2013 NCAAF Week 4 Weekend Preview

September 20, 2013

I want to give a quick shout out to Arizona State University and the miscommunication of the officials in the Arizona State/Wisconsin game last Saturday night for giving me a three game lead on the guests in the prediction game. While Joel Stave could have done a better job at selling it, replays would suggest that the Wisconsin quarterback did in fact attempt to kneel and kill what ended up being the final play of the game.

Unfortunately for Matt Bidinger, that wasn’t the way the officials saw it, and now the overall records for the prediction game look like this:

K. Becks: 11-4

Guests: 8-7

This week, I have some stiff competition. My buddy and el presidente of The Ohio State University’s Sportsmanship Council (you’re welcome for the plug that four people will see) Ben Adams will try to close the gap for the guests. I’m not in a position to get cocky just yet, and Ben knows his stuff, so this should be an interesting weekend.

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

Boise State at Fresno State (Friday, 9 PM ET)

I had a buddy text me last night and ask who was going to win the “Mountain West semifinal game”. That’s as good a way as any to describe this game. Boise State and Fresno State are, at this point at least, the favorites to play in the inaugural Mountain West Conference title game. However, one of these teams has a lot to prove to me before I’d bet money on them making it to the title game in December. If you know me, you’d be surprised which team I’m talking about.

I have the opportunity to cover the Broncos for Bleacher Report, and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Boise State this season, it’s that the defense has looked horrendous at times. The season opening 38-6 loss is proof enough, but if you’re not convinced, consider the fact that the Broncos are giving up 211 yards per game through the air. To compare, Chris Petersen’s squad averaged just less than 170 yards per game given up through the air in 2012.

Things aren’t going to get any easier for the Broncos on Friday night. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr could have a field day against Boise State’s new defensive backs, as the senior is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. As much as it pains me to say this, the Broncos may look outmatched in this game.

My Pick: 44-34 Fresno State

Ben’s Take: This one has the potential to be a shootout. Fresno State is coming off an unexpected bye week as their game last week in Boulder, Colorado was cancelled due to flooding. While they obviously didn’t spend two weeks game planning for the Broncos, Fresno State will come out fresh and fired up. I like Fresno State QB Derek Carr to have a big game, which could possibly go a long way in getting him to the New York in December as a dark horse Heisman Finalist. The Bulldogs are looking to break a seven-game skid against Boise State and I think they get it done at home behind the arm of their senior quarterback. Final: Boise State 38 Fresno State 51

Michigan State at #22 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Fighting Irish did not respond well on the road in West Lafayette after the loss to Michigan two weekends ago. However, Brian Kelly’s squad got the job done, and in the end that’s all that really matters. Now, Notre Dame heads back home to take on a Michigan State team that may be more talented than Purdue, but will have to deal with the Fighting Irish faithful on them all game.

Notre Dame hasn’t looked nearly as dominant on defense in 2013 as it did last season, but that probably won’t be as much of an issue against the Spartans. Michigan State has had a difficult time scoring against anyone in the FBS division, which isn’t exactly a new story for a Mark Dantonio coached team but is still worrisome. In order for Michigan State to win this game, they need to get more productivity out of the passing game. The running game isn’t as strong as it has been in prior years, and Notre Dame doesn’t have the kind of defense that you can beat with a one-dimensional offense.

If this game were at home, I could see Andrew Maxwell stepping up for the Spartans and making this a close game. But I just don’t think Notre Dame will play down to the level of Michigan State’s sputtering offense in this one. Although the scoreboard will suggest this game was close, the statistics will tell a different story.

My Pick: 24-17 Notre Dame

Ben’s Take: While Michigan State’s offense can at times wreak of sucky-ness I think their defense keeps them in this one. Sure they are scoring 34 points a game, but that’s inflated by a 55-17 beat down of FCS opponent Youngstown St. I think Michigan State regresses back to the offense that generated only 168 yards through the air through the first two weeks of the season (Western Michigan & South Florida) and a lack of balance on offense costs them a close one. The Spartans don’t have an offense that can come from behind, so they will need to be opportunistic and maybe score on defense if they want to win in South Bend. Final: Michigan State 13 Notre Dame 19

Arkansas at Rutgers (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Can Bret Bielema create some buzz about Arkansas for the first time since before the Razorbacks suffered a defeat at the hands of UL-Monroe, effectively dashing their national title hopes in 2012? With a win in this game he could, as Arkansas will travel to Piscataway to take on Rutgers, which hasn’t been an easy victory for more than half a decade.

Neither team has a marquee victory this season, but the Scarlet Knights were very close to getting a very solid one in their season opener against Fresno State. Kyle Flood’s team has shown the ability to score at will (in a 52-51 loss to Fresno State) but also stay true to the lockdown defensive style that has been a staple of Rutgers football over the past several years (the Scarlet Knights have given up a total of 10 points since that game). This weekend we’ll find out whether Arkansas’ offensive numbers, particularly in the rushing game, are a result of weak competition or a resurgence under Bielema.

