Week­end to bring in­trigue in Big 10 play

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS - By Ralph D. Russo

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clem­son are fac­ing ranked 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 on Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon. Alabama is a 25-point fa­vorite. Later, the Tigers visit No. 17 Bos­ton Col­lege, where they are 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.

What you need to know for week 11 of the sea­son.

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 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 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 de­fense’s 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 mess­ing up 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, West Vir­ginia’s Will Grier and Hask­ins could still 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 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 on Sat­ur­day.

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

AP Photo/ Chuck Bur­ton

■ Clem­son’s Travis Eti­enne runs for a touch­down against Wake For­est on Oct. 6 in Char­lotte, N.C. Eti­enne is the one run­ning back left who might be able to break into the field of Heis­man Tro­phy can­di­dates. The sopho­more is av­er­ag­ing just un­der 13 car­ries per game, but 8.6 yards per carry with 15 touch­downs.

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