Tag:Arizona State
Posted on: November 5, 2010 4:25 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 10

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Breakfast

Main Course - #19 Oklahoma State vs. #22 Baylor - 12:30pm - FSN

I don't believe it.  After weeks of barren morning slate after barren morning slate, we actually get a matchup of two ranked teams this Saturday morning.  Surely my complaints have finally been heard and answered by the college football gods.

Granted, a game between Baylor and Oklahoma State doesn't usually carry such cache, but this should turn out to be a very fun way to start your Saturday, and chock full of calories otherwise known as points.  Just do the math.

Both teams have high-powered offenses ranked in the top ten nationally, and both teams have defenses ranked in the lower third of the country.  Which means it's going to look like a tennis match watching Robert Griffin and Brandon Weeden lead their teams back-and-forth down the field.  If the prospect of possibly seeing 100 points scored doesn't do it for you, then I just don't know what I can do for you.

Side Orders:
There's quite a bit of mediocre Big Ten fare on Saturday morning as the conference's power teams beat up on the nerds and goth kids, but one Big Ten game that may deserve your attention is Michigan and Illinois.   The Illini are one of those teams that is a lot better than you think they are, as they're 5-3 and all three of those losses have been close contests against teams currently ranked in the top 15.  Though I suppose you might want to tune in to see Florida destroy Vanderbilt, or see how much money Chattanooga offers Cam Newton to stop running over them.

Lunch

Main Course -#6 Utah vs. #4 TCU - 3:30pm - CBS College Sports

For years, many a college football fan has clamored for a playoff to determine the national championship.  We're not exactly close to getting one, but if ever there was a game that may as well be considered a playoff game, this is it.  Oh, and it also features two teams who happen to be ranked in the top 5 in the BCS right now.

Those games don't come along very often in the regular season.

Whichever team wins this game basically assures itself a BCS bid, and strengthens its case to play for the title once the year is over.  Plus, considering that Utah is bound for the Pac-12 and TCU may be heading east, this may be the last time we get to see these "mid-majors" square off during the regular season.

So take the time on Saturday to figure out where CBS College Sports is on your cable system and enjoy this one.

Side Orders: Now you all have CBS, so if you're not into that whole Mountain West thing, you could always turn to the mothership and watch Alabama take on LSU.   The winner remains alive for the SEC title, and the loser is done.  Oh, and you can watch the game while chatting with yours truly over on our Facebook page.   Football and Tom Fornelli making smart-assed remarks to your honest questions?  What gets better than that?  Certainly not Oregon disemboweling a Jake Locker-less Washington team, or Penn State and Northwestern duking it out for fourth place in the Big Ten.

Dinner

Main Course - #10 Stanford vs. #13 Arizona - 8pm - ABC

Stanford's chances to win the Pac-10 are somewhat slim at this point considering its already a game behind Oregon, and that its sole conference loss is to Oregon, but hopes are not dead yet.  However, if they lose to Arizona on Saturday night they are.  The same can be said for the Wildcats, who trail Oregon by a game as well but still get to travel to Eugene at the end of the month. 

If Arizona loses this one, it's in the same boat as Stanford, and we may as well crown the Ducks champions on Sunday morning.

The good news for Arizona is that it won't need to rely on its backup quarterback as Nick Foles is expected to return, which means we get a matchup of two of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-10 as Foles squares off with Andrew "Jim Harbaugh's Other Wife" Luck.

Side Orders: There are some other nice choices on Saturday night if you prefer to try something else.  South Carolina looks to keep its lead in the SEC East against the cannon of Ryan Mallett and Arkansas.   Missouri will also look to keep its BCS hopes alive when it travels to Texas Tech, and I suppose you could tune in to see if Texas can lose yet again against Kansas State.

Late Night Snack

Not much to dine on late this week, though if you're desperate for more football at the end of the night, you can tune in to see if Lane Kiffin can distract Matt Barkley a few more times against Arizona State.   If nothing else, you might get some awesome Ace of Base action, and who doesn't want more Ace of Base in their beautiful life?
Posted on: November 3, 2010 11:34 am
 

Kiffin admits Ducks drove him to distraction

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Oregon 's up-tempo, quick-strike, pinball-machine offense has made Chip Kelly one of the most successful coaches in the country, but it hasn't done it through points and yards alone. It's also accomplished it through the extreme pressure it puts on opposing offenses to keep up and opposing head coaches to react accordingly.

