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07 Sep 2012

SDA: Don't Touch That Dial

by Matt Hinton

With the giddy, holiday-like novelty of Week 1 in the books, Week 2 is here to brace us for the long haul with a stiff test of faith: No high profile neutral sites, no intersectional tilts between regional powerhouses, no overseas "classics" staged in 24th Century Irish spaceships. Not even a real headliner: Of the dozens of major college games on tap for this weekend, not one of them features a match-up of two ranked teams.

Of course, it's all West Virginia's fault. In February, the Big 12-bound Mountaineers backed out of a game scheduled for this weekend at Florida State, ostensibly to open up that slot on the schedule for a ninth conference game against WVU's new Big 12 rivals. As it happened, the conference didn't fill the date, and West Virginia will take the weekend off to enjoy fly fishing or John Denver karaoke or whatever it is they do up there on a free weekend. Meanwhile, in place of a showcase game between two recognizable powers currently ranked in the top ten, we have the most lopsided point spread in the history of college football. West Virginia's replacement on the schedule, Savannah State, will go into Tallahassee Saturday as the sport's first 70-point underdog, ever.

But these allegedly quiet weekends on the docket also tend to be the ones that produce some of the greatest thrills and surprises of the year, and at this early stage in the season, introduce us to some of the more enduring faces. If nothing else, just know this: If you turn off the Oklahoma State-Arizona game before it ends in the wee hours of Sunday morning, you're probably going to regret it when you wake up.

Auburn (+3) at Mississippi State (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Auburn
Has the Ball ...
When Miss. St.
Has the Ball ...
Category Auburn
(0-1)
Miss. St.
(1-0)
Auburn
Off
Miss. St.
Def
Auburn
Def
Miss. St.
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 29 40 29 17 25 68
2011 F/+ Rk 52 43 55 18 64 72
2011 FEI Rk 66 47 47 28 92 88
2011 S&P+ Rk 58 40 34 30 75 58
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 22 36 60 46
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 31 32 80 30
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 20 46 70 27
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
74.3% Run
(11th)
63.4% Run
(39th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 22 28 88 75
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
35.0% Run
(43rd)
43.8% Run
(13th)

Week 2 is far too soon for panic, but after its opening night loss to Clemson, Auburn certainly arrives in Starkville with a keen sense of urgency. An 0-2 start, with SEC West heavies Arkansas, LSU, and Alabama still looming on the schedule (not to mention home dates with Texas A&M and Georgia) would effectively crush whatever realistic goals the Tigers still have for this season beyond common bowl eligibility. Ditto Mississippi State, which is facing the same gauntlet and the same sense that, if it's going to come anywhere near fulfilling its potential in, say, the Cotton Bowl, Saturday is a must-win.

For Auburn, the red-siren concern coming out of the Clemson game is stopping the run: Clemson piled up 320 yards on the ground, most of it via running back Andre Ellington, who ran for 228 on nine yards per carry. Mississippi State doesn't have an individual workhorse who's proven he can carry that kind of load, but the Bulldogs do have depth in the backfield, and did pound out well over 300 yards on the ground against Auburn in 2011. If the front seven is still a weakness, have no doubt that MSU coach Dan Mullen will find a way to exploit it.

Miami (+7) at Kansas State (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FX)

OVERALL When Miami
Has the Ball ...
When Kansas State
Has the Ball ...
Category Miami
(1-0)
K-State
(0-0)
Miami
Off
K-State
Def
Miami
Def
K-State
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 31 41 16 66 67 31
2011 F/+ Rk 32 33 15 51 87 30
2011 FEI Rk 26 18 3 19 71 29
2011 S&P+ Rk 51 64 23 63 70 60
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 38 33 41 39
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 16 50 109 81
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 17 37 81 57
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
57.8% Run
(70th)
72.7% Run
(13th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 46 62 64 73
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
36.5% Run
(33rd)
41.9% Run
(18th)

Last year's game in Miami came down to a memorable goal-line stand by Kansas State, making it arguably the most dramatic of the eight games the Wildcats ultimately won by a touchdown or less. In almost all of the others, the margin hinged on at least one turnover or big kick return that either resulted directly in points or set up a short field that led to points, which is just about the only way an outfit that was outgained by almost 60 yards per game can wind up winning ten of them. The same brand of opportunism played a big role in K-State's opening day win over Missouri State, where a late interception and a pair of big punt returns (one for a touchdown) in the second half helped turn a competitive, seven-point game after three quarters into a 51-9 rout.

