What to watch for this weekend
It’s week 3 in the college season and week 2 in the NFL and there are plenty of important games on the schedule. While it can be said every game is important, some obviously are more important than others. Even though it’s early, some of these games can or will have a determination on how the season plays out. Let’s take a look.
Alabama at Texas A&M
Last year A&M was able to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It was the game that put Heisman winner Johnny Manziel on the map. "Johnny Football" has had a troubled off season but a big game Saturday will make many forget about all his bad publicity. Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews may be the first offensive lineman drafted in next spring NFL Draft. If he plays well against Alabama that would help him get to that position. Alabama has three seniors who are highly rated by the NFL. The three (QB A.J. McCarron, LB C.J. Mosely, and DE Ed Stinson) all want to have big games. There is a difference in opinion as to whether McCarron is a legitimate first round type. Some feel he is good because of the players around him. I feel that he is a very good game manager and comes up big when he has to. On top of that, he is an excellent leader. A strong game here may make him a lock in the first round.
In my opinion, Alabama coach Nick Saban is the best coach in college football. He got embarrassed last year at home so I look for some payback this time. His Alabama team has had two weeks to prepare for this game. I see them winning by at least 10.
Notre Dame at Purdue
The Irish lost at Michigan last week. It was their first regular season lost since the end of the 2011 season. Last year Notre Dame won because of their defense. Against Michigan that defense did not come up with the big plays needed. This week in practice worked on fundamentals and discipline. Both were lacking last week. Notre Dame has two highly recruited freshman running backs (Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston), look for them to see a lot of carries in this game.
Purdue, under new coach Darrell Hazell, is 1-1. They got blown out at Cincinnati and barely got by FCS school Indiana State 20-14. Purdue is struggling at the quarterback position, where senior Rob Henry is completing only 55% of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown pass. The way I hear it, the best quarterback on the team is sophomore walk on Austin Parker. Parker, playing as a scout team QB, tears up the Purdue defense in practice but the coaches won’t give him a chance because he’s a walk on. I also hear the players know he’s the best QB. It's too bad the coaches can’t see it. If Notre Dame has any hopes for a BCS game this year they have to win big at Purdue. I see an Irish blowout coming!
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
The schedule makers have not been kind to Vandy. This is their second SEC game in the first 3 weeks of the season. They lost a heart breaker to Ole Miss on opening night before blowing out Austin Peay last week. Vandy is hoping to grow into one of the SEC elite teams, so this game is very important. South Carolina is fast and talented but has been inconsistent. Jadeveon Clowney who was rated as the top defensive player in the country has been just average. With the game being played in Columbia it is a must win for the Gamecocks. While South Carolina is the better team, it wouldn’t shock me if Vandy pulls off the upset.
Louisville at Kentucky
It wasn’t too long ago that Kentucky looked down at Louisville and wouldn’t play them. Now Louisville has a far superior program. While South Carolina’s Clowney was the favorite to be the number one pick in the next Draft, Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater may now hold that position. In the first two games, Bridgewater has completed over 76% of his passes for 752 yards and 9 TD’s. His play has been flawless. Kentucky, under new coach Mark Stoops, is 1-1 with their next 3 games being against Louisville, Florida, and South Carolina. The Wildcats have gotten a number of commits from some highly rated recruits for next year. In order to hold on to those recruits, they have to look better than they have. It won’t happen this week. Louisville wins easily.
Minnesota at Chicago
It’s unusual for an NFL team to open the season with two straight games on the road but that’s the case with the Vikings. It’s also two games against division opponents. Last week the Vikings lost at Detroit 34-24. Now they play at Chicago where the Bears are 1-0 after a come from behind win against Cincinnati. The Bears had a very strong second half last week and look for the offense to play even better as they get comfortable in new coach Marc Trestman’s offense. Jay Cutler only had one poor throw last week and I look for an even better game this week. Chicago needs to improve on defense. Even though they forced three turnovers last week, they gave up too many big plays. The Vikings defense also had problems, giving up more than 350 yards in the air. This game is very important for Minnesota. A loss, and they not are only 0-2 but 0-2 against division opponents. That would be very tough to climb out of.
Carolina at Buffalo
The Panthers have struggled on offense both in the preseason and in their opener against Seattle. They have to find a way to put points on the board at Buffalo. With a new General Manager in Dave Gettleman, Carolina Coach Ron Rivera needs to win some games. The Bills have a new coach (Doug Marrone) and a new quarterback (rookie E.J. Manuel) and they let one get away last week against New England. The program can’t afford to open the season with two straight losses at home. This game is huge for both clubs.
Denver at New York Giants
The Giants didn’t look like a Tom Coughlin coached team at Dallas last week. I can’t remember a Giants team having six turnovers in one game. The Broncos on the other hand looked like they could be one of the better teams in the AFC when they blew out Baltimore. On top of that, Denver has had ten days to prepare for this game. If the Giants don’t win in their home opener it could be a long season in New York.
Washington at Green Bay
Many (including myself) had Washington as the favorite in the NFC East. Chip Kelly’s fast paced Philadelphia offense kept Washington off balance in the first half. While the game got close in the second half, it was more because Philly tried to run clock instead of keeping the pedal to the metal. RGIII had some moments but didn't look like the player we saw last year. Green Bay had no running game and gave up to many big plays on defense last week at San Francisco. Their offensive line is really struggling. Neither of these teams can afford to start off 0-2, so look for a close, physical game. The loser's playoff hopes will be in jeopardy only two weeks into the season.
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