September 14, 2011

Viewer's guide: Make or break weekend

Last weekend was enough to make fans, at least for a day, forget about NCAA violations and conference realignment. How will college football top last week?

This week's schedule has much to live up to, but the week doesn't lack for important statement games. None is bigger than the one in Tallahassee, where Florida State makes its case to re-join the elite when it takes on top-ranked Oklahoma.

Elsewhere Tennessee and Florida will try to reassert themselves in the SEC East, the Tigers of Auburn and Clemson will try to put together a consistent game from beginning to end, and Ohio State and Miami attempt to put the scandals of the offseason behind them.

[Game tickets: Watch your favorite team in action]

Here's a look at those games and the other top TV matchups of the third week of the season.

All times Eastern.


When: 8 p.m., ESPN2
Broadcasters: Joe Tessitore play-by-play, Rod Gilmore analyst
The line: Boise State by 19
Why you should watch: Before last week, it was easy to overlook this game - especially since Boise State routed the Rockets 57-14 last season in Boise. Then, Toledo nearly upset Ohio State in Columbus in a 27-22 loss last week. The Rockets aren't some kind of out-of-nowhere upstart; they went 7-1 in the MAC last season. They also have a receiver who should be in the Biletnikoff discussion. In his past seven games, Eric Page has accounted for 14 touchdowns (nine receiving, three passes, two on kickoff returns). Boise State QB Kellen Moore completed 28 passes to nine receivers in an opening-week win over Georgia. Detractors can complain all they want about Boise State's schedule, but it doesn't change the entertainment potential of this game.


When: Noon, ABC
Broadcasters: Dave Pasch play-by-play, Matt Millen and Urban Meyer analysts
The line: Clemson by 3.5
Why you should watch: Auburn and Clemson are a combined 4-0, but what an unglamorous 4-0. Auburn needed two late touchdowns to defeat Utah State in the opener, and had to stuff Mississippi State at the goal line to avoid going to overtime last week. Auburn is allowing 280 rushing yards per game (28 teams are allowing fewer total yards per game). Meanwhile, Clemson trailed Troy at halftime in the opener and was tied at the break last week against FCS member Wofford. The winner should get a confidence boost, as Auburn did last season with an overtime win. The game has one of the more interesting offensive coordinator pairings of the year, with Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Clemson's Chad Morris. Both were brought up from the high school ranks - Malzahn from Springdale (Ark.) High to Arkansas in 2006, Morris from Austin (Texas) Lake Travis to Tulsa last season. As a bonus, former Florida coach Urban Meyer, a spread-offense guru himself, will be in the booth as analyst. If anyone has good insight on Malzahn's and Morris' offenses, it should be Meyer.

When: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Broadcasters: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Gary Danielson analyst
The line: Florida by 9.5
Why you should watch: Last week, South Carolina jumped to the top of the SEC East race by defeating Georgia. This week, the Gamecocks should learn their top challenger. Florida has rolled over FAU and UAB by a combined score of 80-3, but the Vols look to be a true high-caliber opponent. The biggest test in this game, for both sides, may be when Tennessee's offense is on the field. A week after passing for 405 yards and four touchdowns against a porous Cincinnati defense, Vols QB Tyler Bray will test Florida's young secondary, which features two true freshman starters. Anchored by the front seven, the Gators' defense has been outstanding so far. Florida's offense, which was a big question entering the season, has been solid, too. TBs Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and Mike Gillislee have combined for 411 yards and two touchdowns. How QB John Brantley performs against an SEC defense (he threw two picks against FAU) is a question.

When: 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
Broadcasters: Ed Collins play-by-play, Chris Martin analyst
The line: Arizona State by 1
Why you should watch: Arizona State hasn't been shy about testing itself East of the Mississippi River, but the results haven't been great. The Sun Devils lost 20-17 to Georgia in 2009 and 20-19 to Wisconsin last season. The Illini will test the Sun Devils' front seven, perhaps more than Missouri last week, when the Tigers rushed for 182 yards. Despite a first-year starting quarterback and key injuries along the offensive line and at tailback, Missouri took Arizona State to overtime in Tempe. Illinois is in better shape on offense with four backs who have rushed for at least 100 yards, including QB Nathan Scheelhaase. Illinois' secondary could be a liability, playing into Arizona State's strength. Keep an eye on penalties. Arizona State has committed 16 in two games, Illinois just five.

When: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Broadcasters: Brad Nessler play-by-play, Todd Blackledge analyst
The line: Miami by 2
Why you should watch: Nine years ago, Ohio State defeated Miami in one of the most exciting BCS championship games. But thanks to NCAA issues, this game - the so-called "Ineligi-Bowl" - will play a minimal, if any, role on the national-title picture this season. Both teams are dealing with ineligible players, but Miami gets five starters back this week: QB Jacory Harris, DT Marcus Forston, LB Sean Spence, DE Adewale Ojomo and WR Travis Benjamin. Harris struggled in this matchup last season, throwing four interceptions against the Buckeyes. But Ohio State struggled to stop Toledo's passing attack last week. The Buckeyes have held their first two opponents (Akron and Toledo) to 81 total rushing yards, but Hurricanes TB Lamar Miller will provide a greater challenge.

When: 8 p.m., ABC
Broadcasters: Brent Musburger play-by-play, Kirk Herbstreit analyst
The line: Oklahoma by 3
Why you should watch: The top game of the week could either formally announce Florida State's return to the national elite or it could further strengthen Oklahoma's hold on the No. 1 spot in the polls. The Seminoles haven't really played in a game of this magnitude since 2004. The last time a top-10 Florida State team played another top-10 team was Oct. 16, 2004, when then-No. 7 Florida State defeated then-No. 6 Virginia 36-3. Last season, OU QB Landry Jones ripped Florida State's pass defense for 380 yards and four touchdowns. WR Ryan Broyles caught 12 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. In the 14 games since that loss, FSU has held opponents to 192 passing yards per game, a 55.2 percent completion rate and 14 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Then again, Florida State has not faced a passing team like the Sooners since that debacle.

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David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at, and you can follow him on Twitter.

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