Before The Week 5 Games, Part 2
- Final Thoughts
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2011 Fearless Predictions
Final Thoughts, Week 5, Part
By Matt Zemek
MICHIGAN STATE-OHIO STATE: We're going to learn a lot about the Big Ten this weekend. Can Sparty's defense - great at shutting out cupcake opponents - treat Ohio State like a bakery item as well? If Michigan State can't beat THIS Ohio State team, it would not be premature to say that the 2010 season was an aberration in East Lansing.
NORTHWESTERN-ILLINOIS: We're going to learn a lot about the Big Ten this weekend. Is Dan Persa healthy? Is Ron Zook in the process of building back the Fighting Illini? Will anyone care, since this game is not being played with only one functioning end zone inside a baseball park that's almost 100 years old?
NEBRASKA-WISCONSIN: We're going to learn a lot about the Big Ten this weekend. Which coach will be more ticked off at midnight Eastern time? Which quarterback's reputation will take a bigger hit? Will Wisconsin win the Big Ten right here and now? (A blowout plus an Ohio State defeat of Sparty would lend a lot of credence to such a notion.)
AIR FORCE-NAVY: Will the Falcons tell the Midshipmen that a new era is dawning, or will Navy end a one-year AFA lease on the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy? Last year, the law of averages, as much as anything else, helped Air Force against a Navy team that looked mentally tired and, moreover, distinctly burdened by the pressure of high expectations. If Air Force can now go into Annapolis and retain supremacy in the CIC series, coach Troy Calhoun will have bagged his biggest scalp as the head honcho in Colorado Springs. This is definitely a game to keep an eye on in the early (noon Eastern) window.
CLEMSON-VIRGINIA TECH: Two simple points about this contest: 1) Don't bag on Clemson if it loses. The Tigers have done a lot of heavy lifting already and have played against type. Dabo Swinney's redemption tour doesn't NEED this game; it will overflow with riches if his team can break through in Blacksburg. Clemson is playing with house money on Saturday; all the pressure rests on Virginia Tech's shoulders. 2) Speaking of pressure: Logan Thomas, it's time to show whatcha got. No more preseason scrimmages or exos against Conference USA tomato cans.
RUTGERS-SYRACUSE: So, if Syracuse's home games in 2011 are any indication, the Orange will win in overtime when Rutgers' starting quarterback gets injured and the Cuse convert a placekick that clearly swerved in front of the left upright and drifted wide of the pipes.
WESTERN MICHIGAN-CONNECTICUT: One team should win this game. The other team played in the Fiesta Bowl last January.
SMU-TCU: In 1935, these teams were actually respected by the powers that be in college football. It is shameful - not in the way political corruption or military suicides are shameful, but shameful nevertheless - that TCU has been treated as the ultimate pinata/rag doll/rented mule of conference realignment since the Southwest Conference broke up in 1995-'96.
TEXAS A&M-ARKANSAS: No pressure, Mike Sherman. No. Pressure. At. All. Meanwhile, on the other side of this divide, please realize that Alabama will brutalize many other good teams this season. The verbal bludgeoning Arkansas suffered last Saturday evening was uncalled for.
NEVADA-BOISE STATE: We hope the uprights aren't high-school size in this game. They shouldn't be - that's part of why Boise State left the minor-league Western Athletic Conference and tried to improve its lot in the college football world. Don't accuse the Broncos of being lazy, entitled, do-nothing slackers.
OREGON STATE-ARIZONA STATE: One team's season is falling apart. The other team is showing signs of stability. Wait, WHAT?! Switcho-changeo, baby.
WASHINGTON-UTAH: This is the most important Pac-12 game that will be largely ignored by the college football community this year. Bama-Florida and Nebraska-Wisconsin will completely drown out anything that might occur in Salt Lake City. Yet, both programs need this game to show they are relevant in the Pac-12 title chase. If Jordan Wynn wants to step from the shadows and announce his arrival as a leader of men, this would be a mighty fine time to do so.
ARIZONA-USC: Lane Kiffin and Mike Stoops can talk about all the things they've (not) done as head football coaches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE-GEORGIA: Did you know that sometimes, the hottest temperature of the day is at 12:21 p.m., not the 4 to 5 p.m. time window? This is the science of SEC coaching at work.
