Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cram Session - Week 12

Thursday, November 13

Buffalo (5-4) at Miami (5-4), Miami favored by 5

The loser of this game will pretty much lose any realistic chance of catching the Patriots in the AFC East. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses last week where they blew leads late. For Miami, it was their second loss to an NFC North team that came in the final seconds. The Bills dominated the first meeting between these teams in Buffalo in September and that was before they had someone more competent at quarterback in Kyle Orton. Fred Jackson returned for Buffalo last week but appeared limited and it is questionable how much more effective he will be in this game since it comes on a short week. The Dolphins are having injury issues of their own at running back, as Lamar Miller did next to nothing against Detroit as he battles a shoulder injury. Miller should play but the Dolphins lost LT Branden Albert for the year in last week's loss. That could turn out to be a season changer, as Albert had helped bring stability to an offensive line that was dreadful last season. The Bills have owned the Dolphins in recent history but I like the Dolphins to break their Buffalo hex at home and to play good defense and do just enough offensively to get the win.

Prediction: Miami 24, Buffalo 20

Games That Matter To Me

Northwestern (3-6) at #18 Notre Dame (7-2)

Eliminated from the college football playoff discussion after an embarrassing loss to Arizona State, The Irish now really just have a spotlight bowl game left to play for. QB Everett Golson has been turning the ball over at an unprecedented rate, both fumbling and throwing interceptions. He has now thrown an interception in six straight games and if Notre Dame is going to beat either Louisville or USC, he will have to improve on those numbers. Against this week's opponent, Northwestern, it shouldn't matter. The Wildcats have dropped four in a row, scoring no more than 17 points in those games. Their quarterback, Trevor Siemian has turnover problems of his own, throwing 8 interceptions this season. The Wildcats offenses struggles have coincided with the struggles of their leading rusher Justin Jackson. Jackson averaged just 2 yards a carry in the loss to Michigan last week. Irish RB Tarean Folston saw his string of 100 yard rushing games end last week, mostly thanks to the Irish having to play catch up the entire game. I expect the Irish to lead early and for most of this game, and for coach Brian Kelly to ride Folston to a 100 plus yard performance. The Wildcats defense is adept at intercepting opposing quarterbacks, so I don't expect Golson to get through this game unscathed. However, overall I expect him to have a good game, both rushing and throwing to help him get back some of his confidence leading into the Irish's final two difficult games.

Prediction: Notre Dame 45, Northwestern 20

#16 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) at #20 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1)

Despite having just 1 loss, Nebraska can't get any respect from the college football playoff committee. Seven teams with 2 losses are ranked ahead of the Huskers. The Huskers might feel slighted but can't gripe with their ranking too much. This Saturday's game with the Badgers will be just Nebraska's second against a ranked opponent this season. Nebraska does control their destiny in trying to make the Big Ten championship game. They are currently tied with Wisconsin and Minnesota in the Big Ten West, and just so happen to play each of those teams the next two weeks.

Winning against tough teams on the road has been a bugaboo in the Bo Pelini era. Earlier this season Nebraska went to Michigan State and only a desperate fourth quarter comeback made the game appear closer than it really was. Wisconsin has put some all-time beatdowns on the Huskers over the past few seasons, including the last time these teams played in Madison. This game is all about the running backs. Wisconsin is led by Melvin Gordon. Goron has rushed for 1,501 yards this season and a mind blowing 19 touchdowns. Gordon has rushed for over 100 yards in every game but 1, and has rushed for over 200 yards three times this season, including last week in a victory against Purdue. On the opposite side is Ameer Abdullah for the Huskers. Abdullah had to leave the victory against Purdue a couple weeks ago with an injury but has been practicing this week and is expected to play. Abdullah has rushed for 1,250 yards this season and 17 TDs. He has rushed for over 200 yards in four games this season.

Each team can expect the opposing running backs to get theirs, so this game will likely come down to the quarterbacks. Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong Jr. has shown the maddening inconsistency that plagues most young players. Wisconsin has split time this season between Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy. Each quarterback has had trouble being accurate and not throwing the ball to the other team. I think Wisconsin will jump out to an early lead, thanks to Gordon, and will stretch that lead to the point where Armstrong will have to make plays for Nebraska, something the Huskers don't really want. Until the Huskers can prove under Pelini they are capable of beating good teams on the road, I have no reason to pick them.

Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 23

Top 10

#1 Mississippi State (9-0, 5-0) at #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1)

Shockingly the game of the weekend is once again in the SEC. Seems like every week teams from the SEC are battling in a Top 10 matchup. Alabama pulled a win out of their ass at LSU last week, but saw TCU leapfrog them in the playoff rankings. Oddsmakers in Vegas aren't disrespecting Bama though, they are disrespecting the number one team in the nation, Mississippi State by installing them as 8 point underdogs. The difference in this game, one way or the other, will be Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott. For Mississippi State to pull off the upset, Prescott will have to successfully use both his legs and arms against Bama's stout defense. Bama QB Blake Sims had his struggles last week at LSU, but on the final drive of regulation, and in overtime he came through when Bama needed him most. He is often bailed out by his freak weapon at receiver, Amari Cooper. You also can expect RB T.J. Yeldon to be fired up to atone for his fumble late in last week's game. Bulldogs RB Josh Robinson has been less than at the top of his game the past two weeks, and if he can't turn it around the Bulldogs undefeated season will come to an end. I can't pick against Nick Saban and Bama at home in a big game. after this weekend there will be no more undefeated teams in the SEC.

