Today’s Top 25 college football preview capsules


Associated Press

No. 1 Alabama (0-1) at Missouri, 9:30 a.m. (CBS)

Line: Alabama by 21½.

Series record: Missouri leads 2-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

After taking week off, Alabama seeks another dominating effort against a school struggling for traction in its first season in the SEC. Missouri is 0-3 in the conference with losses to Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, and its streak of seven consecutive bowl trips is in jeopardy. Crimson Tide defense, allowing seven points per game, will be facing a backup quarterback with James Franklin sidelined for several weeks with a left knee strain.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama defense vs. QB Corbin Berkstresser. Missouri also has injury woes on the offensive line and mustered only 15 points against Vandy, with three trips inside the 20 producing three field goals. Berkstresser was 9 for 30 for 189 yards and a TD last week in relief of Franklin. Coach Gary Pinkel had not ruled out using third-stringer Maty Mauk, a freshman who the Tigers planned to redshirt.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alabama: DB Dee Milliner has two interceptions and nine pass breakups, and leads the nation with 2.75 passes defended per game. The Tide has forced 15 turnovers, nine on interceptions.

Missouri: TB/PR Marcus Murphy leads nation with three punt return TDs but dislocated his right ring finger at the end of 25-yard carry on Tigers’ first possession last week. His status for this week is uncertain.

FACTS & FIGURES

First meeting between schools since 1978. … Alabama coach Nick Saban (1973) and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel (1975) are former Kent State teammates and Pinkel succeeded Saban as head coach at Toledo in 1991. This is their first head-to-head meeting. … Alabama is among three schools that hasn’t thrown an interception. … Alabama has 16 TDs and six FGS in 22 trips inside 20. … Of Alabama’s last 18 wins, all but three have been by at least 21 points. … Alabama has allowed seven or fewer points in the first half 21 times in last 22 games. … QB A.J. McCarron has only five INTs in 487 career passes, a school and SEC record for QBs with at least 400 pass attempts. McCarron averages one INT for every 97.4 throws, compared with one for every 95 for Tennessee’s Peyton Manning. … Missouri has won five straight games coming off a loss. … Missouri is 33-8 at home the last seven seasons. … Missouri defense has streak of 24 consecutive games creating turnover. … TB Kendial Lawrence is averaging 81 yards rushing, ninth best in SEC, and 5.7 yards per carry.

No. 3 South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 SEC) at No. 9 LSU (5-1, 1-1), 2 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: LSU by 2 ½.

Series Record: LSU leads 16-2-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

South Carolina can maintain at least a share of the SEC East lead by remaining unbeaten in league play while enhancing national championship credentials that have grown with each victory. If LSU loses, it could drop out of the Top 10 and would need help to repeat as SEC West champions. A victory, however, would keep the Tigers in the national title discussion and allow them to win the West by winning out.

KEY MATCHUP

LSU’s beleaguered offensive line against a South Carolina defensive front led by ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. LSU lost starting LT Chris Faulk to a knee injury earlier this year, and fellow starting tackle Alex Hurt and starting guard Josh Williford both are hobbled and may not play. That could spell doom against Clowney and Taylor, who’ve combined for 15 ½ tackles for losses this season, including 10 ½ sacks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

South Carolina: RB Marcus Lattimore appears to be well on his way to another 1,000-yard season with 549 yards rushing to go with nine TDs through the Gamecocks’ first six games.

LSU: RB Spencer Ware was among LSU’s top rushers last season and the physical tailback’s effort during the past three games has gotten coach Les Miles’ attention. Looking for a new spark in an offense that stalled last week at Florida, Miles has mentioned the possibility of using Ware, a former high school quarterback, in the wildcat formation.

FACTS & FIGURES

South Carolina is riding a school-record 10-game winning streak, also the longest streak among teams in major college football, one ahead of Alabama. … The Gamecocks will try to improve to 7-0 for only the second time in school history and first time since 1984. … The Gamecocks are facing their second Top 10 opponent in as many weeks after defeating then-No. 5 Georgia last weekend. Next week, they play No. 4 Florida. … LSU rides the nation’s longest home winning streak at 21 games, having not lost in Tiger Stadium since falling to Florida on Oct. 10, 2009. … LSU is 10-1 vs. South Carolina at home, with the only loss coming in 1994 by a score of 18-17, marking the last time South Carolina has beaten the Tigers. … LSU has not lost two straight games since the end of the 2008 regular season.

