What a first week of college football. The best part is that it ended on Monday, so we only had to wait 4 days to get back to the action. Here are a few games to watch for the week ahead. Note: I don’t care how the Bruins do this year, they’ll always be a part of this section.
25 Stanford at UCLA
Rick Neuheisel didn’t have the type of season debut that he was looking for down in Mahattan, Kansas. The Bruins were consistently out of position on defense, and were out of sync on offense. Some of that can be attributed to installing a new offense, the pistol, and Kevin Prince missing most of fall camp with an oblique injury. On the good side, they ran the ball pretty consistently, and Akeem Ayers made a lot of plays from his linebacker position. Stanford, on the other hand, had no problem with Sacramento State, as you would expect. Andrew Luck was extremely efficient through the air, which made it easy to make up for the loss of all-everything tailback, Toby Gerhart. On offense, the edge goes to the Cardinal. The Bruins, as I said, showed vulnerability to the run, and we all know Harbaugh loves the power running game. The Bruins’ secondary is the strength of their defense, but Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. With Stanford’s multiple sets on offense, Luck should be able to find some favorable matchups, even with some injury issues at the wide receiver position. The Bruins should be able to run the ball again on the Stanford defense, and I don’t expect there to be so many execution issues in the passing game. The offensive line was very good in giving Prince time to throw, and I can’t see him going 9 for 26 again.
Prediction: Look for both offenses to have their way in an up-tempo battle. It’s a night game at the Rose Bowl, so the Bruin faithful should be in full throat. Give the edge to the Bruins on the leg of All-American placekicker Kai Forbath. UCLA 30 Stanford 27.
19 Penn St at 1 Alabama
So, what do you do when you’re missing the Heisman trophy winner from last year? You just bring in a redshirt freshman tailback. Eddie Lacy ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns against San Jose St ( how’d they get on the schedule). They won’t have Mark Ingram again this week, but expect more of the same. Trent Richardson and Lacy should provide the rushing attack, and with Greg McElroy at quarterback, the Crimson Tide should control the ball. I haven’t even mentioned Julio Jones who seems to be in midseason form already. Penn State had a rather easy time as well with Youngstown St. That was the perfect opponent for JoePa to break in a true freshman quarterback. The best part of college football is that there is no preseason, so after an easy opener, both teams are getting a test right away. Unfortunately, we’re going to hear a lot of the home crowd chanting “Go Bama!. Roll Tide!” Here’s the thing, Youngstown State is not going to get you ready for what a road game in the SEC is going to be like, and Nick Saban isn’t going to give the Nittany Lions much time to get acclamated to the surroundings.
Prediction: Penn State has some talent on the defensive side of the ball, so this game will stay close early, but with unless Evan Royster can run the ball consistently, that’s going to leave Robert Golden to win the game on his arm. Just don’t see it. Alabama 27 Penn St 10.
Michigan at Notre Dame
Every year we look forward to this game. For the last couple of years, it’s been a measuring stick to see where the programs are. This year, it’s more of the same. Notre Dame has a new system, and Michigan is trying to take the next step to bringing respectability back to the Big House. Both teams are similar on offense. They like to spread you out and run no-huddle, which keeps the defense on its heels. Denard Robinson was outstanding against Connecticut last week. He is similar to Pat White with his running style, but is a much better passer. For Notre Dame, they’ll need another good performance from quarterback Dayne Crist. He completed only 73% of his passes against Purdue. If he does that against Michigan, it will be a long day for the Big Blue. The Irish running game was impressive as well, totaling up 150+ on the ground, providing the balance that any coach desires. Both defenses looked improved from last year, when they gave up an average of over 400 yards per game, each. Not good when both teams need wins to get the alumni and boosters on their side.
Prediction: It’s a much bigger game for the Wolverines than the Irish. Even though the defenses were better last week, I think this game will be wide open. There is no one on the Irish defense that can slow down Robinson, and Crist should be able to pick apart the Wolverines’ secondary. Michigan’s offense looks that much faster. Michigan 38 Notre Dame 24.
17 Florida St at 10 Oklahoma
Jimbo got the monkey off his back early by beating Sanford. Okay, I laughed through that whole sentence. Here’s the first real test of the post-Bowden era. Christian Ponder wants to be in the Heisman conversation, and here is his first chance to impress the voters. The Seminole offense can’t wait to get to Norman. Did you see what the Utah State Aggies did to Oklahoma’s defense? They picked apart the Sooners secondary for 341 passing yards. Normally I would expect that in a blowout, but this was a 7-point game. Those problems should continue this week, with a balance Florida State offensive attack. Look for the Sooners to try and keep the ball away from Florida State by running the ball. DeMarcus Murray tallied well over 200 yards last week on the ground, and that has to be the recipe this week as well. Last year the Seminoles defense was flat out garbage, rated as one of the worst in D-1. Even with new coordinator Mark Stoops, it’s going to take a while to get that unit turned around.
Prediction: I wonder what is on the line in the Stoops family this week? Whatever it is, I like Bob to be the winner, and Mark to be paying up. Oklahoma should be able to win a close game at home, again behind the legs of Murray and a timely big play from the defense. Oklahoma 34 Florida State 28.
12 Miami, FL at 2 Ohio State
Easily the game of the week. This game features two of the top quarterbacks in the counry, Jacory Harris and Terrelle Pryor. Both looked impressive in week one, but will take a big step up in competition this week at the Horsheshoe. I am extremely impressed with the job that Randy Shannon has done, getting Miami back on the national stage. In the last few years, they’ve opened up with FSU, and that’s such as emotional game that, win or lose, it took a few weeks to recover. Not so this year. They had their appetizer, and now comes the main course. It will be a big task for Ohio State to handle the U’s offensive speed. Miami’s O-line, though, isn’t a finished product. If the Buckeyes can get to Harris a few times, he has shown in the past that he will make mistakes. On the other side, Ohio State’s line is solid and can open big holes for Saine and Boom Herron to break through into the secondary. Pryor also looks to be more of a weapon from the pocket than in the past, so if he gets time, he can make the Hurricanes pay downfield. The problem for the Buckeyes, is that they haven’t been great in this type of game lately. They were smashed in their recent title game experiences, Vince Young came into Columbus and won, as did the Trojans with a freshman QB last year.
Prediction: Games like this are won in the trenches. Ohio State has the edge in that matchup on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I like Miami, just not in this game. Too much is on the line for the Buckeyes. Ohio State 28 Miami 23
Other games to watch: 7 Oregon at Tennesee, South Florida at 8 Florida, 22 Georgia at 24 South Carolina.