Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon


College Football Week 4 Analysis: SEC Lessons Learned

I went 7-0 in my predictions this week so things went pretty much as I expected even if some teams had more trouble (see also: Mississippi State) then I thought they would. So what did we learn this week?


Both teams faced teams that we had in our CFBZ Top 15 this week and both came out smelling like roses. For Bama, this was their second "test" of the season and they rode their defense to a win over Bobby Petrino and the Hogs. The Tide held the Razorbacks to just 226 yards of total offense and Arkansas leading rusher had only 35 yards. Bama forced the Hogs to become one dimensional and showed why they might be the most well rounded team in the country. On the offensive end Bama combined 200 yards passing with 197 yards rushing and AJ McCarron put in a great performance by going 15 of 20 with 2 TDs. Most were expecting Bama to win today, but not many expected them to win by 24 over a team that some thought could break-through into the top tier of the SEC West this season.

LSU went into Morgantown and put it on West Virginia 47 to 21. While the game was closer than the scoreboard indicated, the Tigers felt like they had this one in hand for pretty much the whole game. The Tigers took a 14-0 lead to the end of the first and were up 27-7 at the end of the half. Geno Smith and the Mountaineers definitely showed some impressive offense as they put up 533 yards of total offense but it was the Tigers that did the things they needed to do to win the game and put distance between themselves and their opponents on Saturday night.

Both LSU and Alabama look like they have special teams this year and they should be heading for a meeting on Nov 5th to decide the big dog in the SEC.

What's Next for Alabama? vs Florida

What's Next for LSU? vs Kentucky


But have they proved more? One thing is for sure and that is that I'm a lot more impressed by Florida this year then I thought I would be. However, the fact remains that Tennessee is still a question-mark and Kentucky is flat out awful. I'm impressed by how Florida has gone about their business but we truly don't learn anything about them until the four game stretch they are about to attempt to weather is over. In the next five weeks, Florida will play Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn and then finish up with Georgia at the Cocktail Party. This is the stretch that decides their season and tells us if they are as good as they have looked so far.

What's Next for Florida? vs Alabama


I've said multiple times here on this site that South Carolina is stocked and loaded on defense but that their individual parts might be greater than the sum of their parts. This past weekend they put all of those parts together and had a great defensive football game. The Gamecocks held Vandy, yes we know it's Vandy, to just 77 yards of total offense and totally deflated their moral and self-esteem. The most impressive thing is that the defense had to be that good today or the Gamecocks would have lost. Stephen Garcia threw four interceptions and Marcus Lattimore ran for only 77 yards (although he did take a screeen pass to the house on an incredible run). South Carolina is one of the most talented defensive teams in the country but their ability to play together will decide if they can re-peat as SEC East Champions.

What's Next for South Carolina? vs Auburn


For the second straight year Georgia got out of the gates slowly. It should also be noted that they played the toughest first two game stretch in the country to start off. That being said, Georgia seems to be slowly finiding their feet but I'm still not sure how good Georgia can be. Despite having injuries at both of their ILB spots they were able to hold Ole Miss to just 34 yards rushing on Saturday. For the upcoming Miss State game, it's critical that they get Christian Robinson back in the line-up as the Dawgs were slow to line-up on defense throughout the game.

On offense, Isaiah Crowell is finding his wings. He ran the ball a Marcus Lattimore-like 30 times for 177 yards. I like that he's getting the ball, but I think Georgia would be best to keep Crowell between 20 and 25 carries as he seemed to be slowing down towards the end of the game. Crowell is definitely a feature back but I'm not sure he's ready yet to be toting it 30+ times a game. RB Carlton Thomas also surprisingly looked good as a sub as he had 37 yards on just 5 carries and ran hard. It's tough to tell how good Georgia is. The biggest issues right now for Georgia remain on the offensive line (don't even get me started about #79) and injuries in the LB corps. We will find out a lot about Georgia this coming week when Dan Mullen and crew heads into town.

What's Next for Georgia? vs Mississippi State


The Mississippi State team that took the field this weekend against Louisiana Tech is just not the same team we saw last year. They have lost their swagger and seem to have lost their way. First they got stood up on the goal-line against Auburn as time expired, then they got handled by LSU. This week they barely survived against Louisiana Tech. The biggest concern for Bulldogs fans right now has to be that Dan Mullen has lost all confidence in Chris Relf. He replaced Relf in the LSU game and wouldn't allow him to attempt to win the game against La Tech (instead deciding to play conservatively and go into OT). Dan Mullen has made some questionable calls over the last three weeks as Mississippi State has come crashing back to earth. This upcoming game against Georgia will tell us a lot about Mullen and the Bulldogs of State. Can he get them re-energized or will they fall to 0-3 in the conference next week?

What's Next for Mississippi State? at Georgia


Arkansas is a tough one to review this week. They came into the Alabama game untested as they had played Missouri State, New Mexico and Troy before facing the Tide. This might work in 2010 when your first "tough" game is against Georgia, but it ain't working when your first game is at Bama. Bad, bad scheduling by the AD and/or Bobby Petrino. Add to that the loss of stud RB Knile Davis and not having your best pass rusher in Jake Bequette (who actually won the Georgia game for you last year by abusing Washuan Ealey and forcing an incompletion on a 3rd down play late in the game and giving Ryan Mallett the ball back so he could complete THAT wheel route play). Arkansas still has a chance to be very good this year but they've got another test this coming week against Texas A&M. A&M is coming off of a loss of their own and this game will be the defining point in both teams seasons. Which one can come back from a hurtful loss?

What's Next for Arkansas? vs Texas A&M


 Vandy came into the South Carolina game riding high with victories over Elon, UConn and Ole Miss. But they encountered talent in Columbia that they had not faced in the previous three weeks. If not for Stephen Garcia this game would have been a lot worse. Vanderbilt is going to be a tougher win than in previous years but their offense is still light years behind where they need it to be. South Carolina (a team that allowed Georgia to pick up 436 total yards and allowed Navy to rush for almost 300) held the Dores to only 77 yards total offense and only 4 of those yards came running the football. Back to the drawing board for Vandy. Vandy fans, at least you are not Kentucky or Ole Miss...

What's Next for Vandy? at Alabama (Oct 8th)


Ole Miss is the worst. They are undisciplined, pooly coached and they don't have an FBS level Quarterback. Every time Ole Miss seemed to break a play it's because they had held a Georgia player in order to spring a runner or a receiver. The only plays where I could call Ole Miss successful on Saturday was when they ran a "gadget" or "trick play". Their "best" play of the game was where Randall Mackey took a reverse and threw the ball against his body while running to a wide open Donte Moncrief for a 38 yard TD. Moncrief was wide open because of the deception that they reverse had caused. The only other play Ole Miss was able to score on was a reverse on a punt return where Nick Brassel took it 81 yards to the house.

I will note that there was a blatant hold on that play that went uncalled but if you look for it you could probably find holding on every play. The real problem at Ole Miss is that they don't make adjustments. Ole Miss came out and moved the ball down the field on Georgia in the first drive but after that Georgia made adjustments (I know Georgia fans will be shocked to hear me say that) and Ole Miss didn't. Another factor is that the talent at Ole Miss at the QB position is just not there. Mackey was 3 of 7 with half of his yards coming on that trick play and he missed recievers high and wide. Stoudt was also really bad as he hit just 9 of 23 passes. Ole Miss has talent at RB (Scott and Bolden) and WR (Moncrief) but they don't have anybody to get the ball to them. Ole Miss flat out stinks. Georgia missed 3 FGs that are usually chip shots for Blair Walsh or the score would have matched the results on the field and been 36-13.

What is there to say about Kentucky? When they lost Cobb, Hartline and Locke I knew they would be in for a long season but I didn't know they would be this bad. They gave up 405 yards on the ground to Florida and the defense was supposed to be a strength of this Kentucky team. I'm not going to waste my time writing about Kentucky or your time having read about them because they simply don't deserve it. Put a fork in Kentucky, at 2-2 and 0-1 in the conference their season is over.

What's Next for Ole Miss? at Fresno State

What's Next for Kentucky? at LSU

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NFL Coming Down Hard on Faking Injuries

The NFL is concerned that football games are becoming too much like soccer matches and wants to nip it in the bud before things get out of hand. There’s been a controversy raging since two New York Giants players were accused of hitting the deck and faking injuries during a drive by St. Louis in their 28-16 win over the Rams in their second-week matchup.

The league sent out a memo to all of its 32 teams on Sept. 21 that warned them about possible consequences for anybody found to be feigning injury. This includes fining the player, coach, and club and it could even result in a team losing draft picks.

The memo said that anybody suspected of faking an injury would be summoned to the NFL offices in New York to discuss the incident. If anybody’s found guilty they will be punished for conduct that’s detrimental to the game.

The Giants defenders, Deon Grant and Jacquian Williams, dropped to the field with supposed injuries when St. Louis was driving downfield during a no-huddle offense. New York coach Tom Coughlin said he thought that Grant was suffering from cramp during the play.

The NFL said there aren’t any rules in place regarding the faking of injuries because it doesn’t want players that are truly injured to jeopardize themselves by getting to their feet to avoid punishment. An injured player who tries to carry on could easily make their condition worse. At the moment, the only was the league can punish anybody is if they admit to injury faking.