No. 4 Florida (5-0, 4-0) vs. Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2), noon (ESPNU)

Line: Florida by 9.

Series Record: Florida leads 34-9-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE:

Florida wraps up its last road game outside the Sunshine State and can turn its attention to consecutive Eastern Division showdowns with No. 3 South Carolina on Oct. 20 at the Swamp followed by Georgia in Jacksonville. Vanderbilt has not beaten a ranked opponent since 2008.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida RB Mike Gillislee versus the Vanderbilt defensive line. Gillislee leads the SEC averaging 109.6 yards rushing per game and had a career-high 146 yards in last week’s win over LSU. The Commodores are giving up 179 yard rushing per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida: QB Jeff Driskel. The sophomore has taken over the job at quarterback and helped the Gators win three games after trailing at halftime. He is completing 69.2 percent of his passes and has thrown for 759 yards with four touchdowns with only one interception. He’s also a threat to run, averaging 29.8 yards a game.

Vanderbilt: QB Jordan Rodgers. The senior benched against Presbyterian seems to have won back the starting job the last two games. He ranks seventh in the SEC averaging 216.8 yards total offense per game.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Gators have won 21 straight in this series. … Florida is the only FBS team that has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter and is outscoring opponents 41-0 in the final 15 minutes. … The Gators also have not given up a TD in two straight games. … This is the highest ranking for Florida since the 2010 preseason poll. … The Gators have rallied to win three times in four SEC games. … Florida has allowed 17 sacks but is averaging 35 minutes, 19 seconds possession each game. … Vanderbilt is coming off its first SEC road win since 2010. … Florida is the third top-10 team Vanderbilt has played in the first six games. … Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews leads the SEC averaging seven catches per game and is second in the league with 97.2 yards receiving per game. … Matthews and Chris Boyd are the SEC’s top receiving duo averaging 170.8 yards per game. … The Commodores have started 10 players all five games. … Vandy RB Zac Stacy ran a career-high 29 times against Missouri and also completed a 24-yard pass in that game.

No. 5 West Virginia (5-0) at Texas Tech (4-1), 9:30 a.m. (ABC/ESPN)

Line: West Virginia by 3½.

Series Record: West Virginia leads 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Already in the discussion to win the Big 12 in their first year in the conference, the Mountaineers can’t afford to take the game against Texas Tech lightly. Next up for West Virginia after Saturday’s contest in Lubbock is a home game against No. 6 Kansas State that could prove pivotal in deciding the Big 12 champion.

KEY MATCHUP

West Virginia QB Geno Smith vs. the Red Raiders’ top-rated pass defense. Those Tech defensive numbers were built against some spotty early season competition. The Red Raiders didn’t fare quite as well last week against Landy Jones and Oklahoma. Smith, with 24 touchdowns and no interceptions, will test a Texas Tech defense that’s giving up just 117 yards passing per game. Jones had 259 last week.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

West Virginia: RB Andrew Buie will look to keep the Red Raiders’ defense guessing after he gained 207 yards in the Mountaineers 48-45 win at Texas last week. Success from Buie, who also caught three passes for 66 yards, could make it easier for Smith to more effectively attack Texas Tech’s secondary.

Texas Tech: QB Seth Doege’s accuracy and possibly his confidence have fallen off the past two weeks, evidenced in part by his five interceptions — half what he threw all last season. Fortunate for him and the Red Raiders’ receivers that West Virginia doesn’t defend the pass too well, giving up 336 yards a game to rank near the bottom nationally.

FACTS & FIGURES

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is 0-1 vs. the Mountaineers, having lost at West Virginia 34-17 in 2008 when he was at Auburn… . West Virginia is averaging 7.4 yards on first downs and 8.2 yards on second downs; the Mountaineers are also converting on 53 percent of their third downs … . Texas Tech has 13 receivers who’ve caught at least five passes and six of those have at least 12 receptions this season… . Since 2000 WVU is 80-3 when scoring 30 or more points… . When Holgerson was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2010 — Tuberville’s first season with the Red Raiders — the Cowboys beat Texas Tech in Lubbock 34-17.

