Thursday, September 15, 2011

2011 College Football Preview: Week 3

Florida's biggest rivals both find themselves in key games this week
It's week 3 and things are starting to get juicy in the college football universe. Plenty of great non-conference matchups to talk about! There was no shortage of excitement last week (see replay of Notre Dame-Michigan game which is sure to be on ESPN Classic soon) and hopefully that will continue on. Overall things were pretty great last week, I mean the Frogs got their first win so what's not to love? Well no sense rattling on, let's get right into the week 3 action!

Featured Teams:

1. UL-Monroe Warhawks @ #23 TCU Horned Frogs
-Last Week: TCU got back to its winning ways with a convincing 35-19 win @ Air Force. The defense took a quantum leap forward, albeit against a running team, and looks to continue to improve as the season goes on. The offense continued to look great behind Casey Pachall and a great running game. What's most impressive is how potent the Frogs stayed despite injuries to key players on both sides of the ball. The next two weeks present great opportunities for this team to grow and get healthy as they face two sub-par opponents at home.
-Preview: A home opener in an almost totally new stadium. While UL-Monroe isn't on TCU's level talent-wise by any stretch of the imagination, they are very athletic and present just enough of a challenge that these young Frogs can continue to grow and improve through the game. It's no secret that the Frogs should win, but what will be interesting to watch is which young players continue to step up and get better.
-Matchup to Watch: The offense is looking great, so I'm still interested in the growth of the defense. Watch TCU's secondary vs. ULM's WRs who can stretch the field.
-My Pick: TCU wins, 52-14

2. Ole Miss Rebels @ Vanderbilt Commodores
-Last Week: The Rebels did what was expected of them and whipped Southern Illinois, 42-24. The defense left something to be desired, but the offense showed improvement, especially at running back. Jeff Scott rushed for 118 yards and 3 TDs.
-Preview: Ole Miss begins conference play against the SEC's perennial punching bag, Vanderbilt. There isn't another team in this conference you would rather open with on the road, especially considering the last time the Rebels won an SEC opener was in 2003 against the 'Dores. Ole Miss has lost 4 of the last 6 games against Vandy, so if history is any indication, they'll be in for a dog fight. Vanderbilt has some good players on defense that will play the Rebels hard. I give Ole Miss a slight edge just based on how they played against BYU. Vandy is 2-0, but the best team they played was UConn, who I don't see as being on BYU's level. This should be a good one to watch.
-Matchup to Watch: Jeff Scott and Ole Miss' running game vs. Chris Marve and Vandy's front 7.
-My Pick: Ole Miss wins, 35-34.

3. Texas Tech Red Raiders @ New Mexico Lobos
-Last Week: Tech was on an early bye week. Not sure who's in charge of scheduling in Lubbock and why they thought a 2nd week bye before UNM would be beneficial, but they should be fired.
-Preview: I don't see any way that Tech loses this game. New Mexico is the worst the Mountain West has to offer, and even at home they don't tend to present much of a challenge. Look at it as another opportunity for Tech to grow and get to where they want to be. And if they start the game like they did against Texas State, look at it as a reason to be very worried about the future of the Red Raiders' season.
-Matchup to Watch: Tech's running game vs. UNM front 7.
-My Pick: Texas Tech wins, 63-10

Games to Watch

1. #3 LSU Tigers @ #25 Mississippi State Bulldogs
-Last Week: LSU imposed it's will upon Northwestern State, 49-3, and improved to 2-0. Conversely, MSU lost what could have been a statement game @ Auburn, 41-34. That was MSU's chance to prove they could be a major factor in this year's SEC West race. Oh well.
-Preview: Last week MSU failed to impress, but here they have an opportunity to make an even bigger statement at home in a top 25 showdown. Expect to be disappointed, Bulldog fans. LSU proved in Week 1 that they are for real this year and should jump on MSU early. This has the potential to be a defensive game though and could be fun to watch. Cats and dogs in Starkville and the last chance for MSU to stay in the rankings. Check it out.
-Matchup to Watch: Les Mile's offense vs. Dan Mullen's defense
-My Pick: LSU wins, 24-17.

