by TJ Chapman
TJ’S THREE: WEEK 9
Last week: 3-0 Straight Up; 3-0 ATS (Against the Spread)
Season: 17-7 Straight Up; 13-11 ATS
Michigan @ Michigan State (East Lansing, MI) Michigan -3.5 per FanDuel
Michigan is 7-0 and ranked #6 in this week’s sportsvivaldraft.com Top 25 poll. The Wolverines are led by junior QB Cade McNamara who has 1,115 yards passing with 5 TD’s and 1 Int. Sophomore RB Blake Corum leads a strong Michigan run game with 729 yards and 10 TDs to go along with 125 receiving yards and 1 receiving TD. Senior Hassan Haskins has 602 yards and 10 TD’s as well. Junior WR Cornelius Johnson has 312 yards and 3 TD’s while senior Daylen Baldwin has 219 yards and 2 TD’s. The Michigan defense has been great, giving up 299 yards per game and a paltry 14.3 points per game while accumulating 15 sacks, 4 Int’s and 6 fumble recoveries. Senior LB Josh Ross leads the Wolverine defense with 44 tackles. Junior LB David Ojabo and senior DE Aiden Hutchinson are tied for the team lead with 5 sacks. Ojabo is an interesting story. He was born in Nigeria, raised in Scotland and moved to the United States, alone, when he was 15 years old. Now he’s a starter on one of the best defenses in the country.
Michigan State is 7-0 and ranked #8 in the sportsvivaldraft.com Top 25 Poll. Sparty is led by sophomore QB Payton Thorne who has 1,701 yards passing, 15 TD’s and 4 Int’s. He’s also chipped in 96 rushing yards and 2 TD’s. Junior Kenneth Walker, III is the Spartans stud RB who has 997 rushing yards, 2nd in the nation, and 9 TD’s. A pair of juniors lead the receiving corps as Jayden Reed has 562 yards and 5 TD’s while Jalen Nailor has 512 yards and 6 TD’s. Sophomore WR Tre Mosley has 321 yards but has yet to find the endzone this season. The Michigan State defense has given up some yards this season but not a lot of points. They’re averaging an eye-popping 406.4 yards per game but only 18.7 points per game. They’ve sacked the opposing QB 26 times while grabbing 6 picks and recovering 6 fumbles. Senior safety Xavier Henderson leads with 60 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 Int and 1 forced fumble. Fellow senior, DE Jacub Panasiuk has 23 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
Prediction: This seems to me like another typical Big 10 power run, defensive game. Michigan showed signs of a decent passing game early in the season, but it’s fallen off as of late. They really haven’t needed it to be honest. Michigan State has been rolling lately and they’ve had a consistent passing game to go with Walker’s impressive rushing. These rivalry games are always tough to pick, and as a lot of Wolverine fans will attest to, some weird things have happened in the recent history of this rivalry game that have broke the Spartans way. Michigan State: 24 Michigan: 20; Take Michigan St. getting points at home and be ready for something out of the blue to take defeat out of the jaws of victory for the Wolverines.
SMU @ Houston (Houston, TX) Houston -.5
SMU is 7-0 and ranked #17 in this week’s sportsvivaldraft.com Top 25 poll. Junior QB Tanner Mordecai is 8th in the country with 2,320 passing yards, 1st with 29 TD’s and has thrown 7 Int’s. He’s also rushed for 185 yards and 2 TD’s. Senior RB Tre Siggers and sophomore RB Ulysses Bentley, IV have combined for 878 rushing yards and 6 TD’s. As is the case with a Sonny Dykes pass happy offense, the ball gets spread amongst the receivers. Senior Danny Gray leads in receptions with 38, yards with 609 and TDs with 7. Junior Rashee Rice is 2nd in all 3 categories with 35 catches, 415 yards and 6 TD’s. The defense has been leaky but has stepped up to make plays when needed. They’ve given up 396 yards per game, 22.7 points per game and have 12 sacks, 7 Int’s and 3 fumble recoveries. Senior LB Delano Robinson leads the Mustangs in tackles with 43, he also has 1 sack. Fellow Senior DE Gary Wiley has 4 sacks, 25 tackles and 1 forced fumble.
