2012 Week 8 Weekend Preview

October 18, 2012

It was a strong showing for both the guest prognosticator (Bill Hughes) and I last weekend in the head-to-head prediction game, with both of us correctly picking all five matchups. While I’ll never complain picking every game correctly, it would have been nice had Bill picked a little differently so that I could have inched a bit closer to the guests. The overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 15-5

Guest Prognosticators: 18-2

This week the last of my roommates to share his thoughts on Around The Corn, Trent Gardner, will be the guest prognosticator. I am strongly considering making a deal with him that involves him actually doing his dishes if I beat him, but two things are holding me back. One is that I have yet to beat a guest prognosticator in the head-to-head game, and the second is that he probably wouldn’t do it anyway.

All right, now that I got that jab in there, 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

#2 Oregon at Arizona State (Thursday, 9 PM ET)

Believe it or not, this is a battle between Pac-12 division leaders. It probably isn’t that surprising that Oregon has jumped out to an undefeated record and a North division lead, but the Sun Devils came into this season following a dismal 6-6 year and a coaching change. First-year head man Todd Graham seemingly has his team headed in the right direction, as Arizona State is 3-0 in the Pac-12 and leading the North Division, but will face its first real test in this Thursday night primetime matchup.

The Sun Devils do two things well that give them a chance to take down the mighty Ducks; they score a lot of points, and they don’t give up many points on defense. Arizona State is second to Oregon in the Pac-12 in points scored (40.5 PPG), and leads the conference in points scored against (14.2). Of course, statistics don’t tell the whole story, as the Sun Devils haven’t been going up against the toughest teams the Pac-12 has to offer this season. It is likely that Oregon will score more than two touchdowns in this game, and Arizona State will simply have to keep up.

Since this is a home game for the Sun Devils, they could come out and surprise the Ducks. However, it is likely that they will try to employ a similar type of offensive strategy as Oregon, and we saw what happened the last time a team tried that approach (see: Oregon-Arizona). If this game is close for a half it will excite some people, but I don’t see the Ducks losing in the desert.

My Pick: 38-24 Oregon

Trent’s Take: Oregon 43, Arizona State 24

#6 LSU at #20 Texas A&M (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Much to the delight of non-SEC college football fans, the #3 team in the nation (which has been an SEC team the past two weeks) has lost its first game in the spot in consecutive weekends. First it was LSU at the hands of Florida, and then South Carolina at the hands of LSU. While neither of these teams are the #3 team in the nation, it is still plausible that the Tigers could make a run at the national title game. The Aggies, who have lost only to the current #3 team in the nation, would also begin to receive consideration if they continue their five game winning streak through this weekend.

This game should be a classic battle between a hard-nosed defensive squad and a full-throttle offensive juggernaut. The Tigers have continued to have trouble on the offensive end this season, but are less than a touchdown from being undefeated thanks to their defense. While it wouldn’t seem like 23 points would be enough to take down the Aggies, LSU has the ability to dictate the pace of almost every game. If LSU’s defense is up to the task, we could see a rare defensive struggle in College Station.

Texas A&M would much prefer an offensively dominated contest thanks to the weapon they possess at quarterback. Freshman Johnny Manziel leads an Aggies team that is fifth in the nation in points scored per game (47.0), and set a new SEC record for total yards by a single player with 576 last weekend in a win over Louisiana Tech. The problem is, Louisiana Tech doesn’t have nearly the speed or athleticism on defense that Louisiana State does, so Manziel will probably have a tougher time racking up yards this weekend. In their only game against a currently ranked team, Texas A&M managed to score 17 points. Advantage LSU.

My Pick: 24-17 LSU

Trent’s Take: LSU 42, Texas A&M 35

#9 South Carolina at #3 Florida (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

As I mentioned in the previous section, teams from the SEC have had trouble hanging on to the number three spot in the polls the past couple of weeks. South Carolina (who previously held the #3 spot) can make it three losses in a row for número trace by taking down Florida, who took down number three LSU two weekends ago.

Although the Gators are one of the top teams in the country at this point, there are some concerns about the offense in Gainesville. While the running game is very solid thanks to Mike Gillislee, the passing game is ranked last in the SEC. This doesn’t necessarily help South Carolina, whose defensive front loves to get after opposing quarterbacks as they did against Georgia’s Aaron Murray, but it does make the Gamecocks’ job on defense simpler. If South Carolina can stop the run, it will probably be in position to upset the Gators.

