Perusing the schedule during the summer, Week 2 of this college football season looked significantly more interesting than Week 1. And, hey — it was! A number of games came down to the wire, including Clemson-Texas A&M, which I did not anticipate at all.
The Aggies playing the Tigers to a fourth-quarter conversion attempt deciding the outcome doesn’t justify the ludicrous contract Jimbo Fisher signed, but it was one of two misfires against the number in last week’s Saturday Six-Pack.
With the Six-Pack’s first positive week of the season, perhaps it’s time to start deceptively touting my acumen. Get rich, kids!
On a completely unrelated note, the first gambling-specific program not hosted Saturday mornings on AM Radio by a guy calling himself Big Vinnie debuted this week to laughable ratings. Maybe FS1 would have been better served launching the first gaming show of the post-Supreme Court decision on sports gaming with a Saturday morning stereotype plugging 1-900 numbers.
Anyway, Week 2 is past and a surprisingly fun Week 3 arrives with some good games sprinkled throughout the day. Week 2 might have boasted the most excitement on paper, but Week 3 might be better from top-to-bottom.
WEEK 2 RECORD: 5-1/4-2 ATS
2018 RECORD: 7-5/6-6 ATS
SATURDAY’S SIX-PACK: Stone Tangerine Express IPA
Week 3 marks the last official summer weekend of the college football season. While IPAs do not typically elicit thoughts of chilling on the beach, Stone Tangerine Express has a nice, citrus taste to it that’s more refreshing than the typical IPA.
Double bonus points for coming in cans. I have become an increasingly vehement proponent of quality beers offered in cans, and Stone Tangerine Express is one of the best offerings.
HAWAII at ARMY
Kickoff: Noon ET/9 a.m. PT
TV: CBS Sports Network
Line: Army -6.5
Fun fact: A flight from Honolulu to Tokyo is roughly three hours shorter than a flight from Honolulu to upstate New York. A nonconference game pitting the 3-0 Rainbow Warriors against the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters makes more sense logistically than Nick Rolovich’s team traveling to West Point.
What’s more, the noon local time kickoff is 6 a.m. Hawaiian. To say Army has a decided home-field advantage is an understatement.
Roles are reversed from two weeks ago, when Hawaii hosted Navy in a late-night kickoff. The Rainbow Warriors pounced all over the Mids early en route to a 59-41 win. Quarterback Cole McDonald carried the momentum from an outstanding Week 0 and built on it with another six touchdown passes. After beating Rice last week to move to 3-0, McDonald has an absurd 13 passing touchdowns (15 total), 1,165 yards, a completion percentage greater than 70 and no interceptions.
McDonald’s throwback style to the days of Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan setting NCAA records in June Jones’ run-and-shoot clashes with Army’s perfectly efficient Flexbone.
After years of struggles for the Black Knights, Jeff Monken arrived in West Point with a style cultivated at Georgia Southern, one of the modern forerunners in outstanding option offense. They’re coming off a 10-win season, and have the pieces (and schedule, after a Week 4 date at Oklahoma) capable of repeating that feat.
Though McDonald has taken the college football landscape by storm, his outstanding quarterbacking does nothing for a porous Rainbow Warriors defense. Army’s option offense will pepper Hawaii with a variety of looks, eat up clock and march the ball down field on drives that take the air out of the ball.
My boldest prediction of the week: Army punts at most once.
PREDICTION: ARMY 35, HAWAII 28
No. 12 LSU at No. 7 AUBURN
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT
Line: Auburn -10.5
When LSU last appeared in the Saturday Six-Pack, yours truly whiffed badly. I expected the offensive anemia that plagued Miami — with credit to LSU’s talented defense — to vex the Tigers en route to a Hurricanes win.
Well, I was only partially wrong. LSU’s offense actually wasn’t exactly scorching Miami in the Week 1 romp. The Tigers averaged a little more than 4 yards per play in the win, and little more than that Week 2 against FCS opponent Southeastern Louisiana. At 4.7 yards per play, LSU ranks No. 93 nationally, behind teams like UMass and Kansas, and tied with Western Kentucky and Tennessee.
Auburn welcomes LSU to Jordan-Hare Stadium with payback in mind from last year’s shocking LSU win in Death Valley. War Eagle has an outstanding defense in its own right, handcuffing Washington enough to scratch out a hard-fought, 21-16 win in Week 1.
LSU needs special team mishaps like those that plagued Miami and for Auburn’s offense to sputter. Jarrett Stidham is a better quarterback than Malik Rozier, so — while Auburn may not break through immediately, as the LSU defense has comparable talent to Washington — the homestanding Tigers should eventually break through with opportunities created by the defense.
PREDICTION: AUBURN 27, LSU 17
No. 17 BOISE STATE at No. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT
Line: Oklahoma State -2
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin lamented his team’s special teams execution following a Week 1 deconstruction of reigning Sun Belt Conference champion Troy on the road. Harsin again downplayed the Broncos’ dominance of UConn in Week 2.
Harsin won’t say it, so I will: This looks like the most complete and most dangerous Boise State team since 2011. That was the bunch that pounded Georgia in a virtual road game Week 1, and may have played for a BCS Championship if not for a last-second loss to TCU late in the campaign.
Quarterback Brett Rypien looks to be coming into his own, and he will indeed be key to powering Boise State to an upset. However, the most fascinating factor in this matchup with Oklahoma State is Boise State’s defensive speed and aggressiveness against the Cowboys offense.
