Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cram Session - Week 10

Thursday, October 30

New Orleans (3-4) at Carolina (3-4-1), New Orleans favored by 3

The Saints were impressive in blowing out the Packers last week, but again, it was another home victory. They have proven time and time again they can win and dominate teams at the Superdome. However, they have not proven they can win on the road, where they are 0-4 this season. Despite that, Vegas has inserted them as the favorites for tonight's tilt at Carolina. The Panthers are in bit of a free fall, having won just once in their past six games. They finally got a strong performance out of their defense last weekend, but the offense could hardly move the ball. They hope to have their running game back to normal with the return of DeAngelo Williams tonight. The Saints rushing attack has been bolstered by the sudden emergence of Mark Ingram. Ingram looked like a bust his first few seasons in the league but has been excellent this season. The Saints have to break this road bugaboo at some point and tonight seems like as good a chance as any against a struggling Panthers team.

Prediction: New Orleans 30, Carolina 28

Games That Matter To Me

Saturday, November 1

Purdue (3-5, 1-3) at #15 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1)

Each week Ameer Abdullah seems to add to his legend. Last week, he rushed for three touchdowns and over 200 yards for the second time this season. He now has 1,249 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on the season. He will have a chance to boost those stats even further against a porous Purdue defense. Tommy Armstrong has played well the last few weeks, and the key for Nebraska is to limit him to 30 or less attempts. When he has gone over that either Nebraska has lost (Michigan State) or had to scrape by with a win (McNeese State).

Purdue has lost two straight games but has been much more competitive as the season has gone along. They were able to put up 31 points against Michigan State and had a lead against Minnesota before eventually losing by one. Their improved play, especially offensively has coincided with the insertion of Austin Appelby at quarterback. Appelby is the latest in a growing trend of dual threat quarterbacks, and rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Gophers two weeks ago. RB Akeem Hunt is no Abduallah but mostly because he doesn't get the right amount of carries. He nearly rushed for 100 yards in each of his past two games while only getting 12 and 17 carries.

The Huskers should win this game relatively easily and hopefully stay healthy before a week off and then they travel to Wisconsin in a game that could determine whether or not they make it to the Big Ten Championship game.

Prediction: Nebraska 45, Purdue 27

Top 10

Thursday, October 30

#2 Florida State (7-0, 4-0) at #25 Louisville (6-2, 4-2)

The Seminoles are on major upset alert as they travel to Papa John's Stadium tonight. They have already had a few close calls this season and this will easily be their toughest road test of the year. They had to deal with more distractions this week as running back Karlos Williams was being investigated for domestic battery. The investigation appears to be ending soon since the victim doesn't want to press charges and Williams will play tonight. The Noles will need Williams if they are going to get yardage against a Cardinals defense that is 4th in the country in points allowed per game. The Seminoles defense will try to frazzle sophomore quarterback Will Gardner. Gardner has thrown just 2 interceptions this season and those came in a loss at Virginia. The Cardinals defense will also have to focus their energy on Jameis Winston and his top receiving threat Rashad Greene. You can tell that Vegas believes the upset threat in this game is real as the Noles are only 4 1/2 point favorites. Bobby Petrino hasn't lost a home game the last 22 times he has coached in one as Louisville's coach. Jimbo Fisher has continuously gotten his team past the off the field distractions but at some point the Noles luck has to run out. I believe the sands of the hourglass will run out for Florida State tonight.

Prediction: Louisville 27, Florida State 24

Saturday, November 1

Arkansas (4-4, 0-4) at #1 Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0)

The Razorbacks best shot at finally winning an SEC game for the first time in two years would appear to be in the season finale at Missouri. Starting this week their next three games are against Top 2-0 teams. They will put up a fight against the Bulldogs but they don't have the talent, especially defensively to keep up with Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson and company. The Bulldogs have a joke game against Tennessee Martin next week before traveling to Alabama in what will be a huge showdown.

Prediction: Mississippi State 42, Arkansas 26

#3 Auburn (6-1, 3-1) at #4 Mississippi (7-1, 4-1)

So despite Bo Wallace's incredible stupidity in lofting the ball in coverage at the end of last week's game when all Ole Miss needed was a field goal, the Rebels would still be in the College Football Playoff. The committee has them fourth in their first set of rankings and if the Rebels can knock off #3 Auburn they will further solidify themselves in the top four. The Rebels excellent defense has taken a hit as they lost LB Denzel Nkemdiche for the season with a broken ankle. The Auburn offense has been firing on all cylinders, which has been important because their defense has been less than stellar the past few weeks. QB Nick Marshall is playing his best football of the season, and completed 12 of 14 passes last week against South Carolina while rushing for 89 yards. It was the first time in a month he had been held under 100 yards rushing. Cameron Artis-Payne is helping Auburn fans move on from Tre Mason, and is coming off his second best rushing performance of the season, going for 167 yards. The Rebels had trouble doing much of anything offensively at LSU last week, but playing in their own backyard should help things. Wallace's game costing interception was his first in SEC play this year and also his first in four games. He has been off the past two weeks, completing less than 50% of his passes in those games. He needs to improve on that and also find ways to get the ball to WR Laquon Treadwell. This will be another down to the wire finish for these two teams, but Auburn has to be starting to feel the effects of this brutal stretch of the schedule. Asking them to go on the road and win this game is too much.

