Saturday college primer

Iowa vs. Ohio State
(Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)

What to watch for:

• Can the Hawkeyes overcome the loss of quarterback Ricky Stanzi? Stanzi hasn’t been great this season, but at least he had the ability to create some plays in the pass game and threaten Big 10 defenses vertically. Redshirt freshman QB James Vandenberg will make his first career start against Ohio State at the Horseshoe in what is likely going to be a very hostile environment. I can’t imagine the Iowa coaching staff is going to ask much from the kid in the pass game except to play turnover-free football.

• With a redshirt freshman QB at the helm, how can Iowa expect to score points against Ohio State? It’s simple -- they need to create a big play on offense and try to get a score on special teams and/or defense. The Hawkeyes have the talent on the defensive side of the ball to keep this one close, but in order to win, they need to generate points in other areas of the game. Don’t be surprised to see some creativity on offense as well. Iowa is going to run the football consistently, but I’m sure there’s some type of halfback toss or double-reverse in the playbook that could be used in this one.

• The key scouts’ matchup to watch is Iowa offensive tackles Kyle Calloway and Bryan Bulaga vs. Ohio State defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Thaddeus Gibson. All four look like potential starters at the next level and are likely facing the best competition they’ll see all year. This is a great tape to evaluate when grading out all four prospects.

Miami vs. North Carolina
(Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)

What to watch for:

• Can the Miami offensive line protect quarterback Jacory Harris against an extremely talented UNC front four? Player for player, the Tar Heels might have the best defensive line in the country as they have an ability to consistently win individual matchups up front and create negative plays in both the run and pass game. Miami has a talented pair of offensive linemen in LT Jason Fox and LG Orlando Franklin. Expect North Carolina head coach Butch Davis to try to exploit one-on-one matchups with the right side of the Miami offensive line.

• Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has done a great job all year building QB Jacory Harris’ confidence early in games and keeping him in rhythm throughout. Expect a lot of screens and high-percentage throws from the Hurricanes in order to not only get the ball out of the hands of Harris quickly, but to try and take advantage of a sometimes overly aggressive UNC front seven.

• Can the North Carolina offense manufacture enough points to keep pace with Miami? QB T.J. Yates has completed over 57 percent of his passes in his past two games, both wins over Virginia Tech and Duke. The key for Yates and the North Carolina offense is to not only avoid turnovers but also to keep the three-and-out drives to a minimum to help keep the defense fresh in the second half.

Stanford vs. USC
(Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)

What to watch for:

• Two names that will become synonymous with college football and the NFL Draft in the coming years are USC QB Matt Barkley and Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Both players have displayed the types of skill sets to make scouts drool, but it’s their poise, confidence and overall intangibles that are so impressive at such a young age. Both players look like potential franchise quarterbacks at the next level, and I’m excited to watch them progress in the coming years.

Can the USC defensive front four hold up vs. a tough and gritty Stanford offensive line? Stanford doesn’t have any real standouts up front, but they work well as a unit, stay on blocks and do a great job wearing down their opponents. The Trojans struggled mightily vs. Oregon’s and Oregon State’s run games in recent weeks and could be exposed once again.

• Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh does a great job not only finding players to fit his system, but also maximizing their strengths on offense. He’s the complete package as a head coach, a guy who doesn’t just motivate but understands how to exploit opposing tendencies and make adjustments as he sees fit. He once again is outmanned by a more talented USC team, but his desire to win is contiguous and you’ll see a Stanford football team that feeds off his passion and will fight for four quarters.

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh
(Saturday, 8 p.m. EST, ABC)

What to watch for:

• Notre Dame wideouts Michael Floyd and Golden Tate have had their way with just about every secondary they’ve faced this year and are likely to do the same against Pittsburgh if QB Jimmy Clausen can stay clean in the pocket. The problem? Panthers DE Greg Romeus, who has been playing about as well as any defensive lineman in the Big East. He’s a long-armed, explosive athlete who has the ability to absolutely dominate Notre Dame LT Paul Duncan off the edge. Charlie Weis’ protection schemes will be key if they hope to keep pace with Pitt.

• When watching the Notre Dame defense, one word comes to mind: soft. And you have to think the Pittsburgh offensive unit is licking its chops. The Panthers have a gritty group of offensive linemen that does a great job staying on blocks and a running back in Dion Lewis who has the quickness to make a man miss and create at the second level. I expect the Panthers to run Lewis consistently and force the Fighting Irish to prove they can consistently stop the run.

• Pittsburgh QB Bill Stull has had a steller senior season and is currently ranked as the NFP’s seventh-best quarterback prospect on our updated senior position rankings. He’s improved by leaps and bounds over last year and showcases the ability to be decisive with the football and efficiently work off the play-action game. He’s also got a lot of talent at his disposal on offense and should have plenty of mismatches in his favor vs. the Notre Dame defense.

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