Clem­son RB looks to leap over QB Heis­man hope­fuls

Travis Eti­enne could win Heis­man if he gets enough touches

Daily Press - - Sports - By Ralph D. Russo The As­so­ci­ated Press

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clem­son are fac­ing top-25 foes this week­end, but the con­ven­tional wis­dom is nei­ther will be tested.

The Crim­son Tide, af­ter run­ning roughshod over LSU last week, re­turns home to face No. 18 Mis­sis­sippi State at 3:30 p.m. Satur­day. Alabama is a 25-point fa­vorite. Later, the Tigers visit No. 17 Bos­ton Col­lege, where Clem­son is fa­vored by al­most three touch­downs.

The week­end doesn't have a nick­name, like Show­down Satur­day, but with only four more weeks of foot­ball un­til the play­off field is set, they are all big.

Here's what you need to know for week 11 of the sea­son:

Best game

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 24 Michi­gan State (noon, Fox): For all their is­sues through nine weeks of the sea­son, the Buck­eyes are 10th in the play­off rank­ings and still in po­si­tion to win the Big Ten by sim­ply win­ning all their re­main­ing games. Eas­ier said than done, but it's all there.

The Spar­tans present an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge. Michi­gan State's of­fense is 116th in the coun­try in yards per play (5.00) and has been shuf­fling be­tween quar­ter­back Brian Lew­erke, who has been deal­ing with a shoul­der in­jury, and red­shirt fresh­man Rocky Lom­bardi.

It seems like a good day for the Buck­eyes to get their strug­gling de­fense (82nd in the na­tion at 5.82 yards per play) back in or­der.

But Michi­gan State has one of the best run de­fenses in the na­tion, and the Ohio State run­ning game has at times left quar­ter­back Dwayne Hask­ins and the of­fense one-di­men­sional.

An Ohio State vic­tory sets up an al­most inevitable Big Ten East ti­tle game be­tween the Buck­eyes and No. 4 Michi­gan in a few weeks, but Michi­gan State coach Mark Dan­to­nio has made a ca­reer mess­ing up the best-laid plans for those two teams.

Heis­man watch

Travis Eti­enne, RB, Clem­son: We all know a quar­ter­back is al­most a lock to the win the Heis­man and that quar­ter­back is prob­a­bly Tua Tagoav­iloa of Alabama. Ok­la­homa's Kyler Murray, West Vir­ginia's Will Grier and Hask­ins could still have a say, too.

Eti­enne is the one run­ning back who might be able to break into the field. His big­gest is­sue is touches. The sopho­more is av­er­ag­ing just less than 13 car­ries per game, but has 8.6 yards per carry with 15 touch­downs. If BC can mount a chal­lenge against the Tigers in prime time, maybe they will give Eti­enne a few more mean­ing­ful touches and the chance to direct Heis­man at­ten­tion his way.

Num­bers to know

9: Touch­downs al­lowed by Mis­sis­sippi State this sea­son, fewest in the coun­try.

21: Con­sec­u­tive games won by No. 11 Cen­tral Flor­ida. The Knights try to make it 22 against slump­ing Navy.

162-30: The com­bined score of the last three games Michi­gan played against Rut­gers, all won by the Wolver­ines. No. 4 Michi­gan is at Rut­gers on Satur­day.

0-9: No. 16 Fresno State's record at Boise State. The Bull­dogs visit the blue turf Satur­day.

1984: The last time Ken­tucky won at Ten­nessee. The 12thranked Wild­cats try to make it vic­to­ries in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons against the Vol­un­teers on Satur­day.

Off the radar

UAB (8-1, 6-0) has won seven straight games, a pro­gram record, and can clinch the Con­fer­ence USA West Di­vi­sion by beat­ing South­ern Mis­sis­sippi on Satur­day in Birm­ing­ham, Ala. In just its sec­ond sea­son af­ter restart­ing the pro­gram, UAB could lock up a spot in the league's cham­pi­onship game.

The Blaz­ers have held five of six C-USA op­po­nents to seven points or fewer.

Hot seat

The Sun­flower Show­down be­tween Kansas and Kansas State has been dom­i­nated by the Wild­cats, who have won nine in a row. But both teams slog into this at 3-6, need­ing to win out to be­come bowl-el­i­gi­ble.

Kansas has al­ready said coach David Beaty won't re­turn af­ter this sea­son. What about K-State coach Bill Sny­der? The 79-year-old Hall of Famer signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion be­fore the sea­son, but that seemed more sym­bolic than any­thing else.

There is mount­ing sen­ti­ment that it is time the pro­gram moved in a new di­rec­tion, but Sny­der doesn't seem to want to budge. Los­ing to the Jay­hawks might change that.

CHUCK BUR­TON/AP

Clem­son’s Travis Eti­enne is the one tail­back who could break into the field of Heis­man Tro­phy can­di­dates. Av­er­ag­ing less than 13 car­ries per game, he’s amassed 8.6 yards per carry and has 15 touch­downs.

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