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The Obstructed NCAA Preview-Week 1

It.  Is.  HERE!

Let the smack talk begin!  While last weekend kickstarted the season, the rest of the college football world dances.  Of course, we have games that are “pre-season” tilts among the key teams such as Georgia (vs. Austin Peay), Clemson (vs. Furman), and Mississippi State (vs. Furman).  But we still have some fun tilts to begin the season.  So let’s get cracking!

Northwestern

NORTHWESTERN AT PURDUE, 8:00 (THURSDAY), ESPN: This is probably the Thursday night match-up to watch as it is the lone conference game among the power 5 until Virginia Tech vs. Florida State battle it out Monday.  But this is definitely a good one and it is a “tone-setter’ for both teams’ seasons.  Northwestern has been that team in the Big Ten West that always gets penned as the sleeper squad that could upend Wisconsin’s dominance.  However, they always seem to have a speed-bump or hiccup that de-rails their chances.  Last year despite being 9-3, I don’t think many took them as serious (in part because they lost ugly to Duke early on) and then continued to crash against Wisconsin and Penn State.  IF the Wildcats continue their 8-game winning streak and beat teams due to their defense, then they have a shot at being that sleeper.  However, the secondary concerns me as the passing defense was a mess.  Purdue may have one of the most underrated backs in the nation in Markell Jones and when he is healthy, he is going to be one of the top backs in the conference.  The Boilermakers will need him in this game.  The thing that makes me impressed with Purdue is that they were really a year ahead of schedule in the Jeff Brohm era.  While the stats weren’t pretty on either side, you have to figure players are now more familiar with the system on offense and you are getting the players they want on defense to play the way.  I think despite the losses on defense, Purdue will have more talent than what they’ve had in years on that side of the ball and this game could be a defensive battle most of the way through.  I think that Purdue, while may not having the same talent as Northwestern, gets off to a fast start and the Wildcats scuffle early enough for the Boilermakers to get a lead on them and hold them off.  MY PREDICTION: PURDUE 20, NORTHWESTERN 17

Stanford

SAN DIEGO STATE AT #13 STANFORD, 9:00 (FRIDAY), FS1:  Last year San Diego State took down Stanford in the second of two match-ups among PAC-12 foes (the other being Arizona State whom they beat a week earlier in Tempe), thus making wonder if the PAC-12 would consider the Aztecs.  It seems like the Aztecs are more of Wisconsin West: strong defense with a great running game but with a sketchy passing offense.  But San Diego State somewhat played a more physical game against Stanford, which was stunning given how the Cardinal really bullied their PAC-12 foes over the years.  Stanford has Bryce Love running the ball and that’s always a threat and SD State had no answer to stop him but only had 13 carries.  He’ll get more carries this go around, but the key is who jumps off to the lead first and if they can get a big lead.  San Diego State will have a new running back in Juwan Washington and many think he could have a good, if not better, run than Rashaad Penny and Donell Pumphrey, which says a lot.  So Friday’s game if not anything else could have a duel among two great runners.  The logic says Stanford should win this game in part because of Love and great hope arrives in KJ Costello, but the Stanford defense isn’t the best in the conference and compared to years past very weak.  This may be a high scoring game and one that is too close for comfort for the Cardinal, but they eke it out at home but this is one of those games that is making me waver in my prediction.  MY PREDICTION: STANFORD 34, SAN DIEGO STATE 30

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OREGON STATE AT #5 OHIO STATE, 12:00, ABC: Even with Urban Meyer suspended for this game, if this game is close at halftime, it will be a shock here.  Ohio State should have NO problem in this game.  MY PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 62, OREGON STATE 10

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FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT #7 OKLAHOMA, 12:00, FOX:  People are automatically giving Oklahoma the win here.  That’s a scary thing to do with a new quarterback even if many have high hopes on Kyler Murray.  The one thing people cannot underestimate is despite the antics and the silliness of Lane Kiffin sometimes, he can coach.  And for people to think FAU will be coming in just for that paycheck will be sadly mistaken.  The Owls will put up a fight in this one and will score points on Oklahoma.  It will be the Sooners offense that will give FAU problems, notably Rodney Anderson.  Now the hope for FAU should be is if they have a lead at any point, they need to try to make Murray pass to see if they can beat them.  It’s a big if.  But this is one of those games that you expect a powerful blue-blood like the Sooners to win big, but be very careful.  Do not be surprised if Kiffin’s Owls keep it very interesting in the fourth quarter.  It’s more than possible.  MY PREDICTION: OKLAHOMA 45, FAU 35

