Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cram Session - Week 9

Thursday, October 24

Carolina (3-3) at Tampa Bay (0-6), Carolina favored by 6

The Thursday night schedule is mostly atrocious from here on out. For any of you on Twitter expect to see plenty of comments talking about this game sucking because the players are tired from not having enough rest. Ignore that noise, this game would suck if these teams had 3 weeks to rest and prepare for each other. All of that being said, I have a football sickness so I will be watching this game. I mean I dedicated a few hours to Giants/Vikings last Monday and that was one of the most disgusting games I have ever watched. Cam Newton should provide some slight entertainment in this game, as he is quietly having a pretty strong season and has been at his best the last two weeks. The Bucs have pretty much been in every game, but always do just enough to ensure they remain winless.

Prediction: Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 21

Games That Matter To Me

Notre Dame (5-2) at Air Force (1-6)

So maybe Tommy Rees aint that bad? Well he still isn't all that great but compared to Andrew Hendrix he is Joe Montana. The Irish could probably beat a bad Air Force team with Hendrix at quarterback but thankfully Rees is already practicing and set to start Saturday afternoon. Rees has played well against bad defenses and he faces a really bad defense on Saturday.

Defensively, the Irish know what they have to do to stop Air Force. The Falcons hardly throw the ball and are all about the run. Air Force has started three quarterbacks this season and will either start freshman Nate Romine or Karson Roberts in this game. Romine actually made some plays in the passing game last week against San Diego State, but the Falcons still blew a 20-6 lead in the fourth quarter. The players to really pay attention to on the Falcons are their running backs. Broam Hart and and Jon Lee were not really getting the job done, so it appears the new primary back is senior Anthony LaCoste who ran for 109 yards against the Aztecs.

Notre Dame should be able to run and throw the ball effectively against Air Force. Cam McDaniel is starting to emerge as Notre Dame's best running back, averaging over 5 yards a carry for the second straight game last week. An encouraging sign from the USC game was the play of tight end Troy Niklas. Tight end has been a position of strength for Notre Dame for years now and the junior is starting to make more and more big plays each week.

This should be a game that the Irish win with relative ease. If they struggle to put away Air Force like they did Purdue a month back it would be highly disconcerting.

Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Air Force 17

#24 Nebraska (5-1, 2-0) at Minnesota (5-2, 1-2)

Props to the Nebraksa AD for putting together this schedule as he got his team two bye weeks in the past month. The time off has the Huskers hopeful that Taylor Martinez could make his return for what will be a challenging road game at Minnesota. The Huskers defense has looked much better in recent weeks and is facing a Golden Gophers offense that isn't all that fearsome. The Gophers have employed two quarterbacks this season, alternating between Mitch Leidner and Phillip Nelson. Leidner has been sick this week so Nelson might get the start. Both quarterbacks are dual threats that can run the ball effectively. Minnesota is also without their head coach Jerry Kill, who is finally taking some time off to deal with the seizures he has been having during games the last few years.

The Gophers offense is most effective when they can run the ball, which they did with success against Northwestern last weekend. David Cobb went over 100 yards for just the second time this season. Contrast that with Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska who hasn't gone over 100 yards rushing just one time this season and in that game he had 98 yards. If Martinez plays expect to see a lot more plays from WR Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa who have been quieted some recently by the shift at quarterback. Robert Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. have been splitting time but in their last game against Purdue Kellogg looked much sharper than Armstrong.

The Gophers have some confidence after going on the road and beating Northwestern. Plus, they will be motivated to play well for coach Kill who is expected to be watching the game from the press box. I don't expect an easy day for the Huskers, who may actually be a bit rusty from the extra time off they have had. Hopefully, Martinez can return for this game and start to get back into game shape as the Huskers Big Ten schedule gets tougher over the next month.

Prediction: Nebraska 30, Minnesota 24

Top 10

Tennessee (4-3, 1-2) at #1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0)

Tennessee is riding high after upsetting South Carolina, and that has caused some people to say Alabama should be on upset alert this weekend. I'm not buying it. This is the same Vols team that was completely outclassed on the road by the number three team in the country, Oregon. They were also helped in their upset win by the injury to South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw. Since giving up 42 points against Texas A&M, Bama has allowed a total of 16 points in their last five games. That is some lights out defense.

Prediction: Alabama 41, Tennessee 7

North Carolina State (3-3, 0-3) at #2 Florida State (6-0, 4-0)

People have been dying for it to be true for years but after the way they tore apart Clemson on the road last week, it is finally true, Florida State is back! What they did to Clemson should have been illegal, it was that bad of a butt whooping. Jameis Winston might quickly be moving to the top of the Heisman leaderboard. He has 20 TDs, 3 INTs and is completing an insane 71 percent of his passes, and he is only a redshirt freshman. That 71% completion percentage isn't some fluky dink and dunk number either. He is averaging 12 yards per attempt. North Carolina State has been the Seminoles bugaboo over the years, including last season when they handed Florida State their first loss of the season. If that happens this season, I will go run naked throughout my apartment complex.

Prediction: Florida State 45, North Carolina State 10

#12 UCLA (5-1, 2-1) at #3 Oregon (7-0, 4-0)

The game of the weekend is in Eugene, Oregon as the Bruins become the latest team to try to slow down the Ducks offensive arsenal. Believe it or not the Ducks offense could be even better Saturday as De'Anthony Thomas is expected to return after missing three games due to injury. The news isn't as good for the Bruins when it comes to the run game as Jordon James is expected to miss his third straight game. That means a lot of pressure will once again fall on the shoulders of quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley struggled trying to carry the offense last week at Stanford, throwing 2 interceptions. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota apparently doesn't have the word struggle in his vocabulary. He still hasn't thrown an interception this season and is also the Ducks second leading rusher. I think the UCLA defense can hold the Ducks to their smallest point total of the season but unfortunately for them all that will mean is the Ducks might score less than 45. To beat the Ducks you need to be healthy, something the Bruins aren't right now.

