Nerves won’t dissipate for these
College Football Fan Bases in Week 2
While week one offered us up a platter of entertaining games, there was only one game that truly had an impact for the rest of the 2017 Season. We got to see some thrilling comebacks, some failed while others triumphed. We saw star players emerge and some flounder. Undoubtedly, we saw the greatest thing of all, College Football.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!
#5 OU @ #2 OSU (OSU -7.5)
Vegas must have been listening to Kirk Herbstreit talk about the dominant football team from Indiana that Ohio State had to endure last week. Was Indiana a tougher test than UTEP, absolutely. This may come back to bite me and may end up in the “Boy Was I Wrong” section of next week’s article but I’m saying, take Oklahoma on this one.
The two schools run very similar offense. Both teams like to spread the ball around and spread the defense out. Baker Mayfield is by far the better Quarterback in this game. Mayfield is more accurate on the deep ball and his delivery much quicker. His performances in big games haven’t always reflected his talent or ability. J.T. Barrett was remarkable during Ohio State’s National Championship Season (seems like a decade ago) but since then, he has played down to the level of competition. I don’t believe his accuracy could have gotten that much worse but when you look at him throwing the deep ball, he seems to have lost his timing. Barrett can make plays with his feet but he isn’t Jaylen Hurts and he doesn’t play for Alabama. That won’t cut it for this OSU team. Mayfield will play on Sunday while Barrett might play on Sunday but not as a QB.
QB Advantage: OU
Both teams are young or inexperienced when it comes to Wide Receiver. O.J. Howard taught Clemson a very valuable lesson during the 2015 National Championship Game. Just because a player hasn’t caught a pass yet, doesn’t mean he can’t burn you for a couple touchdowns. However, neither of these two teams has Lane Kiffin on the sideline and none of these receivers are O.J Howard.
With that being said, Ohio State’s starting WRs combined for eight catches totaling 41 yards without a touchdown. There is obviously a minimal production returning but the good news for the Buckeyes is they return McLaurin and Campbell who both had double digit receptions last year. Against Indiana, Campbell caught 6 passes for 136 yards and a TD.
Oklahoma returns Mead and Andrews from last season’s squad. Andrews is by far the most experienced Wide Receiver in this game catching 31 passes for almost 500 yards and accumulating 7 touchdowns. Mead was another player that caught double digit passes last season. Lamb, the third starting WR, is a first-time starter. While he is young and raw, he will have a less difficult time making the transition to college because of the attention Andrews will draw.
WR Advantage: OU
I bet Baker Mayfield would feel much more comfortable if Perine and Mixon were lined up behind him this season. With both those backs gone this season, it looks as if the Sooners will be forced to turn to a running game by committee. While Adams returns from the mix, Sutton (Jr. RB) looks like he could be a dual threat in the run game. Having more than one capable back without a drop-off in talent is great but when the talent starts at mid-level, there is a lot to be desired. These backs have not been tested against a decent front seven yet, but they will be on Saturday.
The Buckeyes have two very good backs behind J.T. Barret and he may need to lean on them early and often. J.K Dobbins lit up the stat sheets last week against Indiana, rushing for an OSU Freshman record of 181 yards. He never made an appearance in the End Zone, so you can bet that is on his bucket list when the Sooners come calling. Weber looks set to return to the field this week after missing the game against Indiana. Weber posted almost 1100 yards last year and had 9 TDs. The two-headed monster of Weber and Dobbins could be the catalyst that Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes need. You can’t solely rely on the run but when these two are back there, it will open up the passing lanes.
RB Advantage: OSU
Neither of the represented conferences are known for their defensive prowess but Ohio State has put several defenders into the NFL recently. The Buckeyes currently have 21 active NFL Defensive Players. While OSU lost Hooker, Lattimore and Conley to the first round of the draft, Ohio State should still be solid in the front seven. The secondary is the question mark here and that could be the deciding factor in this game. Replacing the production of those three will be a tall task and Oklahoma is going to exploit any weakness or inexperience they can in the secondary. If the Buckeyes can sustain pressure with just 3 or 4 on the rush, the secondary should be able to take care of its own. However, if the defensive line cannot create that push, trying to defend receivers after the 5-7 second mark will become very difficult.
