Week six didn’t have many games that interested me personally. Week seven definitely doesn’t have that problem though. While I’m only previewing three again this week, there are several other games I’m excited to see on Saturday. Enough talk though, here we go with my preview and picks.
#11 Michigan at #23 Michigan State: 12:00 p.m.
It will be déjà vu for Wolverine fans on Saturday. For the third straight season, Michigan will put their undefeated record on the line against their instate rival, the Michigan State Spartans. In the previous two meetings, the Wolverines have felt the sting of their first loss of the season. So then Saturday at about 3:30 the Wolverines will be 6-1 right? As Lee Corso would say, “not so fastsweet heart”!
To say the Michigan offense is potent would be a disservice to the Wolverines players. Michigan enters the game only 89th in passing with just over 200 yards per game, but what they lack in the air, they more than make up for on the ground. The Wolverines have been juggernauts in the running game, ranking seventh nationally. The Wolverines enter the game Saturday averaging 257 yards a game, and are tied for 17th in the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns on the season.
The most important part of the Michigan rushing attack is without a doubt senior quarterback Dennard Robinson, who has scored eight of Michigan’s 14 touchdowns on the ground. Robinson who leads the Wolverines with 720 rushing yards (more than double of any other player), is easily the most dangerous weapon on the field Saturday. Robinson has also proven to be a threat in the passing game during key situations, with 1,130 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. If there is an area of concern for the do it all senior, it’s not forcing passes, which has resulted in nine interceptions for Robinson thus far.
At wide receiver, the Wolverines feature three players capable of making plays. Senior, Junior Hemmingway is the standout of the three with 15 receptions for 391 yards (26 yards per catch). Sophomore, Jeremy Gallon leads the Michigan offense in receptions (17), and has 262 yards and two touchdowns this season. Rounding out the three is junior, Roy Roundtree. Roundtree has yet to make much of an impact this year with just eight receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown, although that one touchdown did come with two seconds left in the first night game ever at Michigan stadium to seal a comeback victory against Notre Dame.
On defense, Michigan has been average at best. They rank 39th in the nation in total defense and have allowed opponents 348 yards per game. The one thing Michigan has done well on defense is keep opponents out of the endzone allowing just eight touchdowns in six games (tied for seventh in the nation), four of which were to Notre Dame.
For the Spartans, the design has been balance on offense combined with a stingy, suffocating defense. Michigan State is ranked 34th nationally in passing, with 269 yards per game, and averages 129 rushing yards per contest as well. The Spartans lead the nation in total defense allowing opponents just 173 yards per game, and are third in rushing defense surrendering just 64 yards per game.
On offense, the Spartans will go as far as senior quarterback Kirk Cousins will take them. Cousins has been solid for the Spartans, completing 68% of his passes for 1,197 yards and a 6-4 touchdown to interception ratio. Even more importantly, Cousins has only been sacked four times this season, which is tied for fourth best among quarterbacks with 100 or more passing attempts.
In the backfield, Cousins has two talented tailbacks to hand the ball off to in sophomore Le’Veon Bell, and junior Edwin Baker. Both backs are of the same mold, tough, physical, between the tackle runners who fight for extra yards. Bell has the distinctive advantage in touchdowns with six compared to Baker’s one. However, both have almost virtually identical stat lines otherwise, with Bell carrying the ball 52 times for 267 yards and Baker at 62 carries for 252 yards. Junior Larry Caper, and freshman Nick Hill have also received sporadic playing time with 25 and 24 carries respectively.
At wide receiver, it has been virtually a one man show with the 6’2 senior B.J. Cunningham receiving the majority of targets. Cunningham has taken advantage of his quarterbacks reliance on him, to the tune of 38 catches for 582 yards and two scores. Sophomore tight end Dion Sims, leads the Spartans in receiving touchdowns with three of his ten receptions resulting in scores.
