Three big non-conference matchups on the docket – presented in increasing order of national interest. My crystal ball is ready for this weekend!
#18 West Virginia 27 vs Maryland 31
Remember when QB Danny O’Brien looked like a phenom against Miami Labor Day night? Remember when they had half a dozen chances in the red zone and couldn’t punch it in? Remember when West Virginia trailed Norfolk State last week. Well all of that changes this week. West Virginia will start to get things clicking on offense and Maryland will finally find the end zone. O’Brien will put up average passing numbers, but ground game, led by Davin Meggett (right), will control this game. I’m expecting Meggett to top 100 yards and 2 scores (1 through rushing and 1 receiving).
Kansas 17 vs Georgia Tech 35
Kansas embarrassed the Yellow Jackets last year. Tech will get their revenge this year. QB Tevin Washington seems to be evoking his inner Joe Hamilton circa 1998 with getting the passing game going along with the running game. WR Steven Hill has burst onto the scene is with 300 yards and 3 TDs in two games. That streak will continue at home against Kansas as he will snag 4 balls for 120 yards and 2 TDs.Washington will finish the night with 150 yards passing, 70 rushing and a total 3 TDs and 1 INT. Freshman RB Synjyn Days has also showed up in a huge way and will continue his impressive campaign with 80 yards and a score.
Duke 28 vs Boston College 14
So what do you get when you have two 0-2 teams facing each other? One team ending up 1-2 and the other 0-3. Duke has the passing offense to exploit the issues with Boston College’s secondary…big time. QB Sean Renfree will have a near perfect day completing 80% of his passes for 350 yards and 4 TDs. Yeah, the Eagle’s secondary is that bad! Receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon will both hit 100 yards receiving in this game and split 3 TDs between the pair. Boston College’s offensive coordinator just took a leave of absence this week citing personal reasons. Yeah, when you put up only 140 yards of offense against UCF the week prior, I’d say you have some personal problems. QB Chase Rettig should find more room to operate this week as Duke’s Defense is nowhere near as stifling as the Knights. The real story here is that RB Montel Harris should be back and he’ll lead this team eclipsing 100 yards and a score in his 2011 debut (IF he returns).
Virginia 14 at North Carolina 24
The Cavaliers have looked solid in their two wins to start the season. But they have not faced a defense like the Tar Heels. Really that’s the story here. I may even be too optimistic with 14 points. This is the first real test for QB Michael Rocco. My expectations for him are to throw for 175 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INT. The Cavs will put all of their eggs in one basket (Where’s Perry Jones? – ed. note) and hope RB Keith Parks gets them out to an early lead so that they can continue to pound the rock. But that won’t happen as he’ll only end the day with 70 yards and 1 TD. North Carolina’s QB Bryn Renner will continue his solid campaign with over 200 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Watch for the Tar Heels to continue to utilize the running duo of Gio Bernard and Ryan Houston who will combine for 180 yards and 2 rushing scores. WR Dwight Jones will break free for a decent game compiling at least 90 yards and a score.
South Alabama 21 vs NC State 28
So what is the cure for a tough loss hangover? A transitional FBS team in year three of existence. Look for the Wolfpack to come out swinging in this one as they fight off the hangover from losing to Wake Forest last week. The only problem here is that South Alabama has one of the better offenses in the FCS and NC State has one of the worst defenses in the FBS. That is why this game will be closer than it should. QB Mike Glennon will look better as he gets more comfortable in the system. He should go for about 250 yards and 2 scores. The problem with this offense is how much they miss the WR studs of yesteryear. RBs James Washington and Curtis Underwood Jr. will continue to tote the ball fairly evenly which means they should both hit around 75 yards and score each.
Gardener Webb 17 vs Wake Forest 30 – After getting an early lead in the ACC race, the Demon Deacons now turn their sights to the lowly Bull Dogs of Gardener Webb. Gardener Webb should really just stay focused on basketball as their football team is not very good. Wake’s QB Tanner Price will continue his great year with nearly 300 yards of total offense this week and 3 scores. He’ll rush one in for a TD this week. WR Chris Givens will get most of the passes his way as Michael Campanaro has been downgraded to doubtful for this weekend. Givens should easily eclipse 100 yards and score.
BIG GAME ALERTS
#21 Auburn 31 vs Clemson 30
This game will be close all the way through due to the defensive struggles from both teams. Clemson will have the lead through most of it as the home field advantage plays a factor. QB Tajh Boyd will be set loose to make some plays with his legs compared to the last two weeks where he was being asked to learn how to pass in this new system. He should easily hit 250 yards through the air for 2 scores, but also have 2 INTs. RB Andre Ellington had a breakout game last week and they will continue to rely on his legs to keep the chains moving, I’m expecting 150 total yards and a score. Freshman stud WR Sammy Watkins will exploit a weak secondary and should be open for 85 yards and a receiving TD. This game will be won with a last second FG.
#17 Ohio State 40 vs Miami 24 (aka the Ineligi-Bowl)(ht:@drsaturday)
Sorry about this Cane fans, but I think the near-loss to Toledo last week was the big scare that Ohio State needed to force themselves to regroup and focus for this game. Throw in the fact that the NCAA just deemed 3 of their star players eligible starting this weekend, yeesh. Don’t get me wrong, Miami gets most of their starters back, including those on defense, but I just can’t see a defense that allowed 500 yards of offense to Maryland to look so much better against a really talented Ohio St team. QB Jacory Harris returns after his one game suspension and he’ll find it some tough-sledding early on this game. I really expect Miami to put up most of their points in the second half after they make some adjustments. Harris should put up 200 yards through the air with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. RB Lamar Miller will be counted on early and he should find room for about 80 yards and a TD. WR Travis Benjamin also returns from his suspension and I expect him to be involved early and often, including a couple of end-around runs. He should have about 85 total yards and a score.
#1 Oklahoma 24 vs #5 FSU 20
This will not be the same game from last year. FSU’s defense has improved significantly since then and that alone will shave off 2-3 TDs from this offense. Oklahoma comes into this game slightly banged up on the O line (starting their 3rd string RT) and on Defense which will allow FSU to hang in this game. Throw in the 12th man (sold-out crowd of 85,000 in Doak Campbell Stadium) and this game could be a fun, down-to-the-wire kind of game. QB EJ Manuel will look studly at times and like a rookie in others. He’ll finally be turned loose to use his legs and run some in this game. He should throw for 225 yards and 2 scores while also rushing for 55 yards and 1 score. The Noles will be without WR Willie Haulsteadt so they will continue to rely heavily on senior Bert Reed and junior Rodney Smith. The running game has looked brutal in their first two games as the O line just has not been able to get it together with run-blocking. I don’t like any of the FSU backs in this game. Sleeper pick – watch for freshman TE Nick O’Leary to be utilized heavily as the Noles have really tried to keep him under wraps so that they can unveil him this week as a potent dump-off weapon.