Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cram Session - Week 8

Thursday, October 16

New York Jets (1-5) at New England (4-2), New England favored by 9 1/2

Two weeks ago people started wondering if the days of the Patriots being contenders were over. Since then, New England has handily defeated the Bengals and Bills, proving a resounding no as the answer. Beginning tonight, they start a stretch of three straight home games and could really begin to take control of the AFC East. The Jets are just desperate to get a win as they are currently on a 5 game losing streak. Last year, the Jets rode a great defense to overcome their pathetic offense and pull 8 wins out of their asses. That formula isn't doing the trick this season and unless things drastically change, Rex Ryan will be an unemployed coach by the end of the season. We finally got a close Thursday game last week and I am going to go out on a limb and predict another tight game this week. You would think the Patriots would blow out the Jets, but Ryan will have his players playing with pride, and I think their defense can at least keep this game interesting.

Prediction: New England 27, New York Jets 20

Games That Matter To Me

#19 Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) at Northwestern (3-3, 2-1)

After a week off, the Huskers rushing attack, especially Ameer Abdullah will be ready to try to get the bad taste out of their mouths following a disappointing performance against Michigan State. The performance probably moved Abdullah out of the Heisman race discussion but the Huskers are still very much alive for a spot in the Big Ten championship game. They will be challenged in Evanston this weekend against Northwestern. These two teams have played classic games the past three seasons, including last year when Nebraska defeated Northwestern with a Hail Mary on the last play of the game. The Nebraska defense will get some players back coming off the bye and the offense expects Kenny Bell to return after he had to leave the Michigan State game early.

Northwestern plays stout defense, which is a necessity since their offense is ugly. Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and the most points Northwestern has scored in a game this season is 29. But thanks to their defense the Wildcats have only lost their games by 7, 8, and 7 points. Freshman RB Justin Jackson has come on strong the past two weeks, going over 100 yards but he has been unable to find the end zone the past three games.

This will be a game filled with ebbs and flows and the Huskers will have to remain patient and committed to the run game. They can't fall behind, because Tommy Armstrong is not a good enough passer to lead the Huskers back from a deficit. If Northwestern had any offense they would easily be a top 25 team, but I expect another solid defensive effort to go to waste for them.

Prediction: Nebraska 28, Northwestern 23

Top 10

#5 Notre Dame (6-0) at #2 Florida State (6-0)

One quarterback will suffer their first ever regular season loss when Notre Dame and Florida State meet Saturday night. Everett Golson has suffered just one loss as a starter but that came in the National Championship game two years ago. Winston is completely undefeated but is completely defeated when it comes to staying out of the headlines for negative reasons. This past week was a double whammy as we learned that he is being investigated for violating the school's code of conduct from that rape charge he beat, and now he might have sold his autograph for money, which got Todd Gurley suspended. All indications are that Winston will be fine to play this weekend, but it remains to be seen how things will shake out for the remainder of the year.

The Irish come into this game off their best offensive performance but worst defensive showing of the season. The Tar Heels piled up 43 points on them and over 500 yards of offense. While the offense did put up 50 points, Everett Golson was once again a turnover machine, something that has plagued him the last few weeks. The Irish finally got their ground game going, but it remains to be seen if it was more than an aberration since it came against the porous Tar Heels defense. Sophomore Tarean Folston was the bell cow against North Carolina and I expect him to get the bulk of the carries against Florida State. WR William Fuller had 7 catches and 133 yards last week against North Carolina and is becoming Golson's #1 option.

You all know about Winston and how good he is but he also has many weapons to complement him. Rashad Greene is the Seminoles leading receiver with 44 catches and 3 touchdowns. The Seminoles employ a 3 back system with Karlos Williams, the emerging freshman Dalvin Cook, who just rushed for 122 yards last week against Syracuse, and sophomore Mario Pender who has four rushing touchdowns this season. The Seminoles average 39 points a game and the fewest points they have scored in a game that Winston started was 37.

As good as Winston is, he has been turnover prone this year, throwing 5 interceptions this year, and twice throwing two in a game. The Irish defense will have to force turnovers, because if the Seminoles have a non turnover game, they will run the Irish defense off the field. Notre Dame will have to be near flawless offensively, meaning Golson has to play more like the player he was the first three games this season. If Folson can run the ball effectively, at least averaging 3.5 yards per carry, that will take pressure off Golson to feel like he has to hit a homerun every play. I'm tempted to pick Notre Dame as I see some parallels to when they went to Oklahoma as underdogs two years ago and pulled off the upset. But I just don't think the offense will be able to make enough plays when needed, and play the mistake free football that is necessary to beat Florida State on the road.

