Clear Your Schedule – The Sixer 2015, Week 3

By Brian Wilmer -

It’s time for Week 3 of the Sixer! We have a ton of great action to get to this week, but before we do, here are our standings thus far!

Week 2

Rank Selection Name W-L
1 StadiumJourney 5-1
2 dukeallstar 4-2
2 Jeffbell57 4-2
4 Brian 3-3
4 RebelLandShark 3-3
4 jerryw 3-3
7 Commish 2-4
7 HuskerNation14 2-4
9 no_clue97 0-6
9 JoeCle 0-6
9 mbettenco 0-6

And here’s where we stand for the season:

Rank Selection Name W-L
1 StadiumJourney 10-2
2 dukeallstar 9-3
2 Brian 9-3
4 jerryw 7-5
5 HuskerNation14 6-6
5 mbettenco 6-6
7 JoeCle 5-7
8 Jeffbell57 4-8
9 RebelLandShark 3-9
10 Commish 2-10
11 no_clue97 0-12


(Editor’s note:  The system calculates any games not picked as a loss.  Therefore, these numbers may be a bit more deceiving than they appear.)

Note that our friend Paul over at Stadium Journey has already jumped out to the lead.  He is clearly gunning to give himself a prize from his own site.  Therefore, if you want to step up and take it from him, now’s your chance! As with every week, enter your picks here (once you log in, you should be taken to the link to make your picks).  If you’d like to join and have not yet done so, here’s the link!

We’ll take you to six contests this week featuring 2-0 teams facing each other, but before we do…it’s trivia time!

The Sixer Trivia, Week 3 (answer at the end of the column):  Four straight Fighting Irish quarterbacks have won their first start as a Golden Domer.  Who was the last Notre Dame quarterback not to win his first start?

#23 Northwestern (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) @ Duke (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network (regional)/ESPN3

  • Quite the contrast:  Opponents have yet to crack the end zone against Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, the first time in 57 years this has happened in consecutive games against Northwestern.  Duke, meanwhile, has found pay dirt 11 times through two games.  The Blue Devils are in good offensive company among ACC teams, hanging out with conference leader Boston College (14), neighbors to Florida State, Clemson, and NC State (12 apiece) and even with Miami.
  • Very special teams:  Much has been made — with good reason — of the stabilizing influence David Cutcliffe has brought as Duke’s leader, but Ross Martin’s steady performance as the Blue Devils’ kicker cannot be ignored.  Martin is second among active kickers with 57 field goals (only TCU’s Jaden Oberkrom, with 61, has more).  Just one extra point attempt (of 166) has failed to sail through the uprights during Martin’s tenure, while 84 percent of his field goal attempts have been converted.  The Duke stalwart is 5-for-5 on field goals and 11-for-11 on extra points this season.
  • Tremendous on third (no, I’m not doing “Third Down For What?”, so don’t ask):  This is a fun match of teams that capitalize on opportunities and teams that refuse to yield on said opportunities.  Duke has converted 20-of-35 third downs thus far this season, for a fifth-best 57.14 percent completion rate.  Northwestern opponents have converted just 3-of-26 third downs (11.5 percent), which is third-best among FBS defenses.    Northwestern has been just as good on offense, meanwhile, converting 22-of-39 third downs (56.41 percent, good for eighth-best).  We mentioned that the Wildcats are third-best at stopping third downs, and the Blue Devils are one of those teams ahead of them.  Duke has allowed just 3-of-28 third downs to be successful, a second-best 10.71 percent.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Northwestern has clearly arrived.  So has Duke.  Don’t let the Top 25 rankings fool you.  This one should be tremendous.

#14 Georgia Tech (2-0, 0-0 ACC) @ #8 Notre Dame (2-0)
3:30pm | NBC

  • What a rush:  We’ve talked about Paul Johnson’s success with his powerful rushing attack.  This is underscored by the Yellow Jackets’ 16-game string of 200-plus yard rushing contests, which is the longest such active streak among FBS teams.  Notre Dame has not yet allowed 200 combined rushing yards (Texas notched 60, while Virginia talled 127).  However, the Fighting Irish closed last season on a four-game streak of giving up 200 yards or greater on the ground.  Northwestern, Louisville, USC and LSU all cleared the 200-yard mark to end 2014.
  • Numbers can be deceiving:  A look at the statistics for the series shows a dominant 27-6-1 series edge for the Fighting Irish.  The series is a lot closer in recent years, though, with the Yellow Jackets and Fighting Irish having split the four contests since the series resumed from a 16-year break in 1997.  The teams last played to open September, 2007, with Tech taking home a 33-3 victory.
  • Ten is tremendous:  Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame teams have won 13-of-15 games while being ranked in the AP Top 10.  Last season’s controversial 31-27 loss at Florida State snapped a string of 10 consecutive wins while holding this poll position, with a victory over Navy following that game.  A 56-31 loss to Arizona State knocked the Irish out of the top 10 for the remainder of the year.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Georgia Tech is the chic upset pick this week among most pundits.  A Yellow Jacket victory here would be far from an upset.

