Gut-Check Saturday provides 'round-the-clock action
By Bill Curry, ESPN.com
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI
Sam Bradford will face a tough Texas team Saturday.
By Bob Davie, ESPN.com
John Rivera/Icon SMI
Texas' Colt McCoy is trying to bounce back from a loss -- and a concussion.
Coach Class: Florida-LSU
By ESPN The MagazineEditor's note: Each week, analysts from ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine will tackle a game plan for one of the biggest games on the schedule.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
LSU is relying on its defense -- led by Glenn Dorsey -- to stop Florida's explosive offense.
Gottfried takes over LSUMy defensive front seven have to be unbelievable, especially middle linebacker Ali Highsmith. He's a speedy, active run-stopper, but he also is superb with his drops in pass coverage. Pass or run, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is the ultimate disruptor. He roars around the field and does whatever he wants. Florida's O-line is OK, but Dorsey should wreak havoc. We must take out Florida RB Kestahn Moore and spy QB Tim Tebow. The entire Florida offense revolves around what Tebow does off the read-option. When we hit Tebow, we'll hit him hard. We'll "in and out" WR Percy Harvin, with a safety inside and a cornerback outside, so he can't possibly get open deep -- Harvin's first step is lethal. My corners, Jonathan Zenon and Chevis Jackson, are lockdown guys who can challenge and beat wideouts Cornelius Ingram and Louis Murphy. On offense, we have a terrific power/speed combo in RB Jacob Hester and change-of-pace WR Trindon Holliday. We'll hammer Hester, who's a bowling ball to tackle, up the gut, then pitch something -- a sweep, reverse or screen -- to Holliday, whose raw speed really energizes the crowd. Even fakes to him will open up lanes for Hester. Receivers Early Doucet, Brandon LaFell and Holliday have a big edge over Florida's DBs. But TE Richard Dickson is underrated. I'll use him on flats and floods early, to get QB Matt Flynn going and move the sticks a few times. Then we'll try some deep stuff, and I'll try those early. A big bomb early could drive a stake through Florida. If the game does come down to a field goal, PK Colt David is more than capable. I'd trust him with a game-winner. Read the full story here.
Breaking Down Week 6
By Jim Donnan, ESPN.com
AP Photo/Harry CabluckTexas coach Mack Brown will have his hands full with Oklahoma on Saturday.
Regardless of what the nation has said about this game losing its luster now that Texas and Oklahoma no longer are undefeated, it's a critical game for both teams in terms of conference play. The team that loses certainly has a difficult road ahead of it. The key for Texas will be containing Oklahoma's powerful ground game. The Longhorns can take a page out of Colorado's book and try to keep the Sooners' offense off the field as much as possible. Texas' defense isn't playing that poorly (its rushing D is 16th in the nation), but its offense and special teams gave up 21 points to Kansas State. Both teams had breakdowns in their kicking games in Week 5. Whichever team can correct those issues first will have an advantage. Oklahoma was dominant in its first four games, outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 50 points. Texas, on the other hand, has struggled against nearly every team on its schedule. Texas must protect QB Colt McCoy, who was banged up in the K-State loss, to win. The Horns have to get on the board early; if they fall behind, Oklahoma will tee off on them. The Red River Rivalry is one of the most unique games in college sports, and the buildup started early this week. When you add the 200,000 people at the state fair to the stadium-capacity crowd donned in burnt orange or crimson, you have an electric atmosphere. Since Bob Stoops and Mack Brown took over at their respective programs, this game has had conference and national title implications. Despite what happened in Week 5, that hasn't changed. No. 15 Virginia Tech at No. 22 Clemson (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET)
Virginia Tech has shown some growing pains at quarterback, where true freshman Tyrod Taylor took over for senior Sean Glennon after the upperclassman struggled against LSU. The Hokies rank No. 112 in total offense and No. 104 in passing offense (they are mildly better when rushing the ball -- 91st nationally). But Virginia Tech continues to shine on defense, and if the Hokies can shut down Clemson's running game and force QB Cullen Harper to beat them, the Tigers will be in for a long night. Clemson's offensive line is inexperienced, and the Tigers will rely on big plays from C.J. Spiller, James Davis and Jacoby Ford. No doubt Virginia Tech's coaches were paying attention to Clemson's loss last week against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are notorious for using a lot of different defensive fronts to confuse the opposing quarterback. I expect this to be a low-scoring battle in which field position is at a premium. No. 20 Cincinnati at No. 21 Rutgers (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET)
The Big East's big three -- West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers -- grabbed all of the headlines in the preseason, but it's the conference's undefeated and ranked South Florida and Cincinnati that are the talk of the town now. Rutgers wasn't challenged in its first three games, and that came back to bite it against Maryland in Week 5. The Knights turned over the ball three times in the loss and were forced to play from behind for most of the game. The Terps' offense did a good job of getting in Rutgers QB Mike Teel's face, and sophomore QB Chris Turner lit up Rutgers' defense in the air. The Knights will have to correct both of those issues to get past a Cinncinnati team that easily dismissed Pac-10 foe Oregon State earlier in the season. This is a revenge game for Rutgers, as the Bearcats ended the Knights' nine-game winning streak and killed the buzz from their upset of Louisville the week before. They'll be challenged on both sides of the ball once again, as Cincy returns a veteran defense, and new coach Brian Kelly has instituted an explosive offense. This is one of the better games of the weekend.
