Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cram Session - Week 4

Thursday, September 18

Tampa Bay (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1), Atlanta favored by 6 1/2

I am not anti-Thursday NFL like some people are. I don't necessarily buy into the theory that the games are of lower quality due to the short turnaround. I have an insatiable appetite to watch the NFL and like having the option on Thursdays. However, because of the NFL's edict that each team play a Thursday night game, you get left with dud matchups like this week's. People in Atlanta and Tampa Bay might care about this game but even that is somewhat debatable knowing the fanbases in those cities. The Falcons were feeling pretty good about themselves after their win over the Saints in Week 1, but were whipped by the Bengals last Sunday and know they have a long way to go. The Buccaneers were though of by many as this year's sleeper success story. But two home losses to Derek Anderson and Austin Davis have made it clear that Lovie Smith has a ton of work on his hands. So far, the Josh McCown pick up looks to be a bust. The Bucs rank 31st in the league in passing through two games and it appears like it might have been a mistake to shove Mike Glennon to the sidelines to make room for McCown. Tonight will be telling because so far the Falcons defense has been atrocious in all facets. If McCown and the Tampa offense can't get anything going against Atlanta, their may be no hope for this offense. Signs are pointing to Doug Martin returning for the game but the Bucs have to be wondering how much they can count on Martin to be a factor. The Falcons are typically a strong home team and that figures to play in their favor in a short week.

Prediction: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 17

Games That Matter To Me

Miami (2-1) at #24 Nebraska (3-0)

Hard to not get nostalgic when thinking about Miami playing Nebraska. My favorite memory from this rivalry is when the Cornhuskers won their first national championship under Tom Osborne by beating Miami in the Orange Bowl. I will never forget Huskers fullback Corey Schlesinger slicing through the Miami defense, and watching Warren Sapp with hands on his knees, a tired and beaten man. The stature of these programs has gone down quite a bit since then, as Nebraska blowing out Fresno State last week is what made this matchup not just a game between two unranked teams. This figures to come down to a battle between Nebraska's dominant offense and the Canes tough defense. That is not to say Miami is without weapons on offense. They have an excellent running back in Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett is coming off a 200 yard receiving game against Arkansas State last weekend. Canes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has been up and down as freshman usually are, throwing 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in three games. Kaaya has had trouble with his accuracy but should be feeling confident after a 4 touchdown performance against Arkansas State.

The Huskers offense hit big play after big play at Fresno State last week. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. had his best game of the season, coming oh so close to completing 60% of his passes. RB Ameer Abdullah is averaging 7 yards a carry, and Jordan Westerkamp is turning into a star at receiver, scoring a touchdown in each game this year. In Week 1 the Canes were overwhelmed on the road against a ranked Louisville team and I expect a similar result for this game on Saturday. I think Nebraska's offensive skill will eventually overwhelm the Miami defense, and I think Kaaya will make a lot of mistakes in a tough place to play.

Prediction: Nebraska 34, Miami 24

Top 10

Thursday, September 18

#5 Auburn (2-0) at #20 Kansas State (2-0)

The Tigers best beware of the Thursday night upset, especially when you have to go on the road. Auburn is favored by 9 in this game, but my upset senses are tingling. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall had some Heisman talk prior to the season but has been underwhelming in the 1 1/2 games he has played this year. Auburn isn't much of a passing team though, so for Kansas State to spring the upset they must focus on stopping Auburn's rushing attack. That attack is a three headed monster of Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Kansas State has a dual threat weapon of their own at quarterback, Jake Waters. The senior is coming off a 239 yard passing and 138 yard rushing game against Iowa State. Sophomore running back Charles Jones has big play capabilities, averaging over 6 yards a carry. Both of these teams have had a week and a half to prepare for this game. I expect to see a tightly contested battle, with tons of drama and great athleticism from Marshall and Waters. In the end, I think it will be a good night for the Big 12 as they knock off the SEC.

