Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cram Session - Week 11

Thursday, November 6

Cleveland (5-3) at Cincinnati (5-2-1), Cincinnati favored by 6 1/2

Record wise this is a pretty good Thursday night matchup but accept my apology for not being entirely amped for a Browns/Bengals tilt. One player that is really jacked for this game is former Brown and current Bengal Greg Little. He talked about how badly he wants to get revenge on Cleveland for releasing him. I think Cleveland should want to get revenge on him for being a wasted draft pick that always dropped balls. The Browns are finally out of the powder puff portion of their schedule and aside from blowing a game at Jacksonville they won the games they needed to. The AFC North has all four teams currently over .500, making it arguably the strongest division in football. The Bengals offense got A.J. Green back last week and he paid instant dividends with a touchdown. Jeremy Hill also shined when given a chance to start due to Giovanni Bernard's injury and he once again will get the start in this game. He should have another huge game against the 30th ranked Browns rushing defense. I'm not buying the Browns as legitimate contenders because they have a winning record against a poo poo platter of a schedule. They don't look like a team that is ready to go win at Cincinnati on a short week.

Prediction: Cincinnati 29, Cleveland 17

Top 10

UT Martin (5-5) at #1 Mississippi State (8-0)

The #1 Bulldogs get the week off essentially before traveling to Alabama next weekend in a game with monstrous implications. Mississippi State hopes to have this game well in hand as quickly as possible and be healthy as possible for the game against Bama.

Prediction: Mississippi State 48, UT Martin 10

Virginia (4-5, 2-3) at #2 Florida State (8-0, 5-0)

Much like Mississippi State, Florida State has what appears to be a cupcake game before a challenging game on the road next week. The Seminoles trailed Louisville 21-0 last week but then stormed back thanks to some skill and some luck as well. This is another game where Florida State's goal should be to win comfortably and stay healthy, so they can be at full strength when they go to Miami next week.

Prediction: Florida State 49, Virginia 13

Texas A&M (6-3, 2-3) at #3 Auburn (7-1, 4-1)

The Tigers are another team that seem to have a lucky rabbit foot. Last weekend against Ole Miss, the Rebels were about to score the potential game winning touchdown but then lost their best player and the game all on the same play. The Kenny Hill era at Texas A&M ended almost as quickly as it started. Hill lost his job to freshman Kyle Allen and is suspended for this game for violating team rules. Allen looked pretty terrible against Louisiana Monroe last weekend, and he took the rest of the offense down with him. With the Aggies having such an atrocious defense, any lulls that the offense faces could be catastrophic. Auburn has had defensive issues of their own but Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne cannot be stopped rushing the ball. I think this game will be closer than people think, but still relatively easy for Auburn compared to the gauntlet they have gone through the past month.

Prediction: Auburn 38, Texas A&M 24

#4 Oregon (8-1, 5-1) at #17 Utah (6-2, 3-2)

The Ducks last major test they have to pass to ensure a spot in the college football playoff comes this weekend at Utah. If the Ducks win this game they clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship and will only have games against Colorado and Oregon State remaining. The Utes are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Arizona State where the offense couldn't do enough to supplement an outstanding defensive performance. The Utes defense will have to play above their heads again if they are going to slow down Marcus Mariota and company. Utes quarterback Travis Wilson isn't an outstanding player like Mariota, but is a solid game manager. He has not thrown an interception this season, and the Utes offense thrives when RB Devontae Booker is at his peak powers. Booker has rushed for over 100 yards in five straight games and also has six rushing touchdowns in that span. The Ducks have a rushing threat of their own, Royce Freeman, who averages over 5 yards per carry. The Ducks have had their problems on the road in the past, but are undefeated there this season. It will be tough sledding for Oregon in this road atmosphere at night, but I feel like this team has grown up, as shown by their throttling of nemesis Stanford last weekend.

Prediction: Oregon 31, Utah 28

#5 Alabama (7-1, 4-1) at #16 LSU (7-2, 3-2)

This Tide/Tigers battle will come down to which teams strength outperforms the other. LSU is at their best when they run the ball down teams throats and have to do very little passing. But Alabama's defense makes it near impossible for teams to run on them. But while the Tigers are known more for their rushing prowess, the Alabama duo at running back, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry have outrushed LSU's Leonard Fournette and Terrence Magee. The player that will make the difference in this game is Amari Cooper. LSU doesn't have a game changer at receiver like Cooper is. Other than a sorry performance against Arkansas, Cooper has been a beast, and is coming off a 9 catch, 224 yard, 2 touchdown performance in a win against Tennessee. I think he will be good for at least 2 touchdowns in this game and will keep the rabid Tigers fanbase at bay.

