Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
(Saturday, 12:30 p.m. EST, FSN)
What to watch for:
• Who’s going to make plays on the outside for Oklahoma State in the pass game? With the recent suspension of All-American wideout Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are left with a massive void to fill on offense. Expect sophomore wideouts Josh Cooper, Dameron Fooks and Hubert Anyiam to see increased targets. But Bryant’s team-leading 323 receiving yards won’t be easy to replace.
• One great matchup NFL scouts will be watching is Oklahoma State’s athletic left tackle, Russell Okung, against the nation’s leading sack man, Von Miller. Miller’s ability to explode off the edge from his two-point stance and quickly close on the quarterback has led to nine sacks already. Similarly, Okung is a gifted athlete who showcases impressive body control and footwork off the edge. It will be interesting to see how he handles Miller’s speed. Okung’s play is critical to keeping the blindside of quarterback Zac Robinson clean.
• Want to know how much Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman has meant to the development of Aggies QB Jerrod Johnson? Well, Johnson is averaging just over 326 passing yards per game and has thrown 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions through four games. That’s compared to Johnson’s past two seasons at A&M, when he threw for over 300 yards only twice and averaged nearly one interception per game during the 2008 season. He’s still far from a finished product, but Johnson is definitely making strides toward developing into a more polished pocket passer under Sherman.
Alabama vs. Ole Miss
(Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, CBS)
What to watch for:
• Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead needs to take care of the football. Snead has already thrown five interceptions through four games. Against Alabama, he has to be content to throw the football away and live to play another down. We know the Alabama defense is going to bring consistent pressure from its front seven and try to force Snead to make a play when nothing is there. If he’s smart with the ball, the Rebels will have a chance. But if he tries to force the ball down the field like he did last week against Vanderbilt, another three-interception day could be in the forecast.
• Can the Ole Miss defensive line create enough pressure to get the Alabama offense off the field? The one mismatch I really like for the Rebels is DE Greg Hardy against Alabama RT Drew Davis. After watching tape of Davis this season, I came away unimpressed with his athleticism and overall power on contact. Hardy is one of the toughest defensive ends in the country to block when his motor is running on high. In a big, nationally televised game like this, I think we’ll see his “A” game.
• On the backside of the Rebels’ defense, it will be key for their safeties to consistently roll coverage toward Alabama wideout Julio Jones. Starting CBs Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn can’t be expected to match up one on one with Jones. With the added help rolling to Jones’ side, Crimson Tide TE Colin Peek will have plenty of room to work with in the short/intermediate pass game.
Florida vs. LSU
(Saturday, 8 p.m. EST, CBS)
What to watch for:
• Expect the LSU coaching staff to take a page out of the Tennessee Volunteers’ playbook and be content to run the football early and often against Florida. The Tigers have a pair of big, physical running backs, Charles Scott and Keiland Williams, who are at their best when asked to run downhill. LSU certainly has the wideouts to win its individual matchups on the outside, but the key is to keep the Florida defensive linemen guessing up front.
• There’s no doubt that Florida CB Joe Haden has the physical tools to become one of the nation’s top defensive backs, but he isn’t the most instinctive defender and too often gets caught with his eyes in the backfield. Last year, LSU wideout Brandon LaFell consistently had his way with Haden any time the two were matched up one on one. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments Haden has made.
• How effective will Florida QB Tim Tebow be? If Tebow is 100-percent healthy and playing with his normal effectiveness, Florida will win this football game. However, if Tebow plays but is unable to perform at a high level, there’s simply no way the Gators can march into Tiger Stadium and pull off a win.
Michigan vs. Iowa
(Saturday, 8 p.m. EST, ABC)
What to watch for:
• Sure, the Iowa defensive line isn’t the biggest or most intimidating in the world, but boy, can they cause problems up front. All four starting defensive linemen play with non-stop motors. Their technique and game discipline is as good as any defensive line unit in the country. This isn’t a group that’s going to feature a bunch of high-round draft picks next April, but the play of starting defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn, Broderick Binns, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard has been one of the main reasons for the Hawkeyes’ early season success.
• The Iowa passing attack isn’t exactly what I would consider explosive. But when they do look to take chances down the field, expect the Hawkeyes to pick on the Michigan CB opposite Donovan Warren. Fellow corners J.T. Floyd and Boubacar Cissoko have struggled in man coverage for the Wolverines this year. If the Hawkeyes want to try a double move with WR Trey Stross, look for it to be when he’s matched up with either Cissoko or Floyd.
• The Michigan defense has struggled all season to get after the passer, as All Big-Ten DE Brandon Graham has recorded only one sack. The Hawkeyes always have one of the nation’s top offensive line units. If they’re consistently able to give QB Ricky Stanzi time in the pass game, he should have an easy time making some big plays against the Michigan secondary.
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