The powers that hold the keys to college realignment have been doing a lot of moving and shaking here of late. Syracuse and Pitt are moving on to the ACC and Uconn may join them next and that’s just the latest move. The Pac-12 announced it wouldn’t entertain anymore expansion talk for now anyway and maybe that will extinguish the movement for the moment at the least. The SEC, Big East, and Big 12 still may add teams in hope of staying ahead of the curve and especially the Big East and Big 12 as their respective leagues have been the ones getting poached the most. College football and money are behind this force that has consumed the radical realignment that we are witnessing. That makes this and every upcoming season that much more important as teams jockey not to get left behind to the eventual shift to the 16 team super conferences. This week’s slate of games feature three showcase games in Oklahoma St. vs. soon to be SEC member Texas A&M, Arkansas vs. Alabama and LSU vs. West Virginia. Other noteworthy games include North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech and Arizona St. vs. Southern Cal, so not the best week of games and but not the worst either.
# 3 Alabama (3-0) vs.# 14 Arkansas (3-0) – The weekly showdown SEC game features a high-powered offense and a shut down defense. Every since Bobby Petrino step foot on campus in Fayetteville, it seems that the Razorbacks have chucking the ball over everyone. Tyler Wilson is the man at QB now since Ryan Mallet left for the NFL and has done a viable job in that role. The only problem is that he has never faced a defense as suffocating as what he will see from Alabama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Bama’s defense is near the top of the entire nation if not the best (LSU might have claim to that) and has a plethora of playmakers on that side of the ball. The Tide also run the ball like an old school team in the age of spread as Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy racked up 328 yards on the ground in their 41-0 win over North Texas. The Hogs will have to come up with a complex blocking scheme to keep Wilson clean in the pocket against this ferocious defense. Even if Wilson does stay upright it may be hard to find throwing lanes in the secondary of Alabama as Mark Barron and Dre Kilpatrick will be all over the Arkansas receivers. However, the Razorbacks may have the best collection of receivers in college football with the likes of Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton, and Greg Childs so they will make plays against Alabama but will it be enough? It’s hard to trust a first year starter to go into a hostile place like Tuscaloosa and come home with the win. I also don’t trust Arkansas’s defense to stand up to Bama’s run game as they punished the Hogs on the ground last year and that much hasn’t changed from Arkansas’s defense. The Pick: Alabama
# 2 LSU vs. #16 West Virginia – An ACC-SEC match-up that will yet again pit a tremendous defense against an awesome offense. It has been well documented what the Tigers defense has done to its opponents this year. First its was the shutdown of the high-paced Oregon Ducks offense as they rendered Lamichael James and Darron Thomas ineffective with their no huddle break neck tempo. Just last week they week they held Miss. St, who had scored 42 points on Auburn, to just 6 points last Thursday. This is a defense that lost Patrick Patterson and Drake Nevis, arguably their two best players last year to the NFL and the Tigers seem to be even better this year. Morris Clairborne has done a masterful job taking over Patterson’s role and sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has manned the other side of the field with no drop off. The Tigers will be tested yet again as they take on Geno Smith and Major Harris on the road this time is Morgantown. The Moutaineers like to spread you out and fling the ball but they run into a nightmare match-up against the Tigers as they have elite DBs that can cover in space. West Virginia will have to find a way to disturb Jarrett Lee and force him into mistakes, something he has avoided all year. West Virginia has nothing to lose in this game so they should let it all hang out. The only way I see the Moutaineers can win this game is if they could turn it into a shootout and that just isn’t going to fly with Les “I eat the grass” Miles defemse. The Pick: LSU
#7 Oklahoma St. vs.#8 Texas A&M - The Big 12 is just trying to keep it together at this point and it’s a shame that this featured game won’t garner the buzz it should with all of the Big 12’s turmoil. Even with all of the tumultuous things going on off the field, the Big 12 still puts a good product on the field as two top 10 ranked teams will do battle in one of the best college atmospheres in College Station. This will be a high scoring game as the Cowboys feature maybe the best QB-WR duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon and Texas A&M’s trio of Ryan Tanneyhill, Jeff Fuller, and Cyrus Gray isn’t too shabby either. Oklahoma St. is among the top three in the nation with 52.3 points, 601 yards of total offense and 408 passing yards per game. Brandon Weeden has thrown for 350 yards or more in three straight games and RB Joseph Randle has run for 120 yards for three straight games as well. The Cowboys have just an explosive offense all around. The Aggies will bring pressure from the edges and should be able to get a few licks on Weeden. Texas A&M already has racked up 11 sacks this year and they will make sure to make it hard as possible for Weeden. The Aggies actually out gained Oklahoma St. last year 535-351 in last season’s game but were killed by mistake as they had 5 turnovers. This should be a close though as the two teams have played seven game that have by decided by five points or less since 1997. I know the Cowboys will put up points but I don’t know if they will stop the Aggies from doing the same on defense. I put way more trust in Texas A&M’s defense to at least get a few stops. The Pick: Texas A&M
Arizona State vs. # 23 USC – Everything seems to be going sunny out west as the Pac-12 has been the trendsetter among conference it seems. They were one of the first to start the talks of expansion as they added Utah and Colorado to the ranks and now they put the brakes on just as it appears this whole college movement thing was about to get out of control. The conferences premier game this week feature a Sun Devil team that are the prohibitive favorites reach the first Pac-12 championship game from the South Division. The reason they are the favorites is because USC isn’t eligible for the post-season of course. So the two teams will square off at Sun Devil stadium this Saturday to settle the score. Southern Cal hasn’t looked all that impressive to me as they barely beat conference newcomer Utah 23-14 a couple of weeks ago. Arizona St. couldn’t pull out the win last week against Illinois and dropped out of the rankings after a short visit. Both teams have good QB play with Matt Barkley of USC and Brock Osweiler of ASU. Barkley has been on everyone’s radar since his freshman year and has gotten better each year as a starter. The Trojans passing defense has also taken a big step from last year’s 400 yards per game average in 2010 down to 317.3 this year. Arizona St. also has a good defense but was dealt a major blow last week as conference defensive freshman of the year Junior Oneyali was injured and could miss the rest of entire season. I like what the Sun Devils have on defense even without Oneyali and the experience they have with 30 seniors on the roster should put away any jitters they have taking on the West Coast’s giant Trojans. The Pick: Arizona State.