Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From the Horse’s Mouth- Week 5 Spotlight games

If you enjoyed week 4, this week gets even better. We get two SEC heavyweights battling again, a couple of contests that will stand large in deciding the Big 10, and a fallen program facing another that appears to be rising.

(8) Alabama at (3) Georgia

The Horse’s must see rating: 10

Quickie: The Georgia Bulldogs figured to have some bumps in the road towards an SEC championship and possible appearance in the BCS title game, but I doubt playing an Alabama team ranked in the top 10 in week 5 was one of the expectations. The overachieving Tide are now among the nation’s elite and appear as the Dogs’ second SEC foe and first AP ranked opponent of the season.

Last week- W-Arizona State (2-2)

Georgia is often advertised as “Knowshon Moreno and the Bulldogs”, but there’s much more than that. Their trip to the desert not only earned the respect of western viewers, but gave us an opportunity to learn more about the third ranked team in the nation. Although Moreno has more than lived up to the hype, equally impressive is the poise of QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford appears as a solid first round draft prospect, commanding the Bulldogs offense with a combination of skill and leadership. A player overlooked in all the mass publicity is freshman wide receiver AJ Green, who caught 8 passes for 159 yards in Saturday’s victory over the Sun Devils. Tagged as a freshman, Green has the appearance of someone that has being playing the college game for years, and is easily an overlooked weapon of the offense. The Bulldogs defense is solid, making each opponent fight for each yard gained. They defend the ends well, but don't appear to have that same pressure up the middle as they did in 2007.

TIDE (3-0)
Last week: W-Arkansas (2-1)

Nick Saban has said to hell with a rebuilding plan, and uses the better motto of “the time is now”. After opening impressively against Clemson, the Tide has continued to roll. They’ve done it with a mixture of youth and experience, and an offense that continues to put up big numbers. Although we weren’t really sure what to expect from the Tide in 2008, they may have found something in running back Gary Coffee. Coffee ripped an Arkansas defense on Saturday for 162 yards, averaging more than 16 yards per carry. When the backs are churning, it relieves the stress from QB John Parker Wilson, and phenomenal passing statistics aren’t necessary to earn victories. A pressuring defense and workmanlike offense has Alabama sitting undefeated and ready for more.

Xtra Points: The team most effective in stopping the run is the team that will win this game. The quarterback match up isn’t favorable, with Matthew Stafford having a clear edge, so it’s more important for the Tide to establish something on the ground than be put in a position where a victory would be riding on Wilson's arm.

All Time Series: Alabama leads 35-25-4
Streak: Georgia won 3

(22) Illinois at (12) Penn State

The Horse’s must see rating: 9

Quickie: After watching Ohio State over the course of the first few weeks, it’s clear that the Big 10 race is wide open. Penn State remains my favorite, and they’ll receive their first true test in this Big 10 conference opener.

Last Week: W-Temple (1-3)

Joe Pa’s Lions may have off field issues, but on field, everything appears to be clicking. Though their first 4 opponents combine for a record of just 5-10, Penn State made quick work of each, as they should. Their defense has been stingy, while the offense has recorded a low of 45 points and high of 66. The 40 or more points scored in each of the first 4 games are a school record. Powered by the offensive line, sophomore running back Evan Royster has found the end zone 7 times in the 4 games played. That line has also offered protection for QB Daryll Clark, who has only been sacked twice in 4 weekends. In comparison, Penn State sacked Temple quarterbacks 7 times in Saturday’s 45-3 rout of the Owls.

Last Week: W-Louisiana Lafayette (1-2)

The Illini have the early season out of conference loss to Mizzou, but still remain in the running for the Big 10 title, and anything else, if others begin to stumble before them. It’s been an up and down season for QB Juice Williams, who has thrown for 7 touchdowns but also been picked 5 times. His most impressive passing day came in the loss to Missouri, where he wracked up 451 yards in the air and 5 of those touchdown tosses. But since the opener, he hasn’t thrown for more than 150 in any game, and is on the wrong side of the touchdown to interception ratio (2/3). The Jekyll and Hyde act doesn’t only represent the Illini QB, it’s descriptive of the program. After appearing impressive in the opener, though they did lose, this team struggled last week to edge Louisiana Lafayette. Now they head to the Big 10 opener and we wonder which team will show up.

Xtra Points: If there is a team that plays according to their competition, it would be Illinois. Going to Happy Valley to play the 12th ranked Nittany Lions, they better bring their “A” game, and leave the gameplan from last week at home. If Williams fails to give the true look of a quarterback again this week, the Illini will suffer a lopsided defeat.

All Time Series: Penn State leads 12-3
Streak: Illinois won 1

(9) Wisconsin at Michigan: The wolverines have a streak in jeopardy. Michigan has won 22 consecutive Big 10 home openers, and with a rebuilding program and a ranked opponent coming in, it will be difficult to maintain.

Minnesota at (14) Ohio State: The Gophers are the surprise team, opening 4-0. The Buckeyes are another surprise, as the experience of the roster hasn’t proven to equate to dominance on the field. They now weigh their hopes on the inexperience of freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Arkansas at (7) Texas: An old rivalry renewed, but shouldn’t prove to be much of a battle. Look for the Horns to win this one big.

Tennessee at (15) Auburn: The coach’s seat in Knoxville has been uncomfortable. Look for the tigers to light a match.

(25) Fresno State at UCLA: The Pac 10 should take another mid-major hit here. For the first time in 44 years, a Bruins offense has failed to score a touchdown in back-to-back games. And this is occurring with Norm Chow as the offensive coordinator.

Colorado at Florida State: The Buffs are undefeated and for real. The Noles appeared to be real, until they finally played a program from the FBS.

Purdue at Notre Dame: For two years now, the Boilermakers have struggled to hold leads. The Irish struggle to get ahead. Don’t let the halftime score fool you. Despite what it may read early, this one won't be over until the fourth.

(24) TCU at (2) Oklahoma: Can the Mountain West continue to do some damage? Nah. I really doubt it happens against Bob Stoops.

(1)USC at Oregon State: The Trojans return to the scene of the crime. Preview here.

Virginia Tech at Nebraska: A program rising, and another falling? Guess which is which, and you can probably predict the outcome.

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