Thursday, October 3, 2013
Cram Session - Week 6
Buffalo (2-2) at Cleveland (2-2), Cleveland favored by 4
This game was widely mocked last week when everyone watching San Francisco/St. Louis learned that this was the next Thursday game. It still doesn't feel all that appealing but at least both teams are .500. The Browns are 2-0 since trading Trent Richardson and everyone thought they were punting their season. Brian Hoyer has taken over the starting job and I don't see Brandon Weeden getting it back. The Browns defense was suffocating at home against Cincinnati last week, especially shutdown corner Joe Haden. The Bills defense was also impressive in a win last weekend, forcing Joe Flacco to throw 5 interceptions. EJ Manuel struggled in his lone road start at New York a few weeks ago and I think we will see some mistakes out of him. The Browns will shockingly be on a three game winning streak by the end of Thursday night.
Prediction: Cleveland 23, Buffalo 15
Games That Matter To Me
#22 Arizona State (3-1) "at" Notre Dame (3-2) in Arlington, Texas
I couldn't get too upset about the Irish's loss to Oklahoma last weekend mostly because I expected them to lose. I will get upset if they lose their second straight game this weekend in Jerry's World because I think they can beat the newly ranked Sun Devils. Finding consistency has been a challenge this season for Notre Dame on both offense and defense. The defense has been better recently but now its the offense that is struggling. The run game found some life last weekend behind George Atkinson but Tommy Rees continued his terrible play from the Michigan State game and became the Turnover Tommy Irish fans have come to hate.
The Irish will have a chance to run the ball well again this week against a terrible Sun Devils run defense. But Rees will have to avoid critical mistakes and interceptions. That also means TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels will have to do a better job of creating separation, and giving Rees easy lanes to throw to. The Irish defense will have their work cut out for them trying to slow down Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly. Kelly is completing over 60% of his passes and has 11 TDs in four games. He has has thrown for 3 or more touchdowns in three of those four games. He is also a threat to run the bell, something the Irish struggled with last week against Blake Bell. His favorite target is WR Jaelen Strong, who has gone over 100 yards receiving in his last three games.The Sun Devils second leading receiver is a running back, D.J. Foster. The Sun Devils don't rely on their run game but love giving the ball to Marion Grice in the red zone.
The Irish can't count on Rees right now so it is imperative that they take advantage of the Sun Devils soft run defense. If they can do that, and Rees can make a few plays, they should be in a good position to win. Kelly will have success throwing against Notre Dame, but I don't expect the Sun Devils run game to do anything. I think Brian Kelly will get the team to bounce back and spring the mini upset.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Arizona State 27
Illinois (3-1, 0-0) at Nebraska (3-1, 0-0)
Nebraska may once again be without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez for their Big Ten opener against Illinois. He hasn't practiced yet this week, so that means that Tommy Armstrong Jr. might make his second career start. Husker fans shouldn't take the Illini lightly. Illinois gave Washington a battle at home a few weeks ago and has a very dangerous quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase is accurate and avoids the big mistake as evidenced by his 12 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions. RB Donovonn Young is capable of tearing off big yardage, so the Huskers defense will have to try to survive the Illini offensive onslaught.
Even if Martinez can't start, the Huskers should be able to move the ball offensively against an average Illini defense. Ameer Abdullah has rushed for no less than 98 yards in the Huskers first four games, and I expect him to run for another 100 yard game on Saturday. Armstrong showed a good arm against South Dakota State, but obviously the Illini will present more of a challenge.
Playing in Lincoln doesn't mean what it used to for Nebraska, but it is the reason why I am picking them to defeat Illinois. The offense is once again going to have to carry the load, as I don't forsee the defense being able to slow down the Illini passing game. I think this game will be a shootout that will be decided in the final minutes.
Prediction: Nebraska 34, Illinois 31
Georgia State (0-4) at #1 Alabama (4-0)
The Bama defense looked like the Bama defense of old, shutting out Ole Miss last weekend. Now they spend the month of October biding their team until they host LSU. Playing Georgia State, the goal is to get no one hurt and fine tune a few things.
Prediction: Alabama 44, Georgia State 3
#2 Oregon (4-0, 1-0) at Colorado (2-1, 0-1)
A week before a challenging road test at Washington, the Ducks go to Boulder in what should be their fifth blowout win of the season. They will be without star running back De'Anthony Thomas but that doesn't figure to matter against an overmatched opponent such as the Buffs. No one appears to be in the Ducks league, but last season they ran roughshod over the competition, before coming up short against Stanford. The Pac-12 is deep, and they still have some challenging games with UCLA and the aforementioned Stanford, so Ducks fans shouldn't go booking any trips to the National Championship just yet.
