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College Football: Week 2 Viewing Guide

Whew! The first week of the college football season has come and gone – thank you for five straight days, college football gods! – and with it, so are most of the cupcake teams that pad the schedules of the big boys early in the season. Tell the JV team to go put their summer dresses back in the closest.

That said, there were more than a few surprises in week one – Jacksonville State’s win in Oxford over a stunned Ole Miss squad (Do you think troublemaker QB transfer Jeremiah Masoli felt “robbed” in this one?), North Dakota State’s barn-burner over Turner Gill’s debut for the Jayhawks, oklahoma struggling against the Aggies of the not-Big 12 – Utah State (which always makes ‘Horns fans smile), not to mention the epic battle at FedEx Field between Boise State and Virginia Tech on Monday night.

With week two through the end of the season, fans will get more important and impactful games, and definitely more watchable contests. Let’s hope for plenty more thrilling nail biters from here on in – heck, ESPN’s deemed this weekend “Monster Saturday.” Maybe that refers to the IV drip of Monster energy drinks you’ll need to get through this week’s line-up. Yum, breakfast.

As always, the rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games. Let’s get to it, shall we? Here is your college football week 2 viewing guide (all times Eastern):

Friday, September 10
#23 West Virginia @ Marshall (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
West Virginia is the only ranked team in the Big East and Marshall didn’t put up much of a fight against Ohio State last week. But, this is an in-state rivalry, and the coaches have a long history, so it’s somewhat compelling for a Friday night game.

Saturday, September 11
San Jose State @ #11 Wisconsin (ESPN, 12:00 p.m.)
Wisconsin is heavily favored and taking on San Jose State at home. Cupcakes gone, right? Maybe a game against a wheel of cheese (fitting for the state of Wisconsin) follows a cupcake; EyesOfTx isn’t even mad. Let’s face it, as one of the best in the Big 10, they’re worth keeping an eye on.

#22 Georgia @ #24 South Carolina (ESPN2, 12:00 p.m.)
This should turn out to be a more interesting matchup in this time slot. Both of these teams could be dangerous opponents to the other top teams (i.e. Alabama, Florida) in the Stuck-up Elitist Conference…er, SEC…as the conference schedule progresses.

This week’s regional games on ABC/ESPN2 are unfortunately two of the better games of the day. Check the coverage maps to see which game is on which channel in your area:

Iowa State @ #9 Iowa (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)
The Iowa-Iowa State rivalry is always intriguing and Iowa has really come on as a serious contender. But, head coach Paul Rhoads has Iowa State headed in the right direction, and they’re also one of the Longhorns’ Big 12 North opponents this year; worth scouting if you can pull your eyes away from the oklahoma-Florida State game.

#17 Florida State @ #10 Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)
In the other regional game, ou hosts Florida State and “new” coach Jimbo Fisher – can anyone remember when Bobby Bowden wasn’t the coach of the Seminoles? oklahoma QB Landry Jones was mediocre last week, who had a closer game than expected against Utah State, although RB DeMarco Murray had a field day as one of the conference’s top backs in week one. Gag. FSU, on the other hand, looked better than expected in their opener. This will be a telling game, will have BCS implications, and is definitely a must-watch.

#12 Miami (FL) @ #2 Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN3D, 3:40 p.m.)
Here’s another great game in the mid-afternoon slot. We get our first look at the Buckeyes, and Heisman-hopeful QB Tyrell Pryor, on the national stage. Both teams feature highly-touted quarterbacks, with Miami’s Jacoby Harris leading the way for the Hurricane offense. Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, four players were injured in the week one against Florida A&M and won’t play in Columbus.

Wyoming @ #5 Texas (FSN, Comcast Sports, 7:00 p.m.)
Texas had a slow start against Wyoming in the altitude of the high plains last year, before taking a 3 point lead just before halftime in to a rout in the second half, but playing in Austin should be a different story. Hopefully, the Longhorns broaden the playbook, get remaining jitters and hitches out of the system, and fine tune the details in a win before starting conference play at Texas Tech next week – luckily, offensive-minded Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen’s offense is a perfect litmus test for the ‘Horns highly-ranked secondary.

More importantly than the game, however, EyesOfTX offers its condolences to the family and friends of Wyoming linebacker Ruben Narcisse who lost his life earlier this week in a car accident. Best wishes for a quick recovery to the other three Cowboys players who were hurt in the incident.

