Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cram Session - Week 6

Thursday, October 2

Minnesota (2-2) at Green Bay (2-2), Green Bay favored by 9

NFC North rivals do battle as the Packers play their second Thursday night game in five weeks. So far we are 0 for 4 in their being a good Thursday night game and I don't think that trend will change tonight. The Vikings are coming off an impressive performance at home against Atlanta, as Teddy Bridgewater was outstanding in his first career start. However, he had to leave the game early with an ankle injury and is questionable for this game. If he can't go it means the Vikings will have to turn the reigns over to Mr. Sam Ponder, Christian. If Ponder does start then Minnesota should just try to run the ball as much as possible with Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon. The Packers have struggled to stop the run all season. Green Bay's offense showed some signs of life last week at Chicago, although Eddie Lacy still appears sluggish rushing the ball. The Vikings defense has struggled against the run but has been pretty stellar against the pass. It will be interesting to see how much success Rodgers has against the Vikings secondary. I might lean towards Minnesota at least keeping things interesting if Bridgewater was starting, but if Ponder is the guy, I think we are in for another double digit game on Thursday night.

Prediction: Green Bay 34, Minnesota 17

Top 10

Thursday, October 2

Arizona (4-0, 1-0) at #2 Oregon (4-0, 1-0)

After struggling in their Pac-12 opener at Washington State, the Ducks will be looking to exert their dominance at home in front of a national audience against Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats. Arizona is very lucky to be 4-0, as they won their last game on the last play with a Hail Mary, defeating California. This should be a fun quarterback battle to watch. Arizona freshman QB Anu Solomon has 13 TDs and 3 INTs, while Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is the front runner for the Heisman with 13 TDs and 0 INTs. It will be interesting to watch how Solomon responds to his first true road test. Will be quite different playing at UT-San Antonio versus going to Eugene in primetime.

Prediction: Oregon 48, Arizona 27

Saturday, October 4

Wake Forest (2-3, 0-1) at #1 Florida State (4-0, 2-0)

The Seminoles got down 24-7 and 38-28 at NC State last week, but were eventually able to put away the Wolfpack. Their performance was slightly worrisome but things will become truly stressful if they have trouble with Wake Forest at home on Saturday. I picture this being the type of game Florida State needs to get some of their swagger back.

Prediction: Florida State 42, Wake Forest 13

#3 Alabama (4-0, 1-0) at #11 Mississippi (4-0, 1-0)

The SEC takes center stage this weekend, well I guess they always are center stage, but more so on Saturday because the conference features 3 games with Top 10 teams facing ranked opponents. I have been accused of picking too much chalk in Cram Session so I decided to go out on a limb last week and take Memphis over Mississippi. The Tigers ended up losing 24-3 and I looked like a fool. This game will tell us a lot about the Crimson Tide and especially how legit QB Blake Sims is. The Rebels defensive gameplan against the Bama passing game should start and end with Tide stud receiver Amari Cooper. He leads the Tide with 43 catches, and the next person closest to him is DeAndrew White with 12 catches. But Bama also has weapons at running back, with Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon both averaging over 6 yards per carry. Sims himself is a threat to break loose and run with the ball. Rebels QB Bo Wallace has struggled with making too many mistakes, having already thrown 6 interceptions in 4 games, including 2 last week. Again a Memphis you can get away with that, but against Alabama, those types of mistakes will get the Rebels in a hole quick. The Rebels aren't really known for their offense though, it is all about their defense. Defense can often win you games, and the Rebels defense will keep them in this one, but I think a poor performance from Wallace will do them in.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Mississippi 21

#4 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0) at #25 TCU (3-0, 0-0)

After a week off the Sooners face a second straight road test, this time against the 25th ranked Horned Frogs. TCU has had some success against Oklahoma in the past and you can expect the Sooners to face a highly hostile atmosphere on Saturday. TCU has blown out all three of their opponents but the only worth anything and that's being nice, is Minnesota. The Sooners are much more battle tested and will have the most dangerous player on the field, freshman RB Samaje Perine, who rushed for 242 yards against West Virginia. He made the absence of Keith Ford almost irrelevant. The Sooners rushing attack has been potent, which has been crucial because Trevor Knight has been average at best. Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin will present some match up problems for the Sooners defense, as he is both a passer and a runner. I was impressed with how Oklahoma handled themselves at West Virginia a few weeks ago. They will need that same resolve against TCU and their games against Tennessee and the Mountaineers will prove useful in pushing them to victory in this game.

Prediction: Oklahoma 30, TCU 23

#15 LSU (4-1, 0-1) at #5 Auburn (4-0, 1-0)

This matchup begins a brutal stretch of games for Auburn. LSU is looking to avoid starting 0-2 in SEC play after a surprising loss at home to Mississippi State a few weeks ago. However, it looks like they may have solved their quarterback issues, as Brandon Harris has been playing circles around Anthony Jennings. Les Miles has indicated that Harris will get the start in this game and I think LSU should stick with him the entire game unless he goes completely off the rails. Both of these teams will be looking to pound the opposing defense with their rushing attacks. Leonard Fournette and Kenny Hilliard each get about the same amount of carries per game. Auburn is more reliant on Cameron Artis-Payne, but QB Nick Marshall will take off and run when need be and also has a lot of designed runs called for him by Gus Malzahn. Auburn did have a nice win at Kansas State and a strong win at home against Arkansas, but I have a feeling that LSU will turn the tide from their poor performance against Mississippi State. I think their defense can force Marshall into turnovers and that will be the difference.

