Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cram Session - Week 7

Thursday, October 2

Indianapolis (3-2) at Houston (3-2), Indianapolis favored by 3

Can we please have a Thursday night game that is entertaining for more than 10 minutes? The public seems to hate the Thursday night game and I was one of the outliers, but this year has been downright dreadful. At least two winning teams face each other this week so the potential is there for it to be a good game.However, the last thing players and teams should be doing is complaining about having to play on Thursday nights. It is going to happen regardless, so sack up and get ready to play. Arian Foster complained some about it this week, but maybe he is extra tired after running all over the Cowboys on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, Ryan Fitzpatrick was unable to get much going through the air and the Texans eventually lost in overtime. The Colts finally had an impressive win, ending the Ravens three game winning streak. Their defense played well which was important since Andrew Luck was not at his best. Last season at Houston, the Colts got down big at halftime, then Gary Kubiak had a heart attack and the Colts stormed back in the second half to get the win. The home team has been mostly successful so far in Thursday games but I think this will be a game where that won't really matter. I expect Luck to bounce back this week and the Colts passing game to find success against the Texans secondary. I think the defense can also force Fitzpatrick into turnovers. I think we will have another boring Thursday game, as the Colts cruise to victory.

Prediction: Indianapolis 34, Houston 20

Top 10

#1 Florida State (5-0, 3-0) at Syracuse (2-3, 0-1)

The Seminoles managed to avoid the chaos that enveloped the Top 10 last week, handily defeating an overmatched Wake Forest. They have what appears to be another easy game this weekend at Syracuse. You can't blame the Seminoles if they are looking ahead to next weekend when they host the potentially undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Prediction: Florida State 42, Syracuse 10

#2 Auburn (5-0, 2-0) at #3 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0)

These two programs have come a long way from their ugly 3-2 game won by Auburn in 2008. Mississippi State has gone from unranked to number 3 in the country after impressive wins against LSU and Texas A&M. QB Dak Prescott has been superb and is garnering Heisman trophy consideration. Prescott plays similarly to Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall in that he is a dual threat to pass and run. These teams are built the same way, with offenses that like to pound the opponent into submission. In addition to Prescott, the Bulldogs have one of the best running backs in the SEC, Josh Robinson. Bulldogs WR De'Runnya Wilson doesn't catch a ton of passes but when he does he makes them count. He has scored a touchdown in all four games he has played in this season.Auburn has a bruising running back of their own, Cameron Artis-Payne, who has rushed for over 100 yards in 4 of 5 games this year. Both teams have pretty strong defenses. Auburn has yet to allow a quarterback it has faced to rush for over 100 yards, but that streak will be hard pressed to continue against Prescott. I picked Auburn to lose to LSU last week and was way off as they cruised to victory. I also picked Auburn to lose to Kansas State a few weeks ago and was wrong. You think I would maybe learn my lesson but I am all in on Mississippi State and Prescott and think the third time will be the charm for me to finally be right about Auburn losing.

Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Auburn 27

#3 Mississippi (5-0, 2-0) at #14 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1)

The Rebels are another team I keep picking to lose and they keep proving me wrong. Thanks to a comedy of errors by the Crimson Tide late in their matchup, Ole Miss was able to pull off the upset. Now they have to deal with being the team that everyone is gunning for and it starts at College Station. The Aggies defense is going to have to play much better than they did on the road last week against Mississippi State. Not just because of how poorly they played last week but also because of how good the Rebels defense is. The defense can't count on Kenny Hill and WR Josh Reynolds to do everything. They will have to focus must of their attention on Rebels QB Bo Wallace, who was superb against Alabama's defense, throwing 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His favorite target to throw to is Laquon Treadwell, the Rebels leader in yards and catches. What we don't really know yet about Wallace and the Rebels is how they will respond to a crazy road environment like Kyle Field. College Station is one of the toughest places to win at when A&M has a good team. If this game were at Mississippi I would like the Rebels, but homefield can make a major difference in college football and that will be the difference in this closely contested game.

Prediction: Texas A&M 28, Mississippi 24

#9 TCU (4-0, 1-0) at #5 Baylor (5-0, 2-0)

Show of hands if you ever though TCU/Baylor would be a marquee national matchup? But here we are, with this game taking national precedence over Oklahoma and Texas. TCU made this a marquee game by defeating Choklahoma at hope and catapulting themselves into the Top 10. This game will serve as Baylor's first game against a ranked opponent and first real test this season. Bryce Petty will need to step up his game after a dreadful performance in the win against Texas last week. Petty completed just 7 of 22 passes, but Baylor still rolled to a three touchdown victory. It shows how improved the Baylor defense has become that even when the offense isn't firing on all cylinders they can still win comfortably. Petty's struggles didn't matter because Bears RB Shock Linwood ran all over the Longhorns. If Petty struggles in this game, then look for Linwood to tote the rock as much as he did last week. Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin was instrumental in TCU knocking off the Sooners. He accounted for 395 yards of offense and was careful with the ball throughout the game. The Bears have an opportunistic defense and playing on the road this week, Boykin will have to be even more mindful of holding onto the football. I expect Boykin to keep this game close, but Petty should bounce back this week and Baylor will remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Baylor 35, TCU 27

