September 12, 2007

Key SEC, ACC matchups highlight Week 3

This week used to be fun for fans in South Bend, Ind., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Not so much this year.

A 0-4 combined record may make this year's Notre Dame-Michigan game unbearable for some fans.

Fear not, for there are several other viable options for you this week.

The SEC schedule features two key divisional games: Tennessee at Florida and Arkansas at Alabama.

The ACC race will continue to take shape when Boston College visits Georgia Tech. Out West, surprising Washington will try to build on its 2-0 record when it takes on Ohio State.

Preseason national championship favorite USC could face a tough test on its road trip to Nebraska.

Rivals.com will get you ready for these five key matchups in the Five to Watch.

All times Eastern.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 15
No. 22 Tennessee (1-1, 0-0 SEC) at No. 5 Florida (2-0, 0-0 SEC)

Time: 3:30 p.m..
Network: CBS (available in HD)
Storylines: Since the first SEC Championship Game in 1992, the winner of this game has represented the Eastern Division in Atlanta 10 times. Only twice in the last 15 years has the loser of this game made it to the title game. Tennessee looks to become the first road team and the first of Florida's major rivals (UT, Georgia and Florida State) to defeat the Gators under Urban Meyer. Both sides have key injuries that could affect the passing game. Florida will be without receiver Andre Caldwell (MCL) and Tennessee will be without corner Antonio Gaines (knee). Good news for the quarterbacks? Both teams are starting a true freshman cornerback Tennessee's Eric Berry and Florida's Joe Haden.
Player to watch: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has proven he's not only a running threat at least against Troy and Western Kentucky. Although Tennessee has allowed 252.5 passing yards per game, the Volunteers pose the first SEC defense Tebow has faced in extended duty. The Volunteers will look to take a bite out of his career 70.7 percent completion rate and 11-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Best matchup: Tennessee's running game vs. Florida's rush defense. The Volunteers' LaMarcus Coker returned from his suspension to carry the ball four times against Southern Miss last week. Look for more from him against the Gators. Florida has a talented but young linebacker corps, which features two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. The winner of the rushing battle tends to win the game.

No. 10 Ohio State (2-0) at Washington (2-0)

Time: 3:30 p.m.
Network: ESPN (available in HD)
Storylines: Surprise! Washington is 2-0 in Tyrone Willingham's third season in Seattle. The wins have come on the road against Syracuse and at home against Boise State, but the Huskies could make a big statement by beating the defending Big Ten champ. Ohio State's explosive wide receiver Ray Small (ankle) is scheduled to return after missing the first two games of the season. Ohio State has not allowed a touchdown in two games and has forced 21 punts.
Player to watch: Washington cornerback Roy Lewis was the defensive star in the Huskies' 24-10 upset of No. 22 Boise State. The most experienced member of the Washington secondary, Lewis got the best of first-year starting quarterback Taylor Tharp. Lewis had 11 tackles, an interception and a fourth-down pass break-up in the end zone last week.
Best matchup: Washington quarterback Jake Locker vs. Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis. The redshirt freshman quarterback has helped Washington to two wins with his running ability he's rushed 26 times for 167 yards and three touchdowns this season. However, Locker has not faced a linebacker quite like Laurinaitis, who won last year's Nagurski Award. Ohio State has contained several of the mobile quarterbacks it has faced, including Indiana's Kellen Lewis and Illinois' Juice Williams.

No. 16 Arkansas (1-0, 0-0 SEC) at Alabama (2-0, 1-0 SEC)

Time: 6:45 p.m.
Network: ESPN (available in HD)
Storylines: Nick Saban faces his toughest test so far as Alabama's coach. The win over Vanderbilt was nice, but Arkansas still has the SEC West crown. Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin missed three kicks in a double-overtime loss to Arkansas last year. He has missed four of eight field-goal attepmts this year. Arkansas wide receiver Marcus Monk (knee) and tight end Ben Cleveland (neck) are not likely to play. The Razorbacks are coming off a bye week after defeating Troy 46-26 in the season opener. Arkansas has won three out of the last four meetings.
Player to watch: You already know the guys running the ball for Arkansas, so take a look at the Tide's new running back, Terry Grant. The redshirt freshman accounted for 80 yards on an 86-yard touchdown drive against Vanderbilt. With 307 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games, he's showing signs of being the game-breaking back Alabama lacked last year.
Best matchup: Alabama coach Nick Saban vs. Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Saban brings an impressive defensive resume to Alabama, but he will have his toughest test yet against Arkansas' superstar duo of running backs. The Tide already shut down one standout in Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett. However, it will be more difficult to nullify McFadden and Jones. Saban will try to do it with true freshman Rolando McClain) scheduled to start at middle linebacker.

No. 1 USC (1-0) at No. 14 Nebraska (2-0)

Time: 8 p.m.
Network: ABC (available in HD)
Storylines: Nebraska gets a second chance to assert itself as a national power after losing to USC 28-10 last year in Los Angeles. National championship favorite USC plays its first of six high-profile road games. The last time the No. 1 team came to Lincoln was in 1978, when top-ranked Oklahoma lost to the Cornhuskers 17-14.
Player to watch: The last time Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller faced USC, he led Arizona State to a 21-3 halftime lead in 2005. Then he threw four second-half interceptions in what ended up as a 38-28 loss. Through two games, Keller hasn't made the splash anticipated following his transfer. Nebraska needs him to rediscover his Pac-10 form (minus that doomed second half) for a chance at the upset.
Best matchup: USC linebackers vs. Nebraska running back Marlon Lucky. While it has taken Keller time to find his footing in the West Coast offense, Lucky has carried the Cornhuskers with 323 rushing yards in two games. Nevada and Wake Forest don't have three potential first-round draft picks at linebacker, though. Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing will make life difficult for Lucky.

No. 21 Boston College (2-0, 2-0 ACC) at No. 15 Georgia Tech (2-0, 0-0 ACC)

Time: 8 p.m.
Network: ESPN2 (available in HD)
Storylines: Boston College has a chance to increase its early lead in the ACC race by taking advantage of a conference-heavy September schedule. The Eagles have already won two conference games, and they have a chance to win a third before facing four nonconference opponents in a row. The game-within-the-game could be the matchup between two of the top coordinators in the game Boston College's Steve Logan on offense and Georgia Tech's Jon Tenuta on defense.
Player to watch: Playing in the ACC and at Boston College means cornerback DeJuan Tribble is somewhat anonymous. However, the senior is a game-changing defensive player. He has 14 career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.
Best matchup: Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice vs. Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. In a game that features two dark horse Heisman Trophy candidates, each of these standouts has to play well for his team to win. Ryan needs to perform better than his 54.7 percent completion rate to impress voters. Choice's stock continues to rise, though. He is riding a streak of nine consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

Other games to watch
No. 4 West Virginia (2-0) at Maryland (2-0), 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, ESPN
The Mountaineers can't make the out-of-conference splash South Florida or even Cincinnati made last week. A road trip to Maryland is the best they've got.

Notre Dame (0-2) at Michigan (0-2), 3:30 p.m., ABC
The list of 0-2 teams includes Duke, Iowa State, Syracuse, Rice, Temple and six Sun Belt Conference schools. Either Notre Dame or Michigan will join the 0-3 club.

No. 9 Louisville (2-0) at Kentucky (2-0), 7:30 p.m., ESPNClassic
After Louisville's defensive performance last week, Kentucky is aiming for an upset of its in-state rival.

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