Week five featured some incredible matchups, and while week six doesn’t appear to have those same kinds of games on the schedule, there will undoubtedly be several games everyone will be talking about on Monday. As we look forward to Saturday, here are the three games for week six I’m most interested in.
#3 Oklahoma at #11 Texas: 12:00 p.m. (Cotton Bowl)
Ah, the Red River Rivalry, probably the game I’m most excited for this weekend. Even though I’m neither a fan of Oklahoma nor Texas I look forward to watching this rivalry every year. There may not be a more important game for both teams either, then the annual head to head matchup that highlights the Texas State Fair. This matchup has often been a clash for Big XII supremacy, with the winner cruising to a conference championship. Saturday’s game looks to be no different as both teams enter the game with a zero in the loss column, only the second time in the last seven years both teams have been undefeated. So, let’s look at the tale of the tape.
While both teams are 4-0 entering Saturday, they’ve had much different paths to their unbeaten records. For Texas, it has been all about defense and running the football. What was supposed to be the breakout year for junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert has been anything but. Gilbert started the season off terrible completing just 48% of his passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Gilbert was benched for sophomore Case McCoy (Colt’s little brother), and then opted to have season ending shoulder surgery. McCoy has performed well, completing 70 percent of his passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Due to McCoy’s play, Gilbert recently declared his intentions to transfer from the Longhorns.
On the ground, Texas features a quartet of talented backs. The most notable of the four, true freshman Malcolm Brown, is the talented 215 pounder from Cibolo, TX. Brown, the prized five star recruit of the Longhorns 2010 recruiting class has been a workhorse, carrying the ball 67 times for 327 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown. The Texas backfield is also home to one of the more explosive playmakers in the nation, Foswhitt (Fozzy) Whittaker. Despite only carrying the ball 28 times, Whittaker has racked up 141 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Fozzy has also been a playmaker in the passing game, he’s tied for the third most receptions on the team at eight, a stat that shows just how anemic the Longhorns passing game has been. The other two tailbacks in the rotation junior D.J. Monroe and freshman Joe Bergeron, have combined for 30 carries for 208 yards in the Longhorns first four games.
While the Longhorns haven’t been able to do much damage through the air, they do feature a duo of receivers worth mentioning. Although the former Longhorns superstar Jordan Shipley might be catching passes from Andy Dalton in the NFL now, the Texas offense does have his little brother Jaxon. The younger Shipley leads the Longhorns in receptions with 16 on the season, and has a 17.5 yard average per catch with two touchdowns this year. Shipley has also showcased his ability to throw the ball on trick plays, with a touchdown toss against BYU. Sophomore Mike Davis has been one of the most explosive receivers in the nation in his limited opportunities, his 29.3 yard average per reception is second only to Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. At tight end, Texas has received stellar play from junior D.J. Grant. While the 230 pounder from Austin, TX has only caught 8 passes this season, three have been for touchdowns.
On defense, to say that the Longhorns have been stout would be an understatement. The Longhorns are ranked in the top 35 of each of the four major defensive categories, something only 12 other teams can claim. The Texas secondary has been outstanding this year, allowing opponents quarterbacks to complete just 52% of their passes this season for an average of 179 yards per game. Even more impressive, the secondary has surrendered just two touchdowns through the air, something that doesn’t bode well for Oklahoma’s offensive game plan. Texas has also been able to keep the opponents ground game in check, giving up just 111 rushing yards per game. Teams have found scoring against the Longhorns defense difficult, whose 15 points given up per game is 12th in the nation.
For Oklahoma, the motto has been throw the ball and throw it often. While the Longhorns have only attempted 91 passes this season, Oklahoma’s junior Heisman hopeful Landry Jones has attempted 155. Jones has been spectacular, completing 72% of his passes for 1,447 yards and ten touchdowns. If there’s an area of concern for Jones, it’s not adding to his five interception total.
At receiver, the Sooners have some of the deadliest playmakers in the nation. Senior, Ryan Broyles leads the pack, with 38 receptions for 476 yards and six touchdowns. Broyles six scores are tied for the third most in the nation for a receiver. The explosive receiver from Norman, OK has shown the ability to provide instant offense with his deep speed and is a proven playmaker in the return game as well. The Oklahoma passing game also features talented weapons in a trio of sophomores, Trey Franks, Jaz Reynolds, and Kenny Stills. Junior tight end, James Hanna, hasn’t had much work this season with only 7 receptions so far, but could find some holes in the middle of the field Saturday.
In the running game, it has been a two man show, with junior Dominique Whaley and sophomore Brennan Clay receiving 112 of the 162 Oklahoma carries. Whaley has led the way with 70 carries for 379 yards and seven touchdowns. The junior has also been featured in the passing game, averaging 12.4 yards per reception. Clay has been equally impressive, with 42 carries for 161 yards. However, Clay has been unable to translate his success into scores, with just one touchdown on the season.
My prediction, it’s a thriller like the Red River Rivalry always is. In a game that has featured memorable performances from big stars, I expect this game to be Landry Jones’ welcome to the 2011 Heisman race performance. I’m thinking four touchdowns to just one interception in this marquee matchup for Jones. While I think the young McCoy and the Horns will be able to keep it close through three quarters, Jones and the Sooner passing attack will prove too much in the fourth with two game clinching touchdowns. Oklahoma gets the nod here, 34-17.
#17 Florida at #1 LSU: 3:30 p.m.
Another South Eastern Conference matchup featuring top-25 teams, where have I seen this before? I must be honest, I would be a lot more excited if Florida quarterback John Brantley hadn’t been injured last week, but this game still has a lot to like.
