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Road To The BCS: Two Big Games This Week

No. 3 Alabama at No. 12 Florida 8:00 p.m. ET (CBS)

This is the lone night game that CBS is able to air each college football season, and it is a good one this year. Florida is on the up and up after a tough first year after the Tim Tebow era and are in position to challenge for the SEC East title. We will finally see if Florida's new offense can make a dent against the Alabama's defense. Florida will rely on quarterback John Brantley and all-around playmaker Chris Rainey to lead the way, but it may not be enough to defeat Alabama. Florida will need to create long second- and third-down situations and force Alabama to throw the ball.

What they are saying:

The strength of this Florida defense is clearly on the defensive line, led by Omar Hunter, Dominique Easley, Jaye Howard, Ronald Powell and a slew of other talented linemen, and to a somewhat lesser extent in the linebacker corps. The weakness here is found in the defensive backfield, where two true freshmen have seen playing time along with Moses Jenkins and Matt Elam. Of the group only Elam is a standout and the freshmen have been picked on at times, particularly Marcus Roberson against Tennessee. Junior cornerback Jeremy Brown will miss this game due to a lingering knee injury, and that will only further highlight the depth concerns in the secondary.

Accordingly, given the ability of the front seven to stop the run and rush the passer, clearly the best way to attack this defense is to make them cover on the back end in the vertical passing game, but unfortunately for Alabama that looks to be a risky strategy. With McCarron making his first road start in conference play in a hostile environment, asking him to throw, likely under duress, into complicated cover schemes could be a plan for disaster. Realistically, though, the strength of the Florida front seven may make it difficult for 'Bama to establish the run, and the foot injury suffered by Eddie Lacy last weekend will not help matters. For better or for worse, the Alabama coaching staff may be forced to rely on McCarron far more than they have to date and if so he will simply have to rise to the occasion. -- Roll 'Bama Roll.

What they are saying:

About the best thing that can be said for Alabama's A.J. McCarron so far is this: He doesn't do much to lose games. He's thrown just two picks this season, both in the opener against Kent State, and he's taken just five sacks. He's completing 66.3% of his passes, and completed 15 of 20 throws against Arkansas. But he's not what's winning Alabama games, either; that's the Crimson Tide's running game, and more specifically Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, who have also combined for 16 of Alabama's 76 receptions in 2011.

The rest of the 'Bama receptions: 20 for Marquis Maze, far and away the leading receiver; 13 for tight ends Brad Smelley and Michael Williams; 28 combined to six other wide receivers, none of whom has more than six catches; and one to reserve tight end Brad Vogler. This is not a team that wants to pass, nor one that is great at it - especially downfield, given that Richardson and Lacy have the two longest receptions of the year for Alabama. Florida fans may recognize that sort of futility, but while John Brantley has shown flashes of being a bomber, McCarron is sort of an unknown quantity. Undoubtedly, Muschamp and Quinn know that stacking the box early to stuff Alabama's running game might be enough to force the Tide to the air, which could be right where the Gators want them. -- Alligator Army.

Rooting interest: Florida, even though an Alabama loss will not knock them down behind Boise State, Alabama could still surpass Boise State but it will require them to go undefeated.

No. 8 Nebraska at No. 7 Wisconsin 8:00 p.m. ET (ABC)

This is an interesting matchup and it should be an amazing game. Nebraska is coming off their win over Wyoming last weekend, but their quarterback taylor Martinez did not look sharp in that game. He better improve on Saturday because the Wisconsin defense is much better then Wyoming. Wisconsin, also has the best player on the field in Russell Wilson and this will be the first time he is facing a good team, so we will see how good he really is. Plus, this could be a preview of the inaugural Big 10 title game.

What they are saying:

We've all seen defensive breakdowns in previous games, and that has to be alarming to fans. But let's not forget that we'll see Nebraska's three NFL first round prospects on the field together for the first time in Madison. Alfonzo Dennard missed the first three games, and Jared Crick missed the Wyoming game. And frankly, I'm not sure that Lavonte David has played quite as well this season than he did last year. That has to change this week. Maintaining assignments is going to be the first task at hand for David and Will Compton this week. Montee Ball and James White will kill Nebraska, if given the chance. So that is the first key: making sure the defensive line and the linebackers can handle the running game with six defenders. That doesn't mean exclusively there; Pelini will mix thing up, but the key is to not need to sell out consistently to stop the run.

The key on defense is the return of the "peso"...with Daimion Stafford in that role. Stafford brings a physical style to the defense, and certainly gives the defense a better chance to handle both rushing and passing situations as the nickel back. Pass defense is going to be key on Alfonzo Dennard locking down on Nick Toon; frankly, that might be the position battle to watch during the game. If so, then it'll come down to the rest of the secondary stopping Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen. Corey Cooper's move to corner last week should help in run support, but the Huskers will need to make sure that the coverage is solid downfield...especially in play action situations. -- Corn Nation.

What they are saying:

Injuries have hampered the Nebraska defense, but its three stud seniors will all play Saturday. Defensive tackle Jared Crick missed last week's game against Wyoming, but he recorded six tackles and a sack against Washington and increased his career total to 19.5 sacks. Linebacker Lavonte David made 15 tackles against Fresno State and has played in all four games this season. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is one of the best at his position in the country. He missed the first three games of the season, but played against Wyoming. The only reason he doesn't have more than four career interceptions is that opposing teams are afraid to test him.

