Jim Donnan's Viewer's Guide
With so many big games on the schedule, Jim Donnan breaks down what to watch for this weekend.
|No. 20 Notre Dame at
No. 3 Michigan
|Saturday, noon ET|
The Fighting Irish-Wolverines matchup will feature two high-powered offenses and two defenses with question marks. The team that does the best job tackling in the open field will have a big advantage. Whenever you get one of these big offensive matchups, the defenses always seem to get a burr in their saddles and play better.
The other key will be quarterback play. Michigan's Chad Henne and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn not only will have to make the big play but also will have to avoid the big mistake.
As well as Notre Dame played against Pitt, the Irish will have to throw the ball downfield more against Michigan. Teams will start playing more man-under coverage against them and pay more attention to the backs. Michigan must continue to keep its offense balanced between Henne and RB Mike Hart. Steve Breaston's return ability could be the difference for the Wolverines.
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|No. 25 Clemson at Maryland||Saturday, noon ET|
Clemson's balanced attack was impressive in its important win against Texas A&M. The development of a running game, showcased in the game-winning drive, is huge for the Tigers. Eight straight carries by freshman James Davis put the Tigers in position for the win. Continued success on the ground will open things up for Charlie Whitehurst. Obviously, the Tigers need to score more touchdowns and not rely on field goals.
Maryland faces a tough challenge this week. The Terps must transition from two weeks of preparing for Navy's option offense to Clemson's conventional attack. The Maryland offense rolled up 427 total yards against Navy and looks improved over 2004. However, the Terps need to display more consistency on that side of the ball.
Clemson and Maryland both want to make the jump back into the upper echelon of the ACC. The winner of this game makes big strides in that direction. Considering the depth of the conference, the loser will face a tough road.
|No. 8 Iowa at Iowa State||Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET|
Going into the season, one key for Iowa was finding a running game. The Hawkeyes rushed for 241 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per rush in their opening win, but the performance against Ball State is not much of a barometer. QB Drew Tate and the defense are still the strengths of this very talented team.
Iowa State merely survived against Illinois State in Week 1, which doesn't bode well for the Cyclones. Iowa State needs to avoid early mistakes and get the game into the second half. Emotions should be running high for Iowa State and the game will mean more for the Cyclones, but Tate will be the difference-maker for the Hawkeyes. You have to win the state championship before you win the conference championship, and Iowa is gunning for the Big Ten title.
|South Carolina at
No. 9 Georgia
|Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET|
Georgia and D.J. Shockley got their feet on the ground offensively in the opening win over Boise State. The Bulldogs have a great running game but will go only as far as Shockley takes them. He needs to take care of the ball and stay consistent each week. Defensively, the Dawgs have a lot of speed.
For South Carolina, the question is whether the Gamecocks can deal with the size mismatches on the line of scrimmage. South Carolina did a good job of keeping Central Florida out of the end zone in Week 1, but its defensive front will face an enormous challenge against Georgia. The Gamecocks' offensive line will be challenged by the Bulldogs' strong and quick defensive line. South Carolina will have to find a running game. The Gamecocks will have a tough time if Blake Mitchell has to throw it every down.
However, anything can happen in this game. Even though this is not an in-state rivalry game, it is a border rivalry. Four of the last five games in this series have been decided in the last three or four minutes.
|No. 2 Texas at
No. 4 Ohio State
|Saturday, 8 p.m. ET|
The Showdown in the Shoe features two of the top three or four teams in the country. The individual talent on display will be amazing. This game will be a real showcase for both teams, and the winner will have a legitimate shot at getting to the BCS title game -- and the loser is not totally out of the title chase.
Neither team can waste scoring opportunities because both defenses will give up yards grudgingly. The Texas defense must keep Ted Ginn Jr. in front of it and not let him make the long run after the catch. But if the Horns pay too much attention to Ginn, Santonio Holmes will hurt them. Ohio State will play both Justin Zwick and Troy Smith at quarterback, but the player who will win for you most of the year needs to get more time. Smith is probably that guy. Selvin Young and the Longhorns' stable of young running backs must help QB Vince Young.
As evidenced in Monday night's Miami-Florida State game, one thing to look for in a championship-type game is pluses and minuses in the kicking game. Texas missed three extra points in its opener and struggled much of last year to cover kickoffs.
If this game were being played anywhere but Columbus, Texas would have a tremendous edge. Getting the Horns in the Horseshoe is a big advantage for the Buckeyes.
|No. 5 LSU at
No. 15 Arizona State
|Saturday, 9:15 p.m. ET|
There has been a lot on the minds of LSU's players and coaches. The Tigers are still adjusting to Les Miles taking over, but the recent adversity probably has brought them closer. At the same time, having the first game postponed and having the Arizona State game moved to Tempe is tough. Playing at home and with a win under their belts, the Sun Devils have the advantage.
LSU has a ton of talent back but no established quarterback. Can JaMarcus Russell come through and play the way the Tigers need him to? On the other side, ASU QB Sam Keller has to have a lot of momentum from the bowl game and the Week 1 win over Temple. If the Sun Devils are to contend with USC in the Pac-10, they will need to show improved consistency and execution this year. Playing a team with the talent level of LSU will help ASU prepare for the Trojans.
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