IN THE CROSSHAIRS

10 To Watch: Mountaineers’ Big 12 Debut Should Be Memorable

Ken Cross

September 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm.

Tavon Austin and the explosive West Virginia offense will be hard to handle for Baylor. (Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE)

1.) @West Virginia 48, Baylor 40 – There is no better fit in college football than West Virginia in the Big 12 due to its high-scoring offense behind Geno Smith, who can play the video game mantra with the other teams in the league.  So with that, Dana Holgorsen’s crew opens against another dynamic offense in the Bears.  WVU’s top eight passing outings have occurred in Holgorsen’s first 17 games as the head coach.  Meanwhile, Baylor seems to have not missed a beat offensively as Nick Florence steps in the shoes of RG3.  He leads the nation in total offense with 387.7 yards per game while wide receiver Terrance Williams leads the Big 12 and ranks sixth nationally with 117.7 yards per game.

2.) @Georgia 41, Tennessee 24 – The Bulldogs are still not receiving much attention even though they are ranked No. 5 in the nation.  Their offense has been scoring at will, and it has scored 40-plus points in four straight games — the first time that has happened in school history.  Aaron Murray has already thrown for nearly 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, with Michael Bennett, Tavarres King, and Marlon Brown each being equally as dangerous in the passing game.  The Vols are already at a must-win status in the conference after the loss to Florida two weeks ago.  They too have a tough offense to defend behind quarterback Tyler Bray.  Tennessee is second in the SEC and 17th nationally with 518 yards per game as Georgia is the only team in front of them.  Georgia has not started 5-0 since 2006.

3.) @Oklahoma State 37, Texas 34 – The Cowboys gave up 59 points in a 21-point loss two weeks ago at Arizona; however; they still had 636 total yards on 92 plays and outgunned the Wildcats by 135.  The key here will be erasing turnovers, as OSU had four in that game.  Texas has yet to really be tested as they have rolled to wins over Wyoming, New Mexico, and Ole Miss.  Running back Joseph Randle averages 111.7 yards per game and will give OSU a physical presence up front against the Longhorns’ tough front seven.  The Pokes look for their third straight win in the series.

4.) @Michigan State 20, Ohio State 17 – After the Spartans’ 20-3 debacle two weeks ago in a national TV loss in East Lansing to Notre Dame, MSU should be ultra-focused on the big stage to right that wrong.  Explosive Le’Veon Bell ran for a career-high 253 yards on 36 carries last week after being held to 77 on the ground against the Irish.  It’s Urban Meyer’s long-awaited Big Ten debut, so expect the Buckeyes to be ready to go on the road and play well.

5.) @Alabama 45, Ole Miss 10 – The Crimson Tide hasn’t missed a beat since its season-opening 41-14 beat down of Michigan.  Alabama is a perfect 18 of 18 in the red zone, has scored 14 touchdowns and kicked four field goals.  In addition to the peak offensive efficiency, this year’s defensive unit has the look of another stellar Nick Saban/Kirby Smart coached group. The Crimson Tide gives up only 185.2 yards per game.

6.) @Nebraska 31, Wisconsin 20 – Both teams were victims of improving Pac-12 teams. The Cornhuskers lost at UCLA while the Badgers were defeated at Oregon State.  The trump card for the Huskers is at the quarterback position with Taylor Martinez, who has passed for 878 yards and rushed for 191. He ranks third in the Big Ten with 267.2 total yards per game.  Badgers running back Montee Ball ended his fumble-less streak last week in a 37-26 win over UTEP.  He had 711 consecutive touches without losing a fumble.  The Badgers are 1-5 in Big Ten road openers under Bret Bielema.

7.) Oregon 52 vs. Washington State 16 (Seattle, Wash.) – The excitement behind Oregon’s rush offense that churns out 303.7 yards per game and nearly 53 points cannot be minimized as ESPN once again picks the Ducks up for the 10:30 kickoff against Mike Leach and Wazzu this Saturday.  Last season, the Ducks nailed 69 plays of 25-plus yards from scrimmage and have 35 over the first four games this season.  De’Anthony Thomas (11) and Kenjon Barner (8) have accumulated 19 of the 35.  The Cougars’ collective psyche bears watching after blowing a three-touchdown lead last week at home against Colorado.  The Buffs scored 21 points in the last 7:06 for an unexpected 35-34 win.

8.) Cincinnati 27 vs. Virginia Tech 23 (Washington, D.C.) – At Cincinnati, Butch Jones has found an all-purpose threat in quarterback Munchie Legaux, who has completed 61.8 percent of his passes so far.  Legaux combines with running back George Wynn to form a nice two-pronged attack in the Cincinnati rushing game.  The Hokies rebounded from a 35-17 defeat at Pitt last week after Logan Thomas threw a pair of touchdown passes in a 37-0 win against overmatched Bowling Green.  Thomas has underachieved so far in completing only 51.7 percent of his passes while being picked off seven times.

9.) South Carolina 34, @Kentucky 13 – Some Gamecock fans think last Saturday’s 31-10 romp of Missouri was one of USC’s most thorough wins in the Steve Spurrier era.  At No. 6 in the nation, the Gamecocks are easily in the finest hours of the program. A win would give South Carolina its ninth in a row, tying the largest winning streak in school history.

10.) Florida State 48, South Florida 17 – The Seminoles’ team speed is probably the best it’s been since the late 1990s, when Florida State was threatening for a national championship on a regular basis.  E.J. Manuel has so much weaponry at his disposal, and defensive gaffs can be minimized with runners such as Chris Thompson and James Wilder, Jr. and a receiving corps that has seen 16 Seminoles catch passes.  South Florida has lost two in a row to Ball State and Rutgers, so it will be ready to get back in the win column.  But the Bulls give up 160 yards per game on the ground, which means a huge night for Thompson, Wilder, and Manuel.

 

 

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