Mark Lindquist

Weekly Update

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Match-ups Mixer: Week 8

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Shooting Stars


Tulsa QB Luke Skipper vs. UConn -- Chad President opened the year starting for the Golden Hurricane, but after he stumbled through six games (managing just two touchdown passes), Skipper supplanted him as starter in Saturday’s 45-17 thrashing of Houston. The raw numbers aren’t particularly noteworthy -- 9-of-18 passing for 128 yards, a touchdown, an interception -- but we’re going to roll the dice that bigger, better things are in store in an advantageous matchup for the passing game next week. UConn offers the perfect blossoming opportunity. As we’ve hit on time and time again, the Huskies offer up perhaps the worst pass defense in the country.


Arizona QB Khalil Tate vs. Cal -- Tate threw for just 148 yards against UCLA on Saturday, but oh, by the way, he also rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns. And that’s a step down from his dissection of Colorado a week ago, when he went off for an FBS--for-quarterback record 327 yards rushing. The idea that he could rush for another 200 yards against the Golden Bears is tantalizing, if unrealistic. 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns? Well within reason. Cal has tended to have more problems with the pass than the run, but they’ve yet to face a true dual-threat quarterback this season, let alone one with the giddyup of Tate. The youngster is impossible to ignore at this point.


Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. UCLA -- Let us not speak of the Ducks’ passing offense, which has fallen into a pit of despair since Justin Herbert was lost for the season. Freeman, thankfully, is separate and apart from that mess. He rushed for 143 yards on 18 carries against Stanford on Saturday, and that was in a 49-7 shellacking by the Cardinal. UCLA is basically a moving walkway at the airport when it comes to defending the run. Not only did Tate gouge them this weekend (see above), Zona RB Nick Wilson nicked them for 135 yards rushing and two scores. It’s been that way all season long for the Bruins. Freeman’s going to put up yards against them, even if everything else in the Ducks’ offense is now hollow and sad.


Michigan State RB LJ Scott vs. Indiana -- Welcome to the illustrious “Shooting Stars” section of the column, Mr. Scott! Be it injury or otherwise, Scott had rushed for just 214 yards through five games prior to meeting up with the Gophers on Saturday. He broke through big against Minnesota, blasting his way to 194 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He could slice through the Hoosiers in similar style. Indiana just coughed up 200 yards rushing to Karan Higdon of Michigan. Scott gets this one in East Lansing and should feast.


TCU WR KaVontae Turpin vs. Kansas -- Turpin has largely been MIA this season, but popped up onto the radar with five catches for 70 yards against Kansas State on Saturday. He had just four catches for 21 yards combined over the previous two games. TCU is not an elite passing team, but the Jayhawks entered action surrendering the seventh-most aerial yards in the FBS and their locking down Iowa State’s passing game this weekend does not scare us in the slightest. If Turpin wants to turn his season around, this is the place to do it.


Iowa State WR Allen Lazard vs. Texas Tech -- Speaking of porous Big 12 defenses, it’s the Red Raiders! As much as Tech looks like an actual football team that can now kind of play defense from time to time, they have miles to go before they can sleep near respectability. They came into the weekend allowing just over 307 yards passing on average, then proceeded to give up 352 yards and five touchdowns to Will Grier in an ugly loss to West Virginia in which they leaked points in the second half. WVU wideouts Ka’Raun White (8-114-2) and David Sills (6-89-3) excelled in the win. Lazard has not surpassed 100 yards receiving since the opener, but that’ll change next weekend.


Alabama WR Calvin Ridley vs. Tennessee -- If you happened to catch any of Saturday’s game between South Carolina and Tennessee, condolences. It was painful. We feel your pain. But not as much as Tennessee, itself, is going to feel the pain next weekend. Not only do the Vols have to play Bama, they have to play Bama in Tuscaloosa. It’s going to be something. The real problem for Ridley is that Alabama has no need to pass most weeks. That might well be the case again against the Vols, but we expect the Tide to try to get the junior wideout a bit more involved for the stretch run -- he’s been held under 70 yards receiving in each of the past four games -- especially with RB Damien Harris dealing with a leg injury.


