College Football

Saturday Syllabus Week Two: All Big Regional Games Must Come To An End

michigan notre dame football game

England vs. Germany. It’s not a rivalry. Sure, they fought the two bloodiest wars in human history. But their interactions only really heightened in the late nineteenth century. They went a very long period without an armed conflict. Western Civilization achieved enlightenment before their dynamic interaction. Their rivalry was all about empire and industry, not something pure like hegemony over ancestral holdings of productive farmland. Their shared language roots and Protestant outlooks tend to breed mutual respect. One could possibly call it a rivalry, but rivalry would be pushing it.

Big Regional Games

Spacing the biggest games evenly throughout the day. What a concept!

Image (1) Taylor-Lewan-Mustache-594x796.jpg for post 266775Notre Dame at Michigan: Turn up your nose at the rivalry or rivalry, if you wish, but stay for the competitive football. Twenty of the 29 meetings between these teams since 1978 have been decided by one score, including the last four. Most anticipate this meeting will follow suit. The biggest difference from the past few years: no Denard Robinson. Michigan’s speed merchant was the reason the Wolverines won this game in 2010 and 2011. Throwing an interception on four-straight pass attempts, he was the reason they lost in 2012.

Michigan’s defense is very young, but, considering talent level and depth, is in its best state since the Carr era. No standouts, yet, but a number of guys who could be heading there. The Wolverines should hold their own up front. Where they can be undone is in the secondary. Tommy Rees looked like the second coming against Temple, teaming up with an apparently explosive wide receiver tandem of T.J. Jones and Davaris Daniels. We’ll see whether that was a harbinger of great things or exploiting the coverage breakdowns of a porous defense.

On the other side, the Irish should have the advantage up front. Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are first-round picks. Third man on the line Sheldon Day could join them the following year. Michigan is strong at tackle, but has three new starters on the interior line. The Wolverines have to get a conventional running game going. MGoBlog points out that Michigan ran a number of stretch plays against CMU last week. Theoretically, that would play to their mobility up front and reduce Notre Dame’s power advantage. If the Wolverines can pose a credible threat on the ground, that opens the play-action and Devin Gardner to make plays with both arms and feet and yeah… That’s a big if, though.

One other factor to note: Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons is about as reliable as one gets at the college level. He’s hit 30/36 since Brady Hoke arrived. Notre Dame had two kickers miss an attempt last week. [Pick: Michigan (-4), though that line seems dead on. Whitlock likes the Wolverines as well.]

Steve Spurrier shirtless at Spring practiceSouth Carolina at Georgia: There are a coupleways to look at this one. Georgia’s offense dominated, statistically, against Clemson. Todd Gurley, despite a thigh injury, ran for more than 150 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. Aaron Murray averaged more than 11 yards per pass attempt, despite seeing his top receiver go down. That power and production, most weeks, would lead to victory. The Bulldogs probably have better talent than South Carolina everywhere on the field, except defensive line. The numbers favor Georgia. The question: do you trust them?

Aaron Murray is 1-10 vs. Top 15 teams. What that really means is this iteration of Georgia is 1-10 vs. Top 15 teams. The reason is they don’t execute against teams that can keep up with them. Check the box score of that one win against Florida. Georgia out-gained Clemson. They also committed more turnovers, were flagged for more penalties and converted just four of 14 third down attempts. Some of that may be Murray. Some of that rests with the coaching staff.

Mike Bobo called three-straight gut runs on 1st and Goal from the 5 in the second half. Georgia ended up with no points. The Bulldogs had a fourth down inside the opponents’ 40 in the fourth quarter down by three. Mark Richt punted, to gain 26 yards of field position. Little things turn games. Not all of them come down to fortune.

Steve Spurrier has won three on the trot against Georgia, the last being a massive blowout. The Dawgs have had problems against the run and operate at a tempo more suitable to Mr. Clowney and the rest of the Gamecocks’ defensive line. South Carolina had a few extra days to prepare this past week and did far less soul-searching.  The Gamecocks have the ever-present potential to lay a turd. The Dawgs have a documented pattern of doing it in exactly this situation. [Pick: South Carolina +3.5]

Image (1) Al-Golden-Open-Shirt-594x396.jpg for post 231339Florida at Miami: This may be the last time these two teams meet for the foreseeable future. We were optimistic about Miami heading into the season. Not so optimistic about them here. Miami had ability and experience returning on offense. They just needed a few tweaks to be more efficient. Thus far, the Canes have showed no signs of it.

Duke Johnson had a monster game, posting more than 200 total yards. Beyond that, the passing game was in shambles and produced less than six yards per attempt. Miami converted only four of 14 third downs, one of three fourth downs and produced only 17 points from four trips to the red zone. They were Top 20 in yards per play last year. They need to turn their ball movement into points.

Florida is far more efficient. They press their advantage on the line with the run, limit mistakes and keep the opposing team’s offense off the field. They did all three against Toledo. The Gator defense did a great job shutting down Toledo. The Hurricane defense looked great shutting down an awful FAU team. Playing in Miami provides zero home field advantage. Weird line, but we’re not going to over-think things. [Pick: Florida -3]

tim-beckman-drawing

Some Other Picks

Illinois (+7.5) vs. Cincinnati: We’ll go contrarian with money pouring in on Cincinnati. Illinois seems to have something going on on offense. They should be able to score. Munchie Legaux is fun to watch. He’s not the most efficient quarterback. Cincinnati was vulnerable to giving up big plays last season. Factor in some regression on the road and take the points in a shootout.

BYU (+7) vs. Texas: BYU’s offense was a dumpster fire against UVA. Their defense was nearly impenetrable, conceding two touchdowns on drives that started in the red zone. Meandering Texas on the road? At altitude? Practicing with Bane masks? We’ll take these Cougars to cover.

USC (-16) vs. Washington State: We don’t trust these Cougars. USC’s defense was borderline dominant against Hawaii, giving up one big play. They should be able to run on WSU, who allowed more than 6 yards per carry to Auburn last week. Factor in the overreactions to week one results and the fact WSU is coming off a long, tiring road trip.

MSU (-23) vs. South Florida: MSU’s offense was brutal. Their defense led the nation in yards allowed per play (2.72) and took two turnovers back for scores. South Florida got obliterated, on both sides of the ball, by an FCS team. I don’t see how they score more than a field goal or two. MSU cobbles together enough points to cover and seals the back door.

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