Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: Irish can silence doubters with a win at Norman


So many big games, so little time. Rapid fire WWL to get you ready for Week 9 ...

 Do style points count in the BCS? You bet. No. 5 and undefeated Notre Dame is an 11-point underdog to No. 8 and 5-1 Oklahoma.

The Irish, it seems, have yet to convince. Four of Notre Dame's seven wins have come by a touchdown or less. Even if the Irish win, they face one of the toughest uphill climbs to get to the BCS title game. The BCS computers may love them, but this fact remains: The Irish are most likely still going to need three of the four teams ahead of them in the BCS to lose. Notre Dame's remaining average opponents' rank and strength of schedule are far down the list of contenders.

 Go figure: Bob Stoops has lost four home games in 14 years at Oklahoma. That includes two of his past six (2011, Texas Tech; 2012, Kansas State).

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 Go figure II: Stoops is 13 wins away from tying some guy named Bud Wilkinson for the school record (157).

 Go figure III: Oklahoma is one of 21 teams to score 20-plus rushing touchdowns. Notre Dame is the only team that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

 Much is being made of Oklahoma's 1-8 all-time record against Notre Dame. Notre Dame bookended OU's epic 47-game winning streak by beating the Sooners at the beginning (1952) and end (1957). Blah, blah, blah. All that would be great, if it meant a damn thing on Saturday.

WWL learned all it needed to know this week when Stoops remembered the last meeting, a 34-30 Notre Dame win in which Oklahoma blew a 23-7 halftime lead.

"We were up 17 points and I look around and see a bunch of guys laughing and giggling and knew, 'They have no idea. We still have a half to go here,'" Stoops said, "and sure enough we didn't know how to keep [the lead]."

The Sooners had just come through the worst three-year stretch in the history of the program -- 12-22 under John Blake. They got taught a big lesson 13 years ago in South Bend. OU had gone into the game 3-0 and ranked in Stoops' first season. Since that Notre Dame loss, Oklahoma is 141-34 under Stoops.

 This is, by far, the Notre Dame defense's toughest assignment. The best offense faced by the Irish to date has been Miami (Fla.) (currently No. 51 nationally). Oklahoma is No. 17 in total offense.

The remainder of Notre Dame's schedule in total offense to this point -- Michigan (61st), Stanford (79th), Purdue (80th), Brigham Young (82nd), Michigan State (87th), Navy (98th).

Banks vs. McCarron

If you hold to the belief that there are few true cover corners in college football, only great schemes, then it's about time. Time for Alabama's AJ McCarron to throw an interception.

As of this dissertation, McCarron has thrown 249 passes without a pick -- none this season. If Alabama gets desperate enough in the passing game and if Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks gets close enough to the ball, that streak could end. Banks is the closest thing you would find to that cover corner in the SEC.

His matchup with McCarron might be the tastiest in Bama's first real challenge since the Bulldogs in 2011. They were the last team to come within 19 points of the Tide. The Mississippi State secondary has 39 career interceptions with eight pick-sixes. Banks has four interceptions this season and hasn't allowed a touchdown catch.

In a meeting of the nation's longest (11 for Alabama) and third-longest winning streaks (Mississippi State, nine), something has to give. Bama should be able to keep the game ground-based to cover a 24-point spread. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon have combined for three 100-yard rushing games the past two weeks. Top 25 preview: Mississipi State at Alabama

Dawgs vs. Gators vs. Sandy?

Officials are monitoring the tropical storm/hurricane as it passes off the Florida coast and by the Cocktail Party this weekend. There is a 30 percent chance of rain Saturday with gusts of up to 45 mph.

The forecast helps Florida, which would be fine winning this game 6-3 without attempting a pass. Without the elements, this is a comfortable matchup for Georgia. The Dawgs have an offense to challenge Florida. (Reminder: LSU and South Carolina didn't.) Florida's offense is a work in progress against (what the heck happened to) Georgia's No. 9 SEC defense. Top 25 preview: Florida at Georgia

Ineligibowl in the Big Ten

Saturday's Ineligibowl (Ohio State-Penn State) continues to beg the question: How many players do major college teams really need? Penn State is understandably down to 69 scholarship players considering transfers and injuries.

