Arizona v USC Game Preview

USC (3-2) @ Arizona (5-0)

Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona

3.30am Irish Time (Saturday night) October 12th (ESPN 2)

It took a great effort and some not so stellar play from Oregon in order for the Arizona Wildcats to topple the Ducks on the road in week six in one of the biggest upsets of the year. Following the game, voters took notice of the solid win and helped Arizona shoot all the way up to No. 10 from unranked in the most recent rankings. The USC Trojans had the exact opposite luck last week as they took a lead down to the final seconds of the game against Arizona State before losing on a fluke Hail Mary with time expiring. The Trojans were dropped from the rankings and have become one of the biggest disappointments in college football this season after a promising start.

Arizona has one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation in freshman Anu Solomon who has come out of nowhere to lead the seventh-best passing offense in the nation. Rich Rodriguez has placed his trust in the first-year collegiate quarterback and it has paid off with a 5-0 start and a No. 10 ranking nationally. Solomon has passed for an impressive 1,741 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with four interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes; he has added another 167 yards on the ground. Along with Solomon is another freshman in the backfield in running back Nick Wilson who leads the 28th-ranked run game with 574 yards and six touchdowns on 6.4 yards per touch while senior Terris Jones-Grigsby has been solid as well, rushing for 267 yards and three scores. Sophomore Cayleb Jones leads all receivers with 32 catches for 525 yards and six touchdowns; Austin Hill is the next closest receiver with 18 catches for 275 yards and three scores.

Arizona Wildcats RB Nick Wilson celebrates a TD v Nevada
Arizona Wildcats RB Nick Wilson celebrates a TD v Nevada

A big reason for USC’s loss against Arizona State was the failure by quarterback Cody Kessler to throw a touchdown pass — the second time this season he went without a touchdown throw. If USC wants to bounce back and remain a force in conference play, Kessler will need to throw a few touchdown passes and play like he has been playing all season long before last week. On the year, the junior quarterback has 1,380 yards and 10 touchdown passes with a nearly 70 percent completion rate and no interceptions. Nelson Agholor has lived up to the hype at the receiver position, catching 35 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns — all team-highs. Freshman wide out JuJu Smith has added 18 catches for 207 yards but has yet to reach the endzone in his young career. Running back Javorius Allen has been dynamite in the run and receiving game, rushing for a team-high 576 yards and four touchdowns while ranking second on the team in receiving, catching 19 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown.

USC QB Cody Kessler on the move v Fresno State
USC QB Cody Kessler on the move v Fresno State

Defensively, the Trojans have been relatively average this season. Ranking just 44th in points allowed and near the middle of the nation in terms of total yards allowed with about 391, the Trojans have a tough task ahead in trying to stop the 21st-best scoring offense in the country. Arizona has been much less successful on the defensive side of things, ranking 75th in points allowed per game and near the bottom of the nation in total yards allowed with 434 per outing.

PREDICTION: USC 28, Arizona 38

Ole Miss v Texas A&M Game Preview

Ole Miss (5-0) @ Texas A&M (5-1)

Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

2am Irish Time (Saturday night) Oct 12th (ESPN)

Cracking the top five in the ranking for the first time this season was a huge step for the #3 ranked Ole Miss Rebels in their quest for a national title — one that would be their first since 1962. It hasn’t been an easy road into the top five, however, as they had to defeat Alabama at home to get there. Being exposed in college football is one of the most devastating events to happen to a team in any given season — that’s exactly what happened to the Texas A&M Aggies against Mississippi State last week. However, the Aggies are still a dangerous team that is hoping to make the rest of the conference pay for what happened in week six.

Ole Miss is led by a veteran quarterback that goes by the name of Bo Wallace. The senior gunslinger has been reliable this season and has many top weapons to spread the ball around to, which never hurts. Wallace has passed for 1,522 yards and 14 touchdowns with six interceptions for the 22nd-ranked passing offense in the nation while completing nearly 69 percent of his passes. As expected, Laquon Treadwell has been his favorite receiver as the two have connected 25 times for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Both Cody Core and Vince Sanders have 20 catches this season for 315 yards with four touchdowns and 302 yards and three scores, respectively. Evan Engram has added 17 catches for 246 yards of his own — no receiving scores yet. The run offense ranks just 87th in the nation, however, behind Jaylen Walton‘s 238 yards and three touchdowns.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace

