Thursday, September 19
Kansas City (2-0) at Philadelphia (1-1)
The game itself takes a back seat to the storyline around it, the return of Andy Reid to Philadelphia as the Chiefs head coach. I expect the Philly fans to give Reid a warm welcome in his return, and then immediately boo him as much as possible when the game begins. The Eagles offense continues to put up points and yards, but the problem is, as expected, their defense is terrible. The short week could help the defense, and also playing a middling Chiefs offense could help as well. Like a typical Alex Smith led team, the Chiefs are so conservative and cautious on offense. That helps them win games, but it also keeps them in the teens and twenties. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles offense hums along well on just a few days rest for the players. I think it will stagnate a bit, as has become common with teams and these Thursday night games. I expect a close back and forth battle, with the Eagles hanging on this weekend, reversing last week's late loss to the Chargers. I think LaSean McCoy's ability to make plays rushing and catching the football will be the difference.
Prediction: Philadelphia 24, Kansas City 20
Games That Matter To Me
Michigan State (3-0) at #22 Notre Dame (2-1)
The Irish have outclassed and outplayed the Spartans in their last two meetings, winning by a combined score of 51-16. The defense has been dominant in each of those meetings, but dominance has eluded the Irish defense in 2013. Even when they held Temple to 6 points in the opener, the Owls were able to move the ball through the air pretty easily. This week, they are facing an average at best Spartan offense, but that didn't seem to matter for Notre Dame last week when they let Purdue score all over them. Michigan State has finally settled on a starting quarterback, Connor Cook. Cook should come into this game with some confidence following a strong showing against Youngstown State last week where he threw 4 touchdowns. Cook's play is important, but what will really make the difference in this game is the performance of the Spartan running game. Jeremy Langford leads the Spartans in carries, yards, and touchdowns, but Nick Hill seems to be the more explosive back, averaging over 7 yards per carry. The Irish defense should be able to shut down the Spartans anemic passing game, and if they can slow down the run, this could be another dominating win.
The Irish offense has played well all season save for struggling in the first half against Purdue, but they will face their toughest challenge in the number one ranked Spartans defense. The breakout start so far is WR DaVaris Daniels who already has 4 touchdowns. Along with TJ Jones, the Irish passing game is humming along fine. The rushing attack is more unsettled, as no one has taken the reigns and taken over the job. So expect to see a work share between Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel, and George Atkinson III. Whichever of those backs is having some modicum of success is who will get the heavy lifting. The onus will also be on the offensive line to protect Tommy Rees and give him time to find his big play receivers.
I expect a dogfight Saturday afternoon. I think the Irish defense finally has a chance to shine this year, and will more resemble that 2012 unit. This game will come right down to the wire, but I like the Irish's edge in talent to win out.
Prediction: Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 19
South Dakota State (3-0) at Nebraska (2-1)
It has been an ugly few days for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. It started Saturday when the Huskers blew a 21-3 lead at home, losing 41-21. Once again, the Huskers appeared completely outmatched against a team with a pulse, a recurring theme since Pelini has been coach. His supposed specialty of defense, continues to be the terrible unit of the team. Maybe he really misses his brother Carl? Things got worse when audio was leaked from two years ago where Pelini was lambasting the fanbase as fair weather. He also didn't help his cause by dismissing Tommie Frazier, a Cornhusker legend and a player that had success that Pelini could only dream of. Nebraska has one more non-conference game, then a week off, and then open the Big 12 season at home against Illinois.
They face the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State this weekend. The Jackrabbits have a high powered offense that has feasted on their fellow FCS foes. With how terrible the Huskers defense is, it will probably feel like playing an FCS defense. The Jackrabbits best player is RB Zach Zenner, who is coming off a three touchdown game last week against powerhouse Southeastern Louisiana. Unfortunately, the Jackrabbits defense gave up over 500 yards to Southeastern Louisiana, meaning Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah, and Kenny Bell should have no problem piling up yards and points. Pelini badly needs a blowout win, and some time to calm the storm that is surrounding him.
Prediction: Nebraska 48, South Dakota State 27
Thursday, September 19
#3 Clemson (2-0, 0-0) at North Carolina State (2-0, 0-0)
This is the type of game people would point to and say, Clemson might pull a Clemson. A Clemson, for those that don't know, is when Clemson loses a game they should win. Raleigh should be pretty electric for this primetime affair, but the Tigers are a much better team than the Wolfpack. NC State barely beat Richmond at home just a few weeks ago, but they also have a history of pulling off pretty major home upsets in the ACC. The problem for them is they won't have an answer for Tahjh Boyd or Sammy Watkins.
Prediction: Clemson 34, North Carolina State 24
Saturday, September 21
Colorado State (1-2) at #1 Alabama (2-0)
The Crimson Tide have to get refocused following an emotional win at College Station last week. The Tide defense was eviscerated like we haven't seen in some time, but as great teams do, Bama found a way to win. One interesting aspect of this game is the Rams coach, Jim McElwain. McElwain was the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator from 2008-2011. We will see if he can give his defense some tips on the Alabama offense. Expect the Bama defense to be flying all over the place, trying to atone for last week's poor performance.
