College Football: Top 25 Preview


Arkansas at No. 1 Alabama

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Alabama is trying to keep rolling toward a showdown with No. 6 LSU after winning its last three games by an average of 33.2 points. Arkansas and first-year coach Brett Bielema are seeking their first SEC win and to rebound from a 52-7 loss to No. 11 South Carolina. They’re on a four-game skid.

KEY MATCHUP

Arkansas QB Brandon Allen against Alabama’s defense. Allen was 4-of-12 passing for 30 yards with an interception against South Carolina. The Tide is second nationally in scoring defense and has allowed just one touchdown in the last four games, but does have a young secondary.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Razorbacks are the only team in the nation to face four straight teams ranked in the preseason Top 10. The brutal schedule has led to losses to Texas A&M (45-33), Florida (30-10) and South Carolina (52-7). … The Tide’s 52-0 win last season was the sixth in a row over Arkansas. The average score during that stretch is 39.8-15.5. … Alabama has allowed an average of 11.5 first downs over the last four games. … This will be Bielema’s 100th game as a head coach. He has a career mark of 71-28, six more wins incidentally than ‘Bama’s Nick Saban had when he reached that milestone.

Washington State at No. 2 Oregon

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Oregon goes into the game as the only Pac-12 North school that hasn’t lost after Stanford was upset by Utah. The Ducks have won six straight against Washington State. While the Cougars earlier this season defeated No. 25 USC 10-7 in Los Angeles, they have not defeated a team ranked in the top five since the 2003 Holiday Bowl, when they beat No. 5 Texas 28-20.

KEY MATCHUP

Oregon’s defense against Washington State’s Air Raid offense. Earlier this season the Ducks faced the “Bear Raid” offense of California under new coach Sonny Dykes and came away with a 55-16 victory. That game was in the pouring rain, which hampered California QB Jared Goff, but the forecast for Saturday night at Autzen is for clear skies. The Cougars are averaging 346.9 passing yards a game, good for eighth in the nation, while Oregon’s pass defense is ranked second in the Pac-12, allowing opponents an average of only 201 yards a game.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oregon WR Bralon Addison has six touchdowns in the past three games, four on receptions and two on the ground. … The Ducks rank second nationally with an average of 56.8 points per game and 630.5 total yards per game. … Twelve different Washington State receivers have caught at least 10 passes. … The Cougars have rushed this season for eight touchdowns, already topping the six scored all of last season. … Last season Oregon scored three touchdowns in a four-minute span of the third quarter to pull away for a 51-26 victory over the Cougars in Pullman.

No. 5 Florida State at No. 3 Clemson

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Seminoles and Tigers are playing for control of the ACC Atlantic Division, but victory in this one puts the winner in prime position for a possible national title shot.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida State QB Jameis Winston vs. sold out Death Valley. The Seminoles redshirt freshman has played well beyond his years, hitting on 73 percent of his passes for 1,441 yards and 17 TDs, to keep his team undefeated, but has not yet had to call signals in a place as loud and imposing as Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, which is expected to hold way more than its listed capacity of 81,500. If Winston can get some points early, it would go a long way to his settling into the environment and keeping the crowd out of the action.

FACTS & FIGURES

Road teams haven’t won much in the series the past 12 years, the lone visitor victory coming with Clemson’s 27-20 win in Tallahassee in 2006. The Seminoles haven’t won in Death Valley since 2001 when Bobby Bowden coached Florida State and his son, Tommy, led the Tigers. … Florida State has a nine-game win streak against ACC opponents, its longest since winning 24 in a row from 1998-2001. … This week marks the five-year anniversary of Clemson’s Dabo Swinney becoming the team’s interim coach, following Tommy Bowden. … Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, the grandson of golf great Jack Nicklaus, is tied for most touchdowns by a tight end in the country with five. … Clemson’s only other top five matchup: Jan. 1, 1982, when the top-ranked Tigers defeated fourth-ranked Nebraska 22-15 in the Orange Bowl to complete their 12-0, national championship season.

Iowa at No. 4 Ohio State

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Hawkeyes need a win to remain a player in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. They come in a game back of Michigan State and Nebraska, each at 2-0. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are the top dog in the Leaders Division and must stay perfect to hang on to a shot at staying in the national title picture.

KEY MATCHUP

Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde against Iowa’s rushing defense. After sitting out the first three games for an alleged physical conflict with a woman at a Columbus bar this summer, Hyde’s role has progressively grown in Ohio State’s rushing attack (11th in the nation at 281 yards a game). He has gone for 41 yards, 85 yards and 168 yards on 26 carries and three TDs in a 40-30 win over Northwestern before last week’s bye. The Hawkeyes have a stout defense against the run — eighth in the nation, giving up just 89 yards a game — that relies on LBs Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey to prevent anyone getting past the line for a big gain. Ohio State has rushed for 17 TDs so far, the Hawkeyes are the only team in the nation that hasn’t given up a TD on the ground.