As for Miami, I get a distinct sense that this may be the last time I can plausibly refer to the Hurricanes' hyped freshman running back, Duke Johnson, as a "secret weapon." He's certainly not going to come as any surprise to Kansas State: In his first college game, Johnson ripped off 135 yards on just seven carries against Boston College, including a pair of 50-plus-yard touchdown runs in the second and third quarters that turned the game permanently in Miami's favor. The 'Canes haven't had an honest-to-god star on offense in almost a decade; if Johnson has a shot at ending that drought, a nationally televised game against a ranked team would make for a fine coming-out party.

Penn State (+10.5) at Virginia (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Penn State
Has the Ball ...
When Virginia
Has the Ball ...
Category Penn St.
(0-1)
Virginia
(1-0)
Penn St.
Off
Virginia
Def
Penn St.
Def
Virginia
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 45 52 65 58 11 49
2011 F/+ Rk 31 65 75 57 7 58
2011 FEI Rk 39 56 81 45 15 51
2011 S&P+ Rk 26 57 80 44 9 73
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 49 40 14 81
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 87 52 3 70
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 90 21 4 86
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
64.7% Run
(35th)
59.1% Run
(58th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 38 65 12 76
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
38.2% Run
(29th)
32.7% Run
(65th)

Like everyone else, oddsmakers are piling on Penn State in the wake of major NCAA sanctions, a rash of subsequent transfers, and an opening day flop against Ohio. I'm not sure I can muster one good reason why they shouldn't. Matt McGloin remains entrenched at quarterback, for lack of better options; what few offensive playmakers the Lions had all transferred to other schools; the top returning running back, Bill Belton, is likely out this weekend with a sprained ankle. The proud defense, anchor of so many ugly, low-scoring wins over the last decade, was just gashed for 499 yards of total offense by a team from the MAC. (The last Big Ten offense to gain that many yards against Penn State was Michigan State in 2001.) Under normal conditions, a respectable-but-very-beatable foe like Virginia would be a great opportunity for a rebound. At the moment, though, the Nittany Lions are going to have to prove they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Florida (+1.5) at Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Florida
Has the Ball ...
When Texas A&M
Has the Ball ...
Category Florida
(1-0)
A&M
(0-0)
Florida
Off
A&M
Def
Florida
Def
A&M
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 12 35 34 38 6 21
2011 F/+ Rk 30 16 65 23 20 17
2011 FEI Rk 44 16 84 27 33 19
2011 S&P+ Rk 41 16 50 18 38 18
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 32 15 32 15
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 21 21 57 40
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 16 20 39 30
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
67.1% Run
(23rd)
58.2% Run
(65th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 67 7 32 7
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
35.9% Run
(36th)
21.5% Run
(110th)

Texas A&M's season opener against Louisiana Tech was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac, meaning the Aggies are going from zero to one hundred. Their first game of the season is also their first game in a new conference, under a new head coach, in a new offense, with a new starting quarterback, against a blue-chip lineup. The good news for A&M is that, however raw redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel is in his first college action, he can't be that far behind Florida's sophomore tandem. Jeff Driskel was named the starter over Jacoby Brissett, despite the fact that neither of them did much last week against Bowling Green to bury doubts about their viability as full-time starters.

Driskel will get first crack at holding down the job in the SEC opener, and he'll be facing a steep learning curve of his own in his first road start. If the defenses show up, the whole affair is going to feel like a game of Russian Roulette, with both sides hoping grimly that the other team's quarterback goes off first.

Washington (+23.5) at LSU (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Washington
Has the Ball ...
When LSU
Has the Ball ...
Category Wash.
(0-0)
LSU
(0-0)
Wash.
Off
LSU
Def
Wash.
Def
LSU
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 64 2 28 2 95 7
2011 F/+ Rk 64 2 35 2 104 6
2011 FEI Rk 68 1 24 2 103 17
2011 S&P+ Rk 67 2 28 2 93 9
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 52 2 107 6
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 26 2 58 2
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 39 1 58 5
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
56% Run
(81st)
74.5% Run
(ninth)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 24 5 98 3
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
32.6% Run
(67th)
39.7% Run
(23rd)

Coach Steve Sarkisian had a live tiger stationed inside a cage at Washington's practices this week, reasoning that up-close-and-personal exposure to a large jungle cat during the week would reduce the anxiety Saturday when LSU rolls out its live bengal mascot, Mike, for maximum intimidation. Unfortunately, Sarkisian has no way to simulate the Tigers' equally ferocious defensive line, which goes so deep that at least one future first-rounder –- be it Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Bennie Logan, Anthony Johnson, or some combination thereof –- is usually starting the game on the bench. Against San Diego State, Washington struggled to establish the run, yielded three sacks on quarterback Keith Price, and only found the end zone twice on offense. The same kind of effort in Baton Rouge might turn into an extended funeral.

Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

OVERALL When Nebraska
Has the Ball ...
When UCLA
Has the Ball ...
Category Nebraska
(1-0)
UCLA
(1-0)
Nebraska
Off
UCLA
Def
Nebraska
Def
UCLA
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 18 55 25 64 30 46
2011 F/+ Rk 26 83 28 94 41 66
2011 FEI Rk 31 93 31 111 53 50
2011 S&P+ Rk 29 65 46 84 24 40
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 48 102 29 40
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 39 48 15 19
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 40 68 42 26
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
75.0% Run
(seventh)
67.1% Run
(22nd)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 65 60 14 63
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
43.3% Run
(15th)
37.3% Run
(31st)

Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley stole the show last week in his first career start –- on his first career snap, actually, which he took 72 yards for a touchdown –- he finished with 270 total yards and a pair of touchdown passes to go with his initial sprint in UCLA's 49-24 win at Rice. A fine debut, even if you adjust for the "at Rice" part. But the career day Taylor Martinez turned in against Southern Miss was as spectacular as it was surprising. After an offseason of touting his improved accuracy and mechanics, Martinez delivered, connecting on 26-of-34 passes (76 percent) for 349 yards and five touchdowns, both career highs. His pass efficiency rating, 211.2, was a career-best when attempting more than 10 passes. In all, eleven different Husker receivers caught at least one pass, including a different receiver on all five touchdowns. This from a guy who, through 25 starts over the previous two years, was widely considered a glorified tailback.

On that note, UCLA bent a little defensively against Rice, especially for quarterback Taylor McHargue, who went over 100 yards rushing (before sacks) on top of a pair of touchdown passes. Martinez didn't have to run against Southern Miss, but if he's going to have that kind of room -– especially with All-Big Ten running back Rex Burkhead on the fence to play with a sore knee –- presumably he's still tailback enough to take it when the time is right.

Georgia (-2.5) at Missouri (Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

OVERALL When Georgia
Has the Ball ...
When Missouri
Has the Ball ...
Category Georgia
(1-0)
Missouri
(1-0)
Georgia
Off
Missouri
Def
Georgia
Def
Missouri
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 8 24 14 48 13 23
2011 F/+ Rk 15 25 18 49 17 19
2011 FEI Rk 19 20 34 46 11 13
2011 S&P+ Rk 8 31 42 41 4 26
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 91 22 13 19
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 5 34 7 49
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 15 35 6 14
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
58.1% Run
(66th)
65.0% Run
(33rd)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 43 9 16 66
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
46.6% Run
(eighth)
42.8% Run
(17th)

Missouri still claims the most highly-regarded prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, towering wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, but the breakout freshman of Week 1 was Georgia's burly running back, Todd Gurley. Gurley needed approximately one quarter to make everyone in Sanford Stadium forget the name "Isaiah Crowell" forever. On offense, he racked up 100 yards on just eight carries against overmatched Buffalo, more than half of them coming on a 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, his third score of the day. As a return man, he took a kickoff back 100 yards for his second touchdown in the first half. Had it come against a more accomplished opponent, on a day when the rest of the team didn't look so mediocre, it may have gone down as the most scintillating debut UGA fans can recall since Herschel Walker ran over Bill Bates in 1980; to avoid blasphemy, we'll just say it was a promising start.

Earlier this week, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson described Georgia's offense as "old man football," a level the Bulldogs probably hope to wear with pride. If Gurley and fellow freshman Nick Marshall can make a dent in Missouri's front seven, quarterback Aaron Murray will have his way with the secondary on play-action, an old strategy that will never go out of style for any team that runs the ball well enough to employ it. For the first time in a long time, Georgia may actually be that kind of team.

Illinois (+3.5) at Arizona State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Illinois
Has the Ball ...
When Arizona State
Has the Ball ...
Category Illinois
(1-0)
Ariz. St.
(1-0)
Illinois
Off
Ariz. St.
Def
Illinois
Def
Ariz. St.
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 49 50 101 71 9 43
2011 F/+ Rk 62 41 98 58 9 34
2011 FEI Rk 61 42 108 63 8 30
2011 S&P+ Rk 45 46 104 61 12 30
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 102 66 11 26
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 96 40 13 42
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 100 62 9 31
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
62.4% Run
(44th)
50.8% Run
(102nd)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 58 50 25 26
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
43.1% Run
(16th)
21.1% Run
(113th)

Illinois still seems to have no good idea whether quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will be able to go Saturday on a bum ankle, which is no casual concern. Between his arms and his legs, Scheelhaase accounted for more than 59 percent of the Illini's total yards last year (he wound up leading the team in rushing, even when you factor in negative sack yardage), and more than three-fourths of the returning yards. Illinois has enough defense to keep the score within striking distance, but if Scheelhaase is out, or tries to play at less than full speed, how the offense figures to strike is anyone's guess.

