Tag:Keys to the game
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:49 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Penn State vs. Nebraska

Posted by Tom Fornelli

PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: This is a very hard one to figure out. With everything going on in State College right now, we can't even be sure who will or won't be coaching Penn State this weekend, or how the players will deal with the distractions. Still, you have to think that for the players on this team, this game is something they'll be looking forward to if for nothing more than just to escape the storm in State College for a few hours. In order for Penn State to win it'll need to use the same formula it's been using all season: defense, defense and then maybe some offense. It's going to be incredibly important for the Penn State defense to keep Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez contained and force Martinez to beat them with his arm. On offense, Silas Redd will have to carry the load for a Penn State offense that's been quite anemic this season. Still, Redd is averaging over 5 yards a carry and has 7 touchdowns this season. The Nittany Lions will need him to find room against a Nebraska defense that hasn't been great stopping the run this season and has allowed 14 rushing touchdowns.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: Nebraska is going to have to find a way to put some points on the board against a defense that has allowed only 12.4 points per game this season in Big Ten play. There really isn't an area of this Penn State defense to attack as it's ranked first in the Big Ten in defensive pass efficiency and third in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing only 111.9 yards a game and 3.1 yards per carry. That being said, running the ball is what Nebraska does well, so running the ball is what the Cornhuskers will have to do in this contest. That means there will be no more important battle in this game on Saturday than Nebraska's offensive line versus Penn State's defensive line. Whichever team wins that matchup is going to win this game.

X-FACTOR: Matt McGloin. No offense to Rob Bolden, but Matt McGloin is clearly the best quarterback Penn State has right now, and I don't know why the Nittany Lions insist in giving Bolden snaps every week. I feel that if McGloin would be allowed to take all the snaps on offense than the Nittany Lions may find themselves developing some kind of consistency. Nebraska's pass defense has been strong in conference play, but if McGloin can make a few plays with his arm and use Derek Moye to stretch the field, it could be the difference in this game. 
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:43 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Tennessee at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Tyler Bray finds the broken thumb miracle cure between now and Saturday. The Vols' sophomore starter hasn't played since his team's loss to Georgia Oct. 8, and though he got his hard cast off this week, it doesn't sound like he's going to be nearly ready to play against the Hogs. But the Vols might not have a prayer without him: in the three SEC games Bray has missed, backups Matt Simms and Justin Worley have combined to complete 39.5 percent of their passes and post a 0-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio. Yes, those three SEC games came against teams with far better defenses than Arkansas's -- LSU's, Alabama's, and South Carolina's, in fact -- but two of them also came at home. It's also not like the Vols' 118th-ranked rushing game (fresh off averaging all of 2.67 yards per-carry vs. Middle Tennessee State) is going to be much help. Unless Bray can find a witch doctor or mad scientist or special magnetic wristband that fixes his thumb in time, it's awfully hard -- and just about impossible -- to see the Vols winning this game.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they can just avoid catastrophic mistakes. Maybe easier said than done, of course, if you saw Tyler Wilson do this vs. Carolina last Saturday:



Wilson isn't the only Hog to have turnover issues of late: Dennis Johnson's fumbles helped keep both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss in those respective games. If Wilson, Johnson or any other butter-fingered Hog set the Vols up with short fields or throw away scoring opportunities, the Vols have shown -- in their 6-6 halftime tie with Alabama -- that they can hang around with better teams, even on the road.

Hang around long enough to win it? Probably not, but where turnovers are involved, never say never. Wilson and Co. have to make sure they aren't.

THE X-FACTOR: Jake Bequette. The Razorbacks' preseason All-SEC defensive end had suffered an injury-plagued and disappointing season until last Saturday, when he roared to life with three sacks of Connor Shaw and the game-clinching forced fumble. If Bequette terrorizes poor Worley or Simms the way he terrorized Shaw, the Vols really, really have no hope.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:03 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks will have to use their biggest advantage on both sides of the ball, speed, over the much more physical Cardinal team if they're going to come out of Palo Alto with a victory. The offense is close to being healthy with LaMichael James looking like his old self against Washington last week despite a bulky pad over his injured elbow. Unlike some teams, Oregon can run effectively between the tackles and then bounce it outside but only if the offensive line does a good job with the Stanford front four. It will be a test for the secondary against Andrew Luck and his big targets at tight end but something defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti adjusted to last year.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: The Cardinal are a bit banged up but will receive a big boost with the return of starting safety Delano Howell, who will be key in providing support against both the passing and the running game. Oregon is 62nd in the country in total defense and Stanford should be able to move the ball effectively with running back Stepfan Taylor and the best player in college football in Luck. This game looks like it will turn into an old Pac-10 shootout so getting a key defensive stop or making a big play in special teams will likely be a determining factor in Stanford picking up a win. 

