Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cram Session - Week 2

Starting this week I will begin Cram Session with my pick for the Thursday night NFL game.

Thursday, September 4

Green Bay at Seattle, Seattle favored by 6

It is my Christmas morning, the NFL is back! Per recent NFL tradition the defending, reigning Super Bowl Champion Seahawks get to open at home to kick off the season. I would have gone with them facing their bitter rivals, the 49ers, but you can't argue too much with a Packers/Seahawks tilt. The last time these teams met in Seattle, the infamous Fail Mary occurred and the replacement ref experiment was finally ended. The Seahawks lost some pieces from their Super Bowl winning team of a year ago, but nothing that should set them back too far. Take it with a grain of salt, since it is the preseason but Russell Wilson and the Seahawks first team offense looked unstoppable in the three games they played. The Seahawks are hopeful that they will have a more balanced passing attack this season, to pair with "Beast Mode" Marshawn Lynch. They finally have a healthy Percy Harvin, and it will be interesting to see the many ways they are sure to try to get him the ball. Julius Peppers makes his Packers debut in this game and the Packers also start to learn what life is like without B.J. Raiji. This will be a good first test for the Packers defense to see how much they have improved from a year ago. The Packers have a healthy Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and also discovered least year that with Eddie Lacy they now have a rushing attack as well. Rodgers lost Jermichael Finley and James Jones, but should still have plenty of weapons with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. The Packers have struggled to protect Rodgers at times over the past few seasons, and crowd noise could be a factor for the Green Bay offense. They also have to start rookie Corey Linsley at center, which has the Seahawks defense salivating. I expect this game to be closer than some experts think but the Seahawks seem to never lose at home, and I can't picture them doing so in the first game of the defense of their championship.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Green Bay 23

Games That Matter To Me

Michigan (1-0) at #16 Notre Dame (1-0)

Sadly this will be the last time these two programs meet for the foreseeable future. With Notre Dame's deal with the ACC and playing at least 5 ACC teams a year, something had to give, and that something was the annual Michigan game. Michigan is acting butt hurt about the series ending and claim they will use that as motivation for Saturday's game under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium. Each team is coming off impressive victories against overmatched opponents. The Irish blew past Rice as Everett Golston remained undefeated in the regular season as the starting quarterback for Notre Dame. Golston didn't appear rusty at all, throwing for two touchdowns, almost 300 yards and completing over 60% of his passes. He also rushed for three touchdowns and appears like he will be so much more of a weapon at the position than the immobile Tommy Rees was. If the Rice game was any indication the Irish still don't seem to have a true number on back and will continue to run the ball by committee. Sophomore Tarean Foster led the team in attempts, with Greg Bryant and Cam McDaniel also getting chances. I wish the Irish had one back they could consistently count on but maybe Kelly likes to keep opposing defenses guessing. Golston spread around the ball to his receivers, with William Fuller emerging as the team leader in yards and receptions against Rice. Tight end Ben Koyack and WR Amir Carlisle figure to see the ball at times against the Wolverines.

Last season, Wolverines QB Devin Gardner had a field day against Notre Dame, as the Irish defense had no answer for him. They will have to do a much better job of containing him this year and not letting him find rushing lanes. The Irish secondary will have their hands full with WR Devin Funchess who is coming off a 3 TD game against Appalachian State. The Wolverines also had two backs go for over 100 yards in their season opener, Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith. The Irish defense looked pretty sharp last week, despite dealing with a high amount of turnover. But they will be tested in a whole new way playing Michigan.

Notre Dame vs. Michigan is always close, whether played at Michigan or Notre Dame Stadium. I don't expect this year's edition to be any different. I believe the key to this game and ultimate winner will be the team that wins the turnover battle. Notre Dame has to pressure Gardner and force him to make some bad decisions. They also will have to do their damnedest to contain Funchess and also not let the Michigan backs go wild. I expect a thrilling finish and the Irish to close this series out with a win.

Prediction: Notre Dame 23, Michigan 19
McNeese State (0-0) at #19 Nebraska (1-0)

Sure it was against lowly Florida Atlantic, but the Huskers are feeling pretty good about themselves after piling up points and playing tough defense against the Owls. Ameer Abdullah added to his legend by rushing for 232 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Terrell Newby also went over 100 yards and quarterback Tommy Armstrong had a respectable outing, although his completion percentage needs to improve. The Nebraska receiving corps looked strong as well. Sophomore Jordan Westerkamp had a highlight reel catch to go with 7 receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Bell also had over 100 yards receiving.

Things figure to be even easier this week when they host McNeese State. After this game the schedule starts to heat up a bit for Nebraska as they travel to Fresno State and then host Miami. So the goal for this game is to keep everyone healthy, and work out some final kinks before the games become a lot more challenging.

