Observer Roundtable Week 3: Military branches face off, NY against NJ, a top-15 showdown
After an action-packed first week of College Football full of upsets and comeback wins, fans across the globe are now gearing up for an even more intense second week. We at The Observer have all the coverage you need of some of the biggest games this week, so let us get right to it.
NCAA Games of the Week
No. 12. Oregon @ No. 3 Ohio State
Rutgers @ Syracuse
Air Force @ Navy
Sam Ouhaj — Sports Writer
Ohio State has always been one of my favorite teams in College Football (sorry, Notre Dame) but while I am an Irish fan for the rest of my life, I cannot help but root for the Buckeyes this week. In another Top-25 matchup, Ohio State is going to be in for a challenge against Oregon. While the Buckeyes came out with the victory against Minnesota, the game was way closer than you would expect. Ohio State’s QB, CJ Stroud, will have his first experience with a top defensive unit, leading to severe issues. Luckily the Buckeyes have a great defense similar to the Ducks. Oregon has a real shot at winning this game, but I believe the Buckeyes win a close one.
Ohio State 21, Oregon 14
Rutgers vs. Syracuse will be an action-packed game; at least that’s what I am telling myself. Both teams had terrible seasons last season, and it is looking the same way this year. Neither team drastically improved, but I am willing to watch this game because matchups like these can lead to some insane statistics being put up, which intrigues me. I do not know who will win this game, but my gut tells me that the Orange wins at home.
Rutgers 21, Syracuse 28
Service academy games are great for fans who love the run game and tough defense. Air Force and Navy probably won’t be ranked this season as in years past, but that’s okay. Statistically speaking, Air Force had the best rushing offense last year, but they also lost many key players. Navy, on the other hand, struggled when it came to getting their offense going and establishing the run. I am going to go with the team that had the better offense last season in this one.
Air Force 28, Navy 20
Tom Zwiller — Sports Writer
Apart from No. 10 Iowa @ No. 9 Iowa State, Oregon @ Ohio St. is the best College Football game this weekend. Ohio State’s CJ Stroud was unimpressive last weekend versus Minnesota, looking quite bad in the first half. I do not think he got a lot better in the second. He may have posted a much better statistical performance, but that was due to the WR core breaking out for big plays. I anticipate the Oregon defense to be better at rushing the passer, so the game hits the under, the Ducks cover, but the Buckeyes walk away with the win.
Oregon 27, OSU 35
Like with Penn State @ Wisconsin last week, this is a game between two programs trying to bounce back from two rough seasons. Rutgers got off to a great start by beating Temple 61-14, while Syracuse beat Ohio 29-9. The offensive display Rutgers showed is not sustainable but is an indicator that they are good on that side of the ball. So I give Rutgers this one, and they beat the spread, but the under feels right.
Rutgers 24, Syracuse 21
If you liked what you saw in Georgia @ Clemson and wanted more (I’m with you, for one), then look no further. Air Force @ Navy has the lowest O/U of the three games covered this week, and with good reason: The two teams both rushed for 330+ yards last week while passing for below 61. Based on last weekend’s games, I am going to give this one to Air Force. They boasted the better defense, only allowing 43 rushing and 243 passing yards. Meanwhile, Navy allowed 363 passing yards and 101 rushing yards. I think Air Force beats both the spread and Navy, and the over hits.
Air Force 28, Navy 17
Jamison Cook — Sports Writer
Ohio State looked shaky in the first half against Minnesota, but they picked it up in the second half en route to a two-touchdown victory. Oregon will punish the Buckeyes if they start the same way. The Duck defense, led by star DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (one of the nest names in CFB), has the potential to dominate the game and make life miserable for redshirt freshman QB CJ Stroud. That being said, it is tough to pick against the talent the Buckeyes have. It will be closer than the Ohio State -9.5 line suggests.
Ohio State 30, Oregon 24
Syracuse and Rutgers are two teams coming off rough campaigns in 2020. The Orange finished with a dismal 1-10 record while the Scarlet Knights were slightly better at 3-6. Neither team is very good, and since Syracuse’s opener against Ohio of the MAC is either a toss-up or the Orange are slight underdogs, I am going to take Rutgers in this one. This one will probably be tough to watch.
Rutgers 26, Syracuse 23
A classic matchup between service academies, this is sure to be a ground-and-pound matchup. Air Force led the nation with 306 rushing yards per game last season, so expect there to be very few clock stoppages and even fewer passes. I really like Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and Air Force had to replace eight starters from a year ago, so I will go ahead and take Navy in this one.
Navy 27, Air Force 17
Matt Smith — Sports Writer
Although Ohio State had some early struggles against Minnesota in their opener, the Buckeyes turned it up in the second half due to an impressive debut performance from quarterback CJ Stroud and elite receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Stroud will still have his growing pains, but the best wide receiver duo in the country will ensure this offense remains explosive. Oregon barely squeaked past Fresno State last week, and I think they will have a lot of trouble containing the Buckeyes on the road, especially if star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is sidelined with an ankle sprain.