X-FACTOR: Battle in the trenches. Against Washington last week, Oregon's front seven did a great job of blitzing and getting penetration to shut down running lanes and pressure the quarterback. They'll face a stiffer test this week against one of the best offensive lines in college football, which has given up the fewest sacks in the country. On the other side, if Stanford's defensive line can make quarterback Darron Thomas uncomfortable, they could force him into making mistakes.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Auburn at Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

AUBURN WILL WIN IF: Clint Moseley's performance against Ole Miss wasn't a mirage. Against the Rebels the redshirt sophomore hit 12-of-15 for better than 10 yards an attempt, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. It looked like a breakout game for a player still making just his second-ever start, but after watching the Rebels give up 30 points to Kentucky's dead-offense-walking, it's fair to ask if Moseley's numbers weren't a product of Moseley as much as an Ole Miss defense that's throwing in the towel. We'll find out for certain against Georgia: the Dawgs are sixth in the country in opposing QB rating and have held their six SEC opponents to a collective 44 percent completion rate and a 4-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio. If Moseley can hold his own on the road against that kind of secondary, Auburn will have found themselves a quarterback--and the same running game that took adavantage of his precision to roll up 254 yards vs. the Rebels could find space to dominate again.

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: Aaron Murray plays like Aaron Murray. No one's going to confuse the 2011 Auburn defense for the '85 Bears, but against teams without a legitimate threat at quarterback, the Tigers have done just fine: 13 points allowed to South Carolina in a win, 6 to Florida in a win, 17 to Ole Miss before a meaningless TD on the game's final play. If Murray plays like the erratic quarterback who missed 9 straight passes against Florida two weeks ago, the Tigers have shown they'll be just fine concentrating on Isaiah Crowell and turning the game into another low-scoring slugfest like the ones they won vs. Carolina and the Gators ... and that was back when Barrett Trotter was flailing wildly as the Tiger QB.

Despite Moseley's ascension, a solid game from Murray would still likely leave Auburn unable to keep pace offensively, especially on the road. But after Murray's Florida performance, it's not a given.

THE X-FACTOR: Auburn freshman kick returner Tre Mason started the season like gangbusters, housing one against Utah State and looking poised to break another any minute through the first quarter of the Tigers' season. He's since cooled off (thanks in part to a nagging injury) but still ranks among the nation's top 25 per-return. The Dawgs, meanwhile, have often been atrocious in kick coverage this year -- Mark Richt openly campaigned for starters to volunteer for coverage duty recently, with several responding -- and have up a kickoff score to Auburn's Demond Washington last time the teams played in Athens. A similar big play from Mason (or Dawg returner Brandon Boykin the other way) might decisively tilt what shapes up as a tight contest.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Alabama at Mississippi State

Posted by Chip Patterson

ALABAMA WILL WIN IF: They play anyone but their scout team? I imagine that Nick Saban has this Crimson Tide team ready to play at the highest level of execution following their overtime loss to LSU. Remember what Alabama did to Michigan State after Saban was upset with his team's focus during the regular season? I expect a similar result when they face Mississippi State on Saturday. Richardson will run like a man on fire and the defense will strive to shut out a reeling Bulldogs squad.

MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: Alabama has been shaken due to the loss. The Bulldogs will try to use the home field advantage at night as much as possible, but the ground attack of Chris Relf and Vick Ballard just doesn't look productive enough to take on a defense like the Tide. Their best chance to stun Alabama early is to try and force McCarron into making poor decisions and hope for an early turnover. Otherwise, it could be a long and painful night for the Bulldogs.

