There were several heavyweight battles last week as the ACC flexed their muscle a bit though Oklahoma prevailed as the number one team in the country.
With all of the expansion going on in the ACC and possibly more conferences to come, the on-field talk has died down a tad this weekend.
Still, SEC football is the cream of the crop with Alabama hosting Arkansas in a critical SEC West battle as well as the LSU Tigers traveling to Morgantown against a solid West Virginia squad.
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh- Noon, ABC
Facts: The Irish are 13-4 vs Pitt since 1988, but lost their last trip at Pitt (’09). Notre Dame is 37th in total offense averaging 432 yards per game and Pitt is 37th averaging 404. Defensively, Pitt is 96th in total defense allowing a horrid 416 yards per game. The Domers are allowing just 354 yards a game which is 58th in the land.
Matchup: 119th pass defense of Pitt against 27th passing offense of Notre Dame
Michael Floyd is unstoppable this season and there really is not one single corner on the schedule that can limit Floyd. TJ Jones and Theo Riddick are exceptionable complementary guys who can stretch the field in their sleep and tight end Tyler Eifert is solid as well. It is imperative that Jared Holley and Antwuan Reed play their best to avoid getting lit up.
X-Factor: Tino Sunseri/QB
Why not? The Pitt signal caller single handily killed Iowa last weekend in the first half and yet he looked like a completely different player in the second half. He cannot turn the ball over and must find his big targets in Devin Street (6’4″) and Mike Shanahan (6’5″) early and often.
Why Pitt can win: The Panthers have a balanced attack thanks to Ray Graham, but he is going to have to break a few long runs if this offense expects to keep things rolling. The Irish are going to load up the box and force Sunseri to throw in tight coverages. Plus, the defense has not been able to close out games with just awful pass coverage. Luckily, the Irish are prone to turning the rock over as well.
Why Notre Dame can win: They have the more talented team despite playing on the road and their defense is stout up front. Paper does not win games, but their 30th ranked run defense should be the difference in this game. Manti Te’o headlines a filthy good LB corp.
What Should Happen: These Golden Domers are just too stout defensively for Pitt to maintain scoring drives. ND will move the ball and will not have much trouble putting some points on the board and as long as they avoid the crucial turnover Pittsburgh will have a hard time keeping up.
Experts Pick: ND By 6.5
Drama’s Pick: NOTRE DAME 31, PITTSBURGH 24
San Diego State at Michigan- Noon, BTN
Facts: The only meeting they had was in 2004 when Michigan knocked off SDT 24-21 in Ann Arbor. Michigan is 13th in rushing offense and the Aztecs are just 98th against the run allowing only 197 yards per game.
Matchup: Ronnie Hillman against Michigan’s front seven
Winning the line of scrimmage is crucial for Michigan if they want to win this tough home game. Kenny Demens and Cameron Gordon must make plays behind the line of scrimmage and playing behind the physical presence known as Mike Martin should certainly help.
X-Factor: Ryan Lindley/QB
If the Aztecs have any glimmer of hope to win this game they must get a huge game from Lindley and the passing attack. His star receivers have graduated and he needs to quickly build a rapport with his new targets. Michigan is an opportunistic pass defense that is allowing just 172 yards per game. Troy Woolfork has been battling several injuries and will need Jordan Kovacs to continue to make big plays.
Why San Diego State can win: They can move the ball and keep Denard Robinson on the sidelines. The only question is if their defense can come away with enough stops to pull off the upset.
Why Michigan can win: This defense is much better than last year and the offense has been putting up a ton of yards and points. Robinson has a bevy of playmakers in the backfield and in the passing game. They are no longer one dimensional thanks to Denard’s duel threat ability which will be too tough for Brady Hoke’s former team to stop.
What Should Happen: Brady Hoke is not going to allow his new team lose to his former at the “Big House” especially when he has Denard Robinson in late season form. Good luck stopping the multi-dimensional offense of the Wolverines.
Experts Pick: Michigan By 10
Drama’s Pick: MICHIGAN 35, SD ST 21
Missouri at No. 1 Oklahoma- 8 FX
Facts: Payback from last year’s 36-27 is on the mind of the Sooners. Missouri has not knocked off the Sooners in consecutive years since ’65-’66! Also, the Tigers win last year was their second in 21 attempts.