With one of the best young quarterbacks in the entire nation, Texas A&M ranks fifth in the country in passing yards per game and third in points per game. Sophomore Kenny Hill has been that quarterback for the Aggies just one season after Johnny Manziel went on to the next level. Hill has been great, passing for 2,110 yards and 21 touchdowns to go along with five interceptions with a completion rate of 64 percent; he has also rushed for 171 yards. Malcome Kennedy has been the top receiver in terms of receptions, 33, while racking up 378 yards and two scores. Josh Reynolds has been the top overall target with 4o2 yards and seven touchdowns on 23 catches this year. Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones have also been solid, accounting for four touchdowns on 18 catches for 369 yards and three touchdowns on 30 catches for 293 yards, respectively. Trey Williams and Tra Carson lead the 47th-ranked run offense with 531 yards and eight touchdowns combined.

Token Johnny Football pic
Token Johnny Football pic

Defensively, the Aggies have been improved in a few major categories this season, including points allowed per game. Texas A&M ranks 29th in the country in points allowed, but ranks near the bottom on the nation still in yards allowed per game with 407 per contest — a pretty even allowance of rush and pass yards per game. On the other hand, Ole Miss has been much better on this side of the ball, ranking second in the nation in points allowed while also ranking sixth in total yards allowed with just about 278 per game. The crowd at Kyle Field will be rowdy for this Top 25 matchup.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss 27, Texas A&M 34

TCU v Baylor Game Preview

TCU (4-0) @ Baylor (5-0)

McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas

8:30pm Irish Time Saturday October 11th (ESPN)

Quickly becoming one of the nation’s top teams on an annual basis, the #5 ranked Baylor Bears have cracked the top five for the first time this season and will look to move up even more after a top-10 bout this week. The Bears haven’t won a game by less than 21 points this season, but they have yet to play a ranked team. That all changes this week. As one of the nation’s darkhorse threats to make it to the College Football Playoff in 2014, the TCU Horned Frogs have jumped from unranked to No. 9 in the country in two weeks time. The Horned Frogs took down No. 4 Oklahoma last week and will look to make it two straight top-five teams in two weeks — also, it’s the toughest game left on their schedule.

Baylor has one of the most potent offenses in the entire country this year, ranking eighth in passing yards per game, 18th in rushing yards per game and first in points per game, putting up 51 per contest. Having top quarterback Bryce Petty come back for his senior season has been huge for this team as he has been nothing short of great, passing for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception while playing limited time through the first few weeks because of a nagging injury. Not many people saw freshman wide out KD Cannon becoming his favorite target as he has caught 24 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns this season. Jay Lee is the next closest receiver, racking up 19 catches for 294 yards and four scores. Watch out for senior Antwan Goodley to break out as he has played in just two games this year and has caught 10 passes for 183 yards and a score. Shock Linwood leads the run game with 449 yards and eight touchdowns while Johnny Jefferson has added 336 yards and three scores on 65 carries.

Baylor QB Bryce Petty
Baylor QB Bryce Petty

The Horned Frogs are blessed because they have an experienced quarterback behind center that stuck around even though he lost his starting job in 2013 to a returning senior in Casey Pachall. Gary Patterson is lucky Trevone Boykin stuck around because he is leading TCU to a dream season thus far with 1,176 yards and 10 touchdowns for the 19th-ranked passing offense in the nation. The junior quarterback has also led all rushers with 260 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries. Josh Doctson has been Boykin’s favorite target, connecting with him 19 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns while Kolby Listenbee leads all wide outs with 272 yards to go along with two touchdowns on 14 catches. Deante’ Gray has been a legitimate No. 3 threat, catching 16 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns of his own. While Boykin leads the run game, B.J. Catalon is close behind with 220 yards and four touchdowns on a solid 4.8 yards per touch this year.

The TCU  Horned Frogs
The TCU Horned Frogs

Defensively, the Horned Frogs have been pleasantly stingy this season, ranking seventh in points allowed per game as well as seventh in total yards allowed per game with just under 280 per contest, including seven interceptions through the first four games. Baylor has also been quite stingy, allowing the fifth-least amount of points per game in the country as well as ranking fourth in total yards allowed per game with 267 per contest. McLane Stadium will be rocking for this matchup of top 10 teams on Saturday evening.

