This week is not getting quite the publicity as last week, because of the lack of top 25 games. But, in my opinion, this week could a really good one in the world of college football. Their are several good games and several games where higher ranked teams could get upset. So get ready to grab your remote, sit on your coach, and watch another great weekend of college football. Here is my opinion on how this week will shake out.
Iowa needs a big game from Ricky Stanzi
Both teams have done what they were supposed to the first two weeks of the season. Both have looked really good against weaker competition, although Iowa dominated rival Iowa State last week. No, the Cyclones are not world-beaters, but they are a rival and have some talent. The Hawkeyes put the doubt of that game away in the first quarter. Two contrasting styles will meet in this game. Arizona likes to sling it around and spread it out, while Iowa is a more conservative football team that is run oriented. Arizona’s defense has looked good against weak competition the first two weeks. The Hawkeyes have one of the better defenses in the country. I think it will be a great game, but I like the Hawkeyes to control the clock and be able to run the football opening big plays in the passing game from Ricky Stanzi. The defense holds off the Wildcats enough and the Hawkeyes pull it out.
The Razorbacks have looked a little vanilla in their first two games of the season against Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe. Georgia rolled Louisiana-Lafayette and then struggled offensively against South Carolina. A lot of that can be accredited to A.J. Green being suspended. The Bulldogs are appealing the suspension and if they do not win the appeal the Dogs will be without there best playmaker again. The Bulldogs need to open up and let Aaron Murray loose a little bit. They played close-to-the-vest last week. I believe the Razorbacks are better defensively than people think. I think Georgia will get better over the season, but without A.J. Green I do not know if they have enough to win. Arkansas needs to make sure they do not look ahead to Alabama. I believe the Hogs will win and set up a huge game next week with the defending National Champs.
This game is going to be big for both teams. A win could propel both teams into there conference schedule, but a loss could send them limping into the conference schedule. Clemson has played North Texas and Presbyterian so we know nothing about them. Auburn on the other hand had a tricky game at Mississippi State last week and narrowly escaped with a victory. The offense did not score in the second half, but the defense improved on a shaky game against Arkansas State. Clemson’s defense can slow Auburn’s offense down, but Auburn will be able to put some points up. On the other side Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper are trying to help replace C.J. Spiller and are doing so behind an experienced line, but they need a receiver to step up and be explosive. Kyle Parker is going to have to have a big game to win. If this game was in Clemson I would go with them, but with the game being at Jordan-Hare I’ll take Auburn.
Texas did not do offensively what should have against Rice and Wyoming. The running game has been better than last year after saying they were going to put an emphasis on it. Garrett Gilbert is getting more and more comfortable in the starting role, but he has a ways to go. The Longhorns need more big plays instead of having to drive the football every series. The receiving core has gotten even deeper with the emergence of freshman Mike Davis. Texas Tech looked fine against SMU and New Mexico, but neither of those defenses scare anyone. The Red Raiders struggled defensively against SMU, but have talent. The Texas defense is not going to allow Texas Tech to run the ball, so Taylor Potts is going to have to have a big game. I think Texas will struggle a little bit offensively against an improving Red Raider defense and I think Texas Tech will score just enough on the Texas defense. This is my upset special with the Red Raiders taking down the Longhorns.
Texas Tech 21-20
Before the season, my surprise team was the Michigan State Spartans. So far, even though it has been against weak competition, they have looked good. The running game has been tremendous with Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. The starter coming into the season was Larry Caper, but an injury kept him out of the first two games. But, he will be ready to play Saturday against the Irish. Notre Dame’s defense looked extremely slow last week against Denard Robinson. Offensively they looked really good even without Dayne Crist for part of the game. But, the Spartans are a much better defense than Michigan. I think Kirk Cousins and that Spartan offense will be able to throw the ball along with continuing to run it like they have so far this season. The question mark on the Spartans defensive side is in the secondary. You know Brian Kelly is going to go after it and Dayne Crist should have a solid game. So, I could see a shootout, but the Spartans are a better defensive team than given credit for. When you add in playing at home and their ability to control the clock, I like the Spartans.
Michigan State 34-21
Florida has really struggled offensively in their first two games of the season, especially in the first half. The offensive line is not what it has been the past few years and they are not getting much production from skill guys not named Jeff Demps. John Brantley needs more time to get comfortable with being the starter and it looks like it might take longer than some people believed. Tennessee took a 13-3 lead on a Tauren Poole 1-yard touchdown run with 14:21 left in the first half. That’s the good news. The bad news is Oregon proceeded to go on a 45-0 run to end the game and win 48-13. You know the Vols are going to be fired up and ready to play and the fans are going to be amped up playing their rivals who have owned them as of late. If Tennessee comes out with the energy and effort it did against Oregon and sustain it, then they could make this a game. Matt Simms is going to have to play mistake free football. If B.J. Daniels could have done that last week, it would have been a completely different game. I think the Gators offense continues to struggle, but Jeff Demps and that ball-hawking defense make just enough plays. I don’t think Tennessee has quite the talent to win it and I think Florida will score a late touchdown to make it look worse than it is.