Matchup: OU’s Secondary agaisnt Mizzu’s Receivers
Those “Sharks” of Oklahoma were flying all over the place against Florida State’s speedy targets and I expect the same type of performance by Oklahoma. Missouri’s talent level in the passing game stacks up really well with FSU, but playing at home this time should give the slightest of edges to the Sooners.
X-Factor: James Franklin/QB
If Franklin plays the game of his life this game could come down to the wire. Wes Kemp, TJ Moe and Michael Egnew are solid options for Franklin to look good, but it is the running ability of Franklin that could give the Sooners some issues. EJ Manuel (though much bigger/better athlete) gashed the Sooners run defense so if Franklin does the same this game would be a tight one.
Why Missouri can win: James Franklin is slowly improving his game, but if you think ASU’s offense was tough then wait until you see the Sooners! Missouri will not struggle to move the ball, but I wonder if they can score enough to keep up with OU. Luckily, the Sooners are coming off a huge road win which could make them take the Tigers lightly, though I doubt they will.
Why Oklahoma can win: Landry Jones got his first huge road test and he passed with flying colors on the scoreboard against the tough defensive Seminoles. Depsite two picks he found Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles early and often. Mizzu is not quite as good as FSU’s defense so expect more of the same from the Boomer Sooners offense.
What Should Happen: The Sooners offense is unstoppable with two All-Americans at receiver and their running game will get back to form against Mizzu. Watch Travis Lewis continue to get back to full health after making a miraculous return after he originally said on Twitter that he would not be able to play in Tally. Too much firepower should lead to a relatively easy win.
Experts Pick: Oklahoma By 22
Drama’s Pick: OKLAHOMA 38, MISSOURI 14
Tulsa at No. 4 Boise State- 8 CBSN
Facts: Tulsa is 0-5 against Boise State though the last meeting came down to the wire in a 27-20 ball game. Boise State is currently 15th in the nation in total offense averaging 500 yards per game on the dot. Tulsa is averaging 431 which means a ton of yards and a possible shootout could be on the horizon.
Matchup: Boise State’s front four vs Tulsa’s offensive line
Reading below might help, but in case you did not get the memo GJ Kinne, who is already third on Tulsa’s all-time passing career leaders list is out 2-4 weeks with a grade two MCL tear. If Tulsa cannot protect their brand new signal caller then it will be a really long night for Tulsa.
X-Factor: Kalen Henderson/QB
Tulsa has a redshirt freshman making his first career start at the “Blue Smurf Turf Carpet” which is not exactly great news. Tulsa is without Kinne and their star Damarris Johnson, but there are other options that can put some points on the board. Henderson must remain calm in the pocket as he may be flushed out of the pocket all night. If he can avoid huge turnovers then his Golden Hurricane have a great shot of staying in the ball game early on.
Why Tulsa can win: Without a three hour delay, I give Tulsa a decent chance of keeping this game close on the road. GJ Kinne does have a torn MCL (grade 2) so he will be out 2-4 weeks and will be unable to play in this game. However, their offense is still loaded with a few running backs that can move the chains. Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas combined for over 200 yards against Oklahoma State last week and they could do the same against a very good Boise defense.
Why Boise State can win: Kellen Moore has been toying with the opposition as of late and Tulsa does not exactly have the pass defense to slow down any BCS caliber passing attack. There are six-seven different guys who are hauling in touchdowns this season. Redshirt freshman Matt Miller has showed off his talents along with Chris Potter, Kirby Moore, Kyle Efaw, Gabe Linehan, Tyler Shoemaker and Mitch Burroughs. Did I mention they have also have a two headed monster in the backfield as well?
What Should Happen: Just watch the Toledo game over again from the second half on. Billy Winn and Chase Baker may be the best duo of defensive tackles in the country and they single handily create pressure every possession. This run defense is too strong to allow a chunk of yards for an entire game. Plus that number eleven dude is spinning it better than anybody in the land. The Broncos will continue to steamroll through teams.
