Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cram Session - Week 11

Thursday, November 12

Buffalo (4-4) at New York Jets (5-3)

Rex Ryan returns to the Meadowlands, a place where he peaked early and then couldn't find that winning formula again in his later years. Rex feels like he was sabotaged in his last year in New York and Rex doesn't believe in being the better man or turning the other cheek. So to that end, he has made IK Enemkpali a captain for this game. For those that don't remember, Enemkpali was the guy that punched Geno Smith in the jaw, breaking it and costing Smith the starting quarterback job. Theatrics aside, this game is critical in the AFC Wild Card race. Neither of these teams are catching the Patriots, so that means they have to battle it out for two playoff spots. The Bills offense was healthy for the first time in weeks last Sunday against Miami and it instantly paid off. LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Sammy Watkins and Tyrod Taylor all had big days. The Jets defense has been susceptible to big game passing games the last few weeks, even with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie lining up at corner. Cromartie could miss this game, but with how he has played recently that might be more of a blessing for the Jets. Something to watch for in what could be a close game is the Jets kicking situation. Nick Folk is out for the next month with a quad injury, and his replacement is former Texans flameout Randy Bullock. These two teams are about equal in talent, so I will lean towards the Jets homefield advantage on a short week. I think that Chris Ivory and Brandon Marshall could be in line for big games and push the Jets to a critical win.

Prediction: New York Jets 27, Buffalo 21

Games That Matter To Me

Nebraska (4-6, 2-4) at Rutgers (3-6, 1-5)

Mike Riley was definitely catching some heat for the Huskers lost season and even had some fans questioning if firing Bo Pelini was actually the wrong call. But then Riley did something that Pelini could never do and defeated a Top 10 team. The Huskers got what could be argued as a generous call from the officials on that game winning touchdown, but all that matters is what the record books say, which is Nebraska 39, Michigan State 38. With that win, the Huskers can now cling to faint hopes of winning their final two games and making a bowl game. They have to avoid a letdown spot at Rutgers this weekend. The Scarlet Knights were destroyed in their last two games by Ohio State and Michigan. They are a team that struggles mightily passing the ball, and does only marginally better running. They have a mediocre offense and a bad defense, hence why they are 3-6. When RB Robert Martin is able to get in a flow he is very productive. But Rutgers has been playing so much catch up lately that he is seeing a sporadic number of carries. It was evident how important Tommy Armstrong is to the Huskers offense. He isn't always pretty, but he does a great job of getting the ball downfield. Terrell Newby has been battling injuries so Imani Cross got the bulk of the carries last Saturday and responded well. I would be surprised if he isn't the main ball carrier in this game. The letdown spot does concern me, and this game will probably be close, but I like the Huskers to build off the momentum of last week's win and string together their first winning streak of the season.

Prediction: Nebraska 35, Rutgers 27

Top 10

#1 Clemson (9-0, 6-0) at Syracuse (3-6, 1-4)

The Tigers validated the playoff committee's faith in them by defeating Florida State at home last week. The win clinched the Atlantic Division for Clemson, setting them up for an ACC Championship showdown with North Carolina in the next few weeks. Until then, the Tigers look to navigate what on paper appears to be an easy schedule. I don't think people should overlook the game at South Carolina, as you never know with rivalry games. Cuse have lost six straight and their fans have moved on to basketball season. They will try to make a difference in this game but the Tigers have way too much talent and I expect Deshaun Watson to have his way with the Orange.