PREDICTION: TCU 21 Baylor 34

Miami (FL) v Nebraska Game Preview

Miami (FL) @ Nebraska

Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska

1am Irish Time (Saturday night) September 21st 2014 (ESPN2)

After a nail-biting win at home in Week 2 against a lowly FCS foe in McNeese State, many experts thought the #24 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers were doomed for the remainder of the 2014 campaign. However, the Cornhuskers rebounded nicely in Week 3 to devour Fresno State on the road, 55-19. The 3-0 squad from the midwest might have a solid shot at a Big Ten title after all. The ACC looks like a weaker conference this year than in years past because of the top-heavy direction that it has been moving in. While Florida State will likely run away with the conference title for a third straight season, the Miami Hurricanes will look to put up a fight and rebound from a week one conference blowout against the Louisville Cardinals.

Nebraska has one of the better offenses in the somewhat-unimpressive Big Ten this season behind the strong rushing attack of Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. which ranks ninth in the nation in terms of yards per game. Abdullah was a preseason Heisman contender and he has done nothing but aid that distinction with 396 yards and three touchdowns on 6.9 yards per carry while Armstrong Jr. has 258 yards and two touchdowns of his own on 9.6 yards per run. Sophomore running back Terrell Newby has also been solid, racking up 134 yards and two scores while Imani Cross has 102 yards and two touchdowns on 11.3 yards per carry. Armstrong Jr. has been solid in the passing game, throwing for 773 yards and seven touchdowns with just one pick. Jordan Westerkamp leads all receivers with 13 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns while Kenny Bell and Abdullah have 214 yards and 105 yards, respectively.

Miami hasn’t showcased a very impressive offense this season, ranking 63rd in the nation in passing yards per game, 93rd in rushing yards per game and 67th in points per contest. A reason for the sluggish start is the introduction of new starters on offense, including freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. The first-year collegiate QB hasn’t been completely poor for the 2-1 Hurricanes as he has completed 60 percent of his passes for 693 yards and seven touchdowns while five interceptions to go along with it. His inability to scramble has led to some problems as he has been in the negatives in terms of rushing yards through the first three weeks of the season. The freshman has developed a strong connection with senior wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, connecting eight times for 284 yards and four touchdowns — that’s an astounding 35.5 yards per catch. Clive Walford, Herb Waters and Braxton Berrios all have over 100 yards receiving each, combining for 344 yards and two touchdowns on 28 catches. Don’t sleep on the run game, however, as the electric Duke Johnson leads the way with 277 yards and two touchdown on 6.4 yards per touch.

It's all about The U
It’s all about The U

Defensively, the Hurricanes have been one of the more solid teams in the ACC, ranking 35th in the nation in points allowed per game with 19.3 and eighth in the nation in yards allowed per contest with just 259.7. They will have their hands full with the best offense they have faced yet in Nebraska, however. The Cornhuskers needed to improve defensively this season in order to compete — and they have done so. Nebraska ranks 20th in points allowed per game with 16.7 while ranking 18th in the nation in yards allowed per game with 294.7. It’s safe to say the Cornhuskers have improved defensively, although they are lightly tested thus far.

 

PREDICTION: Miami 20, Nebraska 34

Mississippi @ LSU

Mississippi State (FL) @ LSU

Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Midnight Irish Time September 20th 2014 (ESPN)

Taking down the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers on a neutral field in Week 1 doesn’t seem like the most impressive of victories, but the LSU Tigers came back from a 24-7 deficit in the middle of the third quarter to win the game 28-24 in the final minutes. Overcoming adversity like that in a big game could be a sign of things to come for the #8 ranked Tigers. Also 3-0 heading into conference play are the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Quite the opposite of LSU, however, Mississippi State has yet to play a tough foe through the first three weeks of the season. What does that mean? Well, the Bulldogs might be relatively unprepared for a contest with a team like LSU.

Although the Tigers average 38.3 points per game, the passing offense has been subpar behind the first-year starter Anthony Jennings. While Jennings has some previous experience as a starter due to an injury to star quarterback Zach Mettenberger last season, he is still trying to get used to being ‘the guy’ in charge of running the offense. The sophomore has passed for just 566 yards and five touchdowns to combat just one lone interception through three games. The offense’s main target in the receiving game has been Travin Dural who has 12 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns — he has been carrying a big load seeing as the top two targets from last season moved on to the next level. The run game has been a bit more impressive than the passing attack, ranking 37th in the nation. Kenny Hilliard leads the way with 215 yards and three touchdowns while Leonard Fournette has 162 yards and two scores of his own.

