I love October perhaps more than any other month on the calendar. Why? Weather typically turns cooler. Fall flavors and comfort. But, mostly, it’s because football is in full swing. Teams are hitting their stride. Ballers are stepping away from the pack. The cream rises to the top and we start to get a much better picture of the college football landscape. That said, the first weekend of October kicks off with a ton of conference play, mixed with only a handful non-conference games on the calendar (some odd ones too - LSU v. Eastern Michigan??)

Either way, let’s breakdown the biggest games of the weekend, starting in Athens

Alabama at Georgia

When Alabama has the ball...Play slower. I know that OC Lane Kiffin wants to run more hurry-up, NASCAR type up-tempo. But, he can help the Alabama defense out by playing a much more controlled game, i.e Sloooooower game. Keep the snap count down and rely on RB Derrick Henry to pound the rock. I want Kiffin to utilize RB Kenyan Drake more in this game to put pressure on the Georgia perimeter. Drake is really the one weapon that can thrive in space in this game for Alabama.

Georgia doesn’t need to get exotic, but if it can vary the looks for whatever Alabama quarterback that plays, the better off the Dawg defense will be. Unleash OLB Leonard Floyd and when he lines up at ILB, bring him in the A gaps to get early pressure in the face of Jake Coker/Cooper Bateman/Alec Morris/Whomever.

Alabama Offensive Players to Watch

LT No. 74 Cam Robinson

RB No. 2 Derrick Henry

Alabama Offensive X-Factor

C No. 70 Ryan Kelly

Georgia Defensive Players to Watch

OLB/ILB No. 84 Leonard Floyd

OLB No. 59 Jordan Jenkins

Georgia Defensive X-Factor

S No. 24 Dominick Sanders

When Georgia has the ball...OC Brian Schottenheimer hasn’t been tested all season long, to be honest. Perhaps, that’s because the Georgia offense is just flat outstanding, but Alabama will provide some looks QB Greyson Lambert hasn’t seen this year. Either way, Schottenheimer needs to spread the wealth early in the game and then settle in with RB Nick Chubb in the second half. RB/ATH Sony Michel needs at least a dozen touches in this one as well, whether that’s carries or receptions. Alabama doesn’t really have a player to match up with him in space.

Defensively, Alabama isn’t truly fast so the space game that Georgia can play with Michel and bounce runs/screens/draws with Chubb is a killer. Tackling well is a must, so expect a bunch of Alabama defensive backs on the field to counteract Georgia’s advantage out in the open.

Georgia Offensive Players to Watch

G No. 73 Greg Pyke

RB No. 27 Nick Chubb

 

Georgia Offensive X-Factor

TE No. 83 Jeb Blazevich

 

Alabama Defensive Players to Watch

ILB No. 19 Reggie Ragland

S No. 4 Eddie Jackson

 

Alabama Defensive X-Factor

DEs No. 90 Jarran Reed & No. 86 A’Shawn Robinson

 

Draft Eligible Prospects to Watch

Alabama

Offense

RB No. 2 Derrick Henry

C No. 70 Ryan Kelly

TE No. 88 O.J. Howard

 

Defense

DE No. 93 Jonathan Allen (questionable to play)

NT No. 86 A’Shawn Robinson

DE No. 90 Jarran Reed

OLB No. 30 Denzel Devall

MLB No. 19 Reggie Ragland

CB No. 5 Cyrus Jones

 

Georgia

Offense

WR No. 26 Malcolm Mitchell

G No. 73 Greg Pyke

T No. 71 John Theus

 

Defense

OLB No. 84 Leonard Floyd

OLB No. 59 Jordan Jenkins

S No. 20 Quincy Mauger

 

Conclusion

A few weeks ago, I picked Alabama to beat Ole Miss, thinking that it would be a game played between the tackles at some point. Ole Miss made it a space game and that’s honestly not a game this Alabama team is built to handle. Georgia will run the ball between the tackles and that’s Alabama’s game. Chubb will have to work for everything he gets in this one but Michel on the perimeter could have a fantastic afternoon against the Alabama defensive perimeter. Lambert has been hot lately and as long as he takes what the ‘Bama secondary gives him and doesn’t get greedy, the Dawgs should win and stay undefeated.