My prediction, the third time is the charm for the Wolverines. In my opinion, Michigan State hasn’t been tested this season with their only quality opponent being a loss to Notre Dame. That’s not to say that Michigan has been tested, I’m just more of a believer in the Michigan rushing attack then I am the Spartan defense. Against the Irish, the Spartan defense gave up 4.9 yards a carry in a 31-13 loss. The problem, the Irish are a much more pass oriented team then running team. I expect Dennard Robinson and the Wolverines to run the zone read over and over again on Saturday, and have more successes then failures. Michigan is able to grind it out and hold on to the 24-20 victory.
#20 Baylor at #21 Texas A&M: 12:00 p.m.
In what should be one of the best games of the week, and certainly the best game in the Big XII, Heisman hopeful Robert Griffin III will lead his Bears into College Station, TX to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. Both teams are coming off of bounce back wins, with Baylor’s coming against the Iowa State Cyclones, and A&M’s against in state rival Texas Tech. What looks to be an evenly matched game on paper, should play out the same on the field.
Both teams are very offensively gifted, with Baylor receiving a slight edge in all categories. The Bears rank fourth in the nation in passing, throwing for over 320 yards a game. The star of the offense is quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose performance has him entrenched in weekly Heisman discussion. RGIII has been arguably, the best quarterback in the nation the first six weeks of the season. Griffin has been electric, completing an astounding 80% of his passes (first in NCAA) for 1,520 yards (19th) with 19 touchdowns (first) and just one interception, which has him tied for first among quarterbacks with 115 or more passing attempts. Griffin’s stats are so absurd, that he’s averaging 304 yards and right at four touchdowns a game. Oh, and did I forget to mention, he can run too. RGIII is second on the team in rushing attempts and yards, with 60 carries for 280 yards and a pair of scores.
At running back, the Bears offense features three quality playmakers. Senior running back Terrance Ganaway leads the way for the Bears rushing attack with 88 carries for 536 yards (6.1 ypc). The 240 pounder from De Kalb, TX is second among the skill positions on the team with six touchdowns. Perhaps the most explosive running back on the team is sophomore Glasco Martin. Martin, despite only having 20 carries so far, is averaging 9.9 yards per rushing attempt with 197 yards and two scores. Junior, Jarred Salubi rounds out the depth chart with 21 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. The play of the running backs combined with the dual threat RGIII has the Bears ranked tenth in the nation running the football at 239 yards a game.
At receiver, the Bears have one of the best game breakers in the nation in senior Kendall Wright. Wright is fifth in the nation in receptions with 48, fourth in yards at 690 and is tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns at eight. Wright has also been a threat on designed run plays, and has even completed two passes for 55 yards and a touchdown on trick plays. Behind Wright are another three capable playmakers in Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson. Reese, a sophomore, leads the Bears big four receivers with 15.5 yards per catch. The 160 pounder has 279 yards on 18 receptions with two scores. Williams falls just behind Reese with 14 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Sampson, has added 13 catches for 179 yards and three scores. All four receivers have shown off their deep threat ability, with each having touchdowns of 40 or more yards.
Texas A&M comes in slightly behind Baylor in both rushing and passing. The Aggies are 33rd in the nation passing the ball, averaging 273 yards per game and 17th in rushing with 220 yards per game. The centerpiece for the Aggies offense, much like the Bears, is another dangerous quarterback in senior Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill a former playmaking wide receiver for the Aggies, transitioned to quarterback at the midway point of the season when former A&M star Jerrod Johnson was struggling. Now with Johnson playing for the Arena Football Leagues Arizona Rattlers, this is Tannehill’s team. Tannehill has taken full advantage of the opportunity, and while his stat line is nowhere near Griffin’s, his play has still been solid. Tannehill has completed 67% of his passes for 1,327 yards and 7 touchdowns. However, the senior does have a tendency to turn the ball over with five interceptions in as many games, so Tannehill must not force passes on Saturday.
