Conference races heating up, coaches preparing for rivalry games
Breaking Down The Games
By Jim Donnan, ESPN.com
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Ben Mauk has the Bearcats competing at a high level.
ESPN, 7:45 p.m. ET
Either West Virginia or Cincinnati will be eliminated from Big East conference contention on Saturday night. Who would have guessed this matchup would have conference and national title game implications at the beginning of the season? The Mountaineers proved in the second half of last week's game against Louisville and in the loss to South Florida that the best way to beat them is to let them beat themselves. Cincinnati is especially good at that. The Bearcats have spent the season among the national leaders in takeaways. West Virginia has the unfortunate habit of turning the ball over (six turnovers against USF; three against the Cards). WVU quarterback Patrick White has turned it up in the past few weeks and Steve Slaton gives the Mountaineers a dynamic rushing option. But the best part of the Mountaineers may be their defense, which has been rock solid and perhaps overlooked this season. The defense will be tested by Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk, who has had a great year. He has really propelled the Bearcats to new heights. This could be one of the better games of the season -- and it's a must-win for West Virginia, which could earn a few style points and possibly move up the BCS. Boston College at Clemson ESPN, 7:45 p.m. ET
All eyes will be on one-time Heisman front-runner Matt Ryan, but take a look at his numbers compared to Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper's.
|Matt Ryan||Cullen Harper|
Over the years, Oklahoma has done a remarkable job defending Texas Tech's innovative offense. Red Raiders coach Mike Leach was Bob Stoops' first offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. With his defensive background, Stoops understands what gives Leach's system trouble. The Sooners have become an offensive juggernaut themselves; QB Sam Bradford leads the nation in passing efficiency. He's one of the best freshman quarterbacks I've seen in years. Much of that has to do with his unbelievable weapons -- including DeMarco Murray and Allen Patrick. The Sooners have, however, struggled on the road, and it will be interesting to see whether they can turn that around this week. One of the most interesting matchups could be Tech WR Michael Crabtree against Oklahoma's secondary. Can the Sooners put pressure on the freshman? On paper, Oklahoma has the edge, but when you can score like Texas Tech, you're always in the game.
ACC Race Heating Up
By Bob Davie, ESPN.com
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Virginia's Al Groh has put the Cavaliers in BCS bowl contention.
Coach Class: Ohio State-Michigan
By ESPN The MagazineEditor's note: Each week, analysts from ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine will tackle a game plan for one of the biggest games on the schedule.
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Jake Long spurned the NFL for a chance to beat Ohio State.
Curry takes over MichiganI expect QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart to be healthy. They'd better be. Backup QB Ryan Mallett has a very strong arm and will be great, but he's not there yet; Henne is a steady hand. WR Mario Manningham is a consistent deep threat, and nobody fights harder to come down with the ball. On defense, I'd call out LB Shawn Crable in practice by reminding him about last year's personal foul vs. OSU that may have cost Michigan the game. He's a future No. 1 draft choice who can win a game himself, as either a pass-rusher or a pick-sixer. Watch SS Jamar Adams at the line of scrimmage. He's OK in coverage but is a brutal run-stuffer. RB Chris Wells won't ever want to see him again. Read the full story here.
A Closer Look At The SEC
Dale Zanine/US Presswire
Knowshon Moreno has sparked Georgia's offense.
