|Top FBS Matchups|
Who: No. 11 Michigan Wolverines at No. 23 Michigan State Spartans
Who: No. 20 Baylor Bears at No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies
Who: No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys at No. 22 Texas Longhorns
Who: No. 19 Virginia Tech Hokies at Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Who: Florida Gators at No. 24 Auburn Tigers
Who: No. 18 Arizona State Sun Devils at No. 9 Oregon Ducks
|Watch Them Now|
28 Montee Ball
Key Notes: QB Russell Wilson has gotten most of the hype and thrown himself in the Heisman race, but Wisconsin would not be sitting in such a lofty and enviable position halfway through the season without Ball. The junior RB has battered opposing defenses and leads the nation in scoring, averaging 16.9 points per game on 14 touchdowns through five contests. In his last outing, he had four touchdowns in a blowout of then-No. 8 Nebraska, raising his total to 27 rushing touchdowns in the past 10 games. He ranks 25th nationally in rushing with 102.2 yards per game (5.5 per carry) for the Badgers’ offense, which is ninth in the country in total offense (523.0 ypg).
Other Players to Watch this Week: Trey Barrow, Missouri (Jr., P/PK); A.J. Jenkins, Illinois (Sr., WR); Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (Jr., DL); J.J. McDermott, SMU (Sr., QB); Jamal Miles, Arizona State (Jr., WR/PR); Sean Porter, Texas A&M (Jr., LB); Desmond Trufant, Washington (Jr., DB); David Wilson, Virginia Tech (Jr., RB).
|Keep Your Eyes on This|
If you follow a top-25 team, go looking for a home game this weekend. In a strange twist, 14 ranked squads hit the road Saturday including seven top-10 squads. Among the road warriors, watch for three matchups that include a pair of ranked squads including No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Texas, No. 11 Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State and No. 18 Arizona State at No. 9 Oregon.
The records may continue to pile up for Oklahoma this fall, but one in particular — and perhaps the biggest any individual Sooner may grab — should fall Saturday. Senior WR Ryan Broyles needs just four receptions to set the NCAA career record, as he would pass Purdue’s Taylor Stubblefield, who had 325 from 2001 to 2004. Broyles, who has also formed a strong tandem with WR Kenny Stills in the potent Sooner offense, had nine catches in last weekend’s dismantling of Texas and now has 321 to his credit.
The 59th meeting for the Paul Bunyun Trophy will see a pair of ranked teams hit the field as Michigan State jumped back in the AP poll this week. The Spartans bring the nation’s top defense into the matchup on their home field, but will need every cyclinder clicking in unison if it hopes to slow do-everything QB Dennard Robinson. One of the most electrifying players in the country, Robinson is fourth nationally in rushing at 134.8 yards per game, the only quarterback in the top 20 and one of just five in the top 50. MSU is allowing just 64.0 rushing yards per game this season to rank third, and has surrendered only two TDs on the ground.
Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. Few people probably realize it because of all the praise and attention heaped on the offense and QB Andrew Luck — all of which is earned — but the Stanford defense is pretty good too. The Cardinal rank second in the country in rushing defense, giving up a sparse 61.4 yards per game on the ground. Overall, the Cardinal have allowed just seven TDs in five games and is one of only six teams allowing fewer than 11 ppg.
Speaking of teams with explosive offenses that grab all the headlines, Boise State has been under the radar on the defensive side for a number of years and 2011 is no different. The Broncos are 12th in total defense this year, allowing only 293.0 yards per game. They do it by keeping teams from moving down the field. Boise State ranks fourth in first downs allowed, as opponents have picked up a measley 13.8 first downs per game.
Wake Forest is making people take notice and it gets another chance this week as the second consecutive ranked opponent invades Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons, who defeated then-No. 23 Florida State a week ago, put their best start in ACC history (3-0) on the line against No. 19 Virginia Tech, which needed a last-minute surge to get past Miami (Fla.) last Saturday. WFU has not beaten Virginia Tech at home since 1970, losing the past seven matchups, but a win on Saturday would give coach Jim Grobe his 100th career victory. Sophomore QB Tanner Price has led the way for the Deacs, completing 101 of 162 passes with 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Freshmen don’t always get a chance to make an impact right away. Many times, they need to show their worth and ability on special teams before earning their time in the spotlight. A handful of newcomers are doing just that as four of the top 10 kickoff returners are freshmen, including the top two in Western Kentucky’s John Evans and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Evans is averaging 36.2 yards on six returns while Abdullah has been a regular all season, averaging 31.9 yards on 20 returns. Only 18 players have ever averaged at least 31.0 yards on 20 or more returns in a season.
The Hurricanes have had their struggles this year, but one area that has been just fine is the ground attack led by sophomore RB Lamar Miller. The 5-11, 212-pound sophomore has broken down defenses without hesitation, running to 135.4 yards per game to rank third nationally. Just how effective has he been? He is tied for the national lead for active 100-yard games at five consecutive. During that stretch, his 677 rushing yards (7.2 per carry) is the third-highest total in UM history for a five-game stretch, trailing only Edgerrin James’ 839 yards in 1998 and Willis McGahee’s 839 yards in 2002.
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