Prediction: Mississippi 24, Auburn 20

Stanford (5-3, 3-2) at #5 Oregon (7-1, 4-1)

Stanford isn't ranked but I can guarantee the Ducks won't be taking them lightly. Stanford has won the past two meetings, ruining Oregon's national title hopes each time. If they can make it three in a row then they once again will ruin the Ducks season. Marcus Mariota finally threw his first interception of the season in last week's win at Cal, but also added 5 TDs bringing his season total to 24 TDs and 1 INT. He has struggled the past two years against Stanford however, as their defense has always been able to force him into mistakes. Mariota needs to play mistake free football because if he does, he is far superior to Stanford's quarterback Kevin Hogan. It will be interesting to see if Stanford has an answer for Oregon freshman RB Royce Freeman who has an insane 8 rushing touchdowns in his last three games. I expect this to be another close game between these rivals but this time the Ducks will prevail.

Prediction: Oregon 25, Stanford 21

#7 TCU (6-1, 3-1) at #20 West Virginia (6-2, 4-1)

Get ready for offensive fireworks when the Horned Frogs take on the Mountaineers. TCU is coming off an absurd 82 point showing last weekend, while West Virginia is looking for their second win against a top 10 foe at home in three weeks. TCU is averaging 50 points per game this season, while comparatively West Virginia averages a paltry 36 points per game. This game will feature a fantastic quarterback battle between the Horned Frogs Trevone Boykin and the Mountaineers Clint Trickett. Boykin threw 7 touchdown passes in the rout of Texas Tech with one of them going for 92 yards. The Mountaineers will have the best receiver on the field, senior Kevin White. White had a quiet game against the Cowboys last week but has 72 catches on the season and 8 touchdowns. He has caught a touchdown pass in every game this season except for one. West Virginia is more of a rushing team than the Horned Frogs, led by Rushel Shell, who should be back in action after sitting out last week. Defense is optional in the Big 12 and while West Virginia has played strong defense the last few weeks, I would be shocked if they hold TCU under 40 in this game. It will be a tough road environment for TCU, which had Baylor on the ropes on the road a few weeks ago but couldn't hang on. I think they will learn from that game, and seal the deal this time against West Virginia.

Prediction: TCU 48, West Virginia 45

Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2) at #9 Kansas State (6-1, 4-0)

Despite defeating Oklahoma on the road and having their only loss be to number 3 Auburn, the Wildcats find themselves 9th in the first ranking released by the college football playoff committee. To me it shows that the committee doesn't think very highly of the Big 12. Kansas won't get much push from beating Oklahoma State this weekend. The Cowboys were ranked a few weeks ago but since then have been blown out by TCU and West Virginia. Their offense has been stymied and things won't get easier against a Wildcats team that just shut out Texas. The only thing that could make this game competitive is if the Wildcats are more focused on their game at TCU next weekend and not on the task at hand. Bill Snyder is an excellent coach though, so I don't foresee that being a problem.

Prediction: Kansas State 28, Oklahoma State 12

#10 Notre Dame (6-1) at Navy (4-4) in Landover, MD

Notre Dame ended up being lower than anticipated in the first College Football Playoff rankings and will have to do some work in their next five games if they want to earn their way into the Top 4.  It appears the committee was not overly impressed by how well Notre Dame played at Florida State and looked more at the fact that their six wins have come against teams with a combined record of 22-25, and only two of those teams having winning records, Rice and Stanford. A win against Navy won't help Notre Dame's resume much but remaining games against Arizona State, Louisville and USC would. But first, the Irish have to get past Navy, something that hasn't always been easy for them the past decade. Beating Navy is all about stopping their triple-option. Navy hardly ever throws the ball so getting a lead early on them and forcing them to pass is key. QB Keenan Reynolds completes just 44 percent of his passes but has rushed for 639 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Everett Golson needs to get back to his early season form and cut back on his turnovers. Over his past four games he has thrown six interceptions and also had fumbling issues. The Notre Dame defense has often been able to bail him out but that can only continue for so long. Some good news for the Irish offense is that they finally seem to have found their running game. Sophomore Tarean Folston has emerged and is coming off a 120 yard performance against Florida State. The lack of a rushing game was really holding back the Irish offense for most of the season. Now if they can just get Golson playing well and mix that with a rushing attack, their offense can be highly dangerous.

Like pretty much every game against Navy I expect this to not be easy and be a dog fight for Notre Dame. But I think their defense is better prepared and has the talent to slow down the Midshipmen's rushing attack. Once they do that, the rest of the game will take care of itself. Navy has given this team too many issues for Notre Dame to get caught looking ahead to the Sun Devils. Brian Kelly will have them focused and the extra week of preparation will also help greatly.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Navy 21

Last Week: 7-1
Overall: 66-15

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