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For some, the season starts in earnest this week, as several top 25 teams begin conference play. Still, most of these match-ups aren’t particularly interesting.  But a couple of games could tell the difference in how early conference races may shape up.

Here is our week 3 analysis and predictions:

#1 Florida (2-0) hosts Tennessee (1-1).

Allegations of recruiting violations and big talk from Vols coach Lane Kiffin aside, Tennessee hasn’t won against the Gators since 2004, the year before Urban Meyer became head coach. Kiffin’s group lost last Saturday to UCLA, a team that went 4-8 last year.  Florida is a better team than last year’s National Champion version.  They won 30-6 last year in Knoxville, so we figure a bit more is in order.  Gators by 31.

#2 Texas (2-0) hosts Texas Tech (2-0).

Everyone knows the history here.  Texas is on their way to a National Championship and gets side tracked when Blake Gideon misses a sure interception and Michael Crabtree makes the catch of his life.  That was in Lubbock.  This year’s Longhorn team is better on both sides of the ball, and they are playing in Austin. Not to mention the payback factor. TTU QB Taylor Potts seems like the real thing and has a competent receiving core, but their unbalanced attack will probably prove the death blow.  The key is the Tech Defense and if they’ll be able to stop the Longhorn running game without having to dedicate secondary help to do so.  We doubt it.  This will allow Colt McCoy to  hone his passing  game. We’re being conservative, thinking that Tech might play well in the first half, but this could be really ugly.  Texas by 28.

#3 USC (2-0) at Washington (1-1)

The big news here is that Freshman QB Matt Barkley may miss the game due to a shoulder injury suffered in the Ohio State game.  That determination will be made later in the week, but Coach Carroll indicated that Aaron Corp will take most of the practice snaps. Corp was top on the QB list until he fractured a cracked fibula in camp.  Even with Corp, USC should be ok.  Wash QB Jake Locker looked poor against LSU in Week 1, but better in Week 2 against Idaho. The Washington D however, gave up 349 passing yards last week which seems foreboding.  Trojans by 24.

#4 Alabama (2-0) hosts North Texas (1-1).

We’re guessing that UNT must need some facilities upgrades so they scheduled a big cashed check going to play the Crimson Tide. Bama destroyed FIU 41-14 last week and we can’t see any possible reason it’s any better this week.  Bama by 40.

#5 Penn State (2-0) hosts Temple (1-0).

The only problem I’ve found with PSU this year is that they seem to have no desire to put teams away.  Not that any team has been close, but I keep forgetting that Joe Pa just doesn’t play the big numbers game.  Temple just can’t fire enough weapons and doesn’t have the sheer manpower on defense to stop the Nittany Lion offensive attack.  Penn State by 30.

#6 Mississippi (1-0) hosts SE Louisiana (2-0) at home.

With more than 30 players suffering from flu-like symptoms, Mississippi used its bye week to focus on getting healthy ( over 400 were affected on campus). Southeastern Louisiana is off to its best start in five years but hasn’t played an FBS opponent. The Lions opened with a 41-7 win over Division II Texas A&M-Commerce on Sept. 5 and followed with a 69-20 victory over NAIA-ranked Union (Ky.) College on Sept. 10. Even a pretty sick Mississippi team should cruise this week.  Ole Miss by 40.

#7 Brigham Young (2-0) hosts Florida State (1-1)

BYU will get another big test this week as the Seminoles come to town.  Bowden’s group is fighting underachievement of the worst kind, getting surprised by Miami in week one, and then struggling to get by lowly Jacksonville State last week.  The FSU secondary was torched for 386 yards passing the first week and almost 300 the second.  This doesn’t seem to be a good potion to bring against BYU QB Max Hall who has already toppled OU from the ranks of the unbeaten. We’re thinking that Coach Bobby will need some BC Powder on the plane ride home.  Cougars by 22.

#8 California (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0)

The Jahvid Best show goes on the road to the Gophers new stadium and it might not be a pleasing night in Minneapolis.  Cal has outscored their opponents 111-20 in the first two weeks, with big numbers in the running game (6th in the nation). Minnesota is averaging only 21 points per game so you have to wonder where they’ll find the defense to stop Cal, or an offense to keep up?  Nowhere.  Golden Bears by 28.

#9 LSU (2-0) hosts Louisiana – Lafayette (2-0).

