When it comes to big games, the schedule may look a little light this weekend. But be forewarned -- that's when strange stuff tends to happen. Here is Tony's Top 10 for Saturday. Do you see any upsets here?
1. FSU? It's all about keeping an eye on No. 2: Clemson superstar Sammy Watkins returned last week against Furman after serving a two-game suspension for a drug-related offense last summer. He will certainly be a marked man when the No. 10 Tigers go to No. 4 Florida State on Saturday night in a game that means everything to the ACC. A year ago the Seminoles simply had no answer for Watkins, who caught seven passes for 144 yards with touchdown catches of 24 and 62 yards. They also had no answer for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 344 yards in a 35-30 win.
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But Florida State comes into this crucial game having held 11 straight opponents to fewer than 20 points, the longest such streak by an ACC team since Virginia Tech did it in 12 straight games in 2004-05. Some of Florida State's other numbers are staggering, but we have to temper that enthusiasm by remembering these stats came against Murray State (69-3), Savannah State (55-0 in three quarters) and Wake Forest (52-0). The Seminoles are one of four teams in the country that have not allowed a red-zone touchdown this season.
2. Things don't get any easier for Auburn: Auburn (1-2) found a way to beat Louisiana-Monroe in overtime for its first win of the season last Saturday. Whatever hope Auburn fans got from that win is going to be shorted-lived because Saturday's game with No. 2 LSU in Jordan-Hare Stadium has a chance to be really ugly for the home team. While the world has been talking about the struggles of sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier, the reality is that Auburn is going down big time against LSU because it can't stop the run. Auburn is dead last in the SEC and No. 107 nationally in rushing defense (217 ypg). LSU is No. 1 in the SEC in rushing offense (269 ypg) with a stable of four running backs who are all good enough to play in the NFL. Auburn gets next week off. Gene Chizik's team is really going to need it.
3. Welcome to the Pac-12, RichRod: Rich Rodriguez is off to a 3-0 start in his first season at Arizona and has looked comfortable doing it against Toledo, Oklahoma State and South Carolina State. But reality hits home Saturday as Rodriguez plays his first Pac-12 game at No. 3 Oregon. The Ducks have been able to do pretty much whatever they have wanted against the Wildcats lately. They have won four straight games over Arizona and during that streak have averaged 44 or more points per game. They have outscored Arizona 203-146 and have averaged 6.9 yards per rush. And one other thing: This group of Ducks can throw it around a little bit, too. Last week against Tennessee Tech quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first freshman in Oregon history to throw for 300 yards in a game.
4. Bulldogs, Commodores Talkin' Smack. Seriously: Motivation will not be an issue on either side Saturday when No. 5 Georgia hosts Vanderbilt. Last year's 33-28 win by Georgia in Nashville featured a verbal confrontation at the end of the game between Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. On the field Franklin could be seen shouting in the direction of Georgia safety Shawn Williams, who was involved in a tough (critics said cheap) hit on a Vanderbilt receiver. Williams was later suspended for half a game for the hit.
Grantham took exception to Franklin yelling at Williams and the two men had to be separated by officials and players. Franklin was defiant after the game: "We're not going to take stuff from anybody. Those days are long gone and they're not coming back."
Grantham said he was just taking up for his players, who are extremely loyal to him. He didn't apologize then. He ain't apologizing now. "We're all competitive people," said Grantham. "Things happen. You learn from it and you move on."
5. Jones goes for win No. 32: Believe it or not, there are some Oklahoma records that Landry Jones has not broken. He is the school's all-time leader in passing yards, completions, attempts, yadda, yadda, yadda. But with a win Saturday against No. 15 Kansas State in Norman, Jones would tie the record of 32 career victories by an OU quarterback currently held by Steve Davis (1973-75). Last season Jones was unstoppable against the Wildcats as he completed 34 of 47 passes in a 58-17 victory in Little Manhattan. Jones's counterpart, Collin Klein, is also closing in on another record. With three rushing touchdowns he'll tie the Kansas State record for most rushing touchdowns for a quarterback currently held by Eli Roberson (2000-03). With 37 rushing touchdowns he is eight short of the school record for all positions held by running back Darren Sproles (2001-04).
6. The battle of Columbia: There was good news and bad news when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier addressed the media this week. The good news was that quarterback Connor Shaw will start against Missouri. Shaw, who sat out the second game with East Carolina due to a bad shoulder, took another hit and had to leave the game with UAB last Saturday. The bad news is that against a good passing team the Gamecocks will be without their best defensive back, D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger was suspended by the SEC on Monday for an excessive hit on a UAB receiver. He was flagged on the play. Interesting stat: South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore needs one rushing touchdown to break the South Carolina career record of 31 currently held by Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and Harold Green.
7. Irish get another shot at Robinson: There is no great mystery about what No. 11 Notre Dame needs to do to beat Michigan in South Bend. The Irish simply have to make sure that Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is only good instead of playing in another universe. Last season he threw for 338 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan's 35-31 win at the Big House. Two years ago Robinson ran for 258 yards and threw for 244 more in a 28-24 win. Last season the plan to contain Robinson worked for three quarters as Notre Dame held a 24-7 lead. But then Robinson led a comeback for the ages, which included the winning touchdown pass with two seconds left.
"He's the best player on the field," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters this week. "It's about our defense not giving up those big, chunk plays."
Michigan has won three straight in the series, which is the longest winning streak for either side since Notre Dame won four in row from 1987-1990.
8. Gators tune up for LSU: The most impressive thing I saw last week was Florida's total domination of Tennessee in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a 37-20 victory in Knoxville. It marked the second straight week that the Gators had gone on the road (they beat Texas A&M on Sept. 8) in the SEC and took control of the game late. Now Florida returns home to host Kentucky, a team the Gators have beaten 25 straight times. We expect Florida to win big after which the Gators get a week off. Then they host No. 2 LSU in The Swamp on Oct. 6. Now THAT should be fun.
9. RG3 ain't walking through the door: For the third straight week Louisiana-Monroe from the Sun Belt plays a BCS team. And if I were Baylor I would be worried. Two weeks ago the Warhawks beat Arkansas in Little Rock, 28-27 in overtime. Last week Louisiana-Monroe had Auburn on the ropes at Auburn, but the Tigers kicked a field goal in overtime to win 31-28. Now Baylor comes to Monroe, La., to play a team with a hot quarterback who has no fear, even though Baylor is 13-1 all-time against the Sun Belt.
Here is the problem for the Bears, who have won eight straight. They no longer have Robert Griffin III, last year's Heisman Trophy winner. Louisiana-Monroe has Kolton Browning, who in two games has completed 70 passes for 646 yards and six touchdowns.
10. John L. still trying to coach 'em up: Can it get any worse for Arkansas than last week's 52-0 thumping by No. 1 Alabama? Sure it can. The Hogs could lose to Rutgers. Things were so bad on Monday in Arkansas that Coach John L. Smith, whose fate is now sealed, tried to coach the media into smiling during his regularly scheduled news conference. The problem is, nobody's in the mood to smile in Arkansas, where fans thought this was going to be a breakout season. That all changed in April when Bobby Petrino went for a motorcycle ride. Now they are watching while the program they thought would contend for the SEC championship for years to come goes into a death spiral. The only question is whether or not athletics director Jeff Long will have to say or do something before the end of the season. We can assume that the search for a new coach is well under way.
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