College Football Preview: Week 5
I haven’t been able to get to a recap of last week, so I’m going to combine it and see how that goes.
There were some interesting games last week and we learn more about each team with every week. Arizona State torched Oregon’s defense and really exposed them, but committed 7 turnovers in a 42-31 loss. I mentioned that Temple would hang around with Penn State longer than they would like and the Owls did just that. After trailing for almost three quarters, Penn State took the lead late in the 3rd with a field goal. Still, the game wasn’t comfortably put away until the 3:35 mark in the 4th quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Michael Zordich.
It was a bizarre game between Texas and UCLA. UCLA’s running game dominated the Longhorns and went away from Texas’ strength on defense: pass defense and pass rush. UCLA controlled the clock and Texas was unable to crack 100 yards rushing for the 2nd time this season. Texas looked absolutely awful. You can’t turn the ball over five times (four fumbles) and expect to win.
I’m not too surprised by NC State beating Georgia Tech, but I think I gave Notre Dame way too much credit. Or maybe I didn’t give Stanford enough credit. Stanford is a physical team and I think they have a strong chance to win the PAC-10.
Around the SEC
Week 4: 4-3
I’ll go through the list of upcoming SEC games this weekend as well as talk a little bit about how they fared last week since I didn’t get to a recap.
Auburn Tigers: 4-0 (2-0 SEC)
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks: 1-2
The Line: Auburn -35
Kickoff: 11am CST, ESPNU
The 10th ranked Tigers are coming off three straight close victories and I’m pretty impressed with the way the have fought back into games. There are problems with this. First, they have come from behind against Clemson and South Carolina at home. Second, they can’t keep digging early holes for themselves. It will catch up to them. Auburn racked up 332 yards rushing against what was supposed to be the best run defense in the country, but let’s take a closer look at that. Don’t get me wrong — that’s a lot of yards on the ground against a solid defense, but they were not the best run defense in the country. They had faced the likes of Southern Miss, Georgia and Furman. None of those teams possess any kind of decent running game.
I’ve been saying that Cam Newton hasn’t been tested at making big throws, but with the way he is playing — he doesn’t need to. He makes a lot of short completions to receivers in open spaces. I still think he will struggle some if he is forced to make throws downfield, but he’s lived up to the hype so far and I can’t say that Auburn would be 4-0 without him.
One thing Newton needs to do is start sliding or ducking out of bounds. He can’t afford to get hurt and banging into linebackers and lineman every week will get you injured at some point. He’s a big, physical guy but even those guys fall victim to injuries. I’m guessing a concussion would be a likely scenario, but something even worse would be a shoulder injury or one related to his throwing arm.
OUTCOME: The game against La Monroe is a welcome change for Auburn. It’s almost like a week off, but they must not take the Warhawks lightly. They beat Alabama in 2007 at Bryant-Denny Stadium and that can happen to anyone. Auburn takes care of business and rolls over UL-Monroe.
Vanderbilt Commodores: 1-2 (1-1 SEC)
Connecticut Huskies: 2-2 (0-0 Big East)
The Line: UCONN -7.5
Kickoff: 11 am CST, ESPN3
Vanderbilt is coming off a bye week and hope to improve to 2-2 this week, but will have to do so on the road. Both teams like to put the ball on the ground, so we could be in for a low scoring affair between these two teams. The Huskies will have to watch out for Vandy’s sophomore running back, Warren Norman. UCONN has the 26th best rushing offense in the country so far this season at 212.8 yards per game. They are led by two junior running backs, Jordan Todman and Robbie Frey. The Huskies rely on their running game as do the Commodores.
OUTCOME: This will be a game decided in the trenches. I think it could go either way, but I’m going with the Huskies at home.
Final Prediction: UCONN 24, Vanderbilt 21
Kentucky Wildcats: 3-1 (0-1 SEC)
Ole Miss Rebels: 2-2 (0-1 SEC)
The Line: Ole Miss -3
Kickoff: 11 am CST, ESPN3
Kentucky got drummed last week in The Swamp, continuing the trend of beatdowns to the Gators. The Wildcats will look to bounce back against an Ole Miss team that won a shootout against Fresno State last week, 55-38. Ole Miss ran for an absurd 425 yards rushing in that game. Junior tailback, Brandon Bolden, had 228 yards on 19 carries with two scores. The offense has been inconsistent for the Rebels, but perhaps they are finding a niche in the running game.