Prediction: LSU 28, Auburn 24

#6 Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0) at #12 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0)

The Aggies were very lucky to get out of Jerry's World with a win against Arkansas last week. Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter, QB Kenny Hill righted the ship just in the nick of time, leading the Aggies to an overtime win. The Bulldogs have a good player of their own at quarterback. Dak Prescott tore up LSU's defense in the Bulldogs upset road win and has thrown for over 200 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in every game but one. Where Hill has the edge is with his receiving corps. Malcome Kennedy has slowed down considerably since he shredded South Carolina in the opener, but even if you stop him, you still have to contain Josh Reynolds. The Aggies gave up 285 yards rushing to Arkansas last week and may give up even more to Mississippi State this week. In addition to Prescott, they will have to contend with Josh Robinson, coming off his best game of the year against LSU. I think we began to see some cracks in Texas A&M last week, couple that with the Bulldogs having and extra week to prepare and I like Mississippi State.

Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Texas A&M 28

#7 Baylor (4-0, 1-0) at Texas (2-2, 1-0)

Oddly, despite completely sucking this year and getting blown out by Baylor last season, Texas players have been talking some trash coming into this game. They seem hung up on the fact that Baylor used to suck and Texas used to be good. If they need any more convincing, that will be done by Bryce Petty and company on Saturday night, when they hand the Longhorns their second straight blowout home loss of the season.

Prediction: Baylor 45, Texas 31

Utah (3-1, 0-1) at #8 UCLA (4-0, 1-0)

The Bruins team that everyone expected to see this season finally showed up last Thursday night at Arizona State. After trailing early 17-6, it seems like some sort of switch was turned, similar to last season when UCLA got down big at Nebraska and then blew them out. The Bruins ended up winning the game 62-27 and find themselves back in the Top 10. Utah is feeling pretty down about themselves after blowing a 20 point lead at home to Washington State. Bruins QB Brett Hundley was spectacular against the Sun Devils and I don't think his or the Bruins performance will turn out to be a one week aberration.

Prediction: UCLA 41, Utah 24

#14 Stanford (3-1) at #9 Notre Dame (4-0)

Notre Dame turned in about the ugliest 16 point victory I have ever seen last week against Syracuse. They turned the ball over constantly and against a lesser opponent they would have been blown out. Everett Golson was excellent passing the ball but he was also careless when we would run and had a few fumbles. Stanford isn't doing much offensively right now either though and I expect this game could set offensive football back a few years. Like Golson, Kevin Hogan is accurate but he doesn't throw for many yards, mostly because the Stanford offense doesn't really have any playmakers. The closest they have is WR Ty Montgomery, who leads the Cardinal with 26 catches and 3 TDs.

Golson will really earn himself some Heisman talk if he can play well against the stout Cardinal defense. Stanford is first in the nation in points allowed per game as well as yards allowed per game. Notre Dame still can't run the ball with any sort of consistency and I don't expect that to magically change this weekend. It will be up to Golson to get the ball to William Fuller and his emerging receiver, son of David Robinson, Corey Robinson.

Its cliche but it applies to this game. Whichever team wins the turnover battle will win this game. The defenses will dictate the game as the only way I see the offenses doing much is if they are put in favorable positions by their defense. Stanford is favored in this game, which is slightly puzzling to me, but I guess it mostly because Notre Dame hasn't played anyone worth a damn yet this season. In Golson I trust, as he looks to remain undefeated as the starting quarterback in regular season play.

Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Stanford 16

#19 Nebraska (5-0, 1-0) at #10 Michigan State (3-1, 0-0)

Huskers RB Ameer Abdullah is other-worldly. Just 5 games into the season and he already has rushed for 833 yards. He is averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has 8 touchdowns. He pretty much single-handedly led Nebraska to victory against Illinois last week. He faces his toughest challenge this season as the Huskers go to East Lansing to play under the lights against Michigan State. The Spartans are the Big Ten favorites and still have playoff hopes. Nebraska isn't being talked about in those types of scenarios but a win Saturday night would change all of that. This is the type of game that Bo Pelini hasn't been able to win at Nebraska. You can usually count on a Pelini led team to beat the teams they are supposed to, but when they face someone more talented, especially on the road, it tends to get very ugly. It is key that Abdullah run the ball well, because if he is limited and Tommy Armstrong Jr. has to do more than manage the game, things could get ugly in a hurry.

The Spartans are led by Connor Cook. Cook hasn't been asked to do much in the Spartans last two games, blowout wins over Eastern Michigan and Wyoming. But in this game, he will have to make plays for Michigan State to win. The Nebraska pass defense is suspect so WR Tony Lippett could be in line for a big game.  The Spartans have a strong rushing attack that helps open up their passing game. Jeremy Langford receives the bulk of the carries and is supplemented by Nick Hill.

I really want to believe that this year will be different for Nebraska and they will shock the world and win on Saturday night. If anyone can do it it would be Abdullah. I don't think Michigan State will completely contain him but he won't be running all over the place like he has been the last few games. I don't trust Armstrong in this spot and expect him to be overwhelmed and turnover prone. I think Nebraska will at least keep the game somewhat respectable but getting a win will be too much to ask.

Prediction: Michigan State 35, Nebraska 24
Last Week: 7-1
Overall: 40-7

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