Prediction: Florida State 28, Notre Dame 20

Tennessee (3-3, 0-2) at #3 Mississippi (6-0, 3-0)

So I just need to stop picking Mississippi to lose. I have been wrong three straight weeks now, with the latest upset pick of Texas A&M over Ole Miss not even coming close. The Ole Miss defense is starting to gain national recognition, as they are currently second in the NCAA in points allowed per game. Their best defensive player, Robert Nkemdiche, is currently involved in bong gate over a photo that has gone viral of what appears to be him smoking from a bong. No one should really give a shit about a college kid smoking weed but unfortunately that is the draconian world we live in at times. Even if Nkemdiche is suspended the Rebels will be fine against Tennessee. The Vols have shown some improvement under Butch Jones this season but still can't quite get over the hump.

Prediction: Mississippi 31, Tennessee 21

#4 Baylor (6-0, 3-0) at West Virginia (4-2, 2-1)

The Bears trailed TCU 58-37 and it appeared that their hopes of an undefeated season and playoff berth were coming to an end. But then the offense kicked into gear and the Bears came all the way back, winning 61-58. That close call did expose that the Bears defense isn't really as good as we may have thought. Now they have to travel to Morgantown to face a Mountaineers team that seems primed to gain a signature win this season. The Bears defense will be facing a West Virginia attack that has produced over 500 yards of offense in five straight games. Senior WR Kevin White is having a monster season, already catching 61 balls and 5 touchdowns. If he can go for at least 112 yards receiving in this game he will reach the 1,000 yard plateau. White has gone over 100 yards receiving in all six games this season so that appears likely. The close call against TCU showed me that Baylor is living on borrowed time, and trying to win at what should be an amped up atmosphere in West Virginia will prove to be too much.

Prediction: West Virginia 42, Baylor 37

#21 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) at #7 Alabama (5-1, 2-1)

Kenny Hill has tumbled out of the Heisman discussion and a once promising Aggies season is on the verge of collapse unless they can win at Tuscaloosa for the second straight time. Alabama got back on the winning side of things last week against Arkansas but are desperate in their own right. Their offense has not looked good the past two weeks as Blake Sims has struggled and the previously explosive Amari Cooper hasn't scored a touchdown in 2 games and had just 2 catches last week. If anything can revive the Bama offense it is the Aggies horrific defense. The Aggies have no momentum going into a majorly hostile atmosphere, so I am expecting another ugly blowout loss for A&M.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 17

#8 Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) at Indiana (3-3, 0-2)

The Spartans defense is coming off a disconcerting performance against Purdue last week and will be tested even further by the Hoosiers offense this weekend. Indiana is seventh in the nation in rushing, averaging an astounding 303 yards per game. Their RB Tevin Coleman has gone over 200 yards twice this season, including last week at Iowa, when he rushed for 219 yards on just 15 carries. I expect Coleman to run well again this week, but unfortunately for Indiana they don't play any defense, which means Connor Cook will pick apart Indiana.

Prediction: Michigan State 45, Indiana 24

Washington (5-1, 1-1) at #9 Oregon (5-1, 2-1)

The Ducks return home for the first time since a puzzling loss at home to Arizona. They recovered nicely last weekend by beating UCLA on the road and now face a Huskies team with a good record, but one that hasn't faced a lot of tough competition. Marcus Mariota is still interception free this season but his counterpart, Cyler Miles can say the same thing. The Ducks are three touchdown favorites in this game, but I think this will be closer than the experts think. Oregon has been in competitive games for three straight weeks now, and I don't see anything to believe that they will wipe the floor with Chris Peterson's team.

Prediction: Oregon 45, Washington 31

#10 Georgia (5-1, 3-1) at Arkansas (3-3, 0-3)

The Razorbacks came so close to getting their first SEC win in two years but lost once again, this time by a point to Alabama. The Bulldogs not only survived but thrived without Todd Gurley, shutting out Missouri on the road 34-0. They will be without Gurley again this week, but I don't expect them to be so dominant on the road against a desperate team like Arkansas. The Razorbacks have to fight the feeling of hopelessness and realize that they are competitive with Top 10 teams. Brett Bielema seems to be keeping his team with the right mindset and I think their perseverance will finally pay off on Saturday.

Prediction: Arkansas 24, Georgia 23

Last Week: 7-1
Overall: 52-13

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