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Tag:Keys To The Game
Posted on: November 8, 2011 12:42 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Boise State vs. TCU

Posted by Tom Fornelli

BOISE STATE WILL WIN IF: Kellen Moore continues to be Kellen Moore. That's not to say that this game is an easy win for Boise State, because it's not. This will easily be the toughest test that the Broncos have faced since opening the season against Georgia in Atlanta. It's also incredibly important in the Mountain West standings as both of these teams are unbeaten in conference play and the winner will likely win the conference. In order for that to happen for Boise State, Kellen Moore and the offense will have to look at what Baylor and SMU did earlier this season to defeat TCU. This Horned Frogs defense has been good this season, but it's not as good as the unit we've seen the last few years, particularly in the secondary. While it isn't giving up a lot of yards through the air, the fact is that the TCU defense has allowed 18 passing touchdowns this season with only 7 interceptions. With Kellen Moore's accuracy and career ratio of 5.33 touchdowns for every interception thrown, this is something that the Broncos can and should take advantage of.

TCU WILL WIN IF: It can figure out how to stop Kellen Moore and this offense. Which not many teams have been able to do in the past four years. The key to doing this will be to get pressure in Moore's face and try to force him into making throws he either doesn't want to or shouldn't make. Of course, even if you can get some pressure on Moore, Boise's offense is still going to find ways to score, which means TCU will have to play well on offense. The Horned Frogs don't have a strong passing attack this season, but if there's good news it's that you're probably better off running against Boise anyway. The Broncos only allow 140.4 yards per game on the ground, but they also have the lowest amount of rushing attempts per game in the Mountain West. The number that TCU should pay attention to is the fact that Boise is allowing over 4 yards per carry. So a healthy dose of Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker could go a long way.

X-FACTOR: Bronco Stadium. You may remember that this game was originally supposed to be played in Fort Worth, but then suddenly after TCU announced it would be leaving the Mountain West for the Big East -- which became the Big 12 -- the game was moved to Boise. A factor that can't be overlooked in this contest considering that Boise State hasn't lost a regular season game on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium in a decade.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 12:11 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

TEXAS TECH WILL WIN IF: It can rediscover its offense. Since holding a 31-7 lead on Oklahoma the Texas Tech offense has only scored 34 points and its opponents have scored 127. That's not going to work, especially against an offense like Oklahoma State's. It's hard to think that a defense that has allowed 34.2 points and 453.7 yards per game is suddenly going to figure things out and shut down the Cowboys. It's not going to happen, so if Texas Tech wants to win this game, it's just going to have to outscore Oklahoma State. Not an easy feat, but Kansas State nearly pulled it off on Saturday. In order for that to happen then Seth Doege and the offense will have to take care of the ball. This Oklahoma State defense forces more turnovers than anybody in the country, and Texas Tech can't afford to forfeit possessions in this game if it is going to have a chance.

OKLAHOMA STATE WILL WIN IF: Oklahoma State just has to keep doing what it's been doing all season, though a better defensive effort than what we saw on Saturday against Kansas State would help. Oklahoma State's been giving up points all season, but against Kansas State it got pushed around more than it had all season. The good news for the Cowboys is that Collin Klein isn't playing for Texas Tech this weekend. So if its defense can keep forcing turnovers and Brandon Weeden keeps playing like he has been, then this game shouldn't present much of a problem.

X-FACTOR: Adam James. Yes, that Adam James. He may be most known for who his father is and everything that led to the dismissal of Mike Leach at Texas Tech, but he's become a solid contributor to the Red Raiders offense the last few weeks. After not making a catch in the first four games of the season, James has 19 catches for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns in the last five games, and had 95 yards last week against Texas. Texas Tech is going to need all the weapons it can get on Saturday, and if James is able to give Doege another reliable target to move the ball downfield, it'll improve the Raiders' chances.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Michigan at Iowa

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: It takes away the deep pass. The most efficient passer in the Big Ten, obviously, is Wisconsin's Russell Wilson; Wilson actually leads the nation with a ridiculous 196.95 rating. Second? That would be Iowa's James Vandenberg. Seriously. Vandenberg's got 17 touchdown passes and only four picks on the year, and his efficiency numbers are buoyed by 10 of those touchdowns coming from over 20 yards out. Last week, Minnesota bottled up the Iowa passing offense and taking away those deep passes (often at great expense to the rushing defense, which ceded over 250 yards to Marcus Coker), but at the end of the day Iowa only had 21 points and a loss to show for its efforts.