2. #15 Michigan State Spartans @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish
-Last Week: Notre Dame lost a thriller to Michigan, 35-31, in the final seconds of the 4th quarter and fell to 0-2. MSU won their second consecutive pillow fight against Florida Atlantic, 44-0.
-Preview: Another week, another chance for Notre Dame to impress or depress. Expect the later, Irish fans. Last week's game was great and all, but MSU is a much better team than their in-state rivals. Kirk Cousins is a pretty good QB and is surrounded by some great weapons on offense. The Irish have found an answer for their own QB position in Tommy Rees, which could make things interesting at home. Expect a shootout in South Bend, with the Spartans coming out on top and snagging the Megaphone.
-Matchup to Watch: QB Battle: Cousins vs. Rees
-My Pick: MSU wins,  45-38.

3. Utah Utes @ BYU Cougars
-Last Week: Utah lost a heart-breaker in it's Pac-12 debut against USC in LA, 23-14. BYU also lost a heart-breaker to Texas in Austin, 17-16. Both teams easily could have, and probably should have, won their respective games.
-Preview: What better way to get out the previous week's frustrations by beating the living crap out of your most hated rival? While it's strange seeing the Holy War so early in the season, that is exactly what will be happening. For those that don't know, this is a nasty and bitter rivalry that usually results in some classic games. For this year's installment, I really like what BYU brings to the table. A much improved defense, good QB, and some solid offensive weapons, particularly Oakridge WR Ross Apo. Expect a brawl and close Cougar victory. Don't miss this one if you can help it.
-Matchup to Watch: Another QB Battle: BYU's Heaps vs. Utah's Wynn
-My Pick: BYU wins, 28-24.

4. #23 Texas Longhorns @ UCLA Bruins
-Last Week: As mentioned above, Texas escaped, 17-16, against BYU in Austin. UCLA also escaped, 27-17, against San Jose State.
-Preview: Both Texas and UCLA have been underwhelming so far this season. Texas looked like they found their offensive answer last week with McCoy-Shipley 2.0 (Case and Jaxson are the younger brothers of the ones you've already heard of). But for some reason, Mack Brown still wants to go with the two QB approach, involving David Ash as well. I've never liked this philosophy, well because it never works. That said, the Bruins were incredibly unimpressive last week. My gut wanted to call the upset with UCLA at home, but UT will be ready after last years embarrassment and, so long as McCoy plays most of the time, I see a Longhorn victory.
-Matchup to Watch: Texas offense vs. UCLA defense
-My Pick: Texas wins, 24-21.

The infamous call
5. #17 Ohio State Buckeyes @ Miami Hurricanes
-Last Week: The Buckeyes were incredibly unimpressive in a 27-22 win over Toledo. The Canes had a bye week following their 32-24 loss to Maryland.
-Preview: What was originally a marquis game between two of college footballs historic powers is now a game between the two naughty boys. 10 years ago they were #1 and #2, now they are both blacklisted. I'm not complaining. I mean, we all knew they were both cheating, but now it's official. Anyway, it's hard to know which way to go on this one. OSU has managed to win against awful teams, but Miami looks to be in complete disarray. Last years game was sloppy enough with all of both teams top players. Reason says to go with the higher-ranked Ohio State team, but I like Miami in a close one. QB Jacory Harris will be allowed to play (for now) as well as many of Miami's suspended players. The Bucks will be missing a top RB and WR. Should be interesting.
-Matchup to Watch: Miami offense vs. Ohio State defense
-My Pick: Miami wins, 31-28.

*Game of the Week*

#1 Oklahoma Sooners @#5 Florida State Seminoles
-Last Week: FSU put away their second cupcake, Charleston Southern, 62-10. OU had a bye week following their 47-14 beatdown of Tulsa.
-Preview:  Talk about a big time game! This one's a little bit of a rivalry considering the history, and it's interesting to consider that in 2001 it marked a turning point for both schools. This year's game could have the same gravity, only (while it launched the Sooners 10 years ago) this year it could mark a major shift back to dominance for FSU. Both teams are stout, but I really like the underdog 'Noles at home in this game. Last year's 47-17 embarrassment in Norman has been stewing for a year now and this team is talented enough to take the next step. QB EJ Manuel looks impressive and as always FSU is brimming with Florida speed. This will come down to the wire and is a can't miss game.
-Matchup to Watch: QB Battle: FSU's Manuel vs. OU's Jones.
-My Pick:FSU wins, 31-28.
2001 Orange Bowl. Could fortunes be reversed this year?

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