2016 Week 2 NCAAF Weekend Preview

September 8, 2016
By K. Becks

It isn’t often that a weekend with as much hype of college football’s opening one actually lives up to its billing. But you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t enjoy the 2016 kickoff weekend.

Did we learn anything? Probably not definitively, as it was just one week of a long and arduous season.

What Week 1 may have done, in the most entertaining way possible, is muddy the waters just a little more than they were heading into the season. Seven SEC teams lost. Three AP Top 10 teams fell. A couple more nearly did and one of those teams was punished in this week’s rankings as a result.

This week it appears that there are fewer opportunities for pandemonium, but that doesn’t mean the schedule is void of interesting matchups. To help break down the games of the week and serve as the guest prognosticator is perhaps the most famous individual ever to make picks on Around The Corn. Joining as guest is the controller of @BigRedTweeter, a Reds Twitter account with over 10 times the following that my handle has currently.

If you’re a baseball fan or just a fan of beat writers for various sports teams, I highly recommend checking out the account and giving it a follow. After seven years of existence, ATC finally got someone with a presence to interact with the site. All is forgiven now, Amanda Pflugrad.

@BigRedTweeter will be looking to get the guests back on track in the head-to-head prediction game, which after one week looks like this:

K. Becks: 4-1

Guests: 3-2

Here are five games you should pay attention to this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

Penn State at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

An in-state rivalry that began in 1893 but has not been played since 2000 will be renewed on Saturday when the Nittany Lions visit Heinz Field to take on the Panthers. Both teams come into this game with a victory over relatively weak competition, but this matchup appears to be one of the most even of the entire weekend.

The post-Hackenberg era in Happy Valley started off about as well as one could have expected, with sophomore Trace McSorley throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns and only getting sacked once, already setting the Nittany Lions up to have a better campaign in that category than they did last season. Pass protection will be particularly important in this game against Pittsburgh, which racked up an ACC leading six sacks against Villanova last week. Offensively, it was great to see the return of running back James Conner for the Panthers. The senior beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the offseason and will likely improve in every game this season. Keep in mind that as a sophomore in 2014, Conner set the ACC record for rushing touchdowns in a single season.

If Pittsburgh can put pressure on McSorley, it could be a long game for the Nittany Lions unless the young quarterback is able to punish the aggressive Panthers with his legs. Penn State fans may be reminded of last season’s offensive line woes, which may have just been masked last weekend against Kent State. However, weird things happen in close games like these and I think it’s Penn State’s year to benefit from those weird things. Pittsburgh will be the better team, but Penn State somehow wins it.

My Pick: 30-27 Penn State

BigRedTweeter’s Take: This one is gonna be a dogfight. Pitt looked average, even Dantonian versus Villanova Saturday. Penn State underwhelmed versus MAC meh Kent State.

PENN STATE FANS BOUGHT SEASON TIX FOR PITT JUST FOR THIS GAME.  Pitt is favored by roughly 5. Saquon Barkley will be all Penn State throws at them.

Pitt 24, Penn St. 20

Arkansas at #15 TCU (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Razorbacks didn’t do the SEC’s reputation any favors by struggling against Louisiana Tech last weekend, but a win is a win and Arkansas can count itself among one of the seven teams from the conference that are still undefeated. Things don’t get any easier this week, however, as Bret Bielema’s team must travel to Fort Worth for a battle with a ranked TCU squad.

Austin Allen’s first career start for the Razorbacks could be categorized as average at best, concerning at worst. The younger brother of former Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, Austin will almost surely be baited into throwing deep against the Horned Frogs on Saturday. Allen was pretty accurate (69 percent completion rate) but did the majority of his damage in the short passing game. Expect the TCU defense, which was surprisingly shaky against FCS opponent South Dakota State, to clamp down on the underneath options and force Allen to beat them deep.

Although Arkansas looked less than spectacular against Louisiana Tech, so did the Horned Frogs against South Dakota State. TCU has the offensive firepower to make up for what may be a questionable defense, but will it be enough against an SEC defense that is going to anchor the Razorbacks while Allen gets more comfortable? Only barely. This game will be closer than many people would expect considering TCU’s struggles last weekend were less pronounced than Arkansas’s.

My Pick: 34-30 TCU

BigRedTweeter’s Take: Two more teams that severely underwhelmed in Week 1. Maybe we can all just blame it on a lack of a preseason game or something.

The Fighting Bielema’s one point win over Louisiana Tech leaves quite a bit to be desired, but unlike seven other SEC teams at least they emerged victorious. Allen’s kid brother at the helm now means he’s going to have a fundamental understanding of the system.

TCU beat FCS South Dakota State by 18, 59-41. Maybe they were looking ahead to this weekend? Coaches have been known to prepare for teams early, especially with FCS teams in Week 1.

TCU 45, Arkansas 35

Virginia Tech vs. #17 Tennessee [game in Bristol, TN] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The game of the week has been on the radar of college football fans for quite some time, as the Battle of Bristol will bring together two storied programs into one of NASCAR’s cathedrals for what should be a terrific battle. The Hokies will be looking to confirm the notion that Tennessee’s preseason ranking was far too high, while Butch Jones & Co. will try to avoid what would be yet another disappointment for a team that has, at times, looked so promising dating back to last season.

It may have simply been first game jitters, but the Tennessee offense did not look good in its opener against Appalachian State last Thursday evening. Joshua Dobbs has been hyped as a potential all-conference performer but was just average against the Mountaineers defense. Virginia Tech allowed just 70 yards against Liberty last weekend, so the task won’t be any easier for the Volunteers. If they want to move the football, it would be a good idea to put faith in Jalen Hurd, who despite the slow night overall led Tennessee with 110 rushing yards. Hurd will be extremely important to the success of the nation’s No. 17 team in this one.