IOWA WILL WIN IF: It leaves the bad defense on the road. Iowa has historically been known for a stout defense, especially under DC Norm Parker since he and Kirk Ferentz arrived in Iowa City in 1999. This year, though, Iowa has struggled mightily -- especially in road games. Away from Kinnick, Iowa is 0-3, with losses to Iowa State, Penn State, and Minnesota -- and the defense has faltered late in all three games. Moreover, none of those three teams have a quarterback who even approximates the skill that Denard Robinson brings to the table, and Iowa's going to have a nightmare of a time forcing Robinson out of his comfort zone, which is "breaking long runs and incinerating all who oppose him." Certainly, Iowa doesn't have the defensive athleticism to keep up with Robinson. It must, however, bring the defensive scheming and intensity to at least limit Robinson's damage. 

X-FACTOR: The Kinnick Stadium crowd. The Hawkeye corner of the Internet is a dark and lonely place right now after Iowa left Floyd of Rosedale in Minneapolis for the second year in a row. If that lack of enthusiasm bleeds through to gameday and Robinson finds a muted crowd to greet him -- or shuts the fans up himself with an early long touchdown or two -- the likelihood of Michigan's offense sputtering and making mistakes lessens greatly. If, however, the fans have a short memory and try to disrupt the Michigan offense, Iowa may stand a good chance of keeping pace with the Wolverines -- especially if the Hawkeye offense does its part early too.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Northwestern at Nebraska

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NORTHWESTERN WILL WIN IF: The Wildcat defense shuts down Rex Burkhead. Seriously, if Rex Burkhead can't rush for more than 2-3 yards a pop, Nebraska's probably in trouble, because Burkhead is the unquestioned workhorse of this vaunted rushing attack; he's averaging over 25 carries per game in Big Ten play, and logged 35 rushes last week and three total TDs in the Huskers' 24-3 win over Michigan State. The one small, tiny, insignificant detail: keeping Burkhead bottled up for four quarters is basically impossible, even for a good defense. Northwestern's defense? Not so good. The Wildcats give up about 200 yards per game on the ground alone, and 31.5 points per game. That's going to have to change this week, or Burkhead and Nebraska are going to run up the score.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: They don't make Dan Persa look like Superman. One thing that's become evident over the course of the season is that Dan Persa is not at his 2010, pre-injury level of play. That's to be somewhat expected, considering it's an Achilles injury we're talking about here, but it's to the point that Pat Fitzgerald isn't even using Persa's rushing ability anymore; that role falls to Kain Colter, who's certainly dangerous as a rusher (and receiver, when need be) in his own right -- but Colter's so harmless as a passer that one look at who's under center is usually all it takes to figure out whether Northwestern's going run or pass. Now, Persa's still a talented thrower, and he's got a stable of capable receivers, so if Northwestern's going to keep this game at all close, it'll be by passing the ball -- if Nebraska keeps Persa's passing numbers out of the stratosphere, this should be a relatively easy Husker win.

X-FACTOR: Bad Taylor Martinez. At his best, Taylor Martinez is a dual threat with the ability to make big plays with his arm or his feet, and defenses usually have to account for both possibilities. Of course, Taylor Martinez is rarely at his best, and he's usually good for one or two horrifying interceptions per game. He certainly has the ability to keep Northwestern in this game when the Wildcats shouldn't be; at the same time, if he takes care of the football, this one'll probably be over by the time the fourth quarter starts.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:39 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Washington

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks offense has struggled to be consistent and it appears there's a minor quarterback controversy after Darron Thomas was pulled in the second half for backup quarterback Bryan Bennett. LaMichael James is back and Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas have done a great job running the football but Oregon has to get the passing game back on track with Thomas under center. This is likely the Ducks' stiffest test on defense all season but they're going to need the offense in its usual high-scoring mode to win.

WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: The defense has to make play plays and force a few turnovers. There's no if's, and's or but's about this game, the defense will need to take a major step forward if the Huskies want to win this game. The offense has been great so far this year but the team has been in too many shootouts - a type of game they'll lose against Oregon. Chris Polk will need another monster game and will need to help control the clock and keep it out of the hands of the Oregon offense. This is a big game for Steve Sarkisian but it's an even bigger game for defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

