2015-09-16

FBS - Week 3 Preview

The season is getting hotter, because several teams already had their FCS-opponent-breakfast (and some were eaten by their breakfast) and for many teams do start the conference schedule.
Not for all, because some teams do like to have the non-conference games all up front (up to 4 games), so it will be not getting much better in week 3, but in general, better.

I did think over my top 10 list and I think it's still the best way to keep the teams IN a list, than throwing them OUT of a list (like the ESPN Eliminator) with a potential risk to be forced to put some names back into the list.

You never know how the season will develop, it could happen that NO conference champion is standing unbeaten at the end of the season. It can even happen that NO team has less than 4 or 5 losses. Not likely, but it could happen.

My approach is to sort the teams based on my experience and their chance to

a) get as high valued as possible, in general winning their conference
b) winning as many games as possible, in general winning all or almost all games.

a) and b) are not the same, because you might lose against a big opponent during the season and still might win the conference, which might give you a bigger bonus, than winning all games during the season, except the conference final, or as independent even winning all games, but only against weak teams.

After week 2 did some teams change their positions in my list.

TOP10 teams for the playoff spots (sorted by likeliness)

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes
They did beat Hawai'i 38-0.
That's not a surprise. I was a bit wondering they did only put 38 points on the Rainbow Warriors.
But fine, they won, clearly, and they will face now Northern Illinois.
For now they are my pick as BIG10 Champ.

#2 Alabama Crimson Tide
They did beat Middle Tennessee 37-10, which is in the same ball park as the win against Wisconsin.
Again, it's surprising that this did not get uglier, but I'm fine with it, since driving up the score is not a good thing to do.
This week they will face their 1st SEC opponent Ole Miss and for sure they will get tested here.
At the moment they look like a complete team and there is no reason to doubt them as SEC championship.

#3 TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs did hammer FCS-opponent Stephen F Austin 70-7.
For now they stay in the lead for a BIG12 Championship, but Baylor is next in line on my list.
For TCU it will be Southern Methodist the upcoming weekend, which they should win, big time.

#4 USC Trojans
The Trojans did win against Idaho 59-9 and did so far put 2 50-burger on 2 SBC-teams, which is not really impressive.
Still, their chances are way better to finish the season on top of all other PAC12 teams, than for the rest.
For now they are my PAC12 Champ pick, after Oregons loss last weekend.
They play Stanford this week.

#5 Clemson Tigers
Clemson did win against Appalachian State 41-10.
Not a big win, but a solid one.
They are still my favorite to win the ACC, but I think at the moment, that the ACC Champ will be left out.
This week will be test against the so far winless Louisville team.

#6 Michigan State Spartans
The win against the Ducks 31-28 did put them for some experts already into the playoff mix, at 3rd or 4th place.
WTF?
Imagine what has to happen to make that real.
There are 5 conferences and 1 or 2 independents in the pool of realistic teams with hope for the 4 spots.
Each conference will field a conference champion and 1 of those champs is bound to be left out, regardless of the record, by default.
If one of the independents does really has a convincing record, which normally has to be 12-0 or 11-1, another champ has to be left out to put that independent in.
Even without that independent team, there are still 4 champs and now the committee has to put one away to put another non-champ team in.
How good has such a team to be?
Or how bad do have to be 2 champs to be pushed out of the playoff spots?
In best cases, Michigan State will win, all games except the Ohio State game (assuming OSU will win the conference).
Now they will have to value the strength of schedule which is OK, but not great.
I think it is not OK enough to push out a conference champ, if those teams did not lose 2 times or more in the season.
The Spartans might end up in my TOP4, but only if many teams do start losing.
Michigan State will face Air Force this week.

#7 Baylor Bears
The Bears did hammer FCS-team Lamar 66-31.
I'm a bit concerned regarding the 31 points they allowed, but that will be valued over time.
So far did Baylor nothing wrong and the only reason they are not my BIG12 champ pick is, I think they will lose against TCU.
This can change fast.
They have a BYE week.

