Week two always seems to be a down week in college football. Those neutral site kickoff games are all in week one, and aside from a few decent non-conference games most teams spend their week pounding cupcakes (or getting upset), leaving us fans to look forward to the first Sunday of NFL games. There are a handful of games worth mentioning this week though, and I aim to bring you four previews every week, and I’ll tweet my predictions for a few more on Saturday. This week’s slate will include Michigan State vs. Oregon, Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt, USC vs. Stanford, and Michigan vs. Notre Dame.
Michigan State vs. Oregon
This is one of those classic great offense vs. great defense matchups, on paper at least. Sparty did have a fair amount of turnover on defense, but Pat Narduzzi and Mark D’Antonio are phenomenal defensive coaches. Oregon, on the other hand, returns most of its backfield and line, and although it had some replacements to make in the receiving corps, should feature one of the more potent offenses in football. However, the other side of the ball will be intriguing too as Connor Cook has developed into a more-than-adequate quarterback, and Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford make a solid 1-2 punch at running back. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the leader of a good Duck secondary, which should make passing difficult for the Spartans.
The matchup to watch in this one is still the Duck rushing game vs. the Michigan State front seven. The Spartans still had the best defense in college football last year, and will be up their again in 2014. Oregon has one of the best offensive lines in the game and a three-headed monster at running back with Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner, and true freshman Royce Freeman. Oh, and that Marcus Mariota guy can run some too.
Prediction: Oregon-31 Michigan State-23
Oregon’s running attack is a little too much, and the defense is good enough to force Michigan State to settle for a few too many field goals.
Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt
The SEC network game of the week should be, at the very least, interesting. Ole Miss looked inconsistent, but potentially improved, in a win against Boise State. Vanderbilt looked consistent, but potentially awful, in a blowout loss…at home…to Temple…who went 2-10 in 2013. The turnover potential for this game is through the roof. Mr. Hyde Bo Wallace is a walking interception, and the Commodores turned the ball over seven times against Temple. The play I picture happening in my mind in this game is a Bo Wallace interception, but Laquon Treadwell hawking down the defender, stripping the ball from him, and then taking it back for a touchdown.
There really isn’t a great matchup to key on in this one, but the most fun one might be to watch Cody Prewitt and the Ole Miss secondary tee off on the Vanderbilt receivers. The Ole Miss defense laid the wood to the Broncos skill players all night in the opener and Patton Robinette is still a relatively inexperienced quarterback. The Rebs should generate a decent pass rush against a sub-par Vandy line. Pressured, inexperienced quarterbacks tend to leave receivers out to dry.
Prediction: Ole Miss-28 Vanderbilt-13
USC vs. Stanford
As I mentioned on Wednesday, USC looked impressive in Steve Sarkisian’s debut as head coach of the Trojans. Stanford, however, may present more of a test for the Trojans. USC has been fraught with controversy in the last few weeks too. It didn’t seem to affect them too badly in the opener, but could still be a distraction. On the other hand, things have been relatively quiet around Palo Alto in the offseason. The Cardinal shouldn’t be discounted though. The defending conference champs are still a force to be reckoned with, and Kevin Hogan is a solid dark horse for the Walter Camp and Heisman trophies if he can win another conference championship.
When you think of Stanford, the passing game is just about the last thing that comes to mind, but the matchup to watch in this game is the Stanford passing game against the USC back seven. Even without Josh Shaw, the USC has a deep and talented back seven. Hayes Pullard is one of the better coverage linebackers in the country and Su’a Cravens is a headhunter at safety. On the other side, Ty Montgomery is the best weapon Stanford has, and they spread the ball around pretty well in the opener as twelve different players caught a pass. Granted, the opener was against UC Davis.
Prediction: Stanford-24 USC-17
I believe USC will have a good year, but until further notice Stanford is still the class of the Pac-12.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame
It seems a shame that this series is coming to an end after this season, but even good things come to an end sometimes. This year’s version may not be the most highly touted in history, but it still figures to be a good game. Both teams sport a pair of athletic quarterbacks in Devin Gardner and Everett Golson, for Michigan and Notre Dame respectively. Neither team will likely end up in the playoff, but both will push to be in the top 25 and could make a run at a New Year’s Six bowl (although I don’t believe either gets quite that far).
The dueling quarterbacks will be the matchup to watch in this one. Michigan has a pretty good defense, especially up front. Notre Dame also has a good defense, especially in the secondary. However, the two quarterbacks will be the story, and I expect neither of them to disappoint. Golson and Gardner will put up solid numbers on Saturday and trade blows until one comes out on top. And, that one will be…
Prediction: Notre Dame-34 Michigan-31
Everett Golson. At the end of the day, he is just a little bit more consistent (except in the classroom).