Prediction: Nebraska 60, McNeese State 13

Top 10

Citadel (0-1) at #1 Florida State (1-0)

The Seminoles got more trouble than they expected from Oklahoma State and barely escaped with a victory. Jameis Winston made some mistakes and didn't look like the same passing quarterback we saw last season. However, his rushing skills were still on display, as he had an incredible touchdown run late in the game. The Seminoles have a week off after this game before they start their ACC schedule at home against Clemson. This game should provide Winston the chance to gain back any confidence he might have lost against the Cowboys.

Prediction: Florida State 63, Citadel 6

Florida Atlantic (0-1) at #2 Alabama (1-0)

Alabama was another top ranked team that got more trouble than expected, as they had to fend off West Virginia. The normally stout Alabama defense had trouble with the many exotic looks that Dana Holgersen's offense employs. QB Blake Sims played the majority of the game but with an easier opponent this week, expect to see more of Jake Coker. 

Prediction: Alabama 42, Florida Atlantic 9

#7 Michigan State (1-0) at #3 Oregon (1-0)

Easily the game of the weekend is this battle pitting Top 10 foes against each other in Eugene, Oregon. It is the high powered offense of the Ducks against the impenetrable defense of the Spartans. Each team crushed in their warm up games last week, so this game will give us our first real taste for what types of teams these two should be this season. Spartan fans were also encouraged by the play of QB Connor Cook last week. It was against Jacksonville State but still, going 12 for 13 for 285 yards and three touchdowns against anyone is impressive. The other offensive star in that game was WR Tony Lippett who had 167 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. The Spartans backs, Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill didn't do too much though and that figures to have to improve for them to have a chance on Saturday.

The most intriguing aspect of Saturday's game will be how Oregon does against a tough defense. We have seen their high powered offense shut down to nothing in the past when punched in the mouth. They will have the advantage of this game being at home, but that doesn't mean things will be easy for QB Marcus Mariota. The Spartans best defensive players are DE Shilque Calhoun and LB Taiwan Jones. If the Spartans are able to disrupt the Ducks you will likely hear those two names called a lot on the broadcast. Mariota's newest receiving weapon is freshman Darren Carrington, and if he plays anything like he did last week, than RB Byron Marshall could be a major factor as a receiver out of backfield. Marshall ran the ball well last week and forms a two headed monster with heralded freshman Royce Freeman.

I think the Ducks will win this game but it won't be because their offense overwhelms Michigan State. The Ducks are going to have to fight hard to earn their points but I think they will score just enough to outlast the Spartans.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Michigan State 21

#4 Oklahoma (1-0) at Tulsa (1-0)

I'd much rather talk about the Sooners game next week with Tennessee than what is sure to be a blowout victory at Tulsa. It is nice of Oklahoma to give Tulsa a home game against them, but the beatdown they are sure to provide is not so nice.

Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Tulsa 14

San Jose State (1-0) at #5 Auburn (1-0)

Expect the Tigers to run the ball and run it some more. Let down effect might be present in this game since Auburn is coming off an SEC game to start the season and after this faces a Thursday, prime time matchup at Kansas State. But any letdown won't be enough for the Spartans to spring an upset.

Prediction: Auburn 40, San Jose State 16

Virginia Tech (1-0) at #8 Ohio State (1-0)

As expected, Navy gave Ohio State all they could handle for most of the game, but eventually Ohio State's edge in talent won out. The Buckeyes respectable non-conference slate continues as they host Virgina Tech. The Hokies aren't quite the college football power they once were, but Ohio State had no way of knowing that back when they scheduled this game. The Buckeyes had to be encouraged by how QB J.T. Barrett played, earning freshman of the week honors in the Big Ten. The Hokies demolished William & Mary in Week 1 and debuted a quarterback of their own in Michael Brewer. It also looks like Tech may have found another stud RB as freshman Shai McKenzie is coming off a 106 yards, 1 touchdown game on just 9 carries. I think this game will play out similarly to the Navy game for the Buckeyes. I expect this game to remain competitive almost the entire way before Ohio State pulls away late.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Virginia Tech 21

Lamar (1-0) at #9 Texas A&M (1-0)

The Aggies put the college football world on notice by destroying South Carolina on the road last week. New quarterback Kenny Hill has been given the not so creative nickname of Kenny Football, but if he plays like he did last week, Johnny Football might be forgotten in College Station quicker than anyone could have imagined.

Prediction: Texas A&M 52, Lamar 17

Northwestern State (0-1) at #10 Baylor (1-0)

The biggest news coming out of Baylor's shutout of SMU was the injury to star QB Bryce Petty. However, even with an easy opponent like Northwestern State coming to Waco, Petty sounds like he thinks he will play Saturday. Defense hasn't been the Bears strong suit in their resurrection as a program the last few years, but that might be changing in 2014. In last week's win Baylor held the Mustangs to just 67 total yards, which is absurd.

Prediction: Baylor 48, Northwestern State 7

Last Week: 10-1
Overall: 10-1

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