With the weekend at hand, it’s time to set the football weekend TV agenda. Here’s how Saturday and Sunday shape up. The games previewed included the Projected Vegas Score (PVS), the final based on the pointspread, total with a little tweaking done to make it a reasonable football score…
Boise State-Toledo (Friday, 8 ET, ESPN)
PVS: Boise State 40 Toledo 20
The weekend starts early as we get a potentially good Friday night game. How much of Toledo’s strong showing against Ohio State was real, and how much of it was about the Buckeyes. It’s worth noting that Toledo committed double-digit penalties last Saturday and still nearly won in Columbus. Now they’re at home, but coming back on a short week against a better opponent won’t be easy. Even if Toledo plays competitively, the defensive front they’ll face here is too strong and Kellen Moore’s explosiveness is enough that a game can be close and Boise can still blow it open fast.
Auburn-Clemson (Noon, ESPN)
PVS: Clemson 31 Auburn 28
I can’t ever recall a defending national champion being dissed this badly in terms of expectations. First Auburn was nearly a touchdown underdog at home against Mississippi State last week, now they’re a dog again in Death Valley, in spite of a big win over the Bullodgs. Clemson has struggled past Wofford and Troy and offensive guard David Smith will miss this game. Andre Ellington should have a big game running the ball for the hosts, but Auburn is still piling up points, even with Cam Newton in the pros. Michael Dyer and Ontario McCalebb run the ball well themselves and the SEC scores a road win over the ACC.
Other interesting games in this time slot including Pitt-Iowa (Noon ET, ESPN2), with neither team really looking good early on. West Virginia has to overcome its penchant for sluggish starts when they go to Maryland, who’s had almost two weeks to prepare after a Labor Day win over Miami.
Michigan State-Notre Dame (3:30 ET, NBC)
PVS: Notre Dame 28 Michigan State 24
Texas-UCLA (3:30 ET, ABC)
PVS: Texas 24 UCLA 20
Tennessee-Florida (3:30 ET, CBS)
PVS: Florida 30 Tennessee 20
It’s time for channel-surfing, a situation made worse for those of us who follow baseball closely and have the crucial Boston-Tampa Bay game on as the Fox telecast at 4 ET. I’m expecting a lot of points scored in the ND-Michigan State game, as the Irish offense can only be stopped by turnovers and their defense is way too soft to stop a Spartan running game led by Edwin Baker. I think ND’s offense is so fast-paced that turnovers are going to be a way of life this season, but I also think they will score enough at home against a shaky Michigan State defense to get their first win.
We touched on the Texas-UCLA game in Wednesday’s post, and I believe the rush defense of the Longhorns, combined with the revenge factor after the beatdown UCLA administered in Austin, will be enough to key a win much easier than the PVS shows.
Tennessee-Florida is a big game in an SEC East that’s open for anyone who can develop consistency and I’m looking for a very good game here. The Vols do everything well offensively, with Tyler Bray throwing the ball and underrated running back Tauren Poole in the backfield. Coming off a three-touchdown win over Cincinnati, Derek Dooley’s team is coming together very well. Florida’s played excellent defense in a couple wins over Sun Belt teams, but that tells us very little about how good they are. And it looks from here like the passing game is still an issue. The leading receiver right now is running back Chris Rainey and the Gators aren’t going to beat good teams unless they get the ball to the receivers. I don’t have a strong opinion on who wins this one, but it’s a coin flip either way at the end in Gainesville.
The other intriguing game in this time slot (as though we needed more) is Washington’s visit to Nebraska, where I’m looking to see if the Cornhusker offensive line can really assert itself against a respectable opponent. And at the dinner hour in the East (6 ET), Navy goes to South Carolina. There’s no reason to think the Gamecocks will lose, because the Mids defense isn’t good enough to stop Marcus Lattimore, and Alshon Jeffrey should be able to beat the secondary repeatedly and enable Stephen Garcia to put up a lot of points.
