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September 3, 2010
Keep an eye on: What our guys are watching
Each week, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans things to keep an eye on over the course of the weekend. Here are some key things to watch during the first weekend of the season.
Michigan's pass defense. The Wolverines were vulnerable against the pass last seasons -- and that was with CBs Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk and DE Brandon Graham. Without them, how effective will Michigan's be against the pass? If the Wolverines have issues Saturday against Connecticut, which isn't a great passing team, that's a bad omen for when they face opponents that are adept in the passing game.
- OLIN BUCHANAN
Notre Dame's defense. Has it improved under new coach Brian Kelly? Purdue's multi-dimensional offense will be a good test for an Irish defense that must get tougher. Last season, the unit ranked No. 86 in the nation (397.8 ypg). The rush defense was especially porous, yielding 170.3 yards per game to rank 89th in the nation. Kelly has installed a 3-4 scheme in hopes of being able to give multiple looks up front. If ND can't control a Purdue ground game that lacks a proven running back, it may be long season in South Bend.
- TOM DIENHART
Connecticut's linebackers against Michigan's spread option. Without much fanfare, Connecticut supplied one of the biggest surprises of the first week when Greg Lloyd was listed as the first-string middle linebacker on the depth chart for the game at Michigan. Earlier this month, coach Randy Edsall said it seemed likely Lloyd -- who supposedly had been moved to end -- would have redshirt because he wasn't ready after suffering a torn ACL and a torn MCL late last season. Even without Lloyd, Connecticut probably had the best group of linebackers in the Big East with Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson. If Lloyd is healthy and effective, this will be one of the best linebacker units in the country. How will those linebackers fare Saturday at The Big House?
- DAVID FOX
Virginia Tech's front seven. The Hokies were surprisingly soft against the run last season, ranking 40th nationally in run defense. Only two starters return in the front seven, and one of those -- rising star LB Barquell Rivers -- is expected to miss Monday night's game against Boise State. In addition, the Hokies have no proven pass rusher and have two new starting ends; the lack of a consistent pass rush is a potential fatal flaw against ultra-accurate Broncos QB Kellen Moore. The Hokies' front seven needs to come up big in at least one area Monday, either against the run or on the pass rush.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
BYU's quarterback situation. BYU has won at least 10 games for four consecutive seasons in large part because of solid quarterback performances from John Beck and Max Hall. The Cougars enter this season with much less certainty at the position. Coach Bronco Mendenhall has said Utah State transfer Riley Nelson and highly touted true freshman Jake Heaps will share time Saturday against Washington, but it's hard to imagine the Cougars going all season with a two-quarterback system. You'd have to think one of these candidates will step forward and win the job outright. This week should offer our first clues as to whether Nelson or Heaps is ready to take command of the competition. If neither quarterback separates himself, BYU could have a tough time reaching a double-digit win total for a fifth consecutive season.
- STEVE MEGARGEE