IN THE CROSSHAIRS

10 To Watch: FSU ready to roll in Week Four

Ken Cross

September 20, 2012 at 3:22 am.

EJ Manuel (3) and the Seminoles stare a tough Clemson team down on Saturday. (Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE)

1.) @Florida State 38, Clemson 21 – With two Top 10 teams squaring off for the first time in five years, the ACC is finally the talk of the college football week, however short-lived it may be. The Seminoles have played three totally inferior foes, so the gaudy statistics need not be replicated. Stopping the multi-talents of quarterback EJ Manuel will be the top concern of the Tigers, who can match up with Florida State in speed and athleticism. On the flip side, FSU has a tough task in matching up with Clemson’s overall depth. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has completed 73.3 percent of his passes while Andre Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins average over 100 total yards each. Clemson has won four of the last six in the series.

2.) @South Carolina 28, Missouri 17 – Another interesting battle involving a premiere Palmetto program, as USC quarterback Connor Shaw will start as planned at midweek. Dylan Thompson’s drop-back skills make him a nice change up since coach Steve Spurrier has used a two-quarterback system off and on in the past. Missouri led Georgia after three quarters, but when the Bulldogs’ team speed on defense kicked in, the Tigers were toast. South Carolina will be without safety D.J. Swearinger, who sits out the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit in last week’s 49-6 win over UAB. The Gamecocks have a size advantage across the boards and should be able to wear down Missouri over 60 minutes.

3.) @Oregon 45, Arizona 24– The Ducks get their first legitimate challenge on the home turf at Autzen Stadium. Rich Rodriguez brings Arizona in as the Wildcats were tested against Oklahoma State and Toledo in two of the first three games. Both teams have speed and playmakers and both teams look alike in operating out of the spread offense. Both teams even average right around 600 yards per game after three outings. Ball control could be the key, especially for Arizona if it gets and retains momentum.

4.) @Notre Dame 24, Michigan 20 – The Fighting Irish were impressive in their dominating win over Michigan State, 20-3, last week’s win at East Lansing. The 3-0 mark is Notre Dame’s best start since 2002. All eyes shift to the quarterback matchup between the inexperienced Everett Golson and Michigan’s Denard Robinson. His 289 yards in a 20-17 win over Purdue were the second most by an Irish quarterback in Notre Dame Stadium. Robinson definitely has the experience, skills, and maturity to help get the Wolverines a road upset. But the Irish get it done at home.

5.) @Oklahoma 34, Kansas State 17 – The Sooners are always a major pain for the Wildcats. They are 8-1 against the Wildcats in Bob Stoops’ tenure. Kansas State has stopped the run well so far and is only giving up 93 yards per game on the ground. That number will be tested by an Oklahoma rushing game that is paced by Damien Williams’ 129 rushing yards per game. K-State’s passing game of multi-skilled quarterback Collin Klein and wide outs Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett will be the first team to test Oklahoma’s secondary.

6.) @UCLA 34, Oregon State 23 – The Bruins have opened at 3-0 as new coach Jim Mora has breathed life into what was a moribund program. He has UCLA believing it can win against anybody at any time and on any field. Stopping Johnathan Franklin will be a major task for the Beavers. Franklin averages 180.3 yards rushing per game. It is the second time in his career that Franklin has put together three 100-yard games in a row. OSU shut down Wisconsin’s powerful and physical running attack down by only allowing the Badgers 23 yards on 35 carries. It will be interesting to see if the Beavers can do that to UCLA.

7.) LSU 31, @Auburn 13 – The Tigers were lucky to skirt out a 31-28 win over UL Monroe in overtime a week ago. Now comes another division game and a matchup with No. 2 LSU, who Auburn arguably may not be ready for. Playing on the road in a tough environment at night in the SEC is a daunting task for anyone. LSU coach Les Miles says he is very concerned about Auburn’s dual offensive threat of both speed and power. Miles has the same threat with LSU’s depth at running back, as they average 269 yards per game on the ground, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger continues to get better. Auburn has given up 217 yards per game on the ground in its 1-2 start.

8.) @Boise State 40, BYU 24 – The Broncos rebounded nicely with a convincing win over Miami of Ohio after the narrow loss at Michigan State. D.J. Harper is picking up where Doug Martin left off as a work-horse running back with power, but breakaway speed. BYU, meanwhile, tasted defeat in a 24-21 loss at rival Utah. How well the Cougars reinvent their psyche will be a hug key here. The Cougars’ defense has a running total of nine straight games where opponents have accumulated less than 300 yards. With Boise State knowing it is off the radar, the Broncos may be using this national TV appearance to prove they belong back in the Top 25.

9.) @Georgia 33, Vanderbilt 14 – The Bulldogs have been a picture of where they have been picked in the preseason. Offensively and defensively, they have been at peak efficiency in overwhelming their first three opponents, one of which was SEC newcomer Missouri. Aaron Murray has spread around his 64 percent completion rate with Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, and Michael Bennett as the key recipients. Vanderbilt took South Carolina to the wire before losing a game at Northwestern — which many thought the Commodores should have won. VU coach James Franklin started Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback over Jordan Rodgers in last week’s win over Presbyterian. Carta-Samuels will start Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs.

10.) @UL Monroe 34, Baylor 33 – A BCS team going into a match up in Monroe against the confident Warhawks is a tough assignment. The Baylor Bears haven’t been tested as of yet although quarterback Nick Florence is showing signs of being the efficient player that Robert Griffin III was in his tenure with the Bears. Florence’s counterpart, Kolton Browning wasn’t stopped by SEC foes Arkansas and Auburn, so will Baylor be able to contain him?