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

Are these the Tees you’re looking for?

Are you a fan of college football and Star Wars? Well they’re coming together in a new line of merchandise. The range includes T-shirts, caps, and hoodies. They’ll be available at Old Navy (who ship to Ireland) and Kohls.

starwarsncaa

 

Shut-up-and-take-my-money

The colleges participating are:

The University of Alabama
The University of Arizona
Arizona State University
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Auburn University
Boise State University
Boston College
BYU
University of California, Berkeley
University of Cincinnati
The Citadel
Clemson University
University of Colorado
University of Connecticut
University of Florida
Florida State University
Georgetown University
University of Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology
University of Illinois
The University of Kansas
LSU
University of Louisville
University of Maryland
The University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
Northwestern University
The University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University
Oregon State University
University of the Pacific
The Pennsylvania State U
University of Pittsburgh
Purdue University
State Univ. of New Jersey, Rutgers
San Diego State University
University of South Carolina
University of South Florida
Syracuse University
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Texas A&M University
Texas Christian University
Texas Tech University
UCLA
U.S. Air Force Academy
University of Utah
Vanderbilt University
The University of Virginia
Virginia Tech
Villanova University
Wake Forest University
Washington State University
Weber State University
West Virginia University
University of Wisconsin

 

Please excuse the cheesy and predictable title!

Croke Park is ready for some football!

The final preparation are being made in Croke Park for this weekend’s season opener between Penn State and UCF in Dublin.

With both teams arriving in Dublin today, the stage is set for over 40,000 fans to enjoy the second NCAA Division 1 college football game in two years after Notre Dame took on Navy in the Aviva Stadium in 2012.

UCF are coming in to this game off the back of a 12-1 season, which included a 34-31 win at PSU where now Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Blake Bortles went 20-for-27 with 288 yards and three touchdowns.

2013 season with a win at Wisconsin finishing 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten.

PSU are currently serving a four year bowl ban, the penalty from their highly publicised child sex abuse scandal also included a $60 million fine and the NCAA vacated all of the program’s 112 wins from 1998 to 2011.

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg is in his second season starting, last year he had a 58.9 completion percentage with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Although his number one target Allen Robinson, who had 40 percent of the team’s receptions, has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the preseason redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo was named the No. 1 quarterback. If he starts on Saturday, he would be the first UCF freshman quarterback to start since Jeff Godfrey in 2010, and the first to start a season-opener since Daunte Culpepper in 1995.

Look out for Cork native Sean Galvin, who is the kick off specialist for UCF. Sean moved to the States in 2004 and has hopes of being drafted to the NFL next season.

Tickets are on sale for the Croke Park Classic through ticketmaster.ie and tickets.ie. For further information visit www.crokeparkclassic.ie.