  As it turns out, even Lane Kiffin is man enough to admit he failed to make those reactions last Saturday:

"I was prepared for that during the week, but once you get into the game and you feel how fast they can score, it's why I was very critical of myself," Kiffin said three days after USC 's 53-32 loss to the Ducks on Saturday at the Coliseum. "I don't think I managed the game with the quarterback as well as I could have. I got a little too aggressive there. We were feeling like we needed to go score because of the pressure that they had just scored as opposed to just giving [Matt Barkley ] some four- and five-yard completions and just staying within rhythm ...

"What I'm saying is that they score so fast and all of sudden you feel like 'Boy, if we don't answer right now, we could fall behind really quick and ... that's really not the right thing," Kiffin told Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson [of 710 ESPN Radio] in the radio interview. "I had said it all week, but I didn't necessarily follow it. It's not about how fast you score, whether you take one minute or seven minutes, it's about making sure you score."

As Kiffin himself proves, it's easy enough to say "it's about making sure you score." It's another to continue to coach that way when faced with Oregon's onsalught, and it's a major reason -- maybe even a bigger one than the Ducks' opportunistic defense -- why opposing offenses have made enough killer mistakes (like, say, the quarrterback raising his foot one time too many) to make Oregon the No. 1 team in the country in turnover margin.

That turnover margin has been one of the biggest factors in making the Ducks nearly-untouchable through eight games. (Remember here that the incredible seven turnovers committed by Arizona State were the only thing keeping Oregon from a loss in a game in which they were outgained by more than 200 yards.) While many observers consider turnover margin to be nearly random (and fumble recoveries certainly seem to be from a statistical perspective), Kiffin's and USC's experience with the Ducks suggests that in Oregon's case, it's not.

And that, in turn, suggests that it's going to take a truly phenomenal (and phenomenally poised ) all-around performance if Kelly's team is to be defeated this season.

Posted on: October 31, 2010 2:28 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Oct. 30)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. Oregon is much more likely to make it to Glendale than not. The Ducks aren't home free just yet; that season-ending trip to Corvallis to face Mike Riley 's Oregon State team won't be easy, and God only knows what kind of Cal squad Oregon will face when they travel to Berkeley Nov. 13. But after the Ducks dismantled USC 53-32 in Los Angeles Saturday night, neither of those hypothetical stumbling blocks (to say nothing of, say, Arizona 's chances to win at Autzen Stadium) look nearly imposing enough to expect Oregon's season to end anywhere but the BCS national championship game.

The Trojans had a ton of factors working in their favor: a bye week to prepare, a red-hot quarterback, an unusually-lively Coliseum, and most of all the desperation that comes with knowing that this was their best shot at being a team that mattered this season. They called it their bowl game for a reason. And it was enough to propel them to a 32-29 lead after two shirt-field touchdowns early in the third quarter, just as Stanford had used an early burst to lead in Autzen. But just as Ducks had done against the Cardinal, the array of weapons at Chip Kelly 's disposal -- LaMichael James in the running game, Jeff Maehl and Lavasier Tuinei in the passing game, Darron Thomas in both -- simply overwhelmed their ever-weakening opposition as the second half progressed. Oregon scored the final 24 points of the game and finished with 597 total yards.

They are relentless, they are operating on all their proverbial cylinders, and even their allegedly soft defense -- always worse for the statistical wear thanks to the offense's hyperdrive tempo -- held the previously scorching Matt Barkley to a mediocre 5 yards per pass attempt and USC under 400 total yards for the game. Unless they badly underperform the same night the Golden Bears or Beavers stupendously overperform, they will become the first Pac-10 team other than their Saturday victims to play for a crystal football.

2. USC isn't going to be anything more than a middle-of-the-pack Pac-10 team until they learn how to stop the run. The charge frequently leveled at Monte Kiffin as his defenses first at Tennessee and now Southern Cal have struggled is that the 70-year-old defensive coordinator isn't sharp enough any more to adjust to the modern spread offense.

There might be something to that, given the 588 yards given up to Hawaii in USC's season opener and the 597 yielded to the Ducks. But the Trojans' biggest problem is a lot simpler: they're getting crushed up front. LaMichael James went for 239 rushing yards and the Ducks for 311 as a team. Stanford ? 193 yards, 5.4 a carry. Washington ? 225 yards, 6.6 a carry. That's not a matter of Kiffin's schemes or a misunderstanding of the spread; that's a matter of the Trojan defensive front just getting shoved around. Until they mature and start clogging up lanes in the middle of the field, USC's defense is going to continue to flail no matter what Kiffin does.