#18 Penn State @ #1 Alabama (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
A decent consolation if you’re not able to get the Texas game. Both teams cruised to victories last week, including Penn State’s true freshman QB debut, but both better be ready for this brutal challenge. The Crimson Tide playing at home with a bevy of veterans looks to be an easy favorite on paper (despite being without Heisman Trophy winner RB Mark Ingram, who continues to recover from knee surgery), but Penn State is a team you can never count out. Head coach Nick Saban doesn’t have an easy return to the BCS title game, as the Nittany Lions are the first of six ranked opponents Alabama faces this year.

#7 Oregon @ Tennessee (ESPN2, 7:00 p.m.)
A third top 10 team playing in this slot will get you burning up your remote. Oregon has to carry the Pac-10’s “legitimacy hopes” this year, so going on the road against an SEC team will be a barometer for the rest of their season. Is Tennessee the best SEC barometer? Probably not, but its better than Vanderbilt. Under a new head coach, the Vols aren’t the cream of the SEC crop, and they have some key injuries, but they played well last year against some of the top teams even with “crazy Lane” Kiffin as coach. Oregon, meanwhile, comes off a dismantling of New Mexico, in which their back-up running back had five TDs. At halftime. And, they return their starting RB – the “other La” – LaMichael. Let’s look for two things: 1) How well the Zeroes play away from Autzen, at a real college football stadium; and, 2) What crazy uniforms they bring to play against the always-conservative SEC.

#25 Stanford @ UCLA (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.)
The nightcap game this week is a Pac-10 showdown at the Rose Bowl. Stanford comes in with a fresh top 25 ranking to their credit, and the Bruins – expected to finish in the bottom three of the conference – reeling from an opening game loss to Kansas State (well, to Wildcats RB Daniel Thomas, really…not sure the rest of KSU’s team showed up). UCLA comes to Austin in two weeks for redemption game for the Longhorns after the never-forgettable 66-3 beat down in the late 1990s at home, so now is the time to see what the ‘Horns will be up against in a key non-conference match-up.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing weekly viewing guide contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Thoughts: Week 1 in College Football

It was an exciting five days of college football to open the 2010 season, and more frequently than not, additional beverages, food, DVR space, and beverages (and perhaps a brief nap) were needed to keep pace with the torrent of games hitting the airwaves. It was a football nirvana that exists only once a year, and that is nearly orgasmic for any college football fan…no matter your allegiances.

Before we look ahead to week two, let’s take a look at some highlights and lowlights, as well as some perspectives on the ‘Horns after their 34-17 win over Rice in Houston.

Of the “contenders,” no team lost in week one that shouldn’t have. While Virginia Tech might argue, it was clear Boise State was the better team throughout Monday’s contest. You saw it here first, Boise State will play for the BCS National Championship in January 2011.

FBS schools Jacksonville State and North Dakota State made some noise with victories over BCS conference teams Ole Miss and Kansas, respectively. Not the way Turner Gill wanted to re-load in Lawrence…give him time, though.

sooners QB Landry Jones

oklahoma struggled. And we loved every minute of their metal-row-stadium-seat-squirming in Norman. While RB Demarco Murray looked in mid-season form, QB Landry Jones played mediocre at best. If you’re Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, the ‘Horns throw the ball on every play against the sooners and run up the score in October at the Cotton Bowl.

Don’t read much in to Oklahoma State or Texas A&M’s victories in week one. The Cowboys might as well have played the local high school’s JV team for a more competitive match-up than they had with Pac-10 bottom-dweller Washington State. And the Aggies – who did show more defensive prowess in their new 3-4 scheme than at any time in 2009’s campaign – had less rushing yards on more carries (55 carries for 192 yards) against a lesser opponent than did Texas against Rice (46 carries for 197 yards). Yep, you read right.

The Tuberville era began in Lubbock, and despite the victory, QB Taylor Potts didn’t look that spectacular and the defense was mediocre at best against SMU’s defense. All-in-all, it wasn’t a performance to write home about. What did look familiar was the half-empty stands at Jones Stadium from the third quarter through the end of the game – with the game’s outcome still in question. Time for the afternoon drunken pass out in the West Texas plains.

While Kansas State eeked out a victory over recognizable-name UCLA at home on Saturday, it was unimpressive. UCLA is dragged down by head coach Rick Neuheisel (“Hey Rick, who do you have in the national semifinals of the 2011 NCAA tourney bracket?”), so they basically don’t count. Plus, the Wildcats remain a big question mark without the legs of RB Daniel Thomas. Yep, he’s a stud.

