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The Obstructed NCAA Preview-Week 2

Week 2 is already here thanks to the fun extra days that we saw LSU and Miami as well as Virginia Tech and Florida State.  Does it have the glamour and glitz of the opening week?  Not really.  You still have your heavyweight match-ups but overall, the powerhouse squads start prepping their big games with tune-ups, unless you are a few teams (Georgia, South Carolina) as you open with conference wars.  So who all has the advantages?

Last week I went an abysmal 8-7 and probably from a spread standpoint would have been way worse.  Shame on me.  So can I do better?  Absolutely.  Use my brain and not my heart is what I needed to do (Auburn, Purdue) and also just keep a clear mind.  No, I won’t put previews of teams that will obviously win (Wisconsin, Alabama, Oregon) to spike up my record.  I can take the hits and show how silly I can be with my picks.

So here we go.

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#18 MISSISSIPPI STATE AT KANSAS STATE, 12:00, ESPN:  This is an interesting one.  Kansas State nearly avoided an upset from an FCS school in South Dakota, but those Dakota teams are tough and are far more of a threat than what Kansas brings to the table, but anyway…Mississippi State on the other hand dominated FCS foe Stephen F Austin.  The Bulldogs offense clicked without Nick Fitzgerald, but he will start after serving a 1-game suspension for violation of team rules.  But the obvious question is given how the Bulldogs offense clicked, what are the chances if Fitzgerald struggles and Kansas State has the lead would they bench Fitzgerald for Keytaon Thompson to click?  It’s possible at this point.  However something is missing with Kansas State and I think regardless of who the Bulldogs have back at QB, the Wildcats won’t match well with them.  Adding on, K-State’s last few go-arounds against the SEC haven’t been memorable, including a home loss to Auburn and a road loss at Vanderbilt.  I expect more of the same here.  MISSISSIPPI STATE 41, KANSAS STATE 17

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ARIZONA AT HOUSTON, 12:00 ESPN2:  Kevin Sumlin returns to where he first was a head coach and garnered all the love with his offensive play-calling.  Right now he may wish he had a time machine to go back after a very foul-ending stint at A&M (which I feel bad for what he had to deal with) and had a gut-punch seeing BYU embarrass the Wildcats at home.  Sumlin will have to make the key adjustments because he will have to see Houston’s standout defensive star Ed Oliver go after Khalil Tate (that alone is worth watching).  The question will be is if Houston takes a lead will Arizona have to pass or will Sumlin just tell Tate to take over with his legs?  Most first week games with new coaches or new installation of offenses will have hiccups, but this was more of a throw up after the BYU game (which it looked like Tate was just throwing the ball up hoping it would land into somebody’s hands a la Denard Robinson at Michigan all those years ago).  I am not sure if Sumlin has it any better with Houston’s playing on both sides of the ball and if the Cougars control the tempo, it may be another long game for Arizona.  HOUSTON 27, ARIZONA 17

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DUKE AT NORTHWESTERN, 12:00 ESPNU:  If you’re in the Chicago area, get to this game.  StubHub is offering tickets for $3 for this game.  Yes, it’s “Duke and Northwestern” but if you want two sleeper squads in their respective divisions to get to championship games, here you go.  You have a good quarterback and maybe the best the ACC has to offer right now in Daniel Jones.  And Northwestern has a good one in Clayton Thorson, but Jeremy Larkin is the one that many should keep their eye on.  I’m somewhat torn on this game as I originally had Northwestern beating Duke.  It’s still hard to play the guessing game early on in the season with these games especially since Duke looked decent and Northwestern had a tough tilt with Purdue as I originally had Northwestern to take this game.  However, how the Wildcats somewhat played slightly conservative on offense in the 2nd half stung them and Purdue made it a game.  That said, Northwestern did something smart and that was run the clock down on Purdue in the 4th to keep it to their favor.  I think the Wildcats will try to do the same to keep Jones off the field, especially if this game is close and they have a lead.  NORTHWESTERN 24, DUKE 21

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UCLA AT #6 OKLAHOMA, 1:00, FOX:  Both teams last week had eyebrow-raisers.  Oklahoma entered the post-Baker Mayfield era with an astounding win from both sides of the ball against a very good Florida Atlantic team.  And UCLA lost in its first game with Chip Kelly as head coach to Cincinnati.  I figure that the Bruins may get off to a slow start with Kelly and former Michigan QB Wilson Speight running things, but to Cincinnati?  It will get no easier with going to Norman in a tilt with the Sooners.  It may get ugly and fast.  Speight isn’t a lock for Saturday with an injury and the Bruins look overmatched as it is.  It may be another field day for the Sooners.  OKLAHOMA 45, UCLA 17

