Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cram Session - Week 3

Thursday, September 11

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Baltimore (0-1), Baltimore favored by 2 1/2

Normally, one of the best rivalries in the NFL would be getting the spotlight shone on it, with it airing in primetime tonight. However, dominating the headlines is former Ravens RB Ray Rice. For some reason people needed to actually see him hit his wife to understand that is why we saw video of her a few months ago, knocked out. This changed everything for everyone. The Ravens cut Rice immediately, and Roger Goodell upped Rice's suspension from 2 games to indefinitely. I am sure during this game, the announcers will mention it from time to time but eventually all eyes will be on this intense rivalry. It is always hard hitting and a guaranteed close game when these teams meet. The Ravens have to move on with their season and another home loss within the division would be catastrophic. Joe Flacco made one of the most boneheaded plays you will ever see a quarterback make last week. The Ravens were driving to end the half and had a chance to kick a field goal. Flacco's dumbass runs around the field and lets the clock run out, and the Ravens get zero points. Just more proof that the Ravens severely overpaid him. The Steelers got off to a fast start at home against Cleveland, before letting the Browns back into the game. They eventually pulled out the win but have to be slightly concerned with how their defense played. On the positive side, their running game looked good, especially Le'Veon Bell. I thought the Ravens would be too tough at home against Cincy last week and was wrong, but I'm stubborn and choose to go to that well once again this week.

Prediction: Baltimore 24, Pittsburgh 21

Games That Matter To Me

Purdue (1-1) at #11 Notre Dame (2-0) in Indianapolis, IN

The 2014 season seems to be about end of an era for Notre Dame and Big Ten opponents. They ended their rivalry with Michigan last week in resounding fashion, blowing and shutting them out 31-0. Saturday's game with Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium will be the last time these teams play each other for at least 6 years. The Boilermakers probably won't be shedding too many tears over this rivalry temporarily ending, as the Irish have dominated, including a current six game winning streak.

Everett Golson has been fantastic through two games and is starting to receive some early Heisman trophy buzz. He is completing 66% of his passes and has 5 throwing touchdowns, 3 rushing touchdowns and no interceptions. The run game is still not at the level the Irish need it to be. Through two games, Notre Dame doesn't have a running back that has even broken 100 yards rushing on the season, let alone in a game. Some of that has to do with the sharing system that Kelly has going as Tarean Folston leads the team with just 21 carries. WR William Fuller seems to be entrenching himself as Golson's number one target, leading the team with 13 catches and two touchdowns. Amir Carlisle is also coming off a big game against Michigan, he had 7 catches and two touchdowns.

Purdue enters this game off an embarrassing loss at home to Central Michigan, 38-17. Sophomore QB Danny Etling was terrible, throwing 2 picks and barely completing over 50% of his passes. His life could become even more miserable Saturday against a Notre Dame defense that dominated Michigan. RB Raheem Mostert had a monster game in week 1 against Western Michigan but was shut down by Central Michigan. Etling's weapons are almost non-existent. The Boilermakers leading receiver is tight end Justin Sinz and he has just 10 catches in two games. The Boilermakers are challenged offensively, and you can bet the Irish defense will be like a shark smelling blood going against this offense.

Hopefully Notre Dame doesn't take Purdue too lightly, even if this looks like it should be a cakewalk victory. As long as they have prepared themselves right for this game and play with the right attitude, the Irish should breeze to a 3-0 start to the season.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Purdue 14

Nebraska (2-0) at Fresno State (0-2)

Any good feelings the Huskers had engendered after Week 1, quickly dissipated after they struggled to beat I-AA McNeese State at home last weekend. It took an incredible play from Ameer Abdullah in the final seconds for the Huskers to pull out the victory. This week they travel on the road for the first time this season against Fresno State. East coast Huskers fans might be up until 2 AM watching this game if Nebraska is stuck in another close one. However, the Bulldogs have been soundly defeated by two Pac-12 schools to start the season in USC and Utah, so one would hope that Nebraska can do the same. Tommy Armstrong is still struggling with his accuracy, remaining barely over 50% on his completions. Abdullah is an amazing talent, but last week he struggled rushing and it was apparent how much the Huskers rely on him offensively. I would be surprised if he is held in check by Fresno State this weekend, but that doesn't change the fact that Armstrong needs to start throwing the ball better.

The Bulldogs have a split quarterback system between Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette. They might prefer if one outshone the other but both have been pretty much equally marginal through two games. Burrell is a little less mistake prone than the interception happy Connette. The Bulldogs number one receiver is Josh Harper, who leads the team with 12 catches for 139 yards after two games. If the Bulldogs can keep this game close they might be able to give more touches to RB Marteze Waller, who is averaging over 5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs have been getting so far behind though that it is hard for Waller to have much of an impact.

