TJ’S THREE: WEEK 2
Oregon @ Ohio State (Columbus, OH) OSU –14.5 per Fanduel
Oregon struggled in week 1 to beat Fresno State, earning a 31-24 decision. QB Anthony Brown was ineffective throwing the ball, completing 15-24 passes for 172 yards with 1 TD. He also rushed for 62 yards and another score. The rushing attack for the Ducks was by committee with CJ Verdell getting 18 carries for 74 yards and a TD and Travis Dye toted the rock 13 times for 64 yards and a TD. The Oregon defense at times got pushed around by the Fresno State offense and gave up 373 yards. All American DL Kayvon Thibodeaux was injured in the 1st half and sat out the rest of the game with an ankle sprain. If he’s not 100% that could spell trouble for the Ducks on defense this week in Columbus. Coach Mario Cristobal announced LB Dru Mathis will be out with an injury for the game in Columbus, depleting a defense that will need everyone at 100% if they want to slow the Buckeye offense. The D will get suspended DB’s, DJ James and Jamal Hill back for OSU, which should be a boost to the secondary. While I understand it may be human nature to “take it easy” in the opener if the opponent isn’t considered strong, especially if you have a monster game coming up the following week, but Fresno State isn’t a pushover by any means. On paper the Ducks should have crushed the Bulldogs, but don’t tell Fresno that!
Ohio State opened the 2021 season with a difficult road game at Minnesota but survived with a 45-31 win. The first half saw Redshirt Freshman QB CJ Stroud struggle with his timing. However, the 2nd half saw Stroud get into a rhythm with the group of loaded WR’s on the Ohio State roster. Stroud finished with 294 passing yards and 4 TD’s. The OSU running game picked up the slack in the first half while Stroud was figuring things out. The Buckeyes top rusher was Miyan Williams who ran only 9 times but gained 125 yards and a TD. The receivers were led by star WR Chris Olave who hauled in 9 catches for 117 yards and 2 TD’s. Fellow WR Garrett Wilson had 5 catches for 80 yards and a TD. While versatile RB TreVeyon Henderson added 1 catch for a 70-yard TD. The OSU defense gave up 409 yards of offense as star Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim gashed the Buckeye defense on 30 carries for 163 yards and 2 TD’s prior to getting injured. They will need to tighten things up if they hope to shut down the Oregon offense.
Prediction: Watching the Fresno State offense move the ball up and down the field against Oregon, even when Thibodeaux was in, wasn’t reassuring for the Ducks faithful. And knowing that CJ Stroud looked comfortable in the 2nd half of the Minnesota game tells me the Ducks may not have what it takes to win this game. If the Ohio State offense gets rolling against Oregon, the Ducks cannot go stagnant on offense and survive. With the status of Thibodeaux up in the air, even with the addition of the 2 suspended DB’s, I have a very difficult time giving the Ducks a chance in this game. Ohio State: 41 Oregon: 17. Pick the Buckeyes to cover and then some.
Iowa @ Iowa State (Ames, IA) Iowa St -4.5 per Fanduel
Iowa dominated Indiana in their week 1 matchup, winning 34-6. Hawkeyes QB Spencer Petras struggled throwing as he ended up 13 of 27 for 145 yards with his only score coming on a run. Tyler Goodson led the Iowa rushing attack with 99 yards and 1 TD. But the star for the Hawkeyes was DB Riley Moss who intercepted 2 Indiana passes and returned both for TD’s. The Hawkeye defense smothered Indiana, surrendering only 233 yards and giving up no TD’s. All in all a typical day at the office for the Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa State started the 2021 season against Northern Iowa and, as history has shown, struggled against UNI but still earned a 16-10 win. Star QB Brock Purdy went 21-26 passing but only had 199 yards and no TD’s. He also chipped in 58 yards rushing, but, again, no TD’s. Cyclones workhorse RB Breece Hall rushed 23 times for only 69 yards but was able to get Iowa State’s only score. WR Xavier Hutchinson caught 7 of Purdy’s passes for 88 yards. The Iowa State defense stifled Northern Iowa, only allowing 275 yards.