Experts Pick: Boise State By 32.5
Drama’s Pick: BOISE STATE 52, TULSA 17
No. 10 Oregon at Arizona-10:15, ESPN2
Facts: The last time the Ducks went to Tuscon we saw quite the ballgame with Oregon prevailing 44-41 in double overtime. Oregon is 14-3 since 1994 and have now won three straight in the series.
Matchup: Arizona’s WR’s against Oregon’s Secondary
The slew of targets that signal caller Nick Foles has to throw to is a positive note for the ‘Cats, but going up against the defensive backs of Oregon will be no easy chore. Cliff Harris, John Boyett and Eddie Pleasant are just a few of the defensive backs that will be licking their chops since AZ loves to throw the ball around.
X-Factor: Keola Antolin/RB
Nine carries is not quite enough for the ‘Cats top runner in the ground game. They must be more committed to the running game or else the Ducks will just pin their ears back against Nick Foles.
Why Arizona can win: Nick Foles has a healthy Juron Criner, Dan Buckner, David Roberts and David Douglas to thread the needle to. It is not like the Ducks defense is phenomenal by any means and in fact I question if they can limit to Foles under 300 yards. Now the ‘Cats defense is a completely different topic.
Why Oregon can win: LaMichael James is still untouchable in the open field and Darron Thomas now has 10 TDs with only 1 INT. He has the ability to escape pressure with great feet and he uses the bevy of options that he has running down the field or out of the flats.
What Should Happen: I really question how Arizona is going to stop Oregon from scoring 40 points, but I will go out on a limb and say that they will create a few turnovers to make it close. Foles will connect with a few big plays down the field, but will have his own issues late in the game. Darron Thomas will make just a few more plays than Foles with James at his disposal which should be the difference
Experts Pick: Oregon By 15.5
Drama’s Pick: OREGON 38, ARIZONA 24
No. 23 USC at Arizona State-10:15, ESPN
Facts: Arizona State has struggled recently against USC having not defeated them since 1999! ASU has a great chance of going to the first ever Pac-12 championship despite losing to Illinois last weekend (since USC is ineligible).
Matchup: Matt Barkley against Brock Osweiler
Wait, what!? Despite these quarterbacks not playing on the field at the same time whoever can perform better should pull off the win. Barkley is putting up amazing numbers averaging 301 yards per game. Big Brock (6’8″) is averaging 315 total yards of offense per game. Expect a ton of fireworks in the passing game and not a whole lot of defense.
X-Factor: Marc Tyler returned against Utah by rushing for 113 yards on 24 carries, but he did not see much success against Syracuse only toting the rock 15 times for 41 yards. USC must keep ASU’s fairly explosive offense on the field, but more importantly USC’s defense must have more time to get their breaths in like they did against Syracuse.
Why USC can win: Robert Woods is unstoppable and the rest of the Trojan targets are getting the job done for Matt Barkley. Plus, ASU has been bothered by a rash of injuries only this time it is their defensive end Junior Onyeali (torn meniscus out 6 weeks). He is the third Sun Devil defensive player to be lost for the year and the Trojans have not had any issues moving the ball this season (429 YPG).
Why Arizona State can win: The pass defense of USC is still awful at the moment ranking 75th by allowing 229 yards per game. USC’s strength is against the run which is perfect since ASU does not even bother to run the ball a ton. ASU can thread the needle with Aaron Pflugard, Mike Willie and Gerell Robinson all coming up big this season. Playing at home could give the slightest edge overall.
What should happen: I am not sure how ASU will bounce back after suffering a tough loss at Illinois. They outplayed them but two costly interceptions from Osweiler hurt the team from putting up more points. USC can cause some pressure and even more turnovers if big Brock does not take care of it.
Experts Pick: ASU By 2.5
Drama’s Pick: USC 28, ASU 27
No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Texas A&M- 3:30, ABC
Facts: Oklahoma State comes into this series with three consecutive victories. Last year’s thriller was an explosion of offenses and this game should be no different.
Matchup: Coryell Judie/Trent Hunter vs Justin Blackmon
Judie has flashed his brilliant athleticism time after time. This season is no different though it is Hunter tied on the team with one interception. Blackmon deserves extra treatment so look for the entire Aggies secondary to try to slow him down.