Saturday's Kentucky-Georgia game intrigues me because it looks like it could be another Pac-10-type game in the SEC. We're used to seeing monster defensive performances from SEC teams, but both the Cats and Dawgs have been lighting up scoreboards this season. Andre' Woodson received a lot of attention earlier in the season for his flurry of touchdowns, and the way Georgia was able to exploit Auburn's defense last weekend was eye-opening. Dawgs QB Matthew Stafford averaged more than 21 yards per completion against the Tigers. He rivals Woodson in his ability to throw the deep ball. And he's hardly alone. With Knowshon Moreno, Sean Bailey and Mohamed Massaquoi attacking, it's tough for any defense to hold up. Of the four, Moreno might be the most fun to watch -- both during the play and after. Watch him on the sideline, the way he struts to the huddle, how quickly he bounces back from a hit. His energy, passion and love for the game spark this Georgia team, and Moreno's the reason the Dawgs are still in the SEC hunt. By Jim Donnan, ESPN.com
Next weekend, the SEC wraps up its regular season with a number of can't-miss games: Georgia-Georgia Tech, Tennessee-Kentucky, Arkansas-LSU, Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina and Alabama-Auburn. The logical question is, do any of these teams have to worry about suffering the same fate as Ohio State? Wins are particularly important for Georgia and Tennessee, which are still in the hunt for the SEC East title. Georgia faces a Kentucky in a must-win game Saturday. The Cats beat Georgia last season 24-20, and the Dawgs understand what is on the line. But they've been on a such a run that even if they don't catch Tennessee in the division race, they still are in a position to get a bid to a BCS bowl. Stopping the pass has been the UGA's biggest weakness, which UK will look to exploit. A Cats win wouldn't be a tremendous upset, but it seems unlikely. Tennessee needs wins against Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- teams it has defeated 43 of the last 44 times -- to win the SEC East race. It will be interesting to see how Georgia and Tennessee react to the pressure.
The Game Before The Big Game
By Bill Curry, ESPN.com
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Jim Tressel's team got tripped up before its showdown with Michigan.
Viewer's Guide(All times ET) Friday:
11 p.m.: Hawaii at Nevada (ESPN2)
10 a.m.: "College GameDay" from Ann Arbor, Mich. (ESPN)
Noon: Ohio State at Michigan (ABC)
Northwestern at Illinois (ESPN)
Syracuse at Connecticut (ESPN2)
3:30 p.m.: Iowa State at Kansas (ABC)
4 p.m.: North Carolina State at Wake Forest (ESPNU)
7:45 p.m.:West Virginia at Cincinnati (ESPN)
Boston College at Clemson (ESPN2)
8 p.m.: Oklahoma at Texas Tech (ABC) • Schedule | GamePlan | Coverage map
By Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com
By Jim Donnan, ESPN.comOne of a college coach's top responsibilities is recruiting. Here are a few tricks of the trade I've picked up over the years: 1. Always get the prospect's girlfriend's cell phone number. You can always get in touch with him through her. 2. Find out who the recruit's confidante is on the faculty at the school, outside of the coach, and meet with him. 3. Never meet with the prospect in the coach's office. Everybody does that. Take him somewhere different, so your visit will stand out. 4. When the recruit visits, it's critical to find a host with similar interests so the recruit isn't turned off and gets to see the sides of the school that would interest him. It's also important to coach everyone from the host to the school president on the recruit's background and what the hot buttons are for the recruit and his family. 5. If a prospect is having doubts about playing time, or there is a proven player on the team in the position they would be competing for, ask them, "Why would you give up the chance to play where you've always wanted to play? You're a competitor. You've always been the best. Why wouldn't you be here?" 6. If you're trying to get a commitment and it's really tense in the room, break the ice with a joke. My go-to line: "Hey, [insert player's name]. Listen. My wife wouldn't have married me if I didn't ask her, so how bout it -- do you want to play for [insert school]?" 7. If the recruit is close to signing or you're worried he might waiver on his commitment, and his mother is on your side, there's one tried-and-true method: Ask her to start crying. No recruit is going to turn down his crying mother. Works every time.
EA Sports: Ohio State-Michigan
Beano's Cookin' on the Big Ten
By Jim Donnan, ESPN.comEach week, I'll propose a rule change I think would benefit college football. Sound off on the Conversation page and let me know what you'd like to see changed. Currently, football players are restricted to four years of eligibility, to be used in a five-year window. Because so many players want to go to the NFL in three years, we've seen a dramatic decrease in the number of players using redshirt years. I would propose the NCAA allows five years of eligibility in five years. This alleviates the tension around the redshirt year -- freshmen don't have to worry about wasting a year if they see limited time on the field, and coaches can build depth in their teams. What do you think, SportsNation? Sound off.
Coach Holtz on Notre Dame
The Rivalry: Michigan-Ohio State
By The Numbers
By ESPN Research