Week 1 Fearless Predictions - MW, Part 2

Posted Aug 30, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions - MW, Part 2 Colorado-Colorado State & More

Wyoming (0-0) at Nebraska (0-0) Aug. 31, 8:00, BTN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It wasn't exactly the way Nebraska might have hoped to end the season after winning six straight games to close out the regular season, losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship and Georgia in the Capital One Bowl by a combined score of 115 to 62. The Huskers are in tune-up mode with Southern Miss next week before the big showdown against UCLA, and after that they'll probably be favored in every game up until the November date with Michigan. But to start out they have to deal with a plucky Wyoming squad with a good quarterback in Brett Smith and potentially dangerous offense. The Cowboys could use a big, shocking win to show the new Mountain West that they deserve to be in the conference title hunt. It'll be a fight to keep this close, but the Huskers might be looking down field a ways to get to the Bruins.
Why Wyoming Might Win: Will Nebraska have problems hanging on to the ball again? Fumbles and mistakes were a problem in the losses last season, and if they're still an issue in any way, UW has to capitalize. The Cowboy offense has good size and quick options who could surprise a potentially inconsistent Husker offense.
Why Nebraska Might Win: Get ready for the Big Red Machine as the Huskers run, run and run some more. The offense loses Rex Burkhead, but it has enough great running backs to play around with the combination and keep everyone fresh, while Martinez should be able to do whatever he wants. There's no real threat of a Cowboy pass rush, so expect a bit of a balanced attack from time to time, all the while keeping Brett Smith on the sidelines. Things will start to break wide open by the second half.

Who To Watch Out For: It's not all Martinez in the backfield. At 5-9 and 190 pounds, junior running back Ameer Abdullah isn't all that big, but he holds up well, has elite wheels and is an elite kick returner and top receiver averaging 13.1 yards per punt return while catching 24 passes for 178 yards and two scores. He led the team in rushing with 1,137 yards with eight scores, but he only ran for one touchdown over the final eight games. Watch out for a breakout performance to kick things off.

- Is Martinez really the best quarterback in this game? Yes, but Brett Smith is one of the nation's most effective playmakers. He took the program by storm as a true freshman, leading the way to a bowl appearance in 2011, and last year he was even better even though the team didn't hold up its end of the bargain. He was banged up a bit in the middle of the year, but he came back roaring, throwing 15 touchdown passes and just one pick over the final six games. A great runner, he can take off and make things happen when needed, but he's better when he uses his arm and his vision to bomb away down the field

- Watch out for the Husker defensive front to come out frothing at the mouth. After the way last season ended and with some key replacements up front, experience will be made up for be drive. Everyone will be focused on teeing off on Smith.

What Will Happen: Wyoming's pluck will only last so long before Nebraska's lines start to take over. The Husker offense will explode after a rocky first half.
Prediction: Nebraska 48 … Wyoming 14
Line: Nebraska -29 o/u: 65.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2.5

Nevada (0-0) at UCLA (0-0) Aug. 31, 10:00, Pac-12 Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: In an opening weekend filled with interesting Mountain West-Pac-12 matchups, this could wind up being the most entertaining one.

UCLA begins its second year under Jim Mora, determined to build on last season's nine-win campaign. The Bruins are the perceived favorite to win a third Pac-12 South title in a row, but concerns on both sides of the ball must still be addressed. Who replaces RB Johnathan Franklin? Can the line pass protect better? How long before the rebuilt secondary finds its footing? The optimism in Westwood is tempered only by the reality that UCLA is still a long way from its first league championship since 1998.

Nevada is dangerous, because, well, Nevada always seems to be dangerous. The Wolf Pack, which has appeared in eight straight bowls, will be led for the first time by Brian Polian, the successor to hall of fame head coach Chris Ault. Polian doesn't figure to make too many changes on offense since QB Cody Fajardo is back and coordinator Nick Rolovich was retained.
Why Nevada Might Win: Ault is gone, but he left behind the Pistol offense. Fajardo is the kind of shifty playmaker behind center who'll keep defenses guessing. He threw 20 touchdown passes a year ago, while running for more than 1,000 yards. When Fajardo isn't breaking containment, he'll be looking for WR Brandon Wimberly, whose sixth year of eligibility was a blessing for the Pack. Pass defense is an area where UCLA is expected to struggle again this season.
Why UCLA Might Win: The offseason did not provide enough time for Polian & Co. to fix what's ailing the defense, a group that couldn't stop anyone in 2012. The Bruins no longer have Franklin, but QB Brett Hundley is back for his sophomore, poised to take on a bigger role as the cover boy of the offense. Hundley is an even better multi-dimensional threat than Fajardo, and he's got his own version of Wimberly in WR Shaq Evans. Nevada's three new O-line starters will get a crash course in speed rushers as they attempt to slow down Bruins' guided missile Anthony Barr coming hard off the edge.
Who To Watch Out For: Barr won't be stopped Saturday night. Neither might Nevada ends Brock Hekking and Lenny Jones, who'll cause fits for a young and inconsistent UCLA front wall.

