All About Football: Week 3

Sports
All About Football with Blaine Fentress

Three is the magic number.  Yeah, it is.  It’s the magic number.

Hello one and all, Blaine Train here, how’s it going?

Yes, I just quoted Schoolhouse Rock (popular 70s Saturday Morning cartoon) to note that we are onto week 3 of All About Football.  So much going on.  College Football is nearing the beginning of conference schedule (SEC is already there), NFL moves onto Week 2, and even high school has reached halfway point in the regular season.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So sit back and relax as we look ahead to this week’s games.  But first, let’s look back.

ABOUT LAST WEEK…

Last Week CFB:  7-7
Blaine Train Overall:  21-8

Yikes…after a great start last week on these predictions (14-1), I went .500 with my picks.  My upsets didn’t come through, although a couple of them were close.  FIU kept it close against Indiana and Mississippi St had a few chances to beat LSU.  Just have to be glad that Notre Dame held on against Virginia or I would have recorded my first losing week.  Also, the Legend of Tanner Mangum once again shined as a last minute touchdown put BYU ahead of Boise St.  So, all in all, it could have been worse.  But, you get up, dust yourself off, and get ready for this week.

NEAR THE TRI-STATE  (as always, all game times in Central)

#11 CLEMSON @ LOUISVILLE …..Thursday, Sept. 17 ….. 6:30 PM, ESPN
My Pick:  Clemson

It has not been the greatest of starts for the Cardinals.  0-2, with losses to Auburn and Houston, have Louisville looking for answers.  My biggest question has to be, who is going to start at quarterback on Thursday night?  Reggie Bonnafon was benched during the Auburn game for Lamar Jackson.  Then, Jackson was benched during the Houston game for Kyle Bolin.  I think if I play my cards right, I will be starting quarterback for Louisville by week seven.  Have to get the throwing arm ready.  Heisman, here I come.

Meanwhile, this will be the first meaningful game for Clemson this season.  After wins against Wofford and Appalachian State, Tigers are rolling in with plenty of confidence.  They may have the best offense in the ACC this season, with QB Deshaun Watson and WR Charone Peake.  Defense is also looking impressive, coming off last week’s game forcing four turnovers, including a Pick-Six.  Imagine the offense will continue to shine for the Tigers as they will roll into Louisville and roll right over them.

ILLINOIS @ NORTH CAROLINA ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 11 AM, ESPN 2
My Pick:  Illinois

Hats off to the Illini.  After a crazy offseason that included their head coach being fired a week before the season started, Illinois has rushed out to a 2-0 record.  Blowout wins against Kent St. and Western Illinois has led to optimism coming from Champaign about the season.  QB Wes Lunt already has five touchdowns on the season.  Illini defense has been lights out, only giving up three points, 386 yards, and forcing six turnovers in two games. 

But, now they leave the cozy confines of home for their first road game of the season.  North Carolina got back on track after the opening night loss to South Carolina.  QB Marquise Williams threw for two TDs and rushed for one last week against North Carolina A&T.  Tar Heels also forced three turnovers in the game.  Still have to go back to that opening night game against South Carolina for my prediction.  I think Illinois has some momentum going for them and they will get their first road win.  Maybe, Illinois will be the big surprise team this year in the Big Ten.  Who knew.

VIRGINIA TECH @ PURDUE ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 2:30 PM, ESPN U
My Pick:  Purdue

Of course, there are plenty of good running backs in the nation that pundits go on and on about.  Elliot, Chubb, Fournette, just to name a few.  But, one I wish would get more love is Boilermakers RB D.J. Knox.  He is one of the main weapons Purdue has on that side, along with QB Austin Appleby.  Through two games, Knox has 38 carries for 193 yards and one touchdown.  Along with Markell Jones, Purdue is hoping a more balanced offensive attack will be good enough to win a few Big Ten games.  But, tough sledding ahead as they welcome Virginia Tech into West Lafayette Saturday.

Hokies are hoping for a win over a Big Ten school, after losing in Week One against Ohio St.  QB Brenden Motley played much better against Furman last week, throwing for two touchdowns and running for one.  Also, have to go back to two weeks ago and Virginia Tech did hang with the Buckeyes for about two-and-a-half quarters.  But, this is the first road test of the season, and one would have to wonder if the rush defense has gotten better from two weeks ago to be able to stop Knox.  This is an upset call, I have Purdue erasing that loss against Marshall, with a win over Virginia Tech.