To add fuel to the fire, Bryan Kehl, a linebacker with the Rams, said it didn’t surprise him to see Grant and Williams fall to the ground during his team’s attack. Kehl, who played with the Giants for coach Perry Fewell, said New York’s defensive coordinator actually encourages players to fake injuries as a part of his tactics. He told 101sports.com that Fewell coaches his players to drop to the ground to interrupt play.

Kehl didn’t play for Fewell long though as the Giants waived him after the club’s season opener last year. Some fans could feel Kehl is just trying to stir the pot because he’s got a grudge to bear with the Giants for letting him go, but others are listening to his words closely.

While the NFL is definitely doing the right thing by warning the clubs about this type of unsportsmanlike behavior, it’s very hard to prove if somebody’s actually injured or not. It’s basically a case of taking the word of the accused player. The tactic has been used before and it’s bound to be used again in the future because of this.

The league has to rely on the players and coaches to play the game in the spirit that it’s intended to be. It’s likely that the majority of them are true sportsmen and it won’t become a major issue. But you can’t blame the NFL for attempting to put an end to the tactic before it’s too late.

If you’ve watched a pro soccer game lately you’ll understand what can happen to a sport when cheating players it over without having to worry about any consequences.

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Results: Jones Chokes Out Rampage at UFC 135

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Main Event
Jon Jones (14-1) SUB 4 (Rear Naked Choke) Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-9)
Official Time of Submission: 1:14 RD 4

For all the playful (and not so playful) digs and insults traded between both Jones and Jackson during the lead up to this fight the fact remains that it was clear both fighters respected the hell out of each other’s abilities.  Fight fighters bring with them an element of the unexpected that when coupled with their explosive power and freak athletic abilities results in some true fireworks in the cage.  However, with these two fighters pitted against one another the question became who would impose their will in the fight.  

Early on it was Jones who quickly established himself in the fight.  Jon Jones presents a plethora of difficulties for any fighter unlucky enough to get in the cage with him.  Even against a fighter with the resume and credentials of Rampage, Jones’ awe and mystique are unavoidable.  Jones set the tempo early pressing the attack with a wide variety of kicks to the legs and head of Rampage.  Jackson seemed frustrated with his inability to close the distance.  Though Jackson tried in vain to take Jones’ head off with wide haymakers, Jones would keep Rampage honest with his long kicks that landed frequently.  

Jackson had some moderate success in the third round as he began to give Jones a taste of his own medicine by landing some leg kicks of his own.  Unfortunately, Jones would reestablish dominance with a takedown and deft transition to full mount where he rained down some razor sharp elbows.  Rampage, to his credit, was able to get back to his feet but from there he was punished with some Jones leg kicks to the knee that had Jackson wincing in pain.  Entering into the fourth round it was apparent that Jackson and his team had run out of answers against Jones.  While Jackson was still game, Jones was too much in what would be the final round as he took down Jackson and quickly sunk in a deep rear naked choke that left Rampage begrudgingly tapping out.   

UFC Welterweight Co-Main Event
Josh Koscheck (18-5) TKO 1 (Strikes) Matt Hughes (46-7)
Time of the Stoppage: 4:59 RD 1

Despite pleas from his wife to retire, UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes continues to try and make noise in the Octagon.  Though some may claim that Hughes is over the hill, the fact of the matters is that even at Hughes age he still is a hell of a fighter, one capable of wrecking any ones day in the cage.  Unfortunately for Hughes he ran into a focused Josh Koscheck, a fighter hungry to get a “W” back on his ledger.  Early on it appeared that Hughes had magically dialed back the clock as he looked fresh and fit and had tremendous success in keeping Koscheck on his heels with some impressive boxing.  But just as Hughes appeared to be cruising to securing the first round on the scorecards Koscheck exploded with a giant right hand that put Hughes on wobbly street.  Smelling blood, Koscheck pounced on Hughes and after pounding him with a number of hard right hands he put Hughes out with some vicious ground and pound at the end of the opening round.  

UFC Heavyweight Fight
Mark Hunt (7-7) UD 3 Ben Rothwell (31-8)
Scores: 29-28, 29-27, 30-27

It’s hard to tell where Mark Hunt fits into the rather shallow UFC heavyweight picture.  Despite having name recognition for his career exploits in K-1 his UFC career has been spotty at best.  Rothwell, on the other hand, has seen his name thrown around as a legitimate title contender.  On paper it would have appeared that Rothwell had a clear advantage over Hunt in that his fight game was multifaceted whereas Hunt is a striker through and through.  However, what most people didn’t count on was the warrior heart of Hunt.  Despite a solid first round by Rothwell the remainder of the fight belonged to Hunt who punished a severely gassed Rothwell throughout the final two rounds.  It was a sloppy fight as both fighters were fatigued and probably battling the effects of being heavyweights fighting in the Denver altitude.  But Rothwell was on chicken legs as early as the second round and Hunt exploited it to the best of his ability.  While Hunt probably could have finished the fight if he pressed the action a tad bit more it was a solid win none the less.  

UFC Heavyweight Fight
Travis Browne (12-0-1) UD 3 Rob Broughton (15-6-1)
Scores: 30-27, 30-27, 30-27

Even though he stands at a towering 6’7” and weights around 260lbs Travis Browne is incredibly agile and light on his feet.  Browne’s agility was on full display against the heavy-handed Broughton as the Hawaiian used slick cage movement to pepper Broughton with leg kicks and the occasional punch.  Broughton simply could not close the distance as Browne’s quicker hands landed easily on his jaw.  Browne turned up the heat in the second landing a flurry of shots at the midway point of the round and did some equally impressive damage while in the clinch.  Despite Browne’s success Broughton would not go away but a lazy Browne takedown closed out the round in the Hawaiian’s favor.  Browne controlled the third and final round as well but by this time the action had turned sloppy given both fighters’ level of fatigue.  In the end it was Browne who walked away with the victory but it wasn’t very pretty.  

UFC Lightweight Fight
Nate Diaz (14-7) SUB 1 (Arm bar) Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi (32-8, 1 NC)
Time of Submission: 4:27 RD 1

Few fights would want to have the unfortunate luck of taking on Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, but credit to Gomi for believing in his power.  Unfortunately, just like in 2007, Gomi was reminded that few fighters have the pure jiu-jitsu ground game of the Gracie-trained Diaz brothers.  Just as his brother Nick did back in PRIDE, Nate was able to set the pace of the fight with some whipping punches that landed flush to the head of Gomi.  To put it bluntly, Diaz beat the hell out of Gomi over the round.  Then, when things went to the ground, Diaz effortlessly transitioned from a tight triangle to a picture-perfect arm bar that ended the fight.  It was an incredibly impressive performance from Diaz.

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NFL Analysis: Don't Sleep on Chiefs Dexter McCluster

After a relatively quiet first two years plagued by injury at the University of Mississippi, Dexter McCluster made a name for himself his junior year earning second team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press after rushing for 655 yards on 109 attempts and grabbing 44 receptions for 625 yards with seven touchdowns. McCluster attempted five passes from the Wildcat formation without success yielding two interceptions.

His final year at Ole Miss was extremely successful; setting two school records against the Tennessee Volunteers for rushing yards in a game with 282 and all purpose yards in a game with 324, and in his final game as a Rebel he threw the only touchdown pass of his collegiate career and ran for 148 yards in the 25-23 victory over the then ninth-ranked LSU Tigers.

At the end of the 2009 season, McCluster amassed 1,169 yards rushing on 181 attempts (an average of 6.4 yards per carry), and had 44 receptions for 520 yards with 12 total touchdowns, becoming the first player in SEC history to rush for over 1,000 yards and receive for 500 yards in a single season.

He finished his college career at Ole Miss with 3,658 yards from scrimmage and 23 TDs. His all purpose yard total was second behind Deuce McAllister (4,889) for the all-time Mississippi record. Despite his small frame, the speedy all-purpose player was attractive to then-Kansas City Chief Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis and head coach Todd Haley who drafted him in the second round (36th overall) in the 2010 draft.

During his rookie campaign, Weis used the versatile McCluster as a wide receiver, running back, kick and punt returner.  In 11 games, McCluster gained 209 yards on 21 receptions with one touchdown, 71 yards on 18 carries with a fumble, returned 26 kicks for 527 yards and 13 punts for 202 yards, a fumble and a score. His 94 yard punt return for a touchdown in the season opener against the Ravens was the longest in Chiefs franchise history. With Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones sharing the load at running back, racking up a combined 2,363 yards on the ground and 590 receiving yards, McCluster was a nice compliment to the dynamic duo.

Charles suffered a season-ending injury, tearing his ACL, in the first quarter of the Detroit Lions game in week two, sending McCluster’s Fantasy draft stock soaring according to several sources. Here at RotoExperts, our highly respected fantasy experts feel the immediate sentiment should be tempered.

NFL Scout Jayson Braddock’s analysis of McCluster from a football standpoint:

“In week 1 vs. Buffalo, Dexter McCluster fumbled the opening kickoff due to semi hard hit. The nine touches he got equated to 4 rushes for 42 yards and 5 receptions for 25 yards. The numbers sound impressive but it’s just the way they use him. He can’t replace Jamaal Charles. On 7 of his touches Dexter was lined up in the backfield with Matt Cassel in shotgun formation with 3 wide receivers and a tight end on almost everyone one of those. They stretched the field and allowed McCluster to cause matchup problems with linebackers in the flat or either ran the draw. Only two of his touches came on plays where Cassel was under center. The first defender tackled McCluster on 90% of his touches.”