North Carolina (2-3) at #6 Notre Dame (5-0)

The Irish survived a dogfight against Stanford and now are just one more win from setting up a titanic clash with Florida State next weekend. On paper this looks like a game that Notre Dame could win on auto pilot. The Tar Heels started the season ranked but have lost three in a row and have one of the worst defenses in the country. The fewest points they have allowed in a game this year was 27 against San Diego State in Week 2. In their three straight losses they have given up 154 points and on average allow 42 points per game. Maybe the Heels can finally serve as the launching pad for an Irish rushing attack that can't seem to get out of its own way. For Notre Dame to have any chance at Florida State next week, they will need to provide Everett Golson with some help. Golson threw the winning touchdown last week but struggled against the best defense he had faced all season. The Tar Heels provide him with a chance to have an outstanding game and be at his peak confidence wise for Florida State. He seems to find a new receiving weapon each week as Chris Brown joined Corey Robinson as emerging contributors from the wideout corps.

Carolina does have a pretty potent offense. Their quarterback Marquise Williams is a dual threat, and leads the Heels in rushing. Outside of Williams, the other players to watch on the Tar Heels offense are receivers Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. But really the offense stops and starts with Williams. Teams seem to be figuring that out as the Heels are coming off their lowest offensive output of the season against Virginia Tech last week. Notre Dame really just has to key on the Heels pas, spy Williams and they should be able to contain Carolina. The Notre Dame defense has been superb this season and is reminding fans of the stout 2012 unit. They haven't allowed 20 or more points in a game this season and rank 3rd in the nation in points allowed per game.  The chic pick seems to be that Carolina will make this a game because Notre Dame will be looking ahead to the Seminoles. I don't buy that and have confidence that Brian Kelly will have Notre Dame sufficiently focused on this game. I really just want to see the rushing attack have success in this game and everyone stay healthy.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, North Carolina 17

#7 Alabama (4-1, 1-1) at Arkansas (3-2, 0-2)

Alabama's recent road struggles in the SEC continued last week with an upset loss to Mississippi.  They had a chance to win the game but turnovers killed them at the end. They still have hopes of playing for the SEC Championship and earning a playoff berth but will have to win out. The Razorbacks are just desperate to win their first SEC game under Bret Bielema. They would also like to actually give Alabama a game for a change, coming off back to back seasons of 52-0 losses against the Tide. The home crowd could help Arkansas early but Bama and back to back losses in the SEC don't really go together in the Nick Saban era.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Arkansas 17

#8 Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) at Purdue (3-3, 1-1)

The Spartans nearly had a collapse of epic proportions last week at home against Nebraska. Ahead 27-3 in the second half, the Spartans and their fans went on cruise control and Nebraska ended up having a chance to get the winning score at the end of the game. One player that didn't impress me much was QB Connor Cook. He and the Spartans offense turned the ball over multiple times and were desperate to hand Nebraska the game but the Huskers wouldn't take it. The Spartans won't face a ranked opponent for the rest of the season unless the Buckeyes can climb back into the Top 25. They should kill Purdue but I expect another slightly disappointing performance.

Prediction: Michigan State 30, Purdue 16

USC (3-2, 1-1) at #10 Arizona (5-0, 2-0)

USC comes into this game off the lowest of lows, while Arizona enters off the highest of highs. The Trojans became the second Pac-12 school to lose on a Hail Mary, when Oregon State pulled the trick last Saturday. The Wildcats know about Hail Mary's, they used one to defeat California a few weeks ago. Arizona shocked the college football world by defeating Oregon last Thursday in Autzen. The win propelled them from being unranked to reaching the Top 10. Even with that one, I still am not quite sold on Arizona. As mentioned above a Hail Mary is all that kept them from losing to Cal, and previous to that just barely beat Nevada and UT San Antonio. It will be interesting to see what the Trojans psyche is like going into this game and also whether Arizona can avoid a letdown effort. Trojans QB Cody Kessler has been outstanding this season, throwing 10 TDs and 0 INTs through the first five games. His play will help USC spring the upset as he will outplay Wildcat freshman QB Anu Solomon.

Prediction: USC 27, Arizona 24

Last Week: 5-5
Overall: 45-12

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