Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cram Session - Week 5

Thursday, September 25

New York Giants (1-2) at Washington (1-2), Washington favored by 3 1/2

The Giants got a much needed shot of confidence and a victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday. Eli Manning played well, finally going a game without turning the ball over. It helped that RB Rashad Jennings had a monster game, taking pressure off of Manning to force plays. The Skins defense bottled up LeSean McCoy in Sunday's loss but their pass defense and special teams were hit hard by the Eagles. The Redskins are without their number one corner DeAngelo Hall for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. That means that Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle, relatively quiet through the first three weeks of the season could be in line for big games tonight. A major bright spot for the Skins in their loss was the play of QB Kirk Cousins. Cousins made some critical second half mistakes, but overall he was awesome, and if he keeps up this level of play, it will be impossible for Jay Gruden to give Robert Griffin III his job back. Even on a short week, I think that Cousins can keep the same standard of play he had last Sunday. I also believe that Washington will find more success running the ball with Alfred Morris than they did last week. The game will be close, as most Redskins games are, but I like Washington to remain undefeated at home and earn a much needed victory before they host Seattle next week.

Prediction: Washington 31, New York Giants 24

Games That Matter To Me

Illinois (3-1, 0-0) at #21 Nebraska (4-0, 0-0)

Expect points and lots of them when the Illini and Huskers tangle in Lincoln on Saturday night. Nebraska continued their offensive dominance by putting up 41 points on the Hurricanes last Saturday. RB Ameer Abdullah added to his legendary status at Nebraska by rushing for 229 yards and surpassing Johnny Rodgers as the all-time Huskers leader in all-purpose yardage. The Huskers focused on pounding Miami with Abdullah, so QB Tommy Armstrong only threw the ball 13 times. You can't work Abdullah to that level every week, so expect to see some more passing out of Nebraska this weekend. Or, you might just see Armstrong run the ball even more, like he did last week.

The Illini will test the Huskers defense, especially QB Wes Lunt. Lunt is just a sophomore and seems to have taken a major leap forward from his freshman season. Through four games Lunt has 11 TDs and just 3 INTs. Lunt can hit the big play and also is accurate while doing so, completing 65% of his passes thus far this season. Geronimo Allison and freshman Mike Dudek are Lunt;s go to weapons. The Huskers struggled with pass coverage against Miami last week and will be just as challenged by Illinois this week. Nebraska can't focus solely on Illinois' passing game though. RB Josh Ferguson had success against Nebraska last year and is coming off a 190 yard, 2 touchdown performance against Texas State.

Nebraska has to avoid the urge of looking ahead to next week's monster game at Michigan State. That game will lose a lot of its meaning and luster if they don't take care of business at home like they should against Illinois.

Prediction: Nebraska 42, Illinois 31

Top 10

#1 Florida State (3-0, 1-0) at NC State (4-0, 0-0)

The Seminoles long winning streak almost came to an end at the hands of Clemson last week. Jameis Winston went from being suspended for a half to suspended for the entire game. Clemson had chance after chance to knock off the Seminoles, but couldn't get out of their own way and eventually lost in overtime. Winston is back in the lineup this weekend as the Seminoles travel to Raleight to take on the Wolfpack. The Wolfpack have had a lot of success against Florida State at home, but despite their 4-0 record, they are heavy underdogs in this game. That is because two of those wins were close ones at home against Georgia Southern and Old Dominion. The Seminoles last ACC loss was two years ago at NC State but that was before they had Winston. In the two games he played Winston hasn't been near the player he was last season, but Winston at half his best should be enough for Florida State to knock off an overmatched NC State.

Prediction: Florida State 38, NC State 24

Louisiana Tech (2-2) at #5 Auburn (3-0)

The Tigers are coming off an impressive road win at Kansas State. The Wildcats alleged that Auburn was stealing their signals, which of course Auburn denied. Auburn won't have to resort to any signal stealing this weekend at home against Louisiana Tech. However, what Auburn would like to do is get better performances out of their offensive stars, including QB Nick Marshall. Louisiana Tech is coming off a home loss to Northwestern State, so they would seem to be the team for Auburn to break out against. This is Auburn's last cupcake game before a brutal stretch of six straight games against ranked opponents.

