Tag:Keys To The Game
Posted on: October 18, 2011 5:18 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Georgia Tech at Miami

Posted by Chip Patterson

GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They can limit the mistakes that have plagued them thus far in conference play. From misreading the defense on option plays to missing receivers in open space, quarterback Tevin Washington has taken a step back after his hot start. The Yellow Jackets are getting no help with penalties along the offensive line and errors in special teams. The defense also needs to bounce back after being dominated by Virginia's big offensive line in the loss on Saturday. Miami boasts a thick bunch themselves, and if they can't slow Lamar Miller and the rushing attack they might find themselves needing to score fast. This is a must-win game for the Yellow Jackets if they plan on competing for the ACC title, and a big road victory over the Hurricanes could be the spark they need to get back on track.

MIAMI WILL WIN IF: They can get Lamar Miller rolling on offense. North Carolina shut down the star running back last week, holding Miller to just 29 yards on 16 carries. It was Miller's first game under 100 yards and dropped him to tenth nationally in rushing. Virginia delivered a blueprint on how to wear down the Georgia Tech defense with the rushing game, and now the Hurricanes just need to follow suit. Keeping the ball out of the hands of the Yellow Jackets offense keeps the defense fresh for their possessions against that frustrating option attack. Additionally, when Virginia got the lead they were able to milk the clock and give Georgia Tech no chance of climbing back into the game. If Al Golden can get his team to follow the formula, the Hurricanes can make another big step to turning their season around.

X-FACTOR: Sean Spence. Arguably two of the most important positions defending Georgia Tech's offense will be the defensive end, and linebacker Sean Spence. Since his arrival to the lineup following his one-game suspension Spence has been a hawk on the field, flying to the ball and making plays when his teammates have been caught out of position. With North Carolina driving after recovering an onsides kick, it was Spence who delivered the game saving sack for the Hurricanes. He will need more game-changing plays like that to keep the Yellow Jackets' drives short. 3rd down needs to be Spence Down if Miami is going to pull the upset.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Ole Miss at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: Houston Nutt reaches into the deepest crevices of his bag of magic tricks to find the last remaining pixie dust that produced results like his 2007 upset of No. 1 LSU or the 2008 upset of Florida. Jeff Scott may not be able to bring that wood like Darren McFadden, but the Razorback defense hasn't exactly been stout against the run, giving up an average of 290 yards on the ground through their last three games. If Scott can break a couple of long runs ... and quarterback Randall Mackey can use his legs and the occasional accurate throw to keep the Hog back seven off balance ... and the injury-ravaged Ole Miss defense can make the handful of big plays necessary to avoid getting swamped ... then realistically speaking, the Rebels might lose by only two touchdowns. But that's discounting the effect of that Nutt pixie dust, which has made the highly unrealistic happen before and could again.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they simply play their game. If Tyler Wilson performs like the high-quality quarterback he's established himself to be, and the Hog offensive line gets the sort of push against the banged-up Rebel front it's capable of getting, and the nation's deepest receiving corps avoids dropping a handful of receptions directly into the Ole Miss secondary's hands, Arkansas will have entirely too much firepower for the lo-fi Rebel offense to keep pace. Add in the advantages of home field and the Razorbacks' bye week, and the only thing that can really stop Arkansas this week is Arkansas.

THE X-FACTOR: It would be an enormous help to the Rebels if the most likely source of lightning-in-a-bottle points was on their side ... but in this matchup, that honor belongs to Joe Adams, the senior jitterbug who added to his early-season collection of punt returns for touchdown with a game-changing 93-yard scoring run against Auburn two weeks ago. Ole Miss has a hard enough task preventing the Hogs from driving the length of the field for points; if an Adams score (or two) keeps the Hogs from having to make even that much effort, the Rebels won't have a prayer.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Wisconsin at Michigan State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: The offensive line keeps doing its job. At this point, it's just not plausible that Russell Wilson will make unforced errors at quarterback, or that the Montee Ball/James White tandem won't be able to take advantage of a point of attack being dominated by blockers. Thus, if Wisconsin's blockers are able to keep up their performance from this season (and really, the last two seasons as well), the Badger offense is probably going to score at least 31 points (and possibly much more). Assuming the defense doesn't completely gag, that should be enough to seal a victory in East Lansing.

MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: Its defense can exert its will once again. Ever since the Spartans allowed 31 points to Notre Dame in that embarrassing Week 3 loss, their defense has bowed up substantially. They almost managed a shutout at Ohio State, frequently eliciting boos from the Buckeye faithful as the defensive front forced Braxton Miller from the game. The defense held Denard Robinson and Michigan to 14 points the next week, even icing the game with a pick-six in the fourth quarter. And now, it's got to solve a Badger offense that has basically done everything correctly thus far this year. So what defensive performance will we see from MSU? The one it got against Notre Dame, or against OSU?

