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What to Watch For - Saturday September 26

I'll be in the rain in Blacksburg enjoying Virginia Tech and Miami in the week's only matchup of two Top 25 teams.  It'll also be exhibit #51670 of ESPN College GameDay selling out to the 8:00 PM ABC national telecast - you wanna tell me with a straight face that Penn State-Iowa is a bigger game?  I'll be TiVoing The Continued Adventures of Jonathan Crompton and hope to catch up by the second half to join the fun in the game thread - between now and then, here's what to watch for on Saturday:

Ryan Mallet vs. The Alabama Defense (3:30 PM - CBS)

Mallet leads not only the SEC, but the nation in QB rating with a robust 193.5 (our brother-in-law Jimmy Clausen is second).  He's thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions in two games.  Alabama, meanwhile, held Virginia Tech to 91 passing yards, FIU got 213, and North Texas got only 126.  None of those teams are exactly known for their vaunted passing attacks, and if Mallet wants to become a true Heisman darkhorse, he'll need another big performance against a defense with a pulse.  Alabama has that, and then some.

How good is Kentucky?  How good is Florida? (6:00 PM - ESPN2)

I'm completely perplexed by the Gators now, from both their on-field performance (and lack of downfield threats), and the way Urban Meyer has handled himself this week - whether or not you think he's been right or wrong in engaging Lane Kiffin in a postgame war of words, at the very least it's been out of character.  As such, I feel like this Florida team is out of character.  UK got an emotional win last week and is 3-0, and full of players who know how to win, having been to bowl games three consecutive seasons.  Mike Hartline has completed 70% of his passes and Randall Cobb has been as good as Cat fans hoped in the full-time transition to wide receiver.  Playing in Lexington, if the Gators are truly vulnerable, is Kentucky truly good enough to take advantage?  Methinks we'll find out a bunch about both teams on Saturday.

Can Georgia's defense do anything right against undefeated Arizona State?  (7:00 PM - ESPNU)

The numbers for Willie Martinez's embattled unit:

  • at Oklahoma State:  24 points - 307 yards allowed
  • vs South Carolina:  37 points - 427 yards allowed
  • at Arkansas:  41 points - 485 yards allowed

Arizona State has scored 88 points in two wins over Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe, so the jury's still out.  But there's been a negative verdict on South Carolina's offense when playing anyone other than the Dawgs, and as you can see, the performances are getting worse.  Georgia couuld easily be 0-3, and should be commended for being 2-1, but how much longer can they keep getting away with such poor defensive performances?

Can Auburn keep up this pace against Ball State?  (7:00 PM - ESPN360)

A look at War Eagle's offensive numbers under Gus Malzahn:

  • vs Louisiana Tech:  37 points - 556 yards
  • vs Mississippi State:  49 points - 589 yards
  • vs West Virginia:  41 points - 400 yards

If both teams hold serve this week, the Tennessee-Auburn matchup next week should be a classic offense/defense struggle.  If you want to get a glimpse of what Monte Kiffin is in for, check out the Tigers during the commercial breaks.  Ball State has traded an undefeated regular season in 2008 for a winless start in 2009, and the list of foes doesn't inspire much confidence (North Texas, New Hampshire, Army).  All of this should add up to another huge statistical day for the Tigers, and a huge huge HUGE game in Knoxville next Saturday night...

...but, one thing at a time.  Auburn must get past Ball State, and the Vols have to beat Ohio.