3. Cal isn't the only Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit in this conference. Speaking of Washington, the last time we saw them at home they were edging a good Oregon State team in overtime. While not many people were expecting them to upset Stanford, to get throttled 41-0 in Husky Stadium is an embarrassment ... and baffling considering how well they played just two weeks ago. With road trips to Oregon and Cal still to come and the Huskies wallowing at 3-5 overall, it doesn't look like this is the year just yet for Steve Sarkisian to break his team's eight-year bowl drought.

Arizona State , meanwhile, rebounded from losing to 33 points at Cal to shut out previously-improving Washington State 42-0 .

4. But Cal is still the original and most committed Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit. The Golden Bears trailed by 28 at halftime and lost 35-7 at Oregon State, as Kevin Riley had to be helped off the field in the first quarter. One of Cal's eight games have been decided by fewer than 21 points.

5. UCLA is as much a mess as ever. The Bruins looked to have their ship righted when they went on the road to upset Texas , but it turns out going on the road to upset Texas isn't that big a deal. And in the meantime, they've been humilated by Cal and Oregon and could have been by Matt Scott (319 yards, 71 rushing) and Arizona. A series of Wildcat failures in the red zone kept UCLA close, but getting outgained by 284 total yards and rushing for just 2.5 yards a carry at home is a sign that goes well beyond worrying. Another home loss this coming weekend, to Oregon State, and Rick Neuheisel will be staring a four- or even three-win season in the face.



Posted on: October 29, 2010 1:33 pm
 

Below the Radar: three other games to watch

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's three of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern)
:

East Carolina (5-2, 4-0) at UCF (5-2, 3-0) , 3:30 p.m. It's a straight-up, head-to-head battle for first place in Conference USA 's East division, but there's plenty of other reasons to pay attention to what ought to be the C-USA game of the year. With Houston 's Case Keenum out for the season and Southern Miss having already lost to ECU at home, these appear to be the best two teams in the conference; the Pirates have the league's best nonconference win, over Florida State conquerors N.C. State , but UCF boasts C-USA's stingiest defense by a mile. Both teams have brand-name playmakers in elusive ECU quarterback Dominque Davis and explosive UCF defensie end Darius Nall. Thus far this season ECU has specialized in winning barnburners (51-49 over Tulsa , 44-43 over Southenr Miss) and this should be another tight contest on the road in Orlando, but with starting quarterback Rob Calabrese out, expect the Golden Knights to play things as close to the vest as possible.

Cal (4-3, 2-2) at Oregon State (3-3, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. His brother may be lost for the season, but any time Jacquizz Rodgers suits up for the Beavers, it's worth paying attention to. Beyond that, despite their nonconference losses at TCU and Boise State , the Beavers can still have a major say in the Pac-10 race with a win here; they'll play host to both USC and Oregon and must still travel to take on Stanford . Cal, meanwhile, has been more up-and-down than a yo-yo taken for a bungee-jump. After destroying Arizona State a week ago (a week after being destroyed at USC), they'll be expected to fold at Corvallis. But if you look past the margin of defeat, there's no particular shame in losing in Los Angeles, or at Arizona or Nevada . Both teams will still feel like their season to-date is a success with a win ... but both might also start to feel like the year might be a lost cause with a loss. The game promises to be a turning point for both.

Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2), 8 p.m. It's pretty simple: at some point, Rich Rodriguez must start winning Big Ten games that aren't against Indiana to keep his job. (Against all other Big Ten teams, he's lost his last 11 in a row.) There's no time like the present, what with the Nittany Lions giving a sophomore walk-on his first start and their banged-up front seven looking like an excellent matchup for a fully-armed and operational Denard Robinson . On the other sideline, last week's win at Minnesota stopped the bleeding for Joe Paterno and Co., but a second straight home defeat to one of the conference's middle-of-the-pack teams -- particularly one with a Swiss cheese defense like the Wolverines' -- is not going to sit well with the Happy Valley faithful. Both teams will feel like they have reason to win this game, and as with the matchup above, the victor will wind up with plenty of reason to feel good about itself going forward. But the loser is going to have some very, very difficult questions to answer.

Posted on: October 28, 2010 12:52 pm
 

Dennis Erickson gets dreaded vote of confidence

Posted by Tom Fornelli

In the middle of September, the Arizona State Sun Devils were 2-0 and nearly beat Wisconsin on the road to improve to 3-0, and there was some reason to be optimistic about the team this season.  Since then, however, things have started going downhill in conference play, where the Devils have lost three of the first four, including a 50-17 beatdown from Cal last week.

