By Bryan Foti
Last Week :(3-2)
Week 2 does not feature as many high profile matchups that week 1 did. However, there are a couple of games that are worth keeping an eye on and picking.
Penn St. at Pitt
Time: Saturday, 12 p.m.
Location: Heinz Field
Line: Pitt -5
This is a huge game for Penn St. coach James Franklin. Franklin is entering his third season as Nittany Lion head coach, and has produced back to back (7-6) seasons. Franklin has not improved the program just yet, and a loss to Pitt will defiantly not sit well with the higher ups at State College.
On the other side the Pitt program is on the rise with second year head coach Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers finished the 2015 season with an (8-5) record, and at one point were (4-0) in ACC play. Narduzzi came from Michigan State and is building a top defense with Pitt. The Panthers finished 23rd in total defense a season ago, and return a bunch a starters again this year.
Sophomore Safety, Jordan Whitehead is one of the most dynamic players on the Panther defense. He had six tackles against Villanova last week. Cornerback Terrish Webb added an interception last week in the win over Nova as well. The Panthers secondary will make it tough on the Nittany Lions passing attack.
Penn St. Quarterback Trace McSorely is coming off a mediocre game, throwing for 209 yards, and two touchdowns. However, he only completed 51.6 percent of his passes, going 16-31 against Kent St. McSorely should get a real test when he goes up against the Pitt secondary. This will only be his second career start under center.
If Penn St. wants to win they will need to run the ball effectively. Running Back Saquon Barkley will need to follow up last week’s performance with another solid day. Barkley gained 105 yards and scored a touchdown last week.
Pitt is the home team, and will win this game. Franklin’s bunch will keep it close for three quarters, but in the fourth the Panthers should pull away. The Pitt defense will be too much for McSorely to handle. Look for the Panthers defense to force turnovers, including a couple of interceptions. Take Pitt and the points.
Final: Pitt 31, Penn St. 17
Nevada at #18 Notre Dame
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Location: Notre Dame Stadium
Line: Notre Dame -28
Panic is the word going around the campus of Notre Dame this week, as the Irish dropped their opening game to Texas last week, losing 50-47, in double overtime. Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly isn’t panicking just yet.
Notre Dame may have answered one of its biggest questions heading into the year, which was who would become the number one quarterback. Junior, DeShone Kizer seemed comfortable taking most of the reps in the game, throwing for five touchdown passes, and rushing for another. Notre Dame trailed Texas at one point 31-14, before storming back to force overtime.
On the other side of the ball Notre Dame has a lot of work cut out for them. The defense was flat out awful last week. Notre Dame allowed true Freshman Quarterback Shane Buechele to throw for three touchdowns, and allowed Tyrone Swoopes, Texas’ other quarterback, to run for three scores, including the game winner in overtime. In total the Irish defense surrendered 517 in total yards.
The opponent this week should be a little bit easier to handle for Notre Dame. Nevada comes into this game with questions too. The Wolf Pack barley hung on to beat Cal Poly, an FCS school in overtime last week 30-27. Nevada Head Coach Brian Polian, the son of long time NFL executive Bill, needs his team to be perfect if they want to pull the upset.
Nevada runs the pistol offense, so there will be opportunity for some good rushing plays. The Wolf Pack will want to control the time of possession and try to keep the Irish offense off the field for as long as possible. Junior Tailback, James Butler had a big game last week, running for 123 yards including the game winning score. Look for him to have a good statistical day.
It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Norte Dame defense makes. The Irish will definitely win this game, the big question is by how much. The Notre Dame defense should play better against the run this week. However, the short week may make it a little more difficult to prepare for the Nevada rushing attack. Notre Dame will control this game from start to finish, but at times Nevada will be able to run the ball effectively, which will keep the Irish offense off the field. Notre Dame won’t sweat in this one, but they won’t cover either. Take Nevada and the points.
Final: Notre Dame 42, Nevada 20
Kentucky at Florida
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Line: Florida -28
It has almost been 30 years since Kentucky defeated Florida in football. The Wildcats won 10-3 back on November 15th, 1986. Since then Florida has won 29 straight times.
Both football programs have struggled in recent years, but last year the Gators had a little bit of a bounce back season. The Gators made it to the SEC Championship game, but the season ended with a bad taste. The Gators were (10-1,) when they faced rival Florida St. They lost that game 27-2, they then faced Alabaman in the SEC Championship and lost 29-15. In the Citrus Bowl, the Gators were shellacked 41-7 by Michigan.
Florida won its opener 24-7 last week against UMass, however they struggled in the game only leading by three heading into the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Wide Receivers Brandon Powell and Antonio Callaway had big games. The two combined for 15 catches, 145 yards, and two touchdowns (one a piece.) On defense Florida shut out UMass in the second half.