FACTS & FIGURES

Iowa has won just one of the last 11 meetings, dating back to 1991. That was a 33-7 victory in 2004. … It’ll be the second meeting between coaches Urban Meyer and Kirk Ferentz. Meyer was in his first year at Florida when the Gators beat Iowa 31-24 in the 2006 Outback Bowl. … The Buckeyes have the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games. … Meyer’s teams are 34-2 with more than a week to prepare for an opponent. … The Hawkeyes are outscoring teams 27-10 in the first quarter, Ohio State 126-28. … Iowa is 8-29-1 at Ohio Stadium, including a 27-24 overtime loss in the last meeting in 2009, which decided the Big Ten title.

No. 6 LSU at Mississippi

WHAT’S AT STAKE

No. 6 LSU needs a win against Ole Miss to set up a potential fight for the top of the Western Division with Alabama on Nov. 9. The Tigers have won two straight and haven’t allowed a touchdown in six quarters. The Rebels are trying to end a three-game losing streak. This is the third top-10 team Ole Miss has faced in four weeks.

KEY MATCHUP

LSU: QB Zach Mettenberger against Ole Miss’ beat up defense. Mettenberger has been fantastic this season, throwing for 1,890 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. Now he’ll try to pick apart the Rebels’ defense, which is reeling because of several key injuries. Ole Miss gave up 41 points in a loss to Texas A&M last week.

FACTS & FIGURES

LSU has won nine of the past 11 in the series, including the past three. … LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are the nation’s top receiving tandem so far this season, combining for 83 receptions, 1,407 yards and 13 touchdowns. … Mettenberger has a 16-4 record as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. … Ole Miss is in the middle of a six-game homestand at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which is the longest in the program’s 118-year history. … The Rebels have played 12 true freshmen this season, which is tied for eighth most among Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

No. 24 Auburn at No. 7 Texas A&M

WHAT’S AT STAKE

With just one loss each this season, both Texas A&M and Auburn need a victory to keep close with undefeated Alabama in the SEC West. It’s the first of four straight home games for the Aggies, who hope to take advantage of the friendly stretch before a road trip to No. 6 LSU on Nov. 23. The Tigers are ranked for the first time since 2011 and look for their first-ever win over the Aggies.

KEY MATCHUP

Auburn’s running game against Texas A&M’s run defense: Auburn is averaging 287 yards rushing a game, which is tops in the SEC and seventh in the nation. The Aggies ranked 104th by allowing 201.2 yards rushing a game. The Tigers have used a diverse rushing attack and are one of only four teams in the country to have four different 100-yard rushers this season. Tre Mason leads with 515 yards.

FACTS & FIGURES

This will be Auburn’s first trip to College Station. … The teams, who first played in 1911, have met twice in Dallas and A&M got a 63-21 win last year in Auburn. … A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is 7-4 in his career against top-25 teams. … Texas A&M has scored 40 points or more in nine straight games and gained 400 or more yards in 18 consecutive games. … Texas A&M WR Mike Evans is third in the nation with 737 yards receiving. … The Tigers have won 81 straight games when scoring at least 30 points. … The Aggies have outscored their opponents 231-82 since Sumlin took over last season. … Mason has a rushing touchdown in three straight games and 10 of his last 13.

Central Florida at No. 8 Louisville

WHAT’S AT STAKE

UCF is coming off a bye following its comeback victory over Memphis and seeking its second win against a ranked opponent in 27 attempts. Louisville wants a better performance in its second prime-time TV appearance in eight days as it tries to remain unbeaten in the AAC.

KEY MATCHUP

Central Florida’s young secondary vs. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Knights used their bye week to prepare for the AAC’s passing leader, who has an assortment of receiving options even with DeVante Parker and Kai De La Cruz questionable with injuries. UCF junior SS Clayton Geathers is coming off a 12-tackle game against Memphis and he, FS Brandon Alexander and CBs Jacoby Glenn and Jordan Ozerities must step up to limit Bridgewater’s choices. The Cardinals junior passed for 310 yards and two touchdowns against Rutgers but wasn’t as sharp as usual.

FACTS & FIGURES

Louisville won the only other meeting between the schools 42-21 in 1985 against then Division-II UCF. … The Knights’ only victory against a ranked team was Nov. 14, 2009 over No. 13 Houston. … Louisville has the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing 7.3 points per contest. … Louisville is bowl eligible after last week’s victory over Rutgers.

