Every Friday through the end of the season we will be breaking down all of the local football games of the week and highlighting a few of the other games of note for the weekend. We won't be predicting the outcomes here, we will leave that for all of you in the comment section.
Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Colorado Buffaloes - Boulder, CO - 1:30 Not Televised
Two teams looking to salvage their 2010 seasons will meet up in Boulder when the Colorado Buffaloes take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Red Raiders are coming into Saturday's game with a 3-3 record, and a 1-3 Big 12 record, their only win coming against Baylor at the Cotton Bowl. Expectations in Lubbock were somewhat tempered coming into this season with the dismissal of program savior Mike Leach and subsequent hiring of former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, but Tech did not expect to be looking back at a bad loss against Iowa State. With only Houston and Weber State looking like guaranteed wins this season, this game is a contest that the Red Raiders may have to win in order to reach bowl eligibility.
The Colorado Buffaloes have had an up-and-down season to date, but last Saturday was the first game that the Buffs "should" have won and did not. The Buffaloes defense, a positive note on the season to date, bent just a little bit too much and allowed Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears to squeak by in a great game in Boulder. For the Buffaloes to take care of Texas Tech and move within two victories of bowl eligibility, Tyler Hansen is going to once again rise above the level of just being a "game manager":
But in the end, it all comes down to Tyler Hansen. He completed a high percentage of his passes last week, and has all season, but he hasn't been as accurate as that would indicate. He is still missing guys and forcing his receivers to make big adjustments to be able to catch his passes. But we've seen him make very accurate passes and get the ball into some very small windows, which is why I'm being hard on him. He can do it, he just needs to settle down and throw the ball to the spots where his receivers will be. He can do it. He's been forcing the ball far too often this season, so hopefully he can calm down tomorrow.
Air Force Falcons @ TCU Horned Frogs - Fort Worth, TX - 6:00 CBS College Sports
Air Force +18.5
The Air Force Academy fell for the second time this season last weekend, losing to a much improved San Diego State team 27-25. Now the Falcons are tasked with attempting to rebound against the nation's fifth ranked team on the road. This is not a game that head coach Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs will be overlooking:
Want to know how seriously TCU coach Gary Patterson takes Air Force?
His team starts working on the triple-option offense in the spring, taking the last 15 minutes of the final five days of practice. There is more practice work in the fall, on every third day of two-a-days. TCU began preparing for this game four weeks ago, working on it every Sunday night after they finished up the script for their upcoming opponent.
So you can bet No. 5 TCU (7-0, 3-0) will be ready for the rushing attack when the teams play Saturday in Fort Worth.
The Horned Frogs have held their last three opponents to a grand total of three points, but none of those teams have an offense as different and hard to prepare for as the Falcons' triple option. Unfortunately for Air Force, they will be trying to score against one of the nation's top defenses without one of their leading rushers.
Air Force will be missing their starting fullback Jared Tew who broke his right fibula in the first quarter of the Falcons loss against San Diego State. On most teams the fullback is mainly a blocker and gets a few token carries, but in the Air Force triple option attack the fullback is important. The fullback dive is a key element in the Falcon option offense and can set up other plays by faking the dive to set up an option to the outside.
Tew is second on the team in rushing with 540 yards and three scores and he will be sorely missed. The backup to Tew is Nathan Walker who is a senior with plenty of experienced and has four touchdowns of his own this year, but the issue comes after Walker where there is little depth. The current back is senior Ryan Southworth, but he has only four carries on the year and behind him is fresman Brent Michaels.
If Air Force can pull off a monumental upset on Saturday a return to the Top 25 and an opportunity to compete for the Mountain West championship and a BCS bowl berth will all of a sudden seem very obtainable.
Colorado State Rams @ Utah Utes - Salt Lake City, UT - 4:00 The Mtn.
Colorado State +30
Well, it was nice for a week, but Colorado State certainly isn't favored for the second week in a row. The Rams head to Salt Lake City to take on the undefeated ninth-ranked Utah Utes in a measuring stick game that will give us a decent idea if CSU is actually improving or UNLV was just that bad.
The Rams had their best performance of the season last Saturday, rolling up 43 points and almost 500 yards of offense against the hapless Rebels. Freshman quarterback Pete Thomas had the best performance of his young career going 10-for-14 for 233 yards and perhaps more importantly the Ram rushing attack finally got moving, racking up 259 yards on the ground in the win.
Offense won't come nearly that easily against the Utes however, as Utah is only allowing 14 points per game this season. Utah has quietly moved up the rankings with a close win against Pittsburgh and a road blow out of Iowa State, but after this Saturday they a gauntlet looms with games against Air Force, TCU, Notre Dame, San Diego State, and BYU remaining. If the Utes finish the season undefeated they will have earned it with an exclamation point. For the Rams to have a chance, they will have to hope that Utah is looking ahead to their "statement" games.
Other Games Of Note:
#1 Oklahoma @ #11 Missouri - Columbia, MO - 6:00 ABC
#6 LSU @ #4 Auburn - Auburn, AL - 1:30 CBS
#13 Wisconsin @ #15 Iowa - Iowa City, IA - 1:30 ESPN
#16 Nebraska @ #14 Oklahoma State - Stillwater, OK - 1:30 ABC
#22 Kansas State @ Baylor - Waco, TX - 9:30 No TV
The Denver Broncos have finally finished a brutal stretch in the 2010 schedule and now get ready to enter the divisional heavy portion of the schedule with three of the next four coming against AFC West foes. For the Broncos to continue competing for a playoff spot and a shot at the division crown, they must step up and take care of the games they should win, something that hasn't happened over the past two years.
Three things leaped out at me as I reviewed the Oakland-Tennessee and Denver-Tennessee games. These will seem so obvious that we might wonder why we see them as keys to the game, but they are the three things which seemed to make the difference between a win and a loss against the Titans. First, Denver controlled the clock while Oakland did not. As mentioned above, Denver held the ball over ten minutes longer than Tennessee while Oakland trailed in that category by over two minutes. Second, Denver converted one fourth down attempt, while neither Oakland nor Tennessee converted on fourth down. Third, and most important, Denver did a better job of finishing off drives. Oakland scored points on three out of twelve drives (or 25% of the time). Against Oakland, Tennessee scored on six out of thirteen drives (or 46% of the time). Denver converted on six out of thirteen drives against the Titans (46%) and held Tennessee to scores on three out of thirteen drives (23%) -- though it should be noted that Denver did give up a touchdown on a kick return.
If Denver controls the clock, finishes off at least half their drives, and converts for first downs, they should be able to win. The one thing they dare not do is assume that it will be an "easy" game.
Other Games Of Note:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Miami Dolphins - Miami, FL - 11:00 CBS
New England Patriots @ San Diego Chargers - San Diego, CA - 2:15 NFL Sunday Ticket
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers - Green Bay, WI - 6:20 NBC