Pregame Pep Talk: A report from upstate New York, plus X-Factors and Saturday Selections

Roderick McDowell

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CORINTH, N.Y. – Spending a couple days upstate. No, not South Carolina’s version. The one where New York City businesspeople escape on the weekends to get away from it all.

It rained here today for the first time in a couple weeks, which means I brought the rain with me in my back pocket … obviously, it’s still stuck on the setting from July, when it rained 562 days in a row. (All figures approximate.) That means it could be muggy tomorrow, but don’t necessarily expect a heat stroke inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

By the way, if you’re less interested in reading and more into listening, I did hop on ESPN Radio Central New York yesterday for a segment.

Names to Know: Three X-Factors when the Tigers have the ball

#25 Roderick McDowell, 5-10, 200, sr., RB, Clemson. As mentioned in tomorrow’s Inside the Game: Clemson has three rushes of 20-plus yards, in 177 tries. It’s hard to pick out McDowell, but if he could break one and be more than just a four-yards-at-a-time type of runner, this offense would be close to unstoppable.

#40 Darrell Smith, 6-1, 240, sr., TE, Clemson. Gut guess here. Somebody’s got to block the blitzes. Smith’s teetering on irrelevance on the field; if there’s ever a time for him to shine, it’s now.

#96 Jay Bromley, 6-4, 285, sr., DT, Syracuse. Funny thing: for all the talk of Syracuse’s exotic blitzes, it’s the nose guard with the most sacks (3), tackles for loss (5) and forced fumbles (2).

Names to Know: Three X-Factors when the Orange has the ball

#10 Terrel Hunt, 6-3, 219, so., QB, Syracuse. Hunt yards per carry: 7.0. Tajh Boyd yards per carry: 3.2. Hunt’s throws were also far more accurate (76.7 percent) than the man he replaced, Drew Allen (57.4), but consider the opponents in Tulane and Wagner.

#45 Jerome Smith, 6-0, 226, jr., RB, Syracuse. Kind of like McDowell, he’s a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust back. But he’s had a better nose for the end zone; nobody else in the ACC can match his seven touchdowns so far.

#42 Stephone Anthony, 6-2, 245, jr., LB, Clemson. Love this stat. In the two games where Clemson’s starters played wire-to-wire (Georgia and North Carolina State), Spencer Shuey has 30 tackles and Anthony has 29. They’ve each been really, really solid.

Names to Know: Three players you should watch since I can’t be at every game

#7 Jordan Hall, 5-9, 191, sr., RB, Ohio State. Eighth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (85.4), but more importantly, eight is also his touchdowns on the year.

#22 Treyvon Green, 5-10, 215, jr., RB, Northwestern. Fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (101.0), and provides some stability to an offense that trades off between quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian.

#16 C.J. Brown, 6-3, 210, sr., QB, Maryland. The ACC’s leader in total offense (331.5 yards per game), the Terrapins have launched from 123rd to 17th in the country in total offense. (Read that sentence again.) It goes without saying C.J. Brown is kinda sorta important to any type of upset hopes Maryland harbors in Tallahassee.

Saturday’s showdowns

No. 25 Maryland Terrapins at No. 8 Florida State Seminoles ~ 12 p.m., ESPN

That BC trip was a little tougher for the Seminoles than they expected. Maryland should feel very good about itself coming off a bye week, when West Virginia went and knocked off No. 11 Oklahoma State to validate the Terrapins’ big win. That all being said: Maryland is 0-11 in Tallahassee. Be careful picking against history.

Brenner picks: Seminoles 27, Terrapins 24

No. 3 Clemson Tigers at Syracuse Orange ~ 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

Might be a game for two and a half quarters. Don’t think the Orange are mature or experienced enough to outplay its guest for all four.

Brenner picks: Tigers 31, Orange 21

No. 22 Arizona State Sun Devils at Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish ~ 7:30 p.m., NBC

The Sun Devils have had themselves an interesting year; they were the benefactors of one of the most bizarre game-ending situations you’ll see this side of Fail Mary (beating Wisconsin on KneelGate), and then lit up the scoreboard to send Lane Kiffin on his way out of USC. Both those games were at home, though. No way UND loses back-to-back in front of Touchdown Jesus.

