James invited me to give a few thoughts on each of the games. I am not nearly the college football addict he is, though few are. My responses will be in italics. – Rory Masterson
Thanks for joining me, Rory! And thank you reader for allowing me to pick a slate of Top 25 games that I am only qualified for by way of too much time on my hands on Saturday. If you haven’t heard, Texas A&M and Alabama is on tap this week (EDIT: as well as some talk of impermissible benefits, y’all). But there are other items of interest in Texas too. Items like Longhorn football. I don’t even know if there is enough ESPN money that can save Mack Brown if things fall apart. Mack Brown schadenfreude not floating your boat? Well then, there’s Texas Tech and TCU. Ah, Kliff Kingsbury – the cure for the common Texas archetype. Not satisfied with that? Then, there’s Bay – wait, they have a bye week? Please play again, Baylor. That would be super (yes, please)! Enough Texas talk. It’s starting to smell like brisket in here – LET’S GET IT!
No. 24 TCU at Texas Tech
This is the first nationally-televised game for Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders, who look to make a statement against the TCU which suffered a devastating blow with the loss of Casey Pachall due to an injury to his forearm. He will be replaced by the inexperienced sophomore Trevone Boykin, who hopes to bring the Horned Frogs success against a Red Raiders defense that has yet to be tested. On the other side of the ball, Texas Tech is led by walk-on freshman Blake Mayfield who has already amassed a total of 780 yards in two games by establishing himself as an effective quarterback both on the ground and in the air. Kingsbury’s offense will be tested by the Battle Blood Frogs, who have one of the better Big 12 defenses within the league. I am going to say that the Red Raiders get it done at home, and the Frank White of Lubbock keeps it moving. What say you, Mr. Masterson?
The ladies love Kliff Kingsbury, and the men love his offense. I always hoped that the ridiculous air-it-out-always stuff would catch on in the NFL, but I realize it doesn’t translate so well. It’s still a lot of fun to watch, and any time the Red Raiders go against an opponent of any clout, it’s great to watch them get tested and respond. Blake Mayfield is absolutely fearless thus far, which is awesome. I do see TCU bouncing back from Pachall’s injury, but not enough to overcome Tech at home.
No. 5 Stanford at Army
Over the past few years Army has looked downright awful. Last week, they lost to the Ball State Cardinals by an excruciating 26 points. The only thing that will be able to help them against Stanford is a well-calculated joint effort between the Army and the NSA to tap the records of David Shaw as well his assistants only to find that venture capitalists have funded a program to make the entire football team out of robots. Yes, robots. Wait, no – androids. No…sorry, I’ve been listening to a lot of the new Janelle Monae album.
And I, to The Weeknd’s new album, while binge eating Twix. It has to be the Cardinal on this one, though I can never count out Army, or any school, at home. The Academy loves an upset at home (SEE: Boston College, 2012).
No. 7 Louisville at Kentucky
Louisville faces Kentucky for that age old Commonwealth battle which will most likely result in more Teddy Bridgewater heroics and a Mark Stoops sad face. I don’t see Kentucky putting up much of a fight against the Cardinals.
I love Teddy Bridgewater. His performance in the 2013 Sugar Bowl was mammoth. Louisville has had a lot to cheer about in 2013. This is a stat-stuffer for his Heisman résumé, I think.
Akron at No. 11 Michigan
There’s probably going to be trumped-up story lines around this one, considering former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is teaching at the University of Akron. But don’t let the Big Ten Network fool you. There’s really nothing to this game other than the fact that Akron is a MAC team coming to the Big House to play the Wolverines. After the magnificent play we saw from Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon and Fitzgerald Touissant against Notre Dame, it’s unlikely that the Zips are getting out of Ann Arbor with anything more than a belly full of Zingerman’s and a handful of crowd taunts about Jim Tressel (who is not coaching, mind you).