Georgia

#3 GEORGIA AT #24 SOUTH CAROLINA, 3:30, CBS:  Georgia fans worry about this game more than any other game every year as South Carolina gives them that loss that really crashes on the Bulldogs dream season.  South Carolina is to Georgia like LSU is to Alabama.  It doesn’t matter how the records compare, South Carolina throws punches back to Georgia’s physical play, though most times the Bulldogs talent overmatches South Carolina’s return punches and holds off for the win.  This game is a scary one as well as it looks like South Carolina’s offense is slowly clicking, but it’s defense is as physical and can play Georgia tough and hit them in the mouth.  With that said however, the talent level on Georgia is far greater than what the Gamecocks have and it may be one of those games that South Carolina gets worn down late with the run game led by DeAndre Swift.  But one thing to keep an eye on is if South Carolina finds a passing game that really stings Georgia as that has been the Bulldogs albatross last season (and Smart’s albatross all throughout his career).  If Georgia has no answer for that, it could be problematic. GEORGIA 34, SOUTH CAROLINA 21

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RUTGERS AT #5 OHIO STATE, 3:30 BTN:  While Ohio State nearly put up 80 on Oregon State and the offense was impressive, the defense gave up nearly 400 yards to them, including 200 on the ground.  That’s not good and no, it wasn’t a “well, they put their 2nd stringers in” argument as this happened with starters on the field.  Is Oregon State going to be better?  Probably, yes, but it is still Oregon State.  Rutgers is still pretty low on the totem pole themselves, though should be better as well.  The Buckeyes defense has shut them out for two straight seasons going 114-0 in that time period, but that defensive performance needs to get better, notably against the run.  Rutgers ran for 218 yards in their win albeit to Texas State, but if Rutgers can run on Ohio State like Oregon State did, there has to be some cause for concern in Columbus with the run defense.  That said, this game will not be competitive though Rutgers may finally score a touchdown.  OHIO STATE 63, RUTGERS 14

Colorado

COLORADO AT NEBRASKA, 3:30, ABC: The Scott Frost Era finally begins albeit a week late thanks to a cancellation of inclement weather.  And they go against their old Big 12 foe Colorado.  This is a hard game to pick given we don’t know what Nebraska will be like yet and Colorado had an impressive win over rival Colorado State last week.  With everything going on in the PAC-12 South, the Buffs can put the nation on notice if they can steal a win and they can for sure agianst the Huskers.  However, Lincoln will be jumping given Frost is back and the Husker hope is at a high it hasn’t seen since the early 2000’s.  Homefield will play large and I think Nebraska will make key plays on offense and get Colorado off their game just enough to hold them off.  NEBRASKA 34, COLORADO 31

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IOWA STATE AT IOWA, 5:00, FOX:  Last year Iowa State nearly stunned Iowa in Ames before Iowa came back and won that game.  Despite the loss, it seemed like both teams took different turns, though had big wins against Oklahoma and Ohio State respectively.  And for a short time Iowa State was the talk of the NCAA season.  However, the Cyclones didn’t have an opening week match as they had a bye.  Iowa, who many had on upset alert last week with Northern Illinois, thumped the Huskies 33-7.  And it is one of those years you somewhat sense despite being a vanilla football program and nothing is too exciting, can pull out a 10, 11-win season as they like to keep it quiet to themselves.  I’m not saying the Hawkeyes will pull a 2015 all over again, but it’s not out of the realm they sting some teams and Kinnick can be a madhouse as well.  I think this game is also close but I think Iowa will try to grind it out and keep the ball away from Iowa State and win an interesting game.  IOWA 21, IOWA STATE 16 

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#2 CLEMSON AT TEXAS A&M, 7:00, ABC:  While he’s no longer at Florida State Jimbo Fisher sees an old friend at his new job with the Clemson Tigers.  Texas A&M clobbered Northwestern State 59-7 in its opener, but Northwestern State isn’t Clemson.  This will be a tough as nails game for the Aggies, who right now may not have the same talent as Clemson has, but they do have talent all-around to keep it a game and Jimbo does know Clemson’s personnel while the Tigers won’t know the Aggies as much.  However, Texas A&M since joining the SEC has really struggled at home against ranked teams and I don’t think it will be any different in College Station, though it may be a close game for a while.  I also believe Trevor Lawrence will have himself a game on top of it where he will confuse the Aggies defense a bit, who probably had prepped for Kelly Bryant, though you may see both a la Alabama with Tua/Jalen.  But Clemson should pull away in the 2nd half on the Aggies.  CLEMSON 31, TEXAS A&M 21

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VIRGINIA AT INDIANA, 7:30, BTN:  Pushing it maybe on my end?  Nah.  Virginia is slowly making moves in the ACC and while the depth isn’t there like others, it is getting better under Bronco Mendenhall.  On the other end, the Hoosiers struggled in their win against Florida Atlantic.  This is Indiana’s home opener and it should be a nice crowd, but I think the Hoosiers are going to take a major step back while Virginia gets a win that may be key for them the rest of the way while maybe helping them get that bowl bid down the road when all is said and done.  Virginia needs a win at Indiana I believe to further their program.  Indiana needs one to show they are somewhat relevant in the Big Ten.  I think the Cavaliers steal one out in Bloomington.  VIRGINIA 24, INDIANA 17