OUTCOME: I don’t expect much defense to be displayed in this game. The Rebels have struggled at home this year (1-2), allowing 38.3 points per game. The last time these two teams met was 2006 in Lexington and the Wildcats thumped Ole Miss 31-14. I don’t think we’ll see that kind of result, but it will be interesting to see how Kentucky responds after a 48-14 loss to the Gators. I think Kentucky is the more polished team and I’ll look for Masoli to make some mistakes in the air. Kentucky wins this one.
Final Prediction: Kentucky 38, Ole Miss 31
Alcorn State Braves: 3-0 (2-0 SWAC)
Mississippi State Bulldogs: 2-2 (1-2 SEC)
The Line: OFF
Kickoff: 11 am CST, ESPN3
Mississippi State is coming off its first conference win of the year against Georgia and they have played conference foes Auburn and LSU close. The problem has been putting up offense against quality opponents and the Bulldogs just haven’t done that. They were outgained last week by Georgia 387-314, but it was turnovers for Georgia that sealed their fate. The game was 10-6 until two late touchdowns in fourth quarter put the game away for Georgia, who didn’t score their first touchdown of the game until 1:27 mark in the 4th quarter.
OUTCOME: The Bulldogs will probably gain some confidence on offense this week as they take a break from SEC play. MSU should win this one easily.
Final Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Alcorn State 10
Tennessee Vols: 2-2 (0-1 SEC)
LSU Tigers: 4-0 (2-0 SEC)
The Line: LSU -16.5
Kickoff: 2:30 PM CST, CBS
I won’t spend too much time here on the preview for this game. You can read all about that here. I will talk a little bit about last week’s games for both teams.
The Vols are lucky to have survived last week against UAB. UAB missed five field goals in their 26-23 loss to the Volunteers. Tennessee was completely outplayed by UAB in every facet of the game except the scoreboard — and that’s all that matters in the end. The Vols allowed 544 yards (429 in the air) to the UAB offense. Tennessee averaged just 1.6 yards per rush and went 2-15 on third down. The Vols are just ahead of San Jose State for the worst third down conversion percentage in the nation at 18.9%. Yikes. I don’t think they have converted a third and long yet, either. Yet, at the end of the second overtime, Tennessee found itself victorious over UAB after a 25 yard touchdown strike from Matt Simms to Denarius Moore.
LSU’s offense continued to struggle and they are relying on defense and special teams right now. Patrick Peterson has taken this team on his back in a few games. I wrote that LSU needed to have a good game from Jordan Jefferson last week, but he certainly didn’t do that and they didn’t need him. You get the feeling that Les Miles plays XBOX to determine his game strategy.
“Uh.. well, you know. Ridley. That. He .. uh. Well, I like how he can run. Give it to him and see what happens.” — not a Les Miles quote
LSU clamped down on the touted West Virginia offense last week, yet still only won by six. Their offense wasn’t much better, but they have found ways to win so far. LSU may insert Patrick Peterson on offense soon. Why not? He’s doing everything else for this team.
Final Prediction: Tennessee 17, LSU 14
Georgia Bulldogs: 1-3 (0-3 SEC)
Colorado Buffaloes: 2-1 (0-0)
The Line: Georgia -5.5
Kickoff: 6 pm CST
It’s about as bad as it can get for the Georgia Bulldogs, who have now lost three straight SEC games to open the season. I said before the season that Richt would have to have a disastrous season and he is well on his way if the Bulldogs don’t turn things around quickly. I didn’t think there was any way Richt and UGA would lose three straight, but I was wrong. I know Richt, along with many other UGA fans, are hoping that A.J. Green does bring some life to this offense. He is a cog that makes things work for this offense. It gives them a passing threat. It can open up the running game for them. Georgia had been doing well at keeping the penalties at bay until last week. They had 9 penalties called against them along with costly turnovers. Recipes for disaster.
