5 Quick Thoughts on Today’s Games!

1. #3 Ohio State at Michigan (11am CST ABC): Outside of possibly South Carolina, Michigan has been the most unpredictable teams in the country. They have impressive wins over Notre Dame and Minnesota, but nearly lost to Akron and Connecticut (who have 5 wins combined) in back-to-back weeks and needed 3 overtimes to beat a dissipated Northwestern team (which hasn’t won since Mike Greenberg gave them a “pep talk” prior to playing my Buckeyes). All that being said, this game is at the Big House and the Wolverines would love nothing better than to finish their regular season by ending the Buckeyes’ 23-game winning streak and essentially their national title hopes. The only thing I worry about is Jeremy Gallon having a big game as the Buckeyes’ secondary have given up several huge individual receiving performances this season (i.e. Wisconsin’s J. Abbrederis with 10 receptions, 207 yards, 1 touchdown and Penn State’s A. Robinson with 12 receptions, 173 yards 1 touchdown. Gallon is 16th in the nation in yards per game so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about him having a big game on Saturday. The Wolverines have lost four of their last six games this season and eight of their last nine against the Buckeyes (they won in ‘11 in the Denard Robinson “spoon-feeding game”). That means Coach Meyer’s focus this week was likely to ensure his team doesn’t approach this game as if it will be one that will just be given to them. He will make sure they don’t look ahead to their matchup with the Spartans in the Big Ten Championship game. This is a classic trap game and if we combine that with it being one of the most intense rivalry games in the country, this game will surely be closer than it should be on paper. Vegas has my Buckeyes favored by sixteen points but I’m not so sure about that. I hope the Wolverines get a huge dose of Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller has a big day on the ground. Buckeyes win, but I don’t think they cover the spread.

2. #24 Duke at North Carolina (11am CST ESPN2): We move from the biggest rivalry in college football to the biggest rivalry in college basketball … only in football. This is a matchup that doesn’t usually means much to anyone beyond the fans of these two teams, but this season it means a lot. If the Blue Devils win today, they clinch the Coastal Division of the ACC and will play Florida State in the championship game. They can still win the division if they lose today, but they would then need help from Miami and Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels started the season 1-5, but have reeled off five straight coming into today. Although, their second half of the season was easier than their first half, the offense seemingly has finally figured out Larry Fedora’s spread offense. Going into the season I was big on Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner, but he was hurt, and Marquise Williams has played well in his place (60.8% passing, 13 TDs, 4 INTs). I think this is the reason Vegas is favoring the Tar Heels over the Blue Devils (-6) despite having three fewer losses on the season. All that being said, I love what David Cutcliffe has built at Duke. They beat Virginia Tech and Miami (albeit without their best player). What I think will be the difference is that I think Duke will commit fewer turnovers and that they will have at least one big fourth down conversion (their 7th in the nation in fourth down conversions). I have Duke winning outright and by a touchdown.

3. #1 Alabama at #4 Auburn (2:30pm CST CBS): I’d like to start by saying that I wish ESPN had been successful in their pursuit of this game; they wanted to make it the night game. I have no problem with the start time, but I hate that Gary Danielson and Verne Lundquist will be calling the game. Those guys get on my nerves — Danielson in particular. Let’s start by saying that I think Gus Malzahn will certainly be in the running for coach of the year (is Ed Orgeron eligible?) because we cannot forget that the Tigers were winless in the SEC last season and nearly lost to Louisiana-Monroe. This year, they walk into the Iron Bowl with a chance at the SEC West title! Also impressive is that Auburn is second in the nation in rushing yards per game because the top three is usually reserved for teams running the triple option (i.e #1 is Army and #3 is Navy). If you like these kinds of stats, Alabama has never beaten and Auburn team with nine or more wins (0-2). I’ve never been a fan of those kinds of things especially with a sample size of just two, but ESPN has mentioned it for two weeks. Alabama will play a lot of man-to-man on the outside, with floating safeties, and loading the box against the run. I also expect CJ Mosley to spy Nick Marshall for a lot early in the game. Saban will want Marshall to beat him with his arm if he’s going to beat him. That’s the right strategy, of course, but it’s the exact same one he executed against Cam Newton in 2010 (held him to just 39 rushing but allowed three passing touchdowns). The difference here is that Saban has the advantage of learning from that game. One of his mistakes in that game is that he let his foot off the gas with a 24-point lead at halftime and then had trouble getting his team energy back up in time. This time, if he gets up early, I don’t see him becoming passive. Some might disagree with me (I think those people may say VT or MSU), but I think this will be the best defensive line Alabama has faced all season. Dee Ford, Carl Lawson, and Montravius Adams are beasts and I think McCarron may either get sacked a few times or get hurried into a bad throw or two. All that being said, I think Auburn may see two things that not many teams have seen thus far this year from the Tide. 1. 5 WR sets 2. Chris Black making a name for himself. I think OJ Howard will be the player of the game as I think he’ll have at least two touchdown catches. If I were Nick Saban, I would have spent some time preparing for Jeremy Johnson at least a little bit this week because I really believe he’ll make a few appearances in this game. Saban will force them to throw the ball and Johnson can sling it. Alabama wins, but Tide fans will definitely have moments of nervousness, until they pull away late in the game.

4. A few more picks: Clemson over South Carolina (to break their four-game losing streak), Missouri over Texas A&M (because that Aggies defense can’t stop Franklin and company, but Johnny Football will play well today), Stanford over Notre Dame (won’t be close), USC upsets UCLA (Marqise Lee goes off), Georgia Tech over Georgia (we’ll miss you Aaron Murray!), and Florida State over Florida (I think we’ll see some Sean Maguire at QB today).

5. If I were playing fantasy college football: I’d start Taylor Kelly at QB (vs Arizona), Andre Williams at RB (at Syracuse), Marqise Lee (vs UCLA) and Dorial Green-Beckham (vs Texas A&M) at WR, OJ Howard at TE (at Auburn), and I’m going to separate defense and special teams. I’m starting Michigan State’s defense (vs Minnesota) and I’m taking Kansas State on special teams (at Kansas).

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