X-FACTOR: Washington is bowl eligible for the second season in a row and the rivalry against Oregon is an underrated one nationally. That should create an electric crowd at Husky Stadium, one of the loudest venues in the Pac-12. If they can capitalize on the home field advantage and force Oregon in to some mistakes early, there's no doubt that Washington has a chance in this one.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Keys to the Game: South Carolina at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF:
they can play keep-away. Much as they've struggled the past two weeks, Arkansas still has arguably the most explosive offense in the SEC (particularly with Dennis Johnson taking more of the load at running back) and will be primed to make up for the close calls at home. The current iteration of the Gamecock offense -- with no Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looking average-at-best away from the friendly confines of Williams-Brice, and Alshon Jeffery on the verge of winding up on a milk carton -- is not going to win a shootout against the Hogs in Fayetteville. The best way to avoid that? Do what the Gamecocks did against Tennessee: milk the clock. Freshman tailback Brandon Wilds doesn't have nearly Lattimore's burst, but his 137 yards against the Vols kept the chains moving and led to a whopping 13-plus minute advantage in time-of-possession. Given that the Hog defense has been dreadful of late (giving up an average of 248 yards their past five games), the opportunity is there for Wilds and the Gamecock ground game to do something similar against the Hogs ... and keep the game the kind of low-scoring slog they pulled out against Mississippi State and the Vols.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they show up for the first half. The Hogs have been absolutely dominant in recent second halves, outscoring their last four opponents 81-17 after the break. But they've had to, since they've been outscored 87-59 in the first half of those same four games and trailed three times. Those opponents, however, haven't had anything to throw at the Hogs defensively like Carolina will in Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and a secondary ranked third in the country in pass defense. Another comeback won't be so easy. That said, if Tyler Wilson can get out to an early lead and force the Gamecocks out of their three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust comfort zone -- and the game into Shaw's hands -- the game could get away fro mthe visitors in a hurry.

THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. It's only fitting that Johnson has taken over as the Hogs' No. 1 rusher during the Halloween season, since he's the very definition of a trick-or-treat player. His 57-yard touchdown on a late first-half draw against Ole Miss turned the momentum of that game ... but his critical second-half fumbles against both the Rebels and Vanderbilt also helped both those teams stay in touch when it looked like Arkansas might put them away. If Johnson can avoid giving the ball away, he should be a major factor--but that's a big if.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Keys to the game: Stanford at Oregon State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: On paper, this looks like a total mismatch but many highly ranked teams have gone into Reser Stadium on a cold afternoon and gone home with a loss - that's why they play the games after all. Andrew Luck has a chance to continue his march to winning a Heisman Trophy this week but will have to adjust to the loss of tight end Zach Ertz. This will be a good game to re-establish the run and work on a few things defensively as they prepare for Oregon in two weeks. Still, David Shaw will have to get his team excited about playing this game after last week's thrilling win at the Coliseum.

OREGON STATE WILL WIN IF: Stanford has the 81st ranked pass defense and the Beavers love to throw the ball with freshman quarterback Sean Mannion. If they can create some turnovers, run the ball effectively and play decent defense, there's a chance. It's a very, very small chance against Stanford but stranger things have happened. They have a great coach in Mike Riley and are looking to begin November with a big home win.

X-FACTOR: Stanford let down. As Luck was running to the locker room after beating USC last week, he pumped his fists in the air and couldn't get the smile off his face. It was a similar story for much of the Cardinal football team. It's one thing getting excited about a top 20 opponent, it's another getting up for a team that is 2-6 on the season. Stanford blanked Oregon State 38-0 last year but have just a 3-7 record against the Beavers since 2000 so there's hasn't been a whole lot of success on the side of the Bay Area team in this series. If there's a slow start by the offense and the defense allows a big play, there could be a chance at an upset.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 12:43 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Army at Air Force

Posted by Chip Patterson

AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF: Air Force was able to bounce back from a three-game losing streak to finally notch their first conference win against New Mexico. The Falcons will be looking to capture their second-straight Commander-in-Chief's trophy with a victory over their rivals from West Point. Having defeated Navy in a 35-34 overtime thriller earlier in the season, their sixth-straight victory over Army would seal the 18th outright win in the annual battle between the service academies. The Falcons will need their patented option-rushing attack to help build a big lead early, as neither team has an offense that has shown the ability to mount a fast comeback. With starting quarterback Tim Jefferson's status still unknown, I expect senior running back Asher Clark to step up with an increased workload and production in the rivalry game. If the Falcons run their offense and avoid turnovers, they should emerge victorious again in their first home game since Oct. 13.

ARMY WILL WIN IF: Statistically Army's rushing attack puts up slightly better numbers than Air Force (Army leads the nation with 369.0 yards per game, Air Force is third with 326.88), but the Black Knights will find opportunity for victory if they can force the Falcons to turn the ball over. Air Force turned the ball over 8 times during their three-game slide in October, and it has been the one weakness to the Falcons' offensive attack all season. Army's secondary might find that opportunity through the air, where Air Force quarterbacks have thrown at least one interception in any game where more than 15 passes are attempted.

X-FACTOR: Health of Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson. Jefferson left the Falcon's 42-0 victory over New Mexico with a reported injury to his nose. He was back on the practice field on Monday, but head coach Troy Calhoun did not offer any official comment on his status for Army. The good news for the Falcons was his backup, sophomore Conner Deitz, played exceptionally in his absence. Deitz entered the game and finished as the team's leading rusher with 87 yards on six carries - including a 39 yard touchdown rush to put Air Force up 35-0 before halftime.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com