2014 NCAAF Week 4 Weekend Preview

September 17, 2014

Just when you thought it could be one of those years where the line between the “haves” and the “have-nots” was going to be well-defined, the college football gods brought you back to reality.

Teams like Georgia, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech had earned the respect of the media with big wins in their first game or two, but it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude by those that vote based on what they see from highlights. The Bulldogs and Hokies lost last week, and the Fighting Irish came way too close against a Purdue team that was easily handled a week prior by the juggernaut that is Central Michigan.

So what are we learning for the nth time? That there is no certainty in this game. And perhaps more subjectively, that the line drawn between the true national title contenders and the pretenders is just as ambiguous in Week 3 as it will be in early December.

Let this be clear: I will not be picking games in the future simply to make things interesting in the head-to-head prediction game. Fresno State buried me last weekend by doing exactly what I thought would happen; that is, giving up a boatload of yards on the ground. I had the Bulldogs in an upset, but only so that Trent and I wouldn’t have exactly the same picks. Sorry guys, but I’m not doing that anymore. I want to win.

Currently, the overall records stand:

K. Becks: 4-6

Guests: 4-6

We’re all doing wonderfully. This week, my buddy Coleman Mahler will be calling the shots for the guests. You’ve probably read Coleman’s stuff on here in the past and been amused by his picking games based on famous alumni or classic literature. Based on what he wrote this time, he’s either tired of trying hard to be funny or just actually wants to beat me. Regardless, I’m going to hear all about his picks as this Saturday unfolds.

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

#5 Auburn at #20 Kansas State (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET)

Due to the fact that I’ve gotten into enough of a daily routine that I could start this article early in the week, this is the first non-Saturday contest to be featured in my 5 Games to Watch section this season. It’s a good one to begin with, because not only is it between two ranked squads that are built on discipline play, but it happens to have very real playoff implications at this point in time. If Auburn were to win out, you can almost guarantee that the Tigers would be one of the final four teams. But the Wildcats are tough at home and Bill Snyder will have his team ready to play after a bye week.

It is pretty much expected that Bill Snyder coached squads will be tough on defense and conservative offensively, and this year’s Kansas State team appears to be no different. One of the best in the Big 12 thus far at stopping the run, the Wildcats are should have more success than most in their conference when facing a squad like Auburn. The Tigers have begun right where they left off in early January, using a multitude of looks in the backfield to give opposing defenses trouble. Senior Cameron Artis-Payne has been the most impressive so far and will need to play well for Auburn to have success against the Wildcats. Keep in mind that Auburn’s first two opponents, Arkansas and San Jose State, are near the bottom in the SEC and Mountain West in run defense so it won’t be nearly as easily score 40-plus points in Manhattan.

If you recall, the downfall of Auburn in the national title game last season was the inability to contain Florida State’s passing game in the second half. It appears as though Gus Malzahn has shored up many of those issues in the defensive secondary, as the Tigers are in the top half of the SEC in pass and total defense. Had the secondary still been a major issue, I would contend that guys like Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett would have a field day finding open space against Auburn. But with the way the defense has been playing, I have to go with the Tigers in a game that should be worth watching all four quarters.

My Pick: 33-24 Auburn

Coleman’s Take: Well, neither of these teams plays in the Big 10 so you made this decision harder on me, but I’ll go with Auburn because you hate the SEC and nothing makes me happier than when Kyle is unhappy.

Auburn over Kansas State 45-17

Mississippi State at #8 LSU (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

I’ll set the stage for this one in an unconventional way. LSU has beaten Mississippi State 21 of the last 22 meetings between the two teams. The last time the Bulldogs beat the Tigers, in 1999, was during the last season that LSU finished with a losing record. It was also an unconvincing 17-16 victory. Since Mississippi State has been a member of the SEC, the Tigers have not lost to the Bulldogs at home. But Dan Mullen doesn’t care about the past results, because many weren’t his teams and none had the talent that Mississippi State does this year. Be aware if you think this one isn’t worth watching; it will be close.

The Bulldogs are an intriguing team on offense thanks to their dual-threat weapon at quarterback, Dak Prescott. The junior has transformed into a dangerous passer this season and is currently tied for third in the SEC with nine touchdown passes. LSU has shut out two straight opponents but struggled in the season opener against a Wisconsin team which has a former wide receiver at quarterback. The Tigers have allowed less than 100 yards per game through the air this season and if that happens in this game LSU will definitely win. But it won’t, because Prescott is much better than anything LSU’s defense has faced thus far.

