Friday, September 9, 2005

Weekend Preview - 9/9/2005

(BlogPoll rankings displayed. All Times Central)

Before I begin, I gotta relay what I saw on Cold Pizza this morning:

Jay Crawford, Woody Paige, and Skip Bayless were in Columbus for the Texas-OSU game (more on that below), and during one of their little "First and 10" segments one of the cheerleaders, Jaclyn Burke, through an absolutely perfect spiral up to Woody Paige, who's on an elevated stage about 20 yards away. Then when Coach Tressel was up on the stage with Jay, Jaclyn threw him another perfect pass, which he bobbled. Later, she won a contest to win $500 in groceries by throwing another pass that was on the money.
Ohio State Athletics
Jaclyn Burke, 3rd in from the left on the front row, was "The Girl with the Golden Arm" on Cold Pizza. (Ohio State Athletics)

One thing's for sure, there are a bunch of co-rec intramural football teams at Ohio State that are rushing to sign her as a QB. (And the way co-rec rules are with the "closed/open" downs, you are at a disadvantage if you don't have a female who can throw.)

Anyway, with the Big XII falling on it's face in the marquee matchups last week, it falls to Texas to prove the conference's strength as they go into Columbus for possibly the biggest non-conference game you will see this decade. Texas Tech finally opens this season after taking the opening week off.


Starting their Weekend Early

Oklahoma State 23, Florida Atlantic 3

Sure, the score looks really good. But the Cowboys only managed 98 yards passing and had no passing touchdowns. This from a team trying to install a passing offense. Their defense did force 4 turnovers, however.

Big XII/Texas schools Game of the Week

#2 Texas at #5 Ohio State
6:00 PM ABC (KVUE 24)
Unfortunately, because all the good independents from the 1980s like Miami and Florida State that always scheduled strong have been forced into conferences, and because strength of schedule has been taken out of the BCS formula, matchups like this are now a rarity.
It's nice to see that there are still title-contending programs like Texas that have the spine to risk everything on a road game like this.

(It would be nice if fans could organize to demand better matchups, but for every fan that boycotts, there's about 4 or 5 others waiting to take their season tickets.)

As for the game, I thought Texas would win this game at the outset of the season because of the talent they have on both sides of the football. However, the nagging thought of "Mack Brown can't win big games" is still creeping in my head.

Key Matchup
Ohio State's Linebackers vs. Vince Young and Texas's Linebackers vs. Troy Smith.
(Note: I know there's a possibility that Justin Zwick will start, but he's as mobile as a rock and the Texas defensive line will get to him. Troy Smith, if he doesn't start, will be in there sooner rather than later)
Both Vince Young and Troy Smith are fast, but so are the opposing linebackers they face. When the LBs rush, they have to stay in their lanes. When they spy the QB, they must be vigilant. Whoever is able to contain the other QB's running ability will win the game. (Hmm... sounds like a college game from the 1920s or 1930s)

Key Player for Ohio State
Bobby Carpenter
He now must back up his smack talk by not getting stuffed by Texas's massive offensive line on run plays and spying Vince Young on passing plays.

Key Player for Texas
David Thomas.
Like many close games, controlling the ball and controlling the clock will be important. That means converting a lot of 3rd-and-6s and 3rd-and-7s. Thomas must provide a consistent safety valve for Vince Young on those plays to make the linebackers respect him enough to cover him. Taking a linebacker out of the box will open things up for Young's scrambling ability in obvious passing situations.

Tale of the Tape
Texas offense vs. Ohio State defenseTexasOne of the best offensive lines in the country. Texas *must* run the ball well to keep Ohio State's offense and the Longhorns' defense off the field
Ohio State offense vs. Texas defensePushI would give Texas the edge, except no one knows how they will defend Troy Smith when he's in there, and their secondary vs. Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes is a big unknown.
Special TeamsOhio State

Everyone says Ohio State has an edge in the kicking game, but last I checked, Mike Nugent graduated, so it's probably even with 2 kickers that have never had to perform under this kind of pressure.
Where Ohio State does have the edge is with Ted Ginn's speed in the return game.

CoachingOhio StateJim "Sweater Vest" Tressell has a BCS National Title game win under his belt. Yes, the methods he used to get quality players were underhanded, but a good football coach still has to put the good players in the right position to win. (You can cheat and still lose, just ask any bottom-feeding SEC program)
Mack Brown, on the other hand, has had great talent, and not a whole lot of big game results outside of last year's Rose Bowl.
IntangiblesOhio StateTexas is 10-14 in non-conference games under Mack Brown(!). Plus, he's only got 1 win against AP Top 5 competition.

Big XII Games

#20 Oklahoma at Tulsa
Saturday 11:30 AM FSN Southwest/FSN Midwest/FSN Rocky Mtn.
Oklahoma should beat Tulsa, but if they want to prove they are better than what they showed last week, they need to perform better than Minnesota, a mid-level Big 10 team, did last week. For the record, Minnesota beat Tulsa 41-10 and Laurence Maroney had 205 yards. If Oklahoma wants to show they've recovered, they need to beat Tulsa by better than 31 and Adrian Peterson needs to have more than 205 yards.

Kansas State at Marshall
Saturday 9:30 AM ESPN2
No, that time is *not* a misprint. That's the time they moved it to in order to accomodate TV.
Kansas State beat FIU last week, but did so without making a big play against a very bad defense. Also, K-State let FIU hang around until late in the game. Now the Wildcats step up to play a very dangerous team, Marshall, on the road.

#9 Iowa at Iowa State
Saturday 2:30 PM ABC (KVUE 24)
Regional Coverage: All markets in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa will get this game
Iowa might as well have scheduled Ball State again this week, it would have provided the same level of competition. The Cyclones allowed 21 points to a I-AA team last week.

