2015 Week 2 NCAAF Weekend Preview

September 11, 2015

After an interesting Week 1, there is already a bit of separation between the guests and myself in the head-to-head prediction game.

The overall standings look like this:

K. Becks: 4-1

Guests: 3-2

I have BYU’s Tanner Mangum and Mitch Mathews to thank for this small lead. In case you were living under a rock last weekend, Mangum threw up a Hail Mary with no time remaining in regulation which was caught in traffic by Mathews, giving the Cougars a 33-28 victory over Nebraska.

Perhaps unfortunately for the Cougars, the only reason Mangum was in the game is because BYU’s starting quarterback, senior Taysom Hill, went down with a season-ending foot injury. Hill was one of several big name players over the weekend who suffered an injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the year.

This week, my old college roommate Zach will represent the guests in the prediction game. Zach works in the sporting industry and is one of my more knowledgeable college football buddies, so the winner always has bragging rights up until College Bowl Mania begins. It’s also Zach’s birthday weekend, so I’m looking to slightly ruin the start of year 24 for him.

Here is a list of ATC’s 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

Houston at Louisville (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Cardinals put up a good fight against what is presumably one of the best squads in the SEC, which should give Bobby Petrino’s team some confidence heading into its home opener on Saturday. But Louisville should be wary of overconfidence in this one; Houston presents a very different challenge than Auburn did and can do plenty of damage offensively.

While Louisville’s game against Auburn may provide some insight about the Cardinals, Houston’s 52-24 victory over Tennessee Tech provides next to nothing. Head coach Tom Herman was expected to score a lot of points on the FCS opponent. In this game, quarterback Greg Ward Jr. will be tasked with finding open receivers against a defense that forced Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson into three interceptions. The running game won’t be a safe haven, either. The Tigers were held to under 200 yards rushing by Louisville.

The Cougars are an interesting team and by my estimation a bit underrated nationally. But Louisville impressed me in its debut against Auburn, one of my College Football Playoff participants. Before the season began I would have chosen Coach Herman to pull the upset, but I can no longer do it. This game will be closer than a lot of people think, but the Cardinals will defend the home turf successfully.

My Pick: 31-27 Louisville

Zach’s Take: This is a tough one right off of the bat. I love me some Tom Herman offense, but Louisville just played their a**es off against the number six team in the nation. I couldn’t help but feel if the game was just a little bit longer, the Cards would have pulled that one off, but thanks to Petrino (poor time management was the culprit in that heartbreak) they didn’t get the storybook comeback. But I digress; Greg Ward Jr. looks like he’s what the Cougs are looking for in a QB and Lamar Jackson was…well, he pulled off some solid plays. I think the Cards will come back fired up and might be able to keep the Houston offense at bay.

Houston-31, Louisville-35

#19 Oklahoma at #23 Tennessee (Saturday, 6 PM ET)

Neyland Stadium will be the proving grounds for two teams on the cusp of being taken very seriously in their respective conferences. Tennessee has likely had this game circle for months, as it is a great chance for the young Volunteers to introduce themselves to the rest of the country. Oklahoma is in an unfamiliar position as a team that must prove itself, but the Sooners can make a statement of their own with a victory in a hostile environment.

Tennessee’s one concern heading into the season was on the defensive end. Unfortunately for the Volunteers, that may have been for good reason. No SEC team gave up more yards last week than Tennessee, which allowed 557 total yards in a 59-30 victory. Offensively, the Volunteers were much more impressive. But Oklahoma’s defense did its part in a 41-3 drubbing of Akron last Saturday night, indicating that this should be a great matchup.

The fans in Knoxville understand that this could be a special season, so expect the crowd to play a factor in this one. Tennessee’s ability to move the football on the ground will determine the winner, though. If the offensive line can get a push against Oklahoma’s defensive front, the Volunteers will be in good shape. I just don’t know if that will happen to the extent it needs to for the home team to win.

My Pick: 28-23 Oklahoma

Zach’s Take: What can I say about these two teams? I haven’t seen either of them play (it’s only Week 2, give me a break) and they both apparently dominated some MAC schools. Yay for them. People, and by people I mean Kirk Herbstreit, think that Tennessee might be a surprise dark horse for the final four this year. On the other hand, Oklahoma has some slick playmakers that make me actually excited to watch some Sooners football this year. Sooners linebacker Eric Striker caught my attention when he said this about the SEC: “I don’t know why people blow gas up their a** all the time. I don’t understand why.” Well Eric, I’m pretty sure I know why, but I enjoy your ignorance. Sooners sneak one on ’em.

Oklahoma-28, Tennessee-24

#7 Oregon at #5 Michigan State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Spartans have known ever since the victory over Baylor what the goal for 2015 was going to be. Michigan State lost only twice last season, to the eventual participants in the 2015 national title game. This season it’s about finishing the job. Mark Dantonio’s team will play both schools once again, and both games will play a crucial role in determining where the Spartans end up this postseason. The first chance to exact revenge comes early against the Ducks.

