Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cram Session - Week 10

Thursday, October 31

Cincinnati (6-2) at Miami (3-4), Cincinnati favored by 2 1/2

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was seen as the team's biggest question mark, despite leading them to the playoff in each of his first two seasons. However, this season he is one of the biggest reasons the Bengals are well in front of the AFC North and winners of four straight games. Against the Jets stingy defense last week, Dalton threw 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also helped to introduce the world to Marvin Jones, who caught four of those touchdowns. One area that the Bengals need to improve in is their running game, as both the Law Firm and Giovanni Bernard are averaging less than four yards per carry. The Dolphins 3-0 start is but a distant memory, as they blew a first half lead against New England last week to drop their fourth straight. Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace still can't spark any sort of chemistry with each other, and the offense has been inconsistent. Tannehill hasn't been good during the losing streak, and has been turning the ball over way too much. Tannehill needs to develop some chemistry with Wallace fast, especially now that he lost WR Brandon Gibson for the season. I would like Miami's chances better if this game was on Sunday and they had a full week to prepare for the Bengals. But on a short week, I think talent wins out over strategy and the Bengals are far more talented than the Dolphins.

Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Miami 20

Games That Matter To Me

Navy (4-3) at #25 Notre Dame (6-2)

After two discouraging losses on the road, Navy got back on the winning track at home against Pittsburgh last weekend. That means they will go into South Bend with some confidence and a quarterback/runner in Keenan Reynolds that could cause some headaches for the Irish defense. The Irish just faced Air Force last week so they should be pretty studied up on rushing oriented offenses. The most passes Reynolds has completed in a game is 10, but he has rushed for over 100 yards in 3 games. Reynolds does avoid mistakes and turnovers, and he will have to do that Saturday or things will get ugly for Navy like they did for Air Force.

Tommy Rees was exceptional against Air Force, throwing 5 touchdowns and not committing any turnovers. As I discussed last week, Rees can be frustrating to watch, but there isn't a doubt that he's the best the Irish have at quarterback right now. TJ Jones seems to be his favorite target and he had a huge game against Air Force. Jones is the latest in a line of Irish receivers that seem to be able to outjump the corner or safety and make leaping touchdown catches. The Irish run game was quiet again last week, but the blowout did allow them to give freshman Tarean Folston a look.

The Irish should be favored in their next three games and could be 9-2 heading into their showdown with Stanford to close the year. No one is mentioning a BCS bowl as a possibility but if they go 9-2 and then beat Stanford, I can't see one of the major bowls passing up on a 10-2 Irish team. They need to remain focused though and that begins this week with Navy. Navy cannot be taken lightly, especially because they treat Notre Dame as one of their biggest games of the year. I think Reynolds will make some plays early, but like last week the Irish defense will adjust and begin to stop him. I think Rees could be in line for another big game as well.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Navy 21

Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) at Nebraska (5-2, 2-1)

Bo has gots to go. I fully expected the Minnesota game to be difficult, but no way should Nebraska lose by double digits to the Golden Gophers. Maybe someone can say he was smoking pot with his brother Carl. After the loss, Taylor Martinez said the the Huskers goals are still in front of them, and that is true, but the competition is going to get harder than the Gophers here in the last month. Martinez started last week after missing a few games, and he was adequate, but definitely didn't appear to be himself. He didn't rush for much yardage and combine that with a pedestrian passing attack and the Huskers were struggling on offense. Now news has come out that he suffered a hip pointer in the loss and Tommy Armstrong is once again the starter for Saturday. The Nebraska defense once again couldn't slow down a team's offense, this team getting run all over by the Gophers.

This week, they get to host a reeling Northwestern team. The Wildcats have dropped four straight, completely collapsing since giving Ohio State a tough game. Their quarterback situation seems up in the air. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian had been mostly splitting time but Colter took all the snaps in last week's loss to Iowa. Colter did help the Wildcats beat the Huskers in Lincoln two years ago, mostly using his legs to his advantage, rushing for two touchdowns. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald stuck with Colter last week because he was playing well, and I would assume he will start the game with Colter. Leading rusher Treyvon Green didn't play against Iowa last week and has been battling injuries. It remains to be seen if and how much he plays at Lincoln on Saturday. If he doesn't expect freshman Stephen Buckley to get the bulk of the carries, coming off a strong 99 yard performance against Iowa. The Wildcats best pass catcher is Tony Jones, but he has had a lot of quiet games this season.