Radio host and fantasy columnist, Dr. Roto, added his assessment of the use of McCluster as a fantasy player:

“When the Chiefs initially drafted McCluster, they were hoping that Todd Haley could use his speed and elusiveness to improve the offense. Now with Charles out, opponents know that McCluster will be getting the ball more often. This gives them time to prepare for him and shadow him on screen passes. So while he will get 10-15 touches, he might not be that effective. He is a good pickup in a PPR league, as he might have 6-7 catches per week. He still has the speed to score on any given play, but temper your expectations for now with McCluster.”

In a deeper PPR league, McCluster could be useful as a third or fourth option, garnishing a possible 10 points per week, but as Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Famer Scott “The King” Engel simply told me,

“McCluster is no Jamaal Charles. He is 5-8, 170 and does not run well inside and is strictly an open-field, situational player. He will not be a Fantasy starter.”


Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc


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NFL Game Previews Week 3

Easy Like Sunday Morning is a quick hit post that looks at the games to be played later in the day where I give you a little insight on each matchup and what I’m watching for. It’s a light hearted way to blend comedy with America’s true, favorite pastime. So crack you a cold one, fire up the computer and let me guide your way to the day’s games ahead. Six days a week you may dread, but today I give you football knowledge that’s easy like Sunday morning.

I’ll also give my pick for each game with my “comfort level”. Usually when I give people my picks, they ask me how comfortable should they be with them and I always reply with a real life situation. For instance, if I was to say “riding in a car with Kenny Britt and the cops pull us over,” then I’m not too confident in the pick. But if I tell you that I’m “lying in the hammock with one sock on, wearing boxers and a pair of Blu Blockers,” then it’s a safe bet.

New England Patriots (2-0) @ Buffalo Bills (2-0)

Surprising battle of the Undefeated! This is truly either teams game because of the way both can rack up passing yards combined with neither being able to stop the passing attack. Tom Brady could easily see another 400 yard passing day as this is expected to be a shootout. This score will stay about as low as the Ryan brothers’ cholesterol combined.

Pick: Upset Alert – Buffalo

Comfort Level: Sitting between Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at a Michael Richards stand up show in Harlem.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) @ Carolina Panthers (0-2)

This is a contest between the two guys who were the most rumored to be the top draft choice. Cam Newton has two games under his belt, while this is Blaine Gabbert’s first start.  Neither team is good but the Jacksonville secondary will be the difference.  The Jaguars could possibly be the worst in the league and by the league, I mean the UFL. I’ll also accept the CFL, AFL, and even Vince McMahon’s XFL. It’s scary to think what Cam could do to Jacksonville’s secondary after watching the yards he put up against Green Bay. Newton is a work in progress and exciting work to watch. Clock management is the only hope for the Jags. Maurice Jones-Drew needs to stay involved and keep the Panthers offense on the sidelines.

Pick:  Panthers

Comfort Level: Being on a game show with Charlie Sheen as my partner and the competitions are snorting coke the fastest and most bruised hookers.

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

While most of the rookie quarterback focus this week is on Newton vs. Gabbert, I’m more excited about the possibility of watching Andy Dalton vs. Colin Kaepernick. Leading up to the draft, I liked Kaepernick better than every other rookie quarterback and Dalton right behind both Kaepernick and Newton. This may be the last week we see Cedric Benson for awhile, which is fine after seeing more of him than we bargained for a week ago. I heard he may have to do yard work at Jerome Simpson’s house during his suspension. If I think I heard them right, they said he would be helping Jerome burn some grass and kill some weed(s).

Pick: Bengals

Comfort Level: Having a job that relies on finding a Bengals’ player to speak about not using drugs or alcohol to adolescences.

Miami Dolphins (0-2) @ Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Miami has made their games against playoff teams (Houston & New England) interesting this year. They’re better than I expected and Chad Henne does look improved. Daniel Thomas could make Henne’s job a lot easier, thanks to Tony Sparano finally catching up with the rest of the world and realizing that Reggie Bush isn’t an every down back. Peyton Hillis has reportedly come down with Strep Throat. We may need to ask Dr. Roto how this physically effects a players’ performance. I’m most excited about the rookies for Cleveland. Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard are a pleasure to watch in that front four. Cleveland may be forced to finally give Greg Little more playing time. Little is the real deal and you’ll be hearing McCoy to Little for years to come.

Pick: Miami

Comfort Level: Having to be the one to wash Kim Kardashian’s sheets…by hand.

Detroit Lions (2-0) @ Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

Minnesota can’t like their defensive matchups against the Lions offensive weapons. The Vikings are only hanging in games because of Adrian Peterson. Calvin Johnson should have a field day with Minnesota. Minnesota will need Donovan McNabb to play stellar for them to have any chance and he doesn’t have the weapons at receiver that he needs.

Pick: Detroit

Comfort Level: Wagering on Kirstie Alley to regain all her weight again.

Houston Texans (2-0) @ New Orleans Saints (1-1)

There are many similarities between these two teams. These are two of the most high power offenses that can both run and pass effectively on opponents. More importantly however, these two defenses that are suspect at best, and that’s where all my focus is on this game. The Saints have several key injuries to this defense and even with getting Will Smith back, it’s going to be hard to overcome those key players missing. Houston will have to get constant pressure on Drew Brees in this game or he’ll pick apart the secondary. If Johnathan Joseph isn’t fully recovered and has to leave the game again, the Texans defense will be in for a long day. The matchups of Darren Sproles behind the Saints guards vs the weakness in the middle of the Texans line and Jimmy Graham vs. the Texans linebackers could be the difference…also the game is in the Big Easy.

Pick: New Orleans

Comfort Level: Flying coach, middle seat, with two 300 pound men on each side…and both just eat a bean burrito to start a 4 hour flight…oh look, an infant baby is behind me.

New York Giants (1-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)

The Giants should have received their second loss last week but instead, they’ll get it today. Their defensive line will pressure Mike Vick but the back seven isn’t strong enough to hold the receivers or LeSean McCoy long enough. New York already has banged up receivers and now they get this challenge of cornerbacks. Eli Manning will throw three picks.

Pick: Philadelphia

Comfort Level: Being a vegetable at the offensive linemen dinner the night before the game.

Denver Broncos (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1)

Matt Hasselbeck had a great performance versus the Ravens. I would be surprised to see a repeat of that. The reason being that this is the week Chris Johnson turns back into CJ2K. It has more to do with the Broncos not getting their defensive tackle situation fixed this offseason. Their will be huge holes for CJ to burst through and he’ll get his timing down against Denver. Expect another good week from Eric Decker but the Broncos won’t be able to keep the Titans off the field.

Pick: Tennessee

Comfort Level: Sharing a hotel room with Perrish Cox and accidentally falling asleep first.

New York Jets (2-0) @ Oakland Raiders (1-1)

Call me crazy but I think this game plays perfectly for a Raiders upset. Darren McFadden will cause problems and Oakland’s defense can get to Mark Sanchez. If this was in New York, I wouldn’t give the Raiders a chance but in the Black Hole I think they’ll come out ready.

Pick: Raiders

Comfort Level: Being Sebastian Janikowski’s foot after Rex Ryan found out he kicked a 63 yard field goal with it…yummm!

Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) @ San Diego Chargers (1-1)

It’s still early in the season so it’s hard to tell how the Chargers will play. Even with their early season slumps, they should handle a beat up Chiefs squad led by a coach who doesn’t have a clue. Dexter McCluster isn’t Jamaal Charles but Todd Haley will try to force the issue, causing an offense to be placed in bad situations. This should be the game that San Diego’s defense starts to build it’s chemistry together.

Pick: Chargers

Comfort Level: Turning down LaDainian Tomlinson when he gave you a shot to work with him on his music video.

Baltimore Ravens (1-1) @ St. Louis Rams (0-2)

The Rams are better than their 0-2 record indicates but this is a brutal schedule and they’re facing these teams at the wrong time. Baltimore wants to come out and prove that they’re more like the week 1 Ravens and not the Titans’ doormat. St Louis will make a game out of this but in the end, the Ravens defense and Ray Rice on the other side will make one too many plays. Sam Bradford will continue to improve in this new offense and put up big yards against a bad pass defense.

Pick: Ravens

Comfort Level: Sleeping with a girl less than wholesome and while still having sex, pulling out your cell to book a visit to the free clinic for the next day.

Green Bay Packers (2-0) @ Chicago Bears (1-1)

Will the real Jay Cutler please…get sacked. This is what Cutler does. He plays well when protected and cries on the sideline when pressured. He can expect more of the latter this week. Matt Forte can expect another healthy workload but as good as the Packers know their hated rivals, I would be surprised if Dom Capers doesn’t have a spy on Forte at all times. Charles Woodson will follow up on last week’s picks with adding more from his friend Mr. Cutler. The game within the game will be Devin Hester vs. Randall Cobb on returns, that should be worth watching on it’s own.

