Week 5 Picks  

Posted by Walter

Rutgers -3.5 over @ S Florida

I nearly picked South Florida in this one based on two players: Stephen Nicholas and Ben Moffit. Trust me, if these two linebackers played for Okalahoma or Miami you would have heard about them by now. The bottom line is that this game features the tremendous matchup of the so-far dominant Rutgers running game (led by Ray Rice and Brian Leonard) against perhaps the best linebacking corpse in the nation. It's very hard to call which way this will go, but I am giving the edge to Rutgers based on balance. Very few teams in the nation feature a better thunder-lightning combo that Leonard-Rice from Rutgers. Leonard will be the difference in this game, even if the stats don't bear that out, because he will wear down Nicholas and Moffit. On the other side of the ball, the South Florida offense is led by true freshman Matt Grothe and has only managed 31 points the last two weeks. They will be hard pressed to score against the no-name Rutgers defense that is in the top 10 in the nation. This looks like a low(ish) scoring game, so call it Rugers 20-10.

Boise State +4 over @ Utah

These are two teams I absolutely love. Both feature innovative offenses and have gamebreakers all over the field. In fact, the better bet on this game might be the over. Boise State has the most offensive talent that Utah will face this season (and that includes a UCLA team that flattened the Utes in week 1). Ian Johnson has been a stud all season, thanks to the dominating play of the Boise State offensive line. Chris Peterson loves to pound the ball and use his running game to open up passing lanes for Jared Zabransky. Utah has an outstanding secondary so I expect Boise State to win this game on the ground. Look for Boise to get back to its roots with more option looks agains the Utes. Against UCLA, Utah did a great job stopping the run and only lost because Ben Olson was super accurate all day long. Zabransky is a veteran starter but he is prone to bouts of erraticness. Boise needs to be careful with him, because Utah safety Eric Weddle has been all over the field making big plays. Boise cannot afford to turn the ball over at all, as their defense has shown kinks over the past few weeks, especially against the pass (Hawaii bombed away on them all day). That said, I expect a ton of points to be scored, with Ian Johnson and the Boise line proving to be just a bit too much for the Utes. Boise takes it 34-32.

@ Florida -13 over Alabama

Alabama is not as good as it's record. They are not as good as they were last season. Florida is better. Much better. The bottom line is that Florida has just way too many playmakers for the Tide defense to handle. Chris Leak has been playing as well as any QB in the nation, and who can blame him with the trio of receivers he has to throw to (Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, Percy Harvin). Alabama has struggled on offense all season. They couldn't move the ball against an Arkansas defense that, while tough, does not have nearly the talent that Florida does. The scary thing is that Florida's defense has yet to play to it's full potential. Marcus Thomas and Jarvis Moss have appeared disinterested at times. I believe this is going to be Florida's true coming out party. They almost never beat Alabama, so playing at home they make a huge statement to the nation 30-9.

Georgia Tech +11 over @ Virginia Tech

I do not understand this line. Virgnia Tech hasn't played anyone this season. They have beaten as many 1AA teams as they have 1A teams. We just don't know how good they are just yet, let alone that they are 11 points better than a team that has one of the best players in the nation (Calvin Johnson) and took nearly beat Notre Dame on opening night. I know that the game is in Blacksburg, which is why I am not picking the Jackets to win, but Georgia Tech has too much explosion on the offensive side of the ball to not keep this thing close. Beamer ball is alive and well, but you can't rely on blocked kicks every week. That is the reason Tech always seems to fade down the stretch when they start playing more talented and disciplined teams. Also, we need to give some credit to the Georgia Tech defense. They played extremely tough against Notre Dame, holding them to fewew points than Michigan did. I don't see Tech putting up too many points in this game, as their offense is not the explosive kind to begin with. Tech wins it, but not nearly by enough to cover the spread 21-17.

@ Washington State +14 over USC

Frazier is right, this USC team is impossible to figure out. The pieces seem to be in place for them to dominate teams like they did a year ago, but they have yet to do so. The Dwayne Jarrett injury is going to hurt them. He was by far their best offensive player (BY FAR!!!) and he was the guy that opposing coaches had to gameplan around. It will be interesting to see how the Trojan offense responds to the different style of gameplans that will be thrown at them with Jarrett on the sideline. I would expect a lot more blitzing and man to man coverage (no way would an opposing coach think of covering Jarrett man to man) and Booty will be forced to make quicker decisions. Make no mistake about it, Washington State is a tough opponent. They got waxed by Auburn in Week 1, but that game was thousands of miles away from Wazzou. I expect a classic Pac-10 game here, and Washigton State has a very underrated passing offense that may be able to hang with USC. They have a veteran QB in Alex Brink and a potential first round WR in Jason Hill. The USC defense has been outstanding thus far, but this might be the game where losing starting safety Josh Pinkard starts to hurt them. This will be the first true Pac-10 game for USC (Arizona is more of a big 12 style team) and it will be interesting to see how their defense holds up to a bombs away attack. USC wins, but it ain't easy 28-21.

Michigan -4.5 over @ Minnesota

Minnesota traditionally plays Michigan tough, but this Michigan team looks to be on a mission. They have been playing some of the most physical defense in recent memory, and they have by far the best front 7 in the nation. Minnesota has always made its way by running the football, something they won't be able to do against the Wolverines. QB Cupito is a decent game manager, who doesn't make mistakes and is capable of picking up a first down every now and then but he is not a vertical passer. Minnesota does not have anywhere near a balanced enough offensive attack to hang with Michigan. This past Saturday Michigan dominated a Wisonsin team that is very similar to Minnesota. I say nothing changes this week. Michigan wins 24-10.

@ Iowa +5 over Ohio State

Let me be clear on this, I think Iowa can win this game. Iowa has several things going for it. First and foremost is that the game is in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will be looking for their first 5-0 start ever under Ferentz and Hawkeye Stadium should be one of the most frenzied atmosphere's in the nation thus far. Second, the Ohio State offense has looked somewhat off kilter ever since the Texas game. Especially last week against Penn State, Troy Smith was picked off twice and Tedd Ginn appears to have gone into his traditional midseason invisibility mode. Antonio Pittman has been by far the Buckeye's best offensive player over the past two weeks, but you don't beat a Kirk Ferentz coached team at home by just running the football. Third, and finally, Iowa has Drew Tate. Tate has been a tremendous QB for Iowa, but he is still searching for a signature Big 10 win (the Bowl victory over LSU counts as his signature victory overall). He is by far the best passer that the Buckeyes have faced this season, and Iowa has the offensive talent to really test the young Buckeye secondary that has yet to be tested. I thought that Penn State had the talent to do this, but Anthony Morrelli proved he was the worst QB in the nation. Tate is the real deal, and he will not be afraid of the Buckeyes. With all that said, though, I still think Ohio State wins the game. This Buckeye team has a little bit of magic in it. Troy Smith played poorly last week, but he still made huge plays when his team needed him to (the TD pass was just awesome). This Ohio State teams reminds me a little of Oklahoma's championship team of a few years ago. Although he is a different type of player, Smith makes plays for his team in the same way Josh Heupel did for the Sooners. The true mark of a great player is someone who can make plays and rise to the occasion even when he is not at his best. Heupel did it for Oklahoma, Smith does it for OSU. In one heck of a game Ohio State takes it 23-21 on a late FG.

Quick Picks: Saturday Edition  

Posted by Frazier

Ok, so that didn't go well. TCU sabotaged their season, and while Auburn led 24-10, and looked poised to pull away, S. Carolina stepped up and took them to the final seconds. The Gamecocks are going to think about that dropped touchdown pass for the rest of the year, and lament what could have been. So what do I think is going to happen Saturday? Well, I'm not entirely sure why you'd trust me at this point, but I'm feeling pretty good about this bunch.

Rutgers -3.5 AT South Florida

Ok, so this one is a Friday game. Sue me. This was the other team I had thought of for my underrated selections at the beginning of the year, and I really love what they have done. I think they're still hungry, and that the running attack will be potent again this weekend. Let's call it 35-27.

Boise St. + 4 AT Utah

I'm not getting off the Broncos bandwagon anytime soon. Especially after the way they obliterated Oregon St. It's actually their defense which has most impressed me. Also, they are running incredibly well now, which is necessary in hostile environments. They win outright 34-30.

Oregon -1 AT Arizona St.

I love this line. The Sun Devils got embarrassed last weekend, and Oregon really has something to prove the way they have been disrespected for a win over a top 15 team. People seem to forget that Oregon has a ton of talent offensively, and just enough defense to hold on to win. Of course it will be a wild and wacky PAC-10 game, but the Ducks have just enough to hang on, 41-38.

Florida -13 vs. Alabama

Alabama is going to struggle to score, and Chris Leak has been efficient in running the offense. I think there is still a hangover from the bad Arkansas loss, and this team is prone to shooting itself in the foot. Saturday is no different as the Gators roll, 31-13.

Georgia Tech +11 AT Virginia Tech

I hate the Hokies, so this line makes me especially gleeful. It's simply ludicrous. Virginia Tech hasn't even played anyone, and the Yellow Jackets went toe-to-toe with the excellent Notre Dame offense for 4 quarters. This line is simply too high. Calvin Johnson is probably worth a touchdown by himself, and this team still has a bitter taste in its' mouth from last years embarrassing loss. They cover easily, but Virginia Tech pulls away, 27-23.

Washington St. +14 vs. USC

I should really avoid this game, since I can't figure the Trojans out. I just feel like Washington St. is going to score enough this week to cover. The Trojans kept Nebraska and Arizona close, despite dominating the games, and this week is no different. Another Trojan victory, with the Cougars covering, 27-17.

Michigan -4.5 AT Minnesota

Gotta love the line. Michigan's defense is holding opposing teams to less than 20 yards a game on the ground. Um, yeah, that will equal a win pretty much every time, even though the Gophers are a lock to eclipse that number, but not by enough. The Wolverines gave up their grip on the Little Brown Jug last year for the first time since 1986. It's coming back to Ann Arbor. Michigan takes care of business, 27-14.