Michigan is angry. They played like they were angry against Notre Dame, and it paid off. The rest of the country needs to watch its back. Although…
Tulsa at No. 14 Oklahoma
Trevor Knight will not be starting in the the Sooners’ home game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. That may or may not be a good thing depending on how well his backup, Blake Bell (the Belldozer), performs. Knight, in a game against West Virginia, threw 119 yards and two interceptions. Oklahoma has seemed to struggle in finding consistent quarterback play since Sam Bradford. My expectation is for Oklahoma to find a better rhythm with Bell and win convincingly.
A question which has followed Bell is whether or not he could ever become the starting quarterback for the Sooners. Now is his chance to prove his worth. A win, while expected, is not good enough. He needs to shine in order to hang on to this spot. Tulsa is the perfect opponent.
No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska
This game features two great offenses and one seemingly competent defense. And the latter is not based in Lincoln. Nebraska’s D has seemed to regress over the years; the ‘Blackshirt’ defense withering away from the image of a dominating Ndamakuong Suh. The real story about Nebraska is the great offensive play of Taylor “T-Magic” Martinez and Ameer Abdullah. UCLA has weapons in the quarterback play of Brett Hundley and running back Jordon James who will certainly test the Cornhukers who received a scare in the opening week from FCS opponent, Wyoming. The spread for this game is -4.5 in favor of Nebraska, which is more or less an example of the odds-makers favoring the home team in a game that could very well be a toss-up. I’m going to go against the spread and say UCLA wins.
It is a little strange, given recent context, to talk about Nebraska without highlighting its defense as a cornerstone, but T-Magic and Adbullah have just been excellent. I have a soft spot for UCLA; the basketball team is, of course, legendary and always fun to discuss, and the In-N-Out in Westwood is marvelous. Even so, I’ll go against the author and with the odds-makers. I think the Huskers at home, under pressure against a nationally-ranked opponent, will respond in a big way.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Texas A&M
It’s just not college football season without a hearty chortle from Verne Lundquist. It’s not SEC conference play without Gary Danielson theorizing the many ways an SEC team can work its way back into the national championship conversation after losing to a three-loss team. CBS broadcasts are back, which means you’ll hear this theme music that sounds like it hasn’t been altered since Gene Stallings’ days in Tuscaloosa. This is the game that has been endlessly advertised before the first kickoff of the season. ESPN has been tirelessly building this game to the point where I don’t even think they understand the ramifications it has on their own broadcasts. These two teams have lost many key components since their last meeting, but the most important one is mystery. Manziel is no longer just that scrambling Tecmo Bowl player; he’s Johnny Fucking Football. The Tide knows what he’s capable of doing on the field, and Saban, the coach who prepares for big games with insane monomania, will have a better understanding of how to contain Johnny. Even if he doesn’t, the defense that the Aggies possess is not nearly as talented as the one that was able to confuse AJ McCarron and make him turn the ball over. A&M won this game last year because of Manziel and a defense to back him up when he couldn’t get it all done. I think this year Alabama will have their revenge, and Tide fans will call into the Finebaum show with a heaping helping of “WELLLLLPPPPP, that Johnny Football ain’t so gud at the footbaw now is he, PAWWWLLLLL?”
Johnny Manziel is ridiculously exciting on the field and exceedingly frustrating off of it (and sometimes on it too). He did manage to beat the national championship team last season, so he knows what he is facing, or at least the Saban aura of what he is facing. Alabama is going to come back with a vengeance, and Saban certainly has it out for A&M as a the only blemish of his last calendar year. I think Johnny Football will put on a show but run out of steam in the fourth quarter, and the Tide will roll. Callers will certainly bring their Mark Twain-esque rants to the show, and all will be right with the world for at least another week.
Tennessee at No. 2 Oregon
Butch Jones faces his test of the season against the Pacific Northwest machine made of state-of-the-art material glossed over with mirrorball sheen. Unfortunately for Butch, he will be Oregon’s latest victim in a long line of major conference opponents who thought that the departure of Chip Kelly could possibly be a Godsend. Sorry, Butch – this high powered steam roller is humming along just fine.
Nothing to see here, only because Oregon will be too quick for the naked eye.