OUTCOME: If Georgia’s offense gets going early, they will have a chance in Boulder. The Bulldogs are better than their 1-3 record suggests and I think A.J. Green makes a big impact this week. Georgia snaps the losing streak and knocks off the Buffaloes.
Final Prediction: Georgia 30, Colorado 20
Florida Gators: 4-0
Alabama Crimson Tide: 4-0
The Line: Alabama -8
Kickoff: 7 pm CST, CBS
I wrote a separate blog about this game and you can find it here. The #7 Gators and #1 Crimson Tide will play a close game and it will come down to which quarterback makes the least amount of mistakes. Keep in mind the Gators longest pass from scrimmage is 42 yards and that’s from Trey Burton, not John Brantley. One of Alabama’s weaknesses is their pass defense, but it’s not like Florida lights it up in the air. They’ll just have to avoid mental breakdowns.
Florida’s defense does have 12 interceptions, but 8 of those have come against Miami (OH) and South Florida.
If Florida loses this game, they still have a very good chance to be in Atlanta come December. If Alabama loses, they no longer control their destiny to make it to the SEC Championship. I think there’s a very high probability that these two teams will meet again later this year.
Last week, Alabama came back from a 20-7 deficit and stole victory from Arkansas’ grasp. I talked about this game in detail here. This type of game just makes a good team stronger. A young defense grew up and I think it’s one of the worst things Florida could have asked for a week before they come to Tuscaloosa.
The Gators disposed of the Wildcats 48-14 and completely destroyed my outstanding prediction. You can call me insane now… but you liked it last week. The Gators certainly found a new weapon in their offense, but let’s not get too overworked about an offensive explosion against Kentucky. Especially when the Cats haven’t won in The Swamp in 15 years. What’s that? Kentucky hasn’t beat Florida since 1986? As much as you want to pull for the Wildcats to pull an upset of that magnitude, it just has to wait till basketball season for the Cats to beat the Gators.
This could be the beginning of some offensive success for the Gators and it could just be an outburst against a bad defense. Regardless, the Gators didn’t struggle to win this one and they didn’t fumble the ball. Good signs there.
Final Prediction: Alabama 27, Florida 20
Arkansas and South Carolina hit snooze this weekend. Arkansas returns to action next week against Texas A&M and the Gamecocks host Alabama in an SEC showdown.
Other Match Ups
Ohio State travels to Illinois for an early contest. This game has upset potential. It’s the Buckeyes first road trip of the year and the Fighting Illini will be amped up for an upset, but Tressel keeps the troops calm and poised. Buckeyes win 28-12.
Clemson hosts Miami in another early match that has come down to the wire in their last three meetings. I like Clemson at home and Jacory Harris’ likelihood to throw a few interceptions. Clemson wins 24-21.
Air Force is a better team than Navy. They take this game and I like Air Force to cover -10. Air Force wins 31-17.
Neither Oklahoma or Texas have blown the doors off so far this season. No, it’s Nebraska that is looking like the most impressive team in the Big 12. The Sooners have the most three and outs in the country and Texas can’t run the ball. The Longhorns will be looking to bounce back after an embarrassing home loss last week. I think it was a wake up call. Texas wins this one, but it can go either way as always. Texas 22, Oklahoma 20
I think Michigan sneaks by Indiana on the road and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Indiana wins. Michigan wins 35-31
Virginia Tech steals NC State’s thunder and wins on the road. Tyrod Taylor is playing better for the Hokies and I think it gives them a W. Hokies win, 31-28
Iowa shuts Penn State down at home. Hawkeyes win 21-10.
Stanford beats up Oregon in Autzen Stadium and wins a close one, 28-26.
Notre Dame beats Boston College on the road, 17-6.
Washington stays within striking distance against USC, but the Trojans pull it out 31-21.
I got in a hurry at the end. Sorry for the skimpy analysis. Hope you all have a good weekend!
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. You can e-mail me suggestions or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @JoeSportswriter.