Been busy as hell this week, not much say. Let’s get started.
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong. Also, expect plenty of typos.
- Pennsylvania State @ Purdue (ESPN): I still don’t think Notre Dame is a very good football team. Mostly, what does that say about Purdue? Mostly that they don’t really do the “defense” thing very well, having given up 31 points per DI-A game and 38 to Notre Dame. Sure, ND is scoring some points this year, but not at the same clip as Penn State. PSU should handle this one.
- Iowa @ Michigan State (ESPN2): Iowa has lost two straight to the juggernauts known as Pitt and Northwestern. Michigan State is on a roll after an early loss to Cal. What I want to know is: wasn’t the Big Ten network supposed to save us from this crap? MSU rolls.
- Duke @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU): I toyed with starting a separate column to preview the week’s upcoming GT game, since I probably write more analysis about GT than all the other games combined. Anyway, in case you haven’t heard Duke doesn’t completely suck this year. They are coming off a demolition of a very, very terrible Virginia team and have faced this offense before in the Navy game. So what’s to watch here? For the Duke offense, it begins and ends with Thaddeus Lewis. His completion percentage is 61% this year, up from 55% last year, mostly thanks to new head coach David Cuttcliffe. He’s thrown 7 TDs to 2 interceptions, also an improvement over the past two years. And these percentages are not for lack of attempts. Against Navy, he threw the ball 35 times, and against UVA 32 times. Are they the best passing team in the country? No, but they are by the best passing offense we’ve seen this year. Will they run the ball? Not much. Fortunately, Tech’s passing defense is much improved this year (8th, in fact) especially helped by improved secondary play from Jahi Word-Daniels and doubly so by Morgan Burnett, who is rapidly becoming the ballhawk safety we all hoped he’d be. Tech can also use it’s all-ACC defensive line to get pass pressure by rushing 4 men, and is almost certainly the best front 4 Duke has faced all year. If Micheal Johnson is firing on all cylinders for this game, he will use at least 2 blockers by himself. (We’ve talked about MJ in the past on this site. Against Miss State he blocked a FG and got a sack and was just generally all over the field.) As mentioned above, Duke played Navy and may be somewhat more well-prepared than other opponents that will face Tech this year. Also, starting QB Josh Nesbitt will also miss the game due to a hamstring he strained against Miss State. While backup QB Jaybo Shaw is more than capable of running a proficient option offense (as demonstrated two weeks ago), he lacks the raw athleticism of Nesbitt, especially as a passer. Thanks to the bye week, though, several players on both sides of the ball will return. Overall, the attitude on the boards is cautious optimism, and I tend to agree. On the flip said, Vegas says Tech by 12. So I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.
- Indiana @ Minnesota (BTN): Oh, wait, the Big Ten Network exists to show these kind of games. So apparently UMN doesn’t suck this year? I’m still trying to get a handle on that, of course, they also haven’t beaten anyone, but it’s still an improvement over last year’s bunch that lost to North Dakota. Meanwhile, Indiana does have a bad loss to Ball State and took the expected beating from Michigan State. So for the first time in a long time, I’m picking the Golden Gophers.
- Boston College @ North Carolina State (Raycom/Gameplan): NCSU has had a relatively tough schedule so far, but they got absolutely destroyed last week by USF. Meanwhile, BC still hasn’t really, um, played anyone since losing to GT. I’ve seen nothing to make me think NCSU will win another game this year, though, so I’m taking BC.
- Oklahoma @ Baylor (FSN): How long will we keep this #1? I’m going to go ahead and say until at least next week. OU should take care of business here, but at least this edition of Baylor has a chance to make it interesting.
- Kansas @ Iowa State (Versus): With all the choas in this great, big, confusing world, it’s nice to know there’s at least one constant, and that’s Iowa State being terrible. Jayhawks roll.
- Florida @ Arkansas (Raycom/Gameplan): Okay, Ole Miss is not exactly lighting the world on fire this year. Unlike Arkansas, though, they’ve at least had a chance to win all their games. Arkansas beat Western Illinois and UL-M by a combined 7 points, and then went on to lose to Alabama and Texas by a combined score of 101-24. Florida gets back on the national title horse with a win here, and I think they’ll come through.
2:30: Stanford @ Notre Dame (NBC): Notre Dame has re-discovered this year that to win football games, you usually need to outscore your opponents. Stanford, meanwhile, hasn’t lost to any obviously inferior opponents, but with the game in South Bend I’ll give the edge to the guys in gold hates and then move on.
- Kentucky @ Alabama (CBS): Kentucky had a joke of a non-conference slate and was still about a yard away from suffering a loss to Hail Mary-happy MTSU. They roll into what is (unfortunately) a very re-energized Alabama fan base, and probably into a loss.