Wake Forest at Nebraska
Saturday 6:00 PM TBS
If this was a basketball game, Wake Forest might have a chance. However, this is a football game. And it's at Nebraska.

New Mexico State at Colorado
Saturday 9:00 PM FSN Southwest/FSN Rocky Mtn
(FSN Midwest affiliates check local listings)
After surviving Colorado State, Colorado now faces a much easier New Mexico State opponent that was manhandled by UTEP last game.

#21 Texas Tech at Florida International
Saturday 6:00 PM
(Note: Mike Leach said Vincent Meeks and Jarrett Hicks will not suit up for this week's game, but only told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that it was an "in-house matter", which suggests that they have been suspended.)
Watch how Texas Tech's defense is performing in this game. They need to hold FIU to a touchdown or less on offense to prove that they are better than last year. Texas Tech also needs to roll up a bunch of points on FIU's bad defense to prove that they are ready to go.

New Mexico at Missouri
Saturday 6:00 PM (Webcast at 9:00 PM ($$$))
New Mexico is a team that can surprise an unwary opponent, as they did Texas Tech a few years ago. Missouri must stop the Lobos' DonTrell Moore to avoid a surprise here.

Appalachian St. at Kansas
Saturday 6:00 PM
No offense to Appalachian State, a very good I-AA team, but they are going against a talented Kansas defense. Their only hope is that the QB situation is still unsettled.

Samford at Baylor
Saturday 6:00 PM
That's Samford, not Stanford. Stanford probably would have beaten Baylor.

Bye Week
Texas A&M
Next Game: September 17th vs. SMU

Adopted Team

Bye Week
Next Game: September 17th at Mississippi

Other Texas Teams

TCU at SMU - "The Iron Skillet Game"
Saturday 8:30 PM CSTV
TCU, fresh off their upset win over Oklahoma, must take the Iron Skillet Game by a wide margin or else people will regard their hard-earned win as a fluke. It stinks, but that's how the system treats mid-majors.

North Texas at Middle Tennessee State
Saturday 6:00 PM PPV
Still waiting for word on a possible make-up date for the LSU game, the Mean Green face off against Middle Tennessee State, the biggest challenger to North Texas's Sun Belt dominance.

Sam Houston St. at Houston
Saturday 6:00 PM
After losing a heartbreaker to Oregon last week, Houston tries to rebound against the I-AA Bearkats from nearby Huntsville (home of Texas's "Death Row"). Should be no contest.

Rice at UCLA
Saturday 9:00 PM
I'd love to see the expression on the Karl Dorrell haters at Bruins Nation when UCLA beats this team by 45 and they have to put up with Dorrell for another week.

Bye Week
Next Game: September 16 vs. Houston


Houston at Buffalo
Sunday 12:00 PM CBS (KEYE 42)
Two teams with outside chances to make the playoffs this year face off in this game. Houston starts it season knowing it can no longer fall back on the "expansion team" excuse if it fails to make the playoffs again. Buffalo showed some flashes at the end of last year, but enters the year needing to show it's more than a one-dimensional offense. (But what a dimension!)

Key Matchup
Texans' D-line/ILBs vs. Willis McGahee
With an inexperienced quarterback, it's imperative that the Texans' challenge the Bills to beat them through the air. That means containing Willis McGahee.

Key Player for Buffalo
J.P. Losman
We know Willis McGahee can run, but it's up to Losman to provide balance to this offense or else Buffalo will face 8-man fronts for the rest of the season.

Key Player for Houston
Domanick Davis
Establishing a solid running game with Davis will help slow down the pass rush. Domanick Davis must also pick up blitzers on passing plays.

Tale of the Tape
Texans offense vs. Bills defenseBuffaloIt's probably too much to ask this Texans O-line to block this aggressive Buffalo defense.
Bills offense vs. Texans defensePushBuffalo must show the league it can pass the football now that Drew Bledsoe is in Dallas
Special TeamsBuffaloKris Brown is not a reliable kicker outdoors
CoachingHoustonDom Capers has a better track record than Mike Mularkey
IntangiblesBuffaloThe pressure is squarely on Houston to produce. The expansion label is gone and the natives are restless.

Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers
Sunday 3:15 PM FOX (KTBC 7)
Dallas wants to prove it wasn't the 5-11 team that they were last year. San Diego wants to prove to the naysayers that last season was no fluke. San Diego has LaDanian Tomlinson. Dallas has Julius Jones. Both teams have solid 3-4 defenses.

Key Matchup
Dallas' front 7 vs. San Diego's O-line and LaDanian Tomlinson
We know the new defensive scheme can produce a good pass rush, but can they stop the run? Especially a running game powered by TCU alumnus Tomlinson.

Key Player for San Diego
Antonio Gates
As with most good NFL tight ends, he creates matchup problems for any defense, but especially the Cowboys as neither OLB is as good in coverage as they are in the blitz.

Key Player for Dallas
Drew Bledsoe
In his first game, Bledsoe faces a defense that blitzes frequently. He's got to show the poise of a veteran on pass plays.

Tale of the Tape
Cowboys offense vs. Chargers defenseDallasHello San Diego. Meet Julius Jones and Jason Witten.
Chargers offense vs. Cowboys defenseSan DiegoAntonio Gates is the perfect antidote for an agressive blitz.
Special TeamsPushNeither kicker or return unit is all that impressive
CoachingDallasCome on, it's Parcells against Schottenheimer. Would you want Marty in a close game given his big game history?
IntangiblesSan DiegoBoth teams feel like they have something to prove this year, but this is the first real NFL game for Dallas's new defense.

Monday: Weekend Wrap-up
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