Pick: Packers

Comfort Level: Being in a sugar eating contest with Jay Cutler. (It’s a joke, don’t cry like….ahh hell, you know where I’m going with this)

Arizona Cardinals (1-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (0-2)

Keeping with my oath: Tarvaris Jackson. The Cardinals get a great matchup playing the Tarvaris Jackson’s this week, who just so happen to be the worst team in football. The Jackson’s should allow the Cardinals’ secondary to continue to grow as a unit and build confidence. Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb will also get in sync while playing a weak Jackson’s defense.

Pick: Arizona

Comfort Level: Entering a popularity contest, quarterback challenge, game of chess, cutest baby competition or whatever else vs. the Tarvaris Jackson’s.

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

This has been the hardest game for me to decide on. I change my mind every two minutes. The game pits two young, talented quarterbacks and up and coming teams against each other. What makes it even better is that it’s a divisional rivalry. Both teams have been slow to find their chemistry. Neither has played anywhere close to it’s peak yet. The Falcons have shown more promise but Tampa is at home. It should be a field goal game but I have to go with the one that seems to be improving faster.

Pick: Atlanta

Comfort Level: Being a white person in a Matt Ryan jersey in the Georgia Dome last week with Vick in town.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

There’s no reason to go into great detail on this game, is there? I mean, the Colts may be able to beat the Tarvaris Jackson’s but what other team do you think they could even compete with? Pittsburgh has a better running game, passing game, defense, coach, coffee machine, etc. The only category the Colts win in is least arrests on the team.

Pick: Steelers

Comfort Level: Being Big Ben’s wife and having a clause in the legal marriage mumbo jumbo paperwork saying that if Ben rapes again I get 60% of future earnings. “Hey Ben, you should go to the Pro Bowl alone.” Jackpot!!

Washington Redskins (2-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

Dallas is really banged up in the secondary and at receiver. All of their top playmakers on offense are dealing with one injury or another including Tony Romo who will attempt to go while recuperating from two broken ribs and a punctured lung. The Redskins will look to use tight end Fred Davis quite a bit as he will provide problems for Dallas in coverage. Washington is playing Dallas at just the right time as they are banged up and if Rex Grossman can protect the ball, the Redskins have a great opportunity to go to 3-0. If NFL sack leader DeMarcus Ware has a big game ,the Cowboys have a shot here, I expect a close Monday night game.

Pick: Redskins, no Cowboys… uh… I-dun-know…

Comfort Level: Let’s wait until Monday and get a better feel for who is going to be in the Dallas line-up. A healthy Dez Bryant vs. a hobbled one makes a world of difference as you say in the 1st quarter vs. the rest of the game against the Jets in Week 1.

Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock

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Strikeforce Challengers 19 Results and Recap

Squeezed between the Titan Fighting Champion 20 and DREAM 17 cards, the Strikeforce Challengers 19 main card delivered the goods. Four of the five bouts went the distance with the lone finish coming from Shawn Jordan in the night’s co-main event.

Main card

205 lbs.: Lorenz Larkin vs. Nick Rossborough – Lorenz Larkin by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)

  • Larkin stays undefeated by defeating the very game and late replacement, Rossborough. The opening round was close but then the Kung Fu master took over and bloodied his opponent up in the final round.

265 lbs.: Lavar Johnson vs. Shawn Jordan – Shawn Jordan by 2nd rd. Submission (Kimura)

  • Johnson had his ground game exposed again as Jordan took him down multiple times and eventually tapping out to a nasty kimura.

155 lbs.: Ryan Couture vs. Maka Watson – Ryan Couture by Majority Decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28)

  • A battle between Extreme Couture and Wand Fight Team goes to Ryan Couture who had the back of Watson for what seemed to be the majority of the fight. Some sharp elbows from Watson cut up Couture along the forehead but it was the control on the ground that earned the victory for Couture.

170 lbs.: Jason High vs. Todd Moore – Jason High by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

  • High improves to 2-0 under the Strikeforce banner with another unanimous decision win. The takedowns and ground and pound were the keys to victory for High who still didn’t look pleased with his overall performance.

170 lbs.: Brian Melancon vs. Felipe Portela – Brian Melancon by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

  • An entertaining opening bout was much closer than the 30-27 one judge scored it.

Preliminary card

155 lbs.: James Terry vs. Magno Almeida – James Terry by 1st rd. KO

155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Charon Spain – Bobby Green by 2nd rd. Submission (Arm Triangle Choke)

170 lbs.: Joe Ray vs. Chris Spång – Chris Spång Unanimous Decision

170 lbs.: Quinn Mulhern vs. Danny Davis – Quinn Mulhern 3rd rd. Submission (Arm Triangle Choke)

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Get more great MMA news, recaps and analysis over at MMA Valor.

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College Football Week 4 Complete Preview

College football season is moving quickly and it’s hard to believe we are already in week four of the season. Zach Bigalke and Matt Strobl will join me to break down the week four action. A lot of teams are starting to get into conference play this week, while other teams continue their out of conference tune-ups.

Speaking of conferences, it was another crazy week on the conference realignment front. The biggest news was the Pac-12 releasing a statement that the conference will NOT expand further. What does this mean for the shifting landscape of college football?

Zach Bigalke: The landscape is still as tectonic as ever. The plates haven’t yet settled completely… nor will they ever, really. The ACC will eventually hit sixteen, if only to placate all the North Carolina schools and allow all four to stay in a South division. The Big East must expand or die — and how much is TCU regretting that decision right now?! — and the Big XII is just as tenuous despite the eleventh-hour decision by the Pac-12 not to shed it of all of its commodities.

And don’t look too soon, but the Mountain West and Conference USA might merge football operations sooner than later in hopes of becoming attractive enough for BCS consideration. This thing hasn’t even neared any semblance of cohesion. Stay tuned.

Matt Strobl: The Pac 12 is in a position of power at the moment, and can therefore afford to dictate terms.  But I don’t believe for a second that the conference would stand pat if and when the dominoes resume falling.  It was interesting to see former Big XII commissioner Dan Beebe get ousted this week; he was an easy target to blame for the recent upheaval, and his league was saved only by the Pac 12’s hesitation.  However, I think what we’re seeing at the moment is a stay of execution so to speak.  The old conference setup is still dying.  What is most surprising is that the ACC is now the conference in the driver’s seat.  It can influence which other seek to expand to keep pace, yet not too long ago it was the ACC that appeared to be on the verge of being raided by its stronger neighbors.

Mitchell: I tend to agree with Matt that the Pac-12 will expand further if other conferences start moving toward Super Conferences. But, for now, the Pac-12’s decision to stand pat offers a little stability to the Big XII. The Big XII’s demise is still likely to come at some point, but it was well known that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and even Texas were looking at moving to the Pac-12 if the Big XII folded. This also keeps the SEC from making the mistake of adding Missouri and jeopardizing longstanding rivalries such as Alabama/Tennessee. Obviously, the college football’s landscape is anything but stable at this point, but for now conference expansion has been put on hold a bit.

There are upsets each week in college football, and there are plenty of matchups this week that look to have upset written all over them. Who are you putting on upset alert this week?

Strobl: There are plenty of amusing betting lines this week.  Florida State as an underdog versus Clemson?  Texas A&M favored against the Cowboys?  Arizona State over USC, even after last week’s flop against Illinois?  Considering any of these to be upsets would be a little disingenuous.  In each case, the lower ranked team is favored. 

The game that intrigues me is Arkansas at Alabama.  The Tide are favorites by double-digits; 11.5 points is a mighty big spread for a game of this caliber.  And while I expect Alabama to successfully defend its home turf, this will be its biggest test of the year thus far.  The Crimson Tide defense is arguably the best the country, and the Razorbacks have yet to play a team of consequence.  So on the one hand, this could be much ado about nothing.  On the other, recall that last year’s meeting was a 24-20 ‘Bama squeaker.  Tyler Wilson is proving to be a strong replacement for Ryan Mallett, so the question in this matchup is can the Arkansas defense step up against Trent Richardson?

Mitchell: I think Michigan has been overrated at this point. A lot of people are wanting to believe that this season of Michigan football will be different than the last couple of years where they started fast and then fell apart later in the season. Michigan still does have an offense that can score points, but I’m still not sold on Denard Robinson as a passer. He’s completing less than 50% of his throws this season. San Diego State is a better team than they’ve been credit for, led by the running of Ronnie Hillman. I think San Diego State comes to the Big House and upsets Michigan.

Bigalke: A couple of Mountain West/Big Ten showdowns have me intrigued. First, I think San Diego State will win outright at Michigan. The Aztecs, balanced on offense with Ronnie Hillman on the ground and Ryan Lindley through the air, are intimately familiar with the Brady Hoke system after he spent two years in San Diego before taking the post in Ann Arbor. And while Nebraska is a three-touchdown favorite for their cross-border showdown with Wyoming in Laramie, don’t sell these Pokes short. I expect Wyoming to easily cover the spread and threaten the Huskers. In these two showdowns between undefeated teams, sell the mid-majors short at your own peril.

What team is in most need of a statement win in week four?

Mitchell: We’ve heard for a couple of years now that Arkansas was ready to take the next step and win the SEC. Well, they’ve once again got their chance to prove themselves in Tuscaloosa against 3rd-ranked Alabama. The Razorbacks are off to a 3-0 start, but they’ve feasted on cupcakes to this point. This is their first real test of the season in front of a raucous crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium. There’s no denying that Arkansas has an offense that can score points, and their skill-position players are better than any in the nation. They had Alabama on the ropes in Fayetteville last season, and if they can finish the job this time around, then they will put themselves in position for an SEC West title, and be in the thick of the National Title race.