Mississippi State has featured a top-tier offensive attack thus far in 2014 — most likely because of the fact that they haven’t faced a tough opponent yet. The Bulldogs are led by junior Dak Prescott at quarterback and he has been quite impressive for his second year as the team’s starter. Prescott is a dual-threat QB who has passed for 696 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions while rushing for another 273 yards and two scores — good for second on the team. While sophomore wide out De’Runnya Wilson leads the team with three touchdown catches, senior Jameon Lewis leads the team in catches, 10, and receiving yards, 107, but has yet to reach the endzone on a reception. As previously mentioned, Prescott is second on the team in rushing yards while running back Josh Robinson leads the way with 288 yards and three touchdowns on 6.3 yards per carry.

Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott gashes the LSU D
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott gashes the LSU D

Defensively, the Bulldogs allow just 12.3 points per contest which is good for the 11th-best mark in the entire nation. However, Mississippi State is in the middle of the pack when it comes to total yards allowed per game with an elevated 392 per contest — and over 300 per game comes from the opponent’s passing attack. The Tigers, on the other hand, have allowed a total of 24 points this season in three games, ranking second in all of college football in points allowed per game. When it comes to total yards allowed per game, the Tigers also excel, ranking third in the nation with just over 205 per contest.

PREDICTION: Mississippi State 10, LSU 28

Illinois v Washington Game Preview

Illinois @ Washington

Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington

9pm Irish Time September 13th 2014 (FOX Network)

The scoreboard operator could be kept mighty busy on Saturday when Illinois visits Washington in nonconference play. The Huskies had to score 59 points to hold off pesky FCS foe Eastern Washington last week, while the Fighting Illini ripped off 21 fourth-quarter points to produce a 42-34 win over Western Kentucky. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt is off to a fantastic start while Washington’s Cyler Miles played well in his return from a one-game suspension.

Fighting Illini coach Tim Beckman has won just eight games in two-plus seasons at the helm but is now aiming to have Illinois start 3-0 for just the fifth time in 25 years. “Our motto this week will be Fight for Five,” Beckman said at his weekly press conference. “Our players are focused in on how we’re going to get ourselves better, how we’re going to travel out to the West Coast and play a very good Washington football team.” The Huskies are still trying to find their groove under new coach Chris Petersen.

Illinois running the Read-Option
Illinois running the Read-Option

Wes Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has passed for 741 yards and seven touchdowns and his 456 yards against Western Kentucky are fourth-most in school history. His early-season mastery of the offense has been so prolific that the Illini have converted 17-of-28 third-down attempts (60.7 percent to rank ninth nationally) and 7-of-8 fourth-down attempts. Middle linebacker Mason Monheim and free safety Taylor Barton (77-yard interception for touchdown against Western Kentucky) share the team lead with 21 tackles while cornerback V’Angelo Bentley (13 tackles) is averaging 26.4 yards on kickoff returns.

Cyler Miles passed for 180 yards and one touchdown and ran for three scores while energizing an offense that struggled to score 17 points against Hawaii in the opener. The defense will be without a key player as cornerback Marcus Peters was benched in the second half of the Eastern Washington game after drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and has reportedly been suspended for the Illinois game. Standout nose tackle Danny Shelton (nation-leading six sacks) will be on the field after becoming the fifth player in program history to record four of more sacks in a game in the Eastern Washington contest.

PREDICTION: Illinois 38, Washington 45

Kentucky v Florida Game Preview

Kentucky @ Florida

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida

12.30am (Saturday night) September 14th 2014 (SEC Network)

The Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators are both undefeated, and in Gainesville on Saturday, it will be time to put up or shut up for both teams. This game means more than just a leg up in the SEC East. It will be a proving ground for two programs still smarting from poor seasons and looking to regain some confidence. Both have played their early season tune-up games, won handily and now the real season starts. Lots of questions will be answered on Saturday that could not be found in victories over the likes of Eastern Michigan and UT-Martin.

Florida is looking to cool Will Muschamp‘s hot seat, and a big win over the Wildcats could begin that process. This is a night game in Gainesville, where Kentucky has had almost no success. In fact, Florida has not lost to Kentucky since 1986, many of those wins coming by way of double-digit blowouts. The new-look Gator offense looked extremely proficient last weekend, and if that performance can be repeated, the Wildcats may be in for a whole heap of trouble.

Florida needs to win big here; a last second squeaker will not quell the angst reverberating off the walls of the Swamp. If Kentucky can penetrate defensively and create turnovers, the Florida boo-birds could come out in full force. It is no secret that this season is make or break, so the slightest misstep will be magnified by fans and media alike. There are plenty of fans who want Muschamp to succeed and there are just as many who wanted him gone five minutes ago. Quarterback Jeff Driskel will need to lead the Gator offense to the end zone early and often. Dante Fowler and the defense will need to put Kentucky Quarterback Patrick Towles on his back and eliminate any threat of an upset in the first half.

