Weekend Preview: Gator reaction

Craig James

Editor's note: Every week in "1st and 10," Yahoo! Sports analyst Craig James will break down the coming weekend's 10 best games in college football.


Live broadcasts of these games and more
Free Video: Duke at Wake Forest (noon ET)
Free Video: (11) Tennessee at South Carolina (12:30 p.m. ET)


(2) Oklahoma at (20) Oklahoma State - noon ET (ABC regional) Preview * Oklahoma * OSU
Oklahoma Sooners
T-1st, Big 12 South
Record: 7-0, 4-0
at Cowboys
T-3rd, Big 12 South
Record: 6-1, 3-1
Oklahoma State
It must be a big game because "GameDay" will be in Stillwater to watch the 99th meeting in the Bedlam series.

Here's how you break this down: OSU wants to go two tight ends and pound its opponent into submission with Vernand Morency running the ball. So far, it's working. The Cowboys average 269 rushing yards per game and a salty five yards per carry. That will be tested heavily this weekend by OU. The Sooners allow only 76 yards per game on the ground and a paltry 2.5 yards per carry.

Morency has had nine straight 100-yard games, and OU hasn't allowed a runner to reach the century mark this season. Who wins out?

Probably a huge difference, and it has been the last two weeks for OU, is Jason White's ability to throw the ball deep against stacked defensive lines.

Pick: Sooners And by the way, Bob Stoops says he isn't interested in the Florida job.

Missouri at Nebraska - noon ET (FSN) * Missouri
Missouri Tigers
T-1st, Big 12 North
Record: 4-3, 2-2
at Cornhuskers
T-1st, Big 12 North
Record: 4-3, 2-2
At least for the moment, this game pits the top two teams in the Big 12 North. Nebraska is coming off a thumping at the hands of Kansas State, and Missouri is trying to rebound following its close contest with Oklahoma State.

Nebraska has to show up with the "Blackshirts" on defense and can't turn the ball over. UM has the luxury of a proven quarterback in Brad Smith – a big help on the road.

Pick: Tigers

(11) Tennessee at South Carolina - 12:30 p.m. ET (JP/Yahoo! Sports) Preview * UT * USC
Tennessee Volunteers
T-1st, SEC East
Record: 6-1, 4-1
at Gamecocks
3rd, SEC East
Record: 5-2, 3-2
South Carolina
Both teams still are in the hunt for the SEC East title, and more than likely this will be a close game. The last four years have been really close, and last season's game went to OT before UT won.

This will be a great challenge for the Vols. USC is ranked 12th in the nation in scoring defense and allows only 11 points per game.

Looking from the outside, the Vols have three games remaining against SEC opponents: South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Coach Phil Fulmer never has lost to any of those teams.

Pick: Volunteers

Florida vs. (10) Georgia at Jacksonville, Fla. - 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) Preview * Florida
Florida Gators
4th, SEC East
Record: 4-3, 2-3
vs. Bulldogs
T-1st, SEC East
Record: 6-1, 4-1
What great timing by the Florida brass to go and fire Ron Zook the week of its big rivalry game with Georgia! What's to worry about? The Gators own this series, winning 13 of the last 14 and six in a row. Can UGA change that trend? Wide receiver Fred Gibson says that his team is like "Florida's puppies."

Georgia running back Danny Ware should play and says his injured lung is an infection, not a bruise.

Pick: Gators (Tons of support from team for fired Ron Zook)

(5) Florida State at Maryland - 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC regional) Preview * Florida St. * Maryland
Florida State Seminoles
2nd, ACC
Record: 6-1, 4-1
at Terrapins
9th, ACC
Record: 3-4, 1-3
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is a heck of a coach, so don't totally dismiss the Terps' chances. However, Coach hasn't been too successful against the Seminoles.

FSU is a little thin at running back. Lorenzo Booker will carry the load while Leon Washington continues to nurse a banged-up shoulder. A couple of potential stud freshmen back up Booker. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden says his wide receivers are dropping too many passes and not helping quarterback Wyatt Sexton out. A lack of practice time by the hurting wideouts is to blame.

