News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
Games to watch this weekend
We’re at the halfway point of the season and as usual it’s another weekend that has serious national title implications. Georgia, Florida, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma are all in contention for conference/national titles. They also all have tough games. The top 5 could be drastically different next week.
No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) @ No. 7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0), Noon: Georgia could be in trouble without its top rushers Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Marshall is out for the season, while Gurley is questionable for this week. That’s it, though. Georiga will be without wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. Scott-Wesley got hurt in last week’s overtime win over Tennessee. This means the Bulldogs will be counting on their defense more than they usually do. The problem with that is Georgia is ranked 95th in scoring defense. They’ve surrendered 30 or more points in four of their five games this season.
Missouri’s 5-0 start is not surprising considering the level of competition (Murray State, Toledo, Indiana, Arkansas State, Vanderbilt). But the Tigers have been impressive in their wins. And with Georgia’s defense leaking, the Tigers are in prime position to spring the upset of the week. Missouri QB James Franklin, who’s proven to be a dual threat, needs to play big for the Tigers to come out on top. Franklin has tossed 9 TDs over his last four games, including 4 in last week’s win at Vanderbilt. But that was Vanderbilt.
No. 17 Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC) @ No. 10 LSU (5-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m.: The level of importance this game holds shouldn’t be lost on anyone, especially Florida. The Gators, who are tied with Georgia for the top spot in the SEC East, need a win in the worse way, especially with Missouri and Georgia on the schedule over the next three weeks. Florida, fourth in the country in scoring defense (12.2), has yet to take on a legitimate offense. Sorry Gator fans, but Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas don’t really rate as great offense. The Gators must pull out all the stops to slow down LSU QB Zach Mettenberger.
Offensively, Florida has flourished under the play of QB Tyler Murphy. Murphy took over after Jeff Driskel broke his leg against Tennessee. Murphy has thrown for 530 yards, 5 TDs and 1 interception in two-plus games this season. But will he hold up (mentally)? The atmosphere in Louisiana is sure to be uncomfortable for him.
As for LSU, Mettenberger has been great all season. Even in the Tigers’ 44-41 loss at Georgia on Sept. 28, he completed 62 percent of his passes and tossed 3 TDs and no interceptions. He’ll certainly be tested by the Gators, but if he plays anywhere close to the way he has through the first six games, it will be a long afternoon for Florida.
No. 2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) @ No. 16 Washington (4-1, 1-1), 4:00 p.m.: Washington’s gut wrenching 31-28 loss to Stanford last week takes a little bit of the buzz off this matchup. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t national title implications. Oregon needs this game to keep pace with Stanford and to assure itself of a spot in the top five when the first BCS rankings of the season come out. A win would also keep the Ducks on pace for two “game-of-the-century” type matchups against UCLA and Stanford on Oct. 26 and Nov. 7, respectively.
As potent as the Ducks have been this season, Washington could have a slight upper hand in this one thanks to a tougher schedule. Big wins over Boise State and Arizona and the tough loss at Stanford have toughened up Washington. Huskies QB Keith Price completed 33 of 48 passes for 350 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. But Price put his team in a hole with a fourth-quarter interception deep in Stanford’s territory. He can’t afford to make a mistake like that against Oregon.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota has been off-the-charts great this season. Mariota has thrown for 1,358 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also breaks off big runs when he needs to. He had a 71-yard TD run against Virginia and at least three other runs of 20 of more yards. If the Huskies are going to keep pace with Oregon, they have to find a way to slow down Mariota. We all know that is easier said than done.
No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) @ Texas (3-2, 2-0): The Longhorns have won two in a row since a home loss to Ole Miss and have a chance to turn their season around…No. 19 Northwestern (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) @ Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1): Northwestern hung tough in a 40-30 loss to Ohio State and actually led, 23-20, after three quarters. The Wildcats need to win to keep pace with the rest of the Big 10 Legends division…No. 9 Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 sec) @ Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2): The buzz surrounding Ole Miss has faded thanks to consecutive losses to Alabama and Auburn, but that doesn’t mean the Aggies can sleep walk through this one.