Prediction: Clemson 45, Syracuse 27

#2 Alabama (8-1, 5-1)  at #17 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2)

The Tide crushed LSU at home, and made Leonard Fournette look mortal. Their home loss to a 3 loss Ole Miss team is ancient history to everyone and I am almost surprised the committee didn't make Alabama their number one team. Alabama does have a highly impressive resume and can add another strong road win as they play Dak Prescott and Mississippi State on Saturday. Prescott isn't getting the pub he got last year when he pushed the Bulldogs all the way to number one, but he has been spectacular this season. He has 18 TDs and just 1 interception, and leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 418 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Tide defense was up to the task against Fournette, but he can only run the ball, with Prescott they will have to be aware of both the run and pass. The problem with relying so much on just one guy though, as LSU learned, was if he is shut down, then what do you turn to? Alabama has multiple guys on offense they can turn to. Running back Derrick Henry is their best player and the Ride rode him to 38 carries last week. However, if he was to be slowed down, Jake Coker has shown he can make plays when called upon and avoid the big mistake. The Bulldogs defense follows the bend but don't break model. They can give up a healthy amount of yards, but have only given up 17 points per game this year. More often than not Nick Saban's Tide come up aces in huge games, be it on the road or at home. They will get Mississippi State's best shot, but I don't think it will be enough to officially unseat them as the kings of the SEC. The Bulldogs struggle against the run, so I expect another dominant Henry performance to carry Bama.

Prediction: Alabama 28, Mississippi State 20

 # 3 Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) at Illinois (5-4, 2-3)

The Buckeyes had another uninspiring Cardale Jones led victory last week against Minnesota and happily welcome back J.T. Barrett against Illinois this weekend. The biggest challenge for the Buckeyes won't be the Illini, it will be trying not to look past this game towards their home game with Michigan State next weekend. This is the last cupcake on the Buckeyes schedule, from here on out they are going to have to earn their playoff spot against top teams. When Barrett started Ohio State showed more of an ability to dominate teams they should, so I expect that sort of result on Saturday.

Prediction: Ohio State 41, Illinois 20

Wake Forest (3-6) at #4 Notre Dame (8-1)

I was very impressed with the Irish's performance at Pittsburgh last week. They played focused football and not like a team buying into the hype they received as the 5th ranked team in the first College Football Playoff rankings. DeShon Kizer has been excellent stepping in for Malik Zaire, so good, that I am not sure Zaire will be the starter next year when he is healthy. On paper, this week's game at home against Wake Forest should be a cakewalk. However, hopefully the Irish bring that same level of intensity they brought to Pittsburgh last week and don't lose this trap game. The Demon Deacons are dreadful on offense, having not cleared the 20 point barrier in their past five games. In fact their last win was a 3-0 victory over Boston College a month ago. Deacons QB John Wolford makes far too many mistakes and isn't accurate. The Wake Forest defense on the other hand, has been what has kept them in most games and what could possibly give the Irish some trouble. Honestly, the Irish could probably play all their backups and beat Wake Forest. They may be down to their third string running back, as C.J. Prosise left the game against Pitt with a concussion and is questionable for Saturday. As has been the story all season though, the next man stepped up, this time being Josh Adams and he rumbled for 147 yards rushing. I will be shocked if Will Fuller doesn't have another three touchdown game like he did last week. The march to Stanford and what could amount to a playoff eliminator should roll on this week as the Irish lay waste to Wake Forest and await Boston College for Senior Day.

Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Wake Forest 13

Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) at #5 Iowa (9-0, 5-0)

Boring Iowa will win a boring game while a nation yawns. Not sure why a win over Indiana bumped Iowa up four spots by the committee.

Prediction: Iowa 35, Minnesota 14

# 12 Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1) at #6 Baylor (8-0, 5-0)

We are starting to get into the meat of the Big 12 schedule, where the heavyweights start playing each other and will sort out the mess that the Big 12 currently is. Baylor has run roughshod over their easy scehdule but now they have to face the Sooners with freshman Jarrett Stidham under center. Stidham played well at Kansas State last week, throwing for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns. The rest of the Bears were not as good, as Baylor put up by far their lowest point total of the season with 31. Besides that inexplicable hiccup against Texas, the Sooners have been dominating this season. The amount of offensive talent on display in this game will be fun to watch. For Oklahoma you have QB Baker Mayfield and his 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He is complemented by RB Samaje Perine and WR Sterling Shepard. Baylor is loaded with leading rush Shock Linwood and leading receiver Corey Coleman and his absurd 20 touchdowns. The defenses are really just window dressing in this game. If one of the offenses struggles it will more than likely be due to them shooting themselves in the foot and not anything the other team is doing to slow them down. I am tempted to pick the Sooners in this game but have been burned too many times by picking Oklahoma to win in big spots. I think they can match talent with Baylor and since the Bears are using their backup quarterback, I think Oklahoma should win, but they will Stoops it away somehow.

