5 Things I Think: Going Into Week 2!

We’re in Week 2 and if this week is half as exciting as last week, I’m diving right in! This is the first look we’ll have at Stanford as they had a bye week in Week 1 (how odd is that?). They face a San Jose State team led by quarterback David Fales who led the nation in completion percentage and was sixth in the nation in passing yards last season. The Cardinal started their season against the Spartans last season too and squeaked out a three-point win in a game that was tied going into the fourth quarter. Alabama is off this week getting prepared to face Johnny “Time Magazine Cover Boy” Manziel next week. Manziel and the Aggies are in a classic trap game this week. They’re in danger of looking ahead to the matchup we’re all looking ahead to and not taking Sam Houston State seriously. SHSU are the two-time defending FCS runner up and if last week taught us anything, it’s that top-tier FCS teams are not to be taken lightly. The Aggies will still be without several suspended players on offense, but as long as Manziel can stay in the game offensively, they should be okay. Pay attention to the new targeting rule this week, I know I will, as it now can result in an ejection (and if it happens in the second half, will result in missing the first half of the following game). There were six ejections last week. The play is subject to review, but not for reversal of the penalty (the 15 yards will be assessed regardless), only to determine whether the play warrants an ejection. Well I started the season 4-1 (thanks a lot Boise!). Let’s see how I do this week!

1. #12 Florida at Miami (FL) (11am CST ESPN): This may be the last regular season matchup between these two teams as a source from the Florida athletics program told the Orlando Sentinel, “Unless Miami joins the SEC, I don’t see us ever playing them again during the regular season. It’s just not worth it.” I hope it doesn’t happen that way, but if it does, I don’t think it will be difficult to enjoy this game. It’s a classic case of stingy defense versus explosive offense. Running back Matt Jones will play this week for Florida after battling a viral infection over the last few weeks even though Mack Brown did an admirable job last week against Toledo running for 112 yards and two touchdowns. I expect Muschamp to run the ball a lot Saturday with both Jones and Brown (and perhaps Fred Taylor’s son, Kelvin) to keep Miami’s athletic offense off the field and eat clock. I don’t blame them because running back Duke Johnson is explosive all by himself (224 total yards and a touchdown last week) and quarterback Stephen Morris is more than capable of taking over a game. Florida’s secondary may be too good though with highly-recruited freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III already grabbing his first pick of the season last week and top-notch cornerback (and probable wide receiver as well) Louchiez Purifoy returning from suspension, Morris may have nowhere to throw. I think Miami can make a lot of noise in the ACC this season, but I think in order to win this game one of two things will need to happen. Either they’ll need to get a fairly big lead (ten points or so) early and force the Gators to go to the passing game or Florida will have to turn the ball over three or four times. I think the first scenario is more likely than the latter, but I don’t see them pulling it off. Florida wins a fairly close game.

2. San Diego State at #3 Ohio State (2:30pm CST ABC/ESPN2): When I looked at the Buckeyes’ schedule before the season I thought the San Diego State wouldn’t be an easy game, but that it would be a win. After their 40-19 loss to FCS team Eastern Illinois last week, I know some Buckeyes fans are dismissing them altogether. I wouldn’t quite go that far. Yes, it was an FCS team, but the Panthers were a playoff team last season so it’s not as if they were bottom of the barrel. Additionally, the two teams combined for 181 offensive plays in that game (99 of which were run by SDSU) and it’s that high-speed kind of offense that was my main concern about facing Sonny Dykes’ California squad in week three (who, coincidentally ran 99 plays against Northwestern last week). Therefore, I am not taking the Aztecs lightly just because they faltered the first game of the season. Hopefully, Coach Meyer let’s star cornerback Bradley Roby return for this game, because after studying nothing by SDSU tape for two weeks I’m hoping he can lure quarterback Adam Dingwell into a couple of interceptions (he threw four last week). I think coach Long’s strategy will be two-fold: 1. Bring a lot of pressure against an offensive line that played questionably last week and make Braxton Miller beat them with his arm and 2. Run as many offensive plays as possible to make a defense that had some communication struggles last week susceptible to mistakes. Frankly, I’m more worried about the second than the first as I have faith in Miller to throw the ball and I expect running back Jordan Hall to take slow some of that pressure with some big runs. I expect to see running back/wide receiver Dontre Wilson to be in motion a lot and hit with some screens and swing passes out of the backfield as well to keep the edge defenders honest. Any excuse to get this kid the ball, is a good one anyway. I’ll also be watching the number of penalties for the Buckeyes this week, as nine was completely unacceptable last week. Buckeyes win by at least 17 with at least one defensive or special teams touchdown included.