AND NOW, THE MAIN EVENT…

TOP TEN GAMES OF WEEK 3

10.  WESTERN KENTUCKY @ INDIANA ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 3 PM, ESPN News
My Pick:  Western Kentucky

A solid local matchup here.  Pretty good quarterback matchup, featuring Brandon Doughty for WKU and Nate Sudfeld for IU.  The Hilltoppers are coming off a back-and-forth battle with Louisiana Tech.  While they were able to survive and win the game, they did lose running back Leon Allen for the season with a knee injury.  So, with losing a veteran running back, expect WKU to rely even more on the passing game.  And, why not when you have Doughty, who has already passed for over 600 yards this season. 

The Hoosiers looked a little better against Florida International last week.  Still, it was a bit-too-close-for-comfort, but a win is a win.  While Sudfield has led the team through the air, it has been running back Jordan Howard crushing it on the ground game.  He has already gained 304 yards and three touchdowns.  WKU did struggle last week against Tech in stopping the run.  But, both teams seem to be evenly matched.  Have to go with the better quarterback, that’s why I lean toward Doughty and the Hilltoppers.  And, no, it has nothing to do with me being a WKU graduate.  None at all.  (P.S.  I am going to this game in Bloomington.)

9.  NEBRASKA @ MIAMI ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 2:30 PM, ABC
My Pick:  Nebraska

A great, old-school rivalry.  Here is a mini-countdown:

   11 … the # of times these two teams have played each other.

    6   … the # of those games that were played in a bowl.

    4   … the # of those bowl games played at the Orange Bowl.

    4   … the # of times this game determined who the national champion was.

This year’s version of this game will be a bit different.  Nebraska still trying to recover from a last-second loss to BYU at the hands of a hail mary at the home opener.  Talk about a punch in the gut.  It does help to get the train back on track when you still have quarterback Tommy Armstrong, running back Terrell Newby, and recievers Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp.  Good bounce back game against South Alabama last Saturday, but now they travel on the road for the first time this season.

Miami doesn’t get talked about much this season, and for good reason.  Last week, they played toe-to-toe with Florida Atlantic.  The Owls were tied with the Hurricanes through three quarters before running back Joe Yearby turned it on and pushed them to victory.  The defense for Miami has been described as average at best, and that won’t lead to good times against the offensive weapons that the Cornhuskers bring to Miami on Saturday.  Nebraska for the win.

8.  #23 NORTHWESTERN @ DUKE ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 11:30 AM
My Pick:  Northwestern

Still pretty shocking to see the Wildcats in the top 25, thanks to a big opening-day win over Stanford and a blowout over Eastern Illinois.  There are some writers who don’t feel like they should be, that it is too early in the season for Northwestern.  But, the key word that gives the Wildcats love is the defense.  Ranked third nationally, they have only given up 189 yards per game.  They have not given up a touchdown yet this season.  The offense still needs a bit more work but, the running game behind RB Justin Jackson allows Northwestern to keep the possession time high on their end.

Duke knows that this is a spotlight game.  Beating a ranked opponent would help propel the Blue Devils into the top 25.  And, why not.  Quarterback Thomas Sirk already has over 600 yards throwing and over 150 yards rushing.  Duke has outscored their opponents 92-7 in the first two games of the season.  Granted, it may not been big name opponents, which will start coming to Durham in the next three weeks (Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Boston College).  This should be a quality matchup and, I think the Wildcats are for real this season.  They walk out of Durham with a win.

7.  FLORIDA @ KENTUCKY ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 6:30 PM, SEC Network
My Pick:  Kentucky

September 13, 2014.  Florida owns a 27-game winning streak over Kentucky.  But, this was a year where both teams were at the same level.  Every year, Wildcats fans are hoping this is the season to finally break the streak.  Wasn’t the greatest of games for quarterback Patrick Towles who, along with three touchdowns, also threw three interceptions.  And, after a thrilling triple-overtime finale, the Gators were able to extend the streak to 28.