Prediction: Oregon 41, UCLA 27

Penn State (4-2, 1-1) at #4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)

Ohio State had way too much trouble at home against Iowa last week. Adding to that, their close win over Northwestern looks worse and worse as the Wildcats have completely collapsed since having to play teams with a pulse. After the preponderance of upsets we saw last week, it is the cool thing to say everyone is on upset alert where you wouldn't expect it. I am not going to let one weekend of crazy results completely shift my thinking. It is weird that people went from such doom and gloom for the Penn State program two years ago, to now saying they can go into Columbus on a Saturday night and upset Ohio State. The Buckeyes defense is their Achilles heel, but Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are too good for the Nittany Lions to slow down.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Penn State 24

#21 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2) at #5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0)

The Tigers have come from out of nowhere to all the sudden front runners in the SEC East and a part of the national championship picture. They took advantage of depleted rosters on Georgia and Florida and are quickly going from the role of underdog to favorite. Most impressive about their win over Florida was the play of freshman quarterback Maty Mauk. Mauk was facing a very good defense in the Gators in his first ever start and managed to throw for 336 yards. I thought the Tigers season was probably over once they lost James Franklin but Mauk might be up to the challenge. The Gamecocks didn't show that same level of resiliency when Connor Shaw went down to injury against Tennessee. Once Dylan Thompson came in the Cocks couldn't move the ball and it cost them the game. Maybe with a week to prepare Thompson will play better, as he has come in and played well for Shaw in the past. I am tempted to pick the slight upset and go with South Carolina, but without Shaw, I don't trust their offense to make enough plays on the road.

Prediction: Missouri 28, South Carolina 26

#6 Stanford (6-1, 4-1) at #25 Oregon State (6-1, 4-0)

Oregon State fell off the national radar after an embarrassing opening game home loss to Eastern Washington. But since that time they haven't lost and are right there with Oregon tied for first place in the Pac-12 North. The best quarterback you haven't heard of is Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion. Mannion has already thrown for a ridiculous 29 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It is an incredible improvement from his first two seasons when he had 31 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. The biggest beneficiary of his sudden improvement has been WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks has 76 catches and 12 touchdowns in just 7 games! The Beavers may run into trouble though, because slowing down the pass is the specialty of the Stanford defense. The Stanford offense doesn't put up video game numbers but they have weapons throwing and running the ball. The Beavers have had trouble slowing teams down all season and when faced with a tough defense like Stanford's, I expect that Mannion will look a little more like the Mannion of old.

Prediction: Stanford 37, Oregon State 30

Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) at #7 Miami (6-0, 2-0)

The U has moved up to number 7 but an underwhelming win at North Carolina left me feeling that the bottom could fall very soon. The good news is that RB Duke Johnson should play in this game, which should take some pressure off inconsistent quarterback Stephen Morris. Wake Forest has won two in a row, but when they had to play some tough competition a few weeks back, they lost 56-7 to Clemson. I think they will keep this game a bit closer but lose, setting up the top 10 showdown next week between the U and Florida State.

Prediction: Miami 34, Wake Forest 20

#8 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) at Kansas (2-4, 0-3)

The Bears have cracked the Top 10 and Art Briles is proving that he built a program to last and one that is bigger than just Robert Griffin III. Baylor leads the nation in scoring, averaging a robust 64.7 points per game. Surprisingly, their defense is in the Top 10 when it comes to points allowed per game, ranking 7th while giving up 16 points per game. Baylor has weapons all over the field and leading the offensive unit is quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty has thrown for 15 TDs, and just one interception. You don't just have to worry about Petty though, RB Lache Seastrunk is averaging almost 10 yards per carry. We will find out just how for real the Bears are over the next three weeks as they face ranked opponents Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. The good news for Baylor is that only Oklahoma State will be on the road.

Prediction: Baylor 55, Kansas 17

#9 Clemson (6-1, 4-1) at Maryland (5-2, 1-2)

It will be very interesting to see how the Tigers respond a week after their disheartening loss to Florida State. They can either galvanize themselves, or let their season go off the rails. Dabo Swinney will be tested as a coach like never before. Clemson did suffer that embarrassing Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia a few years ago, but Swinney didn't have to get his guys ready for a game a week after that one. Fortunately for Clemson the annual injury bug has started to hit Maryland. Star receive Stefon Diggs broke his leg in last week's loss to Wake Forest and is out for the season. Any game now the Terrapins should start losing their quarterbacks one by one. Without their best offensive playmaker, I don't like the Terps chances against the Tigers.

Prediction: Clemson 34, Maryland 26

#10 Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0) at #15 Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1)

Kliff Kingsbury is on his way to becoming the hottest young name in coaching. He has the Red Raiders off to their best start since their memorable 2008 season. The Sooners aren't quite as good as they have been in years past, but winning in Norman is still the benchmark for proving yourself as one of the top dogs in the Big 12. Much like Baylor the Red Raiders haven't had to face too much difficult competition, but with Oklahoma this week and Oklahoma State next week, we will know a whole lot more about whether the Red Raiders are contenders or pretenders. The Red Raiders defense was a bright spot to start the year but the last three weeks they have shown signs of cracking. Sooners quarterback Blake Bell will be looking to take advantage of those cracks, especially since the Sooners run game has disappeared the last few weeks. If this game was at Texas Tech I would take the Red Raiders, but expecting Red Raiders freshman quarterback Davis Webb to win his first start in Normal is too much to ask.

Prediction: Oklahoma 28, Texas Tech 27

Last Week: 6-4
Overall: 68-10

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