Bryan C Singer/Icon SMICurtis Painter will be the key to Purdue's success against Ohio State.
I've been impressed with Purdue's offensive weaponry; in terms of accuracy, Curtis Painter is beginning to remind me of Drew Brees. His improvement is tough to ignore. In 2006, he threw 19 picks and was sacked 20 times. Through five games, the Boilermakers' junior QB has just three interceptions and four sacks. That said, Purdue has yet to be challenged the way it will be by Ohio State. The Boilers will have to play mistake-free ball to hang with the Buckeyes and force Ohio State to give up the ball. That's easier said than done on both accounts. Ohio State ranks in the top four in every major defensive category: total, scoring, rushing and passing efficiency. But the Buckeyes haven't faced an offense like Purdue's this year. The Boilers can spread you out. Painter will look for Dorien Bryant as much as possible; he's a speedy receiver capable of making big plays. Purdue hasn't played a tough team yet, but the Boilers have played consistently. It will be interesting to see if they can take it up a notch Saturday. No. 25 Nebraska at No. 17 Missouri (ESPN, 9:15 p.m. ET) This game sets up much like Ohio State-Purdue. Missouri has yet to be tested (except by Illinois), since its wins came against Illinois, Ole Miss, Western Michigan and Illinois State -- not exactly a murderer's row. Missouri's offense, led by the talented Chase Daniel, matches up well against Nebraska's defense and should be able to exploit some of the holes in the Huskers' coverage. Daniel hasn't been mentioned for a lot of postseason awards, but good performances in front of a national audience against Nebraska and next week against Oklahoma could do what the Louisville and Arkansas wins did for Andre' Woodson's Heisman campaign. The Huskers can't give up the ball multiple times like they did against Ball State; to beat Missouri, they'll have to keep Daniel off the field as much as possible. Missouri has beaten Nebraska the past two times the Huskers have visited Columbia. Can the Tigers make it three in a row?
By Rod Gilmore, ESPN.comWhat questions need to be answered for the teams that lost in Week 5? Rod Gilmore breaks down what to look for Saturday:
AP Photo/Gail BurtonMike Teel's improvement will play a pivitol role in how far Rutgers goes this season.
The quarterback position has been Rutgers' Achilles' heel for two seasons. There are questions about Mike Teel's talent. He can silence those critics with a strong performance against rising Cincinnati. The Bearcats will try to force Teel to beat them, and DB Haruki Nakamura, a force in pass defense, won't make Teel's job easy. How well Teel responds could be the difference in this game. 2. Can Florida regain its swagger?
Florida loomed large in the SEC, like a big heavyweight boxer who scared everyone -- until little Auburn came around and knocked 'em out. Now the Gators don't look quite as scary -- and they needed that going into Baton Rouge. That means Florida will have to rely even more heavily on its game plan -- and one that doesn't require QB Tim Tebow to rush 25 or more times. Can Tebow lead his team with his arm? Can the Gators contain Glenn Dorsey? A loss to LSU could force Florida to do some serious soul searching. 3. Is the Red River Rivalry still must-see TV?
It's hard to know what to make of either Oklahoma or Texas after their disappointing losses in Week 5. But the game still is compelling. Texas defense will have to answer questions about being soft, a reputation it had lost after Mack Brown took the reigns. The Horns certainly were outmuscled by Kansas State. Oklahoma lost in the fourth quarter, and it's the first time the Sooners' freshman QB, Sam Bradford, has looked like a freshman. Many people overlook the importance of conference games; those opponents know you better than nonconference teams. We'll know the answers to these questions Saturday night: Can Texas' defense overpower Oklahoma? Can Bradford get up to game speed in time?