At running back, the Aggies have two of the best in the Big XII. Senior Cyrus Gray leads the Aggies skill players in touches, yards and touchdowns, with 101 carries for 479 yards and seven trips to the endzone. The more explosive of the two (this season at least), is junior Christine Michael. Michael, has gotten 30 less carries then Gray, with only 72 this season, but has made the most out of his touches with 460 yards and six scores. Much like Baylor, the Aggies quarterback is also a huge factor in the running game, with Tannehill third on the team in touches and rushing yardage (24 touches, 176 yards, three touchdowns).
The wide receiver corps features a trio of playmakers including two of the top fifteen receivers in the Big XII statistically. Junior Ryan Swope leads the team in receptions and yardage, with 29 catches 413 yards and two scores. The 205 pounder from Austin, TX has showed off terrific hands, as well as the ability to leap over defenders and fight for extra yards. Swope is a physical receiver who should be able to create space for himself against much smaller Baylor defensive backs. Opposite Swope, is another large receiver in senior, Jeff Fuller. Fuller, a 6’4 220 pound monster out wide, is more of a possession guy with 27 catches for 280 yards and two scores on the season. Uzoma Nwachukwu, a junior, is the fastest and most elusive of the three. Nwachukwu, is the prototypical slot guy with his size and speed, and has recorded 21 catches for 249 yards. Texas A&M does a great job moving around all three to gain favorable matchups, so look for the Aggies to try and get Swope in the slot matched up on linebackers on Saturday.
On defense, both teams are in the bottom half of the Football Bowl Subdivision, with Baylor falling at 60 in total defense and A&M at 99. The Bears are giving up 374 yards per game and have allowed opponents to score 18 touchdowns in their five games. The Aggies, have given up more yards per game (424 ypg), but have only allowed 15 touchdowns in their five games, eight of which were to ranked opponents in #6 Oklahoma State and #10 Arkansas.
My prediction, I think the A&M defensive stats are a little skewed due to having to face two high powered offenses in Oklahoma State and Arkansas who are two top 20 scoring offense at #1 and #20 respectively. Unfortunately, now the Aggie defense gets to deal with the #4 scoring offense, and #3 total offense in Baylor. I also think RGIII will be looking for a bounce back performance for himself, after a mediocre showing against Iowa State. Both teams have trouble stopping opposing offenses, which should make for an exciting back and forth affair all afternoon. I’m looking for the Bears to take this one behind the arm (and possibly legs) of their superstar quarterback 44-38.
#19 Virginia Tech at Wake Forest: 6:30 p.m.
If there’s a surprise in the ACC, it would probably be the disappointing start to the season for the Florida State Seminoles. Second place would go to the incredible start by Jim Grobe’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Grobe has the Deacs at 4-1, riding high off an impressive win against the Seminoles last week. Now, the Deacons will get the unfortunate “privilege” of hosting a Virginia Tech team that has something to prove after being taken to the wire against Miami last week.
Wake Forest’s success this season has revolved around the passing game and the play of sophomore quarterback Tanner Price. Price has been exceptional this season, 62% of his passes (up from 57% last season) for 1,352 yards, ten touchdowns and just two interceptions. Price has also had his best games when the team needed it most. In a week one match to Syracuse, Price completed 18 of 31 passes for 289 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. If not for a defensive collapse in the fourth quarter and overtime, Wake would be 5-0. Last week against the Seminoles, Price threw for 233 yards, three touchdowns and no picks while completing 60% of his passes.
Behind Price, the Deacon offense features two underrated tailbacks in sophomore Josh Harris, and senior Brandon Pendergrass. Harris is the star of the show with 91 carries compared to Pendergrass’ 40. However, Harris who has 412 yards and two touchdowns this season has been sidelined with a hamstring injury and it’s looking more likely that he won’t be able to play. While Pendergrass has been a playmaker in the past for the Deacons, he hasn’t been able to get it going yet this season averaging just 3.7 yards per carry with 148 yards and two scores on the season.