Last season, Oklahoma finished 82nd in Total Defense and 94th in Third Down Defense. These numbers are not acceptable for any Power 5 team looking for a playoff spot. The third down defense will be the biggest problem going into the game against OSU (17th in Third Down Offense in 2016). While Indiana may not have provided the challenge to OSU that OU will, Indiana probably had a comparable defense. The Buckeyes still converted 42 percent of their third downs and will look to do the same against Oklahoma’s Defense. The Sooners allowed UTEP to convert 33 percent of their third downs.
Defensive Advantage: OU
The intangibles here look to belong to OSU without any question. OSU has Urban Meyer and unless his teams start to look like they will fail, I don’t foresee any medical issues that will force him into another 6-month retirement. Urban Meyer was shutout for the first time in his career when they met Clemson in the Semifinal. While he won’t openly admit that it is fuel to his fire, one can only speculate a coach with such an ego would be mandated by his own conscience to use it. Another dominating factor in this game could be the environment. The game is being played at OSU and away from the tumbleweeds and sands of Oklahoma. The crowd will directly impact the game one way or the other. If Mayfield can go out there and quiet them early, the game will progress much more smoothly. However, if OSU jumps to a two-score lead at any point, this game could become an uphill battle Mayfield and the Sooners just can’t win.
The biggest factor in this game is the wild card. When Bob Stoops stepped down and Lincoln Riley was named Head Coach, things changed in a hurry. Everyone doubted Riley’s ability to lessen the hold on the offense to strengthen his grip on the defense. While Riley has a long way to go in the world of coaching but another young guy was named the Head Coach in 2008 at the age of 38. He went on to appear in back-to-back National Championships. Riley has the pieces in place to maintain success. I think his offensive creativity will bolster his position and youth will allow him to change when needed. Paul Johnson is the perfect example of being set in your ways.
Intangible Advantage: OSU
So, what is going to happen this weekend? I think Baker Mayfield and the Sooners will go out slinging the ball early and often. OSU will start out slow and find themselves down by 10 at halftime. Urban Meyer is great at making adjustments and Lincoln Riley is fairly new to this part of the game. OSU will dominate the third quarter and take a 3-point lead into the fourth quarter but Mayfield is too good to be stopped in the end.
OU 44 OSU 40
#13 Auburn @ #3 Clemson (Clemson -5.5)
If last year’s game was any indication to how this game will play out, we could be in for a good one. What’s different about this year’s game? Everything!
Auburn got a breath of fresh air when former Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham decided to transfer. However unfair this is to Sean White, Stidham looks like a QB on a mission with talent to spare. Don’t get me wrong, Sean White (before injury) took this offense places no one saw them going. In the game last year, Auburn rotated three different QBs and Clemson was lucky to escape with the win. Sean White is now suspended (more on that joke fest in a minute) and Stidham is the main man. In 2015 at Baylor, Stidham took over midseason as the Bear’s starter went down with a knee injury. Stidham was phenomenal as he threw for 1265 yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His season though was cut short after taking several hard hits in the OKST game that year. With Stidham’s only real action coming against Ga. Southern this past weekend, you have to wonder if he can play at a high level against a good defense. Welcome to big boy football Mr. Stidham, I hope you have been toughening up because it is about to get real.
You would think that Kelly Bryant is the more inexperienced QB in this game. If you didn’t know any better or got your news from an overpaid journalist who doesn’t do their own research, then I forgive you. While Bryant has attempted as many passes as Stidham, Bryant played backup to the best College Quarterback the last two seasons. Bryant is a dual threat guy who proved last week that accuracy isn’t an issue. While Clemson did play Kent State, the players on the opposing team don’t decide where a QB can put the ball. The biggest advantage that Bryant has had though has nothing to do with Deshaun Watson and everything to do with the defense he went against.
Stidham may be more game tested and will be the QB to play on Sundays if either of the two are given the chance but Bryant will once again showcase what it means to prepare with the best.
