VIRGINIA TECH AT NO. 8 OHIO STATE, 8pm on ESPN
Frank Beamer is the longest-tenured head coach remaining in FBS. Yet, his position in Virginia Tech’s firmament has become a tenuous one, although it may be misdirected. An upset here would not only slow the crowd trying to push him out the door, it would also revitalize a program that’s slowed down in recent years.
To win, the Hokie will be relying on quarterback Michael Brewer. Unfortunately, he’ll be running a Scot Loeffler offense. Loeffler is a former disciple of Urban Meyer as hiss QB coach at Florida during the Tebow years, but the two resumes couldn’t be more different. Loeffler’s unimaginative offense bombed at Auburn and its doing the same at Virginia Tech. Prior to Loeffler’s arrival on the staff, Virginia Tech had won at least 10 games eight seasons in a row. Bryan Stinespring, the Hokies veteran offensive coordinator helmed offenses that ranked 24th in 2009, 21st in 2010 and dipped to 57th during his final season.
Loeffler’s Hokies offense ranked 99th in scoring last season and 83rd nationally in 2012. It’s clearly not working.
Now, back to Mack Brown. After BYU dismembered his rushing defense, Brown attempted to stop the bleeding and cauterize the wound by relieving defensive coordinator Manny Diaz of his duties. The Hokie defense is actually very talented, particularly in the secondary, but if the Hokies offense drop a stink bomb, Loeffler should be looking over his shoulder for Beamer to swing an axe.
As Loeffler once said about his final season at Auburn, “recruiting is the world.” Ohio State not only boasts better coaching, but superior talent as well. Even with JT Barrett at quarterback, it would take an out of body experience for the Buckeyes to drop one to Virginia Tech at home.
Ohio State wins big.
NO. 14 USC AT NO. 13 STANFORD, 3:30pm on ABC
Stanford and USC coaches react to one another like a kite flying near power lines. Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have been antagonizing each other since they were playing chess on Stanford and USC’s sidelines. Now it's Steve Sarkisian and David Shaw' turn
Sarkisian drew the ire of Shaw by alleging that Stanford was teaching its defensive players to fake injuries on the field. However, don’t expect that to have any bearing on the battle between the trenches.
Stanford’s offensive line is the closest thing college football has to a panic room. Cornerback Josh Shaw has stolen the headlines at USC, but Leonard Williams is the Trojans skeleton key. He’ll be needed against the human vault that is their impenetrable offensive line.
Stanford is going with a platoon at running back that includes the elusive Barry Sanders Jr. and Kelsey Young. USC looked string against Fresno State, however, Stanford has reloaded.
Stanford outclasses USC at home.
EASTERN WASHINGTON AT WASHINGTON, 3:05pm Pac-12 Network
Washington vs. Eastern Washington may be the nation’s only FCS-FBS rivalry game. Vernon Adams may be the best quarterback in FCS. However, he’s running into a Washington defense that has multiple pro prospects along its front seven.
He's been called Vernon Football, Russell Wilson and Fran Tarkenton. At season’s end he may be Walter Payton Award winner or national champion. He’ll have to earn it against Washington. Elite FCS schools have been closing the gap on the middle-tier of the Power 5 conference for years. Like South Dakota State, Eastern Washington ha been taking the cheese from FBS opponents for years without getting caught in the trap.
Eastern Washington wins.
OLD DOMINION AT NC STATE, 6pm on ESPN 3
NC State barely survived Georgia Southern in their 2013 debut. This weekend, a former Walton Payton Award winner (bestowed upon the FCS’ top player) marches into Raleigh.
The Wolfpack’s young pup roster should flourish against the Monarchs defense, which allowed 28 points on defense. Like Eastern Washington, Old Dominion has a prolific passer guiding the offense. Taylor Heinicke has thrown for nearly 12,000 yards in his collegiate career but the defense is where concern lies. This could be an upset for Old Dominion or a complete dismantling by the Wolfpack.
However, Jacoby Brissett spinning the pigskin is the difference maker and should only get more comfortable in his second start. In a few weeks, we should start acknowledging him ass the ACC’s second-best quarterback.
NC State wins.
BYU AT TEXAS, 7:35pm on FOX Sports 1
Charlie Strong’s credentials as a defensive architect are already facing its first challenge at Texas. BYU may seem like an unlikely opponent to be circled on the Longhorns calendar. However, the Cougars’ rushing exhibition last September was the impetus that helped propelled the movement to can Mack Brown.
Brown remembers feeling like 8,000 yards. It was only 550, but it might as well have been.