First, I’m excited to see how Jeff Driskel plays against a great defense with a week of preparation. The true freshman QB was thrust into the starting lineup after Brantley was injured in the closing moments of the first half last week. What could be more of a welcome to college ball then having to come in off the bench against Alabama’s suffocating defense. Understandably, Driskel struggled mightily, completing just 2 of 6 passes for 14 yards. He was however able to show off his athletic ability that made him a five star prospect in high school, with a 31 yard scramble. Driskel will need all the scrambles he can muster up Saturday in order to keep the LSU defense in check.
I’m also interested to see if the Florida running back duo of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey can bounce back after miserable performances against the Crimson Tide. The dynamic duo was held to just 8 yards on 14 combined carries against Alabama, entering the game both running backs were averaging over 6.7 yards per carry. It will certainly be tough sledding for the two on Saturday, against an LSU defense that is allowing opponents just 60 yards on the ground per game and only two yards per carry.
For LSU, I’m intrigued by how Jordan Jefferson will be used. While I may not agree entirely with the decision to reinstate Jefferson, there is no denying the senior’s ability. Jefferson rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on four carries in his first game back from suspension last week and has publicly stated he wants to be the Tigers starting quarterback again. I’m also interested to see how many game changing plays corner back Tyrann Mathieu makes. Mathieu has been an absolute beast on defense, locking down opposing receivers, forcing three fumbles and picking off a pass.
My prediction, while I’m excited for individual matchups and the game within a game, I’m not expecting this one to be very close. I fully expect Florida to be extremely one dimensional, and while Driskel was one of my favorite QB prospects last year, he’s not ready for the Tigers defense. I do think that Florida’s tailback duo will be able to create space and make plays, but in the end the offensive game plan will handcuff the Gators and LSU’s defense will force several turnovers. I’m expecting a big day on the ground for LSU, as Florida’s defensive front will be worn down from playing so many snaps. Final score, 41-13 Tigers.
# 15 Auburn at #10 Arkansas: 7:00 p.m.
Week six features two matchups of top-25 ranked SEC teams. The second of these, a matchup between the defending National Champion Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks should be much more exciting than the Gators and Tigers game. Both teams are riding high following nail biting wins over top 15 ranked teams. Both have much better offenses then defenses, and both need this matchup in the worst way in a loaded SEC Western division.
For the Tigers, it’s been about the solid play of junior qb Barrett Trotter and the outstanding running game. When Cam Newton bolted for the NFL after leading the Tigers to a National Title last year everyone wondered how the Tigers would replace him, and while Trotter is certainly no Cam Newton his play has been surprising in a good way. Trotter has come up big for the Tigers when they needed it most, and while his 60% completion rate may not look great, those completions have come at critical times. He’s also been able to execute in the redzone, with nine touchdowns on the year. Trotter’s performance thus far, has helped to take some of the load off the running game.
Even as good as Trotter has played this year the Tigers are most effective when their tailbacks are getting the ball, and for an offense that relies heavily on the ground game Auburn has two special running backs. True sophomore, Michael Dyer, leads the way with 103 carries for 567 yards (5.5 ypc). Dyer has been able to reach paydirt seven times this season including a career long rush of 52 yards. While Dyer has been able to show off a little speed this season, the most explosive player in the Auburn offense is without a doubt, Onterio McCalebb. McCalebb is an electric back, with legitimate 4.4 speed, and while he hasn’t been able to show off his speed with his longest rush being just 19 yards it’s only a matter of time before he breaks one. McCalebb is also the more all around back, and has 15 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown.
At receiver, the Auburn Tigers feature a bunch of guys you’ve likely never heard of. The standout of the group is junior Emory Blake who leads the Tigers in receptions with 19 and receiving yards with 333. While the Tigers will be without freshman Trovon Reed (shoulder injury) Saturday, juniors Travante Stallworth, and DeAngelo Benton have also shown to be capable playmakers. Perhaps the biggest playmaker in the Auburn passing game is a guy you may have heard of in tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen, despite only having six receptions on the year, the junior tight end has reached the endzone three times.
For the Razorbacks, the play of quarterback Tyler Wilson has been the catalyst of the offense. Wilson has done remarkable replacing former Razorback star and New England Patriots rookie Ryan Mallett, completing 65% of his passes for 1,517 yards and 10 touchdowns. The play of Wilson has also taken pressure off of the Razorback running game which lost its top playmaker in junior Knile Davis.
At receiver, the Razorbacks feature three of the best in the SEC in Jarius Wright, Cobi Hamilton, and Joe Adams. Wright has been the most reliable, with 478 yards and five touchdowns on 28 receptions. Hamilton has caught 17 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns, while Adams has been on the receiving end of 21 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. Something to watch will be the play of senior wide out Greg Childs who was a great playmaker until suffering a season ending injury in 2010. Childs is still in the process of getting back into game shape, and thus far has just five receptions for 65 yards.
At running back, it’s been by committee ever since Knile Davis was lost for the season. While junior Ronnie Wingo Jr. has received over a third of all Arkansas rushing attempts, freshman Kody Walker and senior Broderick Green have been splitting goaline carries. Walker appears to be the most likely to score of the three with five touchdowns already, compared to Wingo Jr.’s and Green’s two.
My prediction, this one will go down to the wire. Both teams will score points, and both teams will give up points. I have a feeling this will be the most talked about matchup of the weekend with it going back and forth until the final whistle. I’m giving Auburn the nod here based on their success in tight games, 27-24.