On3’s Mike Huguenin and Matt Zenitz spotlight six games with interesting coordinator matchups each week. The proverbial “chess match” between the coordinators very well could determine the outcome.
Here are the seven in Week Six.
No 10 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan
Time/TV: Noon, Fox
The coordinator matchup: Penn State OC Mike Yurcich vs. Michigan DC Jesse Minter
The buzz: Both teams are unbeaten, but questions remain. This will be the toughest test for either so far. Penn State seems to have rediscovered its rushing attack (hey, it helps when you have five-star true freshman Nick Singleton), and that in turn has made things easier for QB Sean Clifford. Minter needs to make sure his group limits Singleton and also gets pressure on Clifford. If Penn State has to throw to win, it’s in trouble. (Then again, that’s true for Michigan, too. This one should be all about the running games.)
No. 3 Alabama at No. 6 Tennessee
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., CBS
The coordinator matchup: Tennessee OC Alex Golesh vs. Alabama DC Pete Golding
The buzz: The big storyline, of course, is Bryce Young – “Will he play?” Regardless, Golding’s unit is going to be stressed far more than in any other game this season. The Vols have excellent balance: They average 340.4 passing yards per game and 207.4 rushing yards per game, with 58 percent of their plays from scrimmage being runs. The Tide has allowed just three passing TDs this season, but CBs Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold figure to be mighty busy Saturday. Can Golding find a way to get pressure on Vols QB Hendon Hooker without having to blitz? Alabama needs a big game from Will Anderson Jr.
No. 15 NC State at No. 18 Syracuse
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ACC Network
The coordinator matchup: Syracuse OC Robert Anae vs. NC State DC Tony Gibson
The buzz: The overriding storyline in this one is the health of NC State QB Devin Leary. Regardless, he Wolfpack know they have to stymie Orange QB Garrett Shrader, who has become an effective passer under first-year coordinator Anae. Anae has revitalized the offense and that’s why Syracuse is 5-0 and ranked 18th. If Leary can’t play, the “stymie” aspect becomes even more important. This figures to be a low-scoring game anyway, as these are the two best statistical defenses in the ACC. It’ll be interesting to see whether Gibson places a higher emphasis on stopping the Syracuse rushing attack or the passing attack. The thought here is that NCSU will do everything it can to slow the running game.
No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 13 TCU
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ABC
The coordinator matchup: Oklahoma State OC Casey Dunn vs. TCU DC Joe Gillespie
The buzz: Oklahoma State mauled TCU last season, rolling up 682 yards in a 63-17 win; most of the damage came on the ground. Obviously, the TCU defensive staff – and scheme – has changed. Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders is playing at a much higher level than he did last season, and Gillespie’s focus figures to be making sure Sanders isn’t productive as a runner. While Sanders has thrown it well this season, TCU likely feels fine about its secondary matching up. But if Sanders is effective on the ground, the Horned Frogs are in trouble.
No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 22 Kentucky
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
The coordinator matchup: Mississippi State coach Mike Leach vs. Kentucky DC Brad White
The buzz: This will be the third meeting between Leach and White; they’ve split the first two. Two seasons ago, UK intercepted Mississippi State quarterbacks six times in an easy win. Last season, Bulldogs QB Will Rogers was an otherworldly 36-of-39 for 344 yards in a Mississippi State win. The biggest takeaway, though: UK has surrendered just one TD pass to a Leach offense. Can White’s group be that stingy again? If UK QB Will Levis doesn’t play, they’ll have to be.
No. 7 USC at No. 20 Utah
Time/TV: 8 p.m., Fox
The coordinator matchup: USC coach Lincoln Riley vs. Utah DC Morgan Scalley
The buzz: This’ll be the first time these guys have gone against each other. Scalley’s defense was shredded last week by UCLA, and it must rebound quick. USC has a much deeper group of receivers than the Bruins, and you’d expect some deep shots early from Riley. (An aside: The matchups between USC WR Jordan Addison and Utah CB Clark Phillips III should be awesome.) Scalley needs to find a way to get pressure on Trojans QB Caleb Williams, who has been sacked 12 times. One thing to watch: Williams has started five road games in his career; his three worst games were road contests (two while at Oklahoma, this season at Oregon State).