The Wildcats don't have a very good defense, so there will be plays to be made by Armstrong and holes for RB Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah had another good performance last week, but it is obvious that for Nebraska to win Martinez has to be at least good and not simply average. The Wildcats offensive line isn't that strong of a unit, so the Huskers will have a chance to create some pressure and hopefully some turnovers. A loss to Northwestern will really intensify the calls for Pelini's job. Not only because it would be the second straight time losing to Northwestern at home, but because of how poorly the Wildcats have played the last month. I am going with the Huskers but not with any sort of confidence.

Prediction: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 20

Top 10

#7 Miami (7-0, 3-0) at #3 Florida State (7-0, 5-0)

Been a long time since this rivalry had a game as big as Saturday night's will be. Unfortunately, this is an instance where I don't believe the game will live up to the hype. That is because Miami is not even close to being in the same league as the Seminoles. One area that is a major mismatch is at quarterback. It's odd because the Seminoles have the advantage at that position with Jameis Winston over Miami's Stephen Morris, despite Morris being a senior and Winston being a freshman. Morris had as many interceptions in the Canes victory against Carolina a few weeks ago, four, that Winston has so far this entire season.

The Canes only chance in this game will be their defense or special teams scoring points and RB Duke Johnson having one of the best games of his career. Duke is coming off an impressive 30 carry, 168 yard rushing performance against Wake Forest, including scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute. However, at wide receiver the Canes don't have a game changing player like the Seminoles Rashad Greene. The junior has already set a career high for touchdowns and is averaging 8 catches and 141 yards receiving in his last two games. While Miami was clawing out a victory against Wake, the Seminoles were resting their players for much of the second half after killing NC State in the first half.

The Canes are 11th in scoring defense but that stat is a bit misleading. The last three weeks they have let mediocre ACC opponents roll up yards on them. It has to be troubling for Miami fans to know their team has played so poorly against bad teams, and now has to face one of the best teams in the country. If this game was in Miami, I might give the Canes a prayer of keeping it closer, but under the lights in Tallahassee I expect this game to get ugly early. No team has shown any ability of slowing down Jameis Winston, so I expect another dazzling performance from him, as he inches closer and closer to a Heisman trophy.

Prediction: Florida State 38, Miami 16

#4 Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3)

The Buckeyes season comes down to November 30th when they travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan. These next 3 games at Purdue, at Illinois, and home to Indiana are simply dress rehearsals. The Buckeyes goal in these games is to win and win by a lot to try to help their perception and move up in the polls. They also want to stay healthy. The awful Boilermakers give the Buckeyes a chance for a blowout victory. Anything less than a win by three or four touchdowns will be looked down upon by the pollsters.

Prediction: Ohio State 49, Purdue 14

#8 Clemson (7-1, 5-1) at Virginia (2-6, 0-4)

Clemson struggled to put away a highly depleted Maryland team last week and is beginning to look more and more fraudtastic with each passing game. That being said the Virginia Cavaliers are one of the worst teams in college football, so maybe Clemson can use them as a way to possibly get back on track.

Prediction: Clemson 42, Virginia 17

Tennessee (4-4, 1-3) at #9 Missouri (7-1, 3-1)

The Missouri Tigers look poised to cap off an amazing three week stretch of wins against Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. They led the Gamecocks 17-0 going into the fourth quarter, but then Connor Shaw was inserted at quarterback and the game completely changed. Missouri ended up losing 27-24 in 2 OT after missing a 24-yard field goal. Now they have to try to recover from that crushing defeat and avoid a letdown against Tennessee. A once proud program, Tennessee has lost 18 straight games on the road to ranked foes, including a blowout loss at Alabama last weekend. After a strong performance against the Gators, Tigers freshman quarterback Maty Mauk came back to Earth against South Carolina. He was able to complete just 40 percent of his passes. RB Henry Josey has to have a better game if Mauk struggles again. I don't think this will be easy game for the Tigers but they still have plenty to play for.

Prediction: Missouri 31, Tennessee 24

Last Week: 10-2

Overall: 78-12

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