Game of the Week: #6 Georgia (1-0) at #24 South Carolina (1-1)
The Georgia Bulldogs head to Columbia for a rivalry game against the South Carolina Gamecocks, still riding high off their win over Clemson in week one, fully rested after a bye week, and a seven-point favorite. The Gamecocks were outscored by Texas A&M in week one, losing 52-28, before beating East Carolina 33-23 last week. The South Carolina defense was much improved against East Carolina, but still has some work to do. Now they have to face the Georgia offense, and particularly their rushing attack, with the deepest running back unit in the nation, led by Todd Gurley. While the Gamecocks have struggled with their pass defense, and no their rush defense, they should still be outmatched by Georgia both in the trenches and at the skill positions. The Gamecocks have won all four meetings in this series when both teams have been ranked and playing in Columbia, including a 35-7 win in a 2012 matchup of top 10 teams. Georgia won last year’s game in Athens, 41-30, ending a three-game losing streak in the series. These teams are different, though, and Georgia is, quite simply, the better team here.
Georgia 38, South Carolina 24.
Big Game Guarantee: #12 UCLA (2-0) at Texas (1-1)
UCLA travels to Arlington, TX for a “neutral site game” (yeah, right), having fallen five spots in the AP Poll over the last two weeks after struggling in an a 28-20 win at Virginia and a 42-35 win against Memphis. Against Virginia, the defense’s strong performance picked up for the offense on a down day, and against Memphis, while the defense struggled, the offense outscored the Tigers. Which UCLA team will show up for this road test? On the other side, Texas isn’t coming in hot either. After beating North Texas in week one, the Longhorns were embarrassed at home last week, losing 41-7 to BYU. After that one game, a team many thought could possibly contend for a Big 12 title in coach Charlie Strong’s first season has been written off, with many saying Texas is in for a “long year”. While both teams come into this game struggling, UCLA is, at least on paper, the better team, and is favored by eight. QB Brett Hundley, when playing well, is one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country, and RB/LB Myles Jack is a difference maker on both sides of the ball. Texas is without their QB, David Ash, who is out for several weeks with a bad concussion. UCLA will allow the Longhorns to keep it close, but will still prove they are the better team in the end.
UCLA 28, Texas 20.
Closer Than the Experts Think: Tennessee (2-0) at #4 Oklahoma (2-0)
Oklahoma is favored by 21 in this SEC vs. Big 12 matchup. Tennessee comes in as a program on the rise, albeit slowly, under coach Butch Jones, and hoping to be a potential sleeper in the SEC East, which is a possibility since there is only one overwhelmingly strong team in the division. The Vols head to Norman, after a pair of comfortable early season victories over Utah State and Arkansas State, to face a top five opponent in Oklahoma, who comes in after a pair of blowout wins of their own over Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. In those games, the Sooners have combined for a 62-3 score in the first half, allowing starters to sit most of the second half of both games. Tennessee will at least make the Sooners play four quarters here. Tennessee’s defense comes in after two strong performances, having held their opponents to just 7-for-31 on third downs so far on the season, after ranking 90th nationally in that category a year ago. The Vols also have 15 tackles for loss. I don’t think Tennessee’s offense is quite ready to outscore Oklahoma, but their defense should keep them in the game. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has spoken out in the past about the SEC”s hype and media attention, so this matchup between his team and an SEC program has a little extra meaning. This is the first regular season meeting between the schools, although they split a pair of Orange Bowls in 1939 and 1968.
Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 19.
Another Closer Than the Experts Think: East Carolina (1-1) at #17 Virginia Tech (2-0)
Virginia Tech is favored by 10 in a home bout with the Pirates of East Carolina. The Hokies come in fresh off their upset win over Ohio State last week in Columbus, and are back where they are a majority of the time–ranked in the AP Poll–for the first time this year. The Pirates come in off an upset bid that fell short in a 33-23 loss at South Carolina last week. The Pirates have a strong, hurry-up offensive attack, led by QB Shane Carden, which gave the Gamecocks fits for at least parts of last week’s game. Virginia Tech, a program not usually known for their offense but instead for their defense and special teams, scored 35 on the Buckeyes last week, although they were impressive in all three facets of the game. East Carolina has had another week to prepare to face another ranked team, and should be more primed to win this week after knowing where they lacked a week ago. Additionally, the Hokies always seem to struggle to beat ECU, winning last year by a 15-10 score, and in the meeting before that in 2011 winning 17-10. Expect a close, low scoring game, that the Hokies will find a way to win.
Virginia Tech 17, East Carolina 14.
NFL Game of the Week: Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
A pair of 2013 division winners meet on Monday night in one of a few marquee matchups for week two in the NFL. The Eagles didn’t look good at all for the first half of last week’s game against Jacksonville, but scored 34 unanswered to beat the Jaguars by a 34-17 count. The Colts also caught fire late, but in their case their opponent was too much, as they scored the final 14 points of the game against the defending AFC Champion Broncos, but lost 31-24. The Colts are three-point home favorites, which in the NFL generally means the teams are pretty even on paper, as the home team generally gets three to four points in the spread, which is understandable in a game like this, since the Colts have a loud and passionate fan base, and Lucas Oil Stadium is a difficult place to play. Two very good offenses are meeting here, with Chip Kelly’s high-powered Eagles attack led by QB Nick Foles matching up with the Colts and their former top draft pick, QB Andrew Luck. An interesting storyline is that Foles was drafted in the third round (88th overall) in that 2012 draft when the Colts took Luck 1st overall, although both have had great starts to their careers. The Eagles defense is probably a touch better, but with the Colts playing at home, coming off the tough loss in Denver, they will be a team on a mission.
Indianapolis 31, Philadelphia 27.