No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

WHAT’S AT STAKE

UCLA can avenge its two losses to Stanford last season, including in the conference championship game, and begin making a serious case it should be considered in any BCS title talk. Stanford, which had its 13-game winning streak snapped at Utah last week, is looking to stay in contention for the Pac-12 title before matchups against Oregon State and No. 2 Oregon.

KEY MATCHUP

UCLA’s offensive line vs Stanford’s defensive line. The Bruins ran for 284 yards in a 27-24 loss to the Cardinal in the Pac-12 title game last season and haven’t lost a step under running back Jordon James this year. Stanford’s defensive line has looked gassed in recent weeks with injuries depleting its depth, but the Cardinal still rank second in the league in rushing defense, allowing 123.3 yards on the ground per game.

FACTS & FIGURES

Stanford has not lost consecutive games since October 2009, when the Cardinal fell at Oregon State and at Arizona. … UCLA is looking to start 6-0 for the first time since 2005. … Stanford has won 12 straight games at home. … UCLA is 4-2 the last two years against ranked opponents, with both losses coming against Stanford. .. Stanford has won 14 straight games against California teams. … UCLA has outscored its opponents 71-0 in the third quarter.

No. 11 South Carolina at Tennessee

WHAT’S AT STAKE

South Carolina is seeking its fifth straight victory and wants to help its SEC Eastern Division title hopes that received a boost last week with Missouri’s 41-26 victory over Georgia. Tennessee is attempting to end its recent history of frustration against ranked foes. The Volunteers have lost 19 straight games against the Top 25 since a 31-13 triumph over a 21st-ranked South Carolina team on Oct. 31, 2009.

KEY MATCHUP

Tennessee offensive line vs. South Carolina defensive line: This is a matchup of strength against strength. Tennessee boasts a senior-laden offensive line that has allowed only seven sacks this season. South Carolina averages 2.3 sacks per game. South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t quite measured up to sky-high preseason expectations, but he remains arguably the top overall pro prospect in college football. He will spend at least part of the day matching up against Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson, also a potential first-round draft pick.

FACTS & FIGURES

South Carolina has beaten Tennessee each of the last three years. Before this current streak, the Gamecocks never had won back-to-back games against Tennessee. … Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley and Clowney both come from Rock Hill, S.C., though they attended different high schools. Worley played at Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern. Clowney went to Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe. … South Carolina is coming off a 52-7 victory at Arkansas in which its defense was on the field for only 37 plays. … Tennessee is 2-16 against SEC foes since the start of the 2011 season. … Tennessee has 15 takeaways and is tied with Missouri for the SEC lead in that category.

Iowa State at No. 12 Baylor

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Baylor, with its highest AP ranking since 1991, goes for its 10th consecutive victory to match a school record that has stood since 1937 and tries to improve to 3-0 in the Big 12 for the first time. The Bears are back at home after winning their first road game, 35-25 at Kansas State. Iowa State beat Baylor 35-21 last season at Ames, and has lost its two Big 12 games this season by a combined eight points.

KEY MATCHUP

The nation’s most-productive offense against the Big 12’s most porous defense, which isn’t good for Iowa State. Baylor leads the nation with 63 points and 715 total yards per game, and is the Big 12’s best passing team with 414 yards per game. The Cyclones are allowing 29.8 points, 448 total yards and 267 yards passing — worst in the Big 12 in each of those categories.

FACTS & FIGURES

Iowa State has scored all 17 times getting inside the 20 (13 touchdowns, four field goals), joining Rice and Connecticut as the only FBS teams still perfect scoring in the red zone. … Baylor has scored 28 points in a quarter seven times this season. That matches their total number of 28-point games in their 1,137 career games before 2013. … Iowa State WR Jarvis West had three TD catches in last year’s win over the Bears. … Baylor hosts its 90th Homecoming game, the last before moving to its new campus stadium on the banks of the Brazos River next season.

No. 22 Florida at No. 14 Missouri

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Missouri aims to build on impressive 41-26 win at Georgia, minus QB James Franklin, out three to five weeks with a shoulder strain. The Tigers have already topped their win total from last year. Florida is no stranger to injury woes with four starters out for the season, the latest RB Matt Jones with a knee injury. But the Gators remain formidable with both losses on the road against teams currently in the Top 10.

KEY MATCHUP

QB Maty Mauk in his first start against Florida’s defense, which has allowed 10 or fewer points three times this season and has a streak of 13 straight holding opponents to 20 or fewer in SEC play. Missouri has a high-powered offense, never scoring fewer than 38 points. Landing Mauk was a recruiting coup at Missouri, but has played sparingly.