Bigalke: This one comes back to conference realignment talk. News came out today that East Carolina once again threw its name into the hat for a move to the Big East. The Pirates are 0-2 after admittedly-tough contests against South Carolina and Virginia Tech. And while they acquitted themselves well in both games, they still walked away with defeats in both cases. Big East competition isn’t exactly the ACC or the SEC at this point, but there is no way they consider the Pirates unless they turn things around and have a strong season. They have six wins against BCS competition in 21 games since the advent of the universal 12-game schedule in 2006. But five of those wins came before Skip Holtz’s final season in Greenville, and their only win against a BCS opponent under Ruffin McNeill is last year’s overtime squeaker against NC State at home. The Pirates MUST win their game against UAB to build momentum for next week’s home game against North Carolina.

Strobl: I hate to keep flogging my beleaguered Buckeyes, but last week’s stinker at Miami is hard to forget.  In week 4, Ohio State hosts Colorado in its final non-conference tune-up, and coach Luke Fickell has finally seen the light with regard to his QB situation.  Freshman Braxton Miller will be taking the reigns.  The Buckeyes are out of the Top 25 for the first time in seven years, and this season has the potential to get out of control rather quickly.  Colorado is one of the Pac 12’s weakest teams; the Buckeyes must not only win, but win convincingly to get themselves re-established as a BCS power.

What player will be the biggest game changer in week four?

Bigalke: I don’t want to give away too much yet, but let’s just say Landry Jones is in for a less-than-comfortable day in the pocket with Missouri DE Brad Madison coming from the edge. With three sacks and five tackles for loss, the junior should have a big game against the Sooners.

Strobl: Good call, Zach.  The 21-point spread in that one should raised some eyebrows.  I’m looking at Jones’ counterpart from last week’s Top 5 tilt.  Florida State’s E.J. Manuel was kept under wraps and eventually knocked out of the game by a physical OU defense.  Now his status is in doubt for week 4, and he didn’t practice earlier in the week.  If Manuel can’t go, the task of keeping pace with the Tigers offense falls to Clint Trickett.  Whichever QB plays, Florida State will need to avoid mistakes.  The FSU defense is good enough to win this game, but the Seminoles have to play smart offensively.

How will Geno Smith and West Virginia's offense fare against LSU's defense?

Mitchell: It’s going to be interesting to see how West Virginia QB Geno Smith fares against the swarming LSU defense. In Dana Holgerson’s air-raid offense, Smith has already surpassed 1000 yards through the air in just three games, and has completed 69.5% of his passes with 7 touchdowns to just 1 interception. It’s safe to say though that he hasn’t gone up against a secondary this good. If he’s able to throw the ball well against the Bengal Tigers, then the Mountaineers have a shot at pulling the upset. But, if he struggles, then this one could be over rather quickly.

What positional matchup is most intriguing to you?

Strobl: Going back to Zach’s upset alert, I’m interested to see how Michigan QB Denard Robinson fares against the San Diego State secondary.  We all know that D-Rob can run, but I’m not convinced of his ability to fit into brady Hoke’s system as a passer.  And now he’s facing an underrated team with a solid pass defense.  Hoke’s former squad will have a chip on its shoulder and is coming off of a 42-24 drubbing of Washington State in which cornerback Larry Parker snatched a pair of interceptions.

Mitchell: I think it’s Alabama’s secondary against Arkansas’ wide receivers. Like I said earlier, you’d be hard pressed to find a better group of receivers than what the Hogs boast led by Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton, Jarius Wright, and Greg Childs. But, you’d also be hard pressed to find a better secondary than Alabama’s. The Crimson Tide ranks in the top-five in the nation in both pass defense and pass efficiency defense. Alabama’s secondary took their lumps last season, but all of those guys are back from a year ago, and they’ve looked very good up to this point. Also, if Alabama’s secondary can keep the receivers covered, it will give the pass rush more time to get pressure on Tyler Wilson, and force him to make mistakes.

Bigalke: I really can’t wait to see how South Carolina’s offensive line tries to contain a stronger-than-you’d-expect front four for Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks have ambitions on another trip to the SEC Championship and a BCS bowl, but while Marcus Lattimore has managed to plow for a ton of yardage the line still has some major flaws. Only two other teams in the entire FBS have allowed more tackes for loss than South Carolina, which plays to the Commodores’ strengths. DE Tim Fugger and DT Rob Lohr have teed off on opponents so far; Fugger is tied for 11th in the nation with three sacks already, while Lohr is tied for 15th nationally with 5.5 tackles for loss (with Fugger right behind in 25th with 5.0 TFL). Lattimore will find his running room — he’s a talented enough back — but if Stephen Garcia doesn’t at least have some time to find receivers, an opportunistic Commodores secondary that leads the nation with 10 interceptions will pad its lead even further thanks to the pressure of that front four.

Let’s move on to the picks for the week. Early on Saturday Brady Hoke’s new team, Michigan, takes his old team in San Diego State at the Big House. You have to believe the Aztecs will be extra motivated for this game, but will they have enough to take down Denard Robinson and the Wolverines in Ann Arbor?

 Mitchell: I’m expecting a relatively high scoring affair. Michigan’s offense will be able to put up points with Denard Robinson having a Denard Robinson-like game. But, Michigan’s defense won’t be able to stop San Diego State. It might surprise you to learn than Ronnie Hillman is the nation’s 2nd leading rusher behind South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore. Ryan Lindley is a pretty solid passer, but he’ll need to throw a bit more if the Aztec offense is to find success. There is obviously a lot of emotion on the San Diego State side as they look to beat their former coach Brady Hoke. It should be a close game, but I’m sticking with my upset selection. PICK: San Diego State

Bigalke: Unequivocally yes. The Aztecs are for real, and vendetta or no vendetta San Diego State is one of three (or possibly four if Wyoming can surprise on Saturday) Mountain West teams that could realistically compete for BCS consideration. Ronnie Hillman, second in the nation in rushing, is the real deal, and SDSU gets enough passing yards from Ryan Lindley (207.33 YPG) — and keeps him well protected, with just one sack so far this season — to keep defenses honest. And the Aztec defense should be able to do its own damage against Hoke’s offensive schemes, knowing better than most how he might try to deploy Denard Robinson. This is my upset of the week right here, as mentioned before… PICK: San Diego State

Strobl: The Wolverines are feeling their oats after earning a 3-0 start and a #22 ranking.  But a last second comeback win over Notre Dame and two drubbings against Directional Michigan shouldn’t get anyone too excited just yet.  San Diego State will come in angry, motivated that, from their point of view, Hoke saw fit to cut and run.  And make no mistake- this is a quality team.  The Aztecs should give Michigan every bit the same fight Notre Dame did.  Don’t be surprised to see that Top 25 ranking fall away in the wake of a close loss.  PICK: San Diego State

Arizona State stumbled last week on the road against Illinois, but they still have the Pac-12 South division title in their sights. On Saturday night in Tempe they’ll face their conference opener against the USC Trojans. Will the Sun Devils gain an early edge in the division, or will the Trojans begin playing the role of spoiler?

 Bigalke: We’ve said it before, but it bears mentioning again — I have absolutely no clue what to make of the Pac-12 South. It is starting to feel more and more like USC intends fully to feast upon a division it cannot win thanks to a Bush Push of sanctions, and render things silly as a #2 team contests the first Pac-12 Championship Game in the stadium of whichever North team awaits to dominate them. But this is also Lane Kiffin… and, I guess, Dennis Erickson on the other sideline. Arizona State played well at home against Missouri, and they seem to love night games in Tempe. So the atmosphere should be able to motivate Osweiler, Burfict and company to get up for their conference opener. This one will be close, but… PICK: Arizona State

Strobl: I share Zach’s lack of faith in Kiffin, but I can’t get behind Arizona State after its weak performance in Champaign.  The offensive line looked totally lost against an Illini defensive front that frankly is not nearly as impressive as it appeared.  A half dozen sacks, three turnovers, and too many penalties spoke volumes about ASU’s lack of preparation.  And while USC may not be its full-strength former self, the Trojans still have elite athletes on both sides of the ball.  I’m done expecting a shake-up in the division.  USC may be out of the running for the Pac 12 title, but until proven otherwise, I’m assuming that it still owns the South.  PICK: USC

Mitchell: It’s unanimous among all of us, that we don’t have faith in Lane Kiffin. USC has had their struggles this season, but they have managed to come through the first three games unscathed. They’ve played and beaten three BCS conference schools in Minnesota, Utah, and Syracuse already this season. I had some faith in Arizona State before they fell on the road against Illinois last week. Both quarterbacks, Matt Barkley for USC, and Brock Osweiler of Arizona State should have pretty good games, but the Trojans are more talented everywhere on the field. USC should find a way to squeak by in Tempe. PICK: USC

In other Pac-12 action, the 10th ranked Oregon Ducks see their first test since the opener against LSU when they travel to Tucson to take on Nick Foles and Arizona. The Wildcats might be 1-2, but the two losses were against top-10 opponents. Who wins this Pac-12 battle?