The ‘Horns, while racking up 197 rushing yards, looked unimpressive and flat on offense. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to reset fans’ expectations of the running game – it’s not going to change overnight – but it did look better than any point last year. But, it was also Rice. The defense hasn’t missed a beat – they looked solid (after the first series in a base scheme) – but need to hold on those picks for TDs. Solid, but unenthusiastic…there is work to be done. Rice is going to rebound big time from last year’s 2-10 record, they looked solid in a week one game against a top contender.

Finally, it’s 12:24 a.m. Pacific time and ou still sucks. Week two represents a big weekend for a lot of the top 25 – perhaps determining 2010 BCS legitimacy – so rest up, my legions, and get focused.

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2009 College Football Bowling Updates

It’s hard to believe the college football season is winding down, but with it, the NFL heats up as teams make the chase for the wild card and playoffs, and college basketball arrives granting us two Big 12 Conference teams atop the early-season national rankings (#1 Kansas and #2 Texas).

With only conference championship football games left to play, several college bowl games have already started to make team selections or extend invites, based on their conference affiliations.

Cotton Bowl (Big 12 v. SEC)
Oklahoma State (9-3) v. Ole Miss (8-4)
This match-up represents the “could-have-beens” from the 2009 season. Both the ‘Pokes and Cowboys disappointed their legions in season full of high expectations. It remains to be seen who will step up in the bowl game’s first showing outside of the actual Cotton Bowl (this year’s game will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington). More background
here.

Hawaii Bowl (USA v. WAC)
Southern Methodist (7-5) v. To be determined opponent (potentially Nevada OR Hawaii, if they beat Wisconsin this weekend)
It was a momentus occasion in Dallas’ Highland Park neighborhood on Tuesday. And, it should be. After an absence of more than 20 years from post-season play, the Mustangs will make their first bowl appearance since 1984. As their AD said, “There is life after death,” referring to SMU’s harsh death penalty ruling from the NCAA in 1997, which closed the football program for two years. With former Hawaii coach June Jones running the show in Dallas these days, a match-up with his former team would be intriguing. More background
here.

Other Relevant Bowl Game Possibilities
Other Texas-state and Big 12 Conference teams in the college bowl game hunt, with their likely destinations or invites, include: Texas (BCS national championship, with a win Saturday; potential BCS at-large with loss), TCU (Orange Bowl [BCS]), Texas Tech (Alamo Bowl), Texas A&M (Independence Bowl), Houston (Liberty Bowl), Nebraska (Holiday Bowl; potential BCS, with an upset Saturday), Iowa State (Texas Bowl), Missouri (Insight Bowl), and oklahoma (Sun Bowl). A more comprehensive list of bowl projections can be found on ESPN, for example, here.

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NCAA Football: Week 6 Viewing Guide

NCAA FootballAre we really already halfway through the season? It’s week six in the college football season, and this is when things get interesting as conference play is in full effect and the national rankings have begun to sort themselves out. Of course, “now things get interesting” only relates if you’re not a Big 12 Conference fan.

There are a great set of games to check in on this weekend, so here’s your week six NCAA football viewing guide.

Thursday
#21 Nebraska 27 at #24 Missouri 12
If you missed this game on Thursday night, here’s a quick recap – a near-tsunami came through Columbia, Missouri, on Thursday night and it wasn’t either team’s offense for the first three quarters. Special teams mistakes and the punting game were the outcomes of heavy rain, but in the fourth quarter, Nebraska found some magic and scored three TDs in just over 3 minutes to seal the victory. As Eyes Of TX expected, this puts Nebraska and Kansas in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 North title. If you haven’t been watching Nebraska, you should begin thinking about defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as a Heisman Trophy candidate – he is unbelievable.

Saturday
12:00 PM ET
#17 Auburn at Arkansas, ESPN
Auburn has entered the top 25 with a 5-0 record. Arkansas isn’t likely to stand in their way to a rise up the rankings, but Ryan Mallett – whether he sticks with football or pursues a Major League Baseball career – has the potential to keep the ‘Hogs close. This is a nice way to kick off a great afternoon and see what’s going on in the SEC.

3:30 PM ET
#3 Alabama at #20 Mississippi, CBS
Alabama has been gaining ground on Texas in the polls and Ole Miss was positioned in the top 5 only a few short weeks ago before being exposed at South Carolina. The Rebels could redeem themselves with a victory at home, or the Tide could make a case for themselves as the best team in the country. Either way, this is must watch.