#18 Auburn (2-0, 0-0 SEC) @ #13 LSU (1-0, 1-0 SEC)
3:30pm | CBS

  • Providing protection:  Seven FBS teams have avoided their quarterback being sacked this season.  Those teams are Air Force, Army, Maryland, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Toledo…and Auburn.  The Tigers enjoyed similar success last season, surrendering just 15 sacks in their 13 games.  Auburn’s offensive line 2-deep features two seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.  If all five listed starters take the field to begin the game, the line will average 301.6 pounds.
  • You are reading FBSchedules, after all:  LSU’s sports information department notes that the Tigers have never opened a season with back-to-back SEC teams.  Of course, the schedule wasn’t designed that way, as a cluster of storms wiped out the Bayou Bengals’ opener with McNeese State in Death Valley.  This also won’t happen next year, as the Tigers open with Wisconsin in Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
  • September is spectacular:  Auburn’s 2-0 start has given Gus Malzahn’s charges five consecutive September victories.  The school’s last September loss, ironically enough, was a 35-21 final in Baton Rouge on September 21, 2013.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Expect a close grind of a game in this one.  That might be best, as neither team is really suited to throw their way out of a deficit.

Northern Illinois (2-0, 0-0 MAC) @ #1 Ohio State (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
3:30pm | ABC/ESPN2 (reverse mirror)

  • A common theme:  It seems as though we frequently speak of teams with huge run games against untested run defenses, and this will again be an issue on Saturday in Columbus.  The Buckeyes are gashing opposing run defenses to the tune of 270.5 yards per game, while Northern Illinois allowed 164 yards in their only FBS contest of the season against UNLV.  Oddly enough, NIU only allowed 72 yards in their last contest against a Big Ten team, a 23-15 victory over Northwestern last season.  Northwestern is actually rushing for more yards per game this season (284.5) than are the Buckeyes.
  • Trying to avoid number 2:  Ohio State has welcomed a MAC opponent to Columbus for nearly 20 straight seasons, and has flexed their collective muscle against those teams.  The Buckeyes have lost just once in 31 tries against a MAC school, and if that one loss seems as though it was a half a world away, that’s actually the case.  Akron defeated the Buckeyes back in ’94.  1894, that is.  The Zips (or is it Ohio Tech?) defeated the Buckeyes 12-6 on September 15, 1894.  Just six months and three days prior, bottled Coca-Cola was sold for the first time.
  • Avoiding number 1:  Granted, teams often have virtually no choice in playing the top-ranked team in the country, but this is just NIU’s third outing against the leader of the land.  Two of those have — or will — come against Ohio State.  Ohio State beat NIU 35-12 in the Horseshoe nine years ago, and Miami blanked the Huskies 34-0 20 years before that game.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  We can’t even call this a “trap” game for the Buckeyes, but NIU is no easy out for anyone.  OSU should win, but may have a scrape.

#16 Ole Miss (2-0, 0-0 SEC) @ #2 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
9:15pm | ESPN

  • Bo knew touchdowns:  Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace accounted for nine touchdowns (all passing) through the first three games last season.  Transfer quarterback Chad Kelly is hot on his heels, though.  Kelly has totaled eight scores (six passing, two rushing) through two games in 2015.  He logged just one score (rushing) in five games at Clemson in 2013 before transferring.
  • No repeat performances:  Ole Miss has 10 victories in 59 games against Alabama.  Amazingly, zero of those victories have come in back-to-back years.  The Rebels defeated the Tide 23-17 in Oxford last season, breaking a ten-game losing streak to Alabama.
  • Tuscaloosa treats the Tide well:  Anyone familiar with the SEC is well aware of the advantage Bryant-Denny Stadium presents for Nick Saban’s team, but the statistics tell the entire story.  Alabama is tied with Baylor (17) for longest home winning streak among FBS teams.  The last home loss for the Tide occurred November 10, 2012, when Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M won a 29-24 contest.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Alabama at home on a Saturday night seems almost like a fait accompli for the Tide, but what better way for Ole Miss to quiet the skeptics?

#19 BYU (2-0) @ #10 UCLA (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
10:30pm | FS1

  • Delayed revenge:  The last time these teams played (2008), BYU notched what was, as their