Maryland

#23 TEXAS VS MARYLAND (BALTIMORE), 12:00, FS1:  Last year Maryland went to Texas and pretty much controlled the game from beginning to end despite a push by Texas.  The Terps won 51-41 and gave hope to Maryland fans that things were on the upswing in College Park.  How things change.  The Terps football program is a mess with DJ Durkin and it is becoming more and more published that Maryland is very toxic.  Durkin hasn’t been fired-yet, but looks like he will soon be.  On top of it, PJ Moore is in the NFL and the Terps have questions lingering at quarterback and at defense where they are a wreck last year.  Texas looks to finally be out of the doldrums under Tom Herman and look to have some revenge and the one strength Maryland does have on offense (Ty Johnson) has to go against the 8th ranked defense against the run in Texas.  It doesn’t really bode well for the Terrapins here.  I just think Texas has too much talent and Maryland just has a lot of issues on and off the field for this game to be competitive.  MY PREDICTION: TEXAS 44, MARYLAND 13

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OLE MISS VS TEXAS TECH (HOUSTON), 12:00 ESPN:  One of the interesting games to me or at least if anything it will be a fun game to watch, though it won’t have much implications of a Playoff is the Rebels vs. Red Raiders.  Ole Miss is still on probation from the Hugh Freeze mess last year and won’t see a bowl game, but they have one of the best receiving corps in the nation if not the best.  Texas Tech, well is Texas Tech.  They will play the Air Raid offense, despite having massive turnover on that side of the ball.  But they will still put up points I believe regardless of who is starting.  The defense will be question marks on both sides of the ball which could mean the game score will be pretty high when the game ends.  However with the receivers the Rebels have like AJ Brown, I don’t see the Red Raiders stopping them.  MY PREDICTION: OLE MISS 44, TEXAS TECH 38

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*GAME OF THE WEEK* #6 WASHINGTON VS #9 AUBURN (ATLANTA), 3:30, ABC:  This will be the first game that will take out a team from the Playoff.  Let’s be clear: Washington needs this game more than Auburn, though Auburn needs to show they can win away from the Plains too as their schedule is murder in 2018 with Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss all on the road.  Yuck.  Washington can’t afford a loss unless all chaos reigns in the college season either as their schedule is weak and they are in a relatively weak conference.  The biggest issue for Auburn will be the offensive line as they have only one guy returning and that is a scary thought when they have to see the experienced Huskies line.  If Washington gets after Jarrett Stidham and frustrates him, he will also have a difficulty facing a very experienced secondary who could pick him off at any point.    The Tigers will also have to face a Huskies defense last year ranked 4th in the nation, impressive when there was the likes of Love, Royce Freeman, etc. in that conference they had to see.  I think the offense will have some major difficulties moving agianst the Huskies defense.  On the other side of the ball, it is a similar story.  Jake Browning has no excuses after a down year last year.  But he will need to step up against a very good Tigers defense, and a front four that is one of the toughest in the nation.  He will need to be precise passing and knowing when to escape from the pressure.  While Auburn and SEC fans think the PAC-12 is nothing but a group of all-speed, no power teams, Washington isn’t one of them.  They held tough against Alabama in the Playoff and played very physical against the Tide, more than a lot of people thought would happen.  They can and will play physical against Auburn too on both sides.  But Myles Gaskin needs to have a big day if Washington wants to escape with a win.  But this game is a tough one as well.  One other factor is Auburn has lost two in a row and both games at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.  Will the third time be the charm?  No.  I think Browning steps up and the Huskies offense does enough to keep the Tigers at bay and I don’t know if Stidham, for as good as he can be, will have a Heisman-like performance to start the year.  And most of the time, Auburn is a slow-starting team. MY PREDICTION: WASHINGTON 20, AUBURN 16

Mountaineers

TENNESSEE VS #17 WEST VIRGINIA (CHARLOTTE), 3:30, CBS:  This will be one of those “hm” games.  Tennessee is in a middle of a program rebuild under Jeremy Pruitt (who many hope he is Kirby Smart 2.0 in Knoxville) while West Virginia many feel can be a sleeper with Will Grier at quarterback.  The game is in Charlotte so there is going to be a neutral feel (though maybe 60-40 in favor of the Volunteers fans), but at this point, the Volunteers are in a bit of a messy shape and with inexperienced players in the secondary for Tennessee, they may not have that ability to stop Grier and the Mountaineers offense.   It may just be too much.  The one thing I will like to see is if the Volunteers can keep up with some of the scoring with West Virginia.  Keller Chryst or Jarrett Guarantano will have to step up and whatever one has the most success, watch out.  The other question will be if Tennessee’s running game can make some noise against West Virginia’s defense which is problematic at best.  So this may be a high-scoring affair and a game that may not be a blowout like everybody thinks.  Good for Tennessee.  Bad for West Virginia, even if they do beat Tennessee.  MY PREDICTION: WEST VIRGINIA 44, TENNESSEE 35