Nevada at No. 10 Florida State
Florida State’s first home game at the Doak will most likely be filled with beautiful Jameis Winston passes thrown to favorite target and descendant of Jack Nicklaus, Nick O’Leary. Chief Osceola fiery spear throw into the Florida soil will most likely be the biggest conflict you see all day. This is going to be a rough one for the Wolf Pack.
Although he may not be the most desirable NFL quarterback right now, the Pack could really use Philip Rivers against FSU. Plus, he’s still better than Mark Sanchez. SIGH…
No. 4 Ohio State at California
Over the years, Big Ten teams have struggled when going to the west coast during the regular season. The expectation here is no different, and with a possibility that Braxton Miller might be on the bench for Saturday’s game this could get really interesting. The Bears are running an air raid offense (BEAR RAID) engineered by Louisiana wildcat Sonny Dykes. With a secondary that has struggled at times, it will be interesting to see how close Cal keeps it. I think Ohio State wins it by a margin of six with a near defensive meltdown.
It is going to be fun to watch, all the more fun with Cal at home against a team in possible flux, but I think the Buckeyes are just a hair too much. Although I bet the margin will be even slimmer than six.
No. 19 Washington at Illinois
After a great showing against a ranked Boise State, I have become a bit bullish on the Huskies. I think they will be a force in the PAC-12 this year, but they may have a test in Chicago against the Illini. Tim Beckman’s crew dismantled a heavily-favored Cincinnati team 45-17 in the previous week, with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase throwing for 312 yards and four touchdowns. It will certainly be a test for Illinois’ defense, but the Illini will have its own set of defensive problems in trying to stop Bishop Sankey and Keith Price. I’ve got Washington rolling over Illinois and continuing on cruise control in the AP poll.
Again with the home field advantage, I see this one being a little closer than people might expect. We know the Illini have some fire. Still, Washington burns brighter in this one.
Kent State at No. 8 LSU
I’m not even getting into this one. The Golden Flashes are getting crushed. K thnx. Rory?
The biggest deal for LSU this week isn’t even on the field. LSU, at home, will take care of business handily, and Les Miles will answer more questions in the postgame press conference about possible corruption during his time at Oklahoma State than about the game he just coached.
Vanderbilt at No. 18 South Carolina
Rory, you identify as a Gamecock fan. How do you feel about the Gamecocks going forward, especially with the complaints made by Spurrier and Clowney about the defensive adjustments?
It is a bit cowardly to keep play away from someone in order to minimize his impact, but unfortunately, it is also smart football, given how good Jadeveon Clowney is. He’s frustrated, Spurrier’s frustrated and half the state of South Carolina is frustrated (the other half can be content with transitive victories and bullying much smaller schools, I suppose). It takes away from some of the fun, but maybe Spurrier can heed Clowney’s call to move him around on the line and keep opponents on their toes. To see him on the left side one play and on the right the next will, at the bare minimum, push the play clock closer to zero while opposing quarterbacks make necessary audibles if, in fact, the gameplan is to play away from Clowney. When Georgia did go toward him, it made sure to double-cover him, which naturally led to huge opportunities on the ground that would have otherwise not arisen. For a team whose NFL-ready quarterback claimed he wasn’t scared of Clowney in July, the run of play sure made it seem like they wanted no part of him. SCar will rebound, and Clowney may easily have his best game of the season (so far).
Lamar at No. 12 Oklahoma State
If you haven’t heard, a report by Sports Illustrated is currently detailing allegations made by former players about Oklahoma State’s practices in Stillwater from 2001-2011. It’s a seven-part report which is being rolled out over the course of the week. It won’t affect how they handle Lamar, but I also doubt this will really affect the Cowboys, as the NCAA have become almost impotent after the botched investigation down in Miami. For me, I don’t care whether players were having consensual sex or if recreational drug use was happening. You’re talking about something that happens in College Town, USA, every weekend of every month of every year.
Agreed. My own four-year investigation of College Town, USA, is coming to an end in May, but it looks like, even from the Bronx, everything is the same as it ever was, and the NCAA won’t do anything to change it. OK State will be just fine, for better or for worse.