However, South Carolina may have some issues of its own on offense. Star tailback Marcus Lattimore is battling a hip injury and may not start for the Gamecocks this Saturday. If that ends up being the case, Florida’s defensive game plan becomes a little simpler as well. Since the Gators are already strong defensively, it would make sense if this game ends up being similar to the LSU/Florida game played two weeks ago. The only question is, can the Florida’s seemingly one-dimensional offense survive yet another top 10 opponent with a solid defense?

My Pick: 17-14 South Carolina

Trent’s Take: South Carolina 24, Florida 21

#21 Cincinnati at Toledo (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Who says Ohio State is the only school in Ohio that plays good football? Cincinnati is one of two other teams besides the Buckeyes who are undefeated at the midseason mark (Ohio University being the other), and all three are ranked in the Top 25. Toledo isn’t doing too shabby either, starting off 6-1 and nearly knocking off Arizona in Tucson in its season opener. On Saturday evening, this in-state rivalry will be renewed for the first time since 2001.

The Rockets aren’t quite the offensive power that they were last season, but they’re close. With an average scoring output of over 36 points per game and four offensive stars in quarterback Terrance Owens, running back David Fluellen and receivers Bernard Reedy and Alonzo Russell, Toledo is not a team to take lightly. However, while the Rockets are better are improved defensively this season, they still have had trouble stopping teams such as lowly Eastern Michigan. Against Cincinnati, Toledo is going to need to find a way to at least contain the running game.

The Bearcats are off to their best start since the 2009-2010 season (which ended with a trip to the Sugar Bowl), but have yet to play a true road game. Cincinnati has surprised some people this year thanks to a solid defense and an even better offense, which averages 37 points per game. This is good news against a Toledo defense that gives up a ton of yards, but it will be interesting to see how the Bearcats respond to the home crowd. Cincinnati has started slowly in previous games this season, and simply cannot afford to do that against a team that has the potential to score a lot of points early. In addition, Cincinnati needs to focus on this week and not look ahead to a huge game against Louisville next Friday. I can see this as a potential trap game for the Bearcats, as Toledo is very tough at home.

My Pick: 48-45 Toledo

Trent’s Take: Cincinnati 41, Toledo 17

#4 Kansas State at #17 West Virginia (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

West Virginia was flat out embarrassed last weekend in Lubbock, so it would be natural to assume that the Mountaineers would start this game strong to prove to the nation that the 49-14 drubbing suffered at the hands of Seth Doege was simply a fluke. Things are made tougher, however, by the fact that Kansas State isn’t coached by just anyone. Bill Snyder is one of the best in the game at getting his troops focused and not worrying about what has happened in prior weeks. It is arguable that Snyder’s preparation counters West Virginia’s anger almost perfectly.

It is clear to anyone who watched last weekend’s game that the way to beat West Virginia is to take advantage of the fact that the Mountaineers’ defensive backs give a significant cushion to the receivers they are covering. Unfortunately for Kansas State, this doesn’t really help them out all that much since quarterback Colin Klein likes to run the ball. I think that West Virginia’s defensive front will be ready for Klein, and the key for the Wildcats’ offense will be to abandon the typical smash mouth style and take what the defense gives them.

Kansas State’s defensive numbers are similar to Texas Tech’s, although the Wildcats are not nearly as solid against the pass as the Red Raiders. This could be a problem for Bill Snyder’s team, who hasn’t given up a lot of big plays on defense, but did have trouble against both Kansas and Iowa State in previous weeks. I believe that this is the most interesting game of the weekend due to the uncertainty about how West Virginia will respond and the true ability of Kansas State’s defense to stop a pass-happy offense. This contest could easily go either way.

My Pick: 40-38 Kansas State

Trent’s Take: West Virginia 38, Kansas State 35

5 Games to Flip To

Nebraska at Northwestern (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Nebraska needs to perform better on the road if they want to stay in the Legends Division title race.

Michigan State at #23 Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Spartans have the chance to save their season with a win against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

#18 Texas Tech at TCU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Can Tommy Tuberville’s team follow its marquee win over West Virginia with a victory that would make them bowl eligible?

#1 Alabama at Tennessee (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Volunteers face their third ranked opponent in as many weeks, amidst what is probably one of the toughest four game slates in the nation this season.

Washington at Arizona (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

If you’re craving some offense after watching the South Carolina/Florida game, this is the game to watch.

– K. Becks

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