Despite the fact that Bielema has a hot wife (nothing to do with football…just wanted to link that), the Razorbacks won’t be able to shift the focus of the Rutgers defense. I think the Scarlet Knights will expose Arkansas and force at least a couple of turnovers in a game marked by defensive achievement.

My Pick: 20-10 Rutgers

Ben’s Take: New Arkansas head honcho and coach-that-looks-most-like-his-school’s-mascot Brett Bielema is looking to match the Razorbacks’ win total from last year in just his fourth game at the helm. However, he’s facing a Rutgers squad that is coming off two easy wins and a heartbreaker of a season opening loss to Fresno St. Both teams are facing concerns over the health of their starting quarterbacks and may be putting the game in the hands of some inexperienced backups. I like Arkansas to win thanks to their rushing attack that’s pumping out just under 300 yards a game in this young season. Final: Arkansas 27 Rutgers 24

Tennessee at #19 Florida (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This game used to be one of the biggest on the college football slate every year, but in recent years it has lost some of its luster thanks to Tennessee. The Volunteers have been stuck in a rut, and it really comes down to not being able to beat ranked teams. However, Butch Jones’s squad will get a chance to take one down on Saturday afternoon, and the Gators are a team that is on upset alert just about every week.

The Gators were exposed against Miami two weeks ago as a team with a glaring offensive weakness. It’s pretty safe to say that with Jeff Driskel behind center, Florida will try to punish teams with the run game. Luckily for Will Muschamp’s squad, the Volunteers are pretty mediocre at stopping the run and the Gators might be able to get away with using a lot of clock to keep the score low. However, if the first two games are any indication, Tennessee will try to outscore its opponent. Justin Worley isn’t Tyler Bray, but he’s capable of doing to Florida what Stephen Morris did for Miami.

If Florida is to win this game, the score will be low. If Tennessee wants to pull off an upset (and they’re capable), they’ll need to force a shootout.

My Pick: 23-14 Florida

Ben’s Take: Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida since 2004 and can’t seem to beat a team in the Top 25. I don’t see either of those trends breaking in The Swamp this weekend coming off a game against Oregon in which they were completely overmatched. Florida’s defense has looked good against a decent Toledo offense and they weren’t the reason the Gators lost 21-16 to Miami (FL) last weekend. I like Florida to rebound this week and win easily. Final: Tennessee 17 Florida 35

#23 Arizona State at #5 Stanford (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

As has already been noted, Arizona State benefited from an interesting scenario at the end of its game last weekend and as a result is a Top 25 team heading into the game against Stanford. However, it will take more than a favorable call to beat the Cardinal, who are basically Wisconsin on steroids.

Stanford has been consistent on offense this season, scoring 34 points in each of its first two games. However, the defense looked surprisingly shaky against Army last weekend, and it will be interesting to find out whether that was a result of the triple option offense causing confusion or an underlying weakness in the Cardinal defense. In this game, Stanford will rely on the defense to set the tone. Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly has looked impressive throwing the ball, and the Sun Devils will look to win this game with a systematic short passing game. Maybe not the greatest game plan against a defense that ranks second in the conference against the pass, but it’s what Arizona State does best.

The Sun Devils got lucky against Wisconsin at home, and I don’t see them being in such a position again this weekend. Stanford is more dynamic on offense than Wisconsin, and I think the Cardinal will already have this game in hand by the time the fourth quarter is winding down.

My Pick: 34-21 Stanford

Ben’s Take: Arizona State finds themselves in the Top 25 coming into a big PAC-12 matchup with Stanford after a flat-out weird finish at home in a victory over Wisconsin last week. Arizona State has thrown the ball all over the place in their first two games but is facing a Stanford defense that matches up well with anyone in the country. The Sun Devils may find some success moving the ball, but I like Stanford at home to win this one by controlling possession and waiting until they are ahead to kneel the clock out. Bold strategy, I know. Final: Arizona State 23 Stanford 31

5 More to Flip To

San Jose State at Minnesota (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

We’ll find out just how good Minnesota is this weekend when the Spartans come to town with David Fales slinging the ball around.

Utah State at Southern California (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

I almost put this game on the “5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend” list because I think the Aggies can win. Expect chants calling for Kiffin’s job if this one is close, which it should be.

Auburn at #6 LSU (Saturday, 7:45 PM ET)

Just another chance to see how much better LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has gotten compared to last season…

Missouri at Indiana (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Like Minnesota, Indiana gets a chance to prove that it is for real in 2013. The offense has looked impressive so far.

Utah at BYU (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

With Utah already beating Utah State, this is very realistically the game that decides who wins the Battle for the Beehive Boot.

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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