Week 4 Predictions
1. The Weekend Will Open With An Upset Of Another Top 5 Team
The top 5 has been a very unwelcome place this year. Week one, it was No. 3 Oklahoma getting bumped by BYU. Oklahoma State made a brief cameo in the top five as they were bumped by Houston in week two. And last week, No. 3 USC fell to Washington. This week, No. 4 Ole Miss will feel the sting Thursday night when they fall to South Carolina.
First of all, Mississippi has to cross into a different time zone on a short week. It’s only one time zone, so it’s not like Fresno State going out to play Cincinnati, but it’s still not the kind of thing you want to do when you only have four days off rather than six.
There’s also precedent. Ole Miss had a problem last year losing to teams they should have defeated. They lost on the road against a fairly unimposing Wake Forest. They fell to Vanderbilt the week before upsetting Florida. And the week after that huge win, they had a letdown game against…you guessed it…South Carolina. If South Carolina can upset them on the road, I have no reason to think they can’t do it at home. The Rebels also haven’t won an SEC opener since 2003. Time to break a streak? I hope not.
It’s hard to find a defensive hole with Ole Miss through two games. They have dominated their opponents, especially in the passing game, grabbing five interceptions without allowing a TD. Their best pass rusher, Greg Hardy, is back this week after missing the last game with an ankle injury. We’ll see if he’s 100 percent. But it will take a team that is not forced into being one dimensional to defeat Ole Miss. The Gamecocks can do that. QB Stephen Garcia is improving quickly and coming into his own. The last two games are much more indicative of his talent than the first forgettable game against North Carolina State. They have also increased the workload each game for freshman RB Jarvis Giles, who ran out of his mind against Florida Atlantic (11 carries, 113 yards). South Carolina will need Garcia and Giles running on all cylinders for this game, but I believe if there’s a coach in the country that can prepare young players for a big game, it’s Steve Spurrier.
This is the second time this year already that I’ve picked South Carolina for an upset. I hope they don’t let me down this time.
2. Big Weekend For Lesser-Known Running Backs
What starts with Jarvis Giles on Thursday night will continue Saturday with two other relatively unknown running backs. One goes unnoticed because he does not play for a big time program. The other goes overlooked because he splits carries with a Heisman hopeful.
The unnoticed, small program back is Donald Buckram of UTEP. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry and has an additional seven catches for 66 yards. He’s only 5’10,” 195 lbs, but he runs much bigger than that. I was amazed at the way he ran over the defenders of New Mexico State. He won’t be able to run the same way against the bigger, faster defense of the Texas Longhorns, but if he can break a few good runs it could be a really great coming out party for a talented running back.
The overlooked back is California’s Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson. Jahvid Best, who averages 7.8 yards per carry and already has eight TD runs, is the star of the Bears’ backfield. But DeBoskie-Johnson is averaging 7.3 yards after 20 carries this season. With the injury to receiver Nyan Boateng, Cal’s running backs could see their workload increasing. And it’s happening on the right week as they go up to Autzen Stadium to play Oregon. Opponents are averaging 151 yards rushing against the Ducks. Put that against two running backs that average over seven yards per carry on a team that averages a ridiculous 250 yards rushing per game…not hard to guess what’ll happen.
3. The Big 12 Is The Place To Be For Compelling QB Matchups
They’re not the highest ranked teams in the Big 12, but some of the best QBs in the country are meeting in Big 12 games this weekend. The most obvious matchup is Texas Tech vs. Houston. Tech’s Taylor Potts is first in the country in passing yards per game (427) and Houston’s Case Keenum is third (362.5). Keenum is also 4th in the country in passer rating. This guarantees to be the offensive show of the weekend as Houston attempts to topple another Big 12 opponent. The Cougars are looking really good to crash the BCS party.
One great QB battle that might not be so easily noticed is Kansas’s Todd Reesing vs. Southern Mississippi’s Austin Davis. Reesing picked up right where he left off last year – 148.53 QB rating, 64.7 completion percentage, 269 yards per game, six TDs, one INT. He’s undersized, but he gets the job done. Moving from a guy from Austin to a guy named Austin, I’m intrigued to see how Davis does in this game. He has a 149.88 QB rating and 5 TDs without throwing an interception, but his stats have declined with each game. He’s still riding high from the beating he put on Alcorn State. In his last game against Virginia, he was just 14-for-26 for 130 yards with one TD and a QB rating of 108.54. He has a chance to right the ship and get some national attention against No. 20 Kansas. It’s certainly a game with potential.
4. The ACC Is The Place To Be For “Something’s Gotta Give” Games
You know I’m no fan of the ACC and will continue to ride it until it gets its BCS Bowl record above .200. But, I am compelled to admit that they have some really great games this weekend. Miami at Virginia Tech is just the tip of the iceberg.
TCU at Clemson is a fascinating matchup. The Horned Frogs have a chance to get some more BCS cred. with a win on the road against a BCS opponent. They have played solid defense so far, albeit against some weak opponents (Virginia and Texas State), holding their first two opponents to 43.5 rushing yards per game. Whether that defense is for real will be put to the test against a Clemson ground attack that is averaging 159 yards per game. It is worth noting, however, that despite all that rushing success, Clemson does not have a single rushing TD this year. I definitely favor TCU in this game, but it will be interesting to see their rushing defense in its first real test.
Then there’s the one between two actual conference rivals – North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Like TCU, the Tarheels have held their own against weak opponents, holding them to 52 yards rushing per game. And, like TCU, they’ll get their first real test this week against the Yellowjackets of Georgia Tech. GaTech is averaging 5.3 yards per carry as a team and almost 244 yards rushing per game. This will also be another test to see if the Yellowjackets can actually sustain this type of offense. Miami stifled them for a season-low 95 yards last week. I subscribe to the motto that a good defense always beats a good offense, so I like the Tarheels in this one.
5. Washington Will Stumble
The Huskies have letdown game written all over them. They’re coming off a shocking win of a top-five opponent, they’re hitting the road for the first time this season and they’re playing a pretty weak opponent (Stanford) who, despite not being good, has defeated them three of the last four times they’ve played. Neither of these teams play lockdown defense. Washington’s opponents have actually outgained them in the two games they won. And aside from their game against San Jose State, Stanford’s defense has been absolutely abysmal.
Overall, Stanford has better offensive stats. They have a QB in Andrew Luck with a rating over 150 and a team that averages 5.7 yards per carry. The Huskies have had a chance to cut their teeth on tough opponents early, but I think they’ll come out tired and flat from expending so much early energy against LSU and USC. Plan on Stanford opening up another spot in the top 25.