Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cram Session - Week 13

Thursday, November 20

Kansas City (7-3) at Oakland (0-10), Kansas City favored by 7

All signs point to another boring Thursday night game when the Chiefs play the winless Raiders in Oakland. Maybe the Raiders could catch the Chiefs a bit off on a short week, but if the Chiefs even play up to half their ability they should have no problem putting away Oakland early in this game. Derek Carr doesn't throw too many interceptions but he also isn't throwing for many yards. In his past three games he has thrown under 200 yards in each of those games. The Raiders also have no running game despite forking money over to Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. The Raiders are near the bottom of the league against the run, so I expect Jamaal Charles to have a big game, and Alex Smith to manage things well and the Chiefs to win their 8th game in their past nine.

Prediction: Kansas City 28, Oakland 14

Game That Matter To Me

#24 Louisville (7-3) at Notre Dame (7-3)

Two weeks can change a lot of things. In just two weeks Notre Dame has gone from being right in the thick of the playoff chase to an unranked team. The loss to Arizona State was bad, but losing at home and giving up 43 points to Northwestern was one of the lower moments in Brian Kelly's tenure as coach. The defense has fallen off a cliff the past month, allowing an average of 42 points per game in their last five. Not surprisingly Notre Dame has gone just 2-3 in that stretch. QB Everett Golson played better last week but still turned the ball over, throwing one interception and fumbling the ball away once. Then Kelly had a massive brain fart, going for 2 late in the game when up 11, even though if they had converted Notre Dame would have gone up by 13 which would have made no difference.

The Irish close their home schedule with a challenging game against the Bobby Petrino led Louisville Cardinals. Louisville has 3 losses but those 3 losses were by 2, 6, and 11 points, showing that they have been competitive in every game this season. Louisville has turned over the starting quarterback job to freshman Reggie Bonnafon. Bonnfaon has gotten some action this year, starting three games in place of Will Gardner, who suffered a season ending injury in last week's win against Boston College. Bonnafon has a whole other rushing dimension to his game that the Notre Dame defense will have to account for. Brandon Radcliff and former Auburn Tiger Michael Dyer have a timeshare at running back, although when Dyer gets the chance he can explode as indicated by big games against NC State and Florida State. Lousiville is mostly successful because of their defense, which ranks 10th in the country in points allowed. Other than an outlier game against Florida State when they gave up 42 points, the Cardinals have not allowed more than 21 points in any other game this season.

The Notre Dame rushing attack and specifically Tarean Folston continue to shine, so it is up to Golson to finally play a mistake free game. Call me crazy but I think the Irish will have a little extra motivation in them for senior day and they will get the Louisville defense similar to how Florida State did. The Irish defense will have their problems with Bonnafon but they will also benefit from Bonnafon making some youthful mistakes and Notre Dame will squeak by with a victory.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Louisville 31

#25 Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) at #23 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2)

Anyone who has followed the Bo Pelini led Huskers couldn't be too surprised by last week's embarrassing performance at Wisconsin. The Huskers gave me a glimmer of hope when they jumped out to a 17-3 lead, but then they remembered that they suck on the road against good teams and promptly were destroyed. They made national headlines for all the wrong reasons, allowing Badgers running back Melvin Gordon to rush for an FBS record 408 yards against them. Bo Pelini talks about how consistent he is when defending himself but his consistency is not a bright spot. Nebraska has consistently lost four games a year with him at the helm and they have consistently been beaten like a drum by good teams.

The Huskers now look to avoid completely collapsing as the season wins down. This week at Minnesota and  hen at Iowa next week, the Huskers should be favored. If they can win those two games then they will avoid a four loss season for the first time under Pelini. The task will be difficult this week, especially as their fragile defense faces another strong rusher in the Golden Gophers David Cobb. Cobb averages over 5 yards a carry and has 11 rushing touchdowns this season.

This game will basically come down to whether or not Nebraska can avoid turning the ball over. If they don't turn the ball over they won't get too far behind, and then Ameer Abdullah will actually get chances to carry the ball. I expect Cobb to have a strong day but as long as he doesn't go for 400 yards, the Huskers can be content with him doing things, if they can slow down the rest of the Gophers offensive attack. One thing Pelini coached teams have been decent at is beating teams they are better than, and if the Huskers aren't better than Minnesota, then the case becomes even stronger to move on from Bo.

Prediction: Nebraska 29, Minnesota 27

Top 10

Western Carolina (7-4) at #1 Alabama (9-1)

Bama's win over #1 Mississippi State at home last week, convinced the college football playoff committee to catapult the Tide to #1 in their latest rankings. All that stands between Bama and a shot at the national title is a home game with Auburn and then the SEC Championship game. This week, Bama has a tune up game with Western Carolina, where the goal is to get the starters out of the game healthy as quickly as possible.

Prediction: Alabama 45, Western Carolina 9

Colorado (2-8, 0-7) at #2 Oregon (9-1, 6-1)

The Ducks have an easy one at home this week with Colorado and then a potential trap game at Corvalis next weekend against Oregon State. After that, they will play potentially Arizona, Arizona State, USC, or UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game. The Buffaloes have a pretty good passing game but no defense and shouldn't present any real challenge for Marcus Mariota and company.

