Palouse Pigskin Picks

18 09 2010

Alright, in my first-ever prediction last week, I hit it right on the head in the Idaho – Nebraska game.  The Vandals hung around for about 20 minutes, then it all kind of fell apart.
I’m going to push myself a bit more this week by picking the rest of today’s games in the WAC as well.
Seeking an encore performance, if things go as well as they did last week, I’d look into some type of conspiracy is I were you…

UNLV (+7) at Idaho
Moscow, Idaho – 7:30 PM

The Lowdown
Looking to redeem last Saturday’s 38-17 loss to #6 Nebraska, Idaho’s defense will get another chance to prove itself against a gun-read offense.  While the opponent this time around – UNLV – might not measure up to the Cornhuskers, the look they will see out of the Rebels will be awfully similar.

“They’re very athletic,” Vandal head coach Robb Akey said.  “They have a lot of things they are very capable of doing.”

“You have to be accountable for the dive man, the quarterback and the pitch man while still playing full speed to the football,” said the fourth-year head coach of UNLV’s complex offensive attack.  “The biggest thing – maintaining discipline.”

Last week, the Vandals defense had trouble doing just that.  In the first half alone, Nebraska scored on runs of 67 and 58 yards, and built a 31-o lead.  In a ‘better late than never’ scenario, Idaho did perform much better in the second half.  With LB Robert Siavii (2nd in NCAA with 1.5 forced fumbles a game this season) leading the way with three force fumbles, Idaho made Nebraska put the ball on the ground eight times and totaled up  four turnovers while allowing only seven second half points.

The Vandals are now tied with the University of Florida with an NCAA-best 9 takeaways this season.

“The way they were able to perform in a sudden change.  The red-zone stops, the fourth-down stops, the goaline stands.  Those were things against a very good football team – things that can help this defense grow,” Akey explained.

“We have to have a sense of urgency in what we do.  We have to clean up things we weren’t happy about from the previous ballgame.”

That goes for the offensive players as well.  In two games, the line has allowed 11 sacks, which ranks dead last amongst all 120 FBS programs.  One way coach Akey says his team can help fix that problem, is by finding a ground game.

“We need to get back to being able to run the ball,” Akey said.  “We need to be able to run and throw the football equally.”

So far, that hasn’t been the case.  Idaho has put the ball in air 87 times so far, compared to just 64 on ground.

Last season, Idaho pounded the rock 455 times and averaged 4.7 yards a carry.  This season, that average is down to a measly 2.9 yard average.

Establishing a running game against the Rebels will be easier said than done.

“They’ve got almost 600 pounds of defensive tackle in their starting lineup,” Akey said in regards to senior Isaako Aaitui (315 lbs) and junior James Dunlap (265 lbs).  “Their two outside linebackers are making a ton of plays,” he added saying Aaitui and Dunlap aren’t the only guys he needs to worry about.

One this coach Akey does know, the potential is there.

“We have the makings of a good football team.”

Prediction
Idaho will bounce back this week and provide the hometown crowd with their second convincing victory on the Palouse.  QB Nathan Enderle will look more like the watch-list quarterback he was deemed in the preseason, and less of the one that threw five picks last week in Nebraska.
Plan on the Vandals to put a strong ephasis on the ground-game early, setting up the aerial attack for a big plan in the second quarter.  So far, senior WR Maurice Shaw has been virtually non-existant in the first two games with just four catches for 29 yards, but remember, he averaged over 20 hashes a catch last season.  The line will need to provide Enderle the protection needed for 5 and 7-step drops, but look for the senior quarterback to take a couple shots down field to his speedy receiver.

UNLV 21 – Idaho 34

“The Others” (<— yes, a lost reference)
* Record entering play today
Hawai’i (1-1) 31 at Colorado (1-1) 23

  • Former Boise State head coach Dan Hawkins will continue to kick himself for leaving the Gem State.  A team the Broncos will more than likely beat by 4-plus touchdowns later this year, Hawkins’ Buffalos will lose to, and at home nonetheless.
    Last week, California’s Kevin Riley scorched Colorado for four touchdown through the air, as the Bears hung 52-points on the board.  After stepping in as a sophomore last year and doing just a so-so job directing the run-and-gun, Hawai’i junior quarterback Bryant Moniz seems to have it figured out this season and will put up similar numbers today.
    Look for the Warriors try and turn this one into a shootout (like they always do), as the Buffalos don’t have the defense to stop them, or the offense to keep up with them.

Navy 27 (1-1) at Louisiana Tech (1-1) 16

  • The Bulldogs have had trouble stopping the run this year, which does nothing to help their chances against the Midshipmen today.  Although Navy hasn’t looked as impressive as many thought through two games (they were ranked 25th in the preseason), senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs and senior fullback Vince Murray will kick it into gear against Louisiana Tech.
    It also helps they have the 16th-ranked scoring defense in the nation (12.0 points per game allowed) to bail them out if they don’t.

Southern Utah (1-1) 18 at San Jose State (0-2) 30

  • The Spartans have easily compiled the most daunting preseason schedule of any member in the WAC.  After opening up with #1 Alabama, they faced #11 Wisconsin last week, before playing #14 Utah next week.  This however, is the one winable game sandwiched inbetween.  San Jose State needs this one to make sure they get on the board before WAC play begins in two weeks.

Fresno State 24 (1-0) at Utah State (1-1) 31

  • UPSET ALERT: In the preseason media poll, the Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the WAC, while the Aggies were slotted at number-six.  I personally like Utah State.  Senior quarterback Diondre Borel has been exceptional in the Aggies first two contests as senior runningbacks Michael Smith and Derrvin Speight have done a decent job filling in for junior Robert Turbin – a 1,000-yard back from a year ago who’s out for the season with a torn ACL.
    In their opener two weeks ago against Cincinnati, Fresno State showed that life after Ryan Mathews will involve throwing the ball more (and a lot more), but after struggling to find a ground game against the Bearcats, I’m just not sold on Ryan Colburn being able to carry the offense on his shoulders.

Boise State (1-0) 48 at Wyoming (1-1) 10

  • UPSET ALERT: I’M KIDDING!!!  This one won’t be close!  While Virginia Tech’s loss to James Madison last week may hurt the Broncos BCS title hopes down the road, it does nothing to effect the outcome of this game.  Kellen Moore and Co. have a field day in this one.  Not much else needs to be said.  …wait!  How about Austin Pettis is really good too.  Now I’m done.

New Mexico State (0-1) 23 at UTEP (1-1) 34

  • The Aggies allowed 563 total yards in their season opener last week against San Diego State with 319 of those coming through the air.
    The Miners will present a similar challenge this week with fourth-year starter Trevor Vittatoe leading head coach Mike Price’s offensive attack.  Even though they lost 54-24, the senior is coming of a stellar 340-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Houston (who is now ranked in the top 25 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches’ Poll).
    If this becomes a high scoring game, New Mexico State simply doesn’t have the horses to keep up.
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