No. 6 Kansas State (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) at Iowa State (4-1, 1-1), 6 a.m. (FX)

Line: Kansas State by 6 ½.

Series Record: Iowa State leads 49-42-4

WHAT’S AT STAKE

If Kansas State loses to the Cyclones, they’ll be staring at the very real possibility of two straight Big 12 losses with a trip to No. 5 West Virginia on tap for next week. A win for Iowa State likely gives the program its first spot in the AP poll in seven years.

KEY MATCHUP

Kansas State QB Collin Klein and RB John Hubert vs. Iowa State’s front seven. Klein and Hubert have been among the nation’s tough rushing tandems this season. The Cyclones rank fourth in the Big 12 in rushing defense and will look to force Klein to throw the ball more than he’d like to.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Kansas State. LB Arthur Brown. He causes havoc every week and is up for every major defensive award in the country. Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett, in just his second start of the season, will need to account for him on every play.

Iowa State. K Edwin Arceo. He’s missed three extra points already this season. In what could be a close game, Arceo can’t afford to leave easy points on the field.

FACTS & FIGURES

After months of drought in the Midwest, it’s expected to pour in central Iowa on Saturday. But perhaps no two teams in the Big 12 are prepared for sloppy conditions more than the Wildcats and Cyclones, who both like to run the ball … Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp has placed 16 of his 31 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line with just one touchback … Kansas State is 11th in the nation with 43.6 points per game, largely because the Wildcats usually get seven points instead of three. They’ve scored 29 touchdowns, including 14 total TDs by Klein, with just five field goals.

No. 17 Stanford (4-1) at No. 7 Notre Dame (5-0), 9:30 a.m. (NBC)

Line: Notre Dame by 7.

Series record: Notre Dame leads 17-9.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

A victory by the Fighting Irish leaves them undefeated at the halfway point of the season and firmly in the middle of the national championship race, with only a couple more big hurdles (at Oklahoma and at USC) still to clear. Stanford is looking to extend its winning streak in the series to four. It had never even won three before the current run.

KEY MATCHUP

Stanford TE Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo vs. Notre Dame’s patchwork secondary. Injuries have left the Irish low on experienced defensive backs. One corner is a freshman (KeiVarae Russell), and they have converted receivers at the other corner (Bennett Jackson) and one safety spot (Matthias Farley). Stanford hasn’t gotten much from its wide receivers, but it’s got a couple of tight ends who might be able to exploit Notre Dame’s DBs. Cardinal QB Josh Nunes is going to need some help.WR Ty Montgomery, who has more catches than any other Stanford wideout, is unlikely to play because of an injury.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Stanford: LB Chase Thomas. The senior leads the team in tackles with 31, including six behind the line of scrimmage and 2.5 sacks. He also has an interception, and is a key cog in a rush defense that ranks sixth in the country.

Notre Dame: NG Louis Nix III: LB Manti Te’o and DT Stephon Tuitt get a lot of hype, and deservedly so. Nix, at 326 pounds, clogs the middle, and will be key against a Stanford team that likes to run between the tackles.

FACTS & FIGURES

Notre Dame is the only team in the country that has yet to trail in a game …The Irish have gone three straight games without allowing a touchdown, the longest streak by Notre Dame since 1980. … Stanford has scored 110 points against the Irish in its three-game winning streak. QB Andrew Luck started all of those games for the Cardinal. … Nunes had his best game last week in a wild 54-48 OT win against Arizona. He threw for 360 yards and ran for three scores. But the Notre Dame defense is very different than Arizona’s. … Stanford has allowed five sacks through five games, the best rate in the Pac-12.

No. 8 Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Indiana (2-3, 0-2), 2 p.m. (Big Ten Network)

Line: Ohio State by 17.

Series Record: Ohio State leads 67-12-5.

WHAT’S AT STAKE:

Big Ten pride. At No. 8 Ohio State, which is ineligible for postseason play or the Big Ten title, is the league’s highest ranked team and only of two Big Ten schools in the Top 25. Losing at Indiana would send yet another signal about how much is still amiss in one of the top six football conferences. The Hoosiers have lost 10 straight conference games, dating to an overtime win at Purdue in the 2010 season finale.