The Virginia Tech rushing attack has been by committee thus far, with quarterback Jerod Evans leading the way Week 1. Evans probably won’t get the push against the Vols like he did against Liberty, but it will be interesting to see how the Hokies far against the Volunteers, who were better against the pass than the run last week. This is not a game that Tennessee wants to let Virginia Tech control pace wise, because it doesn’t appear that the Volunteers are entirely comfortable on offense yet and points could come at a premium.

My Pick: 24-20 Tennessee

BigRedTweeter’s Take: How the hell does Redneck-laden Tennessee not win a football game played in a NASCAR cathedral?

Virginia Tech didn’t look awful against FCS Liberty Saturday, winning by a 23 point margin.

But come on, back to my first point. The Appy State debacle is going to ring heavy in the ears of the Vols all week.

Tennessee 33, VT 17

Texas Tech at Arizona State (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

If you’re looking for a game bound to produce a lot of scoring, look no further than the duel in the desert. Texas Tech put up the second most offensive yards (758) in the country last weekend in a blowout victory over Stephen F. Austin. Arizona State was no slouch, either, posting 44 points in a comfortable victory over Northern Arizona. Although the margin of victory won’t be nearly as large for whichever team wins, expect a ton of points.

Although last weekend’s contest was little more than a warmup for this game, Patrick Mahomes exhibited why some are calling him the Big 12′s most dangerous quarterback. The junior completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 483 yards and four passing touchdowns, adding 57 yards rushing for good measure. Arizona State’s defense will be a stiffer test than Stephen F. Austin, but Mahomes figures to have a major impact on this game. If he’s accurate, the Red Raiders could roll. But Mahomes had four multiple turnover games last season, all against good competition. One of the better teams in terms of interceptions forced in 2015, the Sun Devils will be a good indicator of whether Mahomes will have success against the Big 12′s best this season.

The Sun Devils can score, but they’re going to need a better performance out of Manny Wilkins at quarterback to keep up with the Red Raiders. If Wilkins doesn’t throw at least a couple of touchdowns, Arizona State probably won’t have the firepower in this game to win. With Mahomes, the Red Raiders have the advantage at signal-caller and I believe the advantage overall. I’ll take the visitors in this matchups.

My Pick: 56-44 Texas Tech

BigRedTweeter’s Take: This is the kind of matchup that gives me that eight-year old feeling all over. POINTS POINTS POINTS. Hell, the O/U is 80.

Patrick Mahomes is unbelievably fun to watch…Like 483 yards and 4 TD on opening weekend fun.

Arizona State ran the ball all over the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks last weekend.

This game is going to have a ridiculous amount of points, crazy plays and weird touchdowns.

Texas Tech 54, Arizona St. 48

Washington State at Boise State (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

The nightcap for many on the East Coast may keep people up well past midnight, as both the Broncos and Cougars are capable of turning on the afterburners offensively. Mike Leach will need to keep his team focused to avoid dropping to 0-2 after a surprising loss at the hands of Eastern Washington last weekend. Boise State looked strong in Week 1 and is never easy to beat on the blue turf.

Brett Rypien started off the 2016 campaign just as expected for the Broncos, leading the team to an easy victory over UL-Lafayette with 347 yards passing and two touchdowns. As weird as this may sound, Rypien may have an easier time against the Cougars than he did with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Washington State was embarrassed by the Eastern Washington offense, giving up 496 yards through the air alone. Rypien should have a field day in this one unless something changed quickly for the Cougars. However, Washington State may not be entirely dead in the water. Its own quarterback, Luke Falk, may be the better of the two in this game. Falk was one of the only reasons the Cougars were as close as they were to winning last weekend, and will be counted upon heavily again on Saturday night.

The quarterback play between the two sides should be enough to keep people interested, but it should also be a close game as well. The Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t test Boise State’s revamped secondary like Washington State will, so it could be a totally different story this weekend for the Broncos defense. Assuming that both teams are able to move the football fairly easily, this game will be decided in the fourth quarter and by turnovers. After Washington State’s performance last weekend, I’m no longer sure they’re good enough to be a Pac-12 title contender or even good enough to win this road game.

My Pick: 44-37 Boise State

BigRedTweeter’s Take: Boise State is heavily favored at home over the Pirate obsessed Mike Leach Cougars. Take the -12 line and put it all on Boise St.

Boise 38, Washington St. 24

5 Games to Flip To

North Carolina State at East Carolina (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

An in-state rival by location only, but the Pirates have had success against ACC schools in the past.

Cincinnati at Purdue (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Boilermakers missed Ohio State on the Big Ten schedule this season, but the Buckeyes may not be the only team in the state of Ohio capable of beating Purdue.

Iowa State at #16 Iowa (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Battle of the Cy-Hawk Trophy has been extremely even recently, with the series tied at eight games apiece since 2000. The Hawkeyes haven’t won in Iowa City since 2010, however.

Brigham Young at Utah (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

One of the three games involved in the Battle for the Beehive Boot, this game tends to produce some of the toughest college football you will season all season. A lot of that has to do with the coaches on the sidelines.

California at San Diego State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The Aztecs will be overshadowed by Houston as long as the Cougars keep winning, but San Diego State may be the next best Group of Five team in the country and will look to prove it against a Pac-12 school.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like @BigRedTweeter did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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