Prediction: Oregon 66, Colorado 21

Boston College (6-4, 3-3) at #3 Florida State (10-0, 7-0)

Last weekend against Miami, the Seminoles followed the pattern they have followed all year, getting down big, then waking up and putting a team away. Despite being the only team from a major conference that is undefeated in college football, the Seminoles still find themselves third. It doesn't matter whether you are first or fourth in the final standings, but it has to chap the Seminoles a bit that 1-loss teams Alabama and Oregon are ranked ahead of them. Even against teams they were clearly better then, the Seminoles haven't been able to really blow anyone out since they beat Wake Forest by 40 in early October. The Eagles are bowl eligible and upset USC earlier this season so I don't expect Florida State to turn over a new leaf and steamroll them. I suspect that Jameis Winston will make some mistakes early, the game will stay close and then the Seminoles will exert their dominance towards the end of the game.

Prediction: Florida State 34, Boston College 20

Vanderbilt (3-7, 0-6) at #4 Mississippi State (9-1, 5-1)

Despite their loss to Alabama last week, Mississippi State still finds themselves in the coveted top four in the rankings. Now, will they remain there is the question? Their only chance of making the SEC title game is for Alabama to lose to Auburn next week and then the Bulldogs must win this week and next week at Mississippi. You know the Bulldogs players minds will be on the Rebels but Vanderbilt has returned to irrelevancy with the departure of James Franklin.

Prediction: Mississippi State 36, Vanderbilt 14

Indiana (3-7, 0-6) at #6 Ohio State (9-1, 6-0)

The Buckeyes got past a tough test at Minnesota and now have easy games at home against Indiana and Michigan. Some might say that it is presumptuous of me to call the Michigan game easy, but rivalry or no rivalry Michigan sucks and won't give the Buckeyes a game. In all likelihood the Buckeyes will have to get past Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. If they do that, then their home loss to Virginia Tech may be but a distant memory and the Buckeyes will be in the playoffs.

Prediction: Ohio State 58, Indiana 24

Oklahoma State (5-5, 3-4) at #7 Baylor (8-1, 5-1)

Baylor appears like they will need a lot of help to make into the final four rankings. Even if they were to win their final three games, it seems that the committee doesn't think much of Baylor and would only move them up if everyone in front of them lost. Even with a win over TCU, the committee is still putting Baylor behind them. The Cowboys are going through a rough rebuilding year and have lost 4 games in a row by an average of 28 points. Most of those problems have come from their inability to do anything offensively. Playing the 7th ranked Bears on the road doesn't figure to make things any better for Okie State.

Prediction: Baylor 45, Oklahoma State 21

#8 Mississippi (8-2, 4-2) at Arkansas (5-5, 1-5)

The Razorbacks finally earned their first SEC victory in two years and first under coach Bret Bielema. They try to carry that momentum against Mississippi which still holds outside hopes of making the SEC Championship game, but will need a lot of help. The Razorbacks need to win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible, so they will be ready to give the Rebels their best shot. The Razorbacks shut out LSU last week, so Bo Wallace figures to have his work cut out for him on Saturday. I think Ole Miss is still feeling the after effects of their back to back losses and the death of their national title dreams. Arkansas now has that monkey off their back and I think they will start an SEC winning streak and pull off a second straight upset at home.

Prediction: Arkansas 27, Mississippi 24

#19 USC (7-3, 6-2) at #9 UCLA (8-2, 5-2)

There aren't many finer images then when the Trojan red of USC takes on the blue of UCLA. Throw in some stakes as far as trying to make the Pac-12 championship and you have the recipe for a fun game in primetime this Saturday night. USC will be looking to win three straight games for the first time all season, while the Bruins look to extend their current four game winning streak, and their two game winning streak against the Trojans. Bruins QB Brett Hundley received more of the headlines heading into the season, but Trojans QB Cody Kessler is having the better season. Kessler has 29 TDs and just 3 INTs this season. Hundley doesn't have those passing numbers but where he trumps Kessler is his ability to run the ball. Both teams also have exceptional skill players at the running back and wide receiver positions. The Trojans are led by Javorius Allen, who has rushed for over 100 yards in eight of ten games this season. WR Nelson Agholor has 82 catches this season and 10 touchdowns and is coming off a 16 catch performance against Cal. The Bruins are led by RB Paul Perkins and WR Jordan Payton. These teams are very evenly matched but I give the edge to the Bruins because of Hundley's multi dimensional talents on offense and the homefield atmosphere of the Rose Bowl that UCLA will have.

Prediction: UCLA 34, USC 28

Charleston Southern (8-3) at #10 Georgia (8-2)

Todd Gurley returned from his suspension last week and then promptly tore his ACL, ending his season and possibly his college career and possibly adversely effecting his pro prospects. Georgia is done with their SEC schedule and for them to make the SEC championship game they need Missouri to lose one of its final two games against either Tennessee or Arkansas. Georgia closes the season next week with a challenging game versus Georgia Tech

Prediction: Georgia 42, Charleston Southern 14

Last Week: 5-3
Overall: 82-23

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