LSU is beginning to find an offense with new QB Jordan Jefferson, but they’re still struggling  for consistency, getting into the red zone five times last week and scoring only 2 TDs.  The Tigers DO have a good defense however and are getting better each week. Louisiana-Lafayette has dropped 10 in a row to ranked opponents, so it’s hard to see this going any differently.  Tigers by 24.

#10 Boise State (2-0) at Fresno State (1-1) Friday night.

BSU will get its first WAC test this weekend, and it won’t be easy.  The Bulldogs took Wisconsin to overtime before losing by a field goal. And hung 468 yards of offense on them. Boise State is heavily favored to take the WAC again after outscoring opponents by an average of 31.1 points in winning all eight league games last year. They’ll rely on QB Kellen Moore who threw for over 300 yards last week in just three quarters.  This one could be really close.  Broncos by 10.

#11 Oklahoma (1-1) hosts Tulsa (2-0)

Even though OU never loses in their own stadium (well almost never) they will have their hands full this week against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes led the nation in total offense each of the past two seasons and is one of only 11 teams with at least 10 wins in both of those years, so this is no Idaho State coming to town. Tulsa has allowed only 23 points in two games also.  OU wins, but remember that last week a C-USA knocked another team from Oklahoma from the top 5.  Sooners by 15.

#12 Ohio State (1-1) at Toledo (1-1)

Here’s another one that we can’t take too lightly.  The Buckeyes concern should be a Rockets’ offense that’s scored 85 points in its first two games behind Aaron Opelt. The senior quarterback is third in the nation with 742 passing yards and has thrown seven touchdowns passes. Four of those came last Friday against Colorado in a 54-38 win. However, OSU did play the #3 team in the nation to within 3 points, moved the ball reasonably well and played stingy defense. Plus OSU still rules in Ohio.  Buckeyes by 18.

#13 Georgia Tech (2-0) at #22 Miami (1-0)  Thursday night.

Compared to a year ago, the ACC has quite a crowd in the Top 25 and two of them square off this week.  The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a sizeable lead last week against Clemson, but had to step up the defense to hold off a Tiger rally. Miami had the week off after knocking Florida State out of the Top 25 the first week.  As with most teams in the ACC, consistency seems to be the key.  GT seems to have it though, while we’re just not sure about Miami yet. QB Josh Nesbitt completed only 21% of his passes against Clemson last week, and that won’t cut it against GT. Miami has lost four straight against Georgia Tech, matching its longest skid in the series.  This probably won’t change.  Georgia Tech by 15.

#14 Virginia Tech (1-1) hosts #17 Nebraska.

This inter-conference game should be a fun one to watch.  Virginia Tech is the epitome of schizophrenia depending on the performance of its enigmatic  QB Tyrod Taylor. The last two years he’s at times been brilliant both  running and passing, but other times just plain awful.  Nebraska QB Zac Lee completed 27 of 35 passes for 340 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Cornhuskers’ 38-9 win over Arkansas State last Saturday after throwing for 213 yards and two TDs in a season-opening 49-3 victory over Florida Atlantic. Virginia Tech has a  home winning streak over non-conference opponents of 31.  We’re picking an underdog win here.  Nebraska by 6.

#15 TCU (1-0) hosts Texas State (1-0)

TCU fields one of the pre-eminent defenses in the country each year and this year is no exception They held Virginia to only7 first downs and 177 yards of total offense last week, and a bunch of those came late in the game when the contest was decided. Texas State represents an FCS opponent that is still trying to establish their program. The Bobcats defeated Angelo State 48-28 at home in its opener Sept. 5. Bradley George threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, while wide receiver Cedric Alexander scored on a 10-yard reverse and added a 48-yard TD reception.  The biggest question in this game will be how many points TCU will choose to put up.  Horned Frogs by 28.

#16 Utah (2-0) at Oregon (1-1)

Oregon started the year as a preseason Top 20 team in most polls and proceeded to drop off after dropped their season opener to Boise State in which they were held to their lowest yardage total in nearly 15 years. RB LeGarrette Blount was suspended for the year the next day for punching a BSU player in a post-game altercation. However,  they bounced back to beat Purdue 38-36 last Saturday, totaling 356 yards and stopping the Boilermakers’ two-point conversion with 1:01 left. Utah struggled last week, but extended its winning streak to 16 in a row, the longest such streak in the nation, and they still sport a tough, stingy defense.  Oregon seems poised to make this a game, especially playing at home.  Utah QB Terrance Cain and RB Matt Asiata will want to pound the ball at the Duck Defense which has been good against the run.  We’ll tip this slightly toward the Utes but this one is ripe for an upset.  Utah by 2.

