#19 Miami vs. Pitt: Ohio St. fans should be watching closely as a strong showing by Miami this week and the weeks to follow will bolster the Buckeyes national perception. On the flip side, if Miami tanks like its ACC counterpart Virginia Tech against lesser opponents, this will surely discount the big win in the Shoe over the U. With the ACC taking much heat for its subpar performances this year, Miami needs to win handily against Pitt. This game will also serve as a measuring stick for Pitt as we currently have no idea what kind of team they have. They lost in OT to Utah and then beat New Hampshire. This game will give us a better idea of how good or bad the Panthers will be this year.
#21 Michigan vs. Bowling Green: With what seems like their 3rd JV opponent, and 4th terrible defense, the only at question for Michigan in this matchup is if Denard ‘Shoelace’ Robinson can rack up 700 yards in offense. The sophomore quarterback came out of nowhere this year after backing up Tate Forcier last year to jump into the Heisman conversation after only a few weeks. While no one can deny his athletic ability (this guy flies!), I’m curious to see if he continues to put up xbox type numbers once he faces better competition. D-Rob currently leads the nation in rushing yards with 559 yards which as a QB is insane! With another weak opponent, another week of D-Rob for Heisman talk will likely continue (see what I did there?).
Virginia Tech vs. Boston College: This battle of ACC “Powers” isn’t all that intriguing except for the indirect effect Virginia Tech has on Boise St. If you objectively look at Boise St. on film, they’re a great team. I don’t know that they could hold up in the SEC for an entire season, but on a one game basis, I honestly believe they can hang with just about anyone. They took a hit, however, by some national outlets when their marquee win against Virginia Tech was severely discounted when Virginia Tech lost to James Madison. If Virginia Tech rebounds and has a successful in conference season, it could bode well for Boise St. If Virginia Tech continues to struggle, it just adds fuel to the anti-Boise fire.
#1 Alabama vs. #10 Arkansas: This is a pretty intriguing matchup and is probably the #1 or #2 matchup this week for me. You have the machine that is Alabama who has looked incredible thus far. ‘Bama is just running over people with the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and the best backup running back in the country in Trent Richardson. Richardson looked great filling in for the injured Ingram in the first two games and Ingram came back with a vengeance last week, returning to his Heisman form. This is the most dynamic backfield in the country by far and I’m not sure if ANYONE can slow them down. In the past, Alabama relied solely on the running game and defense and won despite the QB. McElroy, however, is playing great this year, leading the nation in passing efficiency. With the ability to now beat you in the air, the Alabama offense is more dynamic than ever.
On the other sideline, you have another early Heisman contender in Ryan Mallet. The former QB for the University of Michigan transferred after Rich Rodriguez installed the spread option offense. Mallet is a 6’7″ pocket passer with an NFL arm. He obviously didn’t fit the Rich Rod offense and transferred to Arkansas. So far in 2010, Mallet has absolutely lit up opposing defenses, leading the nation in just over 360 yards per game and is in the top 5 for passing efficiency. However, Mallet has not faced a defense with the size, speed, athleticism, and coaching that he will face this week. A strong performance, win or lose, will give him a boost in both draft and Heisman discussions.
#2 Ohio State vs. Eastern Michigan: Similar to Michigan’s JV opponents thus far in the 2010 season, 3 of the first 4 opponents for the Buckeyes are against much lesser competition. The only item of note in this matchup is the performance of Heisman hopeful, Terrell Pryor. Pryor has received national acclaim and has been placed in the Heisman conversation, but Buckeye fans and football analysts who look closely at Pryor can see that there is still much room for improvement. Pryor is an athletic freak at 6’6″ and over 230 lbs, he is the fastest player on the team running a legit 4.3 40 yard dash. Pryor beat Ohio sprint champion Brandon Saine in the 40 yard dash this spring. While his speed is impressive, he often appears to be running much much slower than he actually is due to his huge strides. This often catches defenders off balance as they think they have the angle on him and he continually runs right by and gets the edge. At over 230 lbs, he is also deceptively strong as he is a LOAD to bring down whether in the pocket or in the open field, one man rarely brings him down.
So, on paper, he should be a 2 time Heisman Trophy winner and the #1 overall draft pick, right? Yea… about that… Pryor has been a physical specimen since he first stepped foot onto the field as a true freshman. He has struggled with maturity, preparation, accuracy and reading defenses. By all accounts, over the past year he has made great strides in his maturity level, becoming one of the leaders of the team and one of the hardest workers in the weight room and more importantly, the film room. Most Buckeye fans will give him great acclaim for his performance thus far in 2010. To me, he has performed well, but not on the level of a Heisman Trophy winner. His pure athleticism shined through against Miami (FL) and even though the Buckeyes dominated the game, special teams made it much closer and Ohio St. wouldn’t have won without Pryor. For those making the MVP argument for the Heisman, this is a plus for Pryor. However, Pryor struggled to read the defense at times, making poor reads and decisions. He got away with it against an overmatched Miami squad, but if the Buckeyes make it to the BCS title game, he will need to improve to beat the likes of Alabama and other top defenses.
