Regular Season Playoff. Stanford is shooting for the BCS title game. Oregon wants to lock down a BCS bowl bid. Both must win the Pac 12 to get there. The winner of this game clinches the chance to be the North’s representative in the title game, at home. Respective streaks meet here. The Cardinal have won 17-straight games, last loss to Oregon in 2010. The Ducks have won 18 consecutive conference games, last loss to Stanford at the farm in 2009. Andrew Luck’s men may be having a better year. They did not play LSU in week one.
This should be a battle of offenses, facing defenses ill-equipped to slow them. Oregon can exploit Stanford’s lack of athleticism by stretching them horizontally and gashing them with speed. The Cardinal can press their size advantage against an overmatched Ducks’ front seven and let Heisman favorite Andrew Luck pick apart a young secondary. Oregon will need a huge effort from their defensive line, who need to pressure Luck and exploit the three Stanford offensive linemen who aren’t first-round draft picks.
Injuries could be critical. Darron Thomas will start, but he has not looked healthy, has been wearing a brace on his knee and has yet to be a factor running the football all season. Andrew Luck is healthy, but his receiver corps is depleted. He may miss two of his three tight-ends and wideout Chris Owusu for this game.
No matter how trivial it seems…there will be a football game. Nebraska needs help to get to the B1G title game. They also need to win. This game is not a must-win for Penn State, but winning would allow them to clinch the Leaders’ division by splitting remaining road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Rex Burkhead is Nebraska’s one horse, and they have ridden him into the ground. His increase in carries in B1G play (24.8) vs. non-conference (15.8) has taken its toll. He has been held to just 3.5 yards per carry the past two weeks and faces perhaps his roughest test yet in Devon Still and one of college football’s best defensive lines. The Cornhuskers must make Penn State pay for its pressure inside by getting Taylor Martinez into space outside the tackles.
Penn State’s offense won’t score many points. Their one positive is running back Silas Redd. The Nittany Lions must win matchups against a suspect Nebraska D-line and take out linebackers to spring him. PSU won’t sustain many drives, but when they do they must score touchdowns. Their touchdown rate in the red zone (40 percent) against FBS is ranked 118th of 120 teams.
The X-factor will be how Penn State players react to the Sandusky scandal and Paterno’s firing. The fans and the team could come out flat. They could also circle the wagons and be fired up. If forced, I would bet on the latter.
Road Impotence. Both Michigan State and Iowa control their own destiny in the Legends division. Finishing with Indiana and Northwestern, MSU could all but cement a trip to vibrant Indianapolis here. The trouble is this game comes on the road, where Michigan State has stunk this season. The Spartans’ road offense is 105th in yards per play and has mustered just 26 points combined in the three games.
MSU should fare better against Iowa than Michigan did defensively. Their great defensive line and top-five run defense are physical enough to counter Marcus Coker’s downhill attack. Their DBs should be able to cover Iowa’s receivers. Can their offense exploit Iowa’s defense though? Iowa’s unit has been a liability, especially as they tire in the second half. The Hawkeyes came dangerously close to coughing up an 11-point halftime lead against Michigan. had the Wolverines conjured more than 16 points from their five drives down the field, that would have been a loss.
On Aesthetics. Maryland vs. Notre Dame. Not here to discuss the game, just the visual assault that’s about to take place. Adidas feels insecure in the face of a challenge. When Michigan State went pro-combat, Adidas went Maize and Blue Ronald McDonald. With Under Armour fashion plates Maryland opting for the pride uniforms, Adidas unveiled a new Notre Dame helmet, after already unveiling two special Notre Dame uniforms and gold helmets so shiny they can be seen from space. At the rate Adidas is moving, next year’s Notre Dame – Michigan game will look like Rip Taylor sprinkled confetti over a Liberacean orgy. Just stop.
Notre Dame is to college football what Adidas brand cousins A.C. Milan and Real Madrid are to soccer. Blue and gold is synonymous with Notre Dame in the same way Milan are the “Rossoneri” and Real Madrid are “Los Blancos.” All three are simple, classic, iconic looks. The nouveau tweaks don’t attract attention, they detract from the brand. There are no fans (or prospective recruits) who are on the fence about Notre Dame, but feel their uniforms could use a little extra pizzazz.
[Photo via Getty]