From The Reporter's Notebook
By Joe Schad, ESPN.com
Viewer's Guide(All times ET)Saturday:
10 a.m.: "College GameDay" from Baton Rouge (ESPN)
Noon: Wisconsin at Illinois (ESPN)
Bowling Green at Boston College (ESPNU)
3:30 p.m.: Oklahoma at Texas (ABC)
6 p.m.: Virginia Tech at Clemson (ESPN)
8 p.m.: Ohio State at Purdue (ABC)
Cincinnati at Rutgers (ESPN2)
Notre Dame at UCLA (ABC)
9:15 p.m.: Nebraska at Missouri (ESPN) • Television sked | ESPN GamePlan
• Coverage Maps: 3:30 ET 8 ET
Breaking Down Florida-LSU
By Bob Davie, ESPN.com
By Jim Donnan, ESPN.comHere's what we've learned in the first five weeks of the season:
Teams often lose because of the mistakes they make, but really talented teams often can overcome an absurd amount of mistakes. For example, USC threw an interception, lost two fumbles, had a punt blocked and racked up 16 penalties, yet still won on the road. Against Tulane, LSU was hit with 15 penalties and allowed six sacks. It's proof that you can avoid losing if your defense is good enough.
Sometimes the best defense is a really good offensive game plan. Oklahoma and Florida lost in Week 5 because they couldn't get on the field. Colorado and Auburn controlled the ball, which mean the Sooners' and Gators' powerful offenses didn't have as much time to wreak havoc on the field. There's nothing worse for an offense than feeling helpless, sitting on the bench and rushing to make something happen when it finally gets back on the field
We've seen an increased number of tipped passes (many that have led to big plays). Defensive line coaches are beginning to teach players that if the offense puts two guys on them, instead of fighting to get through to the QB, they should maintain position and get their hands up. Tipped passes have played a big role in Kansas State's and Mississippi State's big wins.
The spread offense caused defenses fits -- until they started reacting to a mobile quarterback as they would a running play. We saw South Florida use a number of line stunts to create confusion. Because the defense was plugging up the running game like they would rushing the passer, there was little room for the back to get past the line of scrimmage. The added pressure forced West Virginia to turn the ball over six times (the Moutaineers recovered their own fumbles three times). Similarly, Auburn's inside line put the skids on Florida's offense.
Defenses are increasingly putting people in the A-gap, which is the guard-center gap, trying to penetrate up the field. The center feels that pressure and is in a hurry to reach him -- but often the exchange between the quarterback and center is disrupted. When you don't have routine exchanges on offense, it adds to your inability to move the ball -- something we saw frequently in West Virginia-USF. When a defense causes indecision, it makes a quarterback work -- both in the shotgun and under center -- and often he makes mistakes. The same way secondaries disguise coverages to confuse passing reads, defensive fronts stunting in and out make the quarterback's reads more challenging.
Todd McShay's Upset Special
Coach Holtz's Pep Talk
Looking Forward, Looking Back
By Bob Davie, ESPN.com
Stock Up/Stock Down
By Rod Gilmore, ESPN.com
You've heard about South Florida's speed. You've heard about Matt Grothe. But have you heard about Bulls cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams? They're probably as good a tandem as you're going to find. Both are considered NFL draft picks and two big reasons why South Florida is on the rise. (Bulls WR Jessie Hester is another under-the-radar star -- he creates matchup problems and exploits opposing defenses in the slot.)
The Sun Devils are undefeated, but no one is paying attention, and deservedly so -- their schedule is weak. But Arizona State has a few bona fide stars who give the team a chance against USC, Oregon and Cal. QB Rudy Carpenter is bouncing back from a tumultuous sophomore campaign. Running back Ryan Torain is a combo big guy and a slashing runner who has deceptive speed. The Sun Devils could be 7-0 before they get into the meat of their Pac-10 schedule. The last five games will tell us whether or not they're for real.
The Trojans are much more banged up than they'd like you to believe. In fact, they have four starters injured in the secondary alone. No college team is deep enough to sustain that type of hit. USC is close to running on empty, and Washington exposed two of its weaknesses: it's lack of talent at wide receiver and QB John David Booty's struggles throwing on the move.
Kirk Herbstreit's Top Five
Inside the Numbers
By ESPN Research
Larry Coker, Miami (2001-02): 18-0
Barry Switzer, Oklahoma (1973-74): 17-0-1
Bret Bielema, Wisconsin (2006-07): 17-1
Chris Peterson, Boise State (2006-07) is 16-1 entering Sunday's game