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KENTUCKY AT #25 FLORIDA, 7:30, SEC: 31 games.  That’s how many games in a row Florida has beaten Kentucky.  Some are thinking this is the year.  While Florida played FCS Charleston Southern and smashed them, Kentucky had a sloppy win over MAC opponent Central Michigan 35-20.  Bennie Snell will be the key for the Wildcats assuming Florida’s defense remains on par throughout all this time.  If he is able to break off a few key runs, then the Wildcats will make this a game.  While Florida beat an FCS opponent, there is more hope with the Gators offense than what they’ve seen since Dan Mullen was the offensive coordinator with the Gators in their glory years.  Florida threw out a nice balance of passing and running in the game, but Kentucky isn’t Charleston Southern.  The one major problem Florida had last week was 222 yards of rushing offense by the Buccaneers.  That can’t happen with Snell in the backfield.  IF Florida can stop Snell, which they will have to do, then this game shouldn’t be a match, but while I originally said Florida would have a field day earlier in the week, I’m not so sure anymore of a blowout.  The Gators will need to get to a big start so the Wildcats can’t dictate the tempo with Snell.  I think the Gators will win, but they will have a challenge stopping Snell again at least early on, but will pull away down the stretch.  FLORIDA 37, KENTUCKY 24

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#13 PENN STATE AT PITTSBURGH, 8:00, ABC:  Of course one of the big headlines on Saturday was the near upset of Penn State from the upset-minded Appalachian State.  The Lions really scuffled on defense though Trace McSorley made the plays needed for Penn State to win and avoid the huge upset.  Pittsburgh beat Albany in a decent, but not overly convincing win.  This game is in Heinz Field, but let’s face it, Penn State will have a packed crowd for that over Pittsburgh so a homefield will not matter too much and honestly this is what Penn State may need to recuperate from that loss.  But if they struggle on defense again, then there should be major alarm signals going back to Happy Valley.  I think the Lions offense will outduel the Panthers offense thanks to McSorley and Penn State escapes the Steel City with a W.  PENN STATE 35, PITTSBURGH 27

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#17 USC AT #10 STANFORD, 8:30, FOX:  Stanford had an impressive win last week against San Diego State despite Bryce Love not making any impact in that game.  KJ Costello showed he could be the guy, which if that is the case in Stanford can make that whole team very, very scary.  USC had some difficulty shaking off UNLV until the 4th.  It isn’t something to get overly excited if you are a Trojans fan.  Plus, Stanford plays very well at home while USC does have its moments away from LA.  I think this is a game that USC will have very little answers for, especially with Love and you can expect the Cardinal back to have a monster day on the ground.  The Trojans will make it close as Stanford’s defense is still suspect (though they didn’t really show it last week).  STANFORD 31, USC 24

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CALIFORNIA AT BYU, 10:15, ESPN2:  California’s days I think if being the all-offense, no defense squads are over.  They are playing more rounded football in their win against North Carolina last week.  BYU had an impressive go as they played disciplined and physical against Arizona.  This will be a game to keep an eye on and if BYU is back they should enforce their will on the Bears like they did against the Wildcats.  But I also think it was a perfect storm moment as Arizona is in transition.  I think the Bears will pose a problem for the Cougars and will steal a W in Provo.  CALIFORNIA 30, BYU 23

Arizona State

#15 MICHIGAN STATE AT ARIZONA STATE, 10:45, ESPN: Michigan State like Penn State survived a late 4th quarter scare at Utah State.  Arizona State had a very convincing win against UTSA when the Roadrunners last year had a good defense and was very solid with their play.  Was it an overall shocking on how well Sun Devils played?  Yes.  Could we see an upset?  Well, yeah.  Anything’s possible.  That all said, UTSA lost their defensive coordinator to Alabama and many feel they would take a massive step back.  And in Michigan State’s case, they have pulled this before, including their 2015 season when they mad the Playoff, but eking out wins against poor teams then too.  Michigan State was plagued by taking poor penalties on offense when they were in goal-to-go situations last week against Utah State.  The game could have gone better in their favor.  But the concern is that the Spartans struggled mightily on defense, notably the pass and just seemed like they had no idea how to stop Utah State’s quick passes that netted them plenty of yards (as opposed to stopping the big play pass down the field).  The Spartans have to keep an eye on that as Arizona State still does a lot of that even with Todd Graham long gone.  However, Michigan State’s offense was clicking all game.  This game I originally had as a decisive Michigan State win, but I think it will be coming down to a time of possession bit and if the Spartans hold the tempo on Arizona State they SHOULD be fine.  And I do think the defense will step up this week and have a better outing.  But they will have their issues during times of the game.  But it should be close but Michigan State and their experience holding on.  MICHIGAN STATE 28, ARIZONA STATE 24

That’s all for this week.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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