FACTS & FIGURES

This will be Missouri’s first home game with both schools ranked since Oct. 23, 2010 when No. 18 Tigers beat No. 3 Oklahoma 36-27 for 7-0 start. … Florida won 14-7 last year at home in the first meeting since Missouri won the 1966 Sugar Bowl … Of the six remaining games for Florida, four are against teams in the top 15. … Florida is 10-2 in SEC last two seasons. … Florida has no turnovers its last two games, but failed to score a TD last week for first time since Oct. 27, 2012 against Georgia. … Missouri is coming off first road victory over Top 10 team since 1981 and is 2-0 in SEC, both wins on road. … A win would give Missouri a 3-0 conference record for first time since 2010.

No. 15 Georgia at Vanderbilt

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Georgia needs to bounce back after a tough loss at home that followed an overtime escape at Tennessee. A win would give the Bulldogs some breathing room before their annual showdown with Florida on Nov. 2. Vanderbilt is 11-4 since losing to Georgia last season but must prove it can move out of the cellar in the Eastern Division.

KEY MATCHUP

Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews against Georgia secondary. Matthews already has his school’s record for career yards receiving with 2,991, and he could take the SEC mark of 3,093 set by Terrence Edwards when he was at Georgia (1999-2002). The Bulldogs are starting a pair of freshmen in the secondary — CB Shaq Wiggins and FS Quincy Mauger.

FACTS & FIGURES

Georgia has won six straight in this series and 17 of the past 18 with the lone loss in that stretch in 2006 in Athens. The Bulldogs have not lost in Nashville since 1991. … The Bulldogs have played 14 freshmen this season with 10 on defense, including seven starting. That is tied for third with LSU behind UCLA (15) and Texas A&M (17). … Georgia is minus-4 in turnover margin, 14th in SEC and 103rd nationally. … Vanderbilt senior OL Wesley Johnson is second in SEC with 44 consecutive starts behind only Murray (47). … Vandy has nine plays of 40 yards or more, tied for third in SEC with Missouri (12) and LSU (10).

No. 17 Fresno State at UNLV

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Fresno State comes in with its highest ranking since reaching No. 16 in November 2005 and looks to open the season with six straight wins for the first time since 2001. UNLV has won four straight games for the first time since 2000 and is looking for its longest winning streak since Randall Cunningham led them to seven straight in 1984.

KEY MATCHUP

Derek Carr vs. UNLV pass defense. Carr looks to add to the Fresno State record book against one of the nation’s stingiest pass defenses. Carr needs three TD passes and 33 completions to break the marks held by Paul Pinegar (82 TD passes, 848 completions). The Rebels rank 10th in the FBS in passer rating against (99.4) and eighth in yards per game allowed (165.8) but haven’t faced a passing offense nearly as proficient as the Bulldogs’.

FACTS & FIGURES

The teams last met in 1997 when both were in the WAC. The Bulldogs have won nine straight in the series since losing in 1984. … UNLV ran a Mountain West record 113 offensive plays last week against Hawaii — two shy of the NCAA record held by Northwestern and Houston. … Rebels RB Tim Cornett has rushed for 341 yards and five TDS the last two weeks. … UNLV WR Devante Davis leads the Mountain West with eight TD catches. … Fresno State ranks third in FBS with an average of 89.4 offensive plays per game. … The Bulldogs have allowed three sacks despite throwing 265 passes.

No. 18 Oklahoma at Kansas

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Sooners are trying to bounce back from their Red River rout at the hands of rival Texas, while the Jayhawks are still trying to end a 23-game Big 12 losing streak. The Sooners have won 14 straight in games played after the Longhorns, including a 6-0 mark against Kansas.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma QB Blake Bell vs. the Kansas defense. Bell, who grew up in Wichita, Kan., has proven he’s more than just a short-yardage runner over the last few weeks. He’s completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 968 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He’ll be facing a pass defense in the Jayhawks that has struggled against air-based teams such as Texas Tech.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oklahoma has won eight straight in the series since the Jayhawks won three in a row in the mid-1990s. … The Sooners are 35-2 under coach Bob Stoops when they don’t commit a turnover. They are plus-12 during their eight-game win streak against Kansas. … Stoops is four wins from passing Barry Switzer (190) as Oklahoma’s career leader in wins. … Oklahoma is second in Big 12 in rushing at 226.7 yards per game. … The Jayhawks have intercepted a pass in five straight games. The last time they did it in six straight was 2002. … . Kansas is allowing 222.2 yards passing per game, 67 fewer than last season. … Jayhawks LB Ben Heeney played on two state title teams at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School with Oklahoma DE Geneo Grissom. … Oklahoma QB Blake Bell is cousins with Kansas LB Beau Bell. Both played at Bishop Carroll High School in Wichita, Kan.