Prediction: Auburn 44, Louisiana Tech 14

Arkansas (3-1, 0-1) "at" #6 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0), in Arlington, TX

Jerrah Dome hosts this SEC battle on Saturday. Texas A&M has had three straight weeks of easy opponents since their breakout win at South Carolina to open the season. Arkansas has won three in a row after getting blown out by Auburn in the opener, and is eager to earn their first SEC win under Bret Bielema. This game is another chance for Aggies QB Kenny Hill to add to his legend that he has built in record time. With 13 TDs and 1 INT throw four games, Hill has placed himself in the Heisman trophy discussion. The Aggies defense will have to try to contain the Razorbacks dangerous rushing attack of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. As a unit Collins and Williams have already rushed for 881 yards and 12 touchdowns. I don't think the Aggies will wipe the floor with the Razorbacks like they did South Carolina but I expect them to remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 30

#7 Baylor (3-0, 0-0) at Iowa State (1-2, 0-1)

The Cyclones aren't a juggernaut but they will be the toughest test of this young season Bryce Petty and the Bears.  The Cyclones have a history of pulling off upsets of ranked teams at home in primetime, and the atmosphere will be electric in Ames. Baylor has been electric on offense and is doing it despite suffering injuries to many starters. Petty has dealt with injuries of his own but looked healthy and efficient against Buffalo two weeks ago. Iowa State also had a week off leading up to this game and I expect the first three quarters to be a dogfight, before Petty and company get out of Ames with a victory.

Prediction: Baylor 36, Iowa State 23
#8 Notre Dame (3-0) "at" Syracuse (2-1), in East Rutherford, NJ

After a week off, the Irish look to continue their perfect season, as they travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the Orange of Syracuse. Starting this season, Notre Dame will play at least four or five ACC opponents a season and stretch of the schedule begins this weekend. A fun stat, Notre Dame will be looking to score 30+ points in their first four games of a season for the first time since 1943. Everett Golson will also look to continue his Heisman playing ways against an Orange defense that has had their problems slowing down quarterbacks, including last week in a loss to Maryland. It would be nice if Notre Dame could establish a run game, but that doesn't seem to be a priority of Brian Kelly's. When Notre Dame has to play teams like Stanford and Florida State it will likely come back to bite them, but against Cuse it should be alright.

The Orange's offensive attack centers around stud RB Prince-Tyson Gulley, who is averaging a ridiculous 7 yards per carry. The Orange also have a dual threat at quarterback as Terrel Hunt is Syracuse's leading rusher this season. Hunt passes when only necessary so the Irish defense need to key in on whatever fakes he might try and be prepared to stop him from running. On paper this would appear to be a relatively easy win for Notre Dame but Irish fans won't soon forget 2008, when a God-awful Syracuse team won at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame started off slow against Purdue in its last game before putting them away, so I am hoping for a more consistent, dominant performance in this one.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 17

Wyoming (3-1) at #9 Michigan State (2-1)

Sparty has to make sure they aren't caught looking ahead to next week's game against Nebraska, as they host the Cowboys this weekend. Wyoming gave Oregon a bit of a fight before eventually being steamrolled, something that Michigan State can understand as well. Wyoming will be good preparation for the Huskers rushing attack, as Wyoming is a run first, pass second type of team. 

Prediction: Michigan State 38, Wyoming 13

Memphis (2-1) at #10 Mississippi (3-0)

Picking upsets in college football can be quite difficult. But it is around this point in the season that we begin to see some wacky results. On the surface, Mississippi should be fine to beat Memphis at home. But when looking closer at Memphis, you see a team that is quite good and nearly knocked off UCLA in Pasadena. The Rebels have played no one so far this season and they could look past Memphis as they prepare for the SEC season to begin. Memphis QB Paxton Lynch has been impressive this season and I think he is line for another good game Saturday.  Anyone watching this upset will have to do so on their computer, but it would be worth firing up ESPN3 as it expect this to be an instant classic type game.

Prediction: Memphis 30, Mississippi 27

Last Week: 6-2
Overall: 33-6

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