 Strobl: Oregon may be in the same conference, but the Ducks are out of Arizona’s league.  It would be nice to see the Wildcats put forth a better effort than they did in week 3’s 37-10 loss to Stanford, but don’t hold your breath.  PICK: Oregon

Mitchell: I think Arizona is a good football team, but they have faced a murderous row of tough opponents so far in 2011. After blowing out Northern Iowa in the opener, they’ve lost consecutive games to Oklahoma State and Stanford, and they didn’t seriously challenge either team. Nick Foles to Juron Criner should be a potent offensive weapon for the Wildcats, but they aren’t going to be able to outduel the Ducks. Led by Darron Thomas and LaMichael James, Oregon is still the team to beat in the Pac-12. They shouldn’t have much trouble dispatching the Wildcats in Tuscon. PICK: Oregon

Bigalke: This one is a lot easier to project. Arizona should have a fully-recovered Juron Criner to help balance what is already a top-five passing attack thanks to the emergence of Dan Buckner on the other end of Nick Foles’ passes. And they always give the Ducks fits, especially in Tucson. But Oregon has won the past three editions for a reason. Expect the Ducks to blaze the field with the one-two punch of LaMichael and De’Anthony on the ground, and for Darron Thomas to do his best Foles impression through the Arizona air. It isn’t like losing closer-than-most-like-to-admit contests to Auburn last January and to LSU to begin September exactly made Oregon forget to play their brand of blur football… PICK: Oregon

Top-ranked Oklahoma, fresh off of their big win in Tallahassee over Florida State, comes back to Norman to open Big XII play against Missouri. In Columbia last season, the Tigers upset the Sooners, and that has to be fresh on Oklahoma’s minds. Will the Sooners continue their run toward the National Championship, or will Missouri win a 2nd straight over Oklahoma?

 Mitchell: I think the 21-point spread is a bit much, but Oklahoma is still vastly the superior team. Missouri is 2-1, but their two wins came against Miami (OH) and Western Illinois. The only good team they’ve played up to this point is Arizona State and they were defeated. The Sooners proved worthy of the lofty preseason rankings by going down to Tallahassee and knocking off Florida State. They weren’t at their best offensively, as Landry Jones continued his struggles on the road. But, this game is in Norman and the Sooners have compiled a 73-2 record at home since Bob Stoops took over, including 37 straight. I don’t see Missouri being good enough to bring that streak to an end. PICK: Oklahoma

Bigalke: Haven’t we seen this script before? James Franklin has helped the Tigers’ offense miss not a beat — through Week 3 they’re actually better, with run-pass balance providing an extra hundred yards and 5.3 points per game compared to this point last season. And while Oklahoma just came off a huge win against Florida State last weekend the Sooners are still scoring five fewer points than Missouri and allowing less than a point fewer. Last year Aldon Smith wreaked havoc and got into Jones’ head; this year Madison, my game-changer of the week, will have the same effect on an otherwise efficient Sooner offense. A 20-point spread is ridiculous. Bob Stoops knows it. And after last year, you should know better than to expect too many miracles from Big Game Bob… PICK: Missouri

Strobl: If the schedule had aligned a bit differently, I’d be tempted to take Missouri.  THis could have been quite a trap game if it was sandwiched by Florida State before and Texas after, but the Sooners get Ball State before having to face the rival Longhorns.  There probably won’t be much looking ahead by the nation’s top team.  While the point spread is clearly insane, Missouri simply doesn’t have the same level of talent that it did last year, nor will it have homefield advantage.  PICK: Oklahoma

Florida State looked a lot better this season against Oklahoma than last, but they get no breaks this week as they travel to Death Valley to take on a Clemson team fresh off of a win over defending National Champion Auburn. Will the Seminoles suffer a letdown, or will they win this big ACC Atlantic matchup?

 Bigalke: I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with Clemson in their come-from-behind, pull-away victory over the other Tigers last weekend. They had no easier a test, if only because of the mojo that has surrounded Auburn as of late, and both teams will be happy to get into conference play. The Seminoles have the stronger defense, but they also haven’t yet seen Tajh Boyd in person. I’ve written off Clemson too often, and after having taken a chance on them last week to upset Auburn it would feel wrong to slide — especially since I never really have been sold on Florida State as a top-five or even a top-ten team this year… PICK: Clemson

Strobl: I will concede that the normally disappointing Tigers came through last week, but one win over an overrated Auburn team is hardly enough to get me betting on Clemson.  Dabo Swinney’s squad is the embodiment of the term letdown, and week 3’s emotional high is about to meet the frightening reality of the FSU defense.  Clemson’s best chance is to hope that QB E.J. Manuel can’t go on Saturday.  If his shoulder prevents his return, Clint Trickett will need to step up and lead the Seminoles to victory.  That could mean a touch-and-go contest for FSU, but in the end the ‘Noles will have enough to avoid back-to-back losses.  PICK: Florida State  

Mitchell: How is Clemson favored in this game? I understand the uncertainty surrounding the health of EJ Manuel, but even after he was knocked out last week, the Seminoles stuck around with the #1 team in the nation. A lot of people are so high on Clemson based on their performance last week against Auburn, but I watched that game from start to finish and wasn’t impressed with the Tigers. It was more of Auburn’s glaring deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball that led to all the offense by Clemson. Florida State’s defense held Oklahoma’s potent offense to just 23 points last week. Even in Death Valley, I can’t see Clemson posing that serious of a threat to the Seminoles. PICK: Florida State

It’s hard to say anybody has faced a tougher schedule to start the season than LSU, at least among the National Title contenders. After already playing ranked teams in Oregon and Mississippi State, they finish off their home-and-home series with West Virginia in Morgantown. Will LSU get another statement win, or will West Virginia pull the upset?

 Strobl: West Virginia is not escaping with a win this week.  The Mountaineers needed a late surge to beat FCS foe Norfolk State, and it was only thanks to Danny O’Brien’s interceptions that they were able to best Maryland in week 3.  I have to wonder if the oddsmakers even watch football; Mizzou is a 21-point underdog to Oklahoma but LSU is only giving 5.5 to West Virginia?  Hilarious.  LSU will cover easily as its defense clamps down on Geno Smith and company.  PICK: LSU

Mitchell: I think this game might be closer than a lot of people think, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if West Virginia were to pull the upset. If you remember back to last season, the Mountaineers came very close to upsetting the Tigers in Baton Rouge. West Virginia has a very dangerous offense, but LSU has faced a high-octane offense already in Oregon. LSU is more battle tested than probably any other team in the country with two wins over ranked opponents — LSU and Mississippi State — already this season. As good as West Virginia’s offense has proven capable of being, LSU has one of the best defenses in the nation and they should walk out of Morgantown with their third win over a ranked opponent in four games. PICK: LSU

Bigalke: Let’s face it… there is little that the Mountaineers can do to prevent LSU from returning to Baton Rouge in the driver’s seat for the national title game. They stopped Oregon and Mississippi State, two very dangerous offenses, from ever really getting going in their encounters with the Tigers defense. Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are providing a hell of a 1-2 punch in the backfield, and Jarrett Lee has been good enough managing the games to keep the offense humming. For all of Les Miles’ nuttiness, he has the Bayou Bengals rolling stronger than any other team in the country at this point, and they’re battle tested against two stout opponents already ahead of this showdown. Expect the Mad Hatter to be tasting some victory grass in Morgantown on Saturday… PICK: LSU

Arkansas had Alabama on the ropes in Fayetteville last season only to see the Crimson Tide rally and win 24-20. The matchup moves to Tuscaloosa this season in the SEC West opener for both teams. Will the Crimson Tide top the Razorbacks for a 5th straight season, or will Arkansas finally beat Alabama and gain control of the SEC West?

 Mitchell: The 11.5 point line in favor of the Crimson Tide is a bit ridiculous. This should be a close game that comes down to the final quarter much like last season. Arkansas has a very good offense and talent galore at the skill positions. But, this will be Tyler Wilson’s first start on the road and against a defense better than he’s seen in his young career. Arkansas has yet to face a real test in 2011, while Alabama boasts a win over Penn State in Happy Valley on their resume. The battle up front will also be key, and if Alabama can get the push from their offensive line to open up running lanes for Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, then they should have offensive success. I would also look for Nick Saban to open up the playbook somewhat this week and allow sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron to use his great arm strength on some deeper routes. I think this will be a close game, but Alabama should make a play or two in the fourth quarter to pull it out. PICK: Alabama

Bigalke: Something has to give. Both teams have strong offenses, with the edge there going to Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks. Both teams have strong defenses, with the edge going to Courtney Upshaw and the Tide. Wilson has proven to be up to the task replacing Ryan Mallett as the full-time starter in Fayetteville, but this year he has to take on the Tide in Tuscaloosa. That’s what will make all the difference, as the community gathers after a rough offseason to celebrate once more… PICK: Alabama

Strobl: I know this was my upset alert, and while I do think that Arkansas poses a danger to ‘Bama’s title hopes, the Tide are the better team here.  The Hogs will need some breaks, whether they be turnovers, negative plays, or field position woes for Alabama.  Everything will have to go right for the visitors to emerge victorious from Tuscaloosa.  That being said, ‘Bama is relying heavily on its defense and ground game, and Arkansas has a decent stop unti of its own.  If the Razorbacks can keep the Tide one-dimensional, they have a shot.  Expect them to come close, but in the end I can’t pick against the nation’s best D.  PICK: Alabama

The matchup of the weekend features a battle of top-10 Big XII team with Oklahoma State traveling to College Station to take on Texas A&M. The winner of this matchup should come out as the top challenger to Oklahoma in the Big XII. Will it be the Aggies or Cowboys who come out with a huge conference victory?