X-FACTOR: Will Gholston's status. The MSU defense is going to need all the help it can get slowing down Wisconsin's offense, so whether stud DE Will Gholston will play is going to be hugely important. Gholston was flagged for punching Michigan OL Taylor Lewan during last week's game, and though he wasn't ejected for the foul, the Big Ten may still choose to suspend Gholston for a game, as it did with Illinois LB Jonathan Brown after Brown gave Northwestern OL Patrick Ward a "low blow" via a well-placed knee. For what it's worth, MSU is not choosing to suspend Gholston, as he remains atop the depth chart for this week's game, but until the Big Ten agrees that no suspension is needed, Gholston's status remains in doubt.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Tennessee at Alabama

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Matt Simms finds and takes the Captain America serum sometime this week. Which is another way to say: it's very, very hard to construct a scenario in which the Volunteers emerge from Tuscaloosa with a victory. But it'll do Tennessee's cause an enormous amount of good if their beleaguered running game can take another step forward after last week's breakthrough vs. LSU. Entering that game the Vols were one of the worst rushing teams in the country -- and at 114th in rushing yardage, they still are -- but tailbacks Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane pounding for a shocking 111 yards on the Tigers (on a not-terrible 3.8 yards per-carry average) was a massive, massive improvement. If a presumably serum-less Simms is to have any chance at moving the chains against the Tide, that improvement has to be not only sustained, but built upon.

Too bad that ohbytheway, Alabama is the nation's No. 1 rushing defense, allowing 1.5 yards per-carry and 38 yards a game. Good luck, Vols!

ALABAMA WILL WIN IF: they do anything other than show up as Mirror Universe Tide and commit the flood of errors they've shown themselves all-but-incapable of committing through the season's first seven weeks. It's true that two years ago the Vols arrived in Tuscaloosa as heavy underdogs and came within one blocked field goal of ruining what proved to be a national championship season, but that Tennessee squad had an established running game behind Montario Hardesty, a strong and battle-tested front seven, and Eric Berry ... and still needed a series of late Tide mistakes just to come that close. These Vols have none of those advantages and will need much, much, much more help from the Tide than they got in 2009 to have a similar shot at victory.

THE X-FACTOR: Serums, and whether Simms can locate a helpful one in time. Or, more realistically, Tennessee's electric true freshman returner Devrin Young, who's averaged better than 20 yards on his three punt returns and has kickoff returns of 50 and 60 yards the past two weeks alone. Getting another huge special teamsp lay or two from Young would go a long, long way towards keeping the Vols in the game.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Air Force at Boise State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF: Kellen Moore defects from Boise State before the game. Here's a list of the quarterbacks who have beaten Boise State over the last 3+ seasons: Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton. That's. it. Two quarterbacks who have been among the most prolific and successful in their respective conferences' histories. Air Force's Tim Jefferson may be a decent enough dual threat QB, but he is no Colin Kaepernick or Andy Dalton. And with Air Force already giving up over 35 points a game so far on the season (including 59 to Notre Dame two weeks ago), setting Moore loose against this Falcon defense may be a fireworks show for the ages.

BOISE STATE WILL WIN IF: Things do not go horribly, horribly wrong. Boise State has outscored its first two Mountain West opponents 120-20 this season, and there's not much reason to think Air Force can keep the game much closer this week. Yes, the Falcon option attack is racking up yards and points this season, but nobody that the Falcons have faced -- not even Notre Dame -- has a front seven as talented as Boise State's. Look for big days from Moore, workhorse tailback Doug Martin, and emerging star wideout Tyler Shoemaker

X-FACTOR: Style points. Boise State's currently ahead of Wisconsin in the BCS rankings at No. 5, and after the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game and the Alabama-LSU game, Boise State could very well reach No. 3 in the BCS rankings without any help from upsets. So it's going to be crucial for Boise State to continue impressing the Harris Poll and Coaches Poll voters, and the only way to do that against opponents like Air Force is to light up the scoreboard. Is that sporting? No, but it's the way of things in a sport without a playoff system, so it'll be interesting to see when Chris Peterson finally lets his foot off the gas pedal, and how Boise State looks compared to the rest of the top contenders at the end of the day.   
Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:51 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Auburn at LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

AUBURN WILL WIN IF: they catch the kind of game-turning cavalcade of breaks that Les Miles's team is the one usually known for receiving ... and creating. With the visiting Tigers' offense firmly in milk-clock-don't-turn-it-over-play-field-position mode thanks to its first-time starter at quarterback, the chances are awfully, awfully slim that Auburn is going to go into Death Valley and beat LSU straight-up. But Auburn's underclassmen-laden defense has showed some legitimate spark in the previous few weeks, particularly against offenses similar to LSU's pro-style ground-pound attack (see: South Carolina and Florida). If Auburn has some success holding the line against Spencer Ware and Co. (and they should), a sudden reversion to Jarrett Lee's turnover-happy 2008 form or a series of uncharacteristic special teams gaffes could keep Gene Chizik's team competitive into the fourth quarter. And then ... who knows?