KEY MATCHUP:

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller vs. Indiana’s front seven. Miller is quickly emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate because of his ability to beat foes with his arm or his legs. The Hoosiers made plenty of defensive changes this year in hopes of making significant improvement. But after allowing 37.3 points per game last season and starting this season giving up 23 combined points in the first two games, Indiana’s last three opponents have scored 38.7 points per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ohio State: Miller. After leading the Buckeyes to 63 points and running for 186 yards, a school record for a quarterback, against Nebraska, Miller said this about the Buckeyes offense: “I think it can be better.” If Miller can do that well against a Nebraska defense that was ranked in the middle of the Big Ten pack in points allowed last week, just imagine what’s possible against the Hoosiers.

Indiana: QBs Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld. Since starting quarterback Tre Roberson broke his leg in Week 2, Coffman and Sudfeld have taken turns being impressive. Coffman was hot in the first half in Week 3 against Ball State and after leaving with an injury, Sudfeld rallied the Hoosiers to take a late lead. Sudfeld rallied the Hoosiers again after a dismal first half at Northwestern, but Coffman had a strong game last week against Michigan State.

FACTS & FIGURES

Ohio State has won 17 straight in the series, dating to a 27-27 tie in 1990. Indiana did win back-to-back games in 1987 and 1988, but the Hoosiers last win before ‘87 came in 1951. … Miller is ranked 23rd nationally in total offensive yards per game (303.8) and 11th nationally in rushing (127.2). … Indiana is averaging 32.8 points per game and has the Big Ten’s No. 1 passing offense (305.2). … Ohio State is second in the nation in interceptions (10). … In eight career starts, Hoosiers RB Stephen Houston has rushed for 711 yards and averages 5.5 yards per carry.

No. 10 Oregon State (4-0) at Brigham Young (4-2), 9:30 a.m. ABC

Line: BYU by 3 1/2

Series Record: Tied at 5-5

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Beavers are seeking their first 5-0 start since 1939 but will have to rely on a quarterback making his first college start. BYU has had its own QB issues, but Saturday’s game is a chance to showcase a top-five defense against a Top 10 team. The last ranked team BYU beat was No. 18 Oregon State in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl.

KEY MATCUP

Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz hasn’t started since high school, but with Sean Mannion out he’ll face one of the stingiest defenses, one that hasn’t allowed an offense to score in 13 straight quarters. The key will be how Vaz and his line handle the pressure BYU will bring with Ezekiel Ansah, Kyle Van Noy and Spencer Hadley. The Beavers still have the dangerous receiving duo of WRs Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brigham Young: QB Riley Nelson has missed the last two games with what he said were “back fractures” but insists he’s pain-free and ready to go. With freshman Taysom Hill out for the year with a knee injury, the backup is untested James Lark if Nelson can’t sustain the hits by a Beavers defense that ranks firstt in the Pac-12 against the run and first nationally in third-down conversions.

Oregon State: Wheaton ranks fifth in the nation in receptions per game and could pose problems for BYU’s corners, especially Jordan Johnson, who likes to gamble. Wheaton has caught a pass in 27 straight games and also is a threat on the ground.

FACTS & FIGURES

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall was a defensive back on the last Oregon State team to visit Provo, a 10-7 Beavers’ upset in 1986. …. The game is homecoming for BYU and the Cougars are wearing all-black uniforms for the first time in the modern era. … BYU linebacker Uani Unga transferred from Oregon State but his twin, Feti, is still at Oregon State. Both play linebacker and wear No. 41, though Feti is wearing Taumoepeau on his jersey to honor their mother and her maiden name.

Copyright 2012 The Associ

No. 11 USC (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at Washington (3-2, 1-1), 1 p.m. (FOX)

Line: USC by 12.

Series Record: USC leads 49-28-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Former colleagues in Heritage Hall, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian connect again, this time in Seattle for the first time since the Huskies upset of the Trojans in 2009, Sarkisian’s first season at Washington. USC tries for a third straight win after its loss at Stanford. Washington closes out a brutal stretch of playing highly ranked opponents after beating Stanford and getting run over last weekend in Eugene by No. 2 Oregon in a 52-21 loss.