Brenner picks: Irish 38, Sun Devils 24

No. 15 Washington Huskies at No. 5 Stanford Cardinal ~ 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Very impressed with the Huskies defensively of late. This upcoming stretch (at Stanford, vs. Oregon, at Arizona State back-to-back-to-back, and trips to UCLA and Oregon State loom in November) will be the ultimate test, and it’s not going to begin well.

Brenner picks: Cardinal 31, Huskies 27

The Rundown

@Navy 49, Air Force 20. Really hope our nation’s leaders take time out of their busy day to watch some football. They deserve a break. Oh … wait. (Actual football analysis: the Midshipmen could challenge for 500 rushing yards on this day. Seriously.)

@Virginia Tech 18, North Carolina 14. Logan Thomas! Bryn Renner! It’s the Battle of the Bleh Quarterbacks, exclusively on the ACC Network!

@Boston College 27, Army 9. Army lost to Wake Forest, Wake Forest lost to Boston College. By the transitive property … it’s time for BC to break through a little bit.

Georgia 44, @Tennessee 24. The Bulldogs continue to make the Tigers look good.

@Miami 28, Georgia Tech 21. Read somewhere that the Hurricanes really struggle in short yardage. That’s surprising when Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson are on the roster.

@Wake Forest 16, North Carolina State 14. These are the types of games N.C. State professes to win with ease. Which means it’s time for the annual “N.C. State Still Hasn’t Arrived” stubbing of the toe.

Arkansas 20, @No. 18 Florida 13. Could be a big-time win for Bret Bielema’s first year, and adds to the hardships in Gainesville.

@Auburn 31, Ole Miss 19. Pretty despicable developments out of Oxford. Auburn’s had a week to prep for a team led by Gus Malzahn’s good buddy, who’s got more than a minor distraction on his plate.

@No. 13 South Carolina 27, Kentucky 10. When the Gamecocks improve to 4-1, will the headlines the team creates still make it sound like they’re 1-4? Goodness gracious. Chill pills, Columbia.

@No. 17 Baylor 56, West Virginia 34. I don’t think that’s enough points, actually. The Bears’ offense is super-impressive. And no, the Mountaineers aren’t likely to lop off two major upsets in a row.

                                                             GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 16 Northwestern Wildcats ~ 8 p.m., ABC

When College GameDay announced it was going to Evanston, I poked fun at Northwestern because of its reputation for, ah, a less-than-enthused fan base. That’s been a basketball school, and the fan was studying for a test while Northwestern was battling Akron in the NIT (which really stands for Northwestern’s Invited Tournament). I just remember Evanston as kind of a dreary campus; a great one for developing academic minds (which, ahem, is the point of college and all) but not for evoking pandemonium over a football game. So this Saturday’s a great chance – really, your only chance, Northwestern fanatics – to prove you’re so much more than Chicago’s Big Ten team.

As far as football … Urban Meyer is 17-0 at Ohio State. And even the end of the Luke Fickell era was four losses by a combined 18 points. The Buckeyes simply know how to hold off its Big Ten foes, with more talent and guile than the other guy. The unfortunate note for Northwestern is this: it’s kind of a no-win situation in that if the Wildcats actually pull this off, Pat Fitzgerald can start cleaning up his office, because he’ll be off to USC or Texas or somewhere bigger by Valentine’s Day.

Brenner picks: Buckeyes 37, Wildcats 13

Week 5 Best Call: Now that’s the way it’s supposed to go: nearly doubled my win total in one day. Easily my finest work was nearly nailing the Clemson-Wake Forest (I said 56-10; it was 56-7) and USC-UCF (I said 30-24; it was 28-25) scores to a tee. Also saw the Arizona State explosion coming; didn’t necessarily see the 4:30 a.m. Lane Kiffin firing coming.

Week 5 Worst Call: Sorry, Stanford. A thousand apologies. Didn’t mean to doubt you against Wazzu. And one of these days, I’ll nail down the game of the week – I took LSU over Georgia. Now 0-for-2 in the category … you’re welcome, Northwestern.

Last week: 13-4

Track record: 27-13

That’s it for the Pep Talk. Now go out there and enjoy the beautiful foliage of upstate New York in fall. That’s what they say in locker rooms, right?

-AB

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