Ohio St. - 5 AT Iowa

I love Ferentz, and Iowa will have a chance to win this. It will be another close game, but Ohio St. is playing very well on both sides of the ball, and have stepped up and made they plays when they needed to make them. Drew Tate will lead an offense that won't make any big mistakes, but won't be able to make the plays when they count. Simply not enough fire power, and the clock runs out on the Hawkeyes chances. Iowa is forced to settle for multiple field goals after long drives, due to a lack of explosiveness to get them in the endzone. They simply run out of time in their upset bid, and Ohio St. hangs on, 24-16.

Thursday: 0-2
Season: 3-6

Quick Picks: Thursday Edition  

Posted by Frazier

So, what's going to happen tonight?

TCU -7 over BYU

TCU has been excellent this year, and completely and utterly shutdown the potent Texas Tech offense. They will be out to prove something on a Thursday night matchup with the whole country paying attention, in front of a rabid home crowd. They know that any chance at a BCS game will be determined by how good they look under the bright lights. The line is a little higher than I'd like it to be, but I think the Horned Frogs are on a mission. They cover. Let's call it 21-13.

Auburn -10 AT South Carolina

Maybe I'm a fool for giving so many points, especially on the road. I just can't forget that Georgia, without an offense, beat this team 18-0 at home. Auburn's defense is even better than the Bulldogs, and Irons should be ready to roll. It doesn't hurt that he was wasted on the bench during his time in Columbia. They walk 27-10.

Last week: 3-4
Season: 3-4

Quick Hitch (Thurs. night picks)  

Posted by Walter

Auburn -10 over @ South Carolina

After taking last week off Kenny Irons should be poised for a huge game. Actually, the same could be said for the entire Auburn team (playing Buffalo is akin to having a week off). On the flip side, it appears as though Steve Spurrier has found a quarterback with enough talent to make some plays in the fun and gun. Syvelle Newton, though not a classic Spurrier drop back passer, is one of the best athletes on the Gamecocks, and has already developed a near psychic connection with star WR Sidney Rice (evidenced by Rice's 5 TD catches last week). Still, Newton is extremely inexperienced and he will be going up against the hardest hitting and best defense in the entire SEC. Once again David Irons will have the task of shutting down the opponent's top WR (which he has already done to Washington State's Jason Hill-4 rec. 18 yards-and LSU's Dwayne Bowe-4 rec. 56 yards), and my guess says he is up to the challenge. Call it Auburn 34-14.

@ TCU -7 over BYU

Gary Patterson's horn frogs may be the nation's best kept secret. Heck, Gary Patterson might be the best kept secret. Though the Cougars present the most balanced and talented offense TCU has played this season, Patterson's crew has been way too dominant on defense to scare me away from laying a touchdown at home. The TCU defense totally shut down the pass happy Baylor Bears, and held Mike Leach and Texas Tech to no touchdowns (which is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself). BYU's two headed running attack with test TCU, but the Horned Frogs have been way to effective against the pass this season for BYU to put up many points (especially with star QB John Beck not 100%). Call it TCU 21-10.

Last Week: 2-3-1 (should have been 3-2-1 if not for Anthony Morrelli - argh!)
Season: 18-13-1

Quick Hitch...  

Posted by Frazier

I'd like to take a moment to discuss a team that just missed out Power 10 this week. It's the Iowa Hawkeyes. Here is a team that has been generally overlooked the last several years, even though they have played great football, under one of the best coaches in the country. Of course Iowa remains in that second tier of teams, like Virginia Tech, Oregon, California and Georgia. Teams that have been consistently excellent, but have found a way to lose a game early enough in the year to really remove themselves from national title discussion. Then they finish 10-2, and everyone sort of remembers them doing the same thing the year before, and think "wow, that team has been a lot better than I thought".

Well, Iowa is in that second tier. They have had some high draft picks, some BCS bowl appearances, and have played well at the highest level. They have simply failed to break through. Usually I blame the coach for failing to finish the job. However, I am willing to wait a little while before I pillory Ferentz. He reminds me more of a Nick Saban, a guy that got a ton of hype and respect, and was able to break through for a title. Not a guy like Mark Richt, who has such amazing talent, but who always manages to lose the one game they NEED to win.

Anyways, just pay attention this Saturday to how Iowa plays. I bet they keep things close, don't make big mistakes or commit stupid penalties, and give themselves a chance to win the game. They don't have the talent that Ohio St. has, and Tressel has a title under his belt, so he's no slouch. But just remember that Kirk Ferentz is always going to give his team a chance to win, no matter the situation.

This is the look you want your general to have
when leading you into battle.

Power Rankings (Week 4)  

Posted by Walter

#1 Ohio State

Walter: Though cliched, the OSU-PSU game was a lot closer than the score indicated.....A LOT! Was Ohio State simply looking ahead to a very important game at Iowa this week or was this simply another case of the #1 team in the land not yet clicking on all cylinders? Buckeye fans better hope for the former, because if they play like they did against Penn State on Saturday, they will not escape Iowa City with a win.

Frazier - If Troy Smith goes 12-22 for 115 yds and 2 interceptions against Iowa, the Buckeyes will probably be looking at a very different result. So far he has captained the ship and they haven't hit an iceberg, but this team hasn't definitively proven that they are the best in the country. I thought this offense was supposed to be slashing and gashing for huge numbers every week, and eventually they are going to need to to stay undefeated.

#2 Auburn

Walter: No Kenny Irons, no problem. Well playing Buffalo helps too. Still, one has to be impressed with the stable of tailbacks at Auburn. Given their lineage of running backs in the NFL (see "Running Back University") this is nothing surprising, but it is worth mentioning that Brandon Lester ran for 100 yards and a score on Saturday all in the 4th quarter......did I mention he's the 4th string tailback?

Frazier - It looks like the future is bright at Running Back University. So that's good to know. Other than that, we learned nothing from the Buffalo game. It would have been more interesting to watch the Bulls play the kids from that "Two a Days" show.

Could this little bitch and his teammates handle
Buffalo? It would have been more interesting
to find out than watching Auburn smoke the Bulls.

#3 Michigan

Walter: Michigan's victory over Wisonsin should not be lost in the shuffle. The Wolverines were down early but came through with a dominating defensive performance over the final three quarters, holding Wisconsin tailback PJ Hill to well under 100 yards. Everyone says Michigan has the best front 7 in the nation (they do) but I think Badger coach Bret Beilema said it best "They have the best front 14!" It's true, Michigan's backup lineman and linebackers could start for most programs.

Frazier - The Big Ten has always been a bruising conference, and Michigan proved once again that their defense is to be reckoned with. Shutting out the Badgers in the second half after a slow start was impressive. Avoiding a letdown after such a huge win against Notre Dame shows that this team has finally matured, and may continue to play up to their considerable talent for the rest of the year.

#4 USC

Walter: The defense has been outstanding, but the offense just hasn't clicked yet. Losing Dwayne Jarrett is a potentially devestating injury if he is in fact out for an extended period. True they have two top recruits to fill his starting spot (Patrick Turner and Dewon Hazelton) but make no mistake about it, Jarrett is the Trojans best player! If the offense doesn't start clicking again they could be in trouble this saturday on the road against a very pesky Washington State team.

Frazier - The Jarrett injury is tough for a team that has yet to click on offense. While, the WR stud is talking about playing this weekend, the chances don't look great. A slew of injuries is bedeviling this team for a second consecutive year, but they still have the talent to keep on plowing ahead. However, they no longer have the incredible talent and experience to take a quarter off, or fall behind early. USC needs consistent effort in all phases of the game.

#5 Florida

Walter: It's hard to get too excited about the Gators victory over Kentucky, but they did get the job done. Still, there has to be some concern about the Florida secondary as Kentucky QB Andre Woodson was able to repeatedly find open recievers. The lack of pass rush hurt the Gators as well. Their matchup at Auburn later this year looms larger by the day, and could prove to be the most important game of the entire season.

Frazier - Florida had twice as many total yards as Kentucky, and held the 'Cats to only 39 on the ground, so it's hard to have anything particularly negative to say about the Gators effort on Saturday. They might not look dominant, but they are playing well on both sides of the ball, and getting excellent play from the embattled Chris Leak. Kentucky played a tough game, and made some plays, but Florida gets credit for never letting them make the big play to put the game in doubt.

#6 Louisville

Walter: Great victory by Louisville this past week going into Manhatten and beating a 3-0 Kansas State team that had to believe they could win. Hunter Cantwell was just fine, but its the Cardinals defense that is raising eyebrows. Remember the name Amobi Okoye. He has been just about unblockable for the past few weeks and since he started as a 16 year old Freshman at Louisville, he will be a robust 20 years old on draft day.

Frazier - Well, the Cardinals defense has certainly gotten my attention. Has it gotten yours? That unit has been totally overshadowed by the pyrotechnics, and the big names on the other side of the ball, but have been the key to an excellent start. They were great against Kansas St. and this team looks like they should be able to hold the course until Brohm returns to lead them into battle against WVU.

#7 West Virginia

Walter: Good win against a tougher than expected East Carolina team. The Pirates deserve credit for providing the nation with a blue print for slowing down the Mountaineer offense. Play smart, play under control, and stay within your responsibilities. Pat White threw 3 TD passes but he also threw 3 INT. Make him throw to beat you. One other thing, if I were a Mountaineer fan I would be very worried that I was the only team in the country yet to register a QB sack.....especially with a Bobby Petrino coached Louisville team looming.

Frazier - For once West Virginia didn't crush their opponent with an opening haymaker, and found themselves in a game until the fourth quarter. The Pirates deserve credit for making Pat White beat them through the air, where he almost threw the game away, besides throwing it to the wrong team. The Mountaineers need to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This win showed a lot of chinks in the armor of a team that needs to win, and look impressive doing it, to make a case for any chance at a title.

#8 Oregon

Walter: @ Arizona State, @ California, UCLA, @ Washington State.....Bong....Bong.....Oregon, the bell tolls for thee. Your days as America's super frauds are coming to an end.

Frazier - Welcome back to the PAC-10 Ducks. No more home cooking, so now you have to prove something. The team is well coached, and has a lot of talent. We'll see how far it takes them.

