2012 NCAAF Week 4 Weekend Preview

September 20, 2012

I didn’t post any weekend previews for weeks 1-3, but that is probably a good thing considering my preseason picks. Let’s take a look at what has happened since August 30th:

Both of my preseason national championship picks have lost (Arkansas has lost twice).

My Big Ten, ACC and Big East champion picks all look mediocre at best (can you guess which one looks bad?).

Alabama and LSU, who I desperately wanted to see take a dive in the rankings early on this season, are back at the top.

Clearly, I shouldn’t be allowed to post my picks for everyone to see. However, I’m still going to do so. In order to make things a little more bearable for the readers, I’ve thrown in something new to the mix this year. In addition to my predictions for my “5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend”, I’ll have a guest on to go head-to-head against me. I’ll keep track of the records throughout the season, and at the end we’ll see how badly I look compared to the people who read Around The Corn.

The first guest is Coleman Mahler, one of my best friends and also one of the more intelligent minds I know with regards to college football outside of the Big Ten Conference. Coleman decided to put a literary twist on his picks for this weekend, so refer to SparkNotes if you have trouble understanding some of his references.

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

Missouri at #7 South Carolina (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Missouri only showed up for one half the last time they played a marquee SEC opponent (against Georgia on September 8th), allowing the Bulldogs to outscore them 31-3 after being up 17-9 midway through the third quarter. The Tigers are definitely good enough to beat an opponent like South Carolina, but it will take a full four quarters of effort to take down Steve Spurrier’s squad.

Missouri may benefit from South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw not being at 100 percent physically. Shaw left the game last week against UAB with a shoulder injury, which has been a recurring issue so far this season. Coach Spurrier says that Shaw is fine, but Gamecocks fans will still be holding their breath. Missouri is the best defense that South Carolina has gone up against since Vanderbilt in Week 1, and the Commodores nearly spoiled the Gamecocks’ season right out of the gates.

Missouri has been good enough against both the run and the pass to limit South Carolina’s opportunities on offense. However, the Tigers could experience some issues themselves on the offensive side as James Franklin has been battling a shoulder injury himself. Missouri will need Franklin tremendously on Saturday in order to win, and I’m unsure he’s going to be able to deliver against South Carolina’s tough defense.

My Pick: 23-17 South Carolina

Coleman’s Take: The big storyline this week has been James Franklin’s refusal of painkillers, much like Randle McMurphy refused to take his pills in the Ken Kesey classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But no matter how tough Randle is, the steady, calculating Nurse Ratched squeezes the life out of him, much like Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore will do to Missouri on Saturday. Ratched (SCAR) beats McMurphy (MU) 24-20.

#18 Michigan at #11 Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves; Notre Dame has beaten a Navy and a couple of Big Ten teams, and judging by the conference’s performance as a whole, isn’t nearly as impressive as it normally would be. Not to say that the Fighting Irish aren’t a good team; they’re defense has looked very good so far. But there is still a long way to go this season, so don’t book the flights for a BCS bowl just yet, Irish fans. Michigan visit South Bend this weekend, and will give Notre Dame a serious test.

Taking a look at the teams that Notre Dame has beaten this season, not one jumps out as an offensive power. The Wolverines definitely have the most potent offense of the opponents the Fighting Irish have played thus far, even if Michigan hasn’t exactly been lighting it up against good defenses itself. Like last year, Denard Robinson will make things difficult for Notre Dame’s linebackers, but will have to make plays through the air if Michigan is to win. Notre Dame has really clamped down against the run game this season, but hasn’t truly been tested against an offense that wants to throw a lot.

Like last year, expect this game to produce a lot of points. From that perspective, this game has the potential to be the most exciting one of the day. Although the Fighting Irish have visibly improved from last season, I still have my doubts about their pass defense. If Robinson can make the throws and limit his turnovers (which is a big if), the Wolverines will spoil Notre Dame’s title hopes.

My Pick: 37-34 Michigan

Coleman’s Take: Much like Lady Russell in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Jim Delaney did his best to persuade Notre Dame (Anne Elliot) to join Michigan (William Elliot) in the Big Ten. But John Swofford (Captain Wentworth) was able to win Notre Dame’s love (at least in non-football sports), and Notre Dame will be happy in this marriage. They’ll also be happy after they trounce Michigan. Anne Elliot (ND) persuades William Elliot (UM) to lose, 27-10.

#15 Kansas State at #6 Oklahoma (Saturday, 7:50 PM ET)

The hope in Manhattan is that Kansas State can sneak up on the Sooners and steal a huge victory in Norman. Unfortunately, that will probably not be the case on Saturday. Oklahoma knows just how good the Wildcats can be, and it is unlikely that Bill Snyder’s team will sneak up on anyone after the strides they made last season.