Prediction: Baylor 42, Oklahoma 38

Oregon (6-3, 4-2) at #7 Stanford (8-1, 7-0)

Stanford finds themselves in an interesting spot in this year's matchup against Oregon, they are actually the favorites. They did pretty well for themselves in an underdog role in years past against the Ducks, but the country would be stunned if they are unable to beat Oregon this year. The Ducks have been up and down all season but have had some hard fought victories lately and have looked far more potent on offense when QB Vernon Adams Jr. has been healthy, as he will be for this matchup. Oregon has always struggled with the physicality of Stanford and I expect their defense to have no answer for Cardinals star running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is a big reason that Stanford has dominated time of possession this season, and why the Stanford defense is giving up just 20 points a game, 30th best in the country. The slow pace will mess up Oregon's rhythm and lead to Stanford pushing past the Ducks.

Prediction: Stanford 30, Oregon 17

#8 Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0) at Iowa State (3-6, 2-4)

The Cowboys blew out TCU at home and now are receiving way too much hype and praise. Anyone who had slightly been paying attention this year knew how wildly overrated TCU was. They could barely beat bad Minnesota, Kansas State and Texas Tech teams on the road previous to losing to the Cowboys. Despite all this because of Oklahoma State's win all the media pundits felt compelled to place the Cowboys in their Top 4. Thankfully, the committee saw things correctly and while moving up Oklahoma State, is still taking a wait and see attitude. I need to see a little more from them before I consider them a playoff team. How they handle the accolades on the road in a trap game against Iowa State will be interesting to watch. If they can get past Iowa State this weekend, they have both Baylor and Oklahoma at home so everything is right there for the Cowboys. Paul Rhoads Cyclones have pulled off some pretty major upsets at home in the past, but those Cyclones were better than this year's team. The Cyclones have not been competitive against strong competition, and while I think they can make a game of this for a half, they will eventually be boat raced.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 52, Iowa State 28

Arkansas (5-4, 3-2) at #9 LSU (7-1, 4-1)

After a disappointing loss and performance against Alabama last weekend, it will be interesting to see how Les Miles Tigers respond against Arkansas. The Razorbacks are not a team that LSU can take lightly. They are highly talented on offense and have won for of their past five game, including a shootout at Ole Miss last weekend. After a rough go of it last week against Alabama, Leonard Fournette should return to form against a porous Arkansas run defense. Hogs quarterback Brandon Allen could find trouble trying to air it out against a stingy LSU pass defense. Arkansas has proven they can play with just about anyone in the country, so I expect a close, tight game, that won't be decided until the final few minutes.

Prediction: LSU 33, Arkansas 28

#10 Utah (8-1, 5-1) at Arizona (5-5, 2-5)

Before Utah moves on to next week's home game against UCLA, they have to focus on a reeling Wildcats teams. The challenge is that next week's game against UCLA could be what decides who wins the South division in the Pac-12. Despite their recent struggles Arizona should have some confidence going into this game as they have defeated Utah in each of their last three matchups. Utes QB Travis Wilson has had his troubles with Arizona, but I expect that to change on Saturday night. The Wildcats defense has been highly generous in allowing touchdowns, allowing the most in the conference. Utes coach Kyle Whittingham will have his guys ready and I expect Utah to win pretty comfortably.

Prediction: Utah 42, Arizona 27

Last Week: 9-1
Overall: 79-19

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