Prediction: Since being hired as Iowa State’s head coach in 2016, Matt Campbell has done a lot of things for Iowa State. One thing he has never done: Beat Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. The way Iowa dominated Indiana last week coupled with the struggles of Iowa State against a MUCH inferior opponent brings me to one conclusion: Iowa will dominate this game as well. Iowa: 33 Iowa State: 13 I struggle to see why Iowa is an underdog in this game but I’m taking them straight up so, yeah, give me the points and take Iowa.
Pitt @ Tennessee (Knoxville, TN) Pitt -3.5 per Fanduel
Pitt took care of business against UMass last week, 51-7. 4th year starting QB Kenny Pickett passed for 273 yards and 2 TD’s while adding 39 rushing yards. The Panthers were led on the ground by Vincent Davis who rushed 6 times for 32 yards and 1 TD. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s passing attack spread the ball amongst the WR’s, RB’s and TE’s as 11 different Panthers caught a pass. They were led by monster TE Lucas Krull who had 5 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD. The Panther defense smothered UMass, allowing only 216 yards.
Tennessee started the Josh Huepel era at home against Bowling Green and picked up a 38-6 win. Starting QB Joe Milton, a transfer from Michigan, started the game on fire but fizzled in the 2nd quarter and only completed 2 passes in the 2nd half. Milton ended 11-23 for 140 yards and 1 TD. He also chipped in 44 rushing yards and 2 TD’s. New RB’s Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans picked up the Volunteer offense with Small rushing for 124 yards while Evans picked up 116. Both had 1 TD each. The receivers were led by Jalin Hyatt who had 4 grabs for 62 yards but it’s Hyatt’s 2 drops that stalled Tennessee drives that could have led to TD’s. The Vol defense only gave up 220 yards and no TD’s. Head Coach Josh Huepel praised DB Theo Jackson, who was all over the field disturbing the Falcons offense all night.
Prediction: If you know me, you know this is the HARDEST game for me to pick. I grew up a Pitt fan and a Tennessee fan but have decided 4 years ago to go all in with Tennessee, and no longer be a Pitt fan. (fan transfer portal, I guess) One thing I’ve learned over the years: don’t bet with your heart. Tennessee’s offensive struggles in week 1 could have been because Josh Huepel did not open up the play book too much against Bowling Green. The drops and some over-throws by Milton didn’t help. But the Vols run game was firing on all cylinders. Pitt’s stats against UMass didn’t blow you away, but they didn’t need to. Pickett’s a 4th year starter who is familiar with the Panther offense. Pitt’s defense is extremely good but the DL’s and secondary have a number of new faces. Tennessee’s defense generated decent pressure on Bowling Green but they are facing a much better offensive line this week against Pitt. Pitt’s kicking game was scary as new kicker Sam Scarton went 4-5 on extra points but for some reason kept pushing his kicks to the right. If this game comes down to a FG Pitt might be in trouble if he doesn’t have ice in his veins. There are very few Pitt offensive players who have played in an environment like they’re going to see at Neyland Stadium. Brutal heat and 102,000 screaming fans are a recipe for disaster on an offense and can make their snap count predictable. Josh Huepel faced Pitt in 2018 and 2019 while coaching UCF and has familiarity with the Pitt offense and defense. While Pat Narduzzi also faced Huepel’s UCF team those years he’s not familiar with the massive turnover on the Volunteer roster. Pitt’s inability to run the ball may just be the key to this game. If Heupel opens up the playbook more, and the Vols capitalize on what they missed last week, I think the Vols pull out the win at home against the Panthers. Tennessee: 27 Pitt: 23 Tennessee is a 3 point underdog at home, again I’m taking the dog here straight up so yes, take those 3 points.