Prediction: Kansas State 27, Auburn 20

Saturday, September 20

#22 Clemson (1-1, 0-0) at #1 Florida State (2-0, 0-0)

The big news coming into this game is the first half suspension of Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston. Being perhaps the dumbest person on the planet, Winston decided to yell out something about having sex with cats in a common area at school and is now being disciplined for it. If I am an NFL team, I don't care about how talented Winston is, he is dumb as a box of rocks and I want him nowhere near my team. Sean Maguire will star the first half for the Noles and the Tigers will be chomping at the bit to tee off on him and assert themselves in that first half. Clemson is still smarting from the embarrassing beatdown given to them by Florida State last season in Death Valley. With Winston sitting out the first half that could mean a heavy dose of Seminoles running back Karlos Williams in the first half. Tigers quarterback Cole Staudt will look to improve his game after suffering a poor performance in the season opener at Georgia a few weeks ago. Winston's absence will be felt in the first half, but not to a point that Florida State won't be able to recover from. Seminoles will pull the game out in the second half and Winston will celebrate by f@*!ing a girl right in the pu@@y, hopefully consensually.

Prediction: Florida State 38, Clemson 31

#2 Oregon (3-0, 0-0) at Washington State (1-2, 0-0)

The Ducks open the Pac-12 season in Pullman against Mike Leach's Cougars. Washington State can pile up the points but they aren't very good at stopping opposing teams from doing the same. Washington State gave up 38 points to Rutgers anemic offense a few weeks ago, so Marcus Mariota and company should be salivating about what they might do this weekend.

Prediction: Oregon 56, Washington State 24

Florida (2-0, 1-0) at #3 Alabama (3-0, 0-0)

This is a spotlight game because of name value but the current incarnation of the Gators don't figure to put up much of a fight in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The Gators were lucky to escape with a victory against Kentucky in Gainesville last weekend. They didn't look anything like a team ready to travel on the road and give the #3 team in the country a good game. It doesn't seem to matter who is at quarterback for Bama, the plan is simply get the ball to wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper "only" had 8 catches against Southern Miss last weekend, slightly less than the 12 and 13 catches he had in the first two games this season. The Gators secondary is young and was torched by the Wildcats last week, so expect Cooper to have another huge day.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Florida 14

#4 Oklahoma (3-0, 0-0) at West Virginia (2-1, 0-0)

The Sooners could be on upset alert this week as they travel to couch burning country to take on the Mountaineers. Oklahoma will be without leading rusher and pass catching threat Keith Ford for this game. The Sooners will no doubt miss him but have an abundance of talent at the running back position, including Samaje Perine, who averages over 5 yards a carry. The most intriguing matchup will be how Oklahoma's defense fares against Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett. Against Maryland last week, Trickett completed 75.5% of his 49 passes for 511 yards in West Virginia's 40-37 victory. The Sooners defense is 8th in the country in points allowed so if Trickett can play well against them the Mountaineers will really know what a stud they have at the position. The previous two meetings between these teams have been pretty close, and I expect this one to follow that script.

Prediction: Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 35

#6 Texas A&M (3-0) at SMU (0-2)

This game is slightly notable because it is the first game for new SMU coach Tom Mason, who is replacing the recently resigned June Jones for the season. Jones resigned after the Mustangs were obliterated by both Baylor and North Texas to open the season. Offense had always been Jones calling card but the Mustangs have scored just 6 points in two games. Kenny Hill and company should find themselves with another easy victory before opening up SEC play next weekend.

Prediction: Texas A&M 45, SMU 10

Mississippi State (3-0, 0-0) at #8 LSU (3-0, 0-0)

This is the conference opener for each of these teams and after this game we should know a lot more about where they truly stand. The Bulldogs have played no one worth a damn yet, while LSU is three weeks removed from their come from behind win against Wisconsin. LSU is currently second in the country in points allowed per game, and their passing defense has been especially stingy. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott has a terrible name but has thrown 9 touchdowns through three games. The Tigers are going to look to ram the ball down the Bulldogs throats with running backs Kenny Hilliard and Heisman trophy posing freshman Leonard Fournette.

Prediction: LSU 33, Mississippi State 20

Last Week: 8-2
Overall: 27-4

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