The Sooners have not looked particularly dominating thus far, only beating UTEP 24-7 in their opener and then having some early trouble with Florida A&M before pulling away in the second quarter. Some of the offensive issues may have arisen from the lack of leadership that has been shown on that side of the ball. Quarterback Landry Jones must step up big and play like a senior that came back for a reason if the Sooners are to have success this weekend. Oklahoma has relied heavily on the running game this season, but is going up against one of the better run defenses in the Big 12.

Kansas State will almost surely rely on the running game, as quarterback Colin Klein has developed into one of the most dangerous dual-threat options in the country. Mike Stoops will get his first chance to show the Sooner faithful that he was the right hire as defensive coordinator by containing Klein’s running ability; otherwise the Wildcats will have success moving the football. Oklahoma is 14-0 at home against ranked teams under Bob Stoops, which is a testament to Stoops’ preparation. The Sooners may bend in this one, but they will not break.

My Pick: 34-27 Oklahoma

Coleman’s Take: Change Jack London’s book title from The Call of the Wild to The Call of the Wildcats, and it would be a perfect description for this game. Society wants Oklahoma to tame the Fighting Bill Snyders, but the call of the wild is too great, and much like Buck in the novel, Colin Klein will be able to break free from the defense. Buck (KSU) escapes society (OU), 42-38.

#10 Clemson at #4 Florida State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

I like Clemson, I really do. I want to pick Clemson, but there are too many factors telling me that I will end up unhappy if I choose the underdog in this game. The first of those factors is the home field advantage that the Seminoles will enjoy when they take on the Tigers under the lights in Doak Campbell Stadium. With real national title implications on the line, expect the crowd to be as loud as they have been in Tallahassee in the past decade.

The second factor is Clemson’s defense. The offense gets all the glory, and for good reason. Clemson can score a lot of points, but they also give up a lot of points, too. That isn’t good, especially for this matchup. The Seminoles have been absolutely lights out this season, and even though they haven’t played anyone with a good offense, three points surrendered in three games is no laughing matter. The Tigers will have to play their game of their lives defensively in order to give Clemson’s offense a shot at keeping up.

The third factor is history. Clemson was able to pull off a nice win against Florida State last season, but is facing a much improved Florida State team as compared with a Clemson team that, while good, is essentially doing what it did last season. Here’s the history lesson: the last time both teams played each other when they were both ranked in the top 10 (in 2000), Florida State was ranked fourth and Clemson tenth. The game was played in Tallahassee. And the Seminoles won 54-7. I don’t expect a blowout, but I do expect the same team to win the game this time around.

My Pick: 28-20 Florida State

Coleman’s Take: Clemson and Florida State are the two disappointments of the ACC, similar to two of the disappointments of the Compson family, Quentin and Jason, in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. However, Jason’s way of manipulating money, similar to the way Sammy Watkins seemingly manipulates the football field with his amazing moves, to stay with the new Southern economy, and I think Florida State, like Quentin, will make an unfortunate exit. Jason (Clemson) hangs around longer than Quentin (FSU), 38-31.

#22 Arizona at #3 Oregon (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

If there is one thing that I have gotten right up to this point, it’s that Rich Rodriguez has thrived in Arizona. The Wildcats are off to a great start, and made a statement in Week 2 by destroying Oklahoma State at home, much to Savannah State’s pleasure. The first real test comes this weekend though, as Arizona must travel to Eugene to take on the master of the spread offense, Chip Kelly and Oregon.

Oregon and Arizona employ essentially the same offensive tactics to wear down opponents on defense. As I mentioned, Kelly is the master, and Rodriguez simply does not have the talent available to beat Oregon at its own game. So as not to risk Coleman’s best piece of writing in my opinion, I won’t discuss this game any further other than to say I think Oregon will win comfortably in this one.

My Pick: 52-35 Oregon

Coleman’s Take: Let’s use an author who graduated from Oregon to talk about the game featuring his school. The explosiveness of these two offenses will be like the pandemonium of Project Mayhem in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. The way these teams operate is so similar, it’s like they’re the same entity, just two different personalities. Curious… The Narrator (Oregon) takes control and deals with Tyler Durden (Arizona) 59-49.

5 More to Flip To

BYU at #24 Boise State (Thursday, 9 PM ET)

BYU suffered a tough loss after being given a second chance at a game-tying field goal last weekend. Can they bounce back against Boise State on the blue turf?

Baylor at UL-Monroe (Friday, 8 PM ET)

The Warhawks have been giving the SEC a black eye as of late, so there is no reason why they can’t compete in this game.

Virginia at #17 TCU (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Virginia may have been lucky to beat Penn State in Week 1, but TCU can’t sleep on this team. The Horned Frogs had issues last weekend against Kansas.

Oregon State at UCLA (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

In what is a game between the two biggest early season surprises in the Pac-12, UCLA will look to continue its climb up the rankings under Jim Mora Jr. Oregon State already has one victory over a Top 25 squad, however, so they are confident heading into this one.

Utah at Arizona State (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

The winner of this game will secure a share of the Pac-12 South division lead.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Coleman 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.

– K. Becks

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