Ohio State 42, Oregon 24
Rutgers and Syracuse both had strong Week 1 performances against weak competition, and the Scarlet Knights’ defense is going to be the X factor in this matchup. Rutgers forced five turnovers against Temple, one of which was a pick-six, and they will need to continue to be aggressive against the Orange. Syracuse has an explosive running game with dual-threat quarterback Tommy DeVito and running back Sean Tucker, and the Scarlet Knights will need to keep them in check. Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano has the program on the rise, and I see them winning a close one in New York.
Rutgers 27, Syracuse 24
Air Force dominated in Week 1 while Navy got throttled at home, but service academy games always seem to be close, even if the matchup appears one-sided. The Falcons and Midshipmen were effective on the ground last week, piling up 370 and 337 rushing yards, respectively. Both attacks rely almost completely on the triple-option, so I think an unexpected passing play could be the difference-maker. Navy had four quarterbacks throw a pass last week, while Air Force relied solely on Haaziq Daniels. Having that stability at quarterback is key, and I see the Falcons winning this one because of it.
Air Force 28, Navy 17
Nate Moller — Sports Writer
Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud struggled in his debut against Minnesota, but the Buckeyes seemed to find their groove later in the game. I anticipate Stroud to be more comfortable at home next week, and he will be able to use wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson to exploit the Ducks’ defense. The Ducks struggled at home against Fresno State in Week 1, and they gave up 24 points in that game. I expect the Ohio State offense to lead the Buckeyes to an easy victory in their Week-2 showdown in Columbus.
Ohio State 45, Oregon 27
Rutgers has been at the bottom of the Big Ten since they joined the conference a few years ago, but their 61-14 win over Temple in Week 1 showed that they might be ready to be more competitive this year. They will face a Syracuse team that took care of Ohio 29-9 in Week 1, looking better than many expected. I anticipate this one being back and forth, but I like the Orange to find a way to win this one at home.
Syracuse 41, Rutgers 34
Air Force took care of business in Week 1 against Lafayette by a score of 35-14. The triple-option attack worked well in that game with Air Force racking up 370 yards on the ground. Navy, on the other hand, got blown out 49-7 by Marshall. The Midshipmen had over 300 yards on the ground, but they failed to convert their chances into points, and their defense struggled mightily. I like the Falcons to take this one fairly easily.
Air Force 34, Navy 14
John Stolmeier — Sports Writer
Ohio State and Oregon both had rocky starts in their season openers last weekend. The Buckeyes rallied in the second half, snapping back in dominant fashion with their star-studded receivers taking the lead. Oregon did not impress me in their debut against Fresno State, in which DE Kayvon Thibodeaux suffered an ankle sprain. While he’s still listed as a starter for this Saturday, don’t expect him to be one hundred percent. I might be partial as a Columbus native, but I don’t see the Ducks keeping this game close.
Ohio State 48, Oregon 24
Rutgers put up 61 points last week against Temple in a decisive win. The Scarlet Knights are sticking with quarterback Noah Vedral this season who led the team in rushing and passing yards in their season opener. Behind Vedral, Rutgers rotated between their other backs, finding some success from each. While Syracuse pulled away against Ohio in Week 1, I do not see them being able to keep up with the Scarlet Knights in this matchup. Both teams have the potential to begin building momentum going into Week 2 and I would not be surprised to see a physical, close game this Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
Rutgers 30, Syracuse 27
The service academies play the game differently than most Division I programs in CFB. While historical rivalries like these are never certain, we are almost guaranteed to see the Navy and Air Force relying on the triple-option to move the ball downfield. Air Force leads the overall series with 31-22 and dominated in their matchup against Navy last year in a similar fashion to how Marshall defeated Navy last week. Last week, Air Force pulled out the win against Lafayette and I fully expect them to move to 2-0 after this weekend.
Air Force 28, Navy 10
Luke Thompson — Sports Writer
Neither team looked particularly impressive in their Week 1 matchups, but both survived and kept intact the heavy implications for one of the most highly anticipated early-season games of the year. On top of the upset scare, the Ducks’ weekend was soured by the ankle injury sustained by megastar DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. It’s too early to tell if Thibodeaux will be playing on Saturday, but Oregon will need a massive performance out of its strong defense in order to remain competitive against Ryan Day’s typically talented squad. But whether a banged-up Thibodeaux is a go or not, the Buckeyes top-to-bottom superiority will show on Saturday.
Ohio State 38, Oregon 21
While this matchup certainly won’t be played at the same level as the game in Columbus, it will be an interesting opportunity to see if one of these teams can build up some early-season momentum and get started on a slightly better season than they had last year. Both teams had solid wins in Week 1 against lesser opponents, but the offensive firepower the Scarlet Knights demonstrated against Temple will be too much for the Orange to keep up with.
Rutgers 31, Maryland 28
Service academy games are always tough to predict because the style of play and nature of the rivalries mean they tend to be tight, physical matchups that could tip either way, regardless of each team’s reputation coming into the game. Air Force is almost certainly the better team, but I see Navy getting the job done after going winless against their rival academies last year. Plus, the home team has won each of the past eight games in this heated rivalry. I don’t see that changing, even if Air Force definitely has the better team on paper.