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.


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