#8 Oregon Ducks
Does a loss automatically eliminate you from the contenders?
Not always. The Ducks did lose only by 3 points against the Spartans and are still in the mix for the PAC12.
I did only put USC first, because so far they did win all games and do have the chance to win all PAC12 games.
But, Oregon can do also win all PAC12 games and would therefore in the PAC12.
Latest in late November both teams will battle it out for the 1st time.
The Ducks are still a valid finalist for the PAC12 Championship game.

#9 Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia did best Vanderbilt 31-14 and has a good chance to challenge Alabama for the SEC Championship.
Of cause there are several other teams in line and the Bulldogs might not stay here for long.
Next game will be against South Carolina.

#10 Georgia Tech
Maybe a surprising team at that point, but the Jackets were hot so far and are a legit pick for a spot in the ACC Championship game.
The team did beat Tulane 65-10 and did that almost completely on the ground.
This week they will face the injury prone Notre Dame team.

Dropped out:
Notre Dame (almost lost to Virginia, lost their starting QB, soft schedule ... I think they will not make it into the mix until season end)
Auburn (almost lost to FCS team Jacksonville, which does create doubt regarding their strength. I think they will lose some games)

Here are the 3 most likely non power 5 teams to crash the party:
#1 Temple Owls
Hard to tackle, but they did beat Penn State and Cincinnati so far.
There are some 'ifs' on their way, but they can really run the American Conference, if they win the conference game and they might cash in on one of the big money bowls, if they can win the other non conference games.
Toughest one left is against Notre Dame on Halloween.
The American has many legit contenders left so far, but I like the Owls most. Very confusing.

#2 Boise State Broncos
They dropped out of the ranks after their loss to BYU, but they still can win against the MWC foes in a row and win the conference, which I still expect of them.
If the American Athletic teams do beat each other, Boise might rise fast again to become the top non power 5 team.
Next game is against Idaho State, a FCS team.

#3 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
With a win against Louisiana Tech did the Hilltoppers push themselves to the top of the list of contenders for the CUSA.
Combined with their win against Vanderbilt they might be able to get higher in the ranks, if they keep on winning.
Next up: Indiana.

Dropped out:
Marshall Thundering Herd (lost to Ohio in a big way and did by far not look like week 1)
Appalachian State Mountaineers (lost to Clemson, which is enough to have them more or less out of contention for a party crasher. For a SBC team it's the toughest uphill battle to get into the ranks)

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 3

Sat. Sept. 19 - 3:30 pm ET
#14 Georgia Tech @ #8 Notre Dame
From history point of view, this is very, very likely a Notre Dame win. They won 27 games of 34 meetings. 1 game was a tie.
But games are not played that way, as we all know.
Fact is, the Yellow Jackets will bring their top ranked rushing triple option offense to South Bend, Indiana, and will test the Notre Dame defense big time.
The Irish has 1 and a half problems.
The 1st one is their injured starting QB, gone for the season.
The backup did throw that game winning TD against Virginia, but how good he will be a full game long is unknown.
Problem.
The half problem is, the Irish did let Virginia back into the game after a few good series. The defense didn't look good and they gave up many unnecessary points.
Why this is only a half of problem? Because this was more a pass defense problem, than a rushing defense.
And Georgia Tech did throw in 2 games 15 times for 209 yards.
Notre Dame themselves did throw 53 times for 520 yards and that's still not much.
So passing is not the issue. Maybe.
The trick with the triple option is, to throw not often, but if you do, make it count.
We will see, if Notre Dame can stop the GT offense and will be on their side able to score enough points to win this at home.
I have doubts.
My pick is on the Jackets.

