2015 Week 3 NCAAF Weekend Preview

September 17, 2015

I may not have gotten the best of Zach last weekend, but last weekend sure got the best of him. I suppose it’s justice that he ended up winning the head-to-head competition last week, because no one played harder on Saturday night.

The overall standings now look like this:

K. Becks: 7-3

Guests: 7-3

This week my father will join the blog for the third time in an effort to break the current tie. My dad has the uncanny ability to quite literally “tell me so”, which comes in many forms. Whether it be life advice or college football predictions, I often find myself wondering how he knew something was going to play out like it did. Normally his answer is along the lines of “I’m an old bastard who has just seen it happen before”. Thanks for giving me something to look forward to, dad.

This weekend should provide a bit of separation as there are several good games that could go either way. The SEC may have gone from 10 to seven ranked teams this week, but the conference still hosts the marquee matchups for the weekend.

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

#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Notre Dame, which narrowly escaped a shocking defeat at the hands of Virginia last week, faces its first real test of the season on Saturday afternoon. Georgia Tech boasts the second leading scoring offense in the country, averaging a staggering 67 points per game through two contests. The Yellow Jackets will be facing their first FBS opponent, however, so expect that number to drop significantly.

The Fighting Irish have been wildly inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball, but a lot of that has to do with the opposing talent in the passing game. Texas has struggled finding a true quarterback for over a season now, but Virginia was far more prepared to test Notre Dame’s secondary. Clearly, that is an area that is still improving. Georgia Tech won’t present nearly the passing threat of Virginia, however, so the Fighting Irish should be able to mask that relative weakness this weekend. What we will find out is the true strength of the run defense.

No one has really taken much notice yet, but the Yellow Jackets have to be coming into this game with some confidence after running up the score in the two previous games. Notre Dame will certainly slow it down, but to what extent will decide this game. If the Fighting Irish can hold Georgia Tech to under 250 yards rushing and 35 points, the home team will win.

My Pick: 37-31 Notre Dame

Dad’s Take: Senior QB for Tech, New QB for Irish. Tech in a mild upset 35-31

#18 Auburn at #13 LSU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This matchup is a prime example of two teams headed in opposite directions. Auburn has looked wholly unimpressive in its first two games, needing overtime to dispatch of FCS opponent Jacksonville State. The media took notice, dropping the Tigers from No. 6 to No. 18 in the rankings. LSU’s Week 2 warranted the opposite effect, as the team’s victory over then No. 25 Mississippi State on the road has the Tigers looking like a very dangerous No. 13 squad.

Neither team has done much through the air this season, which isn’t really a surprise based on the philosophies of the two head coaches. But LSU has done a much better job both running the ball and stopping teams from moving the ball on the ground. The Mad Hatter’s Tigers are second in rush offense and first in rush defense, which should alarm Auburn fans. Jeremy Johnson has not lived up to the preseason hype by any means and will need to play much better in this game for Auburn. Turnovers will doom Guz Malzahn’s squad.

Although LSU has clearly played better football, the sample size is not large. Auburn is struggling but it is still early enough in the season to assume that it’s just a matter of time before Johnson and the rest of the offense clicks. Death Valley isn’t an easy place to win, but Johnson could really gain some confidence by having a good game through the air against a secondary that is last in the SEC in pass defense. Auburn needs to mix things up and I think that if Malzahn takes a risk, it will pay off.

My Pick: 27-24 Auburn

Dad’s Take: Auburn struggled this season. LSU more ready. LSU 30-27

Stanford at #6 Southern California (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Pac-12’s highest ranked team now resides in Los Angeles, but the Trojans don’t have the luxury of being able to look ahead any further than this Saturday night. Stanford’s physical style will test the Southern Cal, which has been floating along through the first two weeks and currently leads the conference in total offense by a wide margin.

