Which CFB preview piece was it last week that told you to watch out for USC on the road against Boston College, Georgia on the road against South Carolina, and Kentucky against Florida? It was this one. So if you value your money or your life (okay, not quite that dramatic, but if you just want a really good guess as to what’s going to happen this weekend) you will heed the words you are about to read–because I am a really good guesser of things. Let’s do this!
Alabama vs. Florida
All good things must come to an end, and if you’re the Alabama Crimson Tide the good thing that’s about to end is getting to beat-up on the JV. West Virginia was a rock-solid week-one opponent, but since then the Tide has washed over nothing but pebbles, beating the likes of Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss.
That will end when Alabama faces the Florida Gators this weekend in Tuscaloosa.
The other good thing that I believe will come to an end for Bama this weekend is their winning streak. Yes, I’m aware that Alabama is a double-digit favorite at home. Yes, I’m aware that it took Florida three overtime periods to finally beat Kentucky last week, and presumably they should be gassed because of that.
But remember this, Alabama is 0-2 against-the-spread this year at home as the favorite. Plus, the Kentucky game was only Florida’s second game of the year. They got rained out week one against Idaho. Meaning, they essentially had a bye week for the season opener. So, don’t overrate the exhaustion aspect of this.
However, the real reason to go with the Gators this weekend is because they’re just a horrible match-up for the Tide. Florida’s defense has six returning starters in their front seven. That hurts Alabama in multiple ways. Number one, that’s a lot of experience to throw in the face of a QB like Blake Sims who will be making his first SEC start of the year.
Number two, that kind of veteran defense has made Florida extremely formidable against the run, which is what Alabama does best. Last week, the Gators held a fairly talented Kentucky backfield –complete with a running quarterback–to 81 yards in a regulation game plus three overtime periods. I’m not saying Florida will hold Alabama to under 100 yards rushing. But that’s not the Owls of FAU that Derrick Henry is going to be smacking into.
So naturally you would assume that with the running game slowed down that Lane Kiffin would open up the passing game, right? Well, he’ll definitely want to. But Florida has an answer for this as well and that answer is All-SEC corner Vernon Hargreaves III.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Blake Sims through three weeks of football, it’s that he over-targets WR Amari Cooper. Cooper leads Alabama receivers with 33 catches on the season. The next player on the list has nine. Meaning Amari Cooper nearly quadruples the #2 receiver in number of catches. If that’s not locking-in on one receiver I don’t know what is.
Watch for Hargreaves III to be in Cooper’s back-pocket all afternoon and not shut down, but contain him throughout the game. That could force Sims to panic and make mistakes with the football. I’m aware that I could not just be wrong, but dramatically wrong with this prediction. But my gut tells me, like Florida State, this Alabama team isn’t nearly as good as it was a year ago.
Florida 23, Alabama 17
Florida State vs. Clemson
Speaking of Florida State, how many of you are buying them as being the best team in the country right now? We were told amazing things about the Noles coming into this year. Especially, after a couple of notable 5-star recruits left other schools to go play in Tallahassee after the National Championship game. We were told this team was going to be just as good as last year’s team. Some even said they would be better than last year’s championship squad.
Well, here we are two weeks in and I’m perfectly comfortable saying there’s no way this year’s FSU team is better than last year’s squad, and I’m dangerously close to saying they’ve actually dropped off.
Oklahoma State has given us no indication since the season opener that they’re such a dramatically-improved team that Florida State should have had as much trouble beating them as they did. And allowing the Citadel to score 12 points? Clemson was the 3rd ranked team in the country last year, playing at home, and FSU only allowed them to score 14 points.
Now, none of this is to imply that I think Florida State is so bad that Clemson is going to win this game. Given that Florida State has now suspended its profanity-screaming, allegedly-raping, crab-leg stealing quarterback for the entire game, as he should be, I give Clemson a shot at this.
Yet, without Winston, this game is still important. Not so much because the outcome may be in doubt, but because it’s going to tell us more about about Florida State. It would have told us more if Winston was playing in the game. But Clemson is still a tough squad and this is a revenge game for them. Watch for Vic Beasley, the very good Clemson defensive end, to have a strong effort since he got dominated in this match-up last year at Clemson.
But regardless of who is in the lead, if the Tigers are within a score of FSU at the half, and within two scores at the end, it could be more evidence that the Noles of yesteryear are gone.
Florida State 34, Clemson 20
Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
The bad news for West Virginia in this game is that talented defensive back Daryl Worley has been suspended indefinitely for grabbing a woman by the neck and shoving her to the ground at a nightclub. Even worse for West Virginia are reports that Bob Stoops is planning on extending Worley a scholarship offer at OU.
I’m sorry, couldn’t resist.
Only the first part of that is true. The Mountaineers will be without one of their best defensive players. But the Sooners will be without arguably their most important offensive player in Keith Ford, who suffered a small fracture in his right leg in the game against Tennessee last week. Ford is leading the Sooners in rushing yards, he’s 3rd in receiving yards, and his six all-purpose touchdowns lead the Big 12.
Other than that, missing Keith Ford isn’t really that big of a deal.
This game is a great all-around test for OU. Oklahoma’s defense has been world-beaters so far, only allowing 33 points in their first three games. But then again, who have they played? A rebuilding Tennessee, plus La Tech and Tulsa aren’t going to get the juices flowing.
On the other hand, West Virginia’s Clint Trickett has already thrown for 1,224 yards on the season. Not to mention, the 108 plays the Mountaineers logged against Maryland last week. Is West Virginia going to run 108 plays on OU? Not a chance. But it’s an up-tempo offense that Trickett runs very well. They’re going to score some points.
On the other hand, West Virginia’s defense is going to catch Hades trying to keep up with OU. Don’t let the earlier joke about Daryl Worley fool you. That is a massive loss for the Mountaineers. Without Worley in the line-up last week Maryland was able to rack-up 37 points and almost take one away from Gary Holgerson and the boys. And that’s Maryland. Imagine what Trevor Knight and Sterling Shepard will be able to do against that secondary.
West Virginia played Oklahoma very tough last year. They will do so again. But unlike last year’s close loss in a low-scoring affair, this year they lose close in a shootout.
Oklahoma 41, West Virginia 34