Sat. Sept. 19 - 3:30 pm ET
#18 Auburn @ #13 LSU
This one is tough to judge.
Auburn did win 2 games, both close and both games didn't look good.
The Tigers did lose a bit of reputation, when they needed OT to win against FCS Jacksonville State.
At some point this ranking is still a bonus, based on believe or reputation, not results.
Some teams had better results and are not ranked. Kansas State and West Virginia for example, not mentioning Temple or Houston.
So, is this really a #13 vs. #18 meeting or does 1 or even 2 teams here suck?
Because LSU did play only 1 game so far and that went close.
The won against Mississippi State, fine, but still ... all open from my point of view.
LSU is favored a bit, but it looks like some do see both teams quite even, as their rankings might suggest.
I don't, at the moment.
Auburn is not a bad team, for sure.
But I think they will not come up with a win in Louisiana, a very hostile environment, at least if you play football against LSU.
Auburn needs to improve on many aspects and I'm sure the will get that done, but not in 1 week.
On the other hand we have LSU, a bit untested, but so far with only one concern, which might spoil the show.
Their QB is not the best, for now, and has to improve his game.
But LSU did run against the Bulldogs and they will for sure do that against Auburn.
Auburn is beatable and they will fall, this weekend. Those AL Tigers will be kittens, this time.
I pick the LA Tigers

Sat. Sept. 19 - 9:15 pm ET
#15 Ole Miss @ #2 Alabama
This game is the game I like the most this week.
It looks like a rebel titan has to tackle an ... eh ... red elephant.
Ole Miss did win last year and everyone was surprise.
For some time were Mississippi the center of the football world.
Then they did lose some games and at the end did Alabama still run the division, the conference and was only stopped by Ohio State in the playoffs.
Now it will be interesting to see how this will turn out, this season.
The Rebels did crush 2 opponents with 70+ points, while Alabama did score twice 30+ points.
Quality of the crushed teams was better by the teams Alabama did play, especially the Wisconsin game was impressive.
Alabama is favored 5+ points which is not much as defending conference champ, at home.
I would give Sabans Crimson Tide a bonus, whenever they step on the field, because Nick Saban is a perfectionist and the team will be prepared.
The question mark is, weather the players can CONVERT the stuff Saban and his assistants did push into their head over the week.
Sometimes they do it in an excellent way, very seldom not.
I think last seasons Ole Miss game was such a seldom happening.
And 1 thing is sure, once a game is running, there is little you can do. Sometimes you can change things to the better, by those little adjustments, sometimes not.
Now we add a high flying offense to the mix, coming to town, facing one of the best juggernaut defenses in the country.
Will it still fly?
Here is my take on that:
Alabama will give up some points, more points than before.
Ole Miss will give up points, more points than before.
It will get close and the game will be very entertaining.
The difference maker will be the home field advantage.
I pick the Tide to wash the Rebels away by a few points.
Interesting side note here: Alabamas OC is Lane Kiffin, while Ole Miss DL coach is Chris Kiffin, Lanes brother.

Sat. Sept. 19 - 10:30 pm ET
#19 Brigham Young @ #10 UCLA
I'm not really sure this game is worth the spot here, but at the moment it's worth it on paper.
Why is this maybe not worth it?
Because the difference between BYU being 2-0 and 0-2 are just 2 long passes.
This will not hold up very long, if they will try to win every game this way.
Granted, they might not need those big plays in every game, but against UCLA, they might need more than 1.
Vegas has UCLA as 17 point favorite, which should give you the hint about the public expectations.
UCLA did win of cause both games since season start and did it by not really much effort, but also without a lot of scoring, if you take the opponents into consideration.
BYU had better quality opponents and did also score just enough to win the games, 2 scores by those mentioned big passing plays.
Even?
Maybe, if this would be played in Provo, Utah. But this is played in Los Angeles, California and I think it will get ugly for BYU.
Mora, UCLAs HC, will drill his players for this game and I think we will see a clear win by the Bruins over the Cougars.
I pick UCLA, because BYUs luck will run out.

‘Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

PS: I will go on vacation for the next week, so my next entries will be a bit shorter.

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