X-Factor: Joseph Randle/RB
Maybe nobody realized that Randle is a stud but me? People questioned this running game all off-season and OKST just happens to have the tenth ranked runner in the nation averaging 126 yards per game. He gives the Cowboys an extra dimension in their offense which makes them nearly unstoppable. Both of these offenses are among the top five most balanced offenses which should make one hell of a finish.
Why Oklahoma State can win: Ranked third in the nation averaging 52 points a game is quite impressive. Justin Blackmon can score on any given play and the play of Josh Cooper has really gone a far ways for this offense. They have half a dozen of options to go to with confidence and the defense has shown to come up with big stops when they need to.
Why Texas A&M can win: The Aggies defense is better since the Pokes defense allows 413 yards per game (92nd). A&M is ranked 15th allowing just 267 yards per game. Ryan Swoper and Jeff Fuller along with the two headed monster in the backfield (Christine Michael & Cyrus Gray) gives the Aggies one of the most consistent offenses in the nation.
What should happen: This will be arguably the most entertaining game all weekend and I think College Gameday should have chose College Station. Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill will trade blows similar to a heavyweight fight. Any turnovers will be costly in this game make no mistake about it. Despite the game being played in the afternoon, Weeden has the better options to spread the wealth with. However, A&M has the home field advantage and the better defense which should make the ultimate edge in favor of the 12th Man.
Experts Pick: A&M By 4
Drama’s Pick: A&M 38, OKST 36
No. 2 LSU at No. 16 West Virginia- 8, ABC
Facts: West Virginia has won 16 non-conference home games and LSU has won 28 of the last 29 non-conference games (PSU- Capital One). All of those games have been in the Les Miles era and something has to give in the first ever meeting to Morgantown for the Bayou Bengals.
Matchup: LSU front four vs West Virginia offensive line
LSU has eight beasts: Kendrick Adams, Kiki Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Lavar Edwards, Michael Brockers, Anthony Johnson, Bennie Logan and Josh Downs are freaks of nature that could wreak havoc on the Mountaineers. If Geno Smith has no time to throw it will be one long night in Morgantown.
X-Factor: Russell Shepard/WR
Why not? It is the very first game for the sensational junior that can do it all. They may use him in the backfield as a runner on jet sweeps as well as a quarterback since he throws the ball a bit also. He gives Jarrett Lee another reliable target to stretch the field against a solid Mountaineer secondary that allows only 200 yards a game (53rd).
Why LSU can win: LSU has the best defense in the nation (save Bama) and if they can put any pressure on Geno Smith this game will be over before we sit down to watch it. WV has a ton of options that can stretch the field, but LSU’s secondary is sensational led by the small man that can do it all, Tyrann Mathieu.
Why West Virginia can win: Geno Smith is a magician that can thread the needle to his stud receivers. Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney are solid young receivers that will challenge the mighty tough secondary of LSU. WV has a ton of returning starters on their offensive line and they may be able to hold their own despite LSU possessing the best front in college football.
What should happen: There are half a dozen of future stars just in the secondary not to mention the stud linemen or the few solid linebackers such as Ryan Baker. LSU is a ground and pound it type of team so look for Spencer Ware and Michael Ford to once again combine for close to 200 yards rushing. WV will not have an answer for the physical presence that LSU brings to the table and they also will not do enough to limit the big plays from Reuben Randle either.
Experts Pick: LSU By 6
Drama’s Pick: LSU 27, WEST VIRGINIA 17
No. 11 Florida State at No. 21 Clemson- 3:30, ESPN
Facts: The visitor between these two teams have gone just 1-8 in the last nine meetings. FSU has lost to Clemson at “Death Valley” by an average of 15 points per game in the last four meetings. The winner of this game would get a clear edge in the Atlantic and could be representing the ACC in the BCS perhaps. EJ Manuel comes into this game as a question mark since injurying his left shoulder which should make him a game-time decision come Saturday afternoon.