 Bigalke: Well, as I said earlier I have a feeling that the winner of this game will be battling not just Oklahoma, but that’s beside the point. No other team gains more yards through the air than Oklahoma State, and that’s the biggest Achilles heel for an A&M defense that loves to bring lots of pressure (which has amounted to more sacks through three weeks than any other team has amassed) but also is weaker on the back end (51st and 32nd respectively in pass yardage allowed and defensive passer efficiency) because of it. Justin Blackmon gains the bulk of the attention for a deep and underappreciated receiving corps, and Brandon Weeden is a smart, worldly passer who is efficient and effective. The Cowboys have too many weapons for a smart but overmatched Aggies defense to contain… PICK: Oklahoma State

Strobl: Last year’s 9-3 record was all well and good, and Ryan Tannehill makes it easy to forget the loss of Jerrod Johnson.  But the Aggies have yet to be tested this season, and they’re about to lose their Top 10 ranking.  Oklahoma State has shown its potential with a dominating win over Arizona and a solid victory against a surprisingly tough Tulsa team in week 3.  The Cowboys have a significant edge offensively, and while the OSU defense may not be among the nation’s best, it will be good enough to stay ahead of A&M.  PICK: Oklahoma State

Mitchell: Last season in Stillwater Oklahoma State won a 38-35 shootout over Texas A&M and I’m expecting a similar game this time around. I don’t see either defense having much success stopping the opposing offense. Brandon Weeden is playing as good as any quarterback in the country, but he’s going to have to cut down a little on the interceptions. It’s going to be tough for Oklahoma State to win in College Station against as good of a team as Texas A&M if they don’t take care of the football. It will be interesting to see which combo –Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon or Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller — have the bigger day. Cyrus Gray should rack up a good bit of yards on the ground for the Aggies, but I believe that Oklahoma State has the potential to seriously challenge Oklahoma for the Big XII Championship and possibly more. Look for them to win the shootout at Kyle Field in what could be the last meeting for a while between the two. PICK: Oklahoma State

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College Football Week 4 Players to Watch

Week four has the makings of being the best week yet. This week we have the marquee matchups of LSU at West Virginia, Arkansas at Alabama, Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, and Florida State at Clemson. Then there’s the game some might be sleeping on, San Diego State at Michigan.

This contest will have a whole lot of offense with no defense and could potentially be a close/high scoring game. There are plenty of questions you might want to think about while watching these games.

Will Arkansas be able to protect Tyler Wilson from the Alabama defense? Will the West Virginia offense be able to make the big play against the stingy LSU defense? Can Michigan play any sort of defense? The most intriguing question of this week should be, who will be better this week, the Oklahoma State offense or the Texas A&M defense?

Onto the players to watch for this week:

Ronnie Hillman, Running back, San Diego State – Last week: 32 rushes for 191 yards and four touchdowns. The storyline heading into this game is Michigan coach Brady Hoke going up against his former team. When Hoke saw that San Diego State was on the schedule for this season, he said, “Let’s buy that one out. They’re good.”

San Diego State has many dangerous pieces on offense, but the one that could cause a major headache for Hoke is running back Ronnie Hillman. After three weeks Hillman is the No. 2 rusher in the nation with 497 yards and eight touchdowns. He is going to test the Michigan front seven, and if history repeats itself, it shouldn’t be too hard for Hillman to run through them. It will be interesting to see who has a bigger impact through the ground, Hillman or Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.

Sammy Watkins, Wide receiver, Clemson – 10 receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Watkins is only a freshman, but he sure didn’t play like one against the reigning National Champion Auburn Tigers. Watkins was catching balls all over the field and was even asked to rush seven times.

Last week was Watkins come out party; he looked like a true playmaker. He now goes up against a fast and athletic defense of Florida State, so putting up similar numbers this week could be prove to be very difficult.  Clemson is going to need for Watkins to have a big game if they are going to beat Florida State.

Tyrann Mathieu, Defensive back, LSU – Last week: 10 total tackles. Tyrann Mathieu can do it all on defense, he can tackle, intercept and even rush the passer. In this week’s matchup against West Virginia, Mathieu will most likely have the task of covering the slot receiver Tavon Austin. Austin is quick and is dangerous when he gets the ball in space, but Mathieu has fluid hip movement that will give him the ability to stay right with Austin out of the cuts. His play this week could have a major impact on quieting the big play offense of West Virginia.

A college football enthusiast and Journalism and Sports Administration major at the University of Miami, Jared Levine has been writing about major college football for the past two years. You may contact Jared @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ JaredLevine4

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NFL Week 2 Concerns: Panthers Steve Smith, Vikings and More

This is a weekly free therapy session I provide for not only myself, but for all football fans. If you’re looking for politically correct, mainstream, polite, NFL content, you’ve come to the wrong place. In fact, on any given week you should be prepared to either agree with me or be offended, belittled, shocked, and insulted.

You can expect to find anger, sarcasm, foul language (I will do my best to refrain), and whatever the hell else I’m feeling come 1 am CST Tuesday mornings this NFL season.  So, lie down on your couch and grab your tissue because your Week 2 session has begun…….

Steve Smith was carrying the ball like a rookie when the Packers forced the fumble. Green Bay recovered the ball and it killed the Carolina Panthers’ momentum. Sometimes I can read lips and Sunday was one of them. It appeared as if the hometown crowd was giving Smith an ear full on the bench after his careless fumble. All I could see was Steve turning towards the stands and what I read his lips say were, “Bring your b**ch a*s over here and say that s**t to my face.”

I don’t know which I’m more disappointed in, Smith not knowing how to carry a football after all these years in the league, or getting rattled by a fan while he should be standing on the sideline focusing on the game, trying to fix his errors and chomping at the bit to redeem himself. Instead the veteran receiver wanted to beef with some (probably) drunk idiot that he knows can’t bring his bitch ass down to the field.

MEMO to Steve Smith: Steve, fix your mental mistakes and get over your little man complex.

The Minnesota Vikings blew another big lead and proved why they can’t be taken serious this year. While everyone in their division has shown flashes of brilliance, the Vikings have only proven to be capable of screwing up games that have been handed to them.

MEMO to the Vikings: If you’re only going to lead in one half, make it the second half.

While it was certainly not as bad as Steve Spagnuolo ‘s decision, it does deserve a mention. The Atlanta Falcons caught a break when Mike Vick was knocked out of the game Sunday night. They also found a way to give a gift right back to the Philadelphia Eagles. We’ve all seen DeSean Jackson single handily beat the Giants last season on a last second punt return for a touchdown. Fool me once...  

Atlanta had all of the momentum and could have run for one first down and not have to punt the ball back to Philly. Instead they took three straight knees and not only did they punt, they decided to kick it directly to the speedster! Talk about playing with fire. While it didn’t backfire on them, giving the Eagles the chance to breathe life again deserves a mention amongst the stupid coaching decisions from Week 2.

Lastly, I feel compelled to talk about something that apparently no one else will. Aaron Hernandez caught a pass in the endzone last Sunday and as he went to the ground with the ball, the defender poked it out. The play was ruled a touchdown. Rehashing the idiocy that is known as a “completion in the endzone”, someone needs to explain how this is a catch, while Calvin Johnson’s from last year is an incompletion.

I know the rule and I know why they’re saying this is a catch, but it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Why is it that Calvin Johnson had to show completion of the catch by holding on the ball all the way through and standing back up to his feet and Hernandez didn’t even have to attempt to stand up? The rule should be changed and it should be a common sense judgment call. The Hernandez play was a touchdown and so was Calvin Johnson’s. Ruling the two differently is a remarkably bush league….

Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock

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College Football Previews: Alabama, USC, Clemson and More

Now that we’re moving into conference play, the games are more important heading towards a conference title and BCS bid. Florida State is coming off a tough loss at home to Oklahoma, while Clemson finally got the Auburn monkey, er – Tiger off their back. LSU heads to Morgantown to show West Va what life would have been like if the SEC did accept their application to join. Arkansas and Alabama meet in Tuscaloosa in a coaching battle between two of the biggest schemers in college football, who ever emerges could be battling LSU for the SECW crown later this season.

It’s cute to say Oklahoma State and Texas A & M are playing for a shot at the Big 12 title, although, I’m not sure either can beat Oklahoma this year; however it would be kind of ironic considering the current question to the future of the Big 12 if aTm somehow pulls it off and takes the title and its talents to South Beach Birmingham. South Carolina is struggling more than any other teams in the top 15 and could possibly be upset by Vanderbilt if the Steves don’t play their cards right.

Lastly, the Southern California Trojans roll into Tempe to take on Arizona State this week. USC can’t play for a title, and I saw nothing that screamed “conference champion” when ASU played the Fighting Zookies last Saturday, which is good for #10 Oregon – who is the top ranked in the conference and has a definite shot in the title chase.

As always, don’t forget to check out Our Top Ten College Football Teams going into play this week. Be safe and enjoy your football-filled weekend.