#9 Georgia

Walter: In avoiding a disastrous loss, the Bulldogs showed their true colors. Folks, this is a bad offensive team. Not inefficient, not sluggish, just bad. When Ohio State won the national title they had a bad offense, but they had some playmakers on that bad offense. Georgia has nobody to make plays on offense and this is going to come back to hurt them against a good team.

Frazier - Nobody can run, nobody can pass. While Joe Cox looked good (and solidified his position as the best "Joe" quarterback on the team) this team needs a lot of help offensively. Maybe it's time for a gadget offense, trick plays, wacky formations, or direct appeals to a higher power, because you can't pitch a shutout every game, especially in the SEC. We're still in Act One of the play this season, where everything is looking perfect for our hero. Just remember, the end of act two is am embarrassing loss removing them from a title contender. The final act of the play finds them as an after-thought for everyone not in the peachtree state.

#10 Virginia Tech

Walter: After BC's inexplicable loss to Chuck Chuck Amato, the #10 spot in the rankings has become somewhat of a musical chairs. What can I say about Tech, they are the best of the rest....yet something tells me that their run in the power 10 will be short as well.

Frazier - Beamer ball is alive and well. While I hate the Hokies (hate, hate) they have dominated the teams they've needed to dominate this year. A win over Georgia Tech (even if it is the incredibly rare, second consecutive home game) would be the first significant mark on the record.

Student Body Right . . . Student Body Wrong  

Posted by Walter

I was right about East Carolina. West Virginia came out very sluggish in their first road game of the year, and the Pirates played disciplined enough on defense to cover the spread. While the Mountaineers were able to keep an underrated East Carolina offense in check, the Morgantown faithful have to be concerned that the Mountaineers are the only team in America yet to register a sack on the season (despite playing subpar opponents).

I was wrong about Arizona State. Although maybe it’s that I was right (in my preseason analysis) about the Cal defense. Daymeion Hughes was nothing short of spectacular, but Rudy Carpenter and Co. looked out of sync all day long. On defense, the Sun Devils looked like a high school team playing against the superior athletes of Cal, and it appears as though their defensive success this season was a product of poor competition.

I was right about the Notre Dame game. The comeback was a miracle, true, but I do believe that I had Michigan State covering yet still losing to the Irish because of a huge day by Brady Quinn. Ignore the way the game played out and just look at the stats and I was dead on accurate.

[As a side note, I have to say that the end of the game management by John L Smith was by far the worst coaching job I have ever seen in my life. First of all I have never EVER seen a kick returner start to return a kick and then decide to take a knee at the 15 yard line with nobody anywhere near him. However, if the Spartans had just ran the ball three times and punted I could almost understand it. Instead, the Spartans run the ball twice against 9 men in the box and predictable get 0 yards. At this point, one has to figure that Michigan State has committed themselves to running once more and then punt. Instead Smith calls a pass play on third and 10, Stanton gets pressured (the 9 men in the box yet again), and throws a pick which is returned for a TD. Just inexplicable.]

I was wrong about BC. Awful game, and frankly I’m not ready to discuss it so let’s just move on.

I was right about Eric Weddle. A the323 favorite from the very beginning, Weddle established himself Saturday as the best player you’ve never seen play. The Utah defensive back turned in a performance for the ages registering three interceptions, three touchdowns (2 INT returns and one fumble return), and half a sack just for good measure. Weddle won’t have the measurables of some of the elite defensive backs at this year’s combine, but if he isn’t a first round pick I don’t know who is. God I hope the Patriots draft him!

I was wrong about Anthony Morrelli. Albeit I am a little bitter that his utter meltdown in the waning minutes cost me a winning week on my picks (his two INT returned for TD allowed the Buckeyes to cover), but Morrelli’s performance on Saturday was the worst I have seen in a long time. Morrelli is a thrower, not a quarterback. He consistently delivered the ball high and wide, he doesn’t make a good pre snap read, he never looks off the safety (as evidence by his first INT), and most importantly he NEVER delivers the ball on time. Any football fan knows that on a 3 or 5 step drop the ball has to be on its way out when that back foot hits. Against OSU Morrelli never got a pre snap read and was thus unable to deliver the ball on time. After his disaster on Saturday Morrelli has fallen to the level of Joe T in my mind.

Student Body Right... Student Body Wrong...  

Posted by Frazier

Ok, it's hard to be too right, and too wrong about things when you don't say them out loud. Or at least when I don't share them with the 323. Still, some of my long term predictions were impacted, and of course I had an opinion about every game.

I was right about:

Realizing that Anthony Morelli is a thrower, and not a quarterback. This is the last you will hear from me about Penn St. until they actually do something noteworthy.

I was wrong about:

West Virginia rolling East Carolina. The Pirates played disciplined football, and slowed the onslaught.

I was right about:

How to attack the WVU offense. East Carolina played assignment football, and avoided getting blown out early. I really didn't think this bunch would have the patience and coaching to execute this plan.

I was wrong about:

Matt Stafford being the savior at Georgia. Yikes. His time will come, but it ain't now.

I was right about:

Joe T. Look, he isn't even the best "Joe" that plays quarterback for the Bulldogs. That distinction belongs to Joe Cox who stepped in and saved the season. At least until they implode over the final weeks.

I was wrong about:

Boston College getting full credit for several too-close wins. They flirted with disaster all season, and it kicked them in the jaw. They have no excuse for losing this game. The single coverage on the winning score was one of the most inexplicable things I have ever, EVER seen in a football game. How could that ever happen? Totally beffudling from a team that I thought had better coaching than that.

I was right about:

BC having the potential for a very short stay in the power rankings. I said that after so many emotional battles, they might find themselves blowing a very winnable game. Well, they did. It's going to take a lot to climb back into my good graces.

I was right about:

Notre Dame's defense. Their inconsistency has been startling this year. The Irish would have lost that game if John L. Smith had two neurons to rub together in that noggin of his. Terrible coaching, terrible decisions, terrible tackling, defense, and execution. On their final drive I thought the Spartans would probably have been better served by taking a knee and accepting defeat, instead of embarrassing themselves some more.

I was wrong about:

USC firing on all cylinders yet. They are still figuring things out, especially offensively. Although their defense is vastly improved this year. They still are a legit title contender, but they are going to need to execute more crisply in the future. Holding a 10-3 lead late against the Arizona's of this world was not how the Trojan dynasty was built.

The Return....  

Posted by Frazier

Well, if you're a loyal reader (we know you're out there) you've noticed that the 323 hasn't been updated in awhile. Well, we've been having some issues with Blogger, and it took much longer than necessary to get back to work. We have a couples of items we drafted before the games last week, and we'll try to get caught up in the next couple of days. Anyways, hopefully the 323 will continue to crank along now that we're back up and running. Thanks.

Week 4 Picks  

Posted by Walter

@ East Carolina +19 over West Virginia

I was talking to Frazier the other day and I said that this game just feels like one of those games that is going to be a lot closer than it should be. First and foremost, this will be the Moutaineers first road game of the season. After three dominating performances at home, it is fair to expect somewhat of a slower start away from Morgantown. Second, the Moutaineer defense showed some vulnerability last week against Maryland. In the second half, the Maryland offense really took it to the West Virginia front seven, exposing them somewhat as a less than physical group. East Carolina, surprisingly, has the best and most balanced offense West Virginia has faced thus far. QB James Pinkey was impressive in the victory over Memphis last week, and he has a stable of skill position players to help him. Believe me, the Mountaineer defense is going to have its hands full trying to keep track of wideouts Aundra Allison and Phillip Henry, not to mention tailback Chris Johnson. One more thing to consider: the Mountaineer defense has yet to register a sack this season. Their offensive dominance has somewhat masked these defensive shortcomings, but expect a better offensive performance from East Carolina than you might think. The bottom line, though, is that West Virginia should still win this game. In watching them dominate Maryland last week I commented that this offense, while ingenious, is not indefensible. A team that is fast and can tackle in the open field could give this offense fits. I don't think East Carolina has the talent to do it, but I do think this game will be close for 3 quarters before the Moutaineers pull away. Call it WVU 35-21.

Boston College -7.5 over @ NC State

NC State has been a terrible underachiever under Coach Chuck Amato. Now that they don't have all that NFL talent, they are just terrible. Conversely, Boston College is an overachieving bunch, thanks to Coach Tom O'Brien (who became the winningest BC coach ever last week-contratulations!). After two hard fought double OT victories against tough opponents (Clemson and BYU) BC is in the driver's seat in the ACC and primed to keep their momentum rolling right into a thursday date with Virginia Tech in a couple of weeks. So far this season, the Eagles have scored points with their passing game. Expect Offensive Coordinator Dana Bible to lean heavily on the running game this week, against an NC State team that was shredded on the ground by Southern Miss. in the season opener. With LV Whitworth, Andre Callender, and super Freshman Jeff Smith, the Eagles have the groud firepower to make it a very long day for NC State. On the other side, I will say that the Eagles were exposed somewhat on defense by BYU. The Cougars used a short passing attack in lieu of a running game to dink and dunk their way down the field. This strategy minimized the effect of the massive BC interior defensive line (BJ Raji and Ron Brace), and slowed down the Eagles' athletic linebackers (Toal and Dunbar) by forcing them to react from coverage rather than simply scraping on handoffs. That is the way that you are going to have to beat this BC team and NC State simple does not have the offensive personnel to execute this gameplan, especially with a new QB. The NC State running backs run hard, but the BC front 7 is very strong against the run. The Eagles should have no problem, let's call it 32-17.