3. #6 South Carolina at #11 Georgia (3:30 CST ESPN): These two teams met last year and the Gamecocks walked away 35-7 winners after running the ball 51 times and only throwing ten passes. Aaron Murray threw for a mere 109 yards and the Bulldogs rushed for only 115. It was domination by Spurrier’s squad and was the beginning of a brutal three-game stretch the next two of which (at LSU & at Florida) they would lose. The biggest difference between last year’s matchup and this one, is that both teams had easy games the week before (UGA had Tennessee & USC had Kentucky) and that is not the case here. South Carolina is coming off a game against a team that is much better than people think in North Carolina (if they don’t muff that punt last week, it might have been a completely different game) and Georgia is coming off a loss to Clemson. Much is being made of JaDaveon Clowney’s appearance of being out of shape, but he was reportedly fighting an illness, and even if he wasn’t, it’s not as if he played poorly. I think because he has Heisman hype this year, analysts and fans alike are expecting him to make the Vincent Smith hit on every play, which just isn’t realistic. I’m guessing Mark Richt will still devise a game plan to stay away from Clowney’s side of the field (which, Spurrier will counter by lining him up at DT from time to time). How much will losing their top wide receiver (and part-time cornerback), Malcolm Mitchell, for the season hurt the Bulldogs’ chances? I think the biggest impact it will have is on third downs because he’s more of a reliable, possession receiver than he is a deep threat or yards-after-the-catch guy. I think Connor Shaw (and perhaps occasionally Dylan Thompson) will try to take advantage of this young defense much like Tajh Boyd did last week by exploiting the middle of the field. That’s why I expect wide receiver Bruce Ellington (also USC’s starting point guard) to be critical this week. I expect Gamecocks’ running back Mike Davis to get about 22 carries and break at least one long run. Aaron Murray is the best passer in the SEC, and I think he’ll get the opportunity to display his abilities on Saturday because I think they’ll be playing from behind. I don’t think it’ll be enough, however. The schedule just wasn’t the Bulldogs’ friend this year as I think the runner-up to the SEC last season will start this one 0-2. Gamecocks win by about a touchdown.

4. #15 Texas at BYU (6pm CST ESPN2): In the preseason, when I thought of Texas, I thought of three things: veteran quarterback (David Ash), depth at running back (Bergeron, Gray, and Brown), and new high-tempo offense. Those and the return of Jordan Hicks made me think that perhaps Texas could make a run at a Big 12 championship and maybe more. At least for one week, albeit against a team that won just once and lost their last four games by at least 35 points in 2012, all three of those things looked good for the Longhorns. David Ash threw for 343 yards and 4 touchdowns, the team rushed for 359 yards, and they ran 72 plays on offense. A surprise in that running back depth came in the form of their leading rusher last week, Jalen Overstreet. The converted quarterback rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on nine carries late in the game. I don’t know how much play Overstreet will get the rest of the season, but he’s 6’2″ and 215, and I have a feeling he’ll get at least a few touches every week. BYU was number two in the nation last season against the run allowing only 87 yards a game on the ground. They allowed more than that (114) last week in their loss to Virginia on just 18 carries. If not for a late interception, BYU probably wins that game, but the defense didn’t quite play as well as they did last season (third in the nation in total defense). Even if it was the rain, or the first-week jitters, BYU only played one high-powered offense last season (Oregon State) and it lost handily (42-24). I think the Longhorn defense will rattle Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill, who only converted 32.5% of his passes last week, and get a few turnovers out of him. Some pundits are predicting this will be a very close game, and I think that can only be based on BYU’s defensive reputation from last year. I’m wondering how they think BYU plans to put up points? They only put up 16 last week against a team that allowed nearly 30 per game last season. I have Texas pulling away in the fourth quarter and winning by at least a couple of touchdowns.

5. #14 Notre Dame at #17 Michigan (7pm CST ESPN): This may be the penultimate regular season matchup between the Irish and the Wolverines after the Michigan AD is quoted as by the AP as saying, “There haven’t been talks and there won’t be for a while because we’re both scheduled out very far into the future”. That’s a shame given that since 2009 only once has one team won by more than 4 points (last year ND won by 7). The biggest question I have going into this game is: Which Tommy Rees will we see? Will we see the guy who looked good against Temple last week who completed nearly 70% of his passes and threw for 346 yards with three touchdowns and zero picks or will we see the guy with a career completion percentage of 63% and has 34 touchdowns versus 24 interceptions? My guess is we’ll see the latter, which is why he lost his job to a freshman last season and who is only playing now because said freshman isn’t eligible. I realize we only have a small sample for Devin Gardner as a quarterback (161 career pass attempts at Michigan), but he finished the season strongly last season after taking over the starting job going 3-2 with the two losses being to Ohio State and South Carolina by a combined 10 points. Fitz Toussaint looks like he’s finally healthy and the number 1-rated running back in the most recent recruiting class, Derrick Green has recently moved into the number two spot on the depth chart. I do have a concern about whether Michigan’s offensive line can handle defensive linemen Louis Nix III and Stephen Tuitt who combined for 13 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss last season. The Irish got a lot of bounces and breaks and questionable calls in their favor last season on their way to an undefeated regular season filled with close wins. I don’t see them beating out a team with this much talent this early in the season this year. As much as it pains me to write as a Buckeyes fan … Wolverines win.

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