September 18th, 2012
MIAMI (FL) at GEORGIA TECH
Saturday, September 22nd, 3:00, ESPN3.com. AT Bobby Dodd
With Virginia Tech’s surprising loss to Pittsburgh and Miami’s ACC win against Boston College, we cannot simply say Georgia Tech will cruise past Miami. Sure, Lane Stadium is a very difficult venue to play in and Miami was truly awful against Kansas State, but very average Miami teams have had their way with the Yellow Jackets the last three seasons and there is no reason to think that this season should be any different. Miami QB Stephen Morris has been consistent so far and freshman RB Duke Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance. Al Groh seemingly has his best defensive unit in his short tenure on the flats, but Miami could certainly exploit a questionable front seven with its physical offensive line. Although Pittsburgh rolled over Virginia Tech’s defense, history tells us it is safe to assume this Hokie defense had an off day and is still a very good unit. GT struggled to do much of anything against Virginia Tech, but I would venture to say that Bud Foster’s unit is much better than this Cane defense that has been pathetic so far. Miami is lacking the talent on defense that has overwhelmed Tech the last few years with Yellow Jacket killer Sean Spence moving on to the NFL and six defensive linemen graduating. Ray-Ray Armstrong is a freak who would have helped to have at safety against this spread option, but he did not return after being booted off the team. With Georgia Tech’s best offensive line under Paul Johnson , I expect this matchup to be very different than in recent years. GT’s new receivers looked bad against Virginia Tech, but A-backs Orwin Smith, Deon Hill, and BJ Bostic looked good coming out of the backfield. Miami’s strength on defense would probably be its defensive backs so I do not expect GT to get much production on the outside from Jeff Greene and Jeremey Moore, so there will be a lot of pressure on its RBs to open things up through the air. As long as the GT defense can play respectably, I expect the Yellow Jackets to put up a lot of points and win this game as they continue to improve in this wide-open Coastal Division. Georgia Tech by 10.
MISSOURI at SOUTH CAROLINA
Saturday, September 22nd, 3:30, CBS. AT Williams-Brice Stadium
Carolina goes into week 4 ranked the number 7 team in the land, which begs the question, are they legitimate title contenders? After a shaky week 1, South Carolina has bounced back with dominant wins over East Carolina and UAB. With such a small sample size, it is tough to tell if the close Vanderbilt win was a fluke, but as of now, we cannot take South Carolina seriously in national title talks. The offensive line will have a lot to prove in the coming weeks and Connor Shaw must get healthy. With either Alabama or LSU lurking in a potential SEC title game matchup, it is difficult to consider any SEC East team. Florida has looked solid thus far and may even win the division, but UGA and South Carolina have the most potential to be a darkhorse in the national race. This week against Missouri will be very telling. While Connor Shaw figures to start after re-injuring his shoulder in a win against UAB, South Carolina comes in as the favorite in a home game against Missouri in the first conference matchup between the two schools. Quarterback Dylan Thompson has done a good job backing up Shaw, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions; if Shaw has to sit, Thompson can be relied on under center. The offensive line struggled against Vanderbilt, but the unit has bounced back in the last two weeks and the offense has been explosive. Still, the story of this game will be Mizzou QB James Franklin against the Gamecock defense that has allowed 9.7 points/game through its first three games. Franklin did not play against Arizona State with a shoulder injury, but will play this week. He played well against a top-notch Georgia defense similar to this South Carolina unit, but not well enough to top the Dawgs. If Franklin is not bothered by his shoulder, I expect this game to be a lot closer than most would expect; but with home field advantage and a hungry defense, USC will take this one. South Carolina by 6.
