It’s that time of week again to lay out the games we’ll be competitively picking (aka the games ESPN gives us in their Pick’em game) and another great slate of games on tap. I’ve got my picks and TJ’s. Armando is the only holdout so far who’ll have to update us Saturday morning.
Navy @ South Carolina
Do you like rushing? Then this game’s for you. Navy’s been a rush-only team the last several years, but haven’t been able to isolate a single feature back. They have the best rush offense in the country, and have five backs that average over 50 yards a game. The Gamecocks rushing D has been solid, 65th in the nation and allowing 136 yards a game. But they’ve got one back, their Heisman workhorse Marcus Lattimore. He’s already got 4 touchdowns and is averaging 144 yards a game. The big difference is that South Carolina has a solid passing game and will be able to keep up with Navy if their defense can’t step it up.
Casey’s Pick: South Carolina, TJ’s Pick: South Carolina
Washington @ Nebraska
The Huskers remember that they lost to Washington in the Holiday Bowl last season, but that they trounced the Huskies in Seattle during the regular season. Who’ll be out for revenge? Well, both teams could claim it but only the home team will get it. Yes, Nebraska has started slow in games against Chattanooga and Fresno State, but the roles are reversed under center. Nebraska is coming in with the Heisman candidate in Taylor Martinez. He’s rushing for 150 yards a game, 3rd best in the FBS. Yes, the Huskies have the 7th best rushing defense, but you have to take that number with a grain of salt because Washington played Hawaii last week. They don’t rush the ball and that skews the stats a bit. Even though the Blackshirts haven’t been as dominant as in recent years, Washington just doesn’t have the offensive potency to outpace Nebraska.
Casey’s pick: Nebraska, TJ’s pick: Nebraska
Auburn @ Clemson
This one’s pretty easy for me. I’m now a believer in the Tigers. They’ve found ways to win in tough situations and Trotter and Dyer have the offense firing on all cylinders. Granted the defense has been questionable (pass D – 56th, rush D – 118th), but Clemson’s offense hasn’t looked good. The numbers are there, but the results haven’t been as good as the numbers show. Bottom line: if you need a 4th quarter TD to get by Wofford, I have no faith in you.
Casey’s pick: Auburn, TJ’s pick: Auburn
Ohio State @ Miami
The Probation Bowl or the Ineligi-bowl if you will. Both teams get players back, Miami having their standout QB Jacory Harris starting. The Canes get 5 players back, the Buckeyes are getting 3 players back. It’s actually kinda sad that all that’s been talked about coming up to this game is the respective scandals, and not a game that was a marquee non-conference matchup before the season. Ohio State didn’t look too strong against Toledo while Miami let Maryland overtake them two weeks ago. Both are looking to make a statement going into conference play, and the Buckeyes seem to have the more solid offense right now and a dominant rush D so that’s the direction I’m going.
Casey’s pick: Ohio State, TJ’s pick: Ohio State
Stanford @ Arizona
Luck vs. Foles. This should be really fun to watch. The difference is that while Zona’s running game has been nonexistent (115th, 58 ypg), Stanford has really developed a ground attack to ease the pressure on Luck (44th, 173 ypg). The Wildcats won’t get a chance to establish much against Stanford, going up against the 2nd-best rush defense (28.5 ypg). They’re leaky pass defense will be tested (108th, 288 ypg) and the numbers all add up to a Stanford win.
Casey’s pick: Stanford, TJ’s pick: Stanford
Texas @ UCLA
The Longhorns are hoping that a new starter at QB will shake up a sluggish offense. The Bruins have also had some problems under center, losing Kevin Prince during the opener to injury. The big difference is that the Bruins have has the rushing game to pick itself up (18th, 252 ypg). A Texas rushing defense that only allows 86 yards a game will be tested. Even with the inconsistency at quarterback, it seems that Texas’s defense has been there when the offense needs the help (2 INT against BYU, including pick that ended BYU’s last-minute drive).
Casey’s pick: Texas, TJ’s pick: Texas
Utah @ BYU
The Cougars took a rough loss at Texas last week, while USC welcomed the Utes to the PAC-12 with a loss. Both starting QB’s have looked good, but Utah has gotten a rushing attack going while BYU (113th, 67 ypg), not so much. The Cougars really haven’t had much success offensively in general outside of QB Jake Heaps. They’ve been solid against the pass, but expect Utah to try to exploit the Cougs rush D (45th, 115 ypg). It may be a flyer, especially the way the Utes offense came out against USC last week but I’m seeing a stronger Utah squad taking the Holy War.
Casey’s pick: Utah, TJ’s pick: BYU
Pittsburgh @ Iowa
The matchup to watch is Ray Graham against the Hawkeye’s D. Graham is currently the top rusher in the FBS, averaging 161 yards a game. Iowa’s rush D allows 167 yards a game (82nd). It seems like the holes will be open for Graham to carve Iowa up. Tino Sunseriypg, 25th FBS) but James Vanderberg may be able to pick apart a weak secondary (305 pass ypg, 108th FBS). It’s hard for me to let the Iowa State loss go though for the Hawkeyes, and even though I want to see the Big Ten take non-conference wins, I think Pitt’s ground game will be too much.
Casey’s pick: Pitt, TJ’s pick: Iowa
Michigan State @ Notre Dame
The numbers say that the Irish have solved their QB problems. They’ve got the 10th-best passing offense in the nation (353 ypg). But there are two things that make me think that the Irish will be staring at an 0-3 record Sunday morning. First, Michigan State’s defense has allowed a grand total of six points in two games. Now yes, those games were against Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic. But their secondary had been dominant (76 ypg, 3rd FBS) and the front seven have been pretty damn good too (75 ypg, 22nd FBS). Notre Dame’s defense hasn’t been horrible, but they cannot continue to turn the ball over. They are dead last in the FBS in turnover margin (10 TOs, -3.5 margin). Really, there’s nothing else to say about it. Turn the ball over 5 times a game and you will lose. Period. Also, don’t forget this game produced the gutsiest call of the year last year in Michigan State’s fake field goal that netted them the win.
Casey’s pick: Michigan State, TJ’s pick: Michigan State
Oklahoma @ Florida State
We said a ton about this game on this week’s BangCast, so I refer you there for a more in-depth analysis. But to throw in the numbers, these are two of the top offenses in the nation (OU #1, FSU #14). They feature two of the top passers in the game (Landry Jones and EJ Manuel). Oklahoma has Dominique Whaley as one of the top rushers (131 ypg) but they have been weak on pass D (271 ypg, 97th) while the Seminoles have been solid (77.5 ypg, 5th FBS). Things is, some of these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because they were against Tulsa, Charleston Southern and Louisiana-Monroe. I still think that Oklahoma is still the more talented team, Landry Jones is the better big game quarterback and Oklahoma takes this title eliminator.
Casey’s pick: Oklahoma, TJ’s pick: Oklahoma
I’ll try to get y’all Armando’s picks tonight, if he answers his phone…
Armando’s Quick Picks: Nebraska, Michigan State, Texas, Stanford, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Auburn, Utah, Ohio State, Florida State