For Kentucky, this will be a statement game. Mark Stoops has revived interest in a program that has really struggled this decade. While this may not be the Gators of the 1990s or mid-2000s, it is still Florida. Hanging a loss on the Gators on their home turf would undeniably catapult the Wildcats into a new realm of football euphoria, a feeling that has largely escaped Lexington in recent years. Even if Kentucky hangs around and loses a close one, it would still send a message to the rest of the conference that the Cats are no longer the pushover of the division.

Kentucky reels in a one hander for a TD
Kentucky reels in a one hander for a TD

Taking the crowd out of the game is absolutely key to this victory. The Swamp gets awfully hostile when Florida is rolling, and Towles’ response to pressure will be the difference in the Cats hanging in or getting crushed once again in Gainesville. A resounding defeat will lead to the “same old Kentucky” arguments that have plagued the program for years. Competing for an East title may not be in the equation this year, but dealing this knockout blow to the Gators and possibly Muschamp’s head coaching tenure would have the national media talking about Kentucky more than just the school where Jared Lorenzen used to play.

All signs point to a Florida victory, but there are some positive winds blowing through the bluegrass right now. Stoops and company keeping their poise against a crowd clamoring for a bloodletting will speak volumes for the state of the program. Rest assured, this game is one to watch.

PREDICTION: Kentucky 17, Florida 35

 

Tennessee v Oklahoma Game Preview

Tennessee @  Oklahoma

Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

1am Irish Time (Saturday night) September 14th 2014 (ABC Network)

It hasn’t taken much effort for the #4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners to start 2-0 this season and that might have some people close to the program worried heading into this Week 3 matchup against an SEC foe. However, the Sooners are gelling as a team before they hit the tough part of their schedule. This could be the year Butch Jones leads the Tennessee Volunteers to the distinction of “contender” in the SEC. It has been quite a few years since the Volunteers have actually earned the right to be called a contender, but the new head coach has the team headed in the right direction and a win against Oklahoma would be quite the program-builder.

Bob Stoops could possibly have his most talented Oklahoma team ever in 2014. There really is no ceiling for this team as he has put together quite the unit and the offense is stronger than it has been in quite some time. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight leads the way for the offense with his 552 yards and three touchdowns through the air as well as his 52 yards and a score on the ground. Sterling Shepard has stepped up to give the young starter some help in the passing game by grabbing 12 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns while Durron Neal hasn’t exactly been a slouch, either, catching eight passes for 112 yards. Don’t sleep on the 42nd-ranked rushing attack behind Keith Ford and his 138 yards and four touchdowns on 7.3 yards per carry. Alex Ross has given the Sooners a solid one-two punch with his 126 yards and three scores on the ground.

Oklahoma will be Tennessee’s first true test of the season and that is exactly what the Volunteers need heading into conference play in two weeks. Senior quarterback Justin Worley has basically gotten two warm-up games to prepare for the Sooners and he has looked much improved from a season ago. Worley has passed for 520 yards and five touchdowns after throwing just 10 touchdowns all of last season. Marquez North has been Worley’s top target, catching eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns while Von Pearson has been hot on his heels with seven catches for 98 yards and a score. The run game, however, has not been nearly as impressive, ranking 91st in the nation in terms of yards per game. Jalen Hurd leads all rushers with 112 yards and a score on 34 carries – just a 3.3 yards per carry average – while Marlin Lane has 95 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.

Tennessee celebrate a TD
Tennessee celebrate a TD

Defensively, the Volunteers have allowed just an average of 13 points per game this season, but haven’t quite played an opponent with a potent offense until now. The Volunteers have allowed an average of just 288 total yards per game through the first two, including an average of just 120 on the ground. Oklahoma has also been quite stingy, allowing just 11.5 points per game as well as just about 286 total yards per contest. Neither team has been truly tested yet.

PREDICTION: Tennessee 24, Oklahoma 41

Michigan State v Oregon Game Preview

 

Michigan State @ Oregon

Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

11.30pm Irish Time September 6th 2014 (FOX Network)

Rolling past FCS power Jacksonville State in week one seemed to be a breeze for the Michigan State Spartans as Coach Mark Dantonio‘s team took a commanding 38-0 lead into halftime and coasted the rest of the way with the second and third stringers. The Spartans will face their toughest test of the season this weekend in Eugene. Featuring one of the best teams in the nation seemingly season after season, the always flashy Oregon Ducks will take the field against the Spartans in Week 2 as the No. 3 team in the nation. This will be the first matchup of top-10 teams of the season and it could make for one electric atmosphere come Saturday evening.