Nonetheless, Nebraska has struggled to defend against the run this season, which means Wisconsin may try and establish the ground game early. Montee Ball is on pace for 27 touchdowns this season, while James White averages an absurd 6.7 yards per carry. Dennard will try and lock down the Badgers' Nick Toon, who has looked like an all-American with Wilson throwing him the ball. Toon is averaging 16.8 yards per reception and already has more touchdowns than he did all of last season. -- Buckys 5th Quarter.

Rooting interest: It does not really matter, I guess Wisconsin since strength of schedule does calculate opponents opponents record and since UNLV played Wisconsin it will help Boise State some with the computer rankings.

Auburn at No. 10 South Carolina 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia will be erratic for at least a portion of this game and might possibly be benched for a few series and then put back in to try to win the game in the fourth quarter. Auburn will need to slow down running back Marcus Lattimore if they really have a chance to defeat South Carolina. The Auburn offense still has yet to take off like last year, but expect them to use running back Michael Dyer to counter Marcus Lattimore.

What they are saying:

More USC pass rush, please. Auburn's Barrett Trotter has impressed at QB this season. He's no Cameron Newton, but he's proven to be a serviceable replacement. However, he had his third-lowest passer rating of the season this past weekend against a porous Florida Atlantic defense. Why? Mainly because he was under a lot of pressure. Auburn, which started a very experienced, senior-laden line during last year's championship run, is currently playing a lot of youngsters on the offensive line. It's a more talented, athletic group than what we saw against Vanderbilt last week, when USC broke out for a sack party. However, it's also less experienced, and I think there will be ample opportunity to force Trotter off his game. If USC can do that, expect more stellar overall defensive play and game-changing turnovers. -- Garnet and Black Attack.

Rooting interest: Auburn, and it can happen since South Carolina will slip up sometime this year, and Auburn is a pretty good team.

No. 14 Texas A&M vs. No. 18 Arkansas (Arlington, Texas) 12 p.m. ET (ESPN/ESPN3)

Time to see if either team can rebound from a tough loss the week before. Texas A&M will need to actually use their strong running backs with Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael which are two very good backs and not try to only throw the ball. Yes, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is good, but Aggies need to use the tools they have. Arkansas is known for passing under Bobby Petrino, but they are a solid running team. Arkansas did lose Kniles Davis but they do have Ronnie Wingo is doing a fairly good job in Davis' absence. Look for Arkansas to emulate what Oklahoma State did last week and take advantage against the Texas A&M secondary.

What they are saying:

Even without Jonathan Mathis, A&M's defensive line will be a lot closer to Alabama's than the three patsies the Razorbacks crushed earlier in the year. Tony Jerod-Eddie, in particular, holds the potential to cause serious problems for the Arkansas line, who will be even more tested when it comes to picking up the blitzes of Sean Porter and Damontre Moore.

With the exception of the first quarter against SMU, the Aggies have been stout against the run. That's bad news for Arkansas, who need to get their running game back on track. If the Razorbacks are forced to throw and their front line continues to struggle, A&M could make life very tough on Wilson and keep the heat off their banged up secondary.  -- Aggie Yell.

Rooting interest: This one is tough because both teams have good schedules down the road to make up the difference, so I will go with Texas A&M since Arkansas can still win the SEC and that extra game is huge. However, I really don't see either team ending the season with only one loss.

No. 13 Clemson at No. 11 Virginia Tech 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2/ESPN3)

First off the ACC champ, even an undefeated one, most likely will not pass Boise State. Neither Clemson or Virginia Tech have a great schedule down the stretch. They both face Georgia Tech who may or may not be ranked and Clemson takes on rival South Carolina. They both miss Florida State, unless they make the title game and the Seminoles have fallen off. As for the game this is the first chance for Virginia Tech to show everyone if they are a good team. Clemson is coming off a big win over Florida State, but Clemson always seems to do something to befuddle everyone and get blown out by a better team or lose to a much worse team.

What they are saying:

The Virginia Tech defense features an aggressive quasi-8 man front that will take away the run and force Clemson to pass. We think Bud Foster will do what he normally does: Blitz, blitz, and blitz to hurry and confuse So. QB Tajh Boyd needs to remain poised and identify what's happening in front of him quickly. Virginia Tech's coverage schemes are designed to make the offense overcome pressure and methodically move down the field. You'll see some Robber concepts and Cover 4 looks all day Saturday, with the loose Cover 4 that will give more underneath. Foster and Beamer have been very successful over the years with the 4-4 "G" concepts and this defense is a morph from the Hokie mid-90's defense that accounts for modern spread offenses.

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd will have to remain patient against the VT defense. Tajh will need to keep his head under pressure and realize that taking a sack or throwing the ball away is not always the worst thing for the football team. We will also need to continue to do a good job up front pass blocking and successfully use backs and max protection when necessary. I imagine Andre Ellington will be needed for the majority of the game simply for pass protection purposes, as he is likely best equipped to pick up the rush out of the backfield simply because of experience. For this reason, I don't expect to see much out of Mike Bellamy on Saturday. -- Shakin' the Southland.

What they are saying:

Clemson gave up big chunks of yards on the ground to two spread teams (Troy and Auburn) and one option team (Wofford) before shutting down a pro-style team (Florida State). Does that mean the Hokies should focus on running out of the shotgun? While I don't think it should be the focus, it should at least be mixed in. Auburn ripped off some big gains early in the game due to some overpursuit by the Tigers.

But mainly this will come down to Virginia Tech's ability to effectively run between the tackles with Wilson and Oglesby, keeping the Clemson offense off the field, its own defense refreshed the the Tiger defense on its heels. If Tech is again unable to be consistent on the ground and leave points on the field, this might not go Tech's way.  -- Gobbler Country.

Rooting interest: Lets go with Clemson, because down the road they will find a random game to lose too.

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