Five things to look for this weekend:
1. Lots of questions about Alabama at Duke: Yes, we know it will probably be a blowout at Wallace Wade Stadium. But we’re looking at this game for three reasons:
Mark Ingram: Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, sat out the first two games after having his knee scoped. He’s ready to go. So how much does Alabama use him in order that he’s full speed for next week’s SEC opener at Arkansas?
Marcell Dareus: The Alabama defensive end sat out the first two games against San Jose State and Penn State due to improper contact with an agent. Now he gets to take all of that pent-up energy and frustration and unleash it on Duke, which is coming off a heartbreaking 54-48 loss to Wake Forest.
Duke QB Sean Renfree: He is the latest latest protégé of Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who tutored the Manning brothers. Cutcliffe, a proud 1976 Alabama graduate, would love to win the game but that is not going to happen. More than anything, he wants to make sure that his quarterback is whole when this game is over.
2. Denard Robinson vs. UMass: The Michigan quarterback has carried the ball 57 times in two games against UConn and Notre Dame. The result is two victories. Now the Wolverines (2-0) have three relatively easy games starting Saturday with UMass followed by Bowling Green and Indiana. Then things get serious again with an Oct. 9 visit from Michigan State. So how many carries will “Shoelaces” Robinson get against the Minutemen before coach Rich Rodriguez gets his star quarterback out of the game? Robinson, who had 502 total yards against Notre Dame, is at the top of the early Heisman ballots. How Rich Rod uses Robinson in this three-game stretch will be very interesting.
3. Michael Dyer against Clemson: A win on the road in the SEC is a very precious thing. When you play away from home in this league, you do whatever you have to do to get a “W” then get on the bus and go home. It ain’t about style points on the road. For a team that is 2-0 and 1-0 in the SEC, Auburn sure did have a lot of complaining fans last Friday after the Tigers won at Starkville 17-14. There were complaints that the offense was too predictable. There were complaints that Auburn should have put Mississippi State away and won by a bigger margin. Auburn’s defense, which was pretty porous a year ago, held Dan Mullen’s offense to 14 points. That wasn’t good enough. Sheesh! As good as new Auburn QB Cam Newton is, I’m hearing that freshman running back Michael Dyer will get a good look in Saturday’s big non-conference game with Clemson. I’m anxious to see how many carries Dyer gets against a good Clemson defense. I’m also anxious to see what the complaints will be Sunday if Auburn goes to 3-0 on national television with ESPN’s College Game Day looking on.
4. Tennessee’s determination against Florida: Everybody knows this is going to be a difficult year at Tennessee. They simply don’t have the players. But Volunteer fans can expect Derek Dooley to field a team that plays hard for the whole game. That didn’t happen last week against Oregon in Knoxville. The Volunteers jumped out to a 13-3 lead against the defending PAC-10 champs but wilted after a pick six gave the Ducks a 27-13 lead. The reality is that in a situation like this (Tennessee has had three head coaches in three years) the players still in the program get pretty beat down. I’m not going to say that college kids quit. Let’s just say that under these circumstances they don’t handle adversity very well. “We went into this game in the fourth quarter down 14 and we’re not even competing,” Dooley told reporters in Knoxville. “And that’s something we have to change.”
I’m pretty sure Tennessee will get another look at adversity in Saturday’s game with Florida in Knoxville. It will be interesting to see if they handle it any better.
5. Whither the ACC? After a one of the toughest weekends ever for a conference—with losses by four of five teams (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State) ranked in the preseason Top 25–the ACC doesn’t have a walk in the park on Sept. 18. The headliner is a conference game between Georgia Tech and North Carolina in Chapel Hill. But the non-conference slate again looks like a long stretch of bad road: No. 1 Alabama at Duke; Clemson at undefeated Auburn; Maryland at West Virginia; BYU at Florida State; East Carolina at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest at Stanford (which beat UCLA 35-0 last week.) Also, N.C. State plays Cincinnati, the defending Big East champs, tonight on ESPN. That’s seven strong non-conference games. The ACC really needs to go no worse than 4-3 in these games.
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Programming note: We’ve got a pretty strong lineup of guests today on the “Barnhart and Durham Show” on 790 The Zone. Joining us will be former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, and Gary Danielson, who will Saturday’s Florida-Tennessee game for CBS. We’ll be on remote at the Loco’s in Sandy Springs. Come see us! www.790thezone.com