Matchup: Clemson O-Line vs FSU D-Line
Florida State manhandled OU’s front five for many stages of the game in passing situations because of the ferocious pressure off the edge. Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins are two flat out studs that gave Oklahoma a ton of trouble. Clemson’s line is about a notch below the Sooners so this could play a huge factor with Florida State going up against a scorching hot signal caller in Tahj Boyd.
X-Factor: Dustin Hopkins/K
Really, a kicker? Yes, Florida State will get plenty of scoring options and they must be able to turn them into touchdowns, but with Manuel’s status in limbo Dustin Hopkins should be able to convert when asked upon. He kept the ‘Noles in their ball game last weekend and we could be looking at a possible kick that decides this game.
Why Clemson can win: Their offense is actually more explosive with Tajh Boyd connecting at will with Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Dwayne Allen. Allen is huge as a h-back/tight end with his ability to block as well make big plays down the field on crucial third downs. Clemson defensively did a great job in coverage thanks to a huge interception from Coty Sensabaugh. Clemson can win the turnover battle and the game if they play smart and avoid the dumb penalties.
Why Florida State can win: Even with a bevy of receivers, running backs and a quarterback nicked up they still come into the game with a great chance to win. On paper that sounds nice, but they need to give the same effort that they gave Oklahoma. Plus, Clemson has a nicked up runner with Andre Ellington (hamstring) hurt though Mike Bellamy and DJ Howard are capable backups.
What should happen: It was tough luck losing Manuel in the third quarter since their loss to the Sooners was almost like a National Championship play-in game. However, they could not run the ball at all with their backs and they should be able to get just enough production from Ty Jones and an injured Chris Thompson. Defensively, they will come after Boyd and force a few errant plays which will be the difference. Greg Reid (leg), Michael Harris and Xavier Rhodes are physical enough to hang with these big Tigers boys.
Experts Pick: Clemson By 2.5
Drama’s Pick: FLORIDA STATE 24, CLEMSON 23
No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama- 3:30, CBS
Facts: Alabama has won 19 straight SEC openers and the home team is 7-2 when these teams have played the past nine years. Alabama was trailing 20-7 before they went ahead for good winning 24-20. The Tide were opportunistic picking off Ryan Mallett three times (1 in redzone and 2 late in 4th qtr).
Matchup: Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton and Jairius Wright against Tide’s secondary
Childs missed last weekend’s game against Troy due to his grandmother passing and Wright (knee) was dinged up two weeks ago against New Mexico State and missed the game against Troy. That is not good since they may not be good enough to beat Alabama if they were playing and at 100%. Robert Lester and Mark Barron both lay the lumber and might just be the best two defensive backs in the country.
X-Factor: Jake Bequette/DE
Missing the last game due to a nagging hamstring was not a big deal since they played Troy, but he better be close to 100% in time for Alabama or else Trent Richardson will run rushod on the Razorbacks rush defense. Harassing and coming after signal caller AJ McCarron is imperative to avoid getting gashed. Can Arkansas bring their “A” game on defense against the Tide?
Why Arkansas can win: Joe Adams has been electric this season and Tyler Wilson is the perfect guy to tear apart the secondary of Alabama. Wilson came in and torched Auburn last season filling in for an injured Mallett, but this is his first true road test as a starter. The options are endless for Pig Sooey offensively, but the defense must wrap up the Tide’s playmakers or else they will be in big trouble.
Why Alabama can win: Trent Richardson has his time to shine once again running behind a premier offensive line. Marquis Maze is a yard after the catch machine on screens and slants, so if that continues it will allow Richardson and Eddie Lacy to run wild. The two combined to run for 300 yards last week against North Texas and they should combine for close to 200 yards in this game if the passing continues to improve.
What should happen: The best defense in the nation can make a statement against a legit top 15 Arkansas team. Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner, Will Lowery, DeQuan Menzie and Phelon Jones are as good as it gets with the help from Lester and Barron. They will match up well since their linebackers will feast on the new offensive line of Arkansas. CJ Mosley, Jerrell Harris, Courntey Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower will bottle up the run and pin their ears back on Tyler Wilson to avoid any sort of tough home loss.
Experts Pick: Alabama By 11.5
Drama’s Pick: ALABAMA 28, ARKANSAS 20