@ Arizona +17 over USC

This may seem like a crazy pick after the Wildcats were destroyed at LSU, but Arizona has always been a different, and much better, team when playing on the Left Coast. Let's not forget that this Arizona team stayed with the Trojans for three quarters at USC last season. With nearly everyone returning, the Wildcats are a year older and a year wiser, and are one of the few teams that won't be intimidated by the USC mystique. Though the Trojans won against Nebraska, it was not the type of offensively explosive win we are used to seeing from the men of Troy. The reason for this is that the USC offensive gameplan has become somewhat one-dimensional, relying too much on the passing game. This could present somewhat of a problem for the Trojans this week, as Arizona boasts the best secondary they will face all season. Cornerback Antoine Cason (a 323 favorite) is perhaps the only corner in America that is fast enough, and more importantly physical enough, to slow down Dwayne Jarrett. And make no mistake about it, Jarrett is the most important player in the USC offense. If the Arizona secondary can make some plays early, they may be able to force the Trojans to win the game by relying on their talented, yet inexperienced, running backs. At the very least this should keep the game relatively close. On the other side of the ball, everyone wants to talk about how great the USC defense was last week. While they are a talented bunch, the Nebraska offensive gameplan played right into their hands. The strength of the USC defense is speed. I am still left wondering why Nebraska coach Bill Callahan ran the ball nearly twice as many times as he threw it, with most of those runs going to the outside. Expect Arizona and QB Willie Tuitama to give USC severa different looks, and to try and make big plays against a still untested Trojan secondary. USC wins, but it should be relatively close for a while. Let's call it 27-14.

@ Michigan State +3.5 over Notre Dame

Perhaps it's piling on, but perhaps it's that we've been right about Notre Dame all along. After the debacle against Michigan last week, one has to wonder the state of the Irish confidence right now, especially on defense. The task doesn't get any easier against an explosive Michigan State offense this week, and QB Drew Stanton who has played as well as any player in America thus far. But the name to remember in this one is Matt Trannon. Trannon, the massive (6'6'') Spartan WR is just as talented as any pass catcher the Irish have faced this season. Though he isn't as polished as Calvin Johnson, or as explosive as Mario Manningham, he has a rapport with Stanton and should make big plays all over the field on Saturday. In fact, with Stanton, Trannon, and RB Javon Ringer, the Spartans may be the most talented offense the Irish have faced all year. The same cannot be said for the defense, however. Brady Quinn and company should have no problem putting some points on the board in this game, although I expect Michigan State to blitz, blitz, blitz. The Irish offensive line has done a poor job protecting Quinn this season, and the Spartans know that their secondary cannot keep up with the likes of Jeff Samardzjia and Rhema Mcknight. Expect some big sacks and some big pass plays from the Irish offense. Under John L. Smith, the Spartans have been a Jeckyll and Hyde team, although they always seem to play up to (and down to) the level of their opponents. Expect a very competitive, high scoring game, with the Irish just barely edging the Spartans on the heels of an outstanding performance by Brady Quinn. Call it Notre Dame 35-34.

Penn State +15.5 over @ Ohio State

I am going agains the cardial rule of gambling here, "never bet on a road team unless you think they can win the game outright." Well I don't think Penn State can win this game outright, but I do think they can keep it close for 4 quarters, and possibly score a late garbage time touchdown to cover the spread. Offensively, Penn State has some weapons. With Tony Hunt they have a solid running back, but they have been inconsistent with the running game all season. QB Anthony Morrelli has the arm and savvy to develop into a potential NFL passer, but he has done nothing but show flashes thus far in 2006. Still, Penn State has the talent to pressure the Buckeyes with a the verical passing game. The Nittany Lions represent the most talented passing game that the young Buckeye secondary has faced this season, sporting Morrelli and super talented wideouts Derrick Johnson and Jordan Norwood. Penn State will need to open up the playbook and take some shots down the field to stay in this game. On the other side of the ball, the story is the same. Penn State looks like they have enough defensive talent to keep the game close, but not to win. The linebackers are still outstanding and the defensive line has been solid. Ohio State has a great offensive line, but I still don't think they are going to have much success running the ball. The game will turn on whether the Lions can get any pressure on Troy Smith. Against Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions consistently rushed 4 men and got torched by Brady Quinn. They shouldn't make the same mistake twice. The secondary is young and talented, but they have no shot at sticking with Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez (another the323 favorite). Penn State is going to have to take some chances and blitz Troy Smith to throw him off his rythm. The name of the game is going to be big plays and I believe Ohio State will make more. Call it OSU 29-14 (Penn State just barely covers).

Arizona State +7 over @ California

Now this line I just don't understand. It's true that California has played a whole lot better since their opening night disaster at TN, and that this game is played on Cal's home turf, and that the Arizona State offense has struggled at times this season, blah blah blah. Seven points just looks like way too many points to lay on California, even at home. Anyone who watched the Bears' debacle in Knoxville has to still be concerned about the inconsistent play of the Cal secondary. Against TN, the Cal secondary made Erik Ainge and Robert Meachum look like All-Americans (they're not) by not reacting to the ball in the air and missing tackles. Not to pile on Ainge and Meachum, but Arizona State boasts superior players at both positions. Sophomore Rudy Carpenter has been a far more consistent quarterback in his career thus far than Ainge has, and he is far less prone to making mistakes. Further he has converted RB Rudy Burgess to throw to on the outside (as I have said, his tailback quickness makes him uncoverable) and super TE Zach Miller to work the seams. Expect the Arizona State passing game to put up monster yards and a ton of points. On the other side of the ball, California is going to have to run the ball to win this game. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Pac-10 this season has been the resurgence of the Sun Devils defense. Not since the late Pat Tillman played for ASU has their defense been so fearsome. They currently lead the nation in sacks and have been getting tremendous pressure on the QB. This is bad news for a Cal team whose O-Line is still breaking in many new starters, and whose QB is prone to mistakes. Jeff Tedford traditionally likes to come out throwing in big games but he'd be wise to try and slow this game down and keep the ASU offense off the field by relying on RB's Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. Expect Arizona State to put on an aerial show and get points on the board early, forcing the Bears from this game plan. Let's call it ASU 38-35 in an absolute shootout.

Last Week: 5-2
Season: 16-10

Power Rankings (Week 3)  

Posted by Walter

#1 Ohio State

Walter - The Buckeyes started slow against Cincinnati but still ended up winning in a blowout. Not surprising given their matchup with Penn State looming this week (the Nittany Lions beat them last season), but truly great teams show up for every game. Remember the name Jim Laurinaitis, the young Buckeye linebacker playing like a seasoned veteran.

Frazier - Ohio State did what they needed to do on Saturday. They won 37-7, and weren't legitimately tested. They avoided serious injuries which is far more important in this game to this team than whether they started slow or not.

#2 Auburn

Walter - Unbelievable performance by the Tigers defense holding the same LSU offense that hung 45 on Arizona and 43 on Miami in the Peach Bowl to zero touchdowns. For an old school football guy such as myself, the hard hitting, smashmouth game on Saturday was one of the most enjoyable I have ever seen. Auburn's matchup with Florida on Oct. 14 could be even better.

Frazier - Auburn's defense was spectacular on Saturday, as they made big plays all over the field. Irons had a tough day against another great defense, but Cox managed the game well enough to get the win. If their defense plays to its' ability, and the offense is solid and doesn't make mistakes, they will be right in the title hunt.

#3 Michigan

Walter - Never in a million years could anyone predict that Michigan would come up with such an utterly dominant offensive performance. True the Irish defense looked slow and a step behind all day, but if Michigan can continue with that kind of offensive balance they are going to be tough to beat.

Frazier - I'm still worried that the Wolverines of old will reappear, and waste the immense talent that they showed on Saturday. Still, they walked into Notre Dame and simply smacked the #2 team in the country around for four quarters. Harder to have a more impressive win. The offense was electric, and the defense made Brady Quinn look like a freshman, and Charlie Weiss like he was in over his head. Amazing.

#4 USC

Walter - USC's overall performance against Nebraska was nothing special. They always seemed poised to pull away from a Cornhuskers team more concerned with not getting blown out that actually winning the game. Lost, however, was the performance of John David Booty who was outstanding for the third straight week and has a 69% completion percentage, 518 yards, and six TD's without a pick so far this season. If it's possible, the Trojans aren't missing Matt Leinart at all.

Frazier - Booty was excellent, and the USC defense showed that it has the talent to shut down just about anybody. Last year's team would have taken the final step and utterly demolished Nebraska, but it's hard to quibble with such a dominating performance on both sides of the ball.

#5 Florida

Walter - Unlike Oklahoma, the Gators did not let a blown call (the phantom clipping penalty) snatch defeat from the hands of victory. If the season ended today Chris Leak would be in NY for the Heisman ceremony, and the Florida offense has a lot more weapons that it has since Spurrier left town (Harvin, Leak, Caldwell, Wynn). With their defense, the Gators may only lose to Auburn at Auburn, and they'd potentially have an opportunity to avenge that loss in the SEC title game.

Frazier - Chris Leak has shown incredible poise, especially with all the rumblings he's been hearing about Tebow this year. Still, he has been excellent, and combined with an excellent Gator defense, this bunch is going to be a very, very tough out. They walked into a rabid environment, and got out with the win, making the plays down the stretch that needed to be made.

#6 Louisville

Walter - If Bobby Petrino's value was ever questioned, let it be put to rest after he continued to shred a very talented Miami defense with a scarcely recruited RB (Stripling) and a walk-on QB (Hunter Cantwell). The kid Cantwell can play, and at a rocket armed 6'5'' he looks like a potential NFL pick who is more than capable of holding down the fort until the showdown with West Virginia. If Brohm is back for that game, it should still be for a spot in the BCS and the national title game if Louisville wins.

Frazier - If you'd told me that Louisville would dominate Miami in the second half with both Brohm and Bush watching from the sidelines, well, I would have said you're crazy. Absolutely insane. The reason they pulled it off is because of the guy standing next to them on the sidelines, Bobby Petrino. Cantwell looked very solid, and confident in the offense, and his coach put him in a position to succeed. This Louisville program is going to be legit for a long, long time, no matter who is running the plays. An absolutely virtuouso performance. I can't wait for the WVU game, and I can only hope that Brohm is 100% for that clash.

#7 Georgia

Walter - True it was against UAB, but a second straight shutout is impressive. If the Bulldog defense can keep playing this well while Freshman Matt Stafford gets his feet wet, this team may be ready to compete with the likes of Florida, Auburn and LSU prior to 2007 (as I initially predicted). Still, this teams looks likely to start 8-0 and finish 10-2.

Frazier - Another week, another shutout. It's become a matter of pride to the Bulldog defenders, as they simply don't want to get scored on under any circumstances. This is definitely a good thing considering they have an inexperienced freshman running the other side of the ball. Still, Stafford looked solid both running and passing, and a consistent, mistake-free effort from him along with Georgia's defense will give them a shot against anybody. Poor Joe T, he's missing all the fun.