Pick: Seminoles

(8) Texas at Colorado - 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC regional) Preview * Texas * Colorado
Texas Longhorns
T-3rd, Big 12 South
Record: 6-1, 3-1
at Buffaloes
T-3rd, Big 12 North
Record: 4-3, 1-3
The last time these two "hooked" up was in the Big 12 championship game back in 2001. Texas was ranked third and looking for a shot at the national championship. Second-ranked Florida had lost earlier in the day and all Texas had to do was win. Well, Colorado wasn't so eager to get out of the way and the Longhorns lost. A trip to the Rose Bowl was canceled, and UT was left with thoughts about what might have been.

Texas had a big win in Lubbock last week over Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were poised for an upset, but the Longhorns' defense played really well and Vince Young ran the ball like he should all the time.

Can Colorado run the ball behind Bobby Purify? He's a good runner averaging 94 yards per game.

Pick: Longhorns

Michigan State at (12) Michigan - 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC regional) Preview
Michigan State Spartans
T-3rd, Big Ten
Record: 4-3, 3-1
at Wolverines
T-1st, Big Ten
Record: 7-1, 5-0
Aside from the significance of this heated rivalry, Michigan needs to win out to win the Big Ten championship. This game will be a good test for Wolverine freshman studs Chad Henne and Michael Hart. Not to worry, that big O-line of Michigan has improved with run blocking in conference play. UM is averaging 175 rushing yards per game in conference play.

MSU is running even better than that behind three different runners. The combination nets the Spartans 213 yards per game on the ground. So who wins the running game battle?

Pick: Wolverines

(4) Miami (FL) at North Carolina - 7 p.m. ET (ESPN) Preview
Miami (FL) Hurricanes
1st, ACC
Record: 6-0, 3-0
at Tar Heels
7th, ACC
Record: 3-4, 2-2
North Carolina
And the beat goes on for North Carolina. What beat? UNC has a record of 3-4 with each of its losses coming against opponents ranked 14th or better in this week's AP poll. Now the Tar Heels get Miami! And can you believe this is homecoming for UNC? Oh well.

Interesting quote this week coming from UNC head coach John Bunting that Miami tight ends Greg Olsen and Kevin Everett are the best he's ever seen in college football.

Pick: Hurricanes

(3) Auburn at Mississippi - 7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN) Preview * Mississippi
Auburn Tigers
1st, SEC West
Record: 8-0, 5-0
at Rebels
T-2nd, SEC West
Record: 3-4, 2-2
Auburn observers were a little surprised this week when former Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill showed up at the facilities. Sherrill and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville went at it on the field but this was a visit that had Sherrill singing the praises of the Tigers.

A big improvement for Auburn's offense is on third down – it is converting a remarkable 64 percent of the time in the first half. On top of that, the Tigers' defense is holding its opponent on third down better – only allowing conversions 27 percent of the time. What's all that mean? Auburn keeps drives alive and stomps them out when the other guys have it.

Ole Miss had a week to prepare and will keep Auburn guessing as to how it will use the three-headed QB.

Pick: Tigers (A win and they capture SEC West crown)

(20) Arizona State at (7) California - 10 p.m. ET (TBS) Preview * Arizona State
Arizona State Sun Devils
T-2nd, Pac-10
Record: 6-1, 3-1
at Golden Bears
T-2nd, Pac-10
Record: 5-1, 3-1
This game features two really hot quarterbacks, and a lot is at stake. The winner keeps alive hope for a Rose Bowl berth, assuming USC wins out and goes to the Orange Bowl title game. In light of the Red Sox ending their World Series title drought, Cal hasn't even been to the Rose Bowl since 1959.

A few important notes: ASU reinstated running back Hakim Hill after a one-week suspension. Cal offensive coordinator George Cortez will miss a second game due to eye surgery, meaning coach Jeff Tedford gets double duty again. The Sun Devils struggle running the ball (ninth in Pac-10) and now face the second-ranked Cal rush defense.

Pick: Golden Bears

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