News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
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Games to watch this weekend
It's pretty obvious what the game of the week is. Alabama vs. Texas A&M has enormous implications. Outside of Saturday's Alabama game and a midseason tilt at Ole Miss, the Aggies won't be tested again until a showdown at LSU on November 23. They don't face Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, which means a win against the Crimson Tide would vault them into the top three where they could sit all season. The same goes for Alabama, which has a home game against Ole Miss in two weeks, and won't get another test until it hosts LSU on November 9. A win here would practically lock Alabama into the top spot for the rest of the season.
USC-Boston College wouldn't normally be a game to watch, but Lane Kiffin is in trouble after last week's 10-7 home loss to Washington State...UCLA-Nebraska should be an exciting intra-conference affair, while Ohio State at Cal could be interesting if Braxton Miller doesn't play. Ole Miss at Texas? Mack Brown could also be in hot water after the shellacking the Longhorns took at the hands of BYU.
No. 1 Alabama (1-0) @ No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0) 3:30 pm: Can you say payback? Even though Alabama’s loss to the Aggies didn’t cost them a national title, Nick Saban’s crew would love to shut Johnny Manziel up. The brash QB has been the center of attention all throughout the off season. We can’t imagine Alabama is at all happy with Manziel getting all the coverage after the Crimson Tide won it all last year. Manziel had 355 yards of total offense and threw two touchdowns in the Aggies’ 29-24 over Alabama last year. The Crimson Tide will need to swarm the sophomore signal caller to slow him down.
Alabama’s A.J. McCarron tossed two interceptions last year. That can’t happen in this one or the Aggies will spoil Alabama’s bid for an undefeated season for the second straight year. Texas A&M's Deshazor Everett, who picked off McCarron in last year’s game, was benched for a half in each of Texas A&M’S two games. That will be something Alabama needs to worry about. There is also some concern about Alabama’s rushing game, and the 96 yards it gained in its win over Virginia Tech. Before people go crazy over that, it should be noted that the Hokies routinely field great defenses. It should also be noted that the Aggies gave up 240 yards on the ground to Sam Houston State. They also gave up 509 total yards to Rice.
On a separate note, Alabama is dealing with allegations that former players received improper benefits during their careers in Tuscaloosa. That isn’t likely to make a difference on the field, but it certainly adds to the overall drama.
No. 16 UCLA (1-0) @ No. 23 Nebraska (2-0) Noon: This will be a big game for both teams for a lot of reasons. Nebraska got blasted for 653 yards in a 36-30 loss at UCLA last season. So payback will be on the mind of the Cornhuskers. It’s big for the Bruins because even though USC is down, UCLA still has back-to-back road games against Stanford and Oregon Oct. 19 and 26 and a home game vs. Washington on Nov. 15. Bruins QB Brett Hundley was as good as advertised in a last week’s 58-20 win over Nevada, completing 22 of 33 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 63 yards and two scores. Nebraska clobbered Southern Miss 56-13 last week, forcing four turnovers in the win. It’s worth noting that the Golden Eagles have lost 14 straight games to FBS opponents. The Cornhuskers will need to contain Hundley early and often to survive.
Boston College (2-0) @ USC (1-1) 3:00 pm: The word “embattled” doesn’t even begin to describe the situation Trojans coach Lane Kiffin is in. USC falling at home to Washington State 10-7 was the lowest of the low for the program. Kiffin was booed. USC players reportedly held a players-only meeting that Kiffin didn’t know about. The questions have to be asked. Are they tuning Kiffin out? Has he recruited the top talent? The Trojans have been down scholarships due to NCAA sanctions, but that can’t be an excuse for Saturday’s performance against Washington State that produced just 193 yards in offense. USC QB Cody Kessler was named the starter on Monday. Kessler tossed a pick-six in Saturday’s loss. Boston College is 2-0, but Eagles weren’t exactly dominant in wins over Villanova and Wake Forest. BC managed just 313 total yards in a 24-10 win over Wake Forest. That won’t get it done even against a struggling USC team.
No. 4 Ohio State (2-0) @ California (1-1) 7:00 pm: This game will have a lot off intrigue if Braxton Miller (left ankle) doesn’t play. As of Wednesday, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer had said Miller wasn’t healthy enough to play but he’s optimistic his signal caller will be on the field. Kenny Guiton will play if Braxton can’t go. Cal has proven it can score after dropping its opener to Northwestern, 44-30, followed by a 37-30 win over Portland State. But can the Golden Bears stop anyone? Even if Miller doesn’t play, the Buckeyes could be in for a big day offensively. Cal will need to emphasize ball control in this one.
No. 25 Ole Miss (2-0) @ Texas (1-1) 8:00 pm: These are very tumultuous times in Texas. Coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and replaced him with Greg Robinson after a 40-21 thrashing at the hands of BYU last week. Giving up 679 yards of total offense (550 rushing) is certainly cause for making some changes, but the Longhorns have other issues to deal with, mainly QB David Ash and a head injury that could keep him sidelined. Even with Ash the Longhorns could struggle. If he doesn’t it could be another long game for Texas. Ole Miss is in the top 25 for the first time since 2009. They will find out quickly if the ranking is deserved. The Rebels were very efficient in wins over Vanderbilt (39-35) and SE Missouri State (31-13). With new Texas coordinator Robinson still trying to sort things out, the Rebels could make this another embarrassing Saturday for the Longhorns.
Stony Brook (1-0) @ Buffalo (0-2) 3:30 pm ESPN3: The Seawolves are looking for their second win in two years over an FBS team. It could certainly happen if they can get Marcus Coker going early. The Bison has given up 590 yards on the ground through its first two games. Granted the first two games were vs. Ohio State and Baylor. Lyle Negron was efficient (12-19, 186 yds, 1 TD) in the Seawolves 24-0 win over Rhode Island last week. He'll have to at least do that much to give his squad a chance for a 2-0 start.