin, having gained eight and lost 16. Something’s gotta give in this game.

8. Play-calling in Tallahassee: Think you can do better? Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher came under scrutiny this week following the Noles’ loss to NC State. It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but were the Noles too conservative in the fourth quarter with the game on the line? FSU fans likely will be keeping an eye on what adjustments the staff, including defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, makes this weekend.