Which has led some at the school to wonder about the status of head coach Dennis Erickson.   Particularly if he'll be back running the program last season should things continue to head the direction they currently are.  Well, Erickson can either rest easy or start cleaning out his office, because Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love just gave him the dreaded vote of confidence.

"Yeah, I believe he will be (back)," Love told the Arizona Republic. "We have to evaluate at the end of the year, every year, but he's our guy. I've heard a lot of this talk about a hot seat. I think we have a football-wise fan base that are saying and understanding (that ASU's program is on the rise).

"I fully expect Dennis will be our football coach and my days are spent thinking about how to support this football program and get it to where we want it to be, which is a Rose Bowl-caliber program. And I believe we've got a guy who can get us there."

Notice how even in Love's vote of confidence she doesn't say that Erickson will be back, but that she believes he'll be back?  Yeah, I wouldn't take that as a good sign.  In other words, the Sun Devils may want to start winning some games, which is easier said than done.  While Arizona State still has two winnable games at home against Washington State and UCLA this season, they also have trips to USC and Arizona along with a home date against Stanford on the schedule.

Erickson had success in his first season at Arizona State, as the Sun Devils went 10-3 in 2007, but since then they've gone 12-19 are in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the third straight season.
Posted on: October 24, 2010 2:44 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Oct. 23)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

All the real fireworks in the current Pac-10 and future Pac-12 came midweek with the announcement of the conference's divisional split midweek. Two teams -- USC and Oregon State -- enjoyed a bye week, and none of the four conference games were closer than 16 points at halftime. But there were still some important lessons to learn, starting with ...

1. Cal is the most Jekyll-and-Hyde team in the country. The last time we checked in with the Bears, they were getting annihilated by USC in the L.A. Coliseum, giving up six first-half touchdowns and trailing 42-0 at the break. That was a week after they'd throttled UCLA and the Bruins's pistol attack 35-7 . That result came two dates on the schedule after they'd been shredded by Nevada 's pistol attack 52-31 .

So even though Arizona State had been an excellent road team entering their visit to Berkeley, losing to Wisconsin by a point and downing Washington in Seattle, you could see this coming: 40 straight Cal points after a game-opening Sun Devil field goal, zero offensive touchdowns allowed, a 137-yard advantage in total offense, and a 50-17 rout to move the Bears to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-10. Beleaguered quarterback Kevin Riley -- whose ups and downs mirror the team's closely enough that he ought to be named the team mascot -- went 19-of-29 for 240 yards and no interceptions.

Cal has played one close game, their 10-9 loss at Arizona . The average margin of victory in the other six, for either Cal or their opponent? 32 points.

2. No one's touching Oregon at Autzen Stadium. What this observer took away first and foremost from the Ducks' 60-13 evisceration of UCLA on Thursday night was just how comfortable Chip Kelly 's team appeared. Even playing at the fastest tempo seen in college football today (and maybe ever?), the Oregon offense never seemed confused, never seemed out-of-control, never even seemed to break a sweat. They churned up and down the field with the ease of a swimmer doing laps at the Y. The Bruins never stood a chance.

So does anyone remaining on Oregon's schedule? Most certainly, but only the teams that get the advantage of hosting the Ducks, where the travel and unfamiliar stadium and hostile crowd can at least start to bump the Ducks out of the lethal comfort zone we saw Thursday. Remember: Oregon's only played one team that is not Washington State on the road thus far, Arizona State, and that team held the Ducks to 405 yards and outgained them by nearly 200.

3. If anything happens to that Cam Newton guy, LaMichael James will make for a highly worthy Heisman Trophy winner. James's stats against UCLA don't jump off the page by Heisman standards -- 20 carries, 123 yards, 2 touchdowns -- but those watching the game saw James show off his usual breathtaking combination of speed, power, agility, and mad receiving skills. No tailback in the country is playing better.

4. Nick Foles doesn't have to rush back. The Arizona starting quarterback missed the Wildcats' 44-14 beatdown of Washington with a dislocated kneecap and his return date is still TBA. But the performance of Matt Scott -- the same returning starter who Foles usurped for the job in 2009 -- suggests that there's no need for Foles to rush his timetable. Scott hit 18 of his 22 passes for 233 yards, collecting two touchdowns and going without an interception. He even showed off the legs that made him a starter in the first place, running for 64 yards on 8 carries.

