Mark Lindquist

Weekly Update

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Match-ups Mixer: Week 1

Monday, August 28, 2017


In this column, we’ll be running down the most and least favorable match-ups for the coming week’s games.


Potential to Shine


Colorado State QB Nick Stevens vs. Colorado:  

 

We just watched Stevens carve up Oregon State for 334 yards and three touchdowns, so there might be a touch of recency bias here. Beyond that, though, Colorado’s secondary is ripe for the burning. They lost corners Ahkello Witherspoon and Chidobe Awuzie, plus safety Tedric Thompson, to the NFL this spring and Stevens has led the Rams to 35-plus points in seven consecutive games dating back to last season (including their bowl loss to Idaho).


Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke vs. Bowling Green:


Forecasting a Brian Lewerke-led offense for positive output is a somewhat precarious proposition, but the Falcons are going to offer him plenty of opportunity. Two factors Lewerke has going for him in this one -- Bowling Green’s pass defense was one of the worst in the country last year, surrendering over 273 yards on average, and Bowling Green runs an Air Raid. This will mean (whether or not Bowling Green’s own offense clicks) the Spartans will have plenty of possessions. And if they fall behind early, they’ll have all the more impetus to throw on a porous defense. This game has sneaky shootout potential.


Washington QB Jake Browning vs. Rutgers:


This will be the second consecutive season that these two teams have opened against each other. Browning put up 287 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 48-13 win last year. Expect similar numbers in the rematch. He’s been overshadowed by Sam Darnold in the Pac-12 this offseason, but that shouldn’t be the case.


Northwestern RB Justin Jackson vs. Nevada:


This one’s pretty simple. Nevada offered up the worst run defense in the country last season. And they’re now attempting an Air Raid. Expect the Wildcats to lean hard on the run in what’s perhaps the biggest Strength-Against-Weakness match-up of the opening week. 150-plus yards are very much in Jackson’s near future when he suits up for this one.


South Alabama RB Xavier Johnson vs. Ole Miss:


There’s dud potential in a Sun Belt vs. SEC showdown, but there’s also secret upside for Johnson and the Jaguars. Advanced statistics had Ole Miss as a middle-of-the-pack outfit against the run last season (66th in Bill Connelly’s rushing-defense S&P+ metric). The pure numbers had them considerably worse, as they yielded 246 yards on average, a mark which ranked as the 10th worst in the country. Johnson has rushed for at least 800 yards each of the past two seasons. The Rebels have the potential to be a trainwreck on defense this year.


Iowa RB Akrum Wadley vs. Wyoming:


The Cowboys won’t have to worry about Nathan Stanley raining destruction from above for the Hawkeyes, but Wadley will bring plenty of heat on the ground against a Wyoming squad which ranked as the 24th-worst outfit against the run last season. Wadley’s YPC average has risen each of the last three years -- spiking at 6.4 YPC for the past season -- and he finished out 2016 on a hot streak, with five games of 100-plus yards rushing in his last eight contests. We’ll also get our first chance to see how the Hawkeyes plan on utilizing Wadley and Nevada transfer James Butler in an actual game. It should be a fascinating dynamic.  


Illinois WR Mike Dudek vs. Ball State:


The Illini failed to even average 20 points a game last season and unless QB Chayce Crouch does big things, it could be another struggle this year. The return of Dudek from a pair of ACL tears which cost him the past two seasons would be clutch. He dunked on the Big Ten with a 76-1308-6 receiving line as a true freshman before his body betrayed him. Ball State offers a nice soft opener for him as he tries to reenter the light. Fellow wideout Malik Turner is also a safe bet for a solid showing, here. Ball State’s pass defense is putrid.


Eastern Michigan WR Sergio Bailey vs. Charlotte:


Per Bill Connelly, the 49ers boasted (?) the 108th pass defense in the FBS a year ago. Paging Mr. Roback and Mr. Bailey. Bailey is a candidate to surpass 1,000 yards this season.


Virginia Tech WR Cam Phillips vs. West Virginia:


Expect the Hokies to pick at the Mountaineers’ inexperienced secondary on repeat in the opener. Joshua Jackson is not a proven performer at quarterback, yet, but Phillips offers one heck of a go-to after logging a 76-985-5 receiving line. You can also expect to see Phillips used as a rusher at least a time or two, too -- he received 30 carries a year ago.


Potential to Crater


Boise State QB Brett Rypien vs. Troy:


A tricky opening weekend test for the Broncos and Rypien in particular. The Trojans return most of the secondary which put up S&P+’s 20th best defense against the pass a year ago. This is a potential bear trap game, made all the more so with RB Alexander Mattison limited in camp for undivulged reasons. More on that later.


UMass QB Andrew Ford vs. Coastal Carolina:


Rolling the dice on a team that wasn’t even in the FBS a year ago is a risk, but what is life without risks. Ride on Chanticleers! Coastal Carolina’s aggressive defense isn’t going to stop being that with the step up in level. UMass, meanwhile, is coming off a gut-punch loss to Hawaii and must immediately turn around to face what will be a fired up group on the road.


Boise State RB Alexander Mattison vs. Troy:


If I’m nervous about Rypien’s prospects on Saturday, I’m downright terrified about Mattison. The heir apparent to Jeremy McNichols, Mattison has barely participated in preseason camp due to a minor injury concern. We think? Head coach Bryan Harsin has played this one close to the vest. Factor in that Mattison underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum and the waters become even murkier. Harsin has said that Mattison will play against the Trojans, but playing and receiving double-digit carries are different things. Ryan Wolpin is the name to watch if Mattison is unable to give it a full go.


Florida State RBs Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers vs. Alabama:


The Seminoles backfield is a spicy one. It’s going to rip up the ACC this season. Akers has all the upside in the universe and Patrick is just starting to dig into his now that Dalvin Cook is off doing work with the Vikings. We’re not going to see the razzle-dazzle this week, though. Not against Bama. The Tide destroyed the run last season. Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson, Reuben Foster, Tim Williams etc. are off in the NFL, but reloading is not an issue for the Tide, bad news for Patrick and Akers.


Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown vs. Temple:


It’ll be interesting to see how quickly the Irish offense sparks. They face a trio of more than competent defensive teams in Temple, Georgia and Boston College to open the season. Temple is a particularly vexing case for QB Brandon Wimbush and WR St. Brown -- the Owls bring back an experienced secondary which ranked second only to Michigan in terms of passing yardage allowed last season, surrendering 145.2 yards a game. Don’t be surprised to see the Irish lean on the run with Josh Adams and Dexter Williams.


Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Florida:


The Gators have had...ahem...a bite taken out of their defense, with the likes of Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye all selected in this spring’s draft. That’s plenty of talent gone, but Florida will make like all good SEC teams and fill in the holes in the ship at a rapid clip. And over at Michigan, Wilton Speight will be playing quarterback. Get excited. Speight’s fine, but this is going to be a low-scoring slug fest. Throw in the fact that this is Peoples-Jones’ first game on the big stage and expectations need to be tempered. A “first to 20 points wins” kind of contest if there ever was one.




Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.
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