It was one of those games Towles probably had circled on the schedule as soon as it came out.  Imagine Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has this game circled as well.  Knowing Florida will be in the exact same shape as they were last season, coming into the renovated Commonwealth Stadium.  Wildcats played a better game at South Carolina then they did against Louisiana-Lafayette in week one.  But, they did almost choke the game up with the Gamecocks after grabbing a first half lead.  With history on the line, Wildcats won’t be able to afford to do that.  I think 28 is enough.  Kentucky FINALLY breaks the streak!!!!

6.  #9 FLORIDA ST. @ BOSTON COLLEGE ….. Friday, Sept. 18 ….. 7 PM, ESPN
My Pick:  Florida St.

Awesome matchup for this game.  Heisman contender and Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook versus a Boston College defense that leads the nation in yards per carry (2.78).  So, it is the unstoppable force meeting the unmovable object.  Something will have to give.  In L.A.W. (Life After Winston), Florida St. has played a pair of laughers.  But, for their ACC opener, they will have to head up north to take on a team that maybe a dark horse in the conference this season.

Boston College is also 2-0 after MONSTER wins over Maine (score 24-3) and Howard (score 76-0).  Seriously, they were already up on Howard 55-0 AT HALF.  While they will have to deal with Seminoles quarterback Everett Golson, the big key for the Eagles to pull off this upset will be stopping Cook.  If the running game gets off and running early and often for Florida St, it might be game over early for Boston College.  Have to go with the more proven team, Florida St.

5.  STANFORD @ #6 USC ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 7 PM, ABC
My Pick:  USC

It was like letting the air out of a balloon for the Cardinal two weeks ago.  Ranked and playing Northwestern, they were looking forward to a fast, out of the gate start.  But, the game was sluggish, just the way the Wildcats wanted it.  Quarterback Kevin Hogan didn’t play great and, as we talked about earlier, the Cardinal loss was one of the first upsets of the season.  But, the ship can be turned around in a big way this week as they open the Pac-12 schedule against USC.

Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler turn the lights out on Idaho last week with 410 yards and three touchdowns.  So far, he has played only six quarters in two games, as he has been taken out.  Yes, the air attack is alive and well at USC, with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster doing the majority of the catching.  Get this, he already has 14 catches for 281 yards and three touchdowns.  Next man on the the list after Schuster is Issac Whitney with 66 yards.  So, expect USC to pass and try to jump out to a big lead early against Stanford, then hang on for victory.

4.  #14 GEORGIA TECH @ #8 NOTRE DAME ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 2:30 PM, NBC
My Pick:  Georgia Tech

Notre Dame had a roller coaster of a game last week at Virginia.  First, they lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire for the season.  That is now five starters that did not make it to week three this season.  Then, it became a back-and-forth affair against the Cavaliers.  Virginia RB Albert Reid put the Cavs up by one with 1:54 left in the game.  But, that was more than enough time for Notre Dame to march it down the field for the game winner.  DeShone Kizer found Will Fuller in the endzone for the 39 yard touchdown and the Fighting Irish escaped Charlottesville with the 34-27 victory.

But, the return home will not be easy as they take on the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech.  Yellow Jackets employ a unique offense, with two words that make defense coordinators bang their heads against the wall: TRIPLE OPTION.  You won’t find many offenses in college football that primarily use this.  The are more equipped with the pro-style system.  Last week, during their 65-10 win over Tulane, Tech ran the ball for 439 yards.  So, it will be a physical game for Notre Dame to handle, one where they won’t be able to rely on Zaire to lead the offense.  I have the Yellow Jackets over the Fighting Irish.

3.  #18 AUBURN @ #13 LSU ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 2:30 PM, CBS
My Pick:  LSU

So, I am going to let you in on some behind-the-scenes stuff with All About Football.  I produce a Top Ten list for the following week, even before the games of the current week are played.  I already had this game as my big, number one game of the week.  But, then Auburn struggled against….wait a minute…must be a type-o….this has to be a joke….they struggled against JACKSONVILLE STATE AT HOME.  Still shaking my head the Tigers didn’t lost this game.  They had to go into OVERTIME to defeat the Gamecocks.  Quarterback Jeremy Johnson threw two touchdowns and two interceptions.  Couple this game with the season-opener against Louisville, and there is a reason why the coaches poll dropped Auburn out of the top ten.