LSU WILL WIN IF: they do anything other than commit that catastrophic series of mistakes. The host Tigers are three-touchdown favorites for a reason, namely that Auburn's likely strategy of winning the field-position battle and capitalizing opponent mistakes is what LSU does--and how likely are the Bayoun Bengals to be beaten at their own game in their own house? As long as Lee continues to play error-free football, the defense continues to make up for its occasional lapses with twice as many big plays, and the special teams continues to pin opponents deep, LSU has precious little to worry about from any team that's not championship-caliber--and Auburn is far too young to have earned that label yet.

THE X-FACTOR: Lee. All LSU fans were hoping from their senior signal-caller this season was for him to -- to put it politely -- not screw things up for the running game and defense. But the former turnover machine has suddenly become a legitimate weapon, completing 71 percent of his passes the previous two weeks for an eye-popping 11.2 yards an attempt (a number which, stretched over the season, would have him second in the nation)--and against quality SEC competition in Florida and Tennessee at that. Lee hasn't thrown an interception since Week 3 and sports a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the season. It's simple: if he even comes close to playing up to his recent standards, Auburn's not going to stand a chance.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:47 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Keys to the Game: North Carolina at Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: If Clemson's defense can keep North Carolina's drives short, the Tigers will not need much time to wear down the Tar Heels' defense. The defensive unit has suffered injuries all season, and starting linebacker Ebele Okakpu was dismissed on Monday for "conduct detrimental to the team." Clemson's pace and speed can wear down a team's back seven, and that's exactly where the Tar Heels are the most vulnerable. After giving up 291 rushing yards to Maryland, the Tigers defense needs to make a statement and shut down star freshman Gio Bernard. Bernard is currently 3rd in the ACC in rushing (109.57 yards per game), just ahead of Clemson junior Andre Ellington.

NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: North Carolina has to figure out a way to get pressure on Tajh Boyd with their front four. The Tigers have too many weapons on the outside for the Tar Heels' secondary, and the best way to slow down that fast offense is with a sack. Jacory Harris exposed North Carolina's weaknesses at defensive back with his career-high 233 first half passing yards on Saturday, and things only get more difficult having to face Sammy Watkins and DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins. North Carolina should be able to move the ball on the ground with Bernard, and keeping that ground game productive will be essential to keeping the game low scoring. Quarterback Bryn Renner has shown the ability to play catch up late in a game, but a shoot-out does not play to the strengths of the Tar Heels.

X-FACTOR: North Carolina's offensive line gave up four sacks for 23 yards against Miami on Saturday, and the Hurricanes were in Bryn Renner's face all day forcing quick throws and ill-timed passes. Dwight Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the ACC, but if Renner does not have time the sophomore quarterback won't have a chance to get him the ball. Clemson's secondary has been good, but is arguably the weakest aspect of their defense. The offensive line must keep Renner's jersey clean in a hostile road environment or the Tar Heels could see the game get out of hand quickly.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Keys to the game: Washington at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: If they don't get off to a slow start. It took about a half for the offense to get going last week before Andrew Luck started picking apart the Washington State defense, often finding his tight ends. Establishing the run game and remaining balanced will be key. The defense will face their biggest test yet with the explosive Huskies offense and they'll need to contain running back Chris Polk if they want to slow them down.

WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: If the defense can create stops, the offense might be able to put up enough points for a road victory. The team was embarrassed last year in a 41-0 loss to the Cardinal and were simply out muscled by a superior Stanford team. Steve Sarkisian has brought along quarterback Keith Price quickly and the offense has plenty of weapons but this game will come down to Nick Holt's defense creating turnovers and forcing some three and outs.

X-FACTOR: The tight end position for both teams are a huge threat in the passing game. Stanford relies heavily on their trio, to the point that the wide receivers are rarely the first option. They can create big mismatches against smaller safeties or linebackers. For Washington, freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a big, athletic player who can help in the run game and make a few moves in the open field to find the end zone.
 
 
 
 
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