By Casey Keefe
It’s tough to sugarcoat it…there aren’t a whole lot of great matchups this weekend. After a solid first couple of weeks we are relegated to just a few premiere games. But this is still the high stakes world of college football, we’re talking about where seasons are lost on a week to week basis. When you get two teams playing their best anything can happen.
Without further ado, let’s look at the best matchups this weekend has to offer.
#9 Iowa @ #24 Arizona: Although not a sexy matchup to the casual fan, this game is without a doubt the best matchup of the weekend. In comes an excellent Hawkeye team to Tucson to take on a dangerous Wildcat team that suddenly has a reliable defense. After being shutout 33-0 against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl last season, Arizona has yet to allow a touchdown through the first two games of this season. Iowa also has a very talented defense which rarely seizes points. Whichever defense slips first will decide the game.
I love Iowa’s offense. Ricky Stanzi is as tough as they come and he’s managed to eliminate the careless mistakes he made on a weekly basis last year. Stanzi will have his hands full against the talented Cats defense, but he won’t be without help. Running backs Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton are one of the best backfield duos in the country. Expect Iowa to attack Arizona with a balanced offense. The question is do we continue to see the new and improved Stanzi?…or will he revert back to his old mistake-prone self?
On the other side, the Cats offense is led by strong-armed quarterback Nick Foles. They like to stretch the field and attack all over, but uncertainty surrounds the status of banged up receiver Juron Criner. Will he be able play? And how effective will he be? This is something to keep a close eye on. With a healthy Criner in the lineup, Arizona’s offensive production is a completely different level. The Cats don’t run the ball much so Arizona’s offensive line needs to make sure they keep Foles upright. This is no easy task because Iowa’s defensive line led by all-world DE Adrian Clayborn may be the best in the country.
Focus on the defenses and the overall line play up front for both teams. This is where the game will be decided. Also keep an eye on in-game adjustments. We’ll see two of the better coaches in the country in Kirk Ferentz and Mike Stoops who once was an All-American safety at Iowa. This will be a chess match and in the end I expect the more balanced and experienced Hawkeyes to win… Prediction: Iowa
Notre Dame @ Michigan State: Expect an exciting, high-scoring shootout in East Lansing Saturday night. Notre Dame is coming off the huge letdown against Michigan last week and desperately need a win. It certainly won’t come easy against the Spartans. Run defense was the achilles heel of the Irish last year and judging by the performance against the Wolverines, the area hasn’t improved much. They will run into some trouble against State’s trio of running backs. Edwin Baker, Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper are all dangerous backs who will give the Irish nightmares. Even State quarterback Kirk Cousins is a threat on the ground. Notre Dame will need to hold strong against the run to stay in this game.
Fortunately for Golden Domers, the full return of a healthy Dayne Crist should prove to be a big advantage against the Spartans. The front 7 is very strong against the run but I think the secondary can be had. If Crist plays the way he’s capable of, I expect to see some big plays down the field to Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. As long as they don’t turn the ball over, I think the Irish will have a very positive day through the air.
The game will be decided by which team’s weakness is worst…Notre Dame’s run defense or Michigan State’s secondary? The difference between this week and last for the Irish is that Denard Robinson of Michigan was a threat not just his legs but his arm as well. Cousins is only a threat on the ground, so I expect Brian Kelly to have a game plan to contain State’s rushing attack. They will stack up against the run and force Cousins to beat them with the pass. That’s something I’m confident he can’t do… Prediction: Notre Dame
#6 Texas @ Texas Tech: This looks to be a good old-fashioned Texas shootout. It’s an obvious thing to say but the quarterbacks are the ones who will decide this game. On one hand you have Garrett Gilbert who took some strides last week. He’s still a little shaky but as the kid has all the ability in the world as everybody saw in the BCS title game last year. Taylor Potts on the other hand is one of the more overlooked QB’s in the country. He has a strong, accurate arm and fits in perfectly with Tech’s system.
On paper, the Longhorns are the better team. In regards to defense, special teams and the running game it’s not even close. But where Tech makes it interesting is with their quarterback and the ability of their talented receivers. Both Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis are game-changers. Texas’ secondary will certainly have their hands full. Another advantage for the Red Raiders is having the game at home in Lubbock. The crowd will give Tech a huge boost and will make things miserable for the Longhorns. But don’t take my word for it…ask Mack Brown who is just 3-3 in his 6 trips to Tech… Prediction: Texas Tech
#10 Florida @ Tennessee: Both these teams have something to prove. The Gators are hearing from doubters who are questioning the slow progression of quarterback John Brantley and the overall sloppiness of the team. The Vols are just trying to get their pride back after letting up 45 unanswered points at home against Oregon last week. This used to be one of the premier rivalries in the country but with Tennessee being down the past few years the matchup has lost a bit of buzz.
Despite playing in Knoxville, there’s no way Florida should lose this game. The talent level is not even close. This is far from a great Tennessee team. Despite their minor hiccups, this is a legitimate Florida Gator team. It’s only a matter of time before Urban Meyer’s club really starts clicking. Plus, this game is much more important to the Gators. They have big goals in mind that will mean nothing if they don’t win this game. Just think about this…would you bet against Urban Meyer in a big SEC game against an inferior opponent?… Didn’t think so… Prediction: Florida
– Reggie Bush has finally forfeited his 2005 Heisman trophy. Wait a second, I thought you said you did nothing wrong Reggie?… What a scumbag. The committee has decided to keep the award vacant. Looks like runner up Vince Young won’t be adding any hardware to his trophy case any time soon.
– Mark Ingram returns to the Tide this week. Expect Nick Saban to ease him back into action. Once he and Trent Richardson get rolling together…look out!
– How will Virginia Tech respond against Eastern Carolina this week after losing their first 2 games? With the size of the chip that should be on their shoulder, anything less than a 52-7 whooping would be yet another embarrassment.
– Big game in Chapel Hill between two teams that got off on the wrong foot, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Both are extremely talented and still have high hopes so I expect a great game that goes down to the wire. Give an edge to the Jackets.
– Big loss for the Pitt Panthers… Big East Player of the Year Greg Romeus had back surgery and will be out for most of the season. Pitt’s defensive line takes a monstrous hit.
– Word to Boise State: You’ve been hearing the critics for a week now ever since Virginia Tech lost at home to James Madison. Let’s see you take your frustration out on Wyoming. We know you’re mad. The question is are you 42-0 mad…or 72-0 mad?
Check back to Casey’s Call on Monday for my review of all the action from week 3.
Questions? Comments?… Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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