It’s not like LSU is a perfect saint from last week, either.  They lead Mississippi St. 21-6 in the fourth quarter.  But, the defense let up and the Bulldogs came within three points of the win and my big upset prediction last week.  Clearly, the workhorse is the Heisman contender, running back Leonard Fournette.  He carried the ball 28 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns.  Words that I am sure Auburn probably don’t want to read, as the rushing defense has already given up 399 yards on the ground in two games.  And, did I mention that one of those opponents was JACKSONVILLE STATE???  LSU puts it on Fournette’s back and he leads them to victory.

2.  #19 BYU @ #10 UCLA ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 9:30 PM, Fox Sports 1
My Pick:  BYU

I feel happy to write that All About Football has a novel in the works.  It is about a kid who went from being a backup quarterback to stepping on the field and delivering not one, but two game-winning, Hail Mary passes in the first two games of the season.  The book will be titled, “The Legend of Tanner Mangum.”  I will even write a folk song and have it ready to go next week.  I can’t explain it.  After the Cougars lose their leader QB Taysom Hill for the season, in walks Mangum.  With no time on the clock against Nebraska, Mangum was able to find Mitch Mathews in the endzone for the win.  Then, just last week, Mangum connected with Mitchell Juergens on a 4th-and-long with 45 seconds left in the game to beat Boise State.  Now, as a ranked opponent, they hope the magic continues to Los Angeles.

But, they may be taking on the best team in the Pac-12 this season.  The Bruins had no problems dispatching Virginia and UNLV the last two weeks.  Probably a big surprise for myself is how well RB Paul Perkins has played.  In a system where I thought passing would be first, Perkins has already rushed for 210 yards.  This helps make it a more balanced attack and allows QB Josh Rosen and WR Jordan Payton to connect more.  But, this will be a good test against the Cougars, who don’t sustain long drives but have the ability to score quick and often in these games.  I am looking for the legend to continue. Cougars over Bruins.

1.  #15 OLE MISS @ #2 ALABAMA ….. Saturday, Sept. 19 ….. 8:15 PM, ESPN
My Pick:  Alabama

Don’t be shocked this is my number one game of the week.  It was October 4th of last year, when the Rebels upset the Crimson Tide.  Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace passed for three touchdowns, including the game winner to Jaylen Walton late in the fourth quarter.  Rebels also made life hard for Alabama QB Blake Sims, who didn’t record a touchdown and even threw an interception.  So, I would imagine Nick Saban has circled this game on the schedule for a while now. 

No more Bo, but Walton remains for the Rebels, who will be looking at QB Chad Kelly to help lead the ship to victory.  He has already passed for 557 yards and six touchdowns this season.  They have scored 70-plus points in the first two games of the season.  So, offense is no issue for Ole Miss.  But, it will be running into a big issue against a Crimson Tide defense that is already NFL-ready.

The Alabama defense has kept opponents to just 272 yards/game and have forced six turnovers.  They are the true engine for this team while QB Jake Coker continues to manage the game well.  Of course, that is pretty easy when you have Heisman contender Derrick Henry to keep handing the ball off to.  Henry already has rushed for 243 yards and six touchdowns. 

This game is all about revenge.  And, in this conference, in this division, any win is huge down the road.  Crimson Tide will be looking to wipe the taste of last year out of their mouths as they shut down the Rebel’s offense and cruise on to victory.  I have Alabama over Ole Miss.

NFL WEEK 2 EXPRESS
Last Week NFL:  9-7
Blaine Train Season Record:  9-7

I did about middle of the road like I did with my college football predictions.  No real surprise, as it is tough to predict which NFL teams will show up in week one, or which teams will tell their running back not to run into the endzone, then throw a pass to stop the clock, and allow the other team the chance to win the game.  I am looking at you, Eli Manning. 