Wisconsin at #9 Ohio State, ABC/ESPN
ABC has a quad-fecta of regional games Saturday afternoon so check your listings for what’s available to you. Wisconsin enters this game unbeaten and unranked, sitting at the top of the Big 10 standings – yet they are still unranked. That is hard to fathom given Washington was ranked earlier this season, but we digress. Tyrelle Pryor has the potential to use his legs to win this one for State, then again, everyone has been saying Pryor can run and Eyes Of TX has yet to see it on display. Maybe Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis needs to come to town and breathe some life in to the Ohio State offense. It will be interesting to see what both of these teams are made of this week.

#13 Oregon at UCLA, ABC
Oregon still has a lot to prove after their opening week loss to now #6 Boise State, but could make a case for themselves as the best team in the Pac-10. They’ve looked solid the past few weeks, including a beat-down of then-#6 California,and their quarterback could be back from this match-up. Neuheisal’s already got bets on the outcome of this game, from what we hear.

Baylor at #19 oklahoma, ABC
ou is floundering, and Baylor has never beaten the sooners, but there’s no time like the present. After the close loss to Miami last week, the sooners desperately need a win in their final lead up to the Red River Shootout, but Baylor hasn’t had a team as likely to pull off an upset of a top 25 team in a long time. Unfortunately, that Baylor team had a healthy Robert Griffin, and he’s out for the season. ou quarterback Sam Bradford is expected to start his first game since the week one injury, so we’ll see how his recovery has gone over the course of the game.

UConn at Pittsburgh, ABC/ESPN
This game rounds out the four top for ABC and doesn’t add much to the conversation, but the game is on TV whether you like it or not, so you might as well be aware. If anything, it’s a good opportunity to get a chuckle at Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt’s moustache.

7:15 PM ET
Colorado at #2 Texas, ESPN
Hopefully, Texas isn’t looking ahead to ou weekend in Dallas. The ‘Horns should be able to put this away early, as Colorado continues to struggle through a four quarter game. Coach Dan Hawkins club just can’t seem to get it together, and with the ‘Horns bye week and the offense hitting its stride against UTEP, this is another scary match-up for the ‘Buffs. On a positive note, if this game gets out of hand early, it allows us all to check out what’s happening in Baton Rouge.

8:00 PM ET
#1 Florida at #4 LSU, CBS
CBS has the game of the week with this top 5 showdown. The storylines for this game don’t need repeating here, this week is all about what takes place in Death Valley. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has been dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered against Kentucky, and his play tonight is a game-time decision. If Tebow sits this one out, Eyes Of TX believes there is a huge opportunity for an upset.

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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. UTEP Miners

September 26, 2009
2:30 p.m. Central
FSN

Last week, the ‘Horns escaped with a critical redemption win against Mike Leach’s Red Raiders in Austin, winning the game 34-24. “Escaped” because the offense didn’t play great in the first half, but the defense continued its dominance despite giving up 420 yards to the Red Raiders passing attack.

It was confirmed that Texas QB Colt McCoy had the flu earlier in the game week, and that could have affected his slow start, but unfortunately, Eyes Of TX sees the flat-footed offensive output as one aspect of Texas’ game this year that has been consistent. To their credit, the ‘Horns picked it up in the second half, as they did against both Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming, but they need to fix this before seeing the likes of ou and Oklahoma State later this season. To Tech’s credit, junior QB Taylor Potts looks fantastic – he was spot on against Texas, and looks to have absolute command of the offense – expect see hear more on Potts, as every Big 12 writer in drooling over his capabilities. The play of the Tech game was, no doubt, Texas DE Sergio Kindle’s sack of Tech QB Taylor Potts in the 4th quarter which has been the center of controversy this week among football pundits and Leach who has officially complained to the NCAA. To be clear, there was no penalty on the play for a helmet-to-helmet hit, and it looks as though Kindle’s helmet hits Potts’ shoulder pads first.

All in all, another good win for the ‘Horns in week three, and they maintain their #2 ranking in the latest USA Today polls. On the national scene, while #1 Florida won a battle with unranked Tennessee, they looked unimpressive doing so, and combined with former #3 USC’s loss to Washington, there was some re-shuffling in the top five this week. Alabama has moved up to the #3 spot, Penn State continues to quietly creep up the standings at #4, and former Texas QB Jevan Snead couldn’t will his #5 Ole Miss Rebels to a win against South Carolina on Thursday night, so his Heisman campaign and the Rebels top 10 ranking are all but over, and Cal might creep in to the #5 spot if they win this weekend.