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NORTH CAROLINA AT CALIFORNIA, 4:00, FOX: I guess I put this one here because it is a Power 5 game.  Neither team is really factored to make a threat, but it could be a fun one to see just for some offensive points scored perhaps.  Last year was a nightmare for North Carolina fans as at one point the Heels were 1-8 before stealing a win at Pittsburgh (after nearly stunning Miami the week before).  Questions abound at quarterback for them and the running game may sting with pretty much an entirely new offensive line, which is good news for the Golden Bears.  Cal’s defensive line has questions themselves, but they do have a pretty decent secondary to really frustrate an already iffy passing game for the Tar Heels.  On the other side of the ball, California has shown slightly more balance than from the previous years when they were entrenched in the Air Raid offense and Patrick Laird could have a monster start to the season against a Heels defense that has not been able to stop anybody on the ground in a very long time.  California took down North Carolina in Chapel Hill last year.  I expect them to take them down again in a bigger way in Berkeley.  MY PREDICTION:  CALIFORNIA 41, NORTH CAROLINA 24

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#22 BOISE STATE AT TROY 6:00, ESPNEWS: This is the best of the group of 5 conference games.  Boise State is the face of that Group of 5 conference powers and Troy has mostly been near the top as well especially in recent years.  Last year Boise beat Troy at the Blue in Boise 24-13.  But now Boise makes the cross-country trip to Southeast Alabama.  That is not necessarily a fun trip. The Broncos return pretty much everybody on a very good defense.  They will go up against a strong front line at Troy and a passing game that should be pretty good if Kaleb Barker shows his worth.  So this is one of those games that could be a fun one to watch in Week 1 as both teams want to get that resume built for a New Year’s Six and both are very capable of winning 10 games and having that shot.  Boise has played big games before with great success and a game at Troy isn’t necessarily a scary threat for them compared to facing the likes of Oklahoma, Georgia, etc. but still, Troy is also a team not to be taken lightly at all especially when Boise has to go cross-country.  Another hard game to really go back and forth on, but I’m going to say Troy stings Boise in a close game.  MY PREDICTION: TROY 27, BOISE STATE 24

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#14 MICHIGAN AT #12 NOTRE DAME: 7:30, NBC:  One of two mega games this Saturday.  The Wolverines and Irish re-ignite the rivalry.  And for Michigan it is somewhat of a “now or never” for Jim Harbaugh as his run so far has to be a relative disappointment (Michigan hasn’t finished higher than 3rd in each of the three seasons he’s been there).  Shea Patterson gives high hopes for a Wolverines offense that has been relatively anemic since Harbaugh has arrived.  But the Michigan defense is deadly and could be the tops in the nation.  IF the Wolverines are to take a win away from Notre Dame, which is possible, they have to make sure Brandon Wimbush is pressured all game and never comfortable, which is not a hard task I think.  But both games are huge as Michigan has a tough schedule this year with Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State in a 3-game window.  They HAVE to get this win though it is a non-conference or else 2 losses (which would be a given considering what Michigan has on their schedule) will pretty much keep them at home for any Playoff hope.  Notre Dame has to replace Josh Adams and two linemen that all went to the NFL after last season so more pressure is placed on them.  The good news is 9 starters return on the defense and could give enough issues to Patterson.  This game is one of the toss-ups that I can’t put heads or tails on really and will probably flip my choice as the week goes on.  But strange things always happens in South Bend for Notre Dame.  It may take just enough time for Notre Dame to have Patterson find a rhythm and while I think Michigan’s defense will be strong and everything says Michigan SHOULD win this game, I think there will be a key turnover or two going Notre Dame’s way and that will be the deciding factor.  MY PREDICTION: NOTRE DAME 17, MICHIGAN 16

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LOUISVILLE VS. ALABAMA (ORLANDO), 8:00, ABC: An excerpt from the movie Kingpin: REPORTER: Who is your biggest opponent?

ERNIE MCCRACKEN (PLAYED BY BILL MURRAY): Me if I get drunk and fall down the stairs.  I might hurt myself.  

