Tag:Keys To The Game
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:46 pm
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Keys to the Game: Mississippi St. at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: their secondary gets some help. The Bulldogs were hoping to be sitting prettier than 5-5 at this stage when the season began, but it hasn't been the defensive backfield's fault; led by a pair of senior safeties and junior corner Johnthan Banks's All-SEC caliber performance, State ranks 14th in the nation in pass defense and in the top 30 in opposing passer rating. Even on the road, even without injured safety Nickoe Whitley, the Bulldogs figure to cause Tyler Wilson as many headaches as any team he's faced since Alabama; it was just last week the Tide's AJ McCarron posted the second-lowest QB rating of his season in Starkville, lower even than his performance vs. LSU. But just keeping Wilson (relatively) in check won't be enough. The rapidly improving front seven has to prevent the boom-or-bust Dennis Johnson from getting rolling; the State running game has to move the chains and keep the low-fi Bulldog offense from getting in field position trouble; and of course the Bulldog special teams can't give up cheap to scores to Joe Adams on punt returns or Johnson on kickoffs.

Do all of those things, and the secondary should provide enough of a defensive foundation to build an upset win around.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they keep coming up with big plays. Mississippi State is a team simply not built to win a shootout on the road; since their Week 2 explosion vs. Auburn, they've averaged just 12.6 points per their five SEC games. Meanwhile, the Hogs have scored 49 and 44 points against their last two SEC opponents, many of them coming via the home run. Against Tennessee there was Adams' ridiculous punt return, a 70-yard Johnson sprint, and a 40-yard bomb, again, to Adams; against South Carolina the Hogs got a Johnson kickoff return for TD, a 68-yard strike to Jarius Wright, and the game-icing sack-and-strip from Jake Bequette that set the offense up at the 1. Big plays like those not only demoralize the opposition and put points on the board in a hurry, they represent quick possessions that pack more possessions and plays into a game and offer the Hog offense even more chances at pushing their total in the 30s or 40s. Do that against MSU, and the Bulldogs won't have a prayer of keeping up.

THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. The junior has struggled the past two years with injuries and thanks in part to fumbling issues, didn't break into the Hog lineup immediately this season even after the loss of Knile Davis. But Johnson's combination of power and explosiveness offers the Arkansas running game a spark it just doesn't have otherwise, and Bobby Petrino has shown for years that if he can pair some kind of legitimate ground attack with his aerial fireworks ... watch out.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 1:09 pm
 

Keys to the Game: LSU at Ole Miss

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

LSU WILL WIN IF: any of the following do not happen: 1. Les Miles decides to drive the team bus to the stadium himself, takes a wrong turn or three, and several hours later decides that since they're already at Rock City, they might as well stop and see it 2. a bizarre eleventh-hour ruling from a local Oxford judge results in Gatorade becoming a banned substance within city limits, and the unknowing Tigers are arrested upon their arrival at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on charges of "synthetic water" possession 3. Jordan Jefferson throws a series of interceptions, Brad Wing has an off-game, and Randall Mackey hits just enough big plays that LSU's usual domination of field position is negated--and without it, a Rebel defense that's given up 98 points their past three games to Auburn, Kentucky and Louisiana Tech gets just enough stops to squeak out a win in front of an energized home crowd.

Of these three scenarios, we find the third one least likely.

OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: inspired by their head coach, LSU's 30 to 35 best players decide to hold a team-building exercise in which they travel en masse to an area "park" and sample the local "grass." Unfortunately, the "park" is a farm's heavily-pesticided soybean field and the "grass" soybean leaves coated with enough chemicals to leave the entire group in the hospital for the weekend. Or if a spaceship landed on the field just before kickoff, declaring via loudspeaker it had come to return Houston Nutt to his home planet, and--

Fine, we'll be serious for a moment. If Mackey takes care of the ball and hits a few throws downfield to loosen up a hole here or there for the ground game, if Jefferson and Lee are way off their games, if Nutt pulls the final remaining trick plays out of his bag and they all work, if the Rebel defensive line plays out of its mind and forces enough three-and-outs to avoid field position devastation ... yes, Ole Miss could hang around. And maybe, just maybe, in the sense that if a million monkeys banged out a million scripts for this game one would eventually type the words "OLE MISS WINS," this game could wind up following that millionth script. But we wouldn't bet on it.