Let’s get in to this week’s match-up of the Longhorns and Miners.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 49, UTEP 13

University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) Miners (1-2)
While UTEP gave Texas an early run for its money last year in El Paso, this year figures to play out differently. Coach Mike Price and the Miners have struggled early this season with losses to Buffalo and Kansas, before beating New Mexico State last week for their first win. In Austin, with the defense playing at an extremely high level, Eyes Of TX doesn’t see this game being competitive. Then again, if the Texas offense stalls for a half of football again, anything can happen.

Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe returns for the Miners, but his 2008 numbers have not. He’s a solid athlete, with both running and passing ability, although it’s nothing spectacular. This year, however, he hasn’t seemed to click offensively, as he’s only completed 55 percent of his 102 pass attempts for 602 yards for one TD and one INT. He seems to be running the ball less this year as well, accounting for just 40 yards through three games. Those just aren’t the offensive numbers you want your QB putting up for your team. At wideout, he has talent in Jeff Moturi and Kris Adams, but they have generally been as unproductive as their QB. Moturi is the smaller, faster wideout who will sacrifice his body over the middle of the field, and Adams is the deep threat and leads the team with 13 catches for 117 yards and no TDs. UTEP seems to try and utilize their running game to set up the passing game, but running back Donald Buckram has been largely ineffective with exception of New Mexico State game when he rushed for 113 yards and two TDs. The problem is the offensive line for the Miners, which has allowed nine sacks in three games and is only allowing the running game to average 3.6 yards per carry. Sounds like the anemic Texas running game of “old.” Coach Price will probably try to spread out the Texas defense and attack the sidelines consistently to set up the run, as the Texas front seven just won’t budge. Expect to see a lot screen passes and hot routes, or Vittatoe rolling out, to try and combat the constant pressure from the Texas defensive line.

On defense, the Miners run a 3-3-5 scheme, which puts more speed on the field and allows them to attack the line of scrimmage with their linebackers. Last year, UTEP’s consistent blitz threw off the Texas offensive line in the first half before they adjusted. Nothing has changed this year, the Miners still blitz more than any team Texas will face all season, with the exception that this year they’re not getting the production in sacks or tackles for loss. The defensive line is small up front, although defensive end Aaron King is their top threat – he’s accounted for three of the team’s four sacks on the season, including two tackles tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and 13 tackles total. If they get pressure on the quarterback with their blitzes, the secondary is capable of takeaways, tallying three INTs and six pass break-ups. The linebackers will need to be more productive this week, however, or else the Miners secondary will be picked apart by McCoy and Co.

The UTEP special teams is decent, although their biggest deficit is kick coverage. They give up 23 yards per return on kick-offs, and 12 yards per return on punts, meaning opposing teams have typically started with excellent field position.

#2 Texas Longhorns (3-0)
Overall, the Longhorns need to make sure they don’t overlook this game. There is no way the Miners should compete with the ‘Horns, but with another slow start or a focus on next week’s bye week could create some early tension on Saturday.

With McCoy healthy again, we’ll see if he can return to 2008 form, and he seems to have found a new favorite target in flex wideout Dan Buckner, which takes some of the pressure off of Jordan Shipley to be the go-to wideout. In addition, John Chiles and James Kirkendoll have proved solid in various games this week, and fans saw a bit more of the “Wildcat” offense with Chiles taking some snaps last week – although they’ll need to let Chiles throw the ball from time-to-time make to give opposing defenses something to think about when he lines up in the backfield. The running games seems to have found some stability with Tre Newton, and based on his experience in the Southlake Carroll spread offense, Eyes Of TX likes his ability to pick up the blitz, catch the ball out of the backfield, and run north-south. This week, Texas needs the running game to run downhill via the I-formation, as the zone-read could seriously be disrupted by UTEP’s consistent blitz and the running backs starting flat-footed. And, believe it or not, running back Fozzy Whittaker might have recovered from his knee injury enough to play a bit this weekend – can he stay healthy?

Expect the defense to absolutely dominate the Miners offense, as Kindle, defensive tackle Lamarr Houston and linebacker Rodderick Muckelory should be living in the backfield and creating misery for Price’s offense. They need to play smart, not over-pursue, and have the secondary shed blocks to make tackles on screens and the edge.

From a special teams perspective, anything is possible with Shipley back returning punts, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some more fireworks there this week.

Overall, if the ‘Horns focus, they’ll get a well-deserved mid-season bye week next Saturday (during Austin City Limits Festival in Austin) to heal some injuries and continue to tweak and fix those minor issues leading in to Big 12 play against Colorado on October 10.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 UTEP Miners Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

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