This is a huge test for Nebraska. They are carrying their redshirt freshman QB into a very hostile environment in Seattle. Taylor Martinez has impressed running the football, but for the Huskers to win this game he will have to be able to throw the ball downfield. Jake Locker received a lot of attention coming into the year, but after the loss to BYU he slipped back a little bit in the Heisman talk. This game is his chance to get back in the conversation. Idaho has some talent on offense and usually score a lot of points, so what Nebraska’s defense did last week was impressive. I think they are replacing Ndamukong Suh just fine, but this is the real test. Locker has just enough talent around him with RB Chris Polk and WR Jermaine Kearse that they can move the football on Nebraska and put up some points. Washington is an extremely hostile place to play, so this is a real test for Taylor Martinez and Nebraska. I think the Huskers defense will hold the Huskies down, but I think they will put up a few points. But, I think the Huskers score just enough and win with a late field goal.
LSU just cannot seem to put it together. They have one of the most talented teams in America, but they just can’t seem to put it all together. Most people blame it on coaching, and rightfully so. If LSU loses this game, Les Miles is going to have to do some pretty serious work the rest of the year to keep his job. LSU almost blew a lead against a well undermanned North Carolina team, and only led 10-3 against Vanderbilt heading into the fourth quarter. Outside of the fourth quarter against North Carolina the Tigers have been very good defensively. But, they continue to struggle offensively. The running game has picked up, but Jordan Jefferson cannot seem to get the ball to his receivers. They have playmakers in Terrance Toliver and Russell Shepard among others. Patrick Peterson is one of the most exciting players in all of college football. But, Mississippi State is primed for an upset. The Bulldogs thought that they were going to get one last week against Auburn, but could not quite pull it off. If Leon Berry catches the pass from Chris Relf late, there is a good chance they win that game. The Bulldogs need Relf and Tyler Russell to stay calm and not make mistakes and not give the Tigers short field position. I think that Mississippi State will be able to score against LSU. LSU has to show me they can score themselves before I really believe in them. I think the Bulldogs go down to Baton Rouge and get a signature win.
Mississippi State 20-15
The Bearcats had a tough opening loss to Fresno State and lost USC transfer WR Vidal Hazleton for the season in the same game. Cincinnati scored twice early against the Bulldogs and did not score again. They have to be more consistent on offense to win this road game. NC State played a tough road game last week against a pretty good UCF team and had a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter, but allowed the Golden Knights to cut it to 28-21 before holding on to the win. The Wolfpack struggled defensively has last season, but they returned experience and injured star linebacker Nate Irving and seem to have improved. This game will be the real test for this defense. Zach Collaros had experience coming into this year, but it is a whole different story when the reigns are all yours, but it makes it really difficult when the offensive line is allowing ten sacks in two games. The 1-1 Bearcats have got to get a running game going with Isaiah Pead and need big plays out of DJ Woods and Armon Binns. NC State was really able to run the football against UCF with Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene splitting time at running back and Russell Wilson using his wheels from the quarterback spot. They also have a very solid receiving core. I think the Wolfpack’s ability to run the football and having a slightly better defense in my opinion leads them to a victory and a 3-0 start. 1-2 is not the kind of start Butch Jones wanted at Cincinnati. Look for a higher scoring affair.
NC State 31-24
This will be the first game for North Carolina since the game against LSU that they played without thirteen of their players, most of them starters. Georgia Tech had an inexcusable loss at Kansas last week. What made it inexcusable is the fact that the Jayhawks lost to FCS member North Dakota State and scored a whopping three points. Georgia Tech struggled making stops against Kansas, so the questions they had on defense have not been answered. As of right now, the only suspended player the Tar Heels will get back is starting running back Shaun Draughn. That means, unless something changes, they will be without guys like Marvin Austin and Greg Little once again. North Carolina is still talented on defense even without those guys. But, it will hurt playing without them of course. Where it will hurt the most is depth. But, Tyler Yates’ performance against LSU has secured the QB spot for him for now. With Shaun Draughn returning they should have more success running the football and keeping the ball from that option attack. The Tar Heels still have playmakers on the defensive side and I think they will bend, but not break against the Yellow Jackets and pull out a narrow victory at home. This is a huge early season ACC battle and I think it will go to the Tar Heels.
North Carolina 24-16
Can Robert Griffin and Baylor pull off the upset of TCU?
1. Southern Miss 31, Kansas 21
2. Cal 38, Nevada 24
3. Ole Miss 14, Vanderbilt 13
4. Florida State 41, BYU 28
5. Oklahoma 45, Air Force 21
6. Houston 38, UCLA 23 (Assuming Case Keenum plays)
7. Virginia Tech 38, East Carolina 17
8. Wisconsin 31, Arizona State 14
9. West Virginia 28, Maryland 21
10. TCU 38, Baylor 27