Neither team looked particularly dominant in its first game, but there is still a major difference between the two. While Michigan State struggled on the road against a decent Western Michigan squad, Oregon experienced similar troubles against FCS opponent Eastern Washington at home. Worse yet, Eastern Washington’s most effective offense player last season now plays quarterback for the Ducks. Oregon needs to defend the pass more effectively, or this game might actually get out of hand. Despite the concern, however, Oregon’s offense looked just fine without Marcus Mariota.

Michigan State definitely comes into this game looking like the more composed football team, but Oregon has surprised us before. If the defense can get it together, this one is close into the fourth quarter. If the secondary is again the weak link, the Spartans have all the tools to put a stranglehold on this one. While I don’t think it will be that one-sided, I do believe the Big Ten comes out on top here.

My Pick: 37-30 Michigan State

Zach’s Take: I believe that Mark Dantonio watches a lot of film and he has indeed shown his team the film from the national title game. I don’t believe in the hype that surrounds Oregon’s new QB, and despite State’s poor performance last Saturday, I think they win this one. Oregon doesn’t play defense, and Connor Cook doesn’t suck.

Mich St.-38, Oregon-33

#14 LSU at #25 Mississippi State (Saturday, 9:15 PM ET)

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was quoted on the Paul Finebaum show this week comparing the typical SEC schedule to that of current No. 1 Ohio State’s, and he makes a good point. The Bulldogs do play a much tougher schedule than the Buckeyes this season. But as true as it may be, it probably isn’t in Mullen’s best interest to focus on a war of words when the LSU Tigers are coming to town on Saturday night.

The Tigers will come into this game cold, having not played during the opening weekend. While that may be a slight disadvantage, it will only last for a short time. LSU’s Heisman caliber running back Leonard Fournette leads the way for an offense that will look to be more balanced than in 2014. Fournette is the most dangerous player on the field when he is in and could have a big day against the Bulldogs. The Mississippi State defense was not particularly impressive in a win over Southern Mississippi last weekend.

In order for the Bulldogs to win this game, good Dak must be present in Starkville. The Tigers could struggle with applying pressure, which will give Prescott time to find his receivers. If that happens, Mississippi State could make this one very close. LSU comes into this game with more talent, however, and I believe that will show itself to be true by the fourth quarter with Fournette chewing up clock.

My Pick: 24-17 LSU

Zach’s Take: LSU will reign supreme in this game. The Mad Hatter returns LSU to prominence after a brief stint away from the SEC title game. Mississippi St. really just doesn’t do it for me this season.

LSU-24, Miss St-17

#20 Boise State at BYU (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

Both teams survived tight games against Power 5 conference schools last week, but only one of them came out of Week 1 fully intact. BYU must now play the rest of its season without star quarterback Taysom Hill, who went down with a season ending injury for the third time in four years.

The Broncos were able to outlast their former head coach last Friday, but not by much. Boise State’s offense stalled in the second half against Washington, thanks in large part to the defensive pressure that quarterback Ryan Finley saw from the Huskies. While Finley is likely the future at signal caller for the Broncos, BYU knows exactly what it has to do to slow down Boise State’s up tempo offensive attack. It is easier said than done for the Cougars, however. While Bronco Mendenhall’s defense did accumulate three sacks in the victory over Nebraska, it also allowed 319 yards passing.

I would have liked to see a healthy Taysom Hill take on Boise State, and I’d go as far to say that I’m unsure if the Broncos would be able to stop him from ruining their run at perfection. But without Hill, the Cougars will undoubtedly be a different football team. We saw what happened right after Hill went down with a broken leg last season. Unfortunately for BYU I think there will be some growing pains with Tanner Mangum as well.

My Pick: 34-20 Boise State

Zach’s Take: How am I supposed to pick against BYU after what’s-his-face replaced Taysom and his clearly confused parents? I’m kidding (but for real Taysom is a weird name), but Mr. Mangum showed some guts and a little bit of luck last week. In all honesty, I’m going to pick BYU just to spite Kyle, because I know he is picking Boise St.

BYU-26, Boise St-21

5 Games to Flip To

Utah State at Utah (Friday, 9 PM ET)

The Battle for the Beehive Boot should be extremely close if Chuckie Keeton is back to his 2013 form.

Minnesota at Colorado State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

TCU was obviously a tough test, but Colorado State is no pushover, either. Minnesota starts off the season with back-to-back difficult road games.

San Diego State at California (Saturday, 5 PM ET)

The Aztecs may not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with Cal, but we’ll still find out if the Golden Bears still have major defensive issues this season.

Temple at Cincinnati (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Fresh off of an upset of Penn State, the Owls visit Cincinnati for an important AAC duel.

Central Florida at Stanford (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

Could end up being the lowest scoring game of the weekend.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Zach 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.

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