The biggest playmakers for Wake Forest have been the wide receivers, and the Deacons offense features several talented ones. Highlighting the receiving corps is junior Chris Givens, whose 33 receptions for 599 yards and five touchdowns ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Senior, Danny Dembry also is in the top 15 in ACC receiver rankings with 23 catches for 296 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Michael Campanaro is just slightly behind Dembry with 20 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and junior Terence Davis rounds out the four playmaking Deacon wideouts with 10 catches for 166 yards and three scores.
On defense, the Deacons have been stout against the run allowing just 102 yards per game, but have struggled against the pass allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 223 yards per game.
For the Hokies, it’s been a very balanced but somewhat inconsistent offensive attack, coupled with an extremely strong defense. At quarterback, the Hokies have one of the more intriguing players in the nation. Many people (myself included), expected Wilson to have a breakout year this season. While he has certainly played solidly (62% completions, 1,196 yards, 7-5), it’s not quite the start to the season many were expecting him to have.
At running back, the Virginia Tech offense is blessed with one of the best tailbacks in the nation, David Wilson. The junior from Danville has been explosive this season, leading all ACC running backs with 130 carries for 767 yards. His five rushing touchdowns ties him for fourth in the conference. Backing up Wilson, is senior Josh Oglesby, who has shown he too is a playmaker, with 44 carries for 179 yards and five touchdowns.
Much like Wake Forest, the Hokie air attack is highlighted with four capable receivers. Senior Danny Coale leads the way, with 28 receptions for 417 yards and two touchdowns. Opposite Coale, is fellow senior Jarrett Boykin, a familiar face in the Hokie offense, Boykin has 20 receptions for 223 yards and a pair of scores. Behind the two seniors, is a pair of juniors in Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles. Davis has been excellent as a slot option, and has made the most of his 12 receptions. Davis, who has 216 yards and two scores, is fifth in the ACC in yards per catch for receivers with ten or more receptions. Coles who has seven more receptions then Davis, enters the game with 206 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, the Hokies are one of the toughest in college football. Ranked 13th in the nation for total defense, the Bud Foster led unit is surrendering just 294 yards per game. The Hokies are strong up front, resulting in just 87 yards per game given up on the ground. However, the secondary has been suspect to big plays, and while opposing quarterbacks are only completing 48% of their passes against the Hokies, the result has been 207 yards per game surrendered through the air (41st in the nation).
My prediction, something has to give here. You have a suspect VaTech passing defense against a potent Wake Forest passing game. Then, one of the best running backs in the nation, against a Deacon defense giving up over 100 yards per game. Wake is a team that I feel should be ranked after last week, and honestly I think they’re angry they aren’t. I think they try to send a message to the pollsters on Saturday and that emotion does just enough to carry them past Virginia Tech 27-20.
And just because there are so many games I’m excited to watch this weekend, here’s a six pack of picks on the house!
Miami at North Carolina: 12:30 p.m
I’m giving the edge to the Heels and their stingy run defense here.
#6 Oklahoma State at #22 Texas: 3:30 p.m.
I’ll give the edge to the Cowboys here, Weeden and Blackmon will hook up for a couple of scores against a Longhorns defense that got torched last week.
#12 Georgia Tech at Virginia: 3:30 p.m.
In a game that should be a walk in the park for the Jackets, I’m taking Georgia Tech, but much closer then the experts think.
#8 Clemson at Maryland: 7:00 p.m.
It looks as if Tajh Boyd will play for the Tigers, it remains to be seen how healthy he is. I’m not sure it really matters as Maryland is giving up 407 yards per game. Give me the Tigers by two scores.
Florida at #24 Auburn: 7:00 p.m.
Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses, and I’m not even sure who will be playing quarterback for the Gators. Give me the home team to get right, Auburn by 10.
#18 Arizona State at #9 Oregon: 10:15 p.m.
In the nightcap, the Ducks will host the Sundevils in what looks to be a good matchup looking at the rankings. Will LaMichael James play? I doubt it. Either way, I’m looking for the Ducks to keep on rolling, give me Oregon by 17.