News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
Games to watch this weekend
It’s another weekend and another group of games with national title implications. Florida State-Clemson is the key game as the winner gets a leg up in the BCS race. Missouri got a huge boost with a 15-point win over Georgia, but lost its quarterback, while UCLA-Stanford might be the most important PAC-12 game this season.
No. 22 Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC) @ No. 14 Missouri (6-0, 2-0), Noon: Missouri seemed primed to take a huge step forward in the SEC after a 41-26 beating of Georgia last week. The Tigers’ feelings of joy were doused with cold water when news came down that quarterback James Franklin (shoulder) won’t be playing. Franklin will miss three to five weeks. Freshman Maty Mauk will be under center for Missouri for the time being. Mauk has his work cut out for him. Florida’s defense is among the nation’s best. The Gators are fourth in the country in scoring defense (13 ppg). But the Gators are hurting, too, as second top rusher Matt Jones won’t play the rest of the season due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. One area where Missouri could take advantage of Florida is on defense. Florida’s offense (21.8 ppg) has been less than stellar. Meanwhile, Missouri has one of the top pass rushers in the SEC in Michael Sam (6 sacks). Florida’s anemic offense can be tied directly to its play at quarterback. Tyler Murphy has been starting in place of Jeff Driskel, who was lost for the season during the Gators’ 31-17 win over Tennessee on September 21. Murphy was solid against Kentucky and Arkansas, but came up short (115 yards, 0 TDs) in last week’s 17-6 loss to LSU.
No. 9 UCLA (5-0, 2-0 PAC-12) @ No. 13 Stanford (5-1, 3-1), 3:30: It’s going to be a battle of the quarterbacks as UCLA’s sophomore sensation Brett Hundley (1,469 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs) squares off against Stanford’s Kevin Hogan (1,178, 12 TDs, 4 INT). Although other facets are sure to make an impact, this quarterback matchup makes the game that much more intriguing. The Bruins haven’t been in the top 10 since 2005, while Stanford is coming off its first loss of the season. Something’s got to give, right? Hundley’s ability to run (260 yards, 3 TDs) could be the difference in this one as Stanford’s run defense has sprung a leak the last two weeks. The Cardinal has surrendered 315 yards the last two games at 4.0 per carry. While not necessarily an overwhelming number, if Stanford doesn’t pay attention, Hundley could have one of those 300-yard passing, 120-yard rushing games.
It’s worth noting that Stanford has been playing without star defensive end Henry Anderson and won’t have him on Saturday either. UCLA has some issues, too, as starting running back Jordon James (463 yards, 5 TDs) is expected to miss his second straight game. Also worth noting is that if Stanford loses, its chances of making the PAC-12 title game will take a huge hit. UCLA would further cement itself as the team to beat in the league with a win.
No. 24 Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC) @ No. 7 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1), 3:30: What more can you say about Johnny Manziel. He leads the SEC in passing yards per game (305.8) and leads the Aggies in rushing (427). He has five rushing TDs to go with 14 passing scores. So it stands to reason all eyes on the Auburn defense will be fixed on Manziel. Can the Tigers slow him down? They can if they can control the ball. Auburn’s running game is nothing short of awesome as four players have at least 288 yards on the ground. Tre Mason leads the way (92 carries, 515 yards, 7 TDs), while Cameron Artis Payne (389, 3 TDs) and Corey Grant (331 yards, 3 TDs) have provided great depth. Auburn’s air game leaves a lot to be desired as three quarterbacks have combined for 1,123 yards, 8 TDs and 5 INTs. Auburn will need its ground game to be on point if it is to have a chance in College Station.
No. 5 Florida State (5-0, 3-0 ACC) @ No. 3 Clemson (6-0, 4-0), 8:00: It’s not often that you hear of a mid-season ACC game having national title implications. This one certainly does. The winner is all but guaranteed a spot in the BCS top 4. Refer to the report by Newsday’s Deputy Sports Editor Mike Rose for a more in depth look. The long and short of this game is simple: Whichever quarterback makes the least mistakes will win. Both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd are Heisman trophy candidates. Boyd’s advantage is his experience, while Winston has yet to experience the freshman wall.
No. 10 Miami (5-0, 1-0 ACC) @ North Carolina (1-4, 0-2): If the Hurricanes are back, they need to romp in this one…UNLV (4-2, 2-0 MWC) @ No. 17 Fresno State (5-0, 2-0): If Fresno State wants to be included in the BCS rankings, an easy win against the Runnin’ Rebels would go a long way… Iowa (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) @ No. 4 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): Can you say trap game?...No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) @ West Virginia (3-3, 1-2): With back-to-back games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State looming, it might be easy for Texas Tech to overlook the Mountaineers.