Houston is 6-1 coming into this rivalry game. Junior QB Clayton Tune has 1,427 passing yards with 12 TD’s and 6 Int’s. Freshman RB Alton McCaskill has 98 rushes for 463 yards and 9 TD’s. Coach Dana Holgerson also uses the Air Raid offense, so the ball gets spread out amongst the receivers at Houston as well. Sophomore WR Nathaniel Dell is Tune’s favorite target with 39 catches for 510 yards and 4 TD’s. Junior TE Christian Trahan has 23 catches for 510 yards and 2 TD’s. The defense has been very good so far, only giving up 277.4 yards per game and 17.3 points per game while getting 28 sacks, 6 Int’s and recovering 7 fumbles. The defensive line is having a great season with 3 players having 4 sacks and 2 more with 3.5 sacks. But the story in Houston, in my opinion, has to be senior CB Marcus Jones who is a Swiss Army Knife. Jones has played offense, defense and special teams. He has 10 catches for 109 yards and 1 TD on offense. He has 24 tackles and 3 passes broken up on defense. But his biggest impact is on special teams. Jones has 255 punt return yards, 2 punt returns for TD’s, 141 kickoff return yards and 1 kickoff return for a TD. Hey, Houston Cougar opponents, word to the wise… DON’T KICK THE BALL TO MARCUS JONES!!!!!
Prediction: SMU’s offense has been great this season. They’ve showed some cracks in the armor but for the most part have been lighting it up. Houston has been good on offense as well, but their defense has been lights out. And, oh yeah, in case I forgot to mention, MARCUS JONES! If the Mustangs keep the ball away from Jones after each of their touchdowns or when they punt, they should walk out of Houston 8-0. This game is right up my alley, tons of passing, the Air Raid offense on display by both teams!! Like a certain coach who lives in Oxford, MS said a few weeks ago: grab your popcorn! SMU: 44 Houston: 37 Take SMU getting the half point.
Fresno State @ San Diego State (San Diego, CA) San Diego State -.5
Fresno State is 6-2 coming into this game with the Aztecs. Senior QB Jake Haener is 3rd in the country with 2,582 yards passing, 6th with 22 TD’s and he’s also thrown 6 Int’s. Haener has also chipped in 3 rushing TD’s. Senior Ronnie Rivers has 573 yards rushing and 4 TDs to go along with 25 catches for 254 yards and 1 TD. However, Rivers is questionable for this game with a leg injury. He’s a big contributor to the Bulldog offense and will be tough to replace. Junior WR Jalen Cropper has 55 catches for 580 yards and 10 TD’s. 14 different Bulldogs have caught a pass and of those, 10 have at least 1 TD. The defense has been decent, yielding 338.6 yards per game and 20 points per game while getting 23 sacks, 6 Int’s and 9 fumbles recovered. Junior DB Evan Williams leads with 56 tackles, 34 solo, and has 2 Int’s, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. Senior DT Kevin Atkins is 14th in the country with 6 sacks, he also has 27 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.
San Diego State is 7-0 and ranked #18 in the latest sportsvivaldraft.com Top 25 poll. The Aztecs started the season with senior QB Jordan Brookshire, but he has struggled this season with both an ankle injury and his accuracy. He’s thrown for 521 passing yards with 2 TD’s and 1 Int. Senior Lucas Johnson has taken over the starting role and has 306 yards with 4 TD’s and 1 Int. Brookshire also has 4 rushing TD’s. Coach Brady Hoke’s run, run, run offense is led by senior RB Greg Bell who has 123 rushes for 603 yards & 5 TD’s. 3 senior RB’s, Chance Bell, Jordan Byrd & Kaegun Williams have combined for 100 carries for 566 yards and 8 TD’s. The leading receiver is senior TE Daniel Bellinger who has 13 catches for 197 yards and 1 TD. The Aztec defense has been outstanding, giving up only 279.4 yards per game, 15.3 points per game while getting 21 sacks, 9 Int’s and they have recovered 3 fumbles. Junior safety Patrick McMorris leads with 47 tackles, 28 of which are solo, and he has 6 passes broken up and 1 Int.
I think it’s a safe bet that State will win this game. (Bad CFB dad joke) This will be a tough home test for the unbeaten Aztecs as Fresno can throw the ball all over the yard. However, the Bulldogs will be facing the toughest defense they’ve seen this season. With San Diego State running the ball as effectively as they do, I’d expect Fresno State to have fewer offensive possessions, which translates to less points. I’m thinking this is going to come down to the final possession and San Diego State gets a last-minute win. San Diego State: 24 Fresno State 21. Take San Diego State getting the half point here.