THE X-FACTOR: If a game is played at Ole Miss and the mascot doesn't watch it because he's got a box on his head, did it even happen?
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Keys to the game: USC at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Trojans have retooled on defense with faster linebackers and are better equipped to handle the Ducks speed than they have been in previous years. Creating stops are as important as containing big plays and getting the ball back to an offense that has more weapons than anybody Oregon has seen all years. The emergence of Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler have given a nice boost to the running game and they'll need to continue to have Robert Woods and Marqise Lee making big plays if USC wants to pull off the upset.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The game plan is always the same for the Ducks, apply pressure by scoring quickly on offense and apply pressure - more literally - on defense by being aggressive with the front seven. Chip Kelly was very aggressive against Stanford and we'll see if he continues to keep that up against a team that has a lot more athletes that can create big plays on both sides of the ball. Oregon is in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl and could even be playing for a rematch in the BCS title game so don't be surprised if they want some style points on national television and for Heisman Trophy candidiate LaMichael James.

X-FACTOR: Matt Barkley turnovers. USC has been in games with Oregon for a half but, like most of the Ducks opponents, have fallen apart in the second half. If Matt Barkley continues to be efficient in the passing game and spreads the ball around to his receivers, the Trojans have a chance. If he turns the ball over once or twice though, it will be hard to see an upset. The margin is just that thin for this team but no doubt they have the talent to get a win if Barkley plays well.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:20 am
 

Keys to the game: Cal at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Golden Bears now have a blueprint to beat Stanford even if they don't have the offense or the athletes that Oregon does. The Cardinal is still banged up so putting pressure on Andrew Luck while keeping his receivers from getting separation will be key. Cal has struggled on the road this season (1-3) and even though it's a trip across the Bay, they'll be headed into a hostile environment if last week was any indication.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: The Cardinal have the superior team once again this year but will have to quickly regroup after a tough loss last week. The defense has to do a better job of shutting down the run, a phase of the game Cal has really gotten going over the past few games. Stanford used Stepfan Taylor early and often against Oregon last week but had to go away from him in order to play catch up. If they're the ones dictating tempo and wearing down the Bears defense, Andrew Luck should be able to return to form and pick apart the young secondary on the way to another Big Game victory.

X-FACTOR: Zach Maynard. The Bears quarterback has to play within the offense and take what the defense gives him. If he's forcing throws and turning the ball over, it could be a long day for Cal. The only way the Bears win is if Maynard plays his best game of the season and allows Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen and Isi Sofele to make some plays in space. He won't be able to top Luck and needs plenty of help from his defense but the only way Cal has a chance to stay close or pull the upset is if their quarterback far exceeds how he's been playing.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 5:45 am
 

Keys to the Game: Texas vs. Kansas State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

TEXAS WILL WIN IF: The Longhorns are going to have to adapt to life without Fozzy Whittaker. He wasn't the team's leading rusher, in fact he's third on the team with 386 yards, but he was the key to Texas' Wildcat formation. The good news is that as long as Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron can play, the Longhorns still have plenty of talent at running back, even without the offense's vocal leader. Still, it won't be easy to find running space against a Kansas State defense that is third in the Big 12 in rushing yards allowed per game (117.2) and has only given up 16 rushing touchdowns on the season. What's tougher than running against Kansas State? Keeping Kansas State, particularly Collin Klein, from running against you. Though this is a Texas team that has the best rushing defense in the Big 12 and has only allowed 9 touchdowns all season. This will be the toughest test that Manny Diaz's unit has faced this year. If it can prove capable of slowing down Klein, then the Longhorns can win this game.

KANSAS STATE WILL WIN IF: On defense the Wildcats are going to have to take away the Texas ground game. It won't be easy, but the fact of the matter is that this Texas offense needs to run to have success. David Ash is not a passing quarterback yet, and when the Longhorns lost Fozzy Whittaker last week it was ugly. If the Wildcats can avoid their recent trend of getting down early in games and actually build a lead and force Texas to throw more than it wants to, this could get out of hand quickly. On offense, the formula will remain the same. Collin Klein right, Collin Klein left, Collin Klein up the middle. Sprinkle in a pass here and there, mix, and voila! Touchdowns. Though it's not going to be easy against this Texas defense.

X-FACTOR: John Hubert. This Texas defense is good enough against the run that it can slow down Collin Klein if the Wildcats become too dependent on their quarterback. The best way for Kansas State to make sure that doesn't happen will be if Hubert can find some room and make the Texas front seven respect the option. If Hubert isn't able to pick up yards and the Texas defense is allowed to key solely on Klein, Kansas State could be in trouble.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 5:26 am
 

Keys to the Game: Baylor vs. Oklahoma

Posted by Tom Fornelli

BAYLOR WILL WIN IF: Baylor will have to win this game the same way it does in every game it emerges victorious: by outscoring Oklahoma. This is a team that's ranked 108th in the country in scoring defense, after all, allowing 36 points per game. The good news for Baylor is that it has an offense more than capable of putting up points in a hurry. Of course, taking care of the ball while it has it would help a lot too. In the blowout loss to Oklahoma State the Bears turned the ball over 5 times, and last week against Kansas the Bears turned it over 4 times, forcing Robert Griffin to lead a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter. The best way to limit turnovers will be to protect Griffin from an Oklahoma defensive line that can get to the quarterback, as it's second in the Big 12 with 34 sacks this season. If Griffin gets time, he can pick apart any secondary.