Everyone was holding their breath after Connor Cook went down after the Spartans’ first touchdown of the season — a long pass to Tony Lippett. However, the junior signal caller limped off the field just to return a minute later on Michigan State’s next drive to throw yet another long touchdown pass. Cook looked like an early-season Heisman candidate, passing for 285 yards and three scores while completing 12 of 13 passes — that was all just one half of work. Lippett finished as Cook’s favorite target with 167 yards and two long touchdowns on just four catches; tight end Josiah Price had three catches for 54 yards. Jeremy Langford had a tough time finding holes as the running back finished with 57 yards on 13 carries before leaving with an injury.

Michigan State celebrate a TD

Oregon blew South Dakota out of the water in week one, racking up 62 points behind the strong arm of Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota. The junior quarterback finished with 267 passing yards and three touchdowns on 14-20 passing as well as 43 rushing yards and a score before departing and giving way to backup Jeff Lockie who was 11 for 12 with 113 yards and a touchdown. The passing attack did not miss a beat from last year’s potent squad. Byron Marshall led all receivers with eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41-yard score in the second quarter from Mariota. Marshall also led the run game with 90 yards on eight carries while Royce Freeman had 75 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.

Defensively, Oregon gave up an elevated amount of yards to North Dakota, 370 yards to be exact, while the Ducks had a tough time slowing down the run. Oregon will need to buckle down on defense if it plans on slowing down Langford and the potent passing attack behind Cook. Michigan State has one of the best defenses in the nation even though it lost some key starters from last year. The Spartans held Jacksonville State to a mere 22 rushing yards in week one — 0.9 yards per attempt. They will need to do the same to contain Marshall and Mariota in Week 2.

PREDICTION: Michigan State 31, Oregon 28

USC V Stanford Game Preview

USC @ Stanford

Stanford Stadium, California

8.30pm Irish Time September 6th 2014 (ABC Network & ESPN 3)

It seems like just yesterday when the #14 ranked USC Trojans were being led out of the tunnel by head coach Lane Kiffin and now they are led by strong-minded Steve Sarkisian. It also seems like just yesterday when the offense looked doomed for failure and now that is the least of the Trojans’ worries. A Week 1 stomping of Fresno State should ease the mind of Trojan fans everywhere. Coming off a Rose Bowl loss in 2013, the #13 ranked Stanford Cardinal entered the 2014 season with a lot to prove under a veteran quarterback and one of the best coaches in the nation. Stanford returns one of the best defenses in the nation and it proved that in a week one handling of FCS squad UC Davis.

USC layin the wood on rivals UCLA
USC layin the wood on rivals UCLA

While it took weeks upon weeks to find a solid starting quarterback in 2013, the Trojans have settled on junior QB Cody Kessler who impressed in a Week 1 blowout. Kessler was responsible for five USC touchdowns as he passed for four and ran one in. The junior racked up 394 yards on 25 of 37 completions to go along with 28 yards on the ground. Former 5-star high school prospect John ‘JuJu’ Smith made his first collegiate game look easy, catching four passes for 123 yards while Nelson Agholor had five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Javorius Allen led the strong rushing attack, which had 277 yards on the ground as a unit, with 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

Stanford also jumped all over its opponent in Week 1, but the Cardinal faced a far less superior team in UC Davis. The Cardinal, led by quarterback Kevin Hogan, had a lot of rushing yards to replace since Tyler Gaffney departed after last season. Barry Sanders will likely carry the load in the run game this season, but he finished with just 43 yards on a measly seven carries. While the run game was just about average in Week 1, the passing game looked solid behind Hogan. The third-year starter was 12-16 for 204 yards and three touchdowns while he threw one interception. Stanford will hope that he lives up to his potential this season and lead them to a national title. Hogan’s favorite target, as it will likely be all season, was the electric Ty Montgomery who had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Stanford was one of the best units in the nation a season ago and proved that in the season opener against UC Davis, holding the opponent to just 115 yards of total offense — 54 yards through the air and 61 on the ground. Stanford allowed just six first downs all game to the Aggies. The Trojans faced a tougher opponent in Fresno State, but still held their own, allowing just 317 yards of offense — almost identical numbers allowed against the rush and pass.

PREDICTION: USC 24, Stanford 31