#11 Florida State Seminoles (2-1) at #21 Clemson (3-0)

September 24, 2011 3:30 pm ET – Memorial Stadium, Clemson SC

I can’t find one game this week that I want to watch more than this one. Florida State put forth a tremendous amount of effort and held Heisman candidate Landry Jones to in their loss to Oklahoma last week. In the end, the Sooner’s defense was just a little bit better than the Seminole’s offense. Regardless, losing to the number one team in the country isn’t anything to hang your head over. The Seminoles are still a very good football team with a talented, athletic defense that is among the best in the country. Plagued with injuries all season, they may be without starting QB EJ Manuel who suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder against Oklahoma. If Manuel is out, freshman Clint Trickett will step in and have to rely on a thin receiving corps that may have four starters out.

Clemson is coming off an incredible victory against Auburn, a team that had bested the ACC squad 14 straight times. Down 14-0, QB Tajh Boyd threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns as he led Clemson to a come-from-behind 38-24 victory. Clemson didn’t always look perfect and other factors were involved, namely Auburn’s defense being filled with cracks; a sign of how important Nick Fairley was to the defense last year. Despite all of Auburn’s shortcomings, it doesn’t take away the fact that Clemson played better on both sides of the ball. Clemson’s offense is ranked ninth nationally in total yards of offense, led by Boyd, receiver Sammy Watkins, and tight end Dwayne Allen.

Key Match-up: Florida State Secondary vs. Clemson Receiving Corps

#14 Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0) at #3 Alabama (3-0)

September 24, 2011 3:30 pm ET – Bryant Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa AL

The Razorbacks scored 24 points on Troy last week before giving up a touchdown with seven seconds to go in the first half, but got worn down by the Troy defense in the second half. After a touchdown that capped a 77 yard drive on Arkansas’ first possession of the third quarter, QB Tyler Wilson threw an interception, wide receiver Joe Adams fumbled, and the Hogs were forced to punt four times. As good as Troy’s defense looked against Arkansas in the second half, the Alabama defense will look even better.

Alabama blew out North Texas last week 41-0 using their dynamic duo of running backs, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, who got great blocking by their offensive line and the wide receivers down field as they ran for every touchdown last week. The defense held the Mean Green to 169 of total offense, but did record a sack or an interception. QB AJ McCarron continued to struggle, throwing for 15-of-21 for 190 yards, rushing four times for negative 28 yards, and was sacked three times. Freshman Phillip Sims fared slightly better once again, going 6-for-8 for 49 yards, negative 10 rushing on one carry, and was sacked once. Luckily for Nick Saban, he has Richardson and a stingy defense that has given up only 18 points in three games.  SEC West games are hard fought chess matches between coaches, and this one surely will not disappoint.

Key Match-up: Bobby Petrino vs. Nick Saban

#7 Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0) at #8 Texas A & M Aggies (3-0)

September 24, 2011 3:30 pm ET – Kyle Field, College Station TX

Texas A & M will be playing their last Big 12 opener, as they are slated to join the SEC in July barring any litigation from Baylor. While that plays out, the Big 12 in general is in turmoil, with the threat of more schools leaving for other conferences, so both teams could be playing for the last Big 12 title. The Aggies are led by QB Ryan Tannehill threw for more than 300 yards for the second time in his career and Cyrus Gray rushed for two touchdowns while topping 100 yards for the ninth straight game during last Saturday’s 37-7 rout of Idaho at home. The offensive line has yet to give up a sack, while the defense has collected 11 so far on the year. Last season, The Aggies outgained the Cowboys 535-351 but committed five turnovers in the 38-35 loss, the Aggies third straight in the series

Oklahoma State enters Big 12 play as a top three team nationally in offense with 52.3 points, 601.0 yards and 408.0 passing yards per game led by QB Brandon Weedon who has had three straight games with at least 350 passing yards.  Last week, the Cowboys played a bizarre game against Tulsa, that didn’t start until after midnight central time, and finished around 3:35am. Justin Blackmon, 2010’s Biletnikoff Award winner’s NCAA record run of 14 straight games with over a hundred yards ended as he ended up with only 57 yards but did have a score in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma’s defense has given up more than 30 points to both Louisiana-Lafayette and Tulsa this season, although fatigue due to the time the Tulsa game was mostly likely a factor. Since 1997, seven games have been played between the two that have been decided by five points or fewer; expect another close one this time around as both teams are evenly matched, but I give the slight edge to the host.

What to watch: The tandem of Brandon Weedon to Justin Blackmon


Vanderbilt Commodores at #12 South Carolina Gamecocks (3-0)

September 24, 2011 7:00 pm ET – Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia SC

Ordinarily, this game would mean very little, here’s why it matters now: Vandy isn’t bad. They are 3-0 and lead all FBS teams with 10 interceptions after grabbing five last Saturday in their biggest conference win since 1971 in a 30-7 romp of Mississippi. The Commodores have turned 12 turnovers in 42 points in three games, led by ball-hawk Trey Wilson who has returned two of his three INTs for TDs. Vanderbilt’s offense aren’t particularly threatening in the air, but on the ground they are averaging 177 yards per game. Last week, RB Zac Stacy ran for 169 yards, including a 77 yard run for a score.

Although South Carolina has a more balanced Offense led by QB Stephen Garcia, the star of the Steve Spurrier Show is sophomore RB Marcus Lattimore, who gained a career-high 246 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns as the Gamecocks narrowly squeaked by Navy 24-21 last week. Garcia went 18-for-25 for 204 yards and an interception, and may throw more this week. South Carolina’s defense has one of the most talented and athletic players in the nation in freshman Jadeveon Clowney who put a lot of pressure on Navy QB Kriss Proctor late in the game, forcing him to throw an interception. Despite being the 12th ranked team in the country, the Gamecocks have looked shaky at times; being forced to come back from a 10 point deficit in the second half against Eastern Carolina, and barely hung on in a 45-42 shootout against Georgia. If Garcia starts feeling rushed, he may make poor decisions that could find the ball in Vandy hands.

Key Match-ups: Stephen Garcia vs. Vanderbilt Secondary

Jadeveon Clowney vs. Vanderbilt OLine

#2 LSU Tigers (3-0) at #16 West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0)

September 24, 2011 8:00 pm ET – Mountaineer Field, Morgantown WV

LSU has one of the toughest schedules in the FBS, having already beaten two teams ranked in the top 25, Oregon and Mississippi State, both on the road. This week, the Bayou Bengals take on the highest ranking team in the Big East that has a high octane offense, and a complicated defense. LSU is a complete team that rivals Oklahoma for all around the best in college football. The defense and rushing attack have been highly productive throughout the season, but last week the Tigers passing game made their first appearance and looked good as QB Jarrett Lee complete 21 of 27 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Last season LSU came away with a 20-13 victory but West Virginia’s defense gave the Tigers fits holding Jordan Jefferson to 230 yards and 13 offensive points. Les Miles will be more prepared against the 3-3-5 “Okie” defense which uses misdirection and size from the front three to free linebackers to puzzle offenses with their speed and blitz packages. LSU had success last year against West Va with RB Stevan Ridley who ran for 116 yards on 20 carries. This year, Ridley is with the New England Patriots, but Spencer Ware is built from the same mold, and should assume the role adequately. The Mountaineers are a capable, explosive team but LSU might be too much for them to handle.

Key Match-up: LSU OLine vs. West Va front Six


#25 Southern California Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils

September 24, 2011 10:15 pm ET – Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe AZ

I’m going to start with Arizona State on this one. I watched them play Illinois last week in Champaign as the 22nd ranked team in the country. I must have seen them play on a very off night, because nothing I saw Saturday reflected anything close to either conference champion or Top 25. Despite only allowing Illinois 240 yards of total offense, Head Coach Dennis Erickson didn’t have an answer to stop an Illini defense that sacked QB Brook Osweiler six times and forced him to throw two interceptions.  This week the Sun Devils will open their PAC-12 season as conference favorites against a Trojan squad who is ineligible for post season play.

USC played their first Pac-12 game of the season two weeks ago, defeating conference new-comer Utah 23-14 at home, and will play their first away game of the season in Tempe. Last week in a 38-17 victory over Syracuse, QB Matt Barkley tied a career high with five touchdown passes and threw for 324 yards without an interception. The Trojan defense held the Orangemen to 73 rushing yards and sacked QB Ryan Nassib three times.

Last season, USC defeated Arizona State 34-33 handing the Sun Devils their 11th straight loss in the series. Saturday night, ASU will have their best chance to end the streak, as long as they contain Barkley, while protecting Osweiler on the other side of the ball.

Key to winning the game for either team: Matt Barkley and Brook Osweiler

Other games to keep your eye on:

  • North Carolina Tar Heels at Georgia Tech Yellowjackets – Sept 24, 12:00 pm ET
  • U Texas – El Paso Miners at #18 South Florida Bulls – Sept. 24, 7:00 pm ET
  • #15 Florida Gators at Kentucky Wildcats – Sept. 24, 7:00 pm ET
  • Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Boise State Broncos – Sept. 24, 8:00 pm ET
  • Missouri Tigers at #1 Oklahoma Sooners – Sept. 24, 8:00 pm ET
  • #10 Oregon Ducks at Arizona Wildcats – Sept. 24, 10:15 pm ET

Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc

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