OKLAHOMA WILL WIN IF: It can overcome the injuries on offense. Normally I'd put Oklahoma's offense on par with Baylor's, but is that still the case now that the Sooners have lost Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles in the last two weeks? We can't know for sure because we haven't seen it play without those two yet. Which means that Landry Jones will have to adjust to life without his favorite target and security blanket. Remember, Landry Jones has never played a game as a Sooner in which he didn't have Broyles around to throw to. In the backfield, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay will have to step up to fill in for Whaley and give the Sooners balance on offense. On defense, the Oklahoma defense needs to pressure Griffin and understand that it's likely going to give up points. It just needs to make a few stops each half too. Something it has proven more than capable of doing all season.

X-FACTOR: Jaz Reynolds. Landry Jones is going to miss having Ryan Broyles around, and is going to need one of his receivers to step up and make some big plays. That player should be Jaz Reynolds, who has stepped up in a big way in Oklahoma's last three games. In that span Reynolds has caught 4 touchdowns, though he only has 215 yards. Against this Baylor secondary, with Jones forced to look his way more often, he could approach that yardage total in just one game.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 5:02 am
 

Keys to the Game: Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

IOWA STATE WILL WIN IF: It plays the game of its season. Though don't think that it's not possible, even if it does sound totally crazy. There are a few factors at play here. First of all, this is the last game on Oklahoma State's schedule before Bedlam, and it wouldn't be the first time a football team got caught looking ahead. Second of all, Iowa State was off last weekend, so it has had an extra week to prepare. The question is will that extra week be enough for the Iowa State defense to figure out how to stop the juggernaut that is the Oklahoma State offense. Well, this Cyclones defense isn't terrible. It's only allowing 392.2 yards per game at home this season, but it's also allowed 28 points per game in those contests. It also hasn't faced an offense of this caliber, so Paul Rhoads' team is going to have its hands full.

OKLAHOMA STATE WILL WIN IF: It gets its mind off of Oklahoma and a national championship and focuses on the task at hand. On paper this Cowboys team is simply better than Iowa State and can overmatch it. Pushing things further in Oklahoma State's favor is the turnover battle. We all know that Oklahoma State has forced more turnovers (34) than any team in the country. Well, do you know which team in the Big 12 has turned the ball over the most? Yep, Iowa State, which has 23 turnovers, or 2.56 turnovers per game. If that continues on Saturday in Ames then Oklahoma State shouldn't have much trouble with the Cyclones.

X-FACTOR: Jared Barnett. Since the freshman quarterback took the starting job from Steele Jantz, he's played reasonably well. He hasn't done a lot of damage with his arm, as he's completing only 49% of his passes and has 1 touchdown pass in three games. What Barnett has done well, however, is use his legs. In his three starts Barnett has averaged 94.33 yards rushing per game. The toughest time the Oklahoma State defense had this season was a few weeks ago against Kansas State and Collin Klein -- a quarterback who is much more dangerous on the ground than through the air. If Barnett and the Cyclones can take a page from Kansas State's book in that contest, it may make this game a lot more interesting than anyone expects it to be.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Florida at South Carolina

Posted by Chip Patterson


SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF
: The offensive line can protect Conner Shaw and open up lanes for the rushing game. Just a week after running back Brandon Wilds exploded through Tennessee's defense for 137 yards, the freshman was a non-factor against Arkansas picking up just 21 yards on ten carries. Shaw was sacked five times by the Razorback defense and struggled to find his receivers in space. Florida's defense will be looking to pressure Shaw into making mistakes, and the offensive line needs to deliver one their best performances of the season to keep the Gamecocks in the hunt for back-to-back SEC East titles.

FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: They continue to limit the penalties and mental mistakes. The Gators have been one of the most penalized teams in the country this season, but they were only flagged three times in the 26-21 win over Vanderbilt. Penalties were a common thread in Florida's four-game losing streak, and the return of John Brantley combined with mistake-free (or closer to it) football finally helped Will Muschamp's squad snap the slide. The division battle with South Carolina promises to be fast and physical, and the Gators must get disciplined play on all sides of the ball to knock off No. 13 South Carolina and reach bowl eligibility.

X-FACTOR: Chris Rainey's health. Rainey's absence did play a part in Jeff Demps running for a career-high 158 yards against Vanderbilt, but the Gators are a better team with both weapons suited up and ready to play. Rainey is expected to return against South Carolina, but his effectiveness could end up being one of the deciding factors in the division battle.

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