No. 21 Notre Dame at Purdue
The Fighting Irish head to West Lafayette to take on a Boilermakers team that started out the season with a devastating loss to Cincinnati and a near-miss against anFCS opponent (and Larry Bird’s alma mater), Indiana State. Last year, Purdue gave the Irish its toughest game in the 2012 regular season before a field goal by Kyle Brindza inched Notre Dame closer to a front row ticket for Alabama’s coronation in South Beach. Running back-cum-quarterback Rob Henry will be expected to lead this rebuilding Purdue team to a victory with a stat line that includes two interceptions and no touchdowns. I really don’t see the Boilermakers making this a statement game, especially when their third down conversion rate was a terrible 4 for 16 against INDIANA STATE.
After the close loss to Michigan, Notre Dame is not going to drop this one against a pretty poor Purdue team, even with Rob Henry’s multifaceted attack. Purdue can push Notre Dame, and it might surprise the Irish, but I don’t see it happening. Notre Dame isn’t ready for surprises; it’s ready for Boilermaker blood.
No. 25 Ole Miss at Texas
Oh, to be a Longhorn fan. You get the Longhorn Network, which means you get to watch exclusive Texas football in the year of our Trap Lord 2013 (“DIDN’T WANNA DO THAT,” screamed Taysom Hill). It means you get to bite your nails with every single Rebel touchdown and scream that if DeLoss Dodds doesn’t fire Mack Brown, there will be repercussions. Not to worry though, Longhorn fan; it’s not as if the Rebels have a defense to answer to David Ash. This is going to be a real spaghetti western-type shoot-out. The one with the whistling soundtracks, tumble weeds,and weird characters such as Dr. Bo Wallace. In the end, though, I think Ole Miss will outscore the Longhorns by three points, and the meltdown will have reached Chernobyl like levels.
Greg Robinson is not equipped for the new task of coordinating the Longhorn defense. Granted, his last spin on this carousel in 2004 was just dandy, but times have changed, and this team is not that team. They love football way too much in Austin for their defense to continue chugging along at below-par levels. Mack Brown needs a quick turnaround, and it will have to come from the offense for the remainder of the season. Having said that, Texas can win this game, and the home-field advantage may be just enough to put the Longhorns over the top and, subsequently, burnt orange on my television for fifteen seconds come Sunday morning.
Western Michigan at No. 17 Northwestern
Directional Michigan against Directional Direction. I really like the job Pat Fitzgerald is doing in Evanston, and I think the Wildcats absolutely torch the Broncos. They may not have Venric Mark or Kain Colter, but they have proven that they can win big without them.
Northwestern will take this and roll. BOOYAH!
No. 20 Wisconsin at Arizona State
The final game on tap is the late game in Tempe, AZ, where Wisconsin visits Arizona State. The temperature out in Tempe is supposed to be a miserable 103° during the day, with a low of 82 (A low of 82? In mid-September? Sheeeeeeiiiiitttttt). That sounds downright tortuous to me, and I live in South Carolina. Todd Graham’s been known to run an up-tempo offense as well, which will work to the Sun Devils’ advantage. The effects of the hurry-up on front sevens can lead to tiring defensive lineman and a complete breakdown. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has proven that he can lead an offense with a completion percentage of 74.2% and five touchdowns in just one game. Granted, it was against Sacramento State, but I think the heat will work to the Sun Devils’ advantage. The Badgers have a pounding run game in the Cerberus monster that is Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement, who all have over 100-plus yardage under their belts through two games. I think Arizona State wins, however, with a big thanks to mother nature.
‘Sconsin is not ready for this heat. Arizona State is. I’ve been talking this entire time about home-field advantage, which I firmly believe adds a distinct edge, but no one gets it more this week, I think, than the Sun Devils. I mean, c’mon. They have “sun” right there in their mascot. Running the ball is a great meat-and-potatoes way to play the game, and Wisconsin does it incredibly well. Maybe it can keep this one tight due to the assortment of guns in the arsenal. I don’t think so though. If it was in Madison at the end of November, it would swing the other way. Arizona State will ride off into the sunset with a W this week.