Friday, September 4, 2009

Fan's Weekend Guide

Conference Pride Is on the Line When...Oklahoma St. hosts Georgia (September 5, 3:30, ABC): The last time Okie State had an out of conference foe ranked as highly as Georgia make the trip to Stillwater was sometime in the 1970s. If the Big XII wants to say they have passed the SEC, this is the type of game they need to win. Oklahoma St. has the best group of triplets in the nation with Zac Robinson at quarterback, Kendall Hunter at tailback, and Dez Bryant at receiver. They come into this one with heavy expectations. Georgia, on the other hand, is living life under the radar after going into 2008 as the number one team in the country. The Dawgs have been road warriors and will pull of the upset, allowing the SEC to do some chest thumping—as if they needed a reason. (Note: There will be no pre-game handshake for fear of a pre-game scuffle)

The Conference Title is on the Line When ...Cincinnati visits Rutgers (September 7, 4:00, ESPN): There are five teams who can compete for the Big East conference title—West Virginia, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and of course Rutgers and Cincinnati. How these teams fare in the head-to-head contests will decide the conference, and it starts in week one. The Bearcats are coming off their first Big East title, something the Scarlet Knights are still searching for. Tony Pike to Mardy Gilyard is the most dangerous combo the Big East has to offer, but the ‘Cats must replace virtually their entire defense. Rutgers will look to pound away behind a big offense line and power runners Jourdan Brooks and Joe Martinek. The Knights are banged up as their leading returning rusher Kordell Young and defensive leader Ryan D’Imperio are fighting injuries.

The Team on the Cusp is....Illinois (vs. Missouri, September 5, 3:40, ESPN): The Fighting Illini are 27th in the AP poll, so if one or two teams get knocked off, they are primed to jump into the top 25 with an impressive showing against their border rivals from the Show Me state. Everyone knows with Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn they will have one of the more explosive offenses in the Big Ten, but will the defense play like they did during their Rose Bowl run in 2007 or disappoint as they did a year ago when they went home early? We will learn a lot about the 2009 version by how the handle Mizzou’s spread attack.

Don't Call it an Upset When…Baylor visits Wake Forest (September 5, 3:30, ESPN360): The Demon Deacons have become a perennial bowl team under headman Jim Grobe, while the Bears haven’t made a bowl in…let’s just say it’s been a while. But this could be the year Baylor makes it back as Art Briles is in the midst of his own resurrection project. The Deacs’ defense will be adjusting to life without Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith, allowing the dynamic Robert Griffin III to dominate with his arm and legs.

Three More to Watch

Minnesota @ Syracuse (September 5, 12:00, ESPN2):
One of, if not the, biggest storylines of this contest will be former Duke University basketball player Greg Paulus lining up under center for the Orange. First-year head coach Doug Marrone has named Paulus the starting quarterback and wiped the slate clean by installing new offensive and defensive schemes for Syracuse. Look for the Gophers’ defense, which ranked No. 11 in the nation in turnovers last season, to put pressure on Paulus and test the Orange offense.

Super Senior: Lee Campbell, LB, Minnesota

Star of Tomorrow: Michael Holmes, FS, Syracuse

Maryland @ Cal (September 5, 7:00, ESPN2):
In the first-ever meeting between these two squads last year, the Terrapins defeated the Bears, 35-27. With a pre-season ranking of No. 12, Cal should be champing at the bit for a little revenge, but after going 4-1 against top-25 ranked teams last season, don’t expect Maryland to roll over. Look for the Bears to hand the ball to standout junior running back Jahvid Best early and often.

Super Senior: Chris Turner, QB, Maryland

Star of Tomorrow:
Jahvid Best, RB, Cal

Miami @ Florida St (September 7, 8:00, ESPN):
In what used to be one of the best rivalries in college football, the 18th-ranked Seminoles take on a young Hurricanes squad. Look for the Florida State defense to pay close attention to Miami’s athletic quarterback Jacory Harris, to try and keep him contained in the pocket. They’ll also need to shutdown running backs Craig Cooper and Javarris James to force the young Canes’ receiving corps to make plays.

Super Senior: Dekoda Watson, LB, FSU

Star of Tomorrow: Sean Spence, LB, Miami

Photos Courtesy of SEC Sports Media & Syracuse University Athletics