The Cardinal won’t survive an offensive shootout with the Trojans, but in typical David Shaw fashion Stanford will bruise and bloody the Southern Cal offense in an attempt to slow down the pace. While this has worked in the past against speedy and undersized Oregon teams, the Trojans are going to be more difficult to unhinge. Southern Cal’s offense has been a machine this season, with Heisman candidate Cody Kessler completing nearly 80 percent of his passes and throwing for seven touchdowns thus far. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, Kessler is good enough to get rid of the ball long before defenders have a chance to put their paws on him.

This is an intriguing matchup because several times in the past we’ve witnessed a less flashy Stanford team take down one of the Pac-12 favorites. However, those teams had strong running backs and were difficult to stop on third and short situations. This year’s team has yet to find its stride in the running game, which will likely result in a lot of punts in this one. The Trojans would be wise to not leave any doubt and play exceptionally well, but even if they’re not quite there they should win this game.

My Pick: 34-21 Southern California

Dad’s Take: USC is back. Trojans 42-28

#15 Mississippi at #2 Alabama (Saturday, 9:15 PM ET)

There’s really no reason why Mississippi needed to average 74.5 points through its first two games, but it does add a bit of intrigue to an already interesting matchup. The Crimson Tide will host the only SEC team to beat them in 2014, looking to slow down the conference’s most potent offense thus far with (gasp!) the league’s fourth best defense by the numbers.

Jake Coker has been playing about as well as Blake Sims did last season, which is good news for Alabama but not nearly as important as the quarterback situation for Ole Miss. Junior Chad Kelly will play a massive role in this game, just as Bo Wallace did last season. The Crimson Tide have been just average against the pass while Kelly has been spectacular thus far, albeit against less than stellar competition. If Kelly manages to avoid any turnovers, Ole Miss stands a chance assuming that the offensive line protects their signal caller.

Nick Saban is not one to let bygones be bygones, so expect this one to have somewhat of a revenge feel to it. The Alabama defense will come hard after Kelly, making him prove that he is in fact one of the best new starting quarterbacks in the SEC. If Kelly can handle the pressure, the Rebels make it a close one. If not, Alabama rolls.

My Pick: 38-21 Alabama

Dad’s Take: Tide still rules roost in SEC. Alabama 34-24

#19 BYU at #10 UCLA (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

If you correctly predicted that these two teams would be ranked inside the top 20 by the time they played each other this season, raise your hand. Now put it down, because I know you’re lying. The Bruins are right about where most people thought they would be, but what BYU has been able to do without its star player and original starting quarterback is quite impressive. The Cougars will look to continue to surprise when they take on UCLA in one of the last games of the weekend.

The education of Tanner Mangum will continue in this game, and hopefully for Cougar fans it doesn’t end with a lesson in humility. Mangum has been serviceable in two games since taking over for the injured Taysom Hill, but will need to be more careful about throwing into coverage against the Bruins. UCLA’s defense is just as good as Boise State’s and the Broncos managed to pick off Mangum twice last weekend. What UCLA will likely be able to do that Boise State could not was capitalize on those opportunities. Josh Rosen has impressed me thus far and is getting the job done, providing UCLA with a potent passing attack.

Counting out the Cougars in 2015 has been a mistake thus far, so don’t anticipate BYU rolling over for the Pac-12 foe. But the Bruins may actually be better equipped for a strong run this season, despite starting a freshman quarterback. UCLA can move the football better than BYU’s previous two opponents, which I believe will be the difference here.

My Pick: 37-28 UCLA

Dad’s Take: BYU has 2 great wins, but UCLA is better at home. UCLA 38-31

5 Games to Flip To

#11 Clemson at Louisville (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Cardinals may be the most dangerous 0-2 team in the country. This one will be interesting.

#23 Northwestern at Duke (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)

Put down the textbooks for just a few hours, young scholars. Your football teams are pretty good this season.

Nebraska at Miami (FL) (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Both fanbases wish it was still the early 1990s, and ESPN will cover this game like it is.

California at Texas (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

One team scores at will while for the other it’s like pulling teeth, but somehow this will still end up being a competitive game.

Florida at Kentucky (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Believe it or not, this is for the SEC East lead.

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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