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October 30, 2009

Keep an eye on ... the real McCoy

Each week, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans some things to keep an eye on over the course of the weekend.

Texas QB Colt McCoy. Last week, McCoy bounced back from a poor showing against Oklahoma with an excellent performance in an impressive victory at Missouri. I'm curious to see if he can follow up with another strong effort on Saturday at Oklahoma State. A victory would put the Longhorns in great position to win the Big 12 South Division - and to reach the BCS national championship game. And if McCoy has a big game, he could be right back in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.


Can USC's defense stop the bleeding? Yes, USC still has the No. 2 defense in the Pac-10, allowing just 291.7 yards per game. But the unit has struggled the past two weeks in yielding a combined 63 points in victories over Notre Dame and Oregon State. The Fighting Irish totaled 367 yards, while the Beavers racked up 482. There still is a lot to like about USC's defense. The unit has 29 sacks in seven games, which matches the total for all of last season. But a youthful line has been vulnerable of late. The Oregon Ducks will challenge that front with a ground game that ranks No. 2 in the Pac-10 (210.7 ypg). USC still has national title hopes. But a loss here would kill that dream, as well as severely damaging the Trojans' Pac-10 title hopes.


Offenses in the SEC. Florida's offensive issues have been well-documented. The Gators meet Georgia, which has been playing pitiful defense. But the Gators have gone against some other pitiful defenses and have still not been able to explode. Will it be different Saturday at the "Cocktail Party"? Auburn started off like a house afire, but the offense has cooled considerably. Saturday, the Tigers get an Ole Miss team that has played excellent defense all season. Can the Tigers rediscover their offensive magic, or will they suffer their fourth loss in a row? South Carolina is in good shape for a New Year's Day bowl bid - assuming the Gamecocks can win in Knoxville. But the Gamecocks are another SEC team that has been winning with defense. Can Steve Spurrier get his offense revved up against Monte Kiffin's Tennessee defense? And the opponents in the aforementioned games have offensive problems, as well. Georgia's rushing attack hasn't done much, which means Joe Cox needs to put up big numbers against the Florida secondary. Can he do it? Can Jevan Snead continue his recent resurgence and get Ole Miss into the 20s against Auburn? And can Vols QB Jonathan Crompton - who has gone from inept to adequate in the past month - make enough big plays against an aggressive and underrated South Carolina defense?


Can Tennessee creep into bowl contention? A victory over South Carolina in Knoxville this weekend would give the Vols a 4-4 record and greatly enhance their chances of playing in the postseason. Tennessee's defense has been outstanding all season. Each of its four losses has come by 10 or fewer points - and three have been by four or fewer. If Lane Kiffin's squad can turn in a similar performance against the Gamecocks this week a victory would seem likely, especially if the offense gets on track. With winnable games against Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky in their future, Tennessee has a great chance to get to a bowl if it wins this week.


How will Notre Dame's barnstorming plan work out? The Notre Dame-Washington State game in San Antonio shouldn't have much drama on the field, and I'm more interested in seeing what takes place in the stands anyway. This marks the debut of Notre Dame's plan to play one neutral-site game to go along with seven home games and four road games each season. The plan continues next season when the Irish face Army at Yankee Stadium. Does Notre Dame have enough national appeal to make this plan worthwhile? This game might provide the ultimate test. Washington State arguably is the worst program in any of the six major conferences, and it's playing thousands of miles from home. Needless to say, few people are going to be attending this game to see the Cougars. Notre Dame has to sell this game on its own. Notre Dame sold out its allotment of 25,000 tickets, but Washington State only sold 4,000 tickets. Do the Irish have enough clout to attract a crowd of 50,000? If so, this barnstorming plan ought to work out well. But if the crowd is less than 40,000, perhaps the Irish should begin having second thoughts about this venture.


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