Ward’s Winners: Week 3

By: James Ward
   
Overrated/Underrated:

Lincoln Riley: In his first road game as a college football head coach, Riley went to Columbus and upset the No. 2 team in the country. No way do the Sooners win that game if Bob Stoops is the coach. Underrated.

Brian Kelly: Following another one possession (yes, one point is one possession) loss, the Notre Dame coach had a heated exchange with a beat writer. Kelly has had a up-and-down tenure at Notre Dame, but in recent years, it’s been mostly down and he just always seems to be worried about the wrong things. Following a loss, there’s always an excuse or someone to blame. When in reality, his teams are never put in the right position to win. Overrated.

Clemson Defense: On Saturday, the Tigers defense held Auburn and upstart quarterback Jarrett Stidham to just six points. The Clemson defense looks capable of leading the Tigers to an ACC Championship, despite potential offensive struggles behind new quarterback Kelly Bryant. Underrated.

USC/Texas: One of the most memorable games in my lifetime is the 2006 Rose Bowl where Vince Young pulled off one of the greatest athletic performances of all time. The two teams square off again this weekend, with no record of that game ever happening according to the NCAA and USC. New Longhorns head coach Tom Herman made his reputation as a giant killer. Herman’s teams at Ohio State and Houston were underdogs 11 times and Herman’s teams won all 11 games. Underrated.

 
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:

1) Last weekend, Eastern Michigan defeated Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. for their first ever victory over a Power Five school. Heading into Saturday, the Eagles were 0-59 against Power Five opponents. After playing competitively against Washington in Week 1, this loss was another step back for the Rutgers football program.

2) Clemson’s defense has only allowed five plays of 10+ yards this season, which is by far the best in FBS among schools that have played two games. The Clemson defense has the ability to dominate games, much like the Alabama defense from last year. (h/t: @BruceFeldmanCFB)

3) San Diego State and Stanford play against each other this weekend for the first time since 1988 and there’s an interesting connection between the two head coaches. San Diego State head coach Rocky Long was the captain of the 1969 New Mexico football team. Long’s co-captain was Stanford head coach David Shaw’s father, Willie, who had a 30-plus-year coaching career. (h/t: @RichAckerman)
 
 
Ward’s Winners:
 
Tennessee (+4.5) at Florida: The Volunteers are looking to win two straight in this series for the first time since 2004. The last time Tennessee won in Gainesville was 2003. The winner of this game has a legitimate chance to win the SEC East, should Georgia falter late in the season. Both Florida and Tennessee faced opening week challenges. The Gators lost to Michigan, and because of their cancellation last week, Florida has yet to score an offensive touchdown. The Vols struggled against Georgia Tech on Labor Day, but they still pulled off the victory in overtime. Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady got better late in the game against Georgia Tech and considering the Florida quarterbacks were dreadful against Michigan, Tennessee actually has the advantage at quarterback.

The Tennessee defense struggled against the Georgia Tech option attack, but that was expected. Preparing for the option in Week 1 is difficult, because it’s a completely different scheme and that early in the season; teams are still working on their general offensive philosophies. Florida isn’t good enough offensively to take advantage of Tennessee’s defensive weaknesses. This will be another game where both teams struggle to score and a late field goal could win it late. Tennessee has a legitimate chance to win this game.

Purdue (+7.5) at Missouri: This is the second week in a row where the corresponding lines for both Purdue and MIzzou don’t make sense to me. I didn’t pick both of the games last week because something was a little off and Vegas always knows, but my would-be picks both hit. The Tigers entered last week as road favorites against South Carolina, and they lost by 18 points. The Boilermakers were only three point favorites against Ohio from the MAC, and Purdue won 44-21. The Boilermakers are now 2-0 ATS this season, including their week one loss to Louisville, while the Tigers are 0-2 ATS this season.

Purdue’s new head coach Jeff Brohm is an offensive genius and the Boilermakers offense has already put up points, including 28 against Louisville, where Purdue actually held a fourth quarter lead. On the other side, the Tigers fired their defensive coordinator after last week’s game against South Carolina. The Tigers defense has allowed 37 points per game through the first two weeks, and that includes 43 points to Missouri State from the FCS. Both teams are improved, but they still lie on the bottom level of their respective conferences. Take the points, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Boilermakers pull off the road upset.

Ole Miss (-4) at California: An SEC team traveling across the country to play in a Pac-12 After Dark matchup is a scary game to handicap. Last week against UT Martin, Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson had one of the best passing games in school history. He threw for 489 yards (breaking Chad Kelly’s school record), five touchdowns and following the game; he was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Conversely, the Golden Bears gave up 431 passing yards to FCS opponent Weber State last week. In a year of quarterbacks, Patterson might be next quarterback in line for NFL praise. (He’s a true sophomore and not eligible for this year’s NFL Draft.) Can Patterson break his own record in this game? I’ll never predict a quarterback throwing for 500 yards, but there’s definitely more than a chance.

Both teams struggle defensively. Last week, Weber State tallied 571 yards of total offense against Cal, while Ole Miss allowed over 200 yards rushing to UT Martin. The over-under total on the game is 73 and a game played in the 40s is entirely possible. Patterson can be the best quarterback in the SEC this season, and his growing chemistry with A.J. Brown (already 389 receiving yards through two games) has game breaking potential. The Golden Bears still have a lot of work to do before they can compete with an above average SEC team and the disparity will show in this game.

Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 4-2
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 62-49-0

James Ward is the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends and Sunday Morning Football. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).

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