2014 NCAAF Week 3 Weekend Preview

September 11, 2014

What happened to the Big Ten last weekend?

I’ll tell you what: they were exposed. Exposed as being slow, in all cases. Exposed as being offensively incompetent, in many cases. Exposed as frauds in the defensive department, in a few cases. It was just downright awful what happened to this once proud conference. But hey, at least Jim Delany is still drinking the Kool-Aid.

Sorry guys, but you’ve slipped below the ACC in the conference rankings in my book.

But I digress. The college football world still turns, and for the most part the Big Ten’s implosion was more of a localized earthquake than a continent wide disaster. Many people knew that this was coming. Sure, few probably picked Michigan to lose by 31 and not score a single point, but just looking at records, are people really all that surprised that Notre Dame came away from that game victorious? And Oregon; maybe the verdict is still out on the Ducks, but how many people outside the Midwest really thought that the Spartans had the speed to hang with the Pac-12 burners for four quarters?

This was just a cleansing of the Top 10. We’ll see it again and again as the season goes on, but it happens every year. The Big Ten just happened to be the biggest loser this time.

Last week my dad and I quickly put together a set of picks, and naturally when time was tight I came through on top. The overall records after the first week of scoring stand:

K. Becks: 2-3

Guests: 1-4

This week my former roommate Trent Gardner joins the blog for a cup of tea and some college football. As a former roommate, I can honestly say that he is just another guy whose number I have now. We’re not friends in any way, and if he’s reading this, he should really take this as a hint to stop texting me asking when we’re going to go hit on girls at bars again. I’m not in college anymore, bro.

Just kidding. But Trent is the guest prognosticator this week.

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

East Carolina at #17 Virginia Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Virginia Tech’s win at Ohio State last weekend was big for many different reasons, chief of which is the fact that the Hokies are now in position to make some noise on a national level provided they continue to play well. But it must be noted that Frank Beamer, who has coached in Blacksburg for longer than J.T. Barrett has been alive, was just doing what any veteran coach would do against a redshirt freshman quarterback with little experience: blitz him often and make him prove he’s capable of beating you. In all honesty, Barrett probably was good enough to beat the Hokies, sans a few crucial mistakes. But the play across the board for the Buckeyes was something fans in Columbus would like to forget, so don’t go blaming it entirely on the young signal-caller.

This weekend Virginia Tech stays home and welcomes an in-state rival. The Pirates aren’t your typical cupcake opponent a week after facing the former No. 5 team in the nation, however. East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden has a wealth of experience and can take advantage of a Virginia Tech defense that still gave up 28 points against Ohio State. Expect the Pirates to have success on the offensive side of the ball, but Virginia Tech has proven it is no slouch on offense, either. A high-scoring affair should be expected, but a blowout should not. Count on ECU giving the Hokies some trouble in this one.

My Pick: 41-35 Virginia Tech

Trent’s Take: This game will be more interesting than many would think, but with the Hokies’ momentum from last week’s upset against Ohio State in the Shoe, VT takes this game 24 to 17.

#6 Georgia at #24 South Carolina (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This game was supposed to be the marquee matchup of the weekend, and for all intents and purposes it still carries that honor. But the play of the Gamecocks the past two weeks has turned this one from “must-watch television” to “catch it assuming your team isn’t playing at the same time”. The Texas A&M loss was one thing, but struggling against East Carolina last weekend has many fans wondering whether the Week 1 blowout wasn’t a fluke after all. Contrarily, Georgia looked dominant in its win over Clemson two weekends ago and had time to rest and prepare for the Gamecocks. Have I slanted this enough for you yet?

The statistics back up the way these two teams appear to be headed. South Carolina is No. 11 in the SEC in rush defense, giving up slightly over 150 yards per game on the ground. Georgia is just outside the top 10 nationally in rushing yards per game, racking up 328 in its only contest against the Tigers. If you’re getting the feeling that Todd Gurley & Co. are licking their chops at the chance to take it to a presumably embarrassed South Carolina defense, you’re not alone. Georgia still has to go on the road for this one and that won’t be easy, but if a Texas A&M quarterback making his first collegiate start can do it, so can an experienced offensive line and defense for the Bulldogs.

My Pick: 30-21 Georgia

Trent’s Take: This game is harder to predict with both teams having Heisman candidates in Todd Gurley and Mike Davis, but ultimately I think it will come down to the quarterback play of Hutson Mason. Mason has a little experience here and there throughout the years behind ex-quarterback Aaron Murray, but with this being his first year as “the guy” the road in Gamecock country will prove to be a challenge. But I think Georgia will win this one 31 to 21.

Tennessee at #4 Oklahoma (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Tennessee has recently made it a habit of scheduling big name opponents for early season non-conference tests, only to be blown out of the water in the majority of those games. While this one could definitely follow that storyline, it looks as if Coach Butch Davis might have something interesting brewing in Knoxville. The defense has been quite impressive through the first two games of the season, holding a talented Utah State squad to just seven points in the opener and easily dispatching of Arkansas State in Week 2. The defensive unit will be put to the test in Norman, where the Sooners have looked every bit the top five squad the voters believe them to be, at least on the scoreboard.