Prediction: Oregon 58, Colorado 21
#3 Clemson (4-0, 2-0) at Syracuse (2-2, 0-0)
Syracuse couldn't ask for a more challenging opponent to make their ACC football debut against. It should be quite the atmosphere in the Carrier Dome for what will be the biggest game there in what feels like forever. The Cuse have won two straight, albeit against poor competition. The Tigers aren't quite the same electrifying offense on the road, so I expect Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins to not completely carve up Syracuse. I think the atmosphere will prove challenging for Clemson, but not enough to suffer the upset loss.
Prediction: Clemson 27, Syracuse 23
#4 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0) at #16 Northwestern (4-0, 3-0)
It is pretty safe to say that this is the biggest game in the history of Northwestern football. A national, primetime audience, and ESPN's College GameDay showing up as the Wildcats try to end Ohio State's 17 game winning streak. Braxton Miller returned in last week's win against Wisconsin and quickly put to rest any talk of a potential quarterback controversy. The Wildcats will have to try to solve the puzzle of Miller to have any chance of pulling off the upset. They also will have to stop Devin Smith from shredding their pass defense. The Wildcats like to get their ground attack going and will be helped by the return of Venric Mark. Treyvon Green filled in well for Mark, but all of the Wildcats stats have to be taken with a grain of salt since they haven't played any real upper echelon competition. Northwestern's defense isn't good enough to help Northwestern pull off this upset. They didn't shut down inferior opponents like Maine, so there isn't reason to think they will be able to slow down Ohio State. I think this game might be close for the first half, but then the Buckeyes will pull away.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Northwestern 24
#15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) at #5 Stanford (4-0, 2-0)
My pick of Washington State to upset Stanford blew up in my face in spectacular fashion. The Cardinal decimated the Cougars and made a statement to the rest of the country that they are for real. They have a chance to make another statement on Saturday, and also get revenge when they host the undefeated Huskies. Washington handed Stanford their only loss last season and did it by forcing turnovers and stopping the Cardinal run game. Stanford didn't have Kevin Hogan under center for that game, and he is what will be the difference this season. Huskies senior QB Keith Price is the key for Washington. He has been doing less running this season, and more passing, which has led to some major success. He is currently completing a ridiculous 72% of his passes. I expect this game to turn into a bit of a shootout. Both teams have pretty good defenses but I think each team's offense is either better. These are two closely matched teams, so to me, homefield advantage for Stanford will make the difference.
Prediction: Stanford 35, Washington 27
#6 Georgia (3-1, 2-0) at Tennessee (3-2, 0-1)
The Bulldogs are riding high after knocking off LSU at home behind a superb performance from their quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray is quieting his doubters as he has reeled off two very impressive wins this season. He figures to continue his success against a porous Tennessee defense. Even without running back Todd Gurley, I don't forsee Georgia suffering a letdown against an overmatched Vols team.
Prediction: Georgia 45, Tennessee 27
#7 Louisville (4-0, 0-0) at Temple (0-4, 0-1)
Louisville begins play in the American Athletic Conference, where they will only be spending one season before moving on to the ACC next year. They are heavy favorites to take the conference as any potential tough conference games they have, are all at home. Temple does not qualify as a tough opponent, more as a way for Teddy Bridgewater to pad his stats and help his Heisman candidacy.
Prediction: Louisville 40, Temple 16
#25 Maryland (4-0, 0-0) at #8 Florida State (4-0, 2-0)
So are all the Randy Edsall haters ready to slow their rolls now? Edsall has Maryland looking great and has them playing in their biggest game in years in Tallahassee this weekend. They also have bonafide stars on offense, including QB C.J. Brown and WR Stefon Diggs. Diggs will be challenged by the fourth ranked defense against the pass in the Seminoles. But you can also say that Seminoles QB Jameis Winston is likely to be challenged in a way he hasn't before. The Seminoles showed a lack of leadership last week when they came out flat at Boston College. They eventually righted the ship and routed the Eagles but can't afford a slow start against the Terps. I don't think the Terps are ready to win a game like this on the road, but they will be competitive and continue to show the nation they are an improved program.
Prediction: Florida State 35, Maryland 26
#10 LSU (4-1, 1-1) at Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1)
The Tigers will be angry after letting a win get away from them at Georgia. It is very strange to see LSU with a great offense and a mediocre defense. If only the offense had ever been at this level the last few years, the Tigers would have been winning some national titles. The honeymoon appears over for Dan Mullen in Starkville. They are leaps and bounds behind the best of the SEC, and are seemingly in perpetual mediocrity. Tigers QB Zach Mettenberger will throw for at least 3 TDs on Saturday.
Prediction: LSU 38, Mississippi State 21
Last Week: 7-2