September 12, 2006

A week to crush the hopes of many

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Super Saturday, Showdown Saturday, Shakeout Saturday whatever you want to call it, Sept. 16 is here.

With seven games featuring two Top 25 teams, the remainder of the season will be shaped on Saturday.

The frontrunners in the SEC will be determined when LSU goes to Auburn and Florida goes to Tennessee. Michigan will try to snap a three-game losing streak in South Bend and spoil Notre Dame's season. The Big 12 and Pac-10 will have two high-profile games with Oklahoma heading to Oregon and Nebraska heading to USC. Meanwhile, Miami and Clemson will try to avoid 1-2 starts with road trips to Louisville and Florida State.

Here are five questions that will shape Saturday's games and the top 10 games of the week:

Five Questions for Week 3
1. Can LSU stop Auburn running back Kenny Irons?
Irons thrashed LSU's normally stout run defense with 218 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in last year's 20-17 overtime loss. And that was with defensive tackles Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams on the LSU line. LSU's five new starters in the front seven, including tackles Glenn Dorsey and Marlon Favorite, will have the task of stopping Irons. The Auburn standout has run for 252 yards (6.1 yards per carry) in Auburn's first two games this year. Another question: Can Auburn kicker John Vaughn, who missed five field goals in last year's game, recover if the game comes down to a critical field goal?
2. How will Michigan's new coordinators affect this week's game against Notre Dame?
After losing three out of the last four against the Irish, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr will bring two new coordinators to South Bend Ron English on defense and Mike DeBord on offense. Against Vanderbilt and Central Michigan, English's aggressive approach paid off - the Wolverines have held opponents to 1.2 yards per carry while forcing five turnovers. DeBord, who was Michigan's coordinator on the 1997 championship team, has installed a zone-blocking scheme that has powered the run game to 514 yards in the first two games. Michigan will have much of the same personnel as a year ago when Notre Dame won 17-10, but the shakeup in the coaching staff will give the Wolverines a different look.
3. How will the injuries to defensive tackle Justin Harrell and cornerback Inquoris Johnson affect Tennessee against Florida?
After a standout performance against Cal in the opener, the Tennessee defense has several problems on its hands going into Saturday's game against Florida. The Vols allowed 281 rushing yards and 5.5 yards per carry against Air Force's option attack last week before losing two starters. Florida's rushing attack has struggled somewhat with true freshman wide receiver Percy Harvin and true freshman backup quarterback Tim Tebow leading the team in rushing in each of the first two games. The loss of Johnson could pose more problems for the Volunteers with Florida's deep receiving corps of Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, Jemalle Cornelius and Harvin.
4. Can Louisville beat Miami with George Stripling and Kolby Smith?
As good as Louisville's passing game is with Brian Brohm under center, the Cardinals run game could be the difference against Miami. The Hurricanes counter Brohm and Co. with one of the top defensive backfields in the country with Brandon Meriweather, Kenny Phillips, Glenn Sharpe and Randy Phillips. Since Bush's injury, Stripling and Smith have combined for 32 carries for 279 yards and five touchdowns against Kentucky and Temple. In two games last year without Bush, the pair ran 48 times for 379 yards and two touchdowns. However, Miami's defense allowed 1 yard rushing to Florida State. We'll find out which group is the real deal on Saturday.
5. Is Nebraska ready to take on USC?
Nebraska enters the USC game with its highest ranking in the AP poll (No. 19) since Bill Callahan took over in 2004. The Cornhuskers will find out exactly how much progress they have made over the past two seasons when they head to Los Angeles. Nebraska will need breakout games from Zac Taylor and running backs Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn to keep up with USC. The Cornhuskers defense also needs to keep the Trojans in check.
Top 10 Games of Week 3
1. No. 6 LSU (2-0) at No. 3 Auburn (2-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS
The winner could secure a place in the SEC Championship game while making a push for a berth in the national title game.
2. No. 11 Michigan (2-0) at No. 2 Notre Dame (2-0), 3:30 p.m., NBC
Michigan will face its first major opponent of the season following a 7-5 year in 2005. Notre Dame will have a third tough test in three games.
3. No. 7 Florida (2-0) at No. 13 Tennessee (2-0), 8 p.m., CBS
What LSU-Auburn is to the SEC West, Florida-Tennessee is to the SEC East until both teams face Georgia.
4. No. 19 Nebraska (2-0) at No. 4 USC (1-0), 8 p.m., ABC
Nebraska is looking for a statement game to announce its return to the national picture. This would be a good time for that.
5. No. 17 Miami (1-1) at No. 12 Louisville (2-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC
Without Michael Bush, is Louisville still a top-tier team? The Cardinals find out today.
6. No. 15 Oklahoma (2-0) at No. 18 Oregon (2-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC
A rematch of the Holiday Bowl, which Oklahoma won 17-14, the game will feature college football's best running back, Adrian Peterson, and one of the best up-and-coming running backs, Jonathan Stewart.
7. No. 24 Texas Tech (2-0) at No. 20 TCU (2-0), 5:30 p.m., CSTV
TCU has its sights set on a BCS bid. Texas Tech is the first, and maybe only, barrier to that goal.
8. Clemson (1-1, 0-1 ACC) at No. 9 Florida State (2-0, 1-0 ACC), 7:45 p.m., ESPN
Clemson could fall out of the ACC picture with a second consecutive loss against a divisional foe, while FSU will look to rebound from a lackluster performance against Troy.
9. Iowa State (2-0) at No. 16 Iowa (2-0), 12:05 p.m., ESPN
After an embarrassing 23-3 loss to the Cyclones last year, Iowa will be looking for revenge, with or without quarterback Drew Tate.
10. Michigan State (2-0) at Pittsburgh (2-0), noon, ESPN2
Both teams went 5-6 last year, but they look to rebound this year. Look for some good quarterback play between the Spartans' Drew Stanton and the Panthers' Tyler Palko.



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