Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cram Session - Week 1

College football is here! 2012 was such an exciting season for me as a college football fan. My favorite team, Notre Dame, went 12-0 before absolutely face palming in the national championship game against Alabama. My other team, Nebraska made the Big Ten championship game, and then was obliterated by a 4-loss Wisconsin team that shouldn't even have been in the game. So while the endings were things I would rather forget, the journey was enjoyable. As most people predicted Alabama went to the National Championship game, but their predicted opponent, USC, turned into a complete joke. This season the popular pick for the championship game seems to be Alabama versus either Oregon or Stanford. Can Alabama three peat, becoming the first program in college football history to accomplish such a feat? Will Oregon really just truck along like nothing happened in their first season without Chip Kelly? Will a school like Stanford, actually play for a national title? I have a feeling that much like 2012, the picture at the end of the season, will be far different than the experts predicted.

Games That Matter To Me

Temple at #14 Notre Dame

In typical Notre Dame hate, everyone is ready to bury the Irish. Their starting quarterback Everett Golson got booted from the program. While that sucks, Golson wasn't anything special at quarterback. He probably is slightly better than his replacement Tommy Rees, but Rees has had success. In fact, Rees had to come in to clean Golson's messes on multiple occasions last season. More concering to me is having to replace Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood at running back. The starter will be George Atkinson III with Amir Carlisle expected to see action as well. Also, TE Tyler Eifert will be greatly missed. However, over the past decade Notre Dame has turned into Tight End U, so hopefully new starter Troy Niklas continues that tradition. The side of the ball that carried Notre Dame all of last season was the defense and they return 8 of 12 starters. Most people will focus on them being without Manti Te'o but they bring back defensive lineman Louis Nix and Stephen Tuitt. A new player to watch is LB Jaylon Smith, who becomes the first freshman to start at linebacker for Notre Dame in 18 years.

The Irish will be heavily favored in their opener against Temple. It is a new era for Temple football. They are now competing in the brand new American Athletic Conference, and has a new coach in Matt Rhule. Rhule has installed a no huddle offense, that he hopes will jump start a unit that averaged just 120 yards passing per game last season. They are quarterbacked by Connor Reilly who will be making his first ever college start on Saturday.

Notre Dame has rolled in most of their openers under Kelly, save for a loss to South Florida two years ago. I think things will go relatively smoothly on Saturday, but am not expecting a complete blowout of the Owls. Competition will pick up significantly next weekend, when they go to Michigan.

Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Temple 13   

Wyoming at #18 Nebraska

The Cornhuskers find themselves in a strange position heading into the 2013 season, especially for a team coached by defensive mastermind Bo Pelini. The offense is expected to be spectacular and one of the best units in college football. As for the defense? Most Cornhuskers fans are just hoping for the best. The defense ended last year in embarrassing fashion after being torched by Wisconsin and Georgia. It turned what had been a surprisingly strong season, including a 7-1 mark in the Big Ten, into another 4 loss disappointment. Nebraska's biggest challengers in the Big Ten race in the Legends division figure to once again be Michigan and Northwestern.

The offense is once again led by senior quarterback Taylor Martinez. Martinez is coming off his best season, throwing 23 TDs, while also rushing for over 1,000 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns on the ground. Also returning is leading rusher Ameer Abdullah, and leading receiver Kenny Bell. The offense should be one of the best units in college football and certainly the best in the Big Ten.

Defensively, the linebacking corps is very young and there are questions about how effective the defensive line will be, especially against the run. Huskers coaches are optimistic about their two defensive ends, Jason Ankrah and junior-college transfer Randy Gregory. Nebraska feels good about their secondary, led by Ciante Evans, Josh Mitchell, Harvey Jackson and Corey Cooper.

Against Wyoming the defense will be going up against the spread offense. This will be a good test, because Nebraska's next two opponents, Southern Miss and UCLA also run the spread. The Cowboys have a very talented quarterback, Brett Smith, who threw 27 touchdowns versus just 6 interceptions last season. Unfortunately for him, his team's defense is awful and won't be able to stop Nebraska.

Prediction: Nebraska 49, Wyoming 24

Top 10

Thursday, August 29

North Carolina at #6 South Carolina

Expectations are sky high for the Gamecocks. They have the best defensive player in football, Jadeveon Clowney and a senior quarterback in Connor Shaw. Those expectations could quickly plummet if South Carolian doesn't come ready to play the Tar Heels tonight. North Carolina has a prolific offense led by a senior quarterback of their own, Bryn Renner. This should be a fun battle to watch between the Gamecocks imposing defense and the Heels fast offense.

Prediction: South Carolina 27, North Carolina 21

Saturday, August 31

#1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia

Alabama are the overwhelming favorites to win a third consecutive national title, and some think they may even run the table. I think they will probably lose a game late in the year, but not the last game of the year and then every team ahead of them will lose, and then they will win another national title. With underrated QB AJ McCarron back and the talented recruits still coming in, the Crimson Tide will act like they lost nothing to the NFL. The Hokies are going to be severely outmatched in this game, even with their gigantic quarterback Logan Thomas, who for some strange reason considered leaving early for the NFL last season despite not being very good.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 9

Buffalo at #2 Ohio State

The first year under Urban Meyer in Columbus couldn't gone any better, as the Buckeyes ran the table, finishing 12-0. Well, I guess it could have gone a little better had they been eligible to compete for the national title. This year, no sanctions stand in their way and led by QB Braxton Miller, and the history of Urban Meyer teams in year two of his coaching career, expectations are a national title awaits. The Buffalo Bulls surely won't pose any threat of standing in the way of that goal.

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Buffalo 12

Nicholls State at #3 Oregon

Chip Kelly is gone, but he left behind a lot of talent for new coach Mark Helfrich. The offense still has explosive stars, QB Marcus Mariota and RB De'Anthony Thomas. Nicholls State is in for a beatdown they won't soon forget.

Prediction: Oregon 66, Nicholls State 7

#5 Georgia at #8 Clemson

The game of the weekend takes place in Clemson, South Carolina between these two top 10 teams. It features a great quarterback battle between Georgia's Aaron Murray and Clemson's Tajh Boyd. The difference might come in the run game, where Todd Gurley powers the Bulldogs attack. The Tigers lost their best running back Andre Ellington to graduation, leaving Boyd as their returning leading rusher. That is quite a burden for one player to carry and not one that will prove successful against a team as talented as Georgia. The Tigers secondary is the biggest concern area for the team and one that I believe Murray will exploit Saturday night, propelling Georgia to an impressive road win.

Prediction: Georgia 35, Clemson 24

Rice at #7 Texas A&M

Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel has been embroiled in controversy all offseason. All this talk about ineligibility and all that will happen to him is he has to miss a half against an overmatched team. By the time Manziel takes the field, the Aggies should already be comfortably ahead. Rice isn't a terrible team, but I can't imagine them going to Kyle Field and upsetting the Aggies or even making it all that interesting.

Prediction: Texas A&M 40, Rice 19 

Toledo at #10 Florida

The Gators may be ranked in the top 10 preseason poll, but many pundits are expecting this year to be a flop. A lot of people feel that Florida got all the bounces last season in going 11-1 during the regular season. They had a terrific defense that helped overcome a non-existent offense. This year the injury bug has hit Florida hard and they will be missing several key pieces, not only for this game but future games as well.

Prediction: Florida 28, Toledo 17

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