Prediction: Alabama 40, Colorado State 13
Florida A&M (1-2) at #4 Ohio State (3-0)
In something that is definitely different, Ohio State is openly disrespecting Florida A&M. Players and coaches are openly talking about how disappointed and the lack of motivation they are feeling in playing the Rattlers. I appreciate the honesty I guess, but you have to think that will fire up the Rattlers a bit. Unfortunately, the Rattlers could play 11 on 5 and still would probably lose to the Buckeyes. With Ohio State, you have to wonder if a quarterback controversy could start. Kenny Guiton filled in more than capably for Braxton Miller last week, and it might be tough to get him off the field.
Prediction: Ohio State 52, Florida A&M 10
#23 Arizona State (2-0, 0-0) at #5 Stanford (2-0, 0-0)
This is the only game this weekend pitting ranked teams against one another. Arizona State had one of the most bizarre finishes I have ever seen, in their victory over Wisconsin. The referees were so confused by how Wisconsin QB Joel Stave took a knee, that instead of taking control of the game and giving Wisconsin time to clock the ball, they stood around with their thumbs up their asses, costing the Badgers the game. Stanford had way more trouble with Army than I expected them to have, but a win's a win. Both teams have strong offenses, but their philosophies are a bit different. The Sun Devils are more of a passing team, led by QB Taylor Kelly. Kelly was just okay against Wisconsin and will have to better if Arizona State is to pull off the upset on the road. A player that did play well against Wisconsin was Kelly's favorite target, WR Jaelen Strong. In two games this season, Strong has 12 catches for 162 yards and a TD. He is complemented by RB Marion Grice, who serves as a dual threat for the Sun Devils offense. The Cardinal like to run the ball and RB Taylor Gaffney does it very well, averaging almost 6 yards per carry. If the Cardinal impose their will on Arizona State's defense and get the running game going, the Sun Devils have no chance. Arizona State allowed Wisconsin to rush for 231 yards last week, so chances are that Gaffney will have a big game. If Arizona State's defense was better I would consider picking them to pull off the upset, but they won't have any referee shenanigans to give them a win this weekend.
Prediction: Stanford 28, Arizona State 20
Auburn (3-0, 1-0) at #6 LSU (3-0, 0-0)
ESPN is trying to hype this game up as something special, mostly because this weekend's games are terrible. Witness Michigan/UCONN being a primetime game. Auburn did finally win an SEC game last week, which is improvement, considering they were 0fer in that department in 2012. Their offense, which was horrific last season, has shown signs of life under new coach Gus Malzahn. QB Nick Marshall had a very strong showing against Mississippi State last weekend, throwing for 339 yards and 2 touchdowns. One problem is, he did throw 2 picks, and mistakes like those will kill Auburn against LSU. LSU has been very impressive thus far, mostly because they finally seem to have an offense that complements their defense. LSU QB Zach Mettenberger already had 9 TDs in 3 games, after throwing just 12 all of last season. He also has 0 interceptions, and might be one of the most improved players in college football. Now he has to show that improvement in the toughest conference in football. I believe he will get off to a good start Saturday night at home.
Prediction: LSU 30, Auburn 17
Florida International (0-3) at #7 Louisville (3-0)
Florida International is terrible and was just cooked last week by Bethune-Cookman. However, the last two seasons they have given Louisivllle some trouble, including defeating the Cardinals in 2011. I would be surprised if they give them any trouble Saturday, and expect Teddy Bridgewater to atone for his poor game against the Golden Panthers last season.
Prediction: Louisville 42, Florida International 14
Bethune-Cookman (3-0) at #8 Florida State (2-0)
As mentioned above Bethune-Cookman creamed Florida International of Conference USA last week, so they should have some confidence going into Tallahassee. They have a strong ground attack that averages 244 yards per game. They also haven't played a team anywhere near as talented as Florida State. This will be another game for Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense to showcase their talents and pour on the points.
Prediction: Florida State 57, Bethune-Cookman 17
North Texas (2-1) at #9 Georgia (1-1, 1-0)
Georgia finally faces a cupcake a month into the season. They better enjoy this cupcake because next week it is back to the grind, as they host LSU. This game will be about getting the starters some action, then taking them out before they get hurt.
Prediction: Georgia 41, North Texas 14
SMU (1-1) at #10 Texas A&M (2-1)
Johnny Football finally has people talking about his exploits on the field, instead of his dumb decisions off of it. He did all he could to try to knock off Alabama for the second straight year, but came up a bit short. The truth is, the Aggies defense is terrible, so the pressure is on Manziel every game to put up a ton of points. I expect another shootout this weekend, when they face SMU. SMU is coached by the master of the shootout, June Jones.
Prediction: Texas A&M 48, SMU 31
Last Week: 8-1