By Casey Keefe
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#20 Notre Dame (2-0) @ #10 Michigan State (2-0) – 8 p.m.
It will be quite the scene in East Lansing on Saturday night as the Spartans take on the Irish in what is an enormous test for both teams. Notre Dame will benefit greatly from the return of running back Cierre Wood, who is fresh off his two-game suspension. He’ll bring another level of electricity to the Irish offense. Michigan State’s defense has been very impressive thus far, having not allowed an offensive touchdown through their first two games. Notre Dame’s defense bent at times last week but didn’t break—I expect that unit to step up and be the difference in this game. I’m not thrilled at all with Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell—he’s a far cry from his predecessor, Kirk Cousins. Michigan State will have to rely on Le’Veon Bell who is off to a great start (280 yards, 4 TD’s) but I expect the Irish to stack up against him and dare Maxwell to beat them over the top—something that simply won’t happen. Irish in an upset… Prediction: Notre Dame
#1 Alabama (2-0) @ Arkansas (1-1) – 3:30 p.m.
This was supposed to be the unquestioned game of the week. Both the Tide and Razorbacks were top 10 teams a week ago and my eyes were looking ahead to this matchup—apparently Arkansas’ eyes and minds were as well last Saturday as they shockingly blew a 21-point third-quarter lead en route to a disastrous overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Now, we know the Razorbacks will be eager to prove themselves against the best team in the land—but their confidence and pride has certainly taken a major hit. To add insult to injury, star quarterback Tyler Wilson looks like he won’t play because of a head injury sustained in the loss last week—that leaves Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell as the two quarterbacking options…not good, folks. Also not good is the terribly slow start that running back Knile Davis is off to. Alabama’s defense will eat the Razorbacks alive. And if Arkansas allowed 550 yards against UL-Monroe last week—just imagine what AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and the Tide will do them… Prediction: Alabama
#2 USC (2-0) @ #21 Stanford (2-0) – 7:30 p.m.
These two locked up in what was one of the best games of the college football season a year ago. That one was won in thrilling fashion by Stanford in three overtimes. I guess you could say the Cardinal benefited from having Andrew Luck at the helm for that game—but Stanford has had some real sustained success against the Trojans, having won four of the last five matchups… Unfortunately, Luck is no longer walking the streets of Palo Alto. Josh Nunes has taken over the quarterbacking duties and let’s just say he ain’t exactly Andrew Luck. I expect the Trojans defense to successfully contain Stanford’s biggest weapon, running back Stepfan Taylor. On the other side of the ball is where the Cardinal will be in deep, deep trouble. Their defense will have no answers for Heisman-favorite Matt Barkley (559 yards, 10 TD’s, 1 INT) who will be finding his two star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee running free in the Stanford secondary all day long. With a large deficit certain, Stanford will need Nunes’ arm to help play catch-up—something he is simply not ready for… Lane Kiffin’s boys will turn back the tide of this rivalry tomorrow… Prediction: USC
#18 Florida (2-0) @ #23 Tennessee (2-0) – 6 p.m.
Florida-Tennessee used to be a game every college football fan circled on their calendar. The once-great rivalry has fallen off the map in recent years but both teams are back to being ranked at the same time—something that hasn’t been the case in four years. It will be nice to have a little juice back in Knoxville and I expect the hometown Volunteers to come up with a big time effort. I love the way quarterback Tyler Bray (643 yards, 6 TD’s, 0 INT’s, 74%) is playing. Raijon Neal and Marlin Lane provide a dangerous one-two punch in the backfield. Look for the Gators defense to struggle against Tennessee’s balanced offensive attack. Florida is coming off an enormous victory down at Texas A&M—but running back Mike Gillislee is slowed by a groin injury and I still don’t trust their offense as a whole. Tenneesse defensive end Darrington Sentimore has guaranteed a Vols victory—and I’m with him… Prediction: Tennessee
Wake Forest (2-0) @ #5 Florida State (2-0) – 12 p.m.
Believe it or not, Wake Forest has actually beaten Florida State in four of their last six meetings, including the past two of three in Tallahassee. This Seminole team is much different and much better than those clubs though. There’s no excuse for Florida State not to win this game by 17+ points. They’ve won their first two games in blowout fashion against cupcake teams. Now comes the much-less talented Deamon Deacons—a team that has had Florida State’s number—there’s no excuse for the Seminoles to not come out with an extra chip on their shoulders. It’s time for Jimbo Fisher’s boys to make a statement—and I bet that statement is made loud and clear tomorrow afternoon under the hot Florida sun… Prediction: Florida State
- It’s a shame that Notre Dame is leaving the Big East for the ACC in all sports except football. In reality though it was an absolute no-brainer for the Irish. They’re going to a much healthier conference and will get to hold on to their independent status in football—something that has always been ultra-important to them. Between Notre Dame bailing and Jim Calhoun retiring from UConn, it certainly has not been the best of weeks for the Big East.
- Things just keep getting worse for Penn State. The Sandusky/Paterno scandal trumps anything that can happen on the football field—but after kicker Sam Ficken cost the Nittany Lions a win against Virginia last week by missing an extra point and four field goals, including one that would’ve won the game as time expired, now word comes out that the program lost its most reliable wide receiver, Shawney Kersey, who left the team for “personal reasons”… Things are not too happy in Happy Valley.
- I don’t think people understand just how big of a loss linebacker Tahj Jones will be for LSU. Jones, tight end Tyler Edwards, linebacker D.J. Welter and offensive lineman Evan Washington are done for the season after being ruled academically ineligible… Forget those other three, Jones is the guy that the Tigers will miss big time. Their defense is damn good—but not nearly as epic as it would have been if Jones and the already-departed Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu were playing.
- It’s quite possible that USC head coach Lane Kiffin has some serious control issues. Kiffin banned Los Angeles Daily News writer Scott Wolf for two weeks and had his credentials denied for their September 22nd game against Cal because he reported that kicker Andre Heidari was having surgery… I completely understand Kiffin wanting to gain every single competitive advantage imaginable—but having a policy banning “reporters” from “reporting” on important (and common) storylines such as injuries is a little hardcore.
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What’s your upset of the week? Flex your prediction skills in the comments below…