KEY MATCHUP

USC passing game vs. Washington’s secondary. After throwing five interceptions in the previous three games, USC QB Matt Barkley was outstanding throwing for 303 yards and three TDs last week at Utah. Washington is likely to have CB Desmond Trufant locked down on either Marquise Lee or Robert Woods, leaving Tre Watson, Marcus Peters or Greg Ducre to try and contain the other USC receiving star.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

USC: DE Morgan Breslin. The junior college transfer has been tremendous the last two games. He had 3½ sacks against California two games ago then recovered a key fumble to set up a USC touchdown last week against Utah. He’s got 5½ sacks and 10½ tackles for loss already. Now he gets to face Washington’s injury-ravaged and rebuilt offensive line.

Washington: QB Keith Price. An open and honest Price talked this week of trying to take on too much with injuries and subtractions on Washington’s offense. The result has been poor decisions, mediocre numbers and a scuffling Washington offense. The Huskies would love for this to be the week he finally breaks out and looks like the QB he was a year ago.

FACTS & FIGURES

USC can set a school-record for consecutive games without being shut out on Saturday. The last time the Trojans were shut out was a 27-0 loss at Washington in 1997 a span of 186 games. Three of the last four times USC has been shut out was at Washington (1983, 1990). … Washington RB Bishop Sankey has rushed for 100 yards in three straight games. … This is the last time the teams will play until 2015.

Boston College (1-4, 0-2 ACC) at No.12 Florida State (5-1, 2-1), 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2)

Line: Florida State by 28.

Series Record: Florida State leads 6-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

After stumbling at North Carolina State and dropping nine spots to No. 12 in The Associated Press Top 25, Florida State can’t afford another ACC loss, especially to one of the worst teams in the conference. Boston College has yet to beat an FBS team. The Eagles only victory of the season is a 34-3 win over the Maine Bears, an FCS member. BC has given up 86 points in its losses to Miami and Clemson.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida State’s ability to defend the pass-happy Eagles, who average an ACC best 306.2 yards a game through the air. The Seminoles own the top-ranked pass defense in the ACC, but have only four interceptions. They’ve held opponents to an average of 150.2 yards passing a game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida State: QB EJ Manuel who has struggled hitting downfield receivers, including a couple of misfires that factored into Florida State’s 17-16 loss last weekend at North Carolina State. Manuel is the ACC’s career leader in completion percentage at 67.1 percent, but hasn’t been turned loose by coach Jimbo Fisher halfway through his final season.

Boston College: QB Chase Rettig is throwing an average of 40 passes a game and with just three interceptions in 199 passes. His favorite target, Alex Amidon, ranks second in the league with 38 catches good for 644 yards and four touchdowns.

FACTS & FIGURES

Florida State placekicker Dustin Hopkins could become the ACC’s and Florida State’s career leading scorer in the game. He needs seven points to erase the existing marks of 393 … Hopkins and BC’s Nate Freese have each kicked nine field goals this season … The three leading tacklers in the conference are all from BC, which says a lot about how much the Eagles’ defense is on the field. LB Nick Clancy leads with an average of 16.6 tackles a game … Florida State hasn’t gone through its ACC schedule unbeaten since 2000 … Seminoles WR Rodney Smith has caught at least one pass in 31 straight games … Florida State now needs North Carolina State to lose a game in conference play to keep alive its hopes of winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) vs. No. 13 Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1) at Dallas, 6 a.m. (ABC)

Line: Oklahoma by 3.

Series Record: Texas leads 59-42-5.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

What’s been a pivotal game in the Big 12 and national championship races recently is practically a survival contest this season. Neither team can afford to take a second conference loss with No. 5 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas State in the Big 12 lead.

KEY MATCHUP

Texas running backs vs. Oklahoma defense. It’s a well-known Red River Rivalry fact that no team has won the game with fewer yards rushing since 1997. The Longhorns are averaging 209.4 yards rushing behind the triumvirate of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray. The Sooners, led by Damien Williams, are averaging 190.5.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Texas: K Anthony Fera. In his season debut after missing time with a groin injury, the Penn State transfer missed a 41-yard field goal that would have forged a tie with about 5 minutes left in last week’s loss to West Virginia. The pressure only gets bigger for Longhorns kickers, who are just 4 of 9 on the season with none longer than 40 yards.