Prediction: Alabama 27, LSU 23

#7 Kansas State (7-1, 5-0) at #6 TCU (7-1, 4-1)

This game will serve as a virtual elimination game when it comes to making the college football playoff. The loser of this game will have 2 losses and will be pretty much shut out of any chance of ending up in the final four. TCU almost made this game irrelevant by themselves, barely scarping by with a victory in Morgantown last weekend. QB Trevone Boykin suffered through his worst game of the season, but when the 4th quarter rolled around and his team needed him, he was there to make some crucial plays. Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters is mister consistent. Every week you can count on him to throw for no less than 200 yards but never more than 300 yards, as he has done in all eight starts this year. Both teams have consistent rushing attacks, and both Waters and Boykin are part of those rushing attacks. Where Kansas State has an advantage is in their passing game. Waters has equally dangerous threats in Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton. These teams couldn't be more evenly matched so nothing less than a nail biter would surprise me. In this instance, I give the edge to the Horned Frogs because of the homefield advantage they have. Kansas State has proven they can win on the road, as they did it at Oklahoma, but another major road win this season seems too much to ask.

Prediction: TCU 35, Kansas State 28

#14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) at #8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0)

Much like TCU/Kansas State this is another elimination game in the college football playoff race. Ohio State could win the Big Ten championship and still not make the top four because of their embarrassing loss at home to Virginia Tech. At the very least, if they can upset Michigan State they will have the inside track to winning the Big Ten eastern division. After a rough start to his season, Buckeyes freshman QB J.T. Barrett has been outstanding. Since the loss to the Hokies, Barrett has thrown 20 TDs and just 3 INTs. He is a dual threat as a runner in Urban Meyer's spread offense, and never lets a defense catch their breath when defending him. I expect the Buckeyes to call RB Ezekiel Elliott's number often in East Lansing on Saturday. They will want to use him to pound at the Spartans tough defensive front, and help the Buckeyes control possession. The Spartans squad last year that won the Big Ten was known for defense, but this year's version is an offensive juggernaut. Michigan State ranks 5th in the nation in scoring, and QB Connor Cook is having a very good season. But the Spartans biggest weapon on offense is RB Jeremy Langford. Langford has rushed for six touchdowns in his last two games. WR Tony Lippett is another weapon, as he has gone over 100 yards receiving in his past four games and in six of eight games this season. Good offenses playing good defenses should make for quite the game Saturday night. I expect the difference in this game to be turnovers and I think the Spartans can force Barrett back into this early season form, giving the Spartans the win.

Prediction: Michigan State 34, Ohio State 25

#10 Notre Dame (7-1) at #9 Arizona State (7-1)

And another playoff elimination game! The Irish had their yearly struggle with Navy last week, before eventually holding them off for a 49-39 win. The offense has been on point all season, but the defense, after a strong start to the year, has really struggled the last few weeks, giving up 43 points to North Carolina and then 39 to Navy. In order to go to Arizona State and pull off the upset, the Irish defense will have to perform much better. The Sun Devils lone loss this season came over a month ago at home, when they were bludgeoned by UCLA 62-27. The defense has come a long way since that performance, as Arizona State has allowed less than 20 points in three straight games. Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly has been adequate since returning from injury two games ago, but the Sun Devils have been relying more lately on RB D.J. Foster. The other major weapon for Arizona State is WR Jaelen Strong, who leads the Sun Devils with 57 catches and 8 touchdowns.

For Notre Dame, RB Tarean Folston continues to emerge as a consistent threat for Notre Dame. With the rushing attack now humming, that has allowed QB Everett Golson to be able to get away with more mistakes than he would have at the beginning of the year. Golson has been way too sloppy with the ball in the last month, and his interception late in the first half last week, allowed Navy to get right back in the game. After throwing no picks in the first three games of the year, Golson has an interception in 5 straight games. Fortunately for him, he threw three or more touchdowns in four of those games. WRs William Fuller and Corey Robinson had quiet games last week but they are Golson's top two targets and I expect one or both of them to play better games on Saturday.

My gut feeling is that Notre Dame will have a performance similar to the one they had against Florida State but this time it will result in a win. Sun Devils QB Kelly doesn't seem like much of a threat, and the Arizona State offense is underwhelming. I think that means the Irish will play better defensively this weekend, and that Golson will have it knocked into his brain by Brian Kelly that he has to much more careful with the football and in his decision making.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Arizona State 31

Last Week: 6-2
Overall: 72-17

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