USC at Ohio State
This is the biggest marquee non-conference matchup of the season. National title contention hopes will be made or broken by the end of the night. This is a bigger game for Ohio State, since the perception of the program and the Big Ten is on the line and on their shoulders. Matt Barkley is a poised freshmen QB, and can throw very well. The offensive line is the best in the country, and will probably pave way for Joe McKnight and company to get some big gains. Ronald Johnson is probably not playing, but Williams and the rest are great receivers and can make game-breaking plays. The defensive line is younger and the least experienced in years, but still has speed and talent. The linebackers are younger as well, but DC Seto says this is the fastest group he has had. The defensive back corp is led by outstanding CB Taylor Mays.
Terrelle Pryor is a freak athlete with speed, strength, arm strength and at least respectable accuracy with an attitude of a winner. The offensive line is a question mark, but with a couple of returners from injury and illness will help the depth. Justin Boren and Mike Brewster are possible All-Big Ten though, and might give USC’s D-line trouble by playing to their potential. Saine and Herron are stronger and faster than they look and can make breaks for the goal line if not contained, and they also have good hands. The WR corp is young but talented with great speed and hands. The defensive line is strength because of their overall talent and experience and with Gibson and Heyward could get pressure on Barkley. The LB crew is young but names could be made in this game, and Brian Rolle is a player to watch out for. The DB crew is fairly stout even without Jenkins.
There is no particular edge for either team, as the venue Horseshoe evens out anything that USC might have over the Buckeyes. This game could go either way.
Notre Dame at Michigan
Notre Dame boasts a veteran QB in Clausen, who has racked up impressive numbers in the last two games, but I am still unsure how he handles pressure. Michigan will use Forcier and Robinson for a one-two punch in the passing and quick running spread game. The offensive line for Notre Dame is much improved this year and should protect Clausen better and pave way for Allen and Hughes for decent gains on the ground. Michigan also has a much more experienced offensive line, and did very well in the opener. Brandon Minor might play, and he is probably the best running back Michigan has, and he is pretty good, and Carlos Brown is healthy again. The defensive line of both teams was impressive last week, but more so for Michigan since they got pressure using even only a 3-man rush. Notre Dame probably has an equal LB compared to last year, but UM has three returning starters. ND’s DB is probably one of the best in the country, and UM should be able to hold their own this year. Last time Clausen played in Ann Arbor, he was beat up bad. As a result, I give the edge to Michigan, but only by the slightest margin.
UCLA as Tennessee
Pac 10 vs SEC. UCLA was able to overcome first half turnovers and win in overtime. The QB play should be much improved this time around overall, but the Vol’s QB played excellent last week, albeit being against WKU. UCLA should have a much improved O-line with Sheller returning and 1<sup>st</sup> team frosh AA Colorado transfer Maiava. Tennessee’s O-line underperformed last year, but there are a lot of veterans on this group. The Bruins’ RB group has less depth than before but the numbers should improve. The Vols add Bryce Brown to their talented corp, and should be a force to be reckoned with. UCLA’s WR crew was not healthy last year, but this year look for better production, especially by Embree and Austin. The Volunteers lose a couple players to transfer, but the remaining crew should be much better. While UCLA’s D-line looks to be improved, Tennessee loses 1<sup>st</sup> Tm SEC Ayers, so there will be a decline in production. Both LB crews have key players returning, so look for plays by both teams. Both sides have stout DB crews as well, with Tennessee’s Eric Berry and UCLA’s Verner. This game is played at Knoxville, so I give a slight edge to Tennessee.
Purdue at Oregon
Last year, Oregon edged out the Boilermakers in double overtime. Both teams have veteran QBs, but Purdue’s Elliot has less field experience than Masoli. With Oregon losing Blount for the year, both teams will have dig in their depth for an effective running attack. Both WR crews are thin, but Purdue’s crew is a little more experienced. Both O-lines mix experience and youth, so there is little discrepancy between the two teams in this area. Purdue’s D-line was at times last year, and some were not. The Ducks lose 1<sup>st</sup> Tm AA DL Nick Reed, so naturally the line is weaker, but still should be good. Purdue has a fast and athletic LB crew, but Oregon has a slightly more experienced crew in comparison. Purdue has three starters returning, and will be stronger with 6<sup>th</sup> year Senior Torri Williams. Oregon loses two starters and freshmen replace them, but they could surprise. This game is played in Eugene, but with the problem with Blount being a distraction, I say Ducks will only have a slight edge, as Purdue will compete with confidence.