Oklahoma: LB Frank Shannon. The backup to starting middle linebacker Tom Wort got significant playing time last week and recorded a career-high six tackles with a sack against Texas Tech.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones can break Steve Davis’ school record with a 33rd career win. He is 32-8. Davis was 32-1-1 and won the national title in 1974 and 1975. … Sooners coach Bob Stoops is 8-5 head-to-head against Texas’ Mack Brown, including wins the last two seasons. … The Sooners had three defensive touchdowns in last year’s 55-17 win. … The game has been played annually at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas since 1929, and is sold out for the 67th straight time.

No. 18 Louisville (5-0, 0-0 Big East) at Pitt (2-3, 0-2), 5 a.m. (ESPNU)

Line: Louisville by 1.5

Series Record: Pitt leads 8-7

WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Cardinals are the last team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to play a conference game. Louisville began the season as the overwhelming Big East favorite, but Rutgers and Cincinnati have quickly joined the fray. The Panthers let one get away in a 14-13 loss at Syracuse last week, and any chance of making noise in their final Big East season will disappear if they don’t beat the Cardinals.

KEY MATCHUP: Pitt’s front seven against Louisville RBs Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has cooled off a bit after a hot start and the Cardinals have relied heavily on Perry and Wright to take some of the pressure off. Pitt’s defense has steadily improved after a horrific start and the Panthers would love to make Bridgewater beat them, a tactic they used perfectly in a 35-17 upset over Virginia Tech last month when Hokies QB Logan Thomas threw three interceptions.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Louisville: S Calvin Pryor. The senior safety has been an intimidating force for the Cardinals. He leads the team with 38 tackles — including one tackle for loss — and leads the nation with four forced fumbles. For a defense that has struggled at times to get pressure on the quarterback, Pryor has given Louisville some needed thump in the secondary.

Pitt: WR Mike Shanahan. The emergence of teammate Devin Street has forced teams to take some of their attention away from Shanahan, who has developed into a downfield target for QB Tino Sunseri. Shanahan has 25 receptions for a Big East-leading 451 yards and three touchdowns. While not exactly fast, his 6-foot-5 frame makes him a difficult matchup.

FACTS & FIGURES: This is the final meeting between the two schools before Pitt heads to the ACC next fall. The Panthers have won their last four games in the series, including a 21-14 victory in Louisville last fall … Louisville is 5-0 for the first time since 2006, when the Cardinals finished 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl … Though Bridgewater has 100 completions on the season, no Louisville receiver has more than 16 receptions … The Cardinals have won 10 of their last 11 regular season games … Pitt hasn’t started a Big East season 0-3 since 2001 … Louisville is just 1-6 in Big East openers since joining the conference in 2005 … Louisville has scored first in each of its first five games.

No. 19 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0) vs. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2), 3 p.m. (ESPN2)

Line: Mississippi State by 2 ½.

Series Record: Tennessee leads 28-15-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE:

Mississippi State is working to continue its best start since 1999 and is just one of 15 teams — if you include transitioning UTSA — in the Football Bowl Subdivision that remains unbeaten. Tennessee is playing its third straight nationally ranked opponent in conference play. The Volunteers have won six straight against the Bulldogs dating back to 1994.

KEY MATCHUP

Tennessee QB Tyler Bray against the Mississippi State secondary. The 6-foot-6 Bray is among the nation’s premier pocket passers, completing 61.1 percent of his throws for 14 touchdowns, six interceptions and more than 316 yards per game. The Bulldogs’ secondary includes four seasoned starters — including star CB Jonathan Banks — who have combined for 37 career interceptions, including eight returned for touchdowns.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tennessee: WR Justin Hunter. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior is a favorite of NFL scouts and has been Bray’s favorite target this season. He’s caught 33 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns.

Mississippi State: QB Tyler Russell. He’s the other Tyler in this matchup, but is quietly having a very productive season. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior has shown a knack for making good decisions in his first season as the full-time starter, throwing 10 touchdown passes and just one interception.