*****


Falling Stars


Penn State QB Trace McSorley vs. Michigan -- The toughest defense McSorley has faced this season came in Kinnick Stadium against Iowa on September 23. His game-winning drive made all the headlines in that one, but it masked what had been an inconsistent performance up until the final minutes of the game. Flipping to Penn's opponent next weekend, for all their issues on offense, Michigan boasts a top-five pass defense this season and has yet to allow more than 20 points in a game. McSorley, meanwhile, has thrown an interception in four of six games this year. The Nittany Lions, by the by, are about to embark on their toughest stretch of the season. They'll host the Wolverines next Saturday, then hit the road to play Ohio State, then hit the road again to play Michigan State. If they make it through that stretch unscathed, they're going to be looking good for the Playoff barring late weirdness.


USC QB Sam Darnold vs. Notre Dame -- The Ballad of Sam Darnold has taken its fair share of melodic twists and turns this season. It hit a soaring note in a comeback win over Utah on Saturday, with the redshirt sophomore throwing for 358 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions). Get ready for the mournful bridge against the Irish. Arguably Darnold’s two worst games this season have been USC’s only two road games to date, against Cal and Washington State. He’ll be hitting the road for Saturday’s showdown with Notre Dame. This makes us nervous. As above with Michigan, Notre Dame has not yet allowed more than 20 points in a game this year.


Tennessee RB John Kelly vs. Alabama -- Setting aside the whole “playing Alabama” thing, Kelly has dropped off a cliff over the last two games. He rushed for 44 yards against Georgia in a shutout shellacking before the bye week, then managed just 58 yards after it in a loss to South Carolina on Saturday. It’s not his fault that the Volunteers have fallen into a deep, dark chasm. But, unfortunately, he’s down there with them nonetheless. Also, the “playing Alabama” thing. The Tide have been essentially bulletproof against the run, leading the country in allowing just over 66 yards rushing a game. They did not allow a runner over 20 yards on the ground in Saturday’s win over Arkansas.


Maryland RB Ty Johnson vs. Wisconsin -- Ever the boom-bust back, Johnson opened the season with three performances of 100-plus yards on the ground only to fade with back-to-back sub-60 yard performances against Ohio State and Northwestern these past two weekends. Johnson should be able to post 100 yards against at least one of Indiana and Rutgers at the end of October, but don’t expect it against a Wisconsin run-defense which has been as good as any non-Bama unit in the country. The Badgers have allowed just one running back to surpass 70 yards this season (Nebraska’s Devine Ozigbo).


Miami WR Ahmmon Richards vs. Syracuse -- It’s becoming impossible to guess just what’s going on with Richards right now. He pulled his hamstring in preseason camp and has recorded statistical production in just two games this season. The sophomore warmed up before Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, but did not catch a pass in the last-second victory. And even if Richards does give it a full go (like for real) next weekend, Syracuse is not a defensive cupcake. Until the injury clouds lift, here, it’s hard to project Richards for reliable production.


Louisville WR Dez Fitzpatrick vs. Florida State -- Talk about two teams that have slogged through the season. FSU’s 2-3 start has raised more eyebrows, but nobody’s been more disappointing (mostly on defense) than the Cardinals this year. In their two biggest games of the season against Clemson and NC State, they’ve been non-competitive. They were in the thick of it against Boston College on Saturday, but that, of course, is a very bad thing. It took Lamar Jackson jumping into a phone booth to Superman Louisville into a tie with the Eagles at 42-42 late in the fourth quarter. And then a fumble, and then you lose 45-42 to Boston College. Fitzpatrick has caught 17 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown against NC State and BC over the last two weeks, but Florida State’s secondary remains elite and Jaylen Smith’s return from a hand injury reunites Lamar Jackson with his favorite toy. Fitzpatrick falls back a little this week.


Middle Tennessee WR Richie James vs. Marshall (Friday) -- James made his triumphant return from a mid-September ankle injury in Saturday’s loss to UAB, catching seven passes for 47 yards. He’ll need a nice game against the Thundering Herd before we flash him our thumbs-up. Marshall has been an under-the-radar-awesome defensive team this year, allowing just over 202 yards passing on average and barely over 15 points a game. Against a manageable schedule, but still. Throw in the continued injury-absence of QB Brent Stockstill and it’s not an ideal spot for James.  




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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