Woes continue for Badgers, as Trojans, Gators get back on track
I'm coming off a strong week in which I was three games over .500 against the line. That puts me two games over for the season thus far. The good: picking South Florida to thump NC State. The bad: picking Auburn to cruise past Tennessee. The ugly: touting Wake Forest to handle Navy. Here are this week's guesses:
Thursday, Oct. 2
South Florida 27, Pittsburgh 24
Dave Wannstedt's team has won three in a row, but none of the wins was very impressive. Despite this being a road game, I feel like the Panthers are going to keep it interesting, especially since USF will be without corner Theo Wilson and could be short-handed on the D-line while George Selvie and NT Terrell McClain nurse ailing ankles.
Which Beavers team is going to show up, the one that got blown out by Penn State or the one that ran through USC? Given Oregon State's penchant for slow starts to the season, I think Mike Riley's team will give the Utes all they can handle. But expect Utah QB Brian Johnson to make a play late to stave off the upset bid and Utah's salty run defense (fifth in the country, 60.2 yards per game) to keep Quizz Rodgers from running wild again.
Friday, Oct. 3
Marshall 20, Cincinnati 13
The Bearcats' woes in trying to keep their QBs healthy will be too much to overcome against a Herd team fired up for the Friday night stage. Expect the Thundering Herd, which had all sorts of problems containing the edges against the speed of West Virginia, to step up and be more formidable against UC.
BYU 59, Utah State 14
Bronco Mendenhall's BYU squad is loaded on offense and will have no trouble with a school it has beaten eight straight times. The Cougars' run of shutouts will end here, but expect another dominant performance.
Saturday, Oct. 4
West Virginia 35, Rutgers 14
The Mountaineers' offense hit its stride last week and should keep up the fireworks against a suspect Rutgers defense. RU has lost 13 in a row to WVU, and I don't see that streak ending here in Morgantown.
Penn State 42, Purdue 34
If your defense is getting gashed by the Notre Dame run game, look for the Penn State attack to really do damage. The Nittany Lions have a good O-line, having produced 15 running plays of at least 20 yards, and seven of those have gone for at least 30. That said, don't be surprised if Curtis Painter gets hot and keeps things interesting.
Oklahoma 41, Baylor 24
Robert Griffin is a phenomenal athlete, but he is going to face the best bunch of D-linemen he has seen in his college career this week. Look for the Sooners' ground attack to heat back up against the Bears.
Kansas 30, Iowa State 13
KU probably didn't need WR Dexron Fields back to beat ISU, but the dangerous wideout not only spices up the Jayhawks' passing game, he also is a formidable blocker and will help spark the ground game. The young Iowa State D also is a pretty good opponent against which to restart a rushing attack. The Cyclones are allowing a gaudy 5.3 yards per rush this season, worst in the conference.
Florida 45, Arkansas 14
The Gators will take out a lot of frustration on an under-manned Arkansas team that has been notorious for giving up way too many big plays. The Hogs, with by far the SEC's worst run defense, also will provide UF's ground attack a nice opportunity to get back on track.
Virginia Tech 34, Western Kentucky 6
The Hokies certainly haven't been dynamic on offense (they are 108th in the country in total yards), but they have been great in taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers. Tyrod Taylor's confidence got a much-needed jolt by the way he played in a hostile environment last week at Nebraska. It'll get another boost when some more big plays start coming this week.
Ole Miss 24, South Carolina 13
The Rebels finally have some confidence brewing. That'll be big for Jevan Snead and the Ole Miss offense. Also, now that the D-line finally is healthy, it's going to cause a lot of problems for opponents, especially this week, when it gets a visit from a Carolina O-line that has surrendered 17 sacks, the most in the SEC.
Alabama 20, Kentucky 6
The Wildcats' D has been outstanding thus far, but now they're visiting a team that is far superior to any they faced in the first month of the season. Bama has made a living jumping on teams early, and that pattern figures to hold up this weekend. The Crimson Tide's D should be too physical for UK.
Texas Tech 56, Kansas State 21
Mike Leach's running game has been a pleasant surprise, while his offense has worked to overcome its issues with dropped passes. That ground game should stay cranked up as it meets the beleaguered K-State defense, which has been gashed for at least 500 yards in each of the past two games.
Auburn 13, Vanderbilt 7
Two of the SEC's three worst passing offenses don't figure to light up the scoreboard. In fact, I think Vandy's points might come from one of their fine DBs coming up with a pick-six. Still, my hunch is that Auburn will run the ball a little better than the Commodores and end Vandy's win streak.
North Carolina 24, UConn 14
Both teams have been forced to turn to backup QBs due to injury, and both reserves performed admirably last week. I think Donald Brown, the Huskies' great tailback, will be a headache for Butch Davis' defense, but look for UNC to wear down UConn in the second half as the D forces some big mistakes.
Oklahoma State 52, Texas A&M 17
Quietly, Mike Gundy's team is rising up the rankings. It's very physical. It's been a great running team for the past three seasons, and now it faces the Big 12's worst run defense. Don't be surprised if OSU runs for 400 yards against the Aggies.
Will Muschamp's D has been really getting after QBs the past two games, and now the Longhorns will face a Colorado O-line that is not only young but also relying on a first-time starter at right tackle, Matthew Bahr. Expect another big day for the UT ends and for Colt McCoy to continue his hot play.
Ohio State 23, Wisconsin 17
Terrelle Pryor has added a big-play threat to the Buckeyes' offense that wasn't there with Todd Boeckman. Pryor's ability to keep a defense on its heels again will be a huge plus, especially now that Beanie Wells is back. Expect Pryor to also continue to work the middle of the field and for the OSU defense to contain P.J. Hill, who has been strong in the first quarter of games but hasn't had as much of an effect later on.
USC 27, Oregon 13
I don't expect the Trojans' D to lose again against another 5-11 QB, although Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli has enough arm to test the Trojans' secondary and the Ducks' receivers are talented. Look for USC's reshuffled D-line to respond to a dismal showing the previous week.
Missouri 44, Nebraska 24
Sure, the Tigers haven't won in Lincoln in decades, but this program is radically different, thanks to Chase Daniel. It's doubtful the Tigers will pile up 606 yards on NU like they did last year, but by the second half, they should settle into a rhythm because MU simply has too many weapons for the Huskers' defense, which is 96th in the country against the pass. The return of safety William Moore, the Tigers' top defender, also should provide a much-needed boost.
Fresno State 48, Hawaii 13
These games have been shootouts in recent years (averaging almost 76 points combined over the past five contests). I don't see Hawaii's defense slowing down Tom Brandstater at all. I also expect Fresno to work over Hawaii with its ground game.
Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.
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