But, this is Week 2 in the NFL, let’s see if we win a little more this week.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

BRONCOS @ CHIEFS ….. 7:25 PM
My Pick:  Chiefs

Kansas City was impressive last week.  While Manning threw for under 200 yards and no touchdown.  The retirement talk is only going to get louder and louder.  Chiefs should have an easy win.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

TEXANS @ PANTHERS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Panthers

Houston didn’t get past the first week to have a quarterback controversy.  But, at least they still have JJ Watt.  Cam Newton should keep an eye out for him.  But, Panthers defense should be able to cover the Texans.

49ERS @ STEELERS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Steelers

Pittsburgh didn’t get off on the right foot last week, but should be able to pass on this still-young 49ers defense.  Can Carlos Hyde play that good again two weeks in a row?  Big Ben should have a decent game.

BUCCANEERS @ SAINTS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Saints

Jameis Winston did not have the best debut last week.  He will continue to grow with this offense.  Saints struggled on offense last week.  Drew Brees will look for Brandin Cooks to have a better game.

LIONS @ VIKINGS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Lions

Lions defense did not show up last week.  Gave up too many points to San Diego.  But, it won’t be that hard this week.  Where was that Adrian Peterson comeback game?  What happened to Teddy Bridgewater?

CARDINALS @ BEARS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Bears

Chicago was so close in getting an upset win.  Jay Cutler still making mistakes with the football.  Arizona has a good defense.  But, it may not be enough to stop Matt Forte from running for over 100 yards.

PATRIOTS @ BILLS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Patriots

Buffalo had a big time win over Indianapolis.  They kept Andrew Luck in check.  But, can they do that against Tom Brady?  Until the pipeline gets shut down, expect Brady-to-Gronk over and over and over again.

CHARGERS @ BENGALS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Bengals

Why on Earth has Adam Jones not been suspended yet?  Anyway, this should be another offensive battle as both teams have decent passing attacks.  So, it may come down to the better running back, Hill or Gordon?

TITANS @ BROWNS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Titans

Marcus Mariota had one of the best rookie debuts I can remember.  Tennessee Defense also looked good.  Johnny Football will be starting for the Browns.  Bet it will draw crowds to watch him turnover the ball.

FALCONS @ GIANTS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Giants

After a week of media going after you, I bet money Eli Manning will be storming out of the gate.  Expect this to become the battle of wide recievers:  Beckman vs. Jones.  Giants don’t want to lose two in a row this early.

RAMS @ REDSKINS ….. 12 PM
My Pick:  Rams

I hope Jeff Fisher has those six players that came from the RG3 trade take the opening coin flip again.  Rams looked solid against a good defense last week, they should look even better against this defense this week.

DOLPHINS @ JAGUARS ….. 3:05 PM
My Pick:  Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill didn’t have the best game, but it was good enough to win last week.  Jacksonville was looking to get the offense rolling last week, but Panthers shut them down.  Expect Lamar Miller to have a good game on the ground.

RAVENS @ RAIDERS ….. 3:05 PM
My Pick:  Ravens

Baltimore was so close to defeating Denver last week.  Obvious that they will lean on the run game throughout the season.  Oakland saw another quarterback go down with injury.  Bad luck all the time.

COWBOYS @ EAGLES ….. 3:25 PM
My Pick:  Cowboys

Hopefully, Tony Romo’s final drive last week will be enough to quiet his critics for a while.  Losing Dez Bryant will be a loss.  Speaking of injury, I am shocked Sam Bradford is not injured yet.  Jordan Matthews is the favorite target.

SEAHAWKS @ PACKERS ….. 7:30 PM
My Pick:  Packers

They got off to a slow start but, Green Bay was able to stay ahead and beat the Bears.  Aaron Rodgers seems to find his targets all day.  Seattle had a bad loss at St. Louis.  I do expect them to fall 0-2 to start the season.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

JETS @ COLTS ….. 7:30 PM
My Pick:  Colts

New York looked decent against a poor Browns team.  Now, there is a step up in competition.  Indianapolis is still shaking their heads how they lost in Buffalo.  Expect Andrew Luck to throw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.

There it is, Week 3 is up and running.  Hope everybody continues to enjoy All About Football and feel free to drop me an email at bfentress@tristatehomepage.com. Or, you can follow me on Twitter: @BlaineTrain310

Have fun, be safe, enjoy the day.

Blaine Train.

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