Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cram Session - Week 9

Thursday, October 23

San Diego (5-2) at Denver (5-1), Denver favored by 7 1/2

For the first time since Week 1, we finally have a truly appealing Thursday night game. The Chargers look to stay in the thick of the AFC West race but will have their hands full with the Broncos in Denver. Maybe they will look to how they performed last year when they visited Denver on a Thursday night. In that game, their defense shut down the potent Broncos offense, winning 27-20. The Chargers saw their 5 game win streak disappear at home against Kansas City last week, as Philip Rivers and the offense had trouble producing points. Denver and Peyton Manning were lights out at home against the 49ers, crushing San Francisco and Manning set the all time touchdown passes record. Other players might have trouble on a short week after setting such a record but I am sure Manning began preparing diligently for the Chargers on Monday morning. I expect a close game and the Broncos defense to make a stop on the Chargers final possession.

Prediction: Denver 27, San Diego 24

Games That Matter To Me

Rutgers (5-2, 1-2) at #16 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1)

The bye week seemed to serve Nebraska well, as the rushing attack was back to its potent self, with Ameer Abdullah rushing for four touchdowns in a rout at Northwestern last weekend. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. also had a strong performance, completing 18 of 29 passes and finally going without an interception for the first time in three games. Nebraska looks to follow that same formula against Rutgers on Saturday.

Rutgers was feeling pretty good about themselves and their ability to compete in the Big Ten and then they were run over roughshod by Ohio State last weekend. QB Gary Nova was under constant pressure from the Buckeyes and because of that, the Scarlett Knights passing game never got going. Nova has eight INTs this season but 5 of those came against Penn State, so Nova has been mostly good this season. His favorite option is WR Leonte Carroo, who managed 100 yards receiving in the 56-17 loss to Ohio State. Desmon Peoples has stepped into the lead running back role since Paul James went down with a torn ACL for the rest of the season.

Rutgers defense struggles against the run and I wouldn't be surprised if Abdullah clears 200, yes 200 yards and has multiple rushing touchdowns. That will take pressure off Armstrong, who can picks his spots with his receivers Jordan Westerkamp and Kenny Bell. The Huskers have no games left against a ranked opponent this season so maybe Bo Pelini can finally break his four loss hex.

Prediction: Nebraska 38, Rutgers 23

Top 10

Friday, October 24

#6 Oregon (6-1, 3-1) at California (4-3, 2-3)

The Ducks look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they navigate the terrain that is the Pac-12. They only have one game left against a ranked team, #19 Utah on the road November 8th. But they can't look past their personal bugaboo Stanford, who they host next week. This game might be slightly competitive as the Bears have a potent offense, but the most interesting aspect of this game will be watching to see if Marcus Mariota can continue to remain interception free this season.

Prediction: Oregon 48, California 34

Saturday, October 25

#1 Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0) at Kentucky (5-2, 2-2)

The Bulldogs play their first game since becoming the number one team in the country. It should be a challenge too, as they travel to Lexington to take on the improved Wildcats. A Bulldogs loss would be shocking as Kentucky has lost 26 of their past 27 games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Kentucky is unbeaten at home this year, but is coming off a putrid performance at LSU, getting blown out 41-3. Dak Prescott should make enough plays to hold off the Kentucky upset.

Prediction: Mississippi State 36, Kentucky 24

#3 Mississippi (7-0, 4-0) at #24 LSU (6-2, 2-2)

Ole Miss will be in the strange position of being favored at Death Valley on Saturday. LSU already has lost to Mississippi State at home last month, so if the Rebels want to keep up with their state counterpart, they will have to accomplish the same thing. Rebels QB Bo Wallace hasn't thrown an interception since September 27th and has 6 touchdowns in those games. Even when the team surrounding him wasn't as good as this year's version, Wallace has played well against tough LSU defenses the past few seasons. The Tigers greatest weapon is freshman RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette leads the Tigers with 544 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.

LSU has struggled mightily against other top SEC West opponents, but I expect a better effort from them under the lights on Saturday. They are going to have to get Wallace to fumble or throw picks though, because any points they score will need to be off a short field, to counter the Rebels staunch defense. I expect the Tigers to keep it close but ultimately for the Rebels to remain unbeaten.

Prediction: Mississippi 28, LSU 24

#4 Alabama (6-1, 3-1) at Tennessee (3-4, 0-3)

With the SEC taking up so much real estate in this column, I think I might need to change the title to SEC Cram Session. After being criticized for poor performances the last few weeks, the real Alabama stood up, eviscerating Texas A&M 59-0 last week. The Vols remain mired in purgatory, able to beat mediocre programs such as themselves but not able to get over the hump against top tier programs. Blake Sims and T.J. Yeldon will both have big games as Alabama cruises.

Prediction: Alabama 42, Tennessee 14

South Carolina (4-3, 2-3) at #5 Auburn (5-1, 2-1)

Before the season this appeared like it would be one of the biggest games in the SEC this season. But the Cocks have gone limp and now are basically only playing to try to become bowl eligible. The Gamecocks defense has been their biggest problem, so that means that Mike Davis, who has rushed for 100 yards in 3 straight games, should have no problem doing it for a 4th straight game.

Prediction: Auburn 43, South Carolina 21

Michigan (3-4, 1-2) at #8 Michigan State (6-1, 3-0)

The roles have reversed in this rivalry, as now Michigan State is the big brother beating up on their little brother, Michigan. Two weeks ago the Wolverines got a one week reprieve from their awful season by beating Penn State, but the heat should be back on coach Brady Hoke after this game against the rival Spartans. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook should have no problem with the Wolverines weak defense, and Jeremy Langford will have a big game on the ground. Devin Gardner figures to fall into his old trap of turning the ball over, leading to another Spartans victory in this rivalry.

Prediction: Michigan State 38, Michigan 23

Texas Tech (3-4, 1-3) at #10 TCU (5-1, 2-1)

TCU has to focus on Texas Tech this week but you know they are probably looking ahead to the next two weeks when they play #22 West Virginia and #11 Kansas State. The Red Raiders have won the last two meetings between these teams, but have struggled most of the season, with their three wins coming against Central Arkansas, UTEP, and Kansas. The Red Raiders will look to sling it around with quarterback Davis Webb, who through seven games already has 22 TDs and 12 INTs. That amount of passing means their defense is often on the field and since they aren't a good defense, that has been one of the biggest problems for Texas Tech. Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin will do damage to Texas Tech with both his arm and legs.

Prediction: TCU 48, Texas Tech 24

Last Week:7-1
Overall: 59-14

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