Oklahoma has scored in bunches thus far, but there is an amount of truth to the opinion that the Sooners will only go as far as Trevor Knight can take them on offense. Despite averaging 50 points per game, the Sooners could have trouble fairly soon if Knight’s completion percentage does not improve. The Volunteers appear to have the talent in the defensive secondary to make that apparent to the rest of the country, but winning this game will require Tennessee’s offense to join the party. While Coach Davis may end up being pleased with his defense’s performance in this one, I’m not sure that the Volunteers have enough offensive firepower to pull off what would be a major upset.

My Pick: 33-17 Oklahoma

Trent’s Take: Not even bothering to research this one. Ten-14 OU-41

#12 UCLA vs. Texas [game in Dallas] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Neither one of these teams has looked strong to start the season, but at least UCLA can say that it didn’t get beaten by 34 points at home against BYU. The Longhorns may have a new coach in Charlie Strong, but it’s the same old story that we’ve been hearing in Austin ever since Colt McCoy left. There are still quarterback problems at Texas and until those are fixed the Longhorns are going to have trouble moving the ball against capable defenses. But worse yet for this year’s squad is the fact that the defense looked particularly vulnerable as well. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill didn’t even have a terrific game last weekend, which adds insult to injury. UCLA has been struggling on defense this year, though, so don’t expect the Longhorns to be held to under 10 points in consecutive weeks.

I’d give Texas a better chance to win this game at Jerry’s World if David Ash didn’t have concussion symptoms that held him out of last weekend’s contest as well. It seems like Ash gets hurt every season, which is just a shame. UCLA hasn’t looked strong on either side of the ball, but the offense has shown flashes of brilliance that if sustained for four quarters could be scary. Because of the way that the Texas defense looked last week, I think that Brett Hundley will be able to find his rhythm and the Bruins will have success through the air in this one. People will likely begin to wonder if this is Charlie Strong’s fault, but the truth of the matter is that Texas just doesn’t have the pieces yet. I’ve got UCLA by a couple of touchdowns here.

My Pick: 35-21 UCLA

Trent’s Take: Neither team has looked impressive so far in the early season, but I choose UCLA over Texas 21-7.

Nebraska at Fresno State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

Nebraska nearly became a punchline last Saturday, narrowly escaping FCS opponent McNeese State at home. Fresno State hasn’t looked too hot, either, dropping consecutive games against Pac-12 opponents while giving up an average of 55.5 points a game. Something has got to give, and it’s tough to tell which team will actually show up playing well enough to win this one.

The Cornhuskers used to produce feared defenses every season, but since joining the Big Ten for the 2011 season Nebraska has been all over the map defensively. Last year appeared to be a step in the right direction for Bo Pelini’s team, but the verdict is still out on this year’s squad. Offensively, the Cornhuskers have been relying quite a bit on Ameer Abdullah and for good reason. The senior running back is making a solid case for why he should be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate come December. Fresno State has had a ton of trouble stopping the run this year, allowing nearly 270 yards per contest on the ground. If the Bulldogs want to win this game, the defense needs to play a lot better than it did in the first two games of the season. Things have been rough on the offensive side with Derek Carr gone. Coach Tim DeRuyter is trying to run the same offense but it just doesn’t have quite the crispness as when Carr was there.

Fresno State’s weaknesses are pretty glaring and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m going out on a brittle limb here. But I need to have a game where I didn’t pick the same as Trent and from the list of five to watch this is the best option in my opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nebraska run all over Fresno State’s defense, but the Bulldogs can pull off a win at home.

My Pick: 41-40 Fresno State

Trent’s Take: I’m picking Nebraska in this one because, well…the Big 10 really needs a good week this week. 24-14.

5 More to Flip To

Toledo at Cincinnati (Friday, 7 PM ET)

It’s hard to believe, but this is Cincinnati’s first game of the season. Toledo is the underdog but having a couple of games under its belt could make this one closer than people might think.

Central Florida at #20 Missouri (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

As long as Missouri hangs around inside the Top 25, they’ll be on my radar as potential upset victims.

Ohio at Marshall (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Fans of mid-major conferences know that Marshall, not Ohio, is the team with big bowl dreams this season. But the Bobcats could give the Thundering Herd some trouble getting there.

UT-San Antonio at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Cowboys looked good against Florida State and the Roadrunners are the most experienced team in the FBS. This one should be fun to watch.

Nevada at Arizona (Saturday, 11 PM ET)

Nevada held Washington State to under 14 points last weekend and hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game this season. Normally an offensive squad, this is a clash of opposing styles between the Wolf Pack and Wildcats.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Trent 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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