Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cram Session - Week 5

Thursday, September 26

San Francisco (1-2) at St. Louis (1-2), San Francisco favored by 3

For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era the 49ers are facing really adversity. They are under .500 for the first time since Harbaugh took over as a coach. They haven't just lost the last two weeks, they have been completely destroyed. The offense can do nothing, and is badly missing Michael Crabtree, and last week Vernon Davis. The defense hasn't played a good game in what seems like forever, even going back to last season's playoffs. Things aren't likely to get better either as their best defensive player, Aldon Smith will miss this game and possibly more while he is in rehab dealing with substance abuse issues. Also, their second best player, LB Patrick Willis is questionable with a groin injury. Now, they have to go on the road in a short week and beat the team that was their bugaboo last season, the St. Louis Rams. The 49ers could beat almost anyone last season, but in their two meetings with the Rams they tied and lost. They can't afford a loss tonight or I will go into full crisis mode. The Rams defense has been dreadful this season, and they were supposed to be the bright spot of the team. If the defense can't get it together, the Rams season will quickly fall apart as their offense just isn't good enough to be winning shootouts. San Francisco will win this game if they allow Frank Gore to get going and then when he does, stick with him. The Rams run defense is pretty awful and was just shredded by DeMarco Murray last week. The most frustrating aspect of Sunday's loss to the Colts was that the run game was working, and then offensive coordinator Greg Roman kept calling pass plays, which weren't working at all. I have no real confidence in my pick of the 49ers to win this game, but they're my team and I certainly won't pick the Rams to beat them.

Prediction: San Francisco 24, St. Louis 16

Games That Matter To Me

#14 Oklahoma (3-0) at #22 Notre Dame (3-1)

These two meeting this year isn't generating nearly the buzz of last year's meeting, but for Oklahoma you know they are amped up to try to gain revenge for their embarrassing loss from a season ago. This will the Irish's toughest opponent so far this year. Yes, tougher than Michigan who has appeared fraudtastic in the weeks since beating Notre Dame. Blake Bell is the Sooners new quarterback, but remains mostly unproven, as I don't consider playing well against Tulsa as proving anything. WR Sterling Shepherd and Bell seemed to develop an instant chemistry, with Shepherd hauling in 10 catches against Tulsa. Outside of his success against Tulsa, Shepherd and the rest of the Sooners offense has struggled throwing the ball so far this year. The Sooners lead back is Brennan Clay, but outside of a strong effort against West Virginia, he has also struggled. The Irish defense had their best game of the year last week against Michigan State. But how much of that was good defense, and how much was the fact that the Spartans stink on offense?

Now, how effective will the Irish offense be against a stout Sooners defense? The Irish nailed a huge run against Oklahoma last year in Norman and that set the tone for the game right away. However, this season, the Irish ground game has struggled as no running back has been able to grab the job by the horns and take control. QB Tommy Rees has mostly played well but he struggled mightily against a strong Spartans defense last week, and could face similar pressure and trouble against the Sooners. WR DaVaris Daniels did almost nothing last week after his breakout performance against Purdue the week before. His fellow wideout TJ Jones has also disappeared the last two weeks.

I have a hard time picturing the Irish beating Oklahoma two years in a row. The offense hasn't been consistent enough for me to believe that they will dominate Oklahoma's defense. Oklahoma is mostly a mystery on offense, but maybe Bell is the difference maker they need. The Irish defense controlled the line of scrimmage last year, but they haven't shown that type of push so far this season. I think the Sooners win a tough game and end Notre Dame's home winning streak.

Prediction: Oklahoma 28, Notre Dame 20

Top 10

#21 Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0) at #1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0)

The Rebels are coming into Tuscaloosa still high off of their drubbing of Texas in Austin. They have gotten an extra week of preparation and Nick Saban has to make sure his team doesn't take the Rebels lightly. Ole Miss has a dangerous offense, and one that is balanced. They have a premiere running back in Jeff Scott, who is averaging an absurd 9 yards per carry. Quarterback Bo Wallace is completing 64% of his passes and hasn't thrown an interception. The Bama defense has shown that they can be scored on in bunches, so unlike in past year's some of the pressure will be on the Bama offense. That means involving T.J. Yeldon who interestingly only had 7 carries last week in the win over Colorado State. Bama sometimes plays disinterested against lesser competition, but Saban will have his boys ready for this one. It still won't come easy though, the Rebels are too good on offense to not at least make it interesting.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Ole Miss 23

California (1-2, 0-0) at #2 Oregon (3-0, 0-0)

The Ducks kick off their Pac-12 schedule against a team whose defense will be the perfect match for them to continue to average over 60 points a game. Cal gives up 42 points a game, so maybe I should actually predict for Oregon to score 80+.

