News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.
Games to watch this weekend
It’s all about quality this weekend in college football as only three games feature both opponents ranked in the BCS poll. But the three games we are talking about are sure to have a profound impact on the national championship race.
Miami is looking to re-establish itself as a national power, while Florida State needs the win to keep pace with Oregon and Alabama. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are both trying to get used to a new quarterback, while Michigan and Michigan State are playing what could be the most important game in the Big Ten to date.
No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC) @ No. 3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0), 8:00 p.m.: This rivalry hasn’t affected the national championship race in many years. That could change on Saturday night in Tallahassee. A Florida State win keeps the Seminoles right on the heels of No. 2 Oregon and top-seeded Alabama, while a victory for the Hurricanes will assure them a spot in the BCS top 5. A loss, while devastating as far as the national title game is concerned, won’t knock either team out of the race for the ACC championship game. That notwithstanding, neither squad wants to walk away from this a loser.
Florida State freshman QB Jameis Winston (2,177 yards, 23 TDs, 4 INT) is right in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race. He’s thrown for 330 yards or more four times and has five games of three or more TD passes. Slowing him down is the only way Miami can come close to winning this game. Even if Winston has an off game, the Seminoles three-pronged rushing attack of Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder has more than enough to carry FSU to a win. As for the Florida State defense, only two of its seven opponents have scored more than 14 points.
Miami’s defense isn’t too shabby either, but offensively, it’s going to be an uphill challenge for Al Golden’s crew. Their top gun on offense is RB Duke Johnson, who scored the winning TD in last week’s 24-21 win over Wake Forest. As tough as Johnson has been the last four weeks, totaling 519 yards on 74 carries, he has yet to face a defense as good as Florida State’s. That means Miami QB Stephen Morris (1,463 yards, 10 TDs, 8 INTs) will have to pick up the pace a little. He was adequate against Wake Forest (17-for-28, 191 yards, 1 TD), but downright awful against North Carolina (19-for-35, 322 yards, 4 INTs). He needs to be much better for the Hurricanes to score the upset.
No. 18 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) @ No. 15 Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1), 7:00: Texas Tech QB Davis Webb cost his squad big time with his two-interception performance against Oklahoma last weekend. He can’t do that and expect to knock off Oklahoma State, even if the Cowboys are going with backup QB Clint Chelf. Webb. Texas Tech has 19 turnovers on the season, and that includes Webb’s seven INTs. The problem facing the Red Raiders is that their running game isn’t good enough to overcome the deficiencies in their passing game. That means Webb will have to make protecting the ball his first priority.
As for Oklahoma State, the switch to Chelf from J.W. Walsh didn’t do must to boost the passing attack as the Cowboys threw for just 78 yards in last week’s 58-27 romp of Iowa State. They may not have needed to throw the ball much against the Cyclones, but they will have to if they are to knock off the Red Raiders.
No. 21 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) @ No. 22 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0), 3:30: It’s a rare site when a game between two Big Ten teams ranked in the top 25 doesn’t get a lot of publicity. Michigan State has quietly emerged as a candidate to knock off Ohio State. That’s if the Spartans can actually get to the Big Ten title game. With Nebraska coming off a conference loss to Minnesota and facing a tough Northwestern squad Saturday, and at least a two-game lead over everyone else in the Big Ten Legends Division, a win against the Wolverines would put the Spartans in great shape to secure a spot in the conference championship game.
It all starts with Michigan State’s defense, which ranked third in the country in fewest points allowed (12.3) per game. And while Michigan QB Devin Gardner has played well at times, he’s thrown 10 interceptions this season, including two in the Wovlerines’ 43-40 4 OT loss to Penn State. Gardner also tossed two picks against UConn, three against Akron and two against Central Michigan. A multi-interception game will likely be all the Spartans need to beat Michigan. Michigan State’s Connor Cook on the other hand, is opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to turnovers, having only thrown two interceptions all season.
Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2 SEC) @ No. 14 South Carolina (6-2, 4-2): This won’t be as easy for South Carolina as most people think. The Bulldogs lost a close one to Auburn and have won two straight…No. 24 Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) @ Iowa (5-3, 2-2): A loss here would pretty much end any hopes the Badgers had at challenging Ohio State for the Big Ten Leaders title…Kansas (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) @ Texas (5-2, 4-0): Don’t look now, but the Longhorns are neck-and-neck with Baylor atop the Big 12 standings.