Can Cal contain Dixon and the Ducks?
By Mel Kiper Jr.
Updated: September 27, 2007
No. 6 California at No. 11 Oregon
Can Oregon QB Dennis Dixon
continue his hot play? He has yet to throw an interception this season and has been remarkable each week for the 4-0 Ducks. On Saturday, Dixon will be facing a Cal defense that is somewhat banged up. However, one player who is healthy for the Bears is senior safety Thomas DeCoud. He's always around the ball and is a great special-teams player as well. Cal is giving up almost 25 points a game, so DeCoud will play a big part in the secondary against a multidimensional Oregon offense that is averaging 48.5 points per game.
When Cal has the ball there are several players to keep an eye on, including wide receivers Lavelle Hawkins
and DeSean Jackson
. While Hawkins leads the Bears in receptions and receiving yards, Jackson hasn't exactly set the world on first the last couple of weeks, either catching the ball or in the return game. He doesn't have a touchdown reception in four games and has only 151 receiving yards. Also, watch the play of junior center Alex Mack, one of the best players on the field each week and the anchor on Cal's offensive line. Lining up opposite Hawkins and Jackson are Jarius Byrd (son of former NFL defensive back Gil Byrd) and Walter Thurmond, two of the best sophomore cornerbacks in the country.
Auburn at No. 4 Florida
Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves currently is No. 8 on my Top 25 Big Board. He's a speed rusher who has great quickness and always seems to be around the ball.
AP Photo/Rob Carr
Quentin Groves has six tackles for loss and two sacks in four games.
What I want to see on Saturday is how well he will play under control because of the threat Florida QB Tim Tebow
is to run the ball. Also, Florida's offense almost forces the defense to be extremely disciplined, so how Groves handles the Gators' scheme will be a big matchup.
No. 13 Clemson at Georgia Tech
is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season against North Carolina State. His speed and athleticism will be put to the test against a Georgia Tech defensive line that hasn't exactly impressed in the past three weeks. The trio of defensive ends (Adamm Oliver, Darrell Robertson and Michael Johnson) have combined for only 11½ tackles for loss and 3½ sacks. Robertson has been the most productive thus far, while Johnson, only a junior, has the most potential of the three.
Helping Spiller and the Clemson ground game will be senior left tackle Barry Richardson, who will match up against all three of Georgia Tech's aforementioned defensive ends at some point during the game. Last week, Richardson had a great game against NC State's defensive end Martrel Brown. Running the ball for Georgia Tech could be a game-time decision as Tashard Choice
, who saw limited action last week against Virginia, continues to be bothered with a hamstring injury he suffered two weeks ago.
No. 21 Penn State at Illinois
Last week, Michigan did a very good job accounting for Penn State linebacker Dan Connor. The Wolverines' guards fired out on Connor and Mike Hart
was able to pick up the Nittany Lions' linebacker on blitzes. The challenge this week for Connor will be trying to stop another workhorse running back, Rashard Mendenhall
. He had a huge game last week at Indiana (27 rushes, 214 yards) and has rushed for 503 yards during the Fighting Illini's three-game win streak. Illinois also has an athletic QB in Juice Williams
, which means Connor will be extremely active once again on defense.
Penn State QB Anthony Morelli
did not have a good game last week at Michigan. He was indecisive and inaccurate on a lot of passes (15-for-31). Penn State has pretty good receivers, but Morelli needs to be more precise. This is an important game for him because there are a lot of good quarterbacks in the senior class and his stock has dropped.
Pittsburgh at Virginia
Chris Long right now is the best defensive end in the country and teammate Jeffrey Fitzgerald is one of the elite defensive ends in the sophomore class. Watch those two go up against Pittsburgh's senior left tackle Jeff Otah. He's still a bit raw but that's because he played only one year of high school football. Otah (6-5, 339) played both football and basketball in junior college and has shown the skills to be a pro-style pass-blocker. Coach Dave Wannstedt has praised Otah for way he's been performing, and this will be another big test for Otah, who should see either Long or Fitzgerald on almost every snap.
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