2013 NCAAF Week 3 Weekend Preview

September 13, 2013

Things were going very well for me during the first half of last Saturday. Miami stepped up and took down Florida at home, and Missouri came out swinging offensively for a second straight week. I was up two games on the guest prognosticator, Matt.

Then came Saturday night. Georgia (not surprisingly) looked like a team capable of clawing its way back into the national title conversation with a convincing win over South Carolina, making Mark Richt look like a good coach again (because, you know…he is).

The most surprising development of the night was the evolution of the BYU offense. Either that or the complete breakdown of the Texas defense. Regardless of which was more responsible for the Cougars’ thrashing of the Longhorns, it was clear that I hadn’t wiped the floor with Matt in the head-to-head prediction game as I thought I would just hours earlier.

That being said, the overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 7-3

Guests: 6-4

This week, I’ll try my luck with another Matt: my roommate Matt Bidinger.

As we move deeper into the season, the games are becoming much harder to predict. I just hope that I can continue to hold a lead, as I was playing catch up in the prediction game for most of 2012.

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

#16 UCLA at #23 Nebraska (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

With both UCLA and Nebraska escaping the dark times that were the mid-2000s, this game has become one of the more anticipated annual non-conference showdowns of the season. Each team comes in ranked in the Top 25, and each has had a chance to show the country that the offense means business this season. In this one, however, the team with the better defense will likely emerge victorious.

Nebraska is hoping that this is the season where Taylor Martinez can finally lead the team to a Rose Bowl berth…or beyond. So far things have gone exactly as planned. The offense is humming and Martinez has been particularly effective, throwing six touchdowns to just one interception and completing over 70 percent of his passes. UCLA must find a way to limit Martinez as a rusher as well, because the senior has averaged 57 yards per game on the ground.

The question for the Cornhuskers will be whether the defense is up to the task of slowing down the Pac-12’s second best offense. Nebraska struggled mightily in its first game of the season against Wyoming, allowing 34 points in a narrow three point victory over the Cowboys. Wyoming may in fact have a strong offense (they scored 42 points last weekend against Idaho), but it’s hard to make the argument that it is as lethal as UCLA’s. The Bruins also have a dual-threat weapon that will need to be stopped in Brett Hundley. Even as a sophomore, Hundley looks like a more polished version of Martinez.

Despite this game being at home, I’m not sure about Nebraska’s ability to slow down the Bruins. Defense will play a large role in this game, and I’m banking on UCLA making a few more key stops than the home squad.

My Pick: 34-27 UCLA

Matt’s Take: UCLA has everything on their side for this game with having a bye week last week and Nebraska struggling to start the season. With that being said, UCLA has to travel cross country to play a team that is hard to beat at home. The early start may prove to be a tough adjustment for a west coast team. UCLA 32 Nebraska 35

#1 Alabama at #6 Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

You’d think that this is one of the biggest games of all-time, based on the amount of media coverage that is has been receiving dating back to the end of last season. But in reality, this is just another top 10 battle. I’m not sure one of these teams is nearly good enough to garner the media hype they have been receiving.

The Crimson Tide have everything working in their favor except home field advantage. The team looked dominant in a season-opening 35-10 victory over a solid Virginia Tech defense. They are licking their chops at a second chance against Johnny Manziel, who torched an Alabama defense which was thought to be nearly unbeatable before November 10th, 2012. Lastly, a bye week gave them not only a week to rest, but an extra week to focus solely on the Aggies.

I’ll be the first to say I’ll be extremely impressed with Texas A&M if the Aggies are able to beat Alabama. Not just because of what the team has to deal with from a media perspective, but because things are stacked against them so heavily. I’m not sure I remember the last time the No. 6 team in the nation was at home and nearly everybody was picking them to lose.

My Pick: 27-17 Alabama

Matt’s Take: Texas A&M has the star power to win this game in the same exciting fashion they did last year. But picking against Alabama is never a good decision in the Nick Saban era. There is no doubt they will be motivated to get revenge in the game. Alabama 37 Texas A&M 30

Central Florida at Penn State (Saturday, 6 PM ET)

If you’re a fan of watching good teams that fly under the radar for most of the season, then this is the game of the week for you. Both UCF and Penn State have looked impressive this season, albeit against weak competition. Still, this should be an entertaining matchup featuring two talented quarterbacks that each give their team a chance to win.