AUBURN-SOUTH CAROLINA: Vegas must think that Stephen Garcia will play well in this game; what evidence exists to suggest that will happen? Auburn should put eight in the box all game long (maybe even nine if the situation allows) and dare Garcia to win the game. It becomes clearer by the week that without Marcus Lattimore (and, on defense, the Melvin Ingram-Jadeveon Clowney combo), South Carolina would be a sub-.500 team at this point, a non-factor in the Southeastern Conference. It would be criminally stupid to not stack the line against a team with a quarterback that bad and a running back that good. Your move, Ted Roof.
ALABAMA-FLORIDA: Alabama's defense was pretty mediocre last year... certainly by Nick Saban's standards. Florida scored six points against the Tide. The only man who can win this game for Florida is A.J. McCarron.
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- The Alabama/Florida spread is close for a reason. Don't let Florida's weak competition fool you, the Gators are for real. The defense is solid as always, and statistically, the offense is the best in the SEC. At this point last year, against similarly weak competition, the Gators were a joke offensively (and got much worse in October). Despite that, they were still 60 minutes away from the SEC East title. Take the points, but you won't need them. Florida wins this game outright.
- The schedule-makers in the Big Ten office certainly didn't do Nebraska any favors. A road trip to Wisconsin to start conference play? That's just mean. The black shirts won't allow Badger quarterback Russell Wilson to put up Heisman numbers, but he'll do enough to keep the Badgers unblemished.
- Speaking of unblemished, South Carolina gets a chance at revenge after two losses to Auburn in the best SEC season in Gamecock history.
Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia is a mess, but it won't matter in this game, because Auburn can't stop the run (or tackle in general).
Running back Marcus Lattimore gets more than 40 carries and South Carolina keeps its national title hopes alive, albeit in UGLY fashion.
- Is Clemson for real? It's a little bit too early to tell considering the Tigers haven't gone on the road yet. That'll change on Saturday, when they travel to Blacksburg to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies, who have had a relatively quiet September. Cam Newton broke out against Clemson last year, and the Hokies have a Cam Newton clone in quarterback Logan Thomas. This one comes down to the wire, but Clemson escapes with a win and the magical season will continue.
- Iowa State can jump up and bite you if you're not careful. Just a heads up, Texas.
- There's not a quarterback controversy at LSU. This team is Jarrett Lee's, and it's not even up for debate.
- Every game from this point forward is the biggest game of Georgia head coach Mark Richt's career, but Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen heads into this battle of Bulldogs with some pressure as well.
The natives in Starkville are restless after the ultra-conservative play-calling last week when the Bulldogs were tied with Louisiana Tech with over 1:00 to go and three timeouts. Georgia is better than the public gives them credit for, and Mississippi State has been VASTLY overrated since the end of last season. Georgia wins BIG, and Mullen will be the one leaving Sanford Stadium as the coach that has to answer all the questions...again.
- Is it too much to ask for expansion take a back seat this week?
Yes...yes it is.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
- It's definitely Jarrett Lee's team, but how could Jordan Jefferson's return be anything other than a distraction.
- Beginning to have a bad feeling about Arkansas' 2011 season...
- Florida's a better team that the Razorbacks - more depth certainly. And while the quality of the Gators' opening schedule may not have been soft as the Hogs, it wasn't anything close to the buzz saw that Florida's about to run into, just like the Razorbacks. It won't be the blowout of 2010, but Bama rolls in this one.
- How good is LSU? Think about this...the Tigers gave up 533 yards of offense last Saturday, and still absolutely destroyed a top 20 team in their own stadium. This defense plays with an edge, and is fast, disciplined, fast, talented, fast and fast. The offensive line are all redshirted, experienced and executing. The backs are sharing time and yards. Jarrett Lee is looking like General Lee. Their Australian punter is booting 50 yard, pinpoint kicks, and their special teams can not only cover but score. LSU is hands down the #1 team in America right now.
- I owe an apology to Vandy coach James Franklin...apparently the ceiling for the Commodores is a bit more vaulted than I thought back at SEC Media Days. Keep it up, Jim.
- I'll take Mississippi State for 500, Alex. A: MSU coach Dan Mullen said he would pick his starting offensive line on Saturday morning. Q: What is a bad place to be.
- I sure hope this Wisky/Nebraska game is a good one...But my gut tells me they'll be too much distraction for Nebraska with a first B1G game, too much pounding from that big Wisky Oline, and too much Russell Wilson.
Final Thoughts, Week 5, Part