College Football Preview, Week 6: Oklahoma Renews Rivalry With Texas, Florida Travels To LSU

Oklahoma and Texas battle it out again in The Red River Shootout this week, Florida travels to Death Valley to take on LSU, and Auburn battles Arkansas in an SEC West showdown in Week 6 of the college football season.

WEEK 5 IN REVIEW

With four games between teams ranked in the Top 25 on the schedule, Week 5 promised to provide some separation between the teams that deserved their undefeated records and the ones that got theirs through an early season diet of cupcakes. With that in mind, Nebraska and Wisconsin tangled at Camp Randall in what proved to be a rude welcome to the Big 10 for the Cornhuskers as the Badgers rolled up 486 yards in a 48-17 win.

After a quick start by Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, the Badgers defense put the screws to the Huskers ground based attack and began to slowly take away Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead.  After the opening quarter, Nebraska never could get anything going, and all the questions about Martinez’s arm re-surfaced. 

On the other side, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball were outstanding for the Badgers, accounting for an outrageous seven touchdowns.  Ball in particular proved to be unstoppable for the Nebraska defense.  He toted the ball 30 times for 151 yards and four touchdowns, with no carry going for longer than 15 yards.  Time after time on third down (8/12), the Huskers defense simply couldn’t bring him down and allowed drives to continue.

The win validated the Badgers spot in the Top 10 and solidified them as a potential national title contender despite an early season schedule that included UNLV, Fresno St., and Northern Illinois.  For the Huskers, their early season struggles with the likes of Washington and Fresno St. proved prophetic.  Their defense simply can’t get off the field right now and they have no secondary option if their run game isn’t clicking at a high level.

Elsewhere, Florida was looking to validate its Top 15 ranking and prove that it had turned the corner from its brutal 2010 season when it welcomed Alabama to The Swamp.  After a promising start that saw John Brantley toss a 65 yard TD pass to Andre DeBose, the Gators looked as though they’d be able to hang with the Tide.  Unfortunately, with the Gators trailing 17-10 late in the second quarter, Brantley was sacked by ‘Bama linebacker Courtney Upshaw (who had earlier returned a Brantley interception for a touchdown) and never returned thanks to an injured shoulder.  Things went downhill rapidly from there as Florida was simply unable to move the football in the second half and Tide running back Trent Richardson ran wild to the tune of 181 yards (career high) and two touchdowns to help his team to a 38-10 win.

Virginia Tech’s home field of Lane Stadium has long been a burial ground for visiting teams, but coming off of big wins over Florida St. and Auburn the last two weeks, Clemson was out to make a statement that they are indeed the favorites to win the ACC this year.  After putting up big offensive numbers for most of the season, the Tigers proved they can win games in different ways as they ground the Hokies offense to a halt in a 23-3 win.  Clemson’s defense overwhelmed Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas and the offense made just enough plays on the ground with touchdowns from Mike Bellamy and Andre Ellington.  The one bright spot on offense for Virginia Tech was running back David Wilson who ran for 123 yards on 20 carries.

Week 6 gives us three more match-ups between teams ranked in the Top 25, including the annual Red River Shootout at the Texas State Fairgrounds.  After dropping from the top spot in the rankings all the way to No. 3 without losing a game, Oklahoma has a chance to prove that it belongs among the nation’s elite.  In addition No. 1 LSU will battle its fourth ranked opponent this season when they take on Florida.

All games are Saturday October 8 unless otherwise noted.

MAIN EVENT

No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (4-0) vs. No. 11 Texas Longhorns (4-0) – 12:00 p.m. (ABC)

The annual Red River Shootout typically has consistently been an opportunity for both teams to stake their claim as a legitimate candidate for the national championship.  This year, Oklahoma is trying to re-establish its candidacy after dropping out of the No. 1 spot, despite not having lost a game.  Meanwhile the Longhorns are trying to convince people that they are for real despite their offensive struggles early in the season.  Texas has used four different quarterbacks thus far, but seems to have settled on a combination of freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy to run the offensive show for the ‘Horns.  This will be an entirely different animal for Mack Brown’s club though as they take on Oklahoma.  Texas’ defense will be sternly tested this weekend against quarterback Landry Jones, wide receiver Ryan Broyles and the rest of the Sooner offense.  It’s unlikely that the Longhorns will be able to completely shut down that powerful offense, so the question remains whether they’ll be able to score enough points to win this game.  The old saying goes "if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’ve got none".  Texas has gotten away with it to this point, but against a different caliber of opponent, we’ll see if it holds up.