LSU’s defense is shaping up to be the class of the SEC this year, but the jury is still out on that considering the competition that the Tigers have played minus Wisconsin. Mississippi State will be a true test on both sides of the ball and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Les Miles have to get creative in order to continue the winning streak in this series. This one will be exciting, but the home field advantage is going to play a factor. I’ll take the Tigers by a field goal in a game that both teams will deserve to win.

My Pick: 27-24 LSU

Coleman’s Take: Phew, two for two with no Big 10 teams. It just goes to show you how bad that conference is. They might be worse at football than Charles Barkley is at golf. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah,

LSU over Miss State 38-24

#4 Oklahoma at West Virginia (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

West Virginia has been all over the place this season, hanging tough against Alabama in the season opener then nearly blowing a 28-6 lead against Maryland last weekend. But it appears that a true Dana Holgorsen offense is operating in Morgantown, which means that this game should produce a lot of points coupled with the powerful Oklahoma attack. Even if West Virginia can only hang with the Sooners for a half, they’ll score enough points to get everyone on ESPN excited about the potential for an upset.

Oklahoma will be relying on Trevor Knight more than usual in order to move the ball on offense thanks to the loss of its top running back Keith Ford. The leading rusher for the Sooners suffered a small fracture in his right leg last weekend and his timetable for return is uncertain. Knight hasn’t been spectacular behind center but his efforts have been enough to fairly easily handle the likes and Tennessee, Tulsa and Tech (the one from Louisiana). Against West Virginia his luck may continue as the Mountaineers will be without Daryl Worley in the secondary. The sophomore cornerback has two interceptions on the year and is the team’s best cover corner. Expect the Sooners to still have success on offense even with the loss of Ford.

Despite the loss on defense, chances are West Virginia’s hopes of a major upset rest on the shoulders of Clint Trickett and the offense. Trickett has played in plenty of big games before, but has yet to lead the Mountaineers to a marquee victory. Now is his time, as statistically he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country thus far. The offense as a whole is humming and if West Virginia was capable of moving the ball against Alabama then it can do so against Oklahoma as well. The Sooners are well known for collapsing against competition they shouldn’t have much of an issue with, so don’t sleep on the Mountaineers in this one.

My Pick: 41-37 West Virginia

Coleman’s Take: If the Big 10 was a basketball team, it would be the Washington Generals, and the MAC would be the Harlem Globetrotters. If the Big 10 was an animal it would be a housefly, constantly buzzing around saying “HEY HEY LOOK AT ME I’M RELEVANT” and then I would smack it out of the air. If the Big 10 was a band, it would be Nickelback because no one respects that band nationally but hey, we have to put SOMETHING on the radio, don’t we?

Oklahoma over WVU, 40-35

#22 Clemson at #1 Florida State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The main storyline heading into this one is that Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first half for yelling some choice words while inside Florida State’s student union on Tuesday. Call me a raging liberal, but I’m not sure that the punishment fits the crime. I mean, if Woody from Toy Story is able to get away with it, then why can’t Famous Jameis? But hey, they’ve been botching the punishments for this guy ever since he arrived in Tallahassee, so I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised.

As far as the game is concerned, giving the Seminoles a free pass against Clemson would be falling into the same trap laid last week by South Carolina as the Gamecocks shocked then No. 6 Georgia. The Tigers are strong enough offensively to hang with Florida State, especially since Winston will not be playing for the first 30 minutes. It would be in the best interest of Dabo Swinney to coach aggressively while Florida State’s best player is not on the field, because if last year was any indication, the Seminoles don’t need an entire game to blow out Clemson. If this game is within 10 points at the half, Florida State should feel good about its chances.

Statistically you cannot look at Clemson and get a good feel for this team thanks to a 73-7 victory two weekends ago over South Carolina State. The Tigers need to get out to an early lead and keep the foot pressed firmly on the gas pedal, because the Seminoles can and will play catch-up in the second half if need be. Defense could be an afterthought for both teams, but if anyone is going to win a battle under 60 points total it would be Florida State.