#8 West Virginia

Walter - The Steve Slaton show was awesome on Thursday night, but lets remember that it was against Maryland. This team's schedule is so bad that they don't deserve to play for the national title even if they beat Louisville at Papa John's stadium. Awarding them a place in the national title game for going undefeated does nothing more than penalize other teams for scheduling tough non-conference games instead of the East Carolinas and Marylands of the nation. We all loved OSU-Texas, and USC-Nebraska, to make sure those games happen in the future, West Virginia must be penalized. [OK I will not get down from my soap box.]

Frazier - I'll worry about title implications when/if we get there. For now I'm just enjoying watching this team play any time I get the chance. Like everyone else, I'd love to see them take on some more legitimate opposition. Still, you play the opponents on your schedule, and Slaton and Co. have been pasting that bunch. Remember, this schedule was set years ago, and the Big East defections have caused lots of scheduling issues. I don't think there is a team in America who really knows how good that spread option attack really is, and are hoping that Louisville will prevent them from having to find out.

#9 Oregon

Walter - Oregon is such a phony it's no longer funny. The officials handed them the game on Saturday, and in doing so embarrassed the Pac-10. This team is lucky to be 3-0 (they should be 1-2), and they have angered the football Gods. I say their luck runs out over the next four weeks (at Arizona State, at California, UCLA at home, at Washington State) and the Ducks are FAR removed from national prominence by the time they head into USC on Nov. 11.

Frazier - I am not defending the officials. Oklahoma should have won that game, and if they did, they would be here. But Oregon got an excellent performance from Dixon at the helm, and Stewart had another fabulous, tough, game. It's too bad the effort, and performances of the Duck players has been overshadowed by all the controversy. It's not like they cheated, they got some breaks, just like they did against Fresno St. and they took advantage of them. A lesser team would not have been able to. Bellotti has been a very good coach for a number of years now, and his team deserves credit for hanging tough.

#10 Boston College

Walter - After two straight double OT wins BC finally sneaks into the power 10. Their win against Clemson looks a lot better after they dropped FSU in Tallahassee on Sat. and now the Eagles find themselves in the drivers seat for the ACC title. Unlike other ACC contenders (outside of Clemson) BC can both run and throw the football effectively. QB Matt Ryan is one of the best kept secrets in the nation, and the Eagles enviable depth at RB (LV Whitworth, Andre Callender, and the electrifying freshman Jeff Smith) ensure that they will be a tough game for any opponent. Assuming they don't have a let down this week against NC State (a good bet given coach Tom O'Brien's track record), the BC-Virginia Tech game looms ever larger as both teams could find themselves ranked in the top 15.

Frazier - The 323 is going with the home town team for this last spot. The rule over here is that if you have a loss, you have to actually beat someone to make the power rankings. That's why LSU, which is still an excellent team in theory didn't make it. They lost against the only legit opponent they've played. Oh, and no Notre Dame bullshit, close losses are still losses. No moral victories here. So BC gets the nod, because they beat a quality Clemson team that handled Florida St. at home. The Eagles have been escape artists this year, and their overtime victory over BYU wasn't a brilliant game, but they have shown grit and determination, and have made clutch plays in dire circumstances. Excellent coaching and offensive balance have propelled BC to these lofty heights, although they need to keep improving, and not suffer a letdown after some emotionally and physically draining battles, to remain in such exclusive company.

Student Body Right . . . Student Body Wrong  

Posted by Walter

I was right about the Louisville-Miami matchup. Brohm's deadly accuracy on the crossing patterns and underneath routes opened the field vertically for Mario Uruttia (rather than the other way around) and was ultimately the Hurricane's undoing. On offense, Miami couldn't get anything going against a Cardinals front 7 that is better than they get credit for. Miami really missed Ryan Moore, or any other gamebreaking WR, as they were unable to take advantage of the less skilled Louisville secondary. You think that may come into play against West Virginia.

I was wrong about the Michigan-Notre Dame matchup. Well, kind of. Michigan won the game exactly how I argued they could in my "Why Michigan Will Win" post. The problem was that I didn't buy that argument when making my picks. The Notre Dame defense showed its true colors when forced to defend against a complete offense. The Irish have proved they can stop a one dimensional team, but Mike Hart, Chad Henne, Mario Manningham, and Co. were just way way way too much.

I was right about Tennessee and Erik Ainge. They played tough on defense, and Justin Harrell's performance was inspiring, but they were clearly the inferior team on Sat. Erik Ainge reverted back to his old mediocre self while Chris Leak carried his team when he needed to. Tennessee's offense was totally overmatched, needing a trick play to stay in the game, which, not so coincidentally, produced the best Tennessee passing play of the day (it wasn't thrown by Ainge).

I was wrong about Florida. They may be the most talented team in the country top to bottom. They have game breakers on offense (Leak, Caldwell, Harvin), and a ferocious defense (Siler, Moss). They are more complete and more balanced than any team in the top 10 and if not for a brutal schedule (which is looking easier by the week by the way) they might be the favorite to win the SEC.

I was right about Clemson. That spread was absolutely absurd. Like I said, if not for that flukey play at BC the spread would have been 1 or 2 points. Clemson was clearly the better team against FSU and would have blown them out if not for some inexcusable special teams breakdowns.

I was wrong about Bill Callahan. Nebraska has a ton of offensive talent but Callahan's gameplan was as ridiculous as the play of the Clemson PAT unit. Nebraska is a West Coast offense team yet they only attempted 17 passes the entire game. They averaged 1.9 yards per carry yet still attempted 36 running plays! USC never put the game away, and Callahan's gutless play calling cost his team a chance to win.

I was right about Oregon being total frauds. They couldn't handle Oklahoma all day and needed a desperation play, several blown calls by the officials, and yet another desperation play to win a game at HOME. Honestly, the Ducks stink. They were lucky to win against Fresno, and they were touched by the hand of God against Oklahoma. This isn't karma, it's luck. Oklahoma badly outplayed them and deserved to win that game. Oregon's season will be all downhill from here.

I was wrong about Oklahoma's defense. As bad as the refs were, the Sooners defense still had a chance to step up and make a play. They didn't, they lost. I was shocked Bob Stoops commented on the officiating rather than taking his defense to task for letting Oregon march down the field twice in the last two minutes. Put it this way, Bill Belichick would never have made those comments.

Quick Hitch...  

Posted by Frazier

Just felt the need to explain the official 323 rationale regarding the Heisman race. While from time to time either of us might mention someone as a "Heisman hopeful" or "having a shot at the Heisman" we aren't really into tracking individual awards this early in the season. We feel that we should give all players an equal opportunity to state their case for the prize before we start picking favorites. With our power rankings we understand that by the end of the year there will only be a couple of undefeated teams, and so what we think now ultimately won't decide the thing. This is less true of the Heisman, where perception is often a lot more important than results. So at some point later in the year we'll start handicapping the Heisman race, and maybe some of the other major awards, but for now we just want to take the opportunity to enjoy the performances, and evaluate all these players in a vaccuum.

Student Body Right... Student Body Wrong...  

Posted by Frazier

This was a tough week for me, as I consistently out-smarted myself. I made some really pertinent points in our preview of the games, and then I went against my own logic with my picks. In a lot of ways I think I was wrong because I got too caught up with the inertia, and was too resistent to change. College football is many times a game of inertia, teams build up winning streaks, and certain teams just have another team's number. So I figured that Miami still had an edge on Louisville, even though I knew the talent was on the Cardinals' side of the field. And I bought into the inertia of my inability to think about Notre Dame rationally, so I decided I'd stop thinking about them, and just go with the flow. Anyways, it's another Monday, and I've got another huge helping of crow on my plate, and plenty more excuses to follow.

I was right about:

Being concerned with Jamarcus Russel. His team needed a big game, and he failed to deliver. No matter how good your defense is (and his was phenomenal) you really need more than 3 points to win, especially on the road.

I was wrong about:

Michigan. They came to play, their talented skill position players showed up, as Hart, Henne and Manningham all had excellent games. The defense was solid, and opportunistic, and this team had the balls to just bury a team when they had the chance. They were ruthlessly efficient turning mistakes into points, and created plenty of mistakes.

I was right about:

Notre Dame. I know I picked them, ok. I know this. But I've also been telling anyone who will listen that this is on overrated bunch, that the hype machine is at full blast, and they still haven't proven anything. So far in his tenure Charlie Weiss has the same record Willingham had, and both were blown out by Michigan. I think Charlie is the better coach, but they really haven't shown me anything. Quinn was dreadful, Samardzija looked like he should stick to baseball, and their secondary, which looked like a serious weakness heading into the year, was abysmal. I am furious with myself for not picking the upset. I knew it was going to happen to a Big Ten school with offensive balance, I just bet on the wrong horse.

I was wrong about:

Louisville worrying about Miami. I knew the Cardinals had the talent, I just didn't think they'd get over the hump.

I was wrong about:

Miami's defense. They needed a huge preformance to have a shot, and they simply failed to deliver. The quarterbacks had too much time, the replacement backs ran solidly, and they made some huge plays in the passing game, which simply wasn't supposed to happen.

I was right about:

Petrino being as brilliant as Coker is terrible. In their last seven losses, Miami has been outscored 79-3 after halftime, and 21-0 on Saturday. What does Coker do during the break, while other teams are finding ways to win? Petrino proved that Louisville's best player is whoever is running his plays.

I was wrong about:

Miami being able to bring back the swagger. They tried, by stomping the Cardinal's logo at midfield, but they couldn't back that up, proving themselves to be nothing more than a paper tiger.

I was right about:

That 40-3 drubbing by LSU being a turning point for Hurricane's program, and not the good kind.

I was wrong about:

Tennessee. They may have lost, but they fought hard as hell, and showed some real guts even in defeat.

I was right about:

Erik Ainge. He reverted to form. While he might not have single-handedly lost that game, if he manages something better than 17/33 for 184 yards and 2 interceptions his team can probably overcome the single point defeat.

I was wrong about:

Florida St. I was just wrong. Another team that can't rely on its' history, it's athleticism, and it's swagger. They just got out-played, and their offense is downright putrid.

