Tide, Tigers seen as heavy fa­vorites over ranked foes

Spar­tans in­trigu­ing test for Buck­eyes

San Antonio Express-News - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Ralph D. Russo

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clem­son are fac­ing ranked op­po­nents this week­end, but the con­ven­tional wis­dom is nei­ther will be tested.

The Crim­son Tide, af­ter run­ning roughshod over LSU last week, re­turn home to face No. 18 Mis­sis­sippi State this af­ter­noon. Alabama is a 25-point fa­vorite. Later, the Tigers visit No. 17 Bos­ton Col­lege, where they’re 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, ev­ery week­end is big. What you need to know for week 11:

Best game

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 24 Michi­gan State

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 sim­ply run­ing the ta­ble. Eas­ier said than done, but it’s 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 Brian Lew­erke, who has been deal­ing with a shoul­der in­jury, and red­shirt fresh­man Rocky Lom­bardi. Seems like a good week­end for the Buck­eyes to get their strug­gling de­fense (82nd in the na­tion at 5.82 per play) back in or­der.

But on the other side of the ball, Michi­gan State has one of the best run de­fenses in the coun­try to throw at an Ohio State run­ning game that 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 of mess­ing up the best-laid plans for the 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 or West Vir­ginia’s Will Grier could have a say too.

Eti­enne is the one run­ning back left who might be able to break into the field. His big­gest is­sue is touches. The sopho­more is av­er­ag­ing just un­der 13 car­ries per game, but 8.6 yards per carry with 15 touch­downs. If Bos­ton Col­lege 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 some Heis­man at­ten­tion his way.

Num­bers to know 9: Touch­downs al­low 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 past three games Michi­gan played against Rutgers, all won by the Wolver­ines. No. 4 Michi­gan is at Rutgers to­day. 0-9: No. 16 Fresno State’s record at Boise State. The Bull­dogs visit the blue turf to­day.

1984: The last time Ken­tucky won at Ten­nessee. The 12th-ranked Wild­cats try to make it vic­to­ries in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons against the Vol­un­teers to­day.

Off the radar

In just its sec­ond sea­son af­ter restart­ing its foot­ball pro­gram, UAB (8-1, 6-0) has won a pro­gram record seven straight games, and can clinch the C-USA West by beat­ing South­ern Miss to­day at home.

Richard Shiro / As­so­ci­ated Press

Clem­son run­ning back Travis Eti­enne, av­er­ag­ing 8.6 yards per carry, has an out­side shot at get­ting into the Heis­man con­ver­sa­tion.

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