November 7, 2006

Focus remains on the Big East

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All eyes will be on Rutgers (yes, Rutgers) Thursday for a game with national championship implications. In the SEC, Arkansas - with the conference title game in it sights has started airing the ball out in recent weeks.

Some things never change, however.

Alabama and Miami coaches are under pressure and SEC players are getting into off-the-field trouble.

Find out what issues will shape the week in college football and what games to watch in Week 11:


Five Questions for Week 11
1. Will there be more defense in Louisville's game against Rutgers than the Cardinals' game against West Virginia?
Louisville's 44-34 win over West Virginia catapulted the Cardinals into the national title hunt, but also showed some defensive shortcomings in the Big East. The teams combined for 1,008 yards of offense. Don't expect the same Thursday when Louisville goes to Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have the nation's second-ranked pass defense. Only LSU allows fewer yards per game, and only Ohio State allows fewer points. Rutgers' speedy defense held their toughest opponent, Pittsburgh, to 236 yards of offense and limited Tyler Palko to 16 of 26 passing for 169 yards.
2. Why change the quarterback now at Arkansas?
Houston Nutt abruptly changed quarterbacks Saturday after true freshman Mitch Mustain threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game against South Carolina. Sophomore backup Casey Dick was 11 of 19 for 228 yards with a touchdown and an interception the rest of the way. Dick will retain the job against Tennessee this week and possibly for the remainder of the season. Why change quarterbacks now after Mustain had gone 7-0 as the starter after replacing Robert Johnson? Nutt said he needed more experience under center and more balance in the offense. In seven starts before the South Carolina game, Mustain had thrown the ball an average of 16.4 times. In the second quarter against South Carolina, Dick opened up the passing game. He threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Monk, who had a career-high 192 receiving yards.
3. Can Florida still contend for the national title without Marcus Thomas?
Before Florida's 25-19 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, the Gators dismissed their best defensive lineman. Tackle Marcus Thomas apparently stayed out past his curfew, which was enacted after a positive test for marijuana. Thomas also was suspended for three games earlier in the season. Thomas' absence might not be felt until the postseason. Florida's remaining regular-season opponents South Carolina, Western Carolina and Florida State have not been dominant on the ground this year. But the Gators are poised to face Arkansas, Auburn or LSU in the SEC title game. Arkansas boasts the top running game in the SEC, while the Gators couldn't beat Auburn despite 10 tackles from Thomas.
4. Who will be the next coach to get the boot?
John Bunting and John L. Smith are already lame-duck coaches, but others could follow after a disappointing weekend. Miami's Larry Coker might be the next coach to find himself out of a job after a 17-10 loss at home to Virginia Tech. The game ended in a chorus of boos at the Orange Bowl, and there was a verbal confrontation between Kyle Wright's father and Miami fans. The Hurricanes (5-4) aren't assured of going to a bowl game with road trips to Maryland and Virginia and a home game against Boston College rounding out the schedule. Alabama's Mike Shula didn't gain any points with his fan base Saturday with a loss at home against Mississippi State.
5. What should we make of narrow victories for Ohio State and Michigan?
Not much. But watch out Northwestern and Indiana. Both the Buckeyes and Wolverines were caught looking ahead to their Nov. 18 showdown. Against Illinois, Ohio State had a season-low 224 yards of offense and 17 points, half of the Buckeyes' season average. Against Ball State, Michigan allowed the Cardinals to drive all the way to the Wolverines' 2-yard in the final minutes of a 34-26 game. Don't expect the same hiccups this week when Ohio State goes to Northwestern and Michigan goes to Indiana.
Top Five Games of Week 11
1. No. 3 Louisville (8-0, 3-0 Big East) at No. 15 Rutgers (8-0, 3-0 Big East), 7:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
The Cardinals have no time to rest after beating West Virginia last Thursday. Will Rutgers have the same fortune as the Cardinals did a week ago?
2. No. 13 Tennessee (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 11 Arkansas (8-1, 5-0 SEC), 7 p.m., ESPN2
The Razorbacks, now quarterbacked by backup Casey Dick, passed the first test against South Carolina and now have to go through a wounded Tennessee team to get to Atlanta.
3. South Carolina (5-4, 3-4 SEC) at No. 6 Florida (8-1, 6-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
For the first time, Steve Spurrier will coach at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as the visiting coach. Spurrier is already undefeated against his alma mater.
4. No. 18 Wake Forest (8-1, 4-1 ACC) at Florida State (5-4, 3-4 ACC), 8 p.m., ABC
The surprising Demon Deacons have yet another major test on the way to the ACC title game.
5. No. 21 Oregon (7-2, 4-2 Pac-10) at No. 7 USC (7-1, 5-1 Pac-10), 10:15 p.m., Fox Sports Net
That Pac-10 win streak ended against Oregon State. Could the home winning streak end against the Ducks?





 

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