Gabriel: Weekend Preview
The college season has reached the halfway point and the NFL season is almost there. While every game has meaning to it, now that it’s crunch time, they become more important as we get closer to figuring out who will be in college conference championship games and who is still fighting for playoff berths in the NFL.
UCLA at Stanford
With the struggles that USC has had, UCLA has solidified itself as THE team in LA. They are 5-0 and on top of the PAC-12 South. They currently have a two game lead in the division, so they have some breathing room, but coach Jim Mora wants a National Championship. Stanford suffered its first loss last week at Utah. Kevin Hogan and company need to come up big against UCLA. If they lose, it will put them two games behind Oregon, an almost insurmountable task with five games to go.
Florida State at Clemson
This is the big game in the ACC. Both teams are undefeated and the winner will hold the advantage in getting to the ACC Championship game. Both teams are getting very strong QB play. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has completed 66% of his passes and thrown for 15 TDs. He should be a high pick in the next NFL Draft. Florida State is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston who has completed 73% of his passes for 17 TDs. He has played better than last year’s QB E.J. Manuel who just happened to be the first QB taken in last spring’s NFL Draft. Going into tomorrow’s game, Winston just may be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy this year.
USC at Notre Dame
While USC has struggled, they played much better last week against Arizona under interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron. Receiver Marqise Lee comes off the injured list and that should help the Trojan’s offense.
Notre Dame has gotten inconsistent play for Quarterback Tommy Rees. He struggles versus pressure, and the key for USC will be getting a strong pass rush. This is a huge recruiting weekend for Notre Dame with at least twelve uncommitted prospects as well as nine committed prospects attending the game. Many of these players are being recruited by both schools, and the winner may get the advantage as to where each player finally decides to go. With 2 losses, Notre Dame has to win their remaining six games if they have any chance at all of returning to a BCS Bowl game. After USC, Stanford and BYU are the hardest games left on the Notre Dame schedule.
Denver at Indianapolis
Colts owner Jim Irsay has done his best to sabotage his own team against the Broncos. Through his Twitter account, he basically questioned the abilities of former Colts' great Peyton Manning. If Peyton needed anything to fire himself up, he doesn’t now after the twitter attacks.
At this point of the season, Denver is the best team in the NFL. In the NFL, though, it’s not who plays best at the beginning of the season. It’s who is playing best at the end. The Colts are a good team, but I think that it’s still too early to say they are a Super Bowl contender.
Dallas at Philadelphia
Going into the season, few gave Dallas Head Coach Jason Garrett a chance of surviving. But after six weeks, the Cowboys tied atop NFC East. It hasn’t hurt Dallas that Philly, New York, and Washington are not nearly as good as people thought they would be. Dallas will be without DeMarcus Ware in this game, but defensive line coach Rod Marinelli has done a remarkable job with the Dallas line. I haven’t seen that line play this hard in years. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher is playing the best football of his career. In saying that, Dallas will win this game with offense, not defense. The Eagles offense is as good as any in the NFL. Michael Vick is out, but backup Nick Foles is a better passer and gives them the best chance to win. The Eagles defense has struggled, giving up long drives and points. They won’t be able to stop the Dallas offense.
This will be a high scoring game with Dallas winning by at least seven. That would make them the odds on favorite to win the NFC East.
Chicago at Washington
For years, the Bears would win games with strong defense. That is not the case this year. Jay Cutler and the offense are playing much better football while the defense is struggling. The Bears defense has already lost three key players to season ending injuries (Henry Melton, D.J. Williams and Nate Collins) and Pro Bowl corner Charles Tillman has been hampered by a tight hamstring. If the Bears are to win this game, the former backups on defense are going to have to step up and play like they belong in the NFL.
Washington has struggled all year. Last week against Dallas, RGIII finally looked like the player we saw in 2012. While the Redskins offense has started to get on track, the defense still can’t stop anybody. Like the Philly-Dallas game, this game could be high scoring. If the Bears are going to win, players like Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, and Corey Wooton have to play their best game of the year and keep Griffin from making big plays.
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