I was right about:

The Oklahoma-Oregon game. If not for the absolutely absurd call at the end, the final would have been 33-27, slightly off my predicted score of 31-27. Peterson was an absolute beast, with 34 carries for 211 yards. Credit to Jonathan Stewart, he was great, and Oregon made some plays, but the officials get the victory.

I was wrong about:

More scoring in LSU-Auburn. I mean, I knew the game would be a defensive showcase, and yet I convinced myself that these teams would find a way to score. They didn't. LSU did essentially shut down Irons, and Cox was nothing spectacular, although he didn't need to be, and a lot can be said for avoiding mistakes. I was even right that Russel wouldn't have enough to get it done. Really, I should have called the final 10-7 like I wanted to, and just have been done with it.

I was right about:

Nebraska-USC, sort of. Since Nebraska simply played not to get blown out, the final margin is somewhat deceiving. An alleged "west coast" offense, Nebraska consistently tried to pound the ball, bleed the clock, and get out with some semblence of "respect" in regards to the final score. Except that they made virtually no effort to actually win the game. Still, USC opened the big margin I predicted, except that Nebraska didn't bother trying to throw the ball to close the gap in the last minutes. Also, USC would have scored more if there had been any need, and if Nebraska hadn't been so determined to bleed the clock when they were in a huge hole. I'm taking credit for this one, dammit.

I was wrong about:

Oh, I probably shouldn't have called them the Michigan Wolver-choke-artists. Yeah, they shut me up. It's amazing what happens when you actually play up to your ability.

Quick Picks...  

Posted by Frazier

Ok, I need to pick these weeks games so I don't have to post a whole "Student Body" column about my points from the preview. I was making an argument, not picking winners. Here's how I really think it will play out (and now I get to be wrong about the scores too, dammit).

Notre Dame -7.5 vs. Michigan

I'm not betting against these guys for awhile, especially at home, especially when the Michigan Wolver-choke-artists are in town. Notre Dame has a fast start for the first time this year and never looks back. Notre Dame 34-20.

Miami +6 at Louisville

I am not impressed with Miami, don't get me wrong. And maybe this IS the year the Cardinals break through. But, I doubt it. Miami escapes 24-20.

Oklahoma +3.5 at Oregon

They won the bowl game last year, and I don't see any reason this year is different. Adrian Peterson runs wild. Oklahoma 31-27.

Florida St. -5 vs. Clemson

Only one Bowden in this contest is worth a damn, and it ain't Tommy and it ain't Jeff. Pops has saved Tommy's job before, but not this time. 'Noles 21-10.

Nebraska +18.5 at USC

USC wins the game handily, but since Nebraska can pass the ball now, they can close any gap with garbage touchdowns. I like the big man's predicted final, we'll tweak it, 38-24.

Auburn -2.5 vs. LSU

Jamarcus Russel worries me. I think he makes the big mistakes in the big game, with the intensity level just too much for him. Another disappointing game, 24-13.

Florida -4 at Tennessee

The Gators are favored on the road for a reason. Injuries are too much for the Vols, Ainge reverts to form, and the Gator D finally gets some love. Florida 27-17.

Week 3 Picks  

Posted by Walter

@ Notre Dame -7.5 over Michigan

What's that famous saying, losers bet against streaks, winners bet with them? Michigan hasn't won a road opener in six seasons and has dropped 3 of it's last 4 games to the Irish. Still, the Wolverines present the biggest test to Notre Dame this season until they travel to USC. As my pick may indicate, count me as a one who has been converted by the new and improved Irish defense that probably still isn't getting the credit it deserves. Particularly the Irish secondary has shown marked improvement in 2006. True Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson (who is utterly uncoverable) made plays against them, but they completey erased every other Yellow Jacket reciever (the next highest Tech reciever had 2 catches for 10 yards). Against Penn State, the Irish secondary held Derrick Williams to 3 catches for 12 yards. Michigan doesn't have any reciever as good as either of those two, nor do they have anyone tough enough to go over the middle and pick up first downs against the terrifying safety duo of Tom Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe. With Charlie Weis and Brady Quinn leading the Irish offensive attack they are going to put points on the board. They torched Penn State for 41, and Michigan has yet to prove they have the type of playmakers on defense that can slow the Irish down. With the Irish running up and down the field, Michigan won't be able to rely on their best offensive player, RB Mike Hart, and will have to rely on a passing game that is inconsistent at best, turnover prone at worst. If the Irish get a lead early this could become a laugher. Let's call it Notre Dame 30-17.

@ Louisville -6 over Miami

While losing Michael Bush is devestating for this game, Brian Brohm and the Cardinals are just the better team right now even without Bush. To be honest, as good as Michael Bush was, he wasn't going to win this game for Lousiville. Miami has proven time and time again that they can shut down anybody's running game (just ask Florida State). But Lousiville presents an incredibly intriguing matchup that pits Bobby Petrino's "spread west coast offense" against the top secondary in college football. This matchup is where the game will be won and lost and there are two reasons it favors Lousiville: (1) Bobby Petrino is the top offensive passing game coach in the world right now, and (2) Brian Brohm has absolute mastery of this offense. The way you beat this Miami secondary is to take what they give you (you listening Drew Weatherford?). Hurricane corners and safeties have always been ball hawks, and love to capitalize on mistaken reads. Expect Petrino to stretch the Miami defense by sending receivers deep, but run a lot of crossing patterns and option routes underneath. Brohm is smart enough to take what Miami will give him so expect a high completion percentage, and lots of short throws. In essence, Petrino will use these underneath routes as a defacto running game, because he has enough faith in Brohm throwing these balls that they are just as safe as a handoff. Louisville won't put up 50 points or anything, but they will put up more than enough to win. The Miami offense has yet to show any consistency, and even the return of top tailback Tyone Moss is not going to provide enough big plays. The Cardinals defense is actually very stout agains the run. Where they struggle is in the secondary, and the Canes loss of top WR Ryan Moore is really going to hurt them in this game. Expect Kyle Wright to put up decent numbers, but without his top wideout he will be fighting an uphill battle. Louisville wins and covers at home, but just barely at 27-20.

Oklahoma +3.5 over @ Oregon

Okay, this could be it for me and Oregon. If they are able to knock off the Sooners I might be forced to admit defeat. But I don't think it's gonna happen. Look for lots and lots of points to be scored in this one. Oregon's defense has been inconsistent this season and now has lost starting corner Jackie Bates for the rest of the year. Oklahoma's offense revolves around Adrian Peterson (duh!) and this is a bad thing for Oregon. Against Fresno State, the Bulldogs pounded on the Oregon front 7 all night, with Dwayne Wright ripping through them time and again. It's hard to imagine the Ducks coming up with an answer for the best back in the nation. At the back end, the very young Oregon secondary had been playing outstanding football for most of the season despite losing both starting corners to graduation. Even when healthy, the Oklahoma passing game was supposed to provide the unit with its first real test. Paul Thompson took a big step forward against Washington, completing 21 of 33 passes and 2 TD. Perhaps more importantly, though, the Sooners found their big play wideout in Malcolm Kelly who caught 6 passes for 121 yards and both of Thompson's touchdowns. Look for the Sooners to run the ball and force Oregon to bring stud safet Patrick Chung into the box. Even with 8 in the box I am not convinced the Ducks can stop Adrian Peterson, but it will at least provide Thompson and Kelly with more opportunities to make plays in the passing game. On the other side of the ball it is hard to say what is going to happen. The Sooner defense is probably more talented than the Ducks offense, but Mike Bellotti's spread formations traditionally give nonconference teams fits. Duck tailback Jonathan Stewart was outstanding in his first game, but he probably won't be 100% for this one. The Ducks have a veteran O-Line and the Sooners a veteran front 7, Oregon will make some plays on the ground but this game could come down to Dennis Dixon's arm, something Bellotti does not want. There will be a lot of points scored and this should be a close game. This will be Paul Thompson's statement game for Oklahoma as the Sooners vault back into the national title picture with a 35-34 win.

Clemson +5 over @ Florida State

I think one thing is for certain in this game, it won't be decided by the running games. Florida State boasts the uncommon combination of top run defense in the nation, and second to worst run offense in the nation. However, I may be getting ahead of myself somewhat by saying that. In Clemson, the Seminoles face the strongest running game they have seen this year led by James Davis and dynamic freshman CJ Spiller. Conversely, due to a rash of injuries to the linebacking corpse, Florida State should be seeing the weakest front 7 they have faced yet (don't hate on Troy, they traditionally play excellent front 7 defene as evidenced by the number of players they have in the NFL). Still, expect very few big plays from either running game. Thus, the game will be in the hands of the two quarterbacks, Will Proctor and Drew Weatherford. All summer we heard how Weatherford looked so great, had worked so hard, had mastered the ofense, blah blah blah. In two games this season Weatherford has looked like the second coming of Chris Rix, even with as talented a stable of wideouts this side of USC. On the other hand, maligned Clemson quarterback Will Proctor has played very well thus far, and nearly carried his team to victory against BC last week. Chanci Stuckey is the best wideout you've never heard of and both Davis and Spiller catch the ball very well out of the backfield. The bottom line is this, if not for the fluke play by BC wideout Kevin Challenger last week that turned an interception into a 30 yard gain leading to the tying touchdown, Clemson is 2-0 and probably only 1 or 2 point underdogs in this game. I expect a low scoring affair (which always favors taking the points) but its too close to call. Oh hell, give me Clemson 13-10.