Enter Charlie Strong, one of the finest defensive minds in college football. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill can’t be expected to rush for 259 yards again, but the 24-year-old may show Texas the right hook and hit ‘em with the left because he’s a much improved passer than the one Texas saw 12 months ago.
Meanwhile, Texas is reeling from the loss of starting quarterback David Ash to a career-threatening concussion. This wasn’t the game Strong was hired to win, but it’s a big game he was hired to win. This is the first real pressure cooker for Strong. Unfortunately, integrating a new quarterback into the lineup, in addition to all the challenges faced by the Longhorns is a lot to overcome, but they looked outstanding holding North Texas to 94 yards in Week 1. Progress takes time, but this one is in Texas.
Texas hooks BYU.
MICHIGAN AT NO. 16 NOTRE DAME, 7:30pm on NBC
Michigan vs. Notre Dame has been an adrenaline shot to the heart in recent years. Whether it’s a defensive brawl in which both offenses stumble around like they’ve been tased ala 2012 or last season’s touchdown-induced sugar coma, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish always bring it.
This could be Brady Hoke’s last chance to participate in this “regional rivalry,” and not because 15 pounnds has melted off of him while he’s been grilling on the hot season. Instead, this rivalry game is going on a hiatus. Notre Dame is withdrawing because of their agreement with the ACC to play five conference games per season, which means that the winner will have bragging rights for years to come.
Michigan will be especially fired up by Thursday's announcement that Notre Dame and Ohio State have scheduled a home-and-home series for 2022 and 2023.
Quarterbacks have been the source of a majority of Michigan’s rushing yards since the Rich Rod era, save for last season when it was as non-existent as the defense.
Derrick Green, the No. 1 back in most recruiting rankings awoke from his freshman year sleep against Appalachian State. Everett Golson made it look easy in a five-touchdown performance against Rice. Devin Funchess and Devin Gardner will be one of the nation’s most prolific connections this season and Notre Dame’s defense is rebuilding after a slew of losses to the NFL and due to suspension. Michigan has won six of their last eight against Notre Dame and is primed to make it seven of nine.
Michigan keeps its bragging rights and sears the image of one final win into the minds of Golden Domers.
NO. 7 MICHIGAN STATE AT NO. 3 OREGON, 6:30 pm on FOX
Goooood Morning, Oregon. We interrupt Oregon’s regular scheduled cupcake schedule for this special presentation. For the first time in program history, Oregon will host a non-conference top-10 opponent at home. Oregon vs. Michigan State is the college football equivalent of the late Robin Williams in Saigon. Two diametrically opposing circumstances that combine to create an entertaining clash of cultures.
The Ducks have now gotten used to life without Chip Kelly, but his soul remains behind in the form of his no-huddle, frenetic offense.
Oregon’s offense moves quicker than Robin Williams during a monologue, while Michigan State’s defense will be putting up spikes along the line of scrimmage. Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi are the tough-laced, hard ass sergeant generals.
The uniforms give it away. Both team colors include havy shades of green, but Oregon’s usage is eccentric. Michigan State’s mundane, grass colored jerseys conjure up memories of Williams as Adrian Cronauer impersonating a military fashion designer.
Adrian as Camp Fashion Consultant: I want to tell you something. You know, this whole camouflage thing, for me, doesn't work very well.
Adrian: Why is that?
Adrian as Camp Fashion Consultant: Because you go in the jungle, I can't see you. You know, it's like wearing stripes and plaid. For me, I want to do something different. You know, you go in the jungle, make a statement. If you're going to fight, clash. You know what I mean?
Oregon’s loud uniforms speak volumes when they step out on the field. Michigan State’s States hard-hitting defense leaves ears ringing.
Defense doesn’t look like much fun. Oregon
Neither doesn’t Michigan State’s offense. Jeremy Langford was quietly a 1,400 yard, 18 touchdown runner in 2013 and the backbone of the Spartans defense.
Offensively, this will be a test of Oregon’s new look offensive line. For years, they’ve challenged norms by boasting linemen with great stamina, but at the expense of strength and size. They were too much of a Corvette. That works fine against defenses that are susceptible to their misdirection, but when running backs are getting stuffed before they reach the line of scrimmage and Marcus Mariota is getting mauled, they’ll wish their offense had a little more off-roading capabilities.
Not only will Michigan State push Oregon’s sports car offense through tough conditions, they’ll key it up as well.
Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the elite defensive back NFL scouts are watching, but the Spartans still have the edge. Even without lockdown corner Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State’s secondary remains airtight while 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush on the edges will have Mariota checking his side mirrors at all times.
Michigan State sends Oregon back to the drawing board.