Penn State may not be eligible for any sort of postseason games, but they are laying the groundwork to have a very strong team the first year they are postseason eligible. Freshman Christian Hackenburg has been everything he was advertised as coming out of high school, and thanks to him the Nittany Lions are still unbeaten. However, Hackenburg might not even be the best quarterback in this game. UCF is led by junior Blake Bortles, one of the best kept secrets in college football. Bortles will get his first shot of the season to show the nation just how good he is in one of the most difficult atmospheres to travel to in the country.

I don’t know if UCF has the ability to steal a win in Happy Valley, but things will be close, especially if Penn State underestimates the Knights. I expect both quarterbacks to look strong, and if this game becomes a shootout, UCF might have the edge in this one.

My Pick: 31-27 Penn State

Matt’s Take: I know absolutely nothing about either UCF or Penn St besides the fact that they have both won big so far this season. I have heard that Penn St has a talented young QB so I am giving them the W 38-28.

#25 Ole Miss at Texas (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Funny what a week can do to a team’s confidence. One week ago the Longhorns were eye the Top 10, hoping for a chance to come into the Red River Rivalry undefeated. Now, Texas is clinging to national relevance by a single thread, with an important game against Ole Miss on the horizon. Mack Brown has a lot of work to do with this team if he expects to compete for a Big 12 crown, and with a new defensive coordinator the job has been made exponentially tougher.

Ole Miss is not an easy offense to stop, even for a good defense. Quarterback Bo Wallace is a grinder who finds a way to move his team down the field, even if it’s done unconventionally. He could really throw the Texas defense for a loop thanks to his rushing ability, but he’d be better off using that threat to open up the passing game. Thanks to the firing of former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the Longhorns may have trouble executing whatever new coordinator Greg Robinson cooks up due to such a short turnaround time.

Normally, I’d think that coming back home fired up after being embarrassed last weekend would favor Texas. But the Longhorns are just 11-9 at home since 2010, and haven’t beaten a single ranked opponent at DKR during that time. That is concerning, but not nearly as much for me as for Coach Brown, who realistically could be fighting for his job with another early season loss.

My Pick: 38-30 Ole Miss

Matt’s Take: Everyone keeps talking about the amazing recruiting class that has come to Ole Miss, and it is starting to show on the field. Texas on the other hand has been quite unimpressive and after firing their defensive coordinator I don’t feel they can keep up with Ole Miss. Ole Miss 45 Texas 35

#20 Wisconsin at Arizona State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

With this game and the UCLA/Nebraska matchup, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are getting a couple of chances for bragging rights. Like the earlier showdown between the Bruins and Cornhuskers, this matchup should be exciting because both teams have looked strong through the first two weeks of the season.

Neither Wisconsin nor Arizona State has given up a single point this season. That statistic is a bit more impressive for Wisconsin, considering the Badgers have played two games to Arizona State’s one. However, both teams have played an FCS opponent, and Wisconsin’s other victory came over Massachusetts. This is the game where we will figure out just how good each team’s defense really is. Wisconsin will have to find a way to slow down the Sun Devils’ passing game, while Arizona State must find an answer to the Badgers’ normal bruising rushing attack.

There isn’t a whole lot to separate the two teams at this point, so this is a tough one to call. But Arizona State is at home and are the first team on the outside looking in at the AP Top 25. They’d love to break in, and I think they have the offensive firepower to do it. I’m going with the Pac-12 to go two for two in high profile matchups against the Big Ten this week.

My Pick: 35-31 Arizona State

Matt’s Take: Wisconsin at Arizona St is one of the more interesting games of the week. Neither team has let up a point this season and both offenses seem fairly evenly matched with both averaging over 45 points. This will give both teams the chance to prove if their defenses are for real. Wisconsin 34 Arizona St 31

5 More to Flip To

Virginia Tech at East Carolina (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

A high powered ECU offense takes on a pretty solid VT defense. This game has been one to watch ever since the Hokies lost to the Pirates in 2008.

Nevada at #10 Florida State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The hype of FSU quarterback Jameis Winston will likely continue to grow after this game. The Wolf Pack have a hard time stopping anyone on defense.

#19 Washington at Illinois (Saturday, 6 PM ET)

The Huskies looked great in a 38-6 thrashing of Boise State two weeks ago, but how will Steve Sarkisian’s team fare on the road?

Mississippi State at Auburn (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Tigers give up a ton of yards, but have scored a lot of points to combat that. Mississippi State will try to expose the Auburn offense as a fraud with one of the better SEC defenses.

#21 Notre Dame at Purdue (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

It will be interesting to see how the Fighting Irish respond on the road after being ripped apart defensively by Michigan last Saturday.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Matt 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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