X-FACTOR: AJ McCarron. After struggling against LSU, I'm interested to see how the first-year starter bounces back against the Bulldogs. If the sophomore quarterback wants to keep his hold on the first-string job in the future, he will need to prove it in these last weeks of the season. Richardson and Lacy are probably enough for Alabama to win on Saturday, but a good performance from McCarron could lead to the domination Tide fans are hoping for.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:14 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Wake Forest at Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: The defense can play disciplined on the perimeter. Clemson's offense should be back on track with Andre Ellington back in the lineup, but Wake Forest has every ability to hang with the Tigers in the event of a shootout. Clemson's defense will be looking to rebound after the Georgia Tech loss, and the Demon Deacons present a similar threat with their spread misdirection attack. Wake uses several different screens and bubble plays to give playmakers like Chris Givens the space to break the big one. If the Tigers play disciplined and keep Wake Forest from hitting the home run the offense should be able to take care of the rest.

WAKE FOREST WILL WIN IF: The offense can sustain long scoring drives. Wake Forest's defense is undersized and outmatched against Chad Morris' high-powered attack, but Tanner Price can help neutralize that advantage by orchestrating long, time-consuming drives that end in touchdowns. Brandon Pendergrass and Josh Harris will need to find seams in defense on the ground to create offensive balance, but there are enough short yardage plays for the Demon Deacons to do some damage with proper execution.

X-FACTOR: Trick plays. Wake Forest has burned several opponents this year with halfback passes, wide receiver passes, reverses and flea flickers. Clemson has superior talent and athletes, but that does no good to defend a play you aren't prepared to face. The Tigers' defense must keep their head on a swivel at all times, and never let Givens or Campanaro get behind the safeties.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:10 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: Logan Thomas can find a rhythm early against the Yellow Jackets. You figure that David Wilson will be able to get his usual 100+ yards on the ground, but games where Thomas has gotten hot have led to the most impressive Virginia Tech performances. Thomas' streakiness works in the opposite direction as well, and I expect Georgia Tech's defense to try and confuse the redshirt sophomore with different looks from the linebackers. The Hokies defense is banged up, but Bud Foster has had an extra week to prepare them for Paul Johnson's bruising flexbone option. If Virginia Tech's offense can counter the Jackets with their own ball-control ground game, they take away one of Georgia Tech's best weapons in the matchup.

GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They can jump out to an early lead on the Hokies. Virginia Tech has not been forced to mount a big comeback once this season, and if the Yellow Jackets can score early they will put Logan Thomas in an unfamiliar position. Rattling the first-year starter will be the responsibility of Al Groh's talented crop of linebackers, as they must contain him from getting streaky hot through the air while eliminating his options to run. The Hokies' defense is thin due to injury, so the more time of possession for Georgia Tech the better.

X-FACTOR: The Georgia Tech passing game. Tevin Washington made a difference in the Clemson victory with great reads and big plays on the ground. But the sophomore quarterback has still not regained his earlier season form through the air. If Washington's accuracy is off, Virginia Tech has the secondary that can make him pay. Led by Thorpe semifinalist Jayron Hosley, the defensive backs will be hawking every pass Washington attempts hoping to come up with a game-changing turnover.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 1:03 pm
 

Keys to the Game: LSU vs. Western Kentucky

Posted by Tom Fornelli

LSU WILL WIN IF: It can manage not to suffer one of the greatest letdown games of all time. There's a chance, albeit an incredibly small chance, that after beating Alabama last week that the Tigers will overlook this game against Western Kentucky so much that they actually suffer one of the greatest upsets in history. The more likely scenario is that LSU gets off to a slow start on Saturday before realizing it has to play this game and then turns things on and begins playing like it always has.

WESTERN KENTUCKY WILL WIN IF: LSU not only overlooks this game, but completely forgets to even show up to the stadium and play. I don't mean that as an insult to Western Kentucky, but let's be honest, there probably aren't many players on the Hilltoppers roster that are expecting to win this game. Yes, Western Kentucky is 5-1 in the Sun Belt and very much in the running for the conference title, but outside of the Sun Belt this is a Western Kentucky team that's 0-3 and lost those games by an average score of 33-11. That also includes a 44-16 loss at home against Indiana State.

X-FACTOR: Bobby Rainey. Rainey is Western Kentucky's running back, and he has 1,169 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season, failing to top the century mark in rushing yards in only one game this season. In order for this game to have any outcome other than the one we're all expecting, Rainey is going to have to have the game of his life. That shouldn't be hard against the second-best run defense in the country, right? 
 
 
 
 
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