Given that the schedule offers Arizona a date at reeling UCLA this week, if Foles can just get healthy by the Nov. 6 trip to Stanford , that ought to be good enough.

5. Washington State is making progress, however incremental. No, the Cougars' 38-28 loss to Stanford wasn't as close as the final score indicated; Wazzu trailed 38-14 in the final quarter and scored two late touchdowns to make things a bit more cosmetic. But facts are facts: the 10-point final margin is the closest Paul Wulff has come to a Pac-10 opponent in his three seasons, and that he managed it on the road against the No. 12 team in the country is all the more encouraging.


Posted on: October 23, 2010 9:15 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:13 pm
 

Wisconsin does just enough to pull out 31-30 win

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This was more than a football game; this was a 12-round heavyweight slugfight, one befitting a spot in the Rocky series. Wisconsin won this fight, 31-30, and the one-point margin only underscores how closely matched Iowa and the Badgers were. But in the end, this was about Wisconsin going that extra inch to get its win -- and the Heartland Trophy.

Just ask J.J. Watt , the Badgers' standout DE, and defensive hero for the second straight week. In the first quarter, Watt swung the momentum of the game by blocking an Iowa extra point and keeping the game at 6-3. After 52 more points scored in the rest of the game, that one single point would prove to be the margin of victory.

"I've always told my defense that to me, the truest test of what a defense is all about is how they play PAT, because any time you're on the field and it's a PAT situation, it means that you were just scored upon, and how are you going to react?" Bret Bielema said. "The reaction was unbelievable and ends up being the difference in the game."

That blocked PAT wouldn't have been of much significance if Montee Ball hadn't stretched across the goal line by three inches with about a minute left, and Ball probably wouldn't have been able to score that touchdown without a crucial fake punt call on fourth and 4 from Wisconsin's own 26. With everyone on Iowa's punt return team playing for the return, Badgers punter Brad Nortman streaked up the middle of the field for 17 yards. Afterwards, Nortman and Bielema confirmed that it was the coaches' call to fake it from the start.

"It was all the coaches, all the coaches," Nortman said. "When I got the snap, I saw the wide-open field, a couple blockers in front of me, and I just ran. Once I got down the field, I knew it was a great call."

Watt also came through in the fourth quarter. With Iowa holding a first down near midfield with 35 seconds left, Watt finally broke through for the Badgers' first sack of the game, dropping quarterback Ricky Stanzi for a loss of 11 yards, running nine seconds off, and forcing the Hawkeyes to burn a timeout. And sure enough, Iowa's drive ended on the Badgers' 35-yard line, running out of time just outside of field-goal range because the Hawkeyes had burned their last timeout.

After the game, Watt wore his battle scars proudly, the bridge of his nose still freshly bleeding, as he reflected happily on what he considers the high point of Wisconsin's season so far.

"I really think it tops last week," Watt told reporters. "We had so many guys banged up, we're here in a tough environment against a tough team; to come here and do what we did is so unbelievable and a testament to our team."

Watt admitted that with a bye week coming up next, he's going to savor this Badger win that puts them in a dominant second-place position behind the still-unbeaten Michigan State Spartans.

"I'm going to take this one in, and I'm going to take [last week's win against] Ohio State  in, because we didn't really have much time to take Ohio State in," Watt said. "I'm going to take a day or two here, watch the game films, and just let it sink in, but then after that we're going to come right back and start focusing on the last four games of the season."

Of course, with such a close final margin, the losing team usually has plenty to rue afterwards, and for the Hawkeyes, today will be no exception. Aside from the blocked extra point and fake punt given up, Iowa placeholder Ryan Donahue  fumbled the snap on a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, costing his team a shot at three points.

Further, and perhaps worse, the Iowa endgame clock management will be under close scrutiny from fans and coaches alike. With the Hawkeyes facing a fourth and 1 at Wisconsin's 42-yard line, Stanzi ran a keeper for the first down, then let three seconds run off the clock while signaling a spike before calling Iowa's last timeout with 13 seconds remaining -- a call that, minus the few wasted seconds, Ferentz later said was their plan all along. Alas, the next play was a pass to tailback Adam Robinson in the flat, and when Robinson was tackled inbounds without Iowa being able to stop the clock, well, that was that.