UNDERCARD

No. 15 Auburn Tigers (4-1) @ No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks (4-1) – 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)

It’s been a wild ride for the defending national champions this season.  After escaping with narrow victories over Utah St. and Mississippi St., and being blown away Clemson in Death Valley, the Tigers righted their ship this past week with an impressive shutdown of previously 10th ranked South Carolina.  Similarly, the Razorbacks were written off by most people after their poor showing against Alabama two weeks ago, but the ‘Hogs found their stride in the second half against a strong Texas A&M squad last week and rallied back for a critical 42-38 win in Dallas.  This week the two will meet with a legitimate opportunity to establish themselves in the brutal SEC West pecking order behind LSU and Alabama.  Arkansas has essentially abandoned its running game that was so impactful last year in favor of a passing attack with quarterback Tyler Wilson (510 yards passing last week).  Auburn has gone the opposite way and is now almost solely dependent upon running back Michael Dyer (41 carries last week).  Quarterback Barrett Trotter is being asked to simply not mistakes now rather than to try and win the games for the Tigers.

No. 17 Florida Gators (4-1) @ No. 1 LSU Tigers (5-0) – 8:00 p.m. (CBS)

The absence of Gator quarterback John Brantley this week (shoulder) is the reason this game gets bumped down to the third position week.  This game has all the makings of a prototypical LSU beat down, as this Tigers team possesses one of the two best defenses in the nation (depending on where your SEC loyalties lie).  Without Brantley, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is going to have to try and create some type of working combination of freshman Jeff Driskell and sophomore Trey Burton to at least move the ball or this game will get ugly.  Gator running back Chris Rainey has blossomed this year, but without even the threat of a downfield passing attack, the Tigers defense will commit everything to the line of scrimmage and make it an unpleasant evening in Death Valley for Rainey.  For LSU’s offense, the task remains the same, stay on track and don’t turn the ball over.  Jarrett Lee has done a tremendous job this season, but the presence of the re-instated Jordan Jefferson could make things interesting.

 UPSET SPECIAL (PREDICTION RECORD: 2-3)

Ohio St. Buckeyes (3-2) @ No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-1) – 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The Buckeyes are struggling this year, no question about it, but Nebraska might be a welcome sight for them.  The Cornhuskers have proven that they have major issues defensively and are staggeringly one dimensional on offense.  The Buckeyes have struggled to score points this year thanks to the (continued) absence of running back Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey, but the Husker defense should provide some relief.  Last week, Wisconsin ran up almost 500 yards of offense on Bo Pelini’s crew, and while it’s unlikely Ohio St. will duplicate that, they should be able to put up more than the seven points they managed against Michigan St. last week.  Defensively, Nebraska’s lack of a passing offense plays right into the strength of the Ohio St. defense.  They should be able to limit Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead and keep this a relatively low scoring game.  The game will come down to whoever can make a play through the air.  Buckeye quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller are better candidates than Martinez.

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

Boston College Eagles (1-4) @ No. 8 Clemson Tigers (5-0) – 3:00 p.m. (NESN+/WEEI)

What else is there to say?  Boston College is likely in BIG trouble this weekend when they travel to Death Valley to take on one of the hottest teams in the country in the Clemson Tigers.  The Tigers have run off three straight wins over ranked opponents in Auburn, Florida St. and Virginia Tech.  For the Eagles, their loss last week to Wake Forest was a continuation of their struggles on both sides of the ball.  They were unable to get off the field on third down, couldn’t pressure the quarterback, and struggled to get in the end zone when they moved the ball into Deacon territory.  If the Tigers come into this game with the proper mindset, they’ll win easily. 

Connecticut Huskies (2-3) @ No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1) – 12:00 p.m. (ESPN3.com)

Last year the Huskies used this game as the springboard to their first Big East Championship.  The Huskies had never beaten West Virginia, but were able to grind out a 16-13 win thanks to four Mountaineer turnovers (including the game deciding fumble in overtime).  This year, the Mountaineers possess one of the more powerful offenses in the country, and they’ll be looking for a little payback.  Geno Smith and West Virginia racked up 560 yards of offense in a win over Bowling Green last week, while the Huskies are coming off a bad loss to Western Michigan where they surrendered 38 points.

Villanova Wildcats (1-4) @ New Hampshire Wildcats (3-1) – 12:00 p.m.

Old Dominion Monarchs (4-1) @ Rhode Island Rams (1-3) – 1:00 p.m.

Maine Black Bears (3-1) @ James Madison Dukes (4-1) – 3:30 p.m.

Central Connecticut St. Blue Devils (2-3) @ UMass Minutemen (2-2) – 6:00 p.m.

Dartmouth Big Green (1-2) @ Yale Bulldogs (2-1) – 12:00 p.m.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (2-2) @ Columbia Lions (0-3) – 12:30 p.m.

Harvard Crimson (2-1) @ Cornell Big Red (2-1) – 12:30 p.m.

Holy Cross Crusaders (2-2) @ Brown Bears (2-1) – 12:30 p.m.

Stonehill Skyhawks (1-4) @ Bryant Bulldogs (3-2) – 1:00 p.m.

 

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