- Illinois @ Michigan (ESPN2/ABC): Michigan is an enigma this year. Lose to Utah, barely beat the non-“da U” version of Miami, and then lose to Notre Dame. Oh, and then come out and beat Wisconsin. While I would argue Wisconsin beat themselves, Michigan still had to execute on offense to win, and that’s the first time they’ve really proven they can do so this year. Illinois’s blemishes are much better – losses to Mizzou and Penn State, though they decisively lost both. This is usually where I look up the odds to see what Vegas thinks, and they have no clue – the line is Michigan by 3. I’ll take the Wolverines due to the home field advantage as well, but you never know when one of Zook’s teams will suddenly decide they don’t suck again.
- Texas Tech @ Kansas State (Gameplan/ABC): The Big 12’s back baby, and it’s all a lot more like the Red Raiders than the power rushing attacks of old. (Well, unless you’re OSU.) Whole K-State is the only college football squad that contains any members of my extended family (to my knowledge), I’m gonna have to take the Leach Band O’ Pirates, er, Raiders here.
- Arizona State @ California (ABC/Gameplan): Cal’s back! After losing to Maryland they came back to everyone’s favorite stadium on the Heyward Fault and demolished Colorado State 42-7. Arizona State’s season, meanwhile, is kind of down the tubes after that OT loss to UNLV a few weeks ago, followed by their dismantling by UGA. I’ll take Cal here.
- Florida State @ Miami (Gameplan/ESPN2/ABC): The over/under on this game is a mind-boggling 42. Unless FSU suddenly found a QB and Miami fired Nix, I would definitely take the under here. And Miami, because have you seen FSU this year?
- Southern Methodist @ Central Florida (CBSC): CBS needs to put a little more effort into choosing C-USA games, methinks. I debated even putting this on here, but I get this channel and it is technically a game between DI-A teams. Both of whom are in C-USA and have 2 wins between them. Oh, and O’Leary’s starting to feel the heat at UCF. And SMU still sucks. And…ugh. Do I have to pick someone here? Hold on….it’s heads, SMU wins.
4:00: Navy @ Air Force (Versus): Clash of the service academy titans! The winner here, as with the past several years, pretty much wins the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. Navy has victories over two BCS conference opponents (even though one of them is Rutgers), while Air Force lost to the only decent team it has played (Utah). I’ll go with the Midshipmen here.
6:00: Auburn @ Vanderbilt (ESPN): It’s Auburn! It’s Vanderbilt! It’s your SEC PRIMETIME GAME OF THE WEEK! Growing up with the Daves I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Vanderbilt football and it’s nice to see they’re making another run at bowl eligiblity after almost getting over the hump in 2005 and 2007. Unfortunately, it looks like the foundation of this year’s edition of the Commodores isn’t built very well. As the linked article points out, Vandy is last in the SEC in several categories except for turnover margin, which pretty much means they’re getting really lucky. So will the luck run out? I have to think, yes, it will. (That said, Vandy still has games against Miss State and Duke and while neither team is a pushover, per se, they should win at least one of the two.)
- Texas @ Colorado (FSN): It’s Texas! It’s Colorado! And I don’t care! Longhorns roll, setting up the GAME OF THE YEAR OF THE WEEK next week in Dallas.
- Connecticut @ North Carolina (ESPN2): While I will be rooting for UConn because of one of the best football-player written blogs I’ve ever read, I think UNC will win here.
7:30: Washington @ Arizona (Versus): Arizona is 3-1? When did that happen? Of course, that includes a loss to New Mexico and a win over UCLA, which lends a certain air of unpredictability. The main focus is here is whether either of these coaches will be employed by their teams at the end of the season. I would say it’s worse for Willingham, since no one really expects Arizona to not suck. And I expect it for that to continue.
- Ohio State @ Wisconsin (Gameplan/ABC): Wisconsin is still a good football team, but not nearly as good as everyone thought they were after letting Michigan make a huge 4th quarter comeback. Meanwhile, OSU has hit the road to top-10 recovery these past two weeks with methodical victories over Troy and Minnesota. In my mind, the only stumbling block for OSU here is Wisconsin’s massive homefield advantage, which will have had the mjaority of the day to get “prepared” for the game. Playing into this is freshman QB Terrelle Pryor, but he also has a security blanket back in Beanie Wells. I will go ahead and pick OSU here but will not be surprised if Wisconsin prevails.
- Oregon @ Southern California (ABC/Gameplan): I would say USC is back on the trail to the top-10, but they never left. That has to be one of the worst polling mistakes I’ve ever seen. At any rate, back in the safe confines of the coliseum against a team that is desperately running out of QBs they should win this time.
- Rice @ Tulsa (CBSCS): Uh, sure, Rice. Why not?
9:00: Missouri @ Nebraska (ESPN): We’ve all seen the replays over-and-over again from the Nebraska “das boot” game a decade ago. That is a seriously unlucky end zone for Mizzou. Fortunately for them, Nebraska isn’t very good this year. Mizzou and Chase Daniel prevail.