QB Advantage: Slight to Auburn
So, let’s talk about these suspensions a moment. It is becoming all too familiar with “big name” players. When you suspend a player for whatever reason, be pubic about the length and be a Mike Gundy, because he’s a man. Gus Malzahn is a coward and has been this way his entire coaching career. You suspend you best running back. You don’t suspend a player for something insignificant and if you do, it is to teach them a lesson. What in the flying …. did you teach this kid by suspending him for a game that will never matter? Oh, did I mention that you suspended Sean White at the same time for “undisclosed reasons”. However, Sean White is your backup and you won’t need him unless Stidham gets hurt, so he is still on suspension. You are on the hot seat for your performance as a Head Coach but now for your lack of ethical decisions and your poor attempt at Institutional Control.
So, Pettway and Johnson are the starting running backs for Auburn this season. Both were ranked #1 and #2 respectively, in production last season. However, Pettway didn’t play against Clemson last year. Johnson averaged 4.1 yards on 23 carries and managed 1 touchdown. The rest of Auburn’s rushing attack was dreadful. The Tigers from the Plains, tallied -7 yards rushing on 18 attempts when Johnson did not touch the ball. I guess Ole Gus realized he wouldn’t have a shot to win without Pettway. The Tigers did average 6.6 yards per carry against Ga Southern last week without Pettway, and that’s a good sign for this offense. Kam Martin may be a star in the making but we will hold off on that.
Clemson doesn’t quite have the household names at RB yet. What Clemson does possess is a stable of running backs with talent oozing from the seams. C.J Fuller and Adam Choice are at the top of the Depth Chart but what is hiding underneath those two should be what scares Auburn. Feaster and Etinne are homerun hitters. If either played for the Boston Red Sox last year, Big Papi would have retired early. Fuller and Choice have different styles just like Feaster and Etinne. While Auburn has a stable of backs as well, Clemson doesn’t lose talent when substituting for fresh legs. The scariest running back of them all is not a running back. Kelly Bryant burned Miami’s first-string defense two years ago for a 50+ yarder. Kelly is much better runner than Deshaun. He is quicker, has a higher top-end speed, and is more fluid. While Stidham may be the better passer, Bryant knows how to move.
RB Advantage: Clemson
Unless you are at Clemson, you can’t take in all that Wide Receiver University has to offer. Has anyone put more WRs into the NFL lately than Clemson? Nuk Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant dominated at Clemson. Then Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, and Germone Hopper took their talents to South Beach. Oh, I’m sorry that was Lebron with a ridiculous television show. No, those three, left for the NFL early and now Clemson is left empty once again…
Or are they? Does anyone really know who Hunter Renfrow is? This kid is like Superman in big games. Who cares what he does against Kent St or the Citadel. Nick Saban admitted to having nightmares about this kid after two huge National Championship performances. Okay, I’ve even talked to Nick Saban but I bet it is true. While Renfrow is Mr. Reliable, the squad also has Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud. When Mike Williams went down two seasons ago, Cain stepped up and proved he could fill the shoes. McCloud can catch the ball out of the backfield, work you on screens, or just embarrass you with his moves. Just between those three, you get 131 catches, almost 1700 yards and 16 touchdowns. For an offense that lost 78 percent of its production, Clemson still has receivers.
On the other sideline, things aren’t so rosy. Auburn starts four guys from the 2016 squad. The production of those four, that’s something left to be desired. In 2016, Davis, Craig-Meyer, Stove, and Slayton combined for only 67 catches, 780 yards and a whopping three touchdowns. The longest catch and run for that group was 56 yards. Auburn should have been more concerned with breaking these guys in instead of running over a mismatched performance.
WR Advantage: Clemson
You can’t win a National Championship without defense. As I eluded to earlier, third down defense is crucial in any big game. The true tests for these teams will be how they play when it is time to get off the field.
For Auburn, they played exceptionally well last season on third down. Nationally they ranked in the Top 25 for Third Down Defense. The Tigers did lose 4 defenders from that squad to the NFL though. Did it matter against Ga Southern? Not at all. Auburn was the only team who did not allow a third down conversion at any point last week (minimum 10 attempts). Thank God for the defense because Auburn surely tried to turn over the game to Southern. Clemson is not Ga Southern.