 

Georgia - 34 vs. Alabama - 29

 

Notre Dame at Clemson

When Notre Dame has the ball...QB DeShone Kizer has thrived throwing the ball outside the numbers. He’s been effective throwing it, in general, but he’s really destroyed opponents down the field near the sideline. That means Fuller, who should get a healthy dose of Alexander in his kitchen. But, Prosise can break the game wide open in this run game as the loss of Tarean Folston really hasn’t set them back in the run game at all. In fact, the run game may be more dangerous with the additional touches for Prosise, Josh Adams and Amir Carlisle.

Clemson may have the biggest front the Irish have faced this season. On the road at Virginia, the Irish OL struggled a bit with UVa’s front seven so this facing this Clemson front will be a chore. DC Brent Venables’ defense must force the ball to bounce to the outside to allow 2nd and 3rd level speed to run it down. Then, it’s up to the Tigers to tackle consistently enough to keep the big plays in check.

Notre Dame Offensive Players to Watch

WR No. 7 Will Fuller

RB No. 20 C.J. Prosise

 

Notre Dame Offensive X-Factor

C No. 72 Nick Martin

 

Clemson Defensive Players to Watch

DE No. 90 Shaq Lawson

S No. 1 Jayron Kearse

 

Clemson Defensive X-Factor

CB No. 2 Mackensie Alexander

 

When Clemson has the ball...The loss of WR Mike Williams has left a void that the offense seems to not have replaced. But, the difference in this whole game is the presence of Deshaun Watson under center. Playmaker. Calm. Poised. Smooth. Leader. The backbone of this offense. I don’t want to see him running the ball much, but a few scheduled runs will keep Notre Dame honest.

I’m not a fan of using spy technique a ton but with two excellent linebackers at the second level - Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt - I wouldn’t be surprised to see DC Brian Van Gorder spy one of them on Watson at various times in this game to keep scrambles and off-scheduled plays to a minimum.

Clemson Offensive Players to Watch

QB No. 4 Deshaun Watson

RB No. 9 Wayne Gallman II

 

Clemson Offensive X-Factor

TE No. 16 Jordan Leggett/No. 81 Stanton Seckinger

 

Notre Dame Defensive Players to Watch

ILB No. 9 Jaylon Smith

DE No. 91 Sheldon Day

 

Notre Dame Defensive X-Factor

CB/Nickel No. 6 KeiVarae Russell

 

Draft Eligible Prospects to Watch

Notre Dame

Offense

LT No. 78 Ronnie Stanley

C/G No. 72 Nick Martin

WR No. 7 Will Fuller

WR No. 2 Chris Brown

RB No. 20 C.J. Prosise

 

Defense

DE No. 91 Sheldon Day

ILB No. 9 Jaylon Smith

ILB No. 38 Joe Schmidt

S No. 22 Elijah Shumate

 

Clemson

Offense

RB No. 9 Wayne Gallman

 

Defense

DE No. 90 Shaq Lawson

CB No. 2 Mackensie Alexander

S No. 1 Jayron Kearse

 

Conclusion

Ultimately, I think this one comes down to the fact that Clemson has its main weapon pulling the trigger - Watson, while two of ND’s three most dangerous offensive threats - Folston & QB Malik Zaire. This is the weekend that the losses of Zaire, Falston and Jarron Jones finally rear their ugly head. I don’t know if Clemson is beyond Clemson-ing one at home, but I get the feeling with Watson at the helm, those days are few and far between. The silky smooth sophomore will make special plays at the right times in a Tiger win.

 

Clemson - 29 vs. Notre Dame- 22

 

Other Games of Note

Mississippi State at Texas A&M

Can anyone stop Christian Kirk? The Aggie true freshman dynamo has set the world on fire and might be the most electric player in the SEC, not named Fournette or Chubb. Last year, Mississippi State embarrassed the undisciplined/poor tackling Aggie defense and it didn’t help matters that the A&M offense turned the ball over repeatedly in Starkville. Although the Aggies are again undefeated, coming off of an overtime win over Arkansas, this time feels different. However, the Aggie defense is going to have to take away the middle of the field in the passing game or QB Dak Prescott will put 50 on the board again. I don’t think he does and I believe that this, ultimately, could be the most exciting game of the weekend.