No. 20 Washington at Arizona State

WHAT’S AT STAKE

A critical game for two teams hoping to stay in the Pac-12 division races. Washington had a brutal opening to the conference schedule, following a win over Arizona with losses to then-No. 5 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon. They’re already two games behind the Ducks and Oregon State in the North Division and can’t afford another loss. Arizona State is a half-game behind UCLA in the South with more tough games coming up.

KEY MATCHUP

Arizona State’s run defense against Washington RB Bishop Sankey. Stopping the run has been a problem for the Sun Devils over the past two seasons, particularly this year with a schedule front-loaded with power-running teams. Arizona State is 75th nationally against the run, allowing 168.8 yards per game, and will face a big test against Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher at 149.8 yards per game.

FACTS & FIGURES

Arizona State has won seven straight in the series. … Price has 7,529 career passing yards, 110 behind the No. 2 spot on Washington’s all-time list. … Arizona State is 4-0 at home with three games left. The Sun Devils have gone undefeated at home once (2004) over the past 16 seasons. … Washington had a losing streak of at least three games in each of coach Steve Sarkisian’s first four seasons. … Sun Devils RB Marion Grice leads the nation with 15 points per game and has scored 15 TDs. … The Huskies have turned it over eight times this season, but only one has led to points for their opponent.

TCU at No. 21 Oklahoma State

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Coming off its second bye week in the past month, Oklahoma State is hoping to avoid another sloppy performance like the one following its previous break, a 30-21 loss at West Virginia on Sept. 28. TCU looks to keep its momentum going after a 27-17 win last week over Kansas.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma State’s fast-paced offense, led by sophomore QB J.W. Walsh and an offensive line that has allowed just four sacks this season, up against TCU’s strong defensive unit that hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game since its season-opening loss to LSU and has averaged 3.7 sacks per game, tops in the Big 12 and fifth in the nation.

FACTS & FIGURES

Oklahoma State is 14-1 in its last 15 home games, since the start of the 2011 season. . Since the beginning of 2009, TCU is 24-7 in games away from home, one of the best records in the nation, which includes a 4-3 mark in Big 12 road games the last two years.

No. 23 Northern Illinois at Central Michigan

WHAT’S AT STAKE

MAC West co-leader Northern Illinois has won 19 straight conference games, the longest active conference streak in the nation. The defending conference champions also are on a 12-game road winning streak that began after an Oct. 1, 2011, loss at Central Michigan.

KEY MATCHUP

CMU’s defense vs. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch became just the 10 quarterback in FBS history to rush for 3,000 career yards and throw for 4,000 in last week’s 27-20 win over Akron. He’ll lead the MAC’s top scoring offense against the Chippewa’s 10th-ranked defense.

FACTS & FIGURES

NIU S Jimmie Ward leads the FBS with five interceptions, including one in each of the Huskies last four games. . Central Michigan has beaten the Huskies three straight times at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. … The Huskies average a MAC-best 39.7 points and 507.8 yards per game.

No. 25 Wisconsin at Illinois

WHAT’S AT STAKE

After losing their Big Ten opener to Ohio State, the Badgers got on track last week with a big 35-6 win over Northwestern. A win at Illinois builds momentum and keeps Wisconsin in the chase for the Leaders Division title with the Buckeyes. Illinois’ 3-2 start is an improvement on last season, but the Illini are still looking for their first Big Ten win since 2011. They’ve dropped 15 straight.

KEY MATCHUP

Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon and James White versus Illinois’ defensive front seven. Gordon is the top back in the Big Ten this fall with 145 yards a game and eight touchdowns, and White is adding another 95.7 yards a game. The Illini defense is 11th in the conference, giving up 195.4 yards a game. If the Badgers get the ground game going and force Illinois to use its very young secondary to help stop the run, QB Joe Stave could see big openings to throw into down field.

FACTS & FIGURES

Wisconsin has won three in a row over Illinois and seven of the last eight. … The Badgers are one of only two teams in the country ranked in the top 10 in both total offense (ninth, 519.5 yards a game) and defense (fifth, 267.3 yards). Florida State is the other one. … Illinois sophomore V’Angelo Bentley leads the conference and is fifth in the nation in kick return average at 32.1 yards per return. … Illinois’ 180 points (36 per game, sixth in the Big Ten) is the team’s third-highest total ever through five games.

By Wire sources