I am hopeful that Nebraska plays angry this weekend and with something to prove. The Bulldogs are the perfect victim for Nebraska to take their aggression on. They aren't very good offensively and are terrible defensively. Anything other than a dominant victory will be very disappointing for Nebraska going into their home game with Miami next weekend.

Prediction: Nebraska 41, Fresno State 21

Top 10

Friday, September 12

#8 Baylor (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1)

The Bears will get back QB Bryce Petty for this game, not that they would probably even need him to beat a team of the Bulls caliber. The Bears are finally done playing cupcakes after this week and open up their Big 12 schedule.

Prediction: Baylor 45, Buffalo 10

Saturday, September 13

Wyoming (2-0) at #2 Oregon (2-0)

The Ducks showed some toughness against Michigan State last weekend that many questioned whether or not they had. After getting punched in the mouth and trailing by 9 points in the second half, Oregon rallied and ended up crushing the Spartans. The Cowboys defense has been strong in their first two victories but that doesn't mean they will have an answer for Marcus Mariota and company.

Prediction: Oregon 49, Wyoming 16

Southern Miss (1-1) at #3 Alabama (2-0)

Bama's blowout win over Florida Atlantic last week was cut short due to lightning. The game was still long enough for Bama to be able to afford a lot of playing time to their dual quarterback system of Blake Sims and Jake Coker. I would expect these two to both play a large amount of time against the porous Golden Eagles. It is Bama's last cupcake for a while before their begin their SEC schedule with Florida next week. It doesn't seem to matter who the quarterback is, Amari Cooper is going to catch a lot of passes, 25 in fact through just two games this season.

Prediction: Alabama 44, Southern Miss 7

Tennesee (2-0) at #4 Oklahoma (2-0)

Based on records this would have been a marquee matchup about a decade ago. Now, it is still gets primetime billing but mostly because the schedule is so craptastic this weekend. While Tennessee isn't elite, they do play in the SEC, a conference that Sooners coach Bob Stoops always enjoys earning victories against. Plus, the Vols do have some talented players, like quarterback Justin Worley, that will be some good competition for the Sooners defense to compete against before they start their Big 12 schedule.

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Tennessee 21

#6 Georgia (2-0, 0-0) at #24 South Carolina (1-1, 0-1)

The Bulldogs can essentially end the Gamecocks SEC East hopes with a win on Saturday. South Carolina has looked less than impressive in their first two games but were at least on the winning side of things against East Carolina last weekend. One thing they can perhaps take solace in is how they have thoroughly dominated Georgia at home in the last two meetings in South Carolina. However, times have changed and the Bulldogs are confident that with outstanding running back Todd Gurley leading the way, they can erase those demons. The Bulldogs also have the benefit of having last week off and almost 2 weeks to prepare for this game. Gurley will likely have to carry the load because quarterback Hutson Mason didn't make many people forget about Aaron Murray after the game against Clemson. Mason was accurate but threw for just 131 yards and no touchdowns. Now, the Cocks have shown themselves to be susceptible to the pass, so the chances should be there for Mason to senior receiver Michael Bennett.

The Cocks are led by Dylan Thompson who is one South Carolina player that has played pretty well during the team's sluggish start. RB Mike Davis played much better last week after not getting to see the ball much in the opener against Texas A&M. Thompson also has some dangerous receiving weapons in Nick Jones and Pharoh Cooper.

Recently, the games between these teams have turned into routs for each side but I expect a close, back and forth affair this year. I think the two weeks preparation will be a real edge for Georgia, and they just are a more confident bunch right now than South Carolina. More importantly, they are the better team.

Prediction: Georgia 34, South Carolina 27

Rice (0-1) at #7 Texas A&M (2-0)

Should be another ho-hum victory for the Aggies and a chance for quarterback Kenny Hill to pad his stats.

Prediction: Texas A&M 55, Rice 21

#9 USC (2-0) at Boston College (1-1)

The Trojans earned a massive road win at Stanford last week, but unfortunately for them it was overshadowed by their Athletic Director Pat Haden going to the sidelines to argue with officials. What really upset people is that Haden is a member of the new College Football Playoff Selection committee, so people though his behavior gave the committee a whole a bad look. It was an odd scene but I think some people are just looking for a reason to be outraged or create a story. RB Javorius Allen is beginning to emerge as a star for the Trojans. The Eagles aren't very good, but I think the Trojans having to travel cross country for this game will have an effect and make it closer than some might expect.

Prediction: USC 28, Boston College 20

UL Monroe (2-0) at #10 LSU (2-0)

Two undefeated' teams from the state of Louisiana do battle! UL Monroe is undefeated because of playing Wake Forest and Idaho though, nothing like the level of competition they will see in Baton Rouge Saturday night. LSU begins conference play next weekend so they just want to win and stay healthy this weekend.

Prediction: LSU 40, UL Monroe 14

Last Week: 9-1
Overall: 19-2

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