My Pick: 35-24 Florida State

Coleman’s Take: How can we only be three weeks into football with only TWO teams in the Big 10 who are still undefeated? TWO! And they’re BARELY undefeated, with Penn State nearly losing to UCF and Nebraska one play away from going to overtime with MIGHTY MCNEESE STATE. I’m sorry this has nothing to do with Clemson or FSU, but my goodness, what has this conference come to? People used to respect, nay, FEAR the Big 10. Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Nebraska; all reputable programs. Even Iowa and Michigan State would show up from time to time. But now? Picking a Big 10 team to win a game is like picking Charlie Weis as coach of the year. What has happened?

FSU over Clemson, 49-21

Miami (FL) at #24 Nebraska (Saturday, 8 P ET)

Neither team has played particularly well this season, but if you’re a Notre Dame fan then you understand perfectly the effect that past success can have on people’s current opinions, so because of that principle this game is still pretty interesting. The Cornhuskers nearly lost to an FCS opponent two weeks ago but appeared to clean up the sloppiness with a convincing win on the road against Fresno State. Miami lost to a solid Louisville squad to begin the season and still received fewer votes in the most recent AP poll than another FCS squad, North Dakota State. Nebraska looks better overall but only plays well every other week. Miami is the first team the Cornhuskers will have faced that can take advantage of that.

Nebraska may not look all that good as a whole, but its best player is still playing like an All-Conference performer. Ameer Abdullah is tenth in the nation in rushing with 396 yards on the ground, but is also taking advantage of the short passing game that quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. seems comfortable directing. Miami’s defense will have to play well in order to contain Abdullah, and contain is really the best word to describe what the Hurricanes can hope to do. Stopping the senior running back entirely just won’t be possible and even if he doesn’t eclipse the 100 yard rushing mark for the first time this season, he’ll be a big reason why Miami rarely starts a drive in good field position. That alone could be a huge problem for the Hurricanes, whose offense has been anemic thus far in 2014.

This is your classic powerful offense vs. stout defense matchup, but for what it’s worth I’m not sure that either team will be referred to as such by the time this season is over. But for now that’s what we can categorize it as, and based on what I’ve seen so far Nebraska’s offense is better than Miami’s defense. It helps that this game is at Lincoln and under the lights. As you’ll read in just a minute, Coleman doesn’t have much faith in the Cornhuskers. But I bet against them last weekend and I’m not going to make that mistake twice in a row.

My Pick: 34-21 Nebraska

Coleman’s Take: Oh KYLE, this is rich…THIS is rich. NEBRASKA? A MUST-WATCH? What have I been telling you? They stink, man. It’s pretty telling how a football program is going when the head coach hates his own fans. I can’t even call Nebraska a true Big 10 team. That’s like calling Rutgers a Big 10 team. They aren’t one of us. They aren’t a Great Lakes state. They have corn, sure, but culturally, they aren’t like us. This game will be so bad it will make you question the meaning of life. Nebraska is so bad at football, that they have I-PADS in the locker room just to distract them from how bad they are. This game will be a massacre. You ever seen Lord of the Rings? Okay, that scene in Helm’s Deep where the orcs break through and just start slaughtering everybody? Okay…it will be like that but the great White Wizard Tom Osborne won’t be able to save them. They’ll be beaten and eaten up. Lord have mercy on their souls

Miami OVER Ameer Abdullah, 105-14

5 More to Flip To

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

It took all of one week for the Hokies to come back to Earth. That’s what happens when you try to blitz a senior quarterback the same way you did a redshirt freshman. Things won’t get any easier against the Yellow Jackets, who don’t pass enough to make blitzing worth your while.

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

For the first time as a Big Ten member, Rutgers experienced just how gut-wrenching it can be to play Penn State. The Scarlet Knights won’t even come close to winning if they only score 10 points against Navy, however.

Utah at Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

After the drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame, no one is really paying all that much attention to Michigan anyway. But the Wolverines are on upset alert against a Utes squad that has been scoring a lot of points lately.

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

For the sake of including this game because every other media outlet is doing so, you’ll want to keep an eye on this SEC battle. But don’t feel bad about simply using the bottom line to check the score; the Gators are not ready to hand the Crimson Tide their first loss.

California at Arizona (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

There are a total of four games in FBS featuring two undefeated teams. This is one of them.

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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