Another area to watch is the buckeyes special teams. They have allowed 3 touchdowns on kick or punt returns in 3 games (and Ohio U had a return called back, so it’s really been 4). Ohio St. ranks among the worst in the country in kick returns and in tight games in conference and in bowl games, this will come to be very costly if not corrected. The Buckeyes have also struggled this year in converting red zone possessions into touchdowns. For me, this is nothing new. The Buckeyes traditionally struggle in this area due to the ultra-conservative play calling by “The Vest”. You can point out several key games where this ended up costing the Buckeyes, the most memorable in my mind was the game against Vince Young and the Longhorns at The Shoe. In my opinion, Tressel is one of the best coaches in the country, he’s a great leader, and a great recruiter. But he is NOT the right man to call plays. He is more often than not, too conservative, predictable, and lacks the willingness or ability to make adjustments. While most times their superior talent allows them to win DESPITE the play calling of the “The Vest”, it has long been my belief that in order for the Buckeyes to compete consistently with great teams from the SEC, BIG 12, and PAC 10, he needs to assign play calling duties to a true offensive coordinator.
#16 Stanford vs. Notre Dame: After two heartbreaking losses to Michigan and Michigan St., I’ll be curious to see how Notre Dame bounces back. While Brian Kelly has at least fielded a competitive team and is making progress, it is clear that Notre Dame is a long way away from competing for a BCS bid. One thing is for sure though, Notre Dame games have been a blast to watch this year, providing the most exciting games of the week more often than not. They have their hands full though with a good Stanford team lead by Coach Harbaugh (who I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t join his brother as a coach in the NFL soon) and NFL prospect QB Andrew Luck. The PAC 10 is full of QB prospects and is wide open with USC’s grip loosened on the conference due to NCAA infractions. It should be an exciting race in the PAC 10 this year and Stanford has as good of a chance as anyone.
#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Auburn: This is an interesting matchup for me. While Florida is currently getting historical benefit from pollsters, ranked #9, they are very overrated in my opinion after watching them so far this year. They are still very well coached, they still have great speed and talent, but they do NOT look like a top 10 team to me. Demps bailed them out of the first 2 games with great individual plays and they played much better last week against Tennessee. While the scoreboard wont show it, they actually struggled against these lesser opponents. Brantley doesn’t look like the improved, pure passer that a Gator WR proclaimed in the offseason and they seem to struggle running the ball. Granted, Brantley played better against Tennessee, and maybe he’ll get going. But the winner of this matchup can put themselves in great position to knock off Florida as SEC East champion for the first time in a long time.
Surprisingly, the ‘Ol Ball Coach, the offensive guru, has had very good defenses at South Carolina and this year is no different. Consistent with SEC teams, they have incredible speed and athleticism on defense and Stephen Garcia seems to be stepping up on offense. If they make it by a good Auburn team, they could make some noise in the SEC East.
#24 Oregon St. vs. #3 Boise St.: Every game is critical for each BCS contender, but perhaps none more so than for Boise St. Despite their success against BCS conference teams and perennial domination of the WAC, many national media members refuse to give them credit as a true contender. This thought was intensified as the Broncos’ early season marquee win over ACC power Virginia Tech was dampened with a Hokie loss to James Madison.
This game represents the Broncos’ only other test against a BCS conference team and a top 25 opponent. Needless to say, if Boise St. is knocked off by Oregon St., they can kiss their BCS title hopes goodbye. If they win against a good PAC 10 team, it will add further credibility to the Boise St. program and put them in a position to play in the BCS title game with a couple conditions. First, the Broncos will need to win out and run the table. 2. They will need Alabama or Ohio St. to lose at least 1 game. Time will tell, but this STILL may not be enough to get them into the title game. I view Boise St. as a very good team who can compete with almost any team in the county on a one game, neutral site basis. That being said, I think Alabama is just too talented, too deep, and too athletic for Boise should this matchup occur. I just can’t see the Boise St. defense slowing down Ingram and Richardson for 4 quarters.
#22 West Virginia vs. #15 LSU: This is an interesting matchup. I’ll be looking to see if West Virginia can compete with top competition in the post Rich Rod era. LSU struggled to beat a severely depleted North Carolina team so while they are still a very good team, but they are not an elite team at this point. It looks like West Virginia will be outmatched by an SEC power, but I’m curious to see how they hold up.
#5 Oregon vs. Arizona St.: Oregon has quickly become a media favorite with strong early season performances sans Masoli. I guess when your starting QB isn’t smoking weed all the time you can be pretty successful. However, they haven’t played very stiff competition. They did smack Tennessee around and it’s never a bad thing to dominate an SEC team, but Tennessee is not a great team this year. Arizona St. has also played pretty weak competition with the exception of last week’s close loss to Wisconsin. Oregon should roll and it’s important for them to get off to a good start in conference play.
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