Three to Watch is going under the lights this week for a peek at some of the KNIGHT JAMEZ! We have a great weekend of college football coming up and Jamie has you covered (pun?) for some of the early contests. You’ll notice the big Wisconsin-Nebraska tilt as a conspicuous omission here, but I’ll be posting an in-depth preview for that one in short order. I really like that Washington at Utah game in the Pac-12 as well, but I’m not sure you can catch that one on national TV. Utah is favored by 8 and these teams can really score (I’m taking the Huskies to cover). Let’s get to a few other gems.
Clemson at Virginia Tech, 6:00, ESPN2
Is a 6 PM start really a night game? I suppose most of it will take place after dinner, so what the hell, it’s a great match-up. Much like the Wisconsin-Nebraska game, this could be a preview of the conference championship game, as Clemson has already dispatched Florida State and Va Tech looks like the front-runner in the Coastal Division. Clemson will lean on QB Tajh Boyd, who has led the ACC with 13 TDs and 1,255 yards passing. Boyd’s favorite target this year has been freshman wideout Sammy Watkins who has six scores and averages over 15 yards per catch. Make your pick on Watkins over/under 122.5 rushing/receiving yards in this week’s Pick-4. I’m going under.
Coming off of a huge win against Florida State, it won’t be easy to go into Blacksburg and grab a win. In fact, the last time Clemson was riding such a hot start and played at Virginia Tech they came out behind 24 to 7 in 2006. Play on the edges of the line and defensive backfield will be key for the Hokies. Slowing down a passing attack always starts with pressure on the passer and defensive ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins can provide that pressure. On the back end, Jayron Hosley will probably be primarily responsible for slowing down Watkins, and also the reason I’m sticking with the under on Pick-4. On the other side of the ball, it will all come down to the Hokies’ sophomore QB Logan Thomas. If Thomas can navigate his way through the game without big mistakes, the Hokies will score in the 20’s and have a chance to win. Like always. This won’t be a blowout though and I like Clemson to cover the one touchdown spread.
Texas at Iowa State, 7:00 FX
Gus Johnson? Yes please. Texas gets a shot at REVENGE against the Cyclones for a 28-21 win in Austin last year. Both teams are unbeaten coming into this one, but not without questions. Iowa State has won its three games by a total of eight points. As far as the players go, the story this year is quarterback play, as is often the case. For Iowa State, Steel Jantz has a sweet name and also carried the Cyclones to a win against Iowa, completing two-thirds of his passes in that game for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns. His other two starts haven’t gone all that well. In both he was held to around 200 yards passing with one score and three picks. Still, they are wins and Iowa State is undefeated.
Texas coach Mack Brown is taking the eraser to the quarterback spot on the depth chart a lot so far this season. Incumbent Garrett Gilbert is out for the season with a shoulder boo boo and wasn’t that hot when he was playing anyway. That opened the door for Case McCoy (yeah, it’s his brother) and freshman David Ash. McCoy has shown great potential since taking over for Gilbert in the BYU game and has shown the ability to create yards outside the pocket. Ash is a different look completely. He is a dangerous runner that prompts the horrific “quarterback that can run or runner who plays quarterback” discussion. Either way, you hate seeing him on the field if you’re a defensive coordinator (which if you’re reading this you’re likely not). Iowa State will have to focus on slowing down running back Malcolm Brown and make the inexperienced QB tandem beat them from the pocket. Easy to type, damn hard to do. Texas wins this one and covers -8.5, as bad Jantz shows up again for Iowa State.
Alabama at Florida, 8:00 CBS
OMG I hate listening to SEC fans talk about the SEC, but it is such an awesome conference. In Florida and Bama, we’ve got two teams who do the same things well. They can both run the ball around you, through you, and by you, and can both stop the run. Both teams are top five in rush defense and they are the top two teams in the SEC in rush offense. Both teams feature outstanding running back tandems: Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey for Florida and Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy for Alabama. Richardson and Rainey are guys who carry the load while Lacy and Demps are the big play guys, both averaging over 8 yards per rush. How is it possible that guys as fast as Rainey and Richardson have “change of pace” backs?! Anyway, another Pick-4 prop has the over/under for Chris Rainey’s rushing and receiving yards set at 105.5. He’s going to get a lot of touches in the running game, then add in the check-downs in the passing game and I think he’ll hit the over.
You have to think these defenses will be able to stymie the running games to an extent, meaning this one will come down to the passing game. Florida’s Jeff Brantley and Alabama’s AJ McCarron haven’t been called upon to be the difference between winning and losing so far this year. Neither has attempted 100 passes on the season and they both have four touchdowns against two interceptions. Break out the mirror references!
Though both defenses are good, I think Alabama’s has a leg up and will make enough plays to win this game. With a night game in The Swamp though, I’m not confident enough to call for them to cover the 4 points. Taking Florida +4 here.