Clemson was decent on third down last season as well. Brent Venables is a scary man and I am glad that I share no DNA with that man and that I am not coached by him. Have you seen the veins in this guy’s neck when the defense doesn’t get off the field? Clemson finished #5 in defense on third down last year. That defense is back! While the secondary may have taken a step back in talent, they still field a number of guys who starts under their belt. The front seven is great but the front four I believe were described in a recent movie that came out “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. They prefer to be called the Power Rangers and I’m not about to tell Wilkins he can’t be the Pink Ranger. Go ahead and tell him, I won’t! Clemson also finished 8th in Total Defense and 10th in Scoring Defense.
Defensive Advantage: Clemson
- Malzahn must cheat to win (unsuspending players)
- The game is in Clemson
- Dabo Swinney is better at life than Malzahn
- The game is in Clemson
- The Tigers are better than the Tigers!
This game is going to come down to a very cliché saying, whoever protects the ball (and QB) will win the game. Ga Southern forced Stidham to fumble twice last week and throw an interception. Kent State played good red-zone defense (on one series) and came away with a pick as well. Both will be good down the stretch (had Auburn in the playoffs before week 1) but the Tigers that are playing at home will control this game from the start. Stidham has a lot of rust to shake off and if he was scared of being hit after the OKST game two years ago, he may want to rethink showing up on Saturday. With a score of 24-6 at halftime, Clemson will put the clamp down in the third and bring in reserves late in the contest.
Auburn 16 Clemson 34
The Battle of the Flip-Flop Rankings
#14 Stanford @ #6 USC (USC -6.5)
This one irks my damn nerves. I am so sick and dang tired of believing that a school with the abbreviation of USC will live up to its hype. If it isn’t one of them, it’s the other. USC West has been the darling of the Pac12 for over a decade (when they lost to Texas). Then we find out later that USC West has given these kids all sorts of things for playing at their school. Now Reggie Bush can’t have his Heisman. At USC East, they can’t stop gloating about a Heisman won by a player who has since retired from the NFL. And by since, I think Mr. Rodgers is collecting Social Security and Medicare. When USC East thought they might have a shot at the SEC East (since the division was at its weakest) they provided players with “luxury” hotel rooms and apartments. I don’t know if you have been to the campus of USC East but there is nothing luxurious about it.
Sam Darnold was the Heisman favorite before his game against WMU (they were actually good last season). Although it wasn’t completely Darnold’s fault, he still needs to shoulder the blame as the leader of this team. He was late on a few throws and the timing wasn’t there with his receivers. It looked as if people were talking about them so much that they didn’t need to practice (kind of like OSU in the 2016 Playoffs). They better be ready because Darnold will face the only team west of the Mississippi that knows what defense is.
Stanford has David Shaw. The End. Why? It doesn’t matter who is under center or behind him. Shaw has consistently found talent amidst the rubble. While Stanford struggled at times last year, his team was still very good. Stanford will run the ball effectively (especially against that defensive front) and Chryst will manage the game as he should. Bryce Love is an excellent back with plenty of power and speed. His ability to run anywhere on the field will alleviate most pressure from Chryst.
I can’t remember a time when Stanford didn’t have one of the Top 2 Defenses in the Pac 12. On the flip side, I can’t remember if USC West has ever fielded a defensive unit.
Proves the Rankings are a Joke
Stanford, please do not let me down. You have the ability to prove that the people making decisions about College Football should just find other forms of amusement. I made a mockery of this game comparison because the rankings are a mockery of the entire football process. I am not saying USC won’t be competitive but the Trojans just don’t have it together and that is very disappointing. USC, I had you as one of my Preseason Favorites to get into the playoffs (not on talent but schedule), and you have darkened the cloud overhead in just a weak. While I admit to being reactionary, you can’t deny the issues on both sides of the ball.
Stanford 31 USC 27
Week 2 Upset Specials
#17 Louisville loses to UNC
UAB beats Ball St
Western Michigan beats Mich St
****Please everyone be safe this coming weekend and into early next week. I wish everyone in the path of this Hurricane safety. ****
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