Oklahoma State (-10.5) at Arizona (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

OVERALL When Oklahoma State
Has the Ball ...
When Arizona
Has the Ball ...
Category Okla. St.
(1-0)
Arizona
(1-0)
Okla. St.
Off
Arizona
Def
Okla. St.
Def
Arizona
Off
2012 F/+ Rk* 3 66 13 112 12 32
2011 F/+ Rk 3 79 5 108 3 37
2011 FEI Rk 2 74 12 110 3 28
2011 S&P+ Rk 5 68 2 86 16 39
2011 Rushing S&P+ Rk 1 67 26 92
2011 Passing S&P+ Rk 13 66 14 28
2011 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 6 60 26 44
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
42.8% Run
(117th)
40.7% Run
(119th)
2011 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 9 91 13 29
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
25.3% Run
(101st)
18.2% Run
(117th)

When Arizona has the ball Saturday night, just about anything could happen. On one had, the Wildcats moved the ball last week against Toledo like a vintage Rich Rodriguez outfit, churning out more than 600 yards with huge games from both the new starting quarterback (Matt Scott: 461 total yards, 2 touchdown passes) and tailback (Ka'Deem Carey: 156 yards, 1 touchdown on a 73-yard run) in their first game on Rodriguez's watch. On the other hand, Oklahoma State easily led the nation in takeaways in 2011, coming away with at least three in nine different games, and Arizona's otherwise smashing offensive debut was very nearly undone last week by three turnovers. Gaudy numbers aside, it still took overtime to get out with a win.

Ostensibly, we know even less about Oklahoma State, which proved nothing by pantsing hapless Savannah State, 84-0, and is going on the road for the first time with a true freshman quarterback, Wes Lunt. The Cowboys will also be without last year's three best players on offense: quarterback Brandon Weeden, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, and tackle Levy Adcock. But the politic, up-tempo system that Weeden and Blackmon navigated to such great heights remains intact, and is more than balanced enough to lean on the running game if Lunt gets too freshman-y. If it's not a serious upset threat this point, Arizona is still a worthy measuring stick: In hostile territory, against an FBS defense with a pulse, we'll get a much better idea of where Lunt and the OSU offense stand

* Offensive and Defensive F/+ rankings are still based on preseason projections. Only the overall F/+ rating has changed since last week.

Picks

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Matt F/+
Auburn +3 Miss. St. Auburn Auburn
Miami +7 Kansas St. Miami Miami
Penn St. +10.5 Virginia Penn St. Penn St.
Florida +1.5 Texas A&M Texas A&M Florida
Washington +23.5 LSU LSU LSU*
Nebraska -5.5 UCLA Nebraska* Nebraska
Georgia -2.5 Missouri Georgia Georgia
Illinois +3.5 Arizona St. Arizona St. Illinois
Oklahoma St. -10.5 Arizona Okla. St. Okla. St.
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Last Week
Season Total
F/+: 6-4 (0-0) 6-4 (0-0)
Matt: 3-7 (0-0) 3-7 (0-0)

Posted by: Matt Hinton on 07 Sep 2012

4 comments, Last at 07 Sep 2012, 8:30pm by Intropy

Comments

1
by cfn_ms :: Fri, 09/07/2012 - 12:37pm

why they shouldn't pile on Penn St in this game: Virginia might be lousy. It's really interesing/wierd that for Penn St, a home loss to a relatively good MAC team gets them 10.5 point dogs against a lower-division ACC team (presumably preseason line would have been more like 3 point or so if it had existed)

Meanwhile, for Pitt, Pennsylvania's other name team, losing by 14 to a AA team only made them 6 point dogs at Cincy, who's probably about as good, maybe a touch better, than UVA (and there actually had been a preseason line on that one, -2.5 - see http://cfn.scout.com/2/1215927.html ). Lines seam to over or underreact to week one results in a random way, and I'm really not sure of the underlying logic.

2
by Intropy :: Fri, 09/07/2012 - 7:58pm

PSU lost to OSU in the opener, right? Did OSU move to the MAC in all the recent shuffle?

3
by Travis :: Fri, 09/07/2012 - 8:19pm

Penn State lost to Ohio, not Ohio State.

4
by Intropy :: Fri, 09/07/2012 - 8:30pm

Oh, my.