- So, who does carry the load for the Bruins' ground game? Jordon James gets first dibs, but Mora will give the ball to whoever gets hot.

- The Pack is set up front on defense, but the back seven is going to be painfully green. Hundley ought to get a lot of clean looks at his tight ends at the Rose Bowl.

- Nevada RB Don Johnson has enormous shoes to fill, those of 1,800-yard rusher Stefphon Jefferson. Johnson originally signed with Washington State before spending last year at Iowa Western Community College.

- With a ground-based attack in town, pencil UCLA LB Eric Kendricks in for at least 15 stops.

- Will there be an Eddie Vanderdoes citing this weekend? The five-star defensive end, who originally signed with Notre Dame in February, is eligible and eager, but has been bothered by a bad back.

What Will Happen: You never know. But Nevada has too many issues, especially on defense, to deliver a huge upset on the road. While UCLA is an unfinished product, Hundley is ready to carry his teammates if need be. And with Barr attacking the pocket and Kendricks sealing running lanes, the Pack will punt a few more times than it's accustomed. The Bruins will survive the upset bid, snapping last year's season-ending three-game losing streak.
Prediction: UCLA 37 … Nevada 26
Line: UCLA -20 o/u: 66.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 N' Sync) … 3

Colorado (0-0) vs. Colorado State (0-0) Sept. 1, 6:00, CBS Sports Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It's the 85th edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown, annually the state's most anticipated football game not involving the Broncos. Colorado State captured last year's matchup, the biggest win for then-rookie head coach Jim McElwain. Despite being forced to use a bunch of young players, the Rams finished the year 3-2, lending optimism for further progress in 2013. Over at Colorado, the Buffaloes will be kicking off the era of Mike MacIntyre, the latest coach to attempt to turn things around in Boulder. The Buffs went 1-11 in Jon Embree's finale, and they haven't had a winning record since 2005. The streak of losing seasons will continue at least until next year, as the new staff adjusts to a roster littered with question marks.
Why Colorado Might Win: The Rams are retooling the entire D-line, which is an open invite for the Buffs to run right at their opening day opponent. Yeah, Colorado is going up-tempo this season, but the staff is also excited about the potential of 6-0, 240-pound sophomore RB Christian Powell. Establishing Powell's presence between the tackles only makes the Connor Wood-to-Paul Richardson hook-up that much more dangerous on Saturday.
Why Colorado State Might Win: The Buffs bring back a number of starters, including the entire secondary, but will the results be any different? Colorado yielded 46 points a game in 2012, and a complete about-face is unlikely. While the Rams had their own issues on offense last fall, a second year in McElwain's system has to help. The backfield is very promising on the Front Range in 2013. Former 1,000-yard rusher Chris Nwoke has shaken the nagging ankle injuries that felled him last year. And Donnell Alexander is a budding star who went for at least 110 yards in three of the final four games.
Who To Watch Out For: McElwain has taken his sweet time to name a starting quarterback. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the veteran of the contenders, junior Garrett Grayson.

- The Buffs are giddy about the return of Richardson, and for good reason. When healthy, which hasn't been often, he's a truly elite, game-breaking receiver.

- Are you ready to deliver, Conner Wood? The former blue-chip recruit of Texas has basically won the Colorado quarterback job by default, but now has a chance for redemption as MacIntyre's point man.

- Colorado started 57 freshmen a year ago, more than any other FBS team. This is the first chance to see just how much growing up those kids have done since December.

- There's a very good chance that the most talented player in this one won't have his called all afternoon. Ram Weston Richburg is a top-flight center, who rarely makes mistakes.

What Will Happen: The Rocky Mountain Showdown will be close, intense throughout … and more than a little sloppy. Neither team will be in midseason form. Colorado State holds an edge in the trenches, with Richburg spearheading a line that returns all five starters. Nwoke and Alexander will lead the way in a hard-fought second straight Rams win in the series. It'll be Step No. 1 for CU, which has a long road ahead.
Prediction: Colorado State 24 … Colorado 20
Line: Colorado State -2 o/u: -3
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 N' Sync) … 2