#17 Nebraska at #14 Virginia Tech

See analysis above.  Nebraska by 6.

#18 Oklahoma State (1-1) hosts Rice (0-2)

After playing a stellar game on prime time TV against Georgia  in week 1, the Cowboys threw one away last week against Houston.  The OSU secondary must be giving Coach Gundy all kinds of heartburn allowing almost 400 yards against the Cougars.  Rice is in a re-building year and lost badly to unranked Texas Tech 55-10 last week allowing over 500 yards passing.  The OSU offense isn’t similarly suited to run those kinds of numbers, but using a decent running game along with the Xac Robinson to Dez Bryant combo, should allow OSU to get back on the winning track.  Look for this one to get ugly at the end.   Cowboys by 33.

#19 Georgia (1-1) at Arkansas (1-0)

It’s been a real struggle for Mark Richt’s  Bulldogs the first couple of weeks.  They lose to Oklahoma State then have to rely on a last second defensive tip to hold on and beat South Carolina. Georgia’s defense gave up 427 yards but stiffened in the red zone after allowing two first-quarter touchdowns. That was despite an exhausting day in which the Gamecocks ran 30 more plays than the Bulldogs. the Razorbacks, who set a team mark with 447 passing yards in a 48-10 victory over Missouri State on Sept. 5. Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan, completed 17 of 22 passes for 309 yards and a TD  and backup Tyler Wilson threw for 138 yards and two TDs. The Razorbacks’ 591 yards marked their highest total since they had 651 in a win over South Carolina on Nov. 3, 2007.  With a vulnerable defense, this could be another long night for the Dawgs.  We’re looking for the upset.  Razorbacks by 4.

#20 Cincinnati (2-0) at #25 Oregon State (2-0)

The Bearcats keep showing us some really good stuff, which makes it hard to place them in the Top 25 right now. Arguably we could have put them as high as 14th, but we need to see how they perform against another Top 25 opponent, and they get that chance this week against a good Oregon State team lead by RB Jacquizz Rogers. Rogers ran for 166 yards last week against UNLV and paced the Beaver offense to over 400 total yards.  Cincinnati though has been solid so far in their first two weeks scoring 117 points while giving up only 18. This won’t be a cakewalk, but seeing that Cincy has given up only a little more that 100 yards rushing in two games, we lean that way.  Bearcats by 10.

#21 North Carolina (2-0) hosts East Carolina (1-1)

The Tar Heels really had a tough time last week against UConn, needing a 4th quarter comeback to snatch a victory, relying on a 233 yard passing game.  The defense is for real however. C-USA opponent East Carolina has built a solid program under Skip Holtz, but the defense is suspect.  While this game makes for good rhetoric, North Carolina looks to have a big game.  Tar Heels by 20.

#22 Miami (1-0) hosts #13 Georgia Tech (2-0)

See above. Georgia Tech by 15.

#23 Kansas (2-0) hosts Duke (1-1).

Kansas has shown that its offense can certainly generate the yards, just as it did last year.   Last week against UTEP the Jayhawks generated 576 yards of total offense and almost half was on the ground.  The week before, they generated 528 and 328 of it was on the ground. With a quality QB like Todd Reesing, this seems really  odd, but this year’s version of the Jayhawk offense could be better than previous years.  Duke, known for its roundball and Medical School, and for not offering Reesing a scholarship, doesn’t look to have much of anything that can throttle the their opponent’s high-power offense.  Kansas by 35.

#24 Michigan (2-0) hosts Eastern Michigan (0-2)

Michigan QB Tate Forcier is coming of age quickly, showing play beyond his years in the upset of Notre Dame last week. He threw for 240 yards and 2 TDs against the ND defense, the last TD winning the game with 11 seconds left. The Wolverine defense has been bend-not-break in its first two games. Eastern Michigan scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie Northwestern last week with 2:40 left, but the Wildcats kicked a 49-yard field goal to escape with a 27-24 win. Barring a huge hangover from last week, this looks to be another Michigan win.  Wolverines by 22.

#25 Oregon State (2-0) hosts #20 Cincinnati (2-0)

See above.  Cincinnati by 10.

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