But Urban Meyer revealed this week that Ohio State is down to 60 scholarship players. He said the Buckeyes are most impacted on special teams and at linebacker, where attrition has been especially tough.

"We've got to be smart," Meyer said. "We lost 15 bowl practices. That's nonstop churning in my mind. You don't want to get caught without any players. We're pretty close to getting caught."

 Meyer also said he is figuring out a way to get Kenny Guiton, the hero in last week's win over Purdue, more snaps.

"We thought about that," Meyer said. "He's certainly earned that right. I wish we'd play a little better around Braxton [Miller] and we'd be able to do that. Right now, at times we play very well on offense but the defense doesn't play well. When the defense plays well, the offense doesn't."

 Ineligibowl Dos: Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin threw five interceptions in the 2010 Outback Bowl in Urban Meyer's last game as Florida's coach. Since then, both guys' job description has been altered.

In three career games against Meyer or Ohio State, McGloin has thrown for less than 50 percent (42 for 89) with three touchdowns and eight interceptions. Those eight picks are half his career total.

Matador put out to pasture

Proof that the Midnight Matador has been run ragged: Texas Tech's horse mascot has been retired after 12 years, having recently come up lame. MM runs down the sidelines after each Tech score, of which there have been a few the past dozen years.

The difference is Tommy Tuberville has taken Texas Tech to a new, different level post-Mike Leach. It's only one year and, yes, it has taken three years total under Tuberville, but the Red Raiders (at Kansas State) are significant on both sides of the ball. Last year, they were 114th in total defense. For the first month or so of this season they were No. 1.

Tuberville has taken quarterback Seth Doege, a Leach recruit, and made him into the national leader in touchdown passes (28). That's as many as he had all last season. That's near a pace to approach the school record of 52 TD passes in a season set by B.J. Symons.

The difference is these Raiders have balance with a top 10 defense (seventh) and a just-out-of-top-10 offense (11th). Only Florida State, Fresno State and Tech are in the top 25 in both categories. FSU and Texas Tech remain in line for a BCS bowl.

As for Midnight Matador? He'll be honored next week at the Texas game, having given his equineness at the altar of Texas Tech's offensive explosion. Bring plenty of sugar cubes.

Battle of the Matts

Barkley you know about, probably the No. 1 quarterback to be taken next year. But what about Matt Scott? Arizona's QB has improved markedly under Rich Rodriguez. Scott is rated as the No. 12 QB, 173rd overall -- fifth or sixth round -- according

That adds a level of curiosity to Southern California-Arizona. If everything goes wrong, the Trojans should be able to outscore the Wildcats. Arizona is fifth in total offense and 114th in total defense. The Wildcats last beat the Trojans in 1999.

Under the radar

 BYU (at Georgia Tech) has one of the more interesting draft stories coming up. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah had to be shown how to put on his pads three years ago when he quit track for football. It was the Ghana native's first football experience. Now at 6-feet-6, 270 pounds, he is a force for the nation's No. 4 defense. "On film his athleticism is something you can't teach," position coach Steve Kaufusi told the Deseret News.

 You're only as good as your next Heisman-winning quarterback. Baylor's Art Briles (at Iowa State) can't achieve the balance that Robert Griffin III provided last year. In other words, Briles' defense is so bad his team can't outscore teams to win this season. In three Big 12 losses, the Baylor D is allowing 58.3 points and 647 yards per game. Nothing against Nick Florence, but even the nation's No. 3-rated passer can overcome that.

 Enjoy the latest Collin Klein web mailer because it's just so good. If Klein doesn't make it to New York for the Heisman, designer Dave Smoller, K-State director of Internet services, should.

 The Texas Tech-Kansas State game may be the biggest between the teams since they played the first Big 12 game ever 16 years, 57 days ago in Manhattan.

 Way under radar: If Rutgers (7-0) can emerge from nonconference non-tests against Kent State and Army in the next two weeks, the Knights' season will be defined in a 12-day November stretch when they play at Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh and at home against Louisville.

 The Pac-12 championship game is 35 days away.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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