Nebraska +18.5 over @ USC

This is perhaps the most ridiculous line of the entire weekend. Let's make one thing clear, Nebraska is NOT winning this game. BUT, to expect USC to blow them out by 18+ points is absurd. I think the media perception is that Nebraska is still running the option 30 times a game, because I just cannot understand this line. When Bill Callahan installed the west coast offense in Lincoln there were growing pains as one would expect. However, since October 8 of last season the Cornhuskers have averaged over 30 points per game including 30 spots against Michigan and at Colorado. The bottom line is that this offense has a ton of talent (and speed!) and is finally grasping Callahan's scheme. At the same time, USC has lost their starting safety and best secondary player (Pinkard) for the year. That is not a good thing when you are about to face a team that will throw the ball 30+ times a game. Make no mistake, Nebraska is fired up for this game and they view it as an opportunity to retake the nation spotlight. I wouldn't be suprised to see 30,000 or more Nebraska fans in the Coliseum on Sat night, something that will help dispell some of the Trojan mystique. Now, all that said, USC will still win the game, and rather handily. The Nebraska defense is led by ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. They will need to create consistent pressure on John David Booty for the Cornhuskers to have a chance. The Nebraska linebacking corpse is deep and very adept at stopping the run. However, their linebackers are traditional farmboys who are good at two things: plowing the fields, and tacking. They struggle in coverage and in space, two things that spell death against a Pac-10 team. USC's offense just has too much talent and speed to be stopped. Nebraska will keep it close for some of the game, but Pete Carroll is an outstanding defensive coach and in the end his defense will make more plays in this shootout. Call it USC 35-21.

@ Auburn -2.5 over LSU

In my mind, this is by far the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, which, given the absurd college football slate, is saying something special. While this matchup may not have the same cachet as the #1 vs. #2 contest of last week, it could have as big of an impact on the national title picture and promises to be a more competitive game.

Both teams have played extremely well in the firs two weeks of the season. LSU has dominated inferior competition to the tune of a 90-6 combined score, and Auburn is coming off of a 35-0 shellacking of a physical, if nothing else, Mississippi State team. The key to this game is going to be the LSU offense. As well as the Bayou Bengal defense has played, it appears unlikely that they are going to slow down the Auburn running attack. Auburn and Kenny Irons have been flat out mauling opponents for over a year now. Tommy Tubberville loves the power running game and has recruited monster offensive lineman to pave the way for Irons. Any questions of the Auburn offensive line struggling without Tiger legend Marcus McNeil have been put to rest, thanks to the emergence of King Dunlap. Last year Irons ran wild at LSU to the tune of 218 yards. Expect more of the same, and lots of points from the Auburn offense. Which brings us to the LSU offense. To win this game they will need to score often, but more importantly they will need to score early. Jamarcus Russell has been outstanding thus far, but he faces his stiffest test against a staunch Auburn defense that boasts as much speed as anyone in the nation. Cornerback David Irons is the type of physical, shut down corner that can take Russell's top target, Dwayne Bowe, completely out of the game. Another reason Russell's numbers are so good through the first two weeks of the season is that he has had all day to throw the football. Auburn's defensive line is relentless, with both Quentin Groves and Marquis Gunn, so expect Russell to have to get rid of the ball quicker than he will want to. This is exactly what happened in last year's game, with LSU only winning because they cranked out over 200 yards on the ground. Well their workhors from 2005, Joseph Addai, is gone, and their key back now, Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent, both look like players still recovering from major injuries (which they are). LSU's offense just doesn't have the firepower to stay with Auburn. Call it Auburn 24-17.

Florida -4 over @ Tennessee

I have to say that I have been more impressed with Florida than any other team in America through the first two weeks of this season. Many will credit Chris Leak (who deserves praise in his own right) for mastering Urban Meyer's spread offense, but the real credit should go to Meyer himself for tailoring his offense to Leak's skills.....namely throwing. Last year Leak looked like a square peg in a round hole. With his 2006 results, it appears as though Meyer spent all summer sanding and reshaping that round hole until it was square. Florida has way too much talent on offense for the TN defense to handle. The Volunteer defense played exceptional against California in the opener, but struggled giving up 31 points to Air Force last week. Couple that inconsistency with two injured starters and you have a recipe for a long day for the Volunteers. Defensive tackle Justin Harrell, by far the Vols best defensive lineman, is expected to play depsite rupturing his bicep last week, but one has to wonder how effective he can be. The same cannot be said for starting corner Inky Johnson, who was lost for the season against Air Force. Breaking in a new corner against Florida will be a Herculean task. On the other side of the ball, everyone is talking about Erik Ainge's renaissance. True he has been playing better, but was I the only one who noticed that the vast majority of his numbers against California came because of poor tackling by the Bears? Ainge and top wideout Robert Meachum will need to be huge this week for TN to have a chance, especially since their explosive tailback Arian Foster appears unlikely to play because of injury. If both teams were fully healthy I would still pick Florida to win the game, but not by much. With these injuries I have no problem picking Florida to win and cover. Call it Florida 30-17.

Last week: 5-3
Season: 11-8

Weekend Preview (Part Two)  

Posted by Frazier

On to the second half of Saturday's games:

Notre Dame-Michigan

Why Notre Dame Will Win:
Anyone who reads the 323 (and I know you're out there, dammit) knows that we're not exactly fans of the golden domers. Well, we ain't. But that doesn't change the fact that Michigan is in for a world of hurt on Saturday. First, Notre Dame is at home, under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus, where opposing teams always struggle, especially when they wake up the echoes. Second, Weiss is one of the best offensive minds at any level of football, so you know he'll have a thoughtful, effective game plan in place. Third, Brady Quinn is probably the most polished quarterback in college this year. He makes some throws every game that you simply cannot defend. He had a handful of those against Penn St. where a defender just has to shake his head after Quinn lofted it perfectly over their outstretched hands. He's gonna make those throws, and he doesn't make many mistakes. Watch out. Fourth, the line has provided nice protection for Quinn, and Walker has been solid as a receiver and runner from the backfield, oh, and Samardzija is due to break out in the spotlight. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the defense has been exceptional this year. They shut down Penn St. until the game was hopeless, and they held an experienced Georgia Tech offense, supposedly the strength of that team, to only 10 points. The defense has played out of its' mind, and another solid performance will turn this one into a laugher. Not to mention the fact that Michigan hasn't started well on the road in recent years, and has really underpreformed lately. This isn't the game where they turn that around.

Why Michigan Will Win:
While Georgia Tech and Penn State were formidable in their own rights, the Wolverines boast the most talented and balanced offense that the "new and improved" Irish defense will face yet. Michigan does not have a wideout the caliber of either Calvin Johnson or Derrick Williams, but they have two solid players in Mario Maningham and Steve Breaston. Both are capable of breaking big plays, and this will be the first time this season that the Irish cannot simply focus on stopping a single player. Moreover, when healthy, which he is, Mike Hart is a complete running back, and best the Irish have faced thus far. If Michigan can stay balanced on offense and keep Chad Henne clean, they have the ability to put up points on the Notre Dame defense. On the other side of the ball the Irish have shown a bit of weakness in preventing sacks on Brady Quinn. As usual Michigan has a fearsome front four led by DE LaMar Woodley. If they can get to Quinn, they can slow down the Irish enough to win this game.

Why Tennessee Will Win:
I know last week Tennessee had a tight one against Air Force, but Erik Ainge was impressive again. He is completing 75% of his passes, and last week went 24/29 for 333 yds and 3TDs. Not exactly like he had an off game. The running back combo of Foster and Hardesty has provided some excellent balance, and with David Cutcliffe running the show, the offense should be potent once again. Also, although the defense has suffered some injuries, they were the key against completely shutting down a very, very talented Cal team. They went up 35-3 on a team with tons of talent and experience, and they certainly have the talent to do it again. Also, this game is in Knoxville, with 113,000 screaming maniacs singing "Rocky Top" and generally making Chris Leak's life miserable. Leak may have started well this year, but we all know he isn't a good fit for Meyer's offense, and he has a history of stumbling when the spotlights are the brightest. Anybody can stomp 1-AA teams, it takes a man to take the show on the road and pull out a victory against a very good SEC rival. Chris Leak has given me no reason to believe that he is that man, and Tennessee will play the respect card, get fired up, and force the perennial underachiever into another mistake-filled debacle.

Why Florida Will Win:
Simply put, as the teams are constituted at this moment Florida has more talent on both sides of the ball. Urban Meyer looks like a genius after tweaking his offensive schemes to better comport with Chris Leak's skills, and freshman sensation Percy Harvin looks like the real deal. On defense, the Gators boast the top defensive line in the nation and solid linebackers led by Brandon Siler. Tennessee, while playing well overall this year, will be without several key contributors. Starting cornerback Inky Johnson was lost for the year, starting DT (and perhaps the Vols best defesive player) will play with a ruptured bicep, and top offensive threat Arian Foster is unlikely to suit up. That puts just a little too much pressure on Erik Ainge and Robert Meachum to carry the offense. TN is at home so they can keep it close but Florida is clearly the better team right now.


Why LSU Will Win:
This is really the big daddy game. We all knew that the Tiger defense would be vicious, but I don't think anyone expected this. Dual 45-3 drubbings has this defense clicking, and ready to tear into Auburn. Many people thought that after losing so much talent the defensive line would suffer, but they've looked even better than last years highly regarded bunch, and they will provide solid push and harrassment, while making Kenny Irons earn every yard. Another Irons preformance like last week where he gained 69 yards for only 3.3 yds/carry, will spell doom for Auburn's hopes. Cox is not ready to carry this team with his arm, and by slowing up Irons, LSU will force Cox into an uncomfortable situation, and some mistakes. None of the Auburn receivers has really shown anything this season. Both defenses are excellent. It's definitely a toss-up. The biggest difference Saturday will actually be on the offensive side of the ball. Jamarcus Russell has looked poised and confident this year, as he has completed 70% of his passes. Dwayne Bowe has been explosive in the passing game, and the Tigers have been scoring points in bunches recently. Remember, they ended last year with a 40-3 humiliation of Miami, and picked up this year right where they left off. No team has looked as impressive on both sides of the ball as LSU this year, and their better balance will be the key to putting up enough points to slip by Auburn.