MICHIGAN at NOTRE DAME
Saturday, September 22nd, 7:30, NBC. AT Notre Dame Stadium
This matchup has produced incredible games the last 3 years, but the excitement and celebration has belonged solely to the Maize and Blue, who have won each game by 4 points! Denard Robinson has been Brian Kelly’s worst nightmare as he has torched his defense in consecutive years. This season, Notre Dame enters the game fresh off of 3 significant wins (at Ireland over Navy, Purdue late in 4th quarter, domination of Michigan State). Meanwhile Michigan was pummeled by Alabama in the opener and had a close game with gritty Air Force. Notre Dame has the better line play, but Michigan has the skill players. Everett Golson must improve (just 14-32 passing last week) for ND to win this one. ND will be able to run effectively on the young Michigan front 7, but will they be able to contain Robinson? This attack is not the one-dimensional MSU offense it played a week ago. While ND was grinding out a win at Spartan Stadium, Michigan was coasting to a win over lowly UMass. You have to think that Coach Brady Hoke was looking ahead and game-planning a little for Notre Dame, with the UMass automatic win looming. I am also skeptical of Notre Dame being able to sustain high-energy, emotion-filled, successful football for a string of 4 games. Kelly’s Irish fold year in and year out, and it is natural to expect the same again this fall. History repeats itself, as Denard “Shoelace” Robinson leads a 4th quarter scoring drive to win. Michigan by 4
KANSAS STATE at OKLAHOMA
Saturday, September 22nd, 7:50, FOX. AT Memorial Stadium
Oklahoma, our National Champion pick, has been in a sense the ‘unknown team’ having played zero TV games and already taking a bye week. That changes Saturday, as they face off against the red-hot Kansas State Wildcats, who already trounced Miami 52-13. This is the first test for “Big Game” Bob Stoops and his 2012 Sooners, and the extra week of preparation already gives OU an advantage. Oklahoma Memorial Stadium may just be the toughest place to play nowadays; in Stoops’ 13 Seasons, OU is 78-3 at home! However, if any team is poised to come into Norman this season and knock off the Big12 favorites its Bill Snyder’s Wildcats, led by durable QB Colin Klein. In addition to his proficient pass stats, Klein also leads the team in carries and rushing TD’s, and has moved into Heisman discussions. The signal caller in Crimson and Cream is no slouch; Landry Jones is already the school’s passing record holder and is set to lead another elite offense. This time around, he has a deep stable of running backs: Williams, Whaley, Clay, and Finch. While the Oklahoma defense looks very strong, the KSU unit is having trouble stopping the pass (82% completions last 2 games). Look for the Sooner D to key in on Klein, turning the offense one-dimensional, as the OU offense brings out a versatile repertoire of weapons. Sooners defend their home field in style. Oklahoma by 14
CLEMSON at FLORIDA STATE
Saturday, September 22nd, 8:00, ABC. AT Doak Campbell Stadium
After three weeks of football, we can at least begin to take a preliminary look at who the title contenders and the title pretenders are. Southern California has clearly shown that they have issues to sort out and it would take a miracle for them to end the season at number one. Alabama, LSU, Florida State, and perhaps Oregon—who has yet to really be tested—appear to be in a tier above everyone else. Our preseason pick Oklahoma and conference-mate West Virginia are contenders, but must show more to make us believe they are for real. FSU has been dominant in their games and while beating Wake Forest is hardly impressive, the 52-0 thrashing shows that the ‘Noles are a different team this year after struggling with the Demon Deacons in recent seasons. Clemson will be the ultimate test as this vaunted defense will go up against an electric offense powered by QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington, and WRs Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Watkins returned from a two game suspension last week in a win against Furman. Physical CB Xavier Rhodes figures to matchup against Watkins in an elite battle between two future NFLers. If Clemson can protect Boyd, they will put up points against any team in the country. This will be the problem. Florida State has arguably the deepest and most talented defensive front in the nation even after the injury of Brandon Jenkins; Clemson has an inexperienced group up front that will not be able to handle what the Seminoles throw at them. If E.J. Manuel can take care of the football and the backs get going on the ground, it will be a long night for the Tigers with the FSU war chant haunting them all the way back to South Carolina. Florida State by 14.
ARIZONA at OREGON
Saturday, September 22nd, 10:30, ESPN. AT Autzen Stadium
Much like Oklahoma, this will be Oregon’s first nationally televised game and first ranked opponent. With the loss of USC last week, Oregon looks to be the premier team of the Pac 12...for now. The toughest question surrounding Oregon right now is which one of their three star players should be included in Heisman discussion: RB Kenyon Barner (the workhorse), RB De’Anthony Thomas (the playmaker), or Marcus Mariota (the dual-threat QB). Coach Chip Kelly has reloaded the offense and they are back at the elite level that has become commonplace for the Ducks. Mariota is completing over 75% of passes with an 8-1 TD-INT ratio. Meanwhile Thomas averages over 15 yards per touch, and scores a TD every 3 touches! There is no way Arizona’s defense can stop this offensive firepower. But can they score enough to stay on pace? QB Matt Scott is the perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense, and I admit this Arizona team is farther ahead than I predicted for year one of the new coaching staff. However, this is Scott’s first road game as a starter…Oregon is 23-1 at home over the last three years and you better believe the ‘Autzen Zoo’ will be electric Saturday night. Impressed by Rodriguez’s progress at UA, but no repeat of last week’s earth-shattering Pac-12 upset (Stanford). Ducks by 17