Perhaps it would have been preferable for Iowa and its fans if the Hawkeyes had lost by 10, and if they'd never been so close to attempting a game-winning field goal. But such is the emotional cruelty of college football. If it's any consolation to the Hawkeyes -- and probably scant, at that -- it's that Iowa isn't the first team to lose by the skin of its teeth to the Badgers. Recall that back in September, Wisconsin dispatched Arizona State 20-19 by blocking a tying PAT, and also stopped a potential kick return for a touchdown at the Wisconsin 1-yard line to end the first half in that game.

Again, yes, it's scant consolation for Iowa, but anything would be after such a devastating loss -- one where the Hawkeyes seemed just inches away from victory.


Posted on: October 8, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 5:15 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 6

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Breakfast

Main Course - #2 Ohio State vs. Indiana - Noon - ESPN

You know what the real problem is with the ACC and Big East being so awful/mediocre this year?  It really leaves the early menu of games leaving a lot to be desired.  I mean, I have Ohio State and Indiana as the morning's best option.

Think about that for a second.  Ohio State and Indiana.  A game which hasn't seen the Hoosiers get within more than 19 points of the Buckeyes in every meeting since 2002 -- though the teams didn't meet in 2007 or 2008.  The good news for Indiana is that the 19-point loss came last season, with Ben Chappell at quarterback.

The Hoosiers offense has been very impressive this season, but the Buckeyes will be by far their biggest test six weeks into the year.  Considering that we can't be sure just how healthy Terrelle Pryor is, and the struggles the Buckeyes had in Champaign last week, this game could prove to be more interesting than you'd think.

Side Orders: Should that game go the blowout route, your other options Saturday morning would be the ACC fare of North Carolina State and Boston College.   One is a team looking to rebound from its first loss, the other is a team that is having its three quarterbacks pick a number between 1-10 to see who gets to start.  If you prefer something else, you can watch Georgia and Tennessee fight to see which school's season is more far gone than the other.  It's a must win for Mark Richt, because a loss to Tennessee at home would only send him to the hospital with third-degree burns on his backside.

Lunch

Main Course - #19 South Carolina vs #1 Alabama - 3:30pm - CBS

If there's one thing I think we can all be certain at this point of the college football season it's that Alabama is the best team in the country.  There's a bit of a gap between them and Ohio State and Oregon, but after the Ducks, things drop off quite a bit.  That being said, going in to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks shouldn't be a cakewalk for the Tide.

What I think will be the key to this one is if Marcus Lattimore can do anything against the Alabama defense.  While the Alabama defense is barely giving up nine points a game, they are allowing an average of 101 yards per game on the ground. 

Though even if the Gamecocks do get a ground game going, they still have to stop Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, which no one has done to this point ('Bama is averaging 230 yards a game rushing).  Considering the Gamecocks allow 128.3 yards a contest on the ground, I'm not sure they're up for the challenge either.

Side Orders:
Listen, if people are taking this Michigan/Michigan State game so seriously that they're willing to die in order to see it, maybe you can take a few hours of your Saturday and do the same.  There is never a bad time to watch Denard Robinson play football, as he is without question the most dangerous one-man show in the sport right now.  If that's not good enough for you, check out Arkansas and Texas A&M.   One team has a quarterback who lives up to the hype, and the other has a quarterback who lives up to the hype on one series and then proceeds to get that hype lodged in his throat, suffocating himself and his team.  See if you can tell which one is which.

Dinner

Main Course - #14 Florida vs. #12 LSU - 7:30pm - ESPN

This game will be interesting for plenty of reasons, but perhaps none more so than the battles between the fans in the seats.  Watch as LSU and Florida fans argue about which team's offensive coordinator is going to drive some student to the top of the nearest bell tower with a sniper rifle sooner.  Then watch the other fan base tell them that if their offensive coordinator climbed up that same tower he'd only manage to fall out before getting a single shot off.

Then watch both fan bases fall into each other's arms in tears, unified in despair.  Then they'd smile when both agreeing that if it were Les Miles atop that tower, he'd kill 40 people before going to trial and being found not guilty on some technicality.

Side Orders: Though the rivalry between Florida State and Miami has lost some of its luster the last few years, the fact is both teams come into this game ranked and looking to stay on top of their respective divisions in the ACC.  Or you can watch Stanford try to run its win streak over USC to three games in Palo Alto as Ed Orgeron yells incoherently from home thanks to that staph infection in his leg.

Late Night Snack

The Washington Huskies look to build on any momentum they picked up by beating USC on the road last week against an Arizona State team that couldn't headbutt its way to a victory against Oregon State.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com