FACTS & FIGURES

The 8 p.m. CT kickoff time is the latest game Mississippi State has played since 2003 and the latest for Tennessee since 2002. … Mississippi State has a seven-game winning streak dating back to last season. That ranks fifth in the nation. … The Bulldogs have scored at least 25 points in their first five games for the first time in the 113-year history of the football program. … Mississippi State’s fourth-year coach Dan Mullen has a 7-3 record against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division. … The Bulldogs rank second nationally with a plus-11 turnover margin. … Tennessee has won the last six games in the series against Mississippi State by an average of 24.5 points. … Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will lead the team from the press box after having surgery to repair his fractured right hip on Tuesday. … Tennessee ranks second in the SEC and 17th nationally in total offense, averaging more than 506 yards per game. … The Volunteers are in the middle of a brutal part of their schedule that will almost certainly feature games against four ranked teams. Tennessee lost to Georgia two weeks ago, faces Mississippi State on Saturday and then has games against Alabama and South Carolina.

Syracuse (2-3, 1-0 Big East) at No. 20 Rutgers (5-0, 2-0), 6 a.m. (SNY)

Line: Rutgers by 7 1/2.

Series Record: Syracuse leads 30-11-1.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

With a win, Rutgers would improve to 6-0 for the third time since 1976, and become bowl eligible for the seventh time in eight seasons. Kyle Flood would become the first coach in the Scarlet Knights’ 143-year history of college football to start 6-0. ACC-bound Syracuse will be looking to end its rivalry with Rutgers on a good note in their final Big East matchup. A win would also be the school’s 693rd, tied for the 15th most among FBS schools.

KEY MATCHUP

The Syracuse defense, which allowed only 27 yards rushing in a win over Pittsburgh, vs. Rutgers TB Jawan Jamison, who will be looking for his sixth straight 100-yard game rushing this season and seventh overall.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Syracuse: DE Brandon Sharpe was the conference’s defensive player of the week after recording a career-best seven tackles, including six for losses and four sacks in a 14-13 win over Pittsburgh. Quarterback Ryan Nassib ranks in the top 20 nationally in completion per game (27.4), passing yards (1,552), passing yards per game (310.4) and total offense (327.8.

Rutgers: QB Gary Nova is 92 for 151 with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. WR Brandon Coleman has caught 18 passes, with five touchdowns.

FACTS & FIGURES

Scarlet Knights PK Kyle Federico has been fighting a hip injury … The last two games have been decided by three points, with Syracuse winning in 13-10 in 2010 and Rutgers 19-16 in double OT last season. Rutgers has won five of the last seven in a series. The schools have played every year since 1980. … The Scarlet Knights’ run defense is the nation’s second best, yielding an average of 60.6 yards. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in nine straight games, dating to 2011. … Syracuse ranks 17th nationally in passing offense, averaging 310.4 yards. Rutgers is second nationally with 10 interceptions. Rutgers is seventh nationally in turnover margin (+1.8), while Syracuse is 109th in in turnover margin (-1.2).

No. 22 Texas A&M (4-1) vs. No. 23 Louisiana Tech (5-0) at Shreveport, La., 3:17 p.m., (ESPNU)

Line: Texas A&M by 8

Series Record: Texas A&M leads 10-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Louisiana Tech is off to a 5-0 start that has the team ranked for the first time since 1999. The Bulldogs’ 12-game regular-season winning streak is the longest in the nation and they are looking to beat a ranked team for the first time since 2005. The Aggies, who entered the rankings for the first time this year, will try to extend their winning streak to five games heading into next week’s matchup against No. 9 LSU.

KEY MATCHUP

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel vs. Louisiana Tech’s defense. Manziel is sixth in the nation in total offense with 356 yards a game and Louisiana Tech is allowing 531 yards a contest, which is second most in the country. Manziel is a threat to score through the air or on the ground, and the 21.6 points a game he is responsible for are the third most in the country.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Texas A&M: DE Damontre Moore. The junior has led A&M’s defense in his first season at defensive end after spending his first two years at linebacker. Moore’s 1.4 sacks a game rank fourth in the country and he’s tied for second in tackles for losses with 2.5 a game.

Louisiana Tech: QB Colby Cameron. Cameron has thrown for 1,456 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is completing more than 68 percent of his passes and has thrown for four touchdowns twice this season. His favorite target is WR Quinton Patton, who has 532 yards receiving and five scores in 2012.

