Homecomings highlight Week 5 matchups
Miami had better be ready.
Kevin Kolb has been putting up Heisman-worthy numbers.
It's no secret that the Hurricanes have struggled this season, sandwiching a walloping of Florida A&M between losses to Florida State and Louisville. But if Miami thinks it has an easy week to recover, it had better think again. Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb is a dark-horse Heisman trophy candidate who has already put up gaudy numbers this season -- more than 1,000 yards passing and 12 touchdowns. He's sixth in the nation in passing efficiency and fourth in total offense. Kolb has been running this offense since he was in high school and knows all of its nuances. Kolb runs as many different plays as anyone in college football history -- and the Cougars execute them. Kolb is not alone in the offense; backs Jackie Battle and Anthony Alridge have combined for more than 400 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
But if anyone can stop the Cougars, it's Miami's talented and veteran defense. The Canes have had an off-week to prepare for Houston, but they have a lot to overcome as well. There is so much negativity in Miami right now -- it will be interesting to see how the Canes perform. Which Miami offense will show up: the anemic version that couldn't score against FSU and UL, or the explosive version that dominated FAU? In its last five losses, Miami hasn't scored in the second half. The Canes' schedule sets up nicely for them to win their division, if they're able to make the necessary adjustments. It's definitely "show" time in Miami, and if there's one team that needs to show some life and reverse the trend, it's this one. There is a big difference in talent between this Miami team and past ones.These Canes have to learn to execute as a team. They do not have the normal number of guys who are high draft picks, so they have to go out and play as a group.
Going into the season, I thought there was no way Miami would be worse than 2-1 at this point -- and clearly, the disgruntled fans agree. Miami is 1-2 heading into Saturday night's showdown (ESPN2, 6 p.m. ET). But regardless of what's happening with your team, it needs the support of the fans. Miami has had some suspensions and injuries, but overall, it lost to a really good Louisville team. As a coach, you go into a game counting on your fans. The Canes' season is still salvageable, but there is no longer room for errors.
No. 14 Oregon at Arizona State
ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
I was really surprised by how easily Cal dispensed with Arizona State; the Bears rolled to a 49-21 victory that was even more lopsided than the score indicates. The Sun Devils' passing game is just not there. Rudy Carpenter's success last season convinced everyone that this season would be different, but Arizona State has struggled to get anything going offensively. Carpenter has thrown nearly as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns (11). The defense hasn't been better; it is currently ranked 104th in pass efficiency defense. This is a defining moment for Arizona State, a team at a crossroads. Carpenter has to come out of his funk and score a lot of points. He should have a chance to air it out against Oregon's inexperienced secondary.
Although Arizona State rolled past Northern Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, the Sun Devils struggled against Cal's balanced attack of Nathan Longshore and Marshawn Lynch. They'll see more of the same from Oregon this week with Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart. It will be interesting to see how Oregon reacts to an off-week that was filled with media attention from the controversy in the Oklahoma game. The call obviously worked in the Ducks' favor, but they deserve credit for making the plays necessary to win. If Stewart plays well, expect him to receive more attention. Injuries have stifled his performance in the past, but he's a very talented player most people don't know about. He and Dixon make for one of college football's most potent two-pronged attacks, alongside Lynch and Longshore and Pat White and Steve Slaton. When you have talent at both running back and quarterback, teams can't gang up on you.
Texas Tech at Texas A&M
The teams have comparable talent. Texas A&M entered the season with issues on defense; Tech's D was humbled by the Horned Frogs. Both offenses boast power. This could easily turn into a shoot-out. I've been impressed with the Aggies' quarterback, Stephen McGee -- he's thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 68.9 percent of his passes. It will be interesting to see how he does in conference play. Right now, it's hard to say how good the Aggies' offense is. Tech's quarterback, Graham Harrell, has also been putting up impressive numbers; he has completed 117 of his 177 passes for 11 touchdowns with two interceptions. Harrell consistently puts up good numbers against weaker teams, but was kept scoreless and completed just 48.9 percent of his passes against TCU.
Texas Tech will have to deal with playing on the road and handling a big, rowdy crowd. The Aggies will have to use their new 4-2-5 defensive scheme to pressure Harrell into making mistakes. It's more than likely that the winner of this game will be whoever has the ball last.
No. 1 Ohio State at No. 13 Iowa
Iowa presents a number of challenges for Ohio State's defense. Quarterback Drew Tate is a winner. He does what is necessary to win big games. He is a consummate leader, and has a talented and versatile, albeit inexperienced, supporting cast. The one thing that impressed me last week about the Buckeyes, however, was the defense's ability to keep them in a big game. The offense isn't always going to be dominant -- although don't expect a consecutive subpar performances from QB Troy Smith -- and Penn State isn't the nation's top offense, but the Buckeyes proved they could rely on their defense.
Ohio State's offense gives it the edge in this matchup. The Buckeyes have it all -- a creative, veteran quarterback; a powerful, tailback-oriented offense; and flexible, talented receivers. This game and their Oct. 14 matchup against Michigan State are the Buckeyes' biggest hurdles before the season finale against No. 6 Michigan on Nov. 18.
Jim Donnan was the head coach at Georgia and Marshall and is an ESPN college football analyst.
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