Well, maybe that’s not what Nick Saban thinks, but really nobody prepares better than Saban in football games and it seems like the team that beats Alabama is Alabama sometimes, especially against teams they should beat (which admittedly is very rare).  Saban has really kept quiet about the Tua Tagovailoa/Jalen Hurts quarterback debate (though many wonder why there is a debate given how Tua plays and how Jalen played), but it sounds like Tua will play and if that is the case, Alabama should have an offense that clicks against a defense that looks relatively anemic in Louisville and Brian VanGorder’s sketchy defensive schemes.  Louisville is also having to deal with not having Lamar Jackson at quarterback, which would have given an Alabama defense that may be in slight transition nightmares with his mobility.  But they have Jawon Pass, who Petrino loves.  Petrino hasn’t ever beaten Alabama when he was with Arkansas and the mentality is outscore Alabama, but it hasn’t worked well to this point. And given VanGorder hasn’t been relevant with his defenses since his days at Georgia, it may not be here.  But I think Louisville will struggle a bit against Alabama’s defense, even with a roster turnover.  And that may be more than enough for Alabama to roll through Louisville.  My only question will be, how much will UCF troll Alabama in the days leading up to the game since it is in Orlando.  PREDICTION: ALABAMA 38, LOUISVILLE 20

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BYU AT ARIZONA, 10:45, ESPN:  Kevin Sumlin’s first appearance as Arizona’s head coach I think will be a successful one.  I think he will show that Khalil Tate can be a passing quarterback as well as being that mobile guy we were all excited to see last year in the PAC-12.  But I think there are still some holes to fix on the defense, but for a game agianst BYU, it may not be as much of a stinger as the offense really is a mess out in Provo.  The defense is okay, but nothing like they’ve been either.  I’d be surprised if this was much of a game as I think the BYU program is in a bit of a down run.  MY PREDICTION: ARIZONA 44, BYU 13

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#8 MIAMI VS. #25 LSU, 7:30 (SUNDAY), ABC:  Just a few years back, this would not have been much topic of debate.  LSU had the embarrassment of riches with talent all over the field (except at quarterback of course) and Miami wasn’t the same Miami we know dominating.  Now Mark Richt and his recruiting prowess has gotten Miami back into the top ten while LSU, while still getting those recruits, they aren’t as many as it had been.  And some are wondering if Ed Orgeron can keep them afloat in the college football’s elite.  The oddity is there is questions with the run game after Derrius Guice left for the pros and that has been the Tigers bread & butter.  But Orgeron has hinted he wanted to be more pass oriented, which may be a problem given how LSU has struggled with the pass since Zach Mettenberger was there and I’m in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode.  Miami isn’t necessarily squeaky clean in the passing game with Malik Rosier back there either and if he struggles, there may be a controversy debate for the Hurricanes at quarterback.  But I think the game will be decided by the turnover war and who wins that.  Miami prided themselves on takeaways and that may continue all through the season.  But Rosier has to make sure he plays better.  I think Miami has better talent and while I think the game will be nip and tuck, I like the Hurricanes to win it because in part I think the Tigers offense struggles throughout the game.  MY PREDICTION: MIAMI 21, LSU 10

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#20 VIRGINIA TECH AT #19 FLORIDA STATE 8:00 (MONDAY), ESPN:  The Seminoles and Hokies start the ACC conference play to end the first week.  Florida State made changes when Jimbo Fisher left and replaced by Willie Taggart.  Some think the hire was a relatively flat hire and does nothing to ignite a starving fan base.  That said, the Noles have a bevvy of talent on offense and hope that Deondre Francois is fully healthy and mobile from his injury last year in Week 1 vs. Alabama to get it going.  Francois will have to play out of his mind to shake off James Blackman at quarterback.  If he struggles, Taggart may pull the trigger early on Francois if the Hokies defensive line gets after him (and they quite honestly could).  The big question will be can the Hokies defense stop Cam Akers (Virginia Tech ranked 15th nationally against the run last season)?  If they can, that will be a huge jolt and with an offense returning 7 starters for the Hokies, it could be huge given the huge turnover issue among personnel at Florida State and notably on the end position.  If the Noles aren’t able to get after Josh Jackson, he could have a huge day on Florida State’s defense.  The thing is, I think right now Virginia Tech has the talent and the experience and the knowing of what Justin Fuente wants as opposed to the Noles with Taggart and really this is a more of a must-win game for Florida State than Virginia Tech.  That said, the Hokies cannot afford to lose this game as the schedule is very controllable until the Miami game.  But I think there is more certainty with the Hokies than the Noles and Virginia Tech steals a big win in Tallahassee.  MY PREDICTION: VIRGINIA TECH 35, FLORIDA STATE 27

That’s it for the first week!

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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