FACTS & FIGURES

This game was originally scheduled for Aug. 30, but was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac. … It is the second time the Aggies will face Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, after getting a 37-17 win over the Bulldogs there to start the 1999 season. … These teams first met in 1981. … Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is looking for his 40th career win as a head coach. … Both teams entered the rankings this week for the first time this season. … Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and Louisiana Tech defensive backs coach Kevin Curtis played together at Texas Tech and remain close friends. … Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope needs one reception to become the second player in school history to reach 200 catches for his career. … Louisiana Tech has won three straight games over BCS opponents.

Fresno State (4-2, 2-0 Mountain West) at No. 24 Boise State (4-1, 1-0), 9:30 a.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Line: Boise State by 9.

Series Record: Boise State leads 10-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Fresno State is coming off two blowout conference wins and sitting atop the Mountain West with Nevada. A win over rival Boise State would help mightily in the quest for a first MWC title. Pretty much the same scenario for Boise State. An early season loss has dimmed any BCS hopes, putting the focus now on winning the league title.

KEY MATCHUP

Boise State’s front seven against Fresno State RB Robbie Rouse. Even though the Bulldogs have adopted the spread offense, Rouse is still averaging more than 118 yards on the ground per game. The Broncos defense rebounded last week against Southern Miss, but they needed it after being gouged for 330 rushing yards the week before against New Mexico’s triple option.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Fresno State: S Phillip Thomas. The senior is the biggest ball hawk on a defense that has excelled at forcing turnovers. Thomas has six of the team’s 12 picks on the season. He leads the nation in that category, and the Bulldogs’ defense has forced a national-best 20 turnovers.

Boise State: WR Matt Miller: Miller leads the team in receptions and yards receiving, and his combination of size and speed make him tough for any cornerback to cover. In five games, he has 29 catches for 300 yards and two TDs. His presence will probably become more of a factor now that trusted veteran WR Mitch Burroughs is out with an injured wrist.

FACTS & FIGURES: Boise State has dominated the rivalry in recent years and has won the last six straight, including the last two meetings by a combined 101 points. … Boise State hasn’t lost a game in the month of October since 2001 when the Broncos were downed by Rice 45-14. … The Broncos rank sixth nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 154.8 yards per game. … Fresno State’s is ranked ninth nationally in sacks, averaging 3.3 per game. … QB Derek Carr is thriving in the new spread offense, and so far has completed 68.5 percent of his passes and tossed 18 TDs. … Fresno State is looking to snap a 15-game losing streak against ranked teams.

No. 25 Michigan (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. Illinois (2-4, 0-2), 9:30 a.m. (ABC)

Line: Michigan by 23½.

Series Record: Michigan leads 68-23-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Michigan can’t afford to lose a game it is supposed to win during its quest to win a Big Ten title for the first time since 2004. Illinois can get an unexpected boost with an upset after getting blown out by Penn State and Wisconsin to open Big Ten play.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan TB Fitzgerald Toussaint vs. Illinois’ run defense. Michigan is determined to run Toussaint early and often, hoping to take some pressure off QB Denard Robinson on the ground. The Illini gave up 173 yards rushing in each of their last two losses to Wisconsin and Penn State.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MICHIGAN: Toussaint. After running for 1,091 last year, the junior has not been able to find his groove. Toussaint ran for just 19 yards on 17 carries in last week’s win over Purdue and has just 169 yards rushing in four games this season.

ILLINOIS: QB Nathan Scheelhaase. He has bounced back from an ankle injury well enough to lead the team with 84 yards rushing, including a 5-yard TD, and 178 yards passing and another score in last week’s loss to Wisconsin.

FACTS & FIGURES

If Michigan beats Illinois as expected, college football’s winningest program will be going for win No. 900 next week against Michigan State, which has won the last four games in the rivalry. … The Illini have lost their last three games by a combined score of 118-45. … The Wolverines are 14-0 when they score at least 20 points with second-year coach Brady Hoke and are 0-4 when they score fewer than 20. … Michigan beat Illinois 67-65 in their last meeting at the Big House two years ago, setting Big Ten records with 132 combined points and 1,237 yards of offense.

 

Rules for posting comments