Mike Gundy-coached teams put up points with a potent air-raid passing attack, and Oklahoma State’s remained true to form in 2018. The Pokes registered 113 in their first two games. However, quarterback Taylor Cornelius has been intercepted three times.
With Kekoa Nawahine, Tyler Horton, Avery Williams and more, Boise State boasts an outstanding secondary. Even with Leighton Vander Esch gone for the NFL, the front seven may be improved from a season ago overall.
Expect a shootout, albeit one that turns on Boise State making some defensive plays and at least Bronco sitting on the Turnover Throne.
PREDICTION: BOISE STATE 42, OKLAHOMA STATE 38
No. 4 OHIO STATE vs. No. 15 TCU
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
Line: Ohio State -12.5
This one’s notable for being the last game without Urban Meyer on the sideline, and to that end, I anticipate a lot of weird discussion about his absence that borders on gross. I am bracing myself for a lot of that this season, with a bunch of talk of “adversity” couched into the Playoff run it seems like the Buckeyes are destined to make.
And, from an on-field perspective only, Ohio State does indeed looked primed for the College Football Playoff. The offense is rife with playmakers; Dwayne Haskins continues the streak of stat-stuffing quarterbacks to play in Meyer’s system, and he has a pair of outstanding ball-carriers to help share the load.
Where Saturday’s ostensible road game seems destined to turn is on Ohio State’s defense, however. Gauging TCU’s offense based on a sloppy, albeit lopsided Week 2 win over SMU isn’t quite fair, given the weather conditions. Still, is the Horned Frogs offensive line up to the challenge of containing a scary-good Ohio State pass rush?
Nick Bosa looks nearly unblockable. That poses some problems for Shawn Robinson, a quarterback with high potential he’s yet to reach at TCU.
PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 41, TCU 20
No. 22 USC at TEXAS
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
Line: Texas -3.5
The comparison for the USC-Texas “trilogy” that immediately comes to mind: The Matrix. The first installment was groundbreaking, an instant classic for the ages. Audiences waited a few years for a follow-up, and the sequel lacked the same transformative quality of its predecessor.
Nevertheless, the second installment in both instances provided more than enough action to make viewers forget that the follow-ups weren’t necessarily classics.
But on the day of the third, I’m reminded of going to the theater to see Matrix: Revolutions with friends in 2003. By that point, we were committed to finishing the trilogy; hell, I’d gone so far as to watching The Animatrix in the months between the two sequels. Yet, it felt more like an obligation than a pleasure.
Too little time had passed between releases, early reviews were in and were decidedly negative, and the finished product was slow-paced and bleak. The finale was wholly unsatisfying. Such is the atmosphere surrounding Saturday’s game in Austin.
Someone has to win, and the loser can’t afford to lose. The stakes are high, but only because national media has made it evident either Clay Helton or Tom Herman can anticipate pitchforks with a loss. With both teams experiencing offensive struggles through the first two weeks — Texas scored just 28 in a narrow win over Tulsa, while USC mustered only field goal at Stanford — there’s a sense Saturday’s prime-time affair will be a defensive slog.
Sam Ehlinger has the experience edge compared to USC true freshman JT Daniels, but Daniels has considerably more talent around him. USC’s defense is also loaded in the front seven (there are depth issues at secondary), but the Trojans must also shake off the physical implications playing a team like Stanford a week prior.
A final-possession finish may be on the horizon, but don’t expect a great game.
PREDICTION: USC 21, TEXAS 17
No. 10 WASHINGTON at UTAH
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Line: Washington -5
The pre-match of my pick for the Pac-12 Championship Game, a blacked-out Rice-Eccles Stadium promises an atmosphere worthy of a high-stakes conference game.
Yes, stadium themes don’t have any tangible implication on games. It’s one of those cosmic frivolities that, when evaluating a matchup, functions as a red herring. But I’ll be damned if I can’t at least mention the good fortune Utah’s had when sporting black uniforms and the Mighty Utah Student Section leads the home crowd in a blackout. Among the Utes’ recent key wins in blackouts: USC in 2014 and 2016, last November’s blowout of UCLA, and TCU in the 2008 epic that effectively elevated Utah to the Sugar Bowl.
As far as factors that may have an actual bearing on the outcome, Utah has its typically outstanding defense, a hallmark of Kyle Whittingham teams. Linebacker Chase Hansen is one of the most effective playmakers in the conference, able to pursue the run and drop into pass coverage equally effectively.
The threat of savvy ball-hawks against the pass could play a huge part in Utah’s upset efforts, as Washington quarterback Jake Browning has been turnover prone. Utah’s physical front seven will ensure it’s a slog for the Huskies to mount a rushing attack, especially with Washington losing Trey Adams from the offensive line, likely for the season.
The question then becomes how much offense can Utah string together. Against an outstanding Washington defense, the answer is not much.
Northern Illinois teed off on quarterback Tyler Huntley last week, and while NIU’s Sutton Smith is an uncanny edge rusher, that Huskies team isn’t as well-rounded as this Huskies lineup.
Utah and Washington have played close games in the last few years, and Saturday’s should be no exception. Defense will shape this edition; Washington’s has a talent advantage. The Huskies also have the edge on offense. That should be enough to negate the Rice-Eccles Stadium advantage.
PREDICTION: WASHINGTON 24, UTAH 17