Oklahoma-Florida State (8 ET, ABC)
PVS: Oklahoma 29 Florida State 26
I haven’t been sold on OU as the #1 team, or even a Top 5 team all year long. They are a good team, but I’m seeing matchup problems all over. Florida State’s defensive end Brandon Jenkins leads a great pass rush that will be in Landry Jones’ face and corner Greg Reid is the senior leader of a great secondary that will make it tough for Jones to get rid of the ball quickly. That, along with the raucous prime-time crowd in Tallahassee adds up to an environment to create turnovers, and while FSU’s offense isn’t going to frighten anyone, it’s still a respectable unit and they ride the coattails of the defense to a decisive win. The score won’t be a blowout, but the Seminoles will have the Sooners at arm’s length throughout the second half.
Four other games are worth nothing in prime-time, led up by Ohio State’s visit to Miami (7:30 ET, ESPN, where the fact the Buckeyes no longer have game-breaking talent is going to be exposed, so long as Hurricane quarterback Jacory Harris doesn’t start throwing it up for grabs. Utah plays BYU on ESPN2, as we look to get a decent read on both teams in the Cougars’ first year as an independent. Syracuse struggled last week for Rhode Island, while USC has yet to really look good, but has also yet to lose. They match up in prime-time (8 ET, FX). Finally for those of you who stay up late, Stanford visits Arizona at 10:45 ET on ESPN, a game where Andrew Luck should take his turn at shredding a Wildcats secondary that was carved up by Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden last week.
Chicago-New Orleans (1 ET, Fox)
PVS: New Orleans 27 Chicago 21
New Orleans looks to have a lot of problems rushing the quarterback right now, as they did nothing to get to Aaron Rodgers in the opener, and defensive end Will Smith is still out. The Bears look to still have problems protecting the quarterback. Even in a 30-12 win over Atlanta, they still allowed Jay Cutler to be sacked five times. Something’s gotta give here and with the game in the Superdome I think the Bear offensive line continues to implode. Defensively, Chicago did do a nice job in getting to Matt Ryan and the Saints’ offense is now missing receiver Marques Colston. It’s going to be tough for Drew Brees to stretch the field and more pressure is going to be on the running game and rookie Mark Ingram to create opportunities for the passing game. At home, I like New Orleans, but I also want to see how the offense adjusts to the loss of Colston.
Jacksonville-NY Jets (1 ET, CBS)
PVS: NY Jets 24 Jacksonville 14
The Jacksonville offense didn’t get a lot going in a Week 1 win over Tennessee, and it certainly doesn’t get easier as they come to the Meadowlands. If an upset is going to happen the Jags have to get Maurice Jones-Drew established on the ground. Rex Ryan’s defense can counter by stacking the box to take away Drew and trusting Darrelle Revis and the secondary to take away any passing game from a mediocre receivers corps and questionable quarterback in Luke McNown. The Jets will win decisively.
San Diego-New England (4 ET, CBS)
PVS: New England 31 San Diego 24
Tom Brady put his foot in it when he told the Patriots’ fans to “get lubed up” for the late start in Foxboro and sent the organization into comical efforts of spinning what Brady really meant. Because we all know football fans will only drink in the parking lot based on what Tom Brady says. The Patriots would be wiser to worry about a defense that was an utter sieve on Monday night in Miami, rather than innocuous comments saying things that all of us say in casual conversation. Philip Rivers didn’t get the ball to his wideouts, Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd last week, but I have to think that will be a priority. But Brady also threw for over 500 yards and exploited a defense that has more talent than the one he faces on Sunday. The points flow as easily as the beer does in the pre-game tailgates, and the Pats win another shootout.
Philadelphia-Atlanta (8:20 ET, NBC)
PVS: Philly 26 Atlanta 24
The Falcons looked terrible in their loss at Chicago, while Philadelphia was impressive in establishing the ground game in a win at St. Louis. It wasn’t just Michael Vick taking off and running for the Eagles, but LeSean McCoy piling up 122 yards in the more conventional rush game. Using McCoy will be important to keep a quality Atlanta front four off-balance and prevent them from teeing off. On the flip side both offensive lines are going to be tested by the defensive ends they face and the Falcons have to do a better job than last week when they gave up five sacks. In that game, Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards, while Ryan got the ball to Roddy White, but the sacks were the biggest culprit in the offense being unable to generate points. I haven’t been a believer in Philadelphia’s status as a Dream Team, and I’m not ready to think Atlanta’s really as bad as they played in Chicago. The Falcons rebound with a close win at home.