Kentucky comes into this game (0-1) after losing to Southern Miss 45-37 at home. The Wildcats led 35-10 after a JoJo Parker rushing touchdown, after that it was all Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles scored 44 unanswered points, including a 71-yard touchdown pass, to win. Kentucky will need its defense to play much better if they want to have a chance in this one.
Wildcat QB, Drew Baker had an excellent game tossing four touchdown passes, and throwing for 323 yards. Expect Baker to make some good throws against the Gators secondary.
The big question for Kentucky will be whether or not they will be able to stop the Florida passing attack.
The Gators have problems on the offensive line. Kentucky should do an ok job at stopping the run in the first half.
Florida has been seeking to find a long-term solution at quarterback, will turn to Del Rio to see if he is the answer. Florida passed the ball well last week, that trend should continue this week as well. The Gators have better talent at the wide receiver position than Southern Miss. Look for Callaway and Powell to have big games. Florida will pull away in the second half. Kentucky will have to wait another year to upset the Gators. The Gators will run away with this one.
Final: Florida 38, Kentucky 7
Arkansas at #15 TCU
Time: Saturday 7 p.m.
Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium
Line: TCU -7.5
This should be a fun one to watch. TCU and Arkansas will meet for the first time since 1991. That was the last year the Razorbacks were members of the old South Western Conference, before moving to the SEC.
If you like points, this is the game for you. TCU runs a spread offense and will most likely throw the ball 50 plus times. Last week, Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill made his first start at quarterback for the Horned Frogs. Hill passed for 439 yards in his debut. He also threw two touchdown passes, but had two interceptions in the win against South Dakota State.
Razorback Head Coach Bret Bielema took over the Arkansas program in 2013, he has implemented a run-heavy system. The Razorbacks boast an upsized offensive line. Every single starter weighs 300 pounds or more. Arkansas rushed for 106 yards against Louisiana Tech last week. The Razorbacks expect much more from their ground game, so look for them to commit to the run once again this week. TCU allowed 128 yards rushing last week.
Both teams come into the game at (1-0) on the season, but neither team should be happy about their performance last week. The Razorbacks barley got by a lower echelon FBS School, and TCU gave up way too many points to an FCS School.
So who will win the game? Both teams will look to assert their offensive style during the game.
Back in 2014, Hill threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns, in a come from behind victory, on the road against the Razorbacks. He will be the difference in this game. Hill will be a little more comfortable in the TCU offense, and should have no problem finding open receivers. Arkansas will try to run it, they will have success, but they won’t be able to keep up with the high-tempo offense of TCU. TCU has won 14 straight at home, give me the Horned Frogs with the points.
Final. TCU 42, Arkansas 30
Virginia Tech at #17 Tennessee
Time: Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
Location: Bristol Motor Speedway
Line: Tennessee -11.5
Volunteer fans can exhale as their team barely hung on to beat Appalachian State last week 20-13 in OT. This week Butch Jones and company have a tougher challenge as they take on Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway.
With a weak schedule in college football this week all eyes will be on this game in primetime Saturday night. Over 150,000 people are expected to attend the game.
Tennessee Quarterback Joshua Dobbs is looking for a bounce back performance. Dobbs threw an interception at the end of the first half, and fumbled late in the fourth quarter. Dobbs was trying to do too much last week. He will need to settle down if the Vols want to have a good offensive game against the Hokies.
Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster is one of most respected defensive minds in all of college football. The Hokies have been known to score points while on defense. Look for Virginia Tech to be aggressive against Dobbs and the Vols this week.
Junior College Transfer Jerod Evans had a nice first game at quarterback for Virginia Tech. Evans threw four touchdown passes in the victory against Liberty. However, in this game he will be facing an SEC defense that played well a week ago.
This game will be won on first down. Tennessee did not get much going on first down last week. They averaged 4.3 yards a play, but that included a 71-yard passing play. Tennessee Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord needs to call a better game this week. Last week the Vols ran it 18 times of the 28 plays they had on first down. If Tennessee can’t get it going on first down, and are in second and long situations, Foster will be able to dial up blitzes, which will confuse Dobbs.
First down plays will be the key in this one. Tennessee will have had over a week to correct their offensive flaws from last Thursday night. The Vols should be much better on offense. If Tennessee gets ahead the crowd should play a role because most of them will be donning orange. However, Virginia Tech will not go down without a fight. Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente has infused life into the program, and Bud Foster should find some mismatches along the Tennessee offensive line to keep the Vols offense at bay for most of the game. Tennessee will pull away late, but it will be too late for them to cover. Take the points and the Hokies.
Final Tennessee 30, Virginia Tech 21