 

Texas A&M - 30 vs. Mississippi State - 26

 

Arizona State at UCLA

Did we...or better put, did I oversell Mike Bercovici at quarterback for Arizona State? Well, I think the guy can still play, but I certainly didn’t fall as hard for the Sun Devils as some that picked ASU to be in the playoff at the end of the season. In fact, I said UCLA was my darkhorse to be the fourth team in the playoff but it’s going to be tough without defensive starsMyles Jack, Fabien Moreau and Eddie Vanderdoes, all out for the season. But, true freshman QB Josh Rosen has been all he was hyped to be, although he’s just gotten the ball to his weapons to let them make the plays. Either way you slice it, it’s working. And that will continue in a win over ASU in the Rose Bowl.

 

UCLA - 42 vs. Arizona State - 30

 

Arizona at Stanford

Two-Star Scoob is out. QB Anu Solomon is still experiencing the effects of a concussion in last week’s beatdown at the hands of UCLA. Arizona has no shot, right? Well, yeah, that’s probably about right, to be honest. Stanford lost its opener to Northwestern and then immediately turned it around the following week and hasn’t looked back. 31-7 over UCF. 41-31 over USC in the Coliseum and 42-24 over Oregon State in Corvallis. With that offensive blip v. Northwestern behind it, don’t expect the Cardinal offense to falter in that way again this season.

 

Stanford - 41 vs. Arizona - 20

 

Thursday October 1, 2015 - Home team in Bold

Miami (FL) - 31 vs. Cincinnati - 29

 

Friday October 2, 2015 - Home Team is Bold

Memphis - 48 vs. USF - 30

Temple - 23 vs. Charlotte - 14

BYU - 24 vs. U Conn - 12

 

Saturday October 3, 2015 - Home Team is Bold

Tulane - 25 vs. UCF - 23

Houston - 45 vs. Tulsa - 39

Missouri - 27 vs. South Carolina - 20

Virginia Tech - 19 vs. Pitt - 15

Penn State - 31 vs. Army - 10

Iowa State - 21 vs. Kansas - 18

Oklahoma - 23 vs. West Virginia - 21

TCU - 51 vs. Texas - 30

Michigan - 34 vs. Maryland - 9

Michigan State - 35 vs. Purdue - 10

Northwestern - 23 vs. Minnesota - 16

Iowa - 30 vs. Wisconsin - 26

NC State - 29 vs. Louisville - 24

Akron - 29 vs. Ohio - 28

U Mass - 38 vs. FIU - 27

Toledo - 35 vs. Ball State - 20

Northern Illinois - 31 vs. Central Michigan - 26

Appalachian State - 27 vs. Wyoming - 23

Liberty - 28 vs. Georgia State - 24

Duke - 24 vs. Boston College - 19

Georgia Tech - 42 vs. North Carolina - 27

Ohio State - 41 vs. Indiana - 23

Florida State - 29 vs. Wake Forest - 9

Rice - 38 vs. Western Kentucky - 35

Bowling Green - 37 vs. Buffalo - 26

Kent State - 34 vs. Miami (OH) - 17

Marshall - 46 vs. Old Dominion - 23

Navy - 29 vs. Air Force - 27

Baylor - 63 vs. Texas Tech - 49 (Arlington - AT&T Stadium)

East Carolina - 39 vs. SMU - 31

Auburn - 42 vs. San Jose State - 24

Nebraska - 28 vs. Illinois - 23

Oklahoma State - 38 vs. Kansas State - 27

Cal - 49 vs. Washington State - 30

Arkansas State - 45 vs. Idaho - 20

Nevada - 41 vs. UNLV - 29

Troy - 34 vs. South Alabama - 23

Utah State - 31 vs. Colorado State - 24

Ole Miss - 26 vs. Florida - 17

Tennessee - 31 vs. Arkansas - 27

LSU - 54 vs. Eastern Michigan - 10

Southern Miss - 38 vs. North Texas - 17

La. Tech - 35 vs. ULL - 24

Georgia Southern - 32 vs. ULM - 20

MTSU - 23 vs. Vanderbilt - 21

Kentucky - 49 vs. Eastern Kentucky - 24

New Mexico - 41 vs. NMSU - 18

UTEP - 41 vs. UTSA - 29

Oregon - 37 vs. Colorado - 34

Boise State - 35 vs. Hawai’i - 13

San Diego State - 54 vs. Fresno State - 34

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