Prediction: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 17

#3 Florida State (9-0, 6-0) at Miami (6-3, 3-2)

The Seminoles string of underwhelming performances continued last week, when they struggled to put away a bad Virginia team at home. Because of that, the college football playoff committee vaulted Oregon ahead of Florida State, despite the Ducks having a loss. The Seminoles will have a chance to impress the committee Saturday when they face rivals Miami on the road. The Hurricanes have won three straight games, all by 20 points or more so there are some people that think the U is back! The caliber of opponent Miami beat in those games is nowhere near as good as Florida State, and none of those teams had as talented a player as Jamies Winston. I expect Canes RB Duke Johnson to have a big game but I think freshman QB Brad Kaaya will run into problems. During Miami's three game winning streak Kaaya hasn't thrown an interception but I think that streak will come to an end in this game. The Canes will keep it interesting for the first three quarters, but the Noles will pull away late. 

Prediction: Florida State 44, Miami 30

#4 TCU (8-1, 5-1) at Kansas (3-6, 1-5)

After last week's rout of Kansas State, TCU finds themselves in the coveted top 4 of the playoff rankings. They will be heavily favored in their final three games this season and if Baylor wins their remaining games, there will be some major discussion if TCU is invited to the playoff over Baylor. Baylor defeated TCU a month ago, after overcoming a 21 point deficit but the committee has said they are more impressed by TCU's strength of schedule. A game against Kansas will do nothing to help TCU's profile and can only hurt if they don't blow them out as everyone expects. Despite Kansas finally getting a Big 12 win last week, I suspect things will return to normal for them this weekend and they will be bludgeoned by the Horned Frogs.

Prediction: TCU 53, Kansas 13

#6 Arizona State (8-1, 5-1) at Oregon State (4-5, 1-5)

The Sun Devils put themselves right in the playoff mix by thumping Notre Dame last Saturday. Their defense took advantage of how sloppy Irish QB Everett Golson is with the ball and their offense capitalized on their opportunities their defense presented them with. The Sun Devils have to be careful of a potential letdown spot at Oregon State this weekend, against a struggling Beavers team. Oregon State does have a pretty good quarterback in Sean Mannion but Arizona State trumps them in the rushing department with D.J. Foster. I think the Sun Devils keep rolling, even if they have trouble getting themselves fully pumped for a lower caliber opponent.

Prediction: Arizona State 42, Oregon State 27

#8 Ohio State (8-1, 5-0) at #25 Minnesota (7-2, 4-1)

The Buckeyes are coming off their finest performance of the season, crushing Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. That victory moved the Buckeyes to within shouting distance of the coveted top four in the race for the playoff. In typical Ohio State fans fashion, they are making excuses for their team and saying the committee shouldn't hold it against J.T. Barrett that he was making just his second start in the Buckeyes inexcusable loss at home to Virginia Tech. Barrett has matured quickly since that game, completing more than 60% of his passes in every game since. He shredded the formerly vaunted Michigan State defense to the tune of 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. The Buckeyes can't keep feeling good about themselves too much though or they could be upset by the newly ranked Golden Gophers. Minnesota has a lot to prove, as they have played just one ranked team previously this season, and that was TCU, who thumped them. The star of the team is senior RB David Cobb, who has 1,205 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. It can't be ignored that the Golden Gophers have fattened up their record against a mostly cupcake schedule. Urban Meyer will have the Buckeyes ready to play, as they still have plenty left to play for this season.

Prediction: Ohio State 40, Minnesota 21

#9 Auburn (7-2, 4-2) at #15 Georgia (7-2, 5-2)

Auburn is now a longshot to make the playoffs after a crushing, upset loss at home to Texas A&M last weekend. Auburn had two chances late in the game to win but fumbled each time. The Tigers will need a lot of help to make the SEC Championship game but with them remaining in the Top 10, you can't say their playoff hopes are entirely dashed. The Bulldogs probably have too much ground to gain in the playoff standings, but remain very much alive in the SEC East. However, with this being their final SEC game of the season, they need to win this game and hope that Missouri loses at least once more this year. Senior QB Hutson Mason has struggled at times but has been really good recently, throwing 8 TDs and 0 INTs in his last four games. The Bulldogs will be bolstered by the return of RB Todd Gurley for this game, as he has served his four game suspension for profiting off his name through autographs. Nick Chubb ran wild in Gurley's absence and the Tigers will have their work cut out for them against those two. But the Tigers have lethal rushing weapons of their own, QB Nick Marshall and RB Cameron Artis-Payne. The Gators ran wild over the Bulldogs a few weeks ago when they crushed Georgia and I think Auburn will do the same thing to Georgia. I like Gus Malzahn's guys to bounce back from a tough loss last weekend and play spoiler to the Bulldogs SEC Championship hopes.

Prediction: Auburn 33, Georgia 28

Last Week: 5-3
Overall: 77-20

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