Prediction: Oregon 63, California 21

Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1) at #3 Clemson (3-0, 1-0)

Clemson struggled at NC State but was able to pull the victory and avoid a Clemson. We might just have to all deal with the fact that this is a new day for Clemson football. With the Demon Deacons coming to town, Clemson should have things much easier this Saturday. The Wake Forest offense couldn't put up many points against low level competition, so no chance they compete with the Tigers on Saturday.

Prediction: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 14

#23 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) at #4 Ohio State (4-0, 0-0)

It is refreshing to see some matchups between ranked teams this week after last week's awful schedule. This one will be contested under the lights. Wisconsin's record says they are 3-1 but had the officials not screwed them in Tempe, they would probably be 4-0. Wisconsin averages over 40 points a game and Ohio State 50, so this could be a shootout. The Buckeyes should be getting back starting QB Braxton Miller. There has been some talk of leaving in Kenny Guiton who has played so well in place of Miller, but all indications from Urban Meyer are that Miller is his guy. Guiton was very good, but Miller has also never lost a game as starting quarterback under Meyer, so its a wealth of riches for the Buckeyes at the quarterback position. The only Wisconsin can pull off the huge road upset is if Joel Stave plays above his head, and his running backs Melvin Gordon and James White continue their run of being unstoppable on the ground. Melvin in particular has been spectacular. His lowest rushing output in a game thus far this year is 140 yards and he did that on 9 carries. If this game was in Madison I might go upset, but the road atmosphere will be too tough for Wisconsin and Stave to handle.

Prediction: Ohio State 45, Wisconsin 27

#5 Stanford (3-0, 1-0) at Washington State (3-1, 1-0)

This game will actually be at CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play. Stanford raced out to a huge lead last week against Arizona State but nearly coughed it up after taking their foot off the gas too soon. I'm not entirely sold on the Cardinal and think this game has upset alert written all over it. Cougars coach Mike Leach is known for his offense but Washington State has a pretty good defense. They are only giving up 12 points a game this year, and I think they can frustrate Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan into some critical mistakes. While it won't be in their home stadium, the game will be in their home state, and that atmosphere will be an advantage for Washington State. Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday will have to play almost mistake free football, and avoid interceptions. He already has 8 of those through four games. It's boring picking favorites all the time, so I will go out on a limb and pick Washington State to pull off the shocker.

Prediction: Washington State 27, Stanford 24

#6 LSU (4-0, 1-0) at #9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0)

Almost every week, Georgia has a game that is tougher than the last. They got a bit of a respite last week with North Texas but this week they face a Top 10 team for the third time this season. I touched on it last week, but this Tigers team is unlike any we have seen in a few years. They can actually do some things on offense and have mostly been carried by that side of the ball, while their young defense gains experience. Last season at this time I never thought I would be writing that Zach Mettenberger is on par with Aaron Murray at quarterback but so far this year he has been. Offensively, these teams are about equal, but defensively, while young, I give the Tigers the edge over Georgia. I like their defense to force more mistakes out of the other teams offense and to ultimately be the difference as to why LSU remains unbeaten.

Prediction: LSU 37, Georgia 28

#8 Florida State (3-0, 1-0) at Boston College (2-1, 1-0)

Jameis Winston returns to ACC action where he already made a name for himself in his first ACC game against Pitt almost a month ago. Boston College has had two weeks to prepare for him, but with the way Winston has played so far, that probably means very little. Even if the Eagles can slow him down, they then have to try to score on a stout Seminoles defense. Florida State should continue to roll through the ACC, until they have the ultimate matchup with Clemson.

Prediction: Florida State 45, Boston College 17

#10 Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1) at Arkansas (3-1, 0-0)

It looked like the Razorbacks would be rolling into this game undefeated and with a confidence building win at Rutgers. However, they let a 24-7 second half lead slip away, and instead have to get right mentally for the Aggies coming to town. Arkansas will have to find some way to slow down the fast moving Aggies offense led by Johnny Manziel. This will be the Aggies first road trip, but Manziel has proved that playing away from home isn't an issue for him. The Aggies defense also finally stepped up and put in a good performance against SMU last week. Amazingly, the Aggies missed three extra point attempts last week, but I am going to bet against that trend continuing and predict they will do the impossible and make all their extra points against Arkansas!

Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 21

Last Week: 11-0
Overall: 37-2

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