Why Auburn Will Win:
Well the most important reason Auburn will win is because this game is played at Auburn and not LSU. Aside from that, Auburn appears to be the better overall team. As well as LSU is playing (outscoring opponents 90-6 so far this season), they are not as complete a team as Auburn. Auburn's Kenny Irons has played like the best player in the nation over the first two weeks, and the Tiger offensive line has been straight up mauling people. Tommy Tubberville deserves a ton of credit for recruiting such big and strong offensive lineman every year. In the passing game, Brandon Cox has proved me right in annointing him one of the most underrated players in the nation. While not blessed with a huge arm or great speed, Cox executes the Tiger passing game efficiently. He does what any great running team needs their quarterback to do: pick up first downs, and score in the red zone. For LSU, Jamarcus Russell has played great this season. But much of that has been a product of poor competition and all day to throw the football. He will have neither against the speedy Auburn front 7 led by All-SEC caliber defensive ends Marquis Gunn and Quentin Groves. Auburn also has the secondary talent, led by shutdown corner David Irons, to muscle up and lock down top LSU wideout Dwayne Bowe. Last year when Russell struggled against the Auburn defense, the Bayou Bengals were bailed out by their running game and stud tailback Joseph Addai. Well Addai now plays on Sudays, and the top two LSU tailbacks, Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard, look like shells of their former selves as they are still recovering from major knee injuries. Auburn's combination of power and balance of offense, coupled with their speed on defense will be too much for LSU to overcome.

Quick Hitch....  

Posted by Frazier

I called the big man after Steve Slaton's long, snaking 37 yard touchdown run through the Maryland defense so say one word, "yikes". Of course we started debating how the game was going, how to slow up, if not actually stop, the Mountaineer offense. After a couple of minutes of conversation, I hung up the phone, looked up, and noticed WVU punching another one in the endzone. Yikes.

West Virginia can be stopped. It really is possible. They got a huge lead, and got disinterested, almost allowing Maryland to pull a Georgia and climb back in the thing. Maryland made the type of mental errors you simply can't make when playing such a talented team on a huge stage at their home stadium. Maryland also made the cardinal sin when playing this offense, they overpursued. Rich Rodriguez has based his offense on the tendency of young players, college players, to make mistakes. Pro teams do it too, like the Bills did last week, which is why players like Lavar Arrington, who was a stud in college, can't translate their talent to the next level. Discipline is key. Rodriguez suckers defenses in, and then flips the play on them. Drawing defensive ends into his backfield, sending linebackers careening out of position on passing downs, or having four defenders attempt to tackle a blocking Steve Slaton, only to have White dump it over their heads for a wide, wide open score. A team with good athletes playing disciplined football really does have a chance to shut them down. West Virginia really didn't do too much between the tackles, this isn't a power bunch.

Still, they took advantage of every mistake that Maryland made (the mark of a good team) and they completely confused, beffudled, and bewildered the Terrapin defenders until the game got out of hand, and they stopped paying attention. If you're not ready for West Virginia, they will smack you in the mouth so fast, and so hard, you may not be able to get back in the game. They hit the field like a tornado, and don't stop until they have blown your house down.

I still have concerns about this team. It doesn't get big yards between the tackles, White isn't ready to win a game with his arm, and the defense is undersized and has to gamble to make plays. The Maryland offensive line really pushed them all over the field. It may have been a different game if the Terrapins had a chance to establish a running game, control the clock, and grind down the undersized Mountaineers. Of course, WVU didn't give that chance, exploding for points and turnovers early, and putting the game away before I could crack a second beer. And that's how West Virginia plans to play every game, and if they do, they might not be beat this year, as they look awful good when firing on all cylinders. I just don't think they can do it.

Quick Hitch....  

Posted by Frazier

Wait, did the big man fail to mention that Northern Illinois got beat by Ohio? No, not the Buckeyes, the Bobcats. Now, I actually like Ohio. Frank Solich gives that team a chance week-in and week-out, so I'm not terribly surprised. I can't forget when he badly outcoached Wanny last year, and handed Pitt a particularly embarrassing loss. Anyways, I just wasn't going to allow my esteemed co-blogger to ignore the plight of the leader of his "Five Up" teams, especially since I've certainly had a large helping of crow this week. However, let's not take anything away from Garrett Wolfe, who had 196 yards in that effort, and 367 yards in just two games, with a sterling 7.3yds/rush. Still, an 0-2 start in a solid MAC will be a big obstacle to overcome for the Huskies.

Weekend Preview (Part 1)  

Posted by Frazier

Ok, the slate of games this weekend is simply too good to be ignored. We at the 323 have decided to start previewing some games, beyond simply the picks section. They deserve a bit more debate and discussion than we have been giving them. Of course, this week has so many stellar games that we had to break this into two parts. Here is the first:

Nebraska vs.USC

Why Nebraska Will Win:
We have come to assume that USC can overcome any injuries due to their enviable depth. Well, they better pray that is true. The loss of Pinkard, their stud safety, and his replacement with a raw freshman, couldn't have come at a worse time. Furthermore, the loss of NT Sedrick Ellis is another tough blow for the young defense. These injuries are more problematic because they weaken the Trojans against both the run and the pass, against a Nebraska team that has been incredibly balanced (and dominant) on offense this season. Add that to the fact that the blackshirt defense has been rebuilt, with Carriker leading the assault, and an inexperienced front line for the boys from Troy, Booty could end up flat on his, well, booty. USC played well in its' only game this year, but it's hard to believe they won't buy their hype, when what they really needed was another week to get better in a real contest, not read all their headlines about how they haven't lost a step. This team hasn't proven anything yet, and on Saturday they'll only prove that you can't be excellent every year.

Why USC Will Win:
Well in my mind it's not whether USC will win this game, but rather by how much. Bill Callahan has done a tremendous job in Lincoln, and transformed that program back into the national power it should always be. But this game isn't in Lincoln. It's in Southern California where the Trojans haven't lost since 2001, back when Carson Palmer was nothing more than an underachieving Junior. I think that this Nebraska team has the firepower on offense, and the team speed on defense, to keep this game closer than the ridiculous spread this matchup has been handicapped at. But in previewing this game, certain themes are self evident: (1) Nebraska's defensive strength is their front 7, and they have nobody that can cover the tandem of Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett; (2) USC has possibly the only pair of tackles in America who are good pass blockers to slow down the terrifying pass rushing combo of Adam Carriker and Jay Moore; and (3) Pete Carroll has had two weeks to scheme and prepare his defense for Callahan's west coast offense attack (which Carroll should be very familiar with, lest we forget he was defensive coordinator under west coast guru George Seifert in San Francisco).


Why Oregon Will Win:
As much as the big man might hate on the Ducks, they have been a hell of a lot more impressive than the Sooners. Adrian Peterson will get his yards, no doubt, but Paul Thompson will face his first real road test, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. It's tough enough coming halfway across the country to play anyone, it's harder when that team has enviable balance on offense, and a defense that has done enough to stop a good team when they had to, and created a pair of turnovers last week. Oh, and when that game is in Autzen Stadium, one of the loudest, most difficult places to play in all of college football? Yeah, good luck Paul. The Ducks also mark the return of Jonathan Stewart, their stud tailback, and this a week after the ducks ran for almost 150 yards against a tough Fresno St. defense. The Oklahoma defense has yet to show any real signs of life, and they have started slowly in their first two games against weak competition. Another slow start could mean a big Oregon lead, and would force Oklahoma to try to win the game on the arm of Paul Thompson, who has been mistake-prone in his first two starts. I think the Ducks like their chances in that type of game, and it's the type of game they're going to get.

Why Oklahoma Will Win:
While I won't argue with results, I do think it's a tad premature to label this Duck team worthy of their preseason hype. Witness the fact that they beat a TERRIBLE Stanford team (who followed up that stinker by losing to San Jose State), and should have lost to Fresno State if not for an inexcusable special teams brain fart. While Oklahoma has done nothing to warrant its hype, neither have the Ducks. Now as for the players on the field. Oregon's defense has been inconsistent all season. Their primary concern was supposed to be their pass defense after losing both starting corners to graduation. The pass defense looked fine against Stanford but once again has to be a concern after losing starting corner Jackie Bates for the season. On the flip side, Oklahoma's Paul Thompson played much better in the Sooners' second game, and the emergence of speedster wideout Malcolm Kelley (6 catches, 121 yards, 2 TD against Washington) bodes poorly for the Ducks. Of course there is also the matter of Adrian Peterson matching up against the Ducks rush defense that was absolutely TORCHED by Fresno State's Dwaye Wright. Wright is a great back in his own right, but Peterson is on another level. The Sooners have the ability to put up some major points in this one, and they have enough defensive talent to at least slow down Jonathan Stewart (who won't be 100% for this one despite not playing against Fresno) and the rest of the Oregon offense.


Why Louisville Will Win:
I know I'm going to hear a lot about Michael Bush, and he's a hell of a player, but this offense runs through Brian Brohm, and he's a hell of a player too. Louisville has a couple of solid options in the run game, which will keep the Louisville attack balanced, and shouldn't allow Miami to tee-up against the pass. If Miami can't protect their home field against a team that the following week almost shit the bed against Troy (nee Troy St.) than how can you expect them to come in to Louisville and shut down such a dynamic offense. If you think Miami's offense will win them this game, you are sorely mistaken. 51 points might look impressive, but that was a pathetic 1-AA opponent, and Miami hasn't shown any offensive life for a long time now. The Hurricanes officially lost their swagger when LSU took them behind the woodshed to the tune of 40-3 in their bowl game last year. Louisville has been on the verge of breaking through, but couldn't quite get past the aura of this program. Well, that aura is dead as a door nail, stiffer than Jimmy Johnson's hair, and Bobby Petrino is so much the superior coach, that it isn't worth discussing. If the game is even close at halftime, Petrino will find a way to make the necessary adjustments to win the game, while Coker will probably just sit around wondering if he can find a way to get balder.

Why Miami Will Win:
While I believe Bush is the better player, it is hard to argue with my esteemed co-blogger's annointing of Brohm as the penultimate Cardinal. That said, this is the game where Bush's injury will devestate Louisville's season. The strength of Miami is obviously their defense. But more specifically it is their pass defense and you aren't going to find a better secondary that's not playing on Sundays. As good as Brohm is, he still needs his recievers to get open, and that is going to be a chore against Brandon Merriweather, Kenny Phillips and Co. Without Michael Bush to run the ball and force a safety into the box, my money is on the Hurricane secondary staying with the Cardinal recievers until the front four converge for a sack. On offense, the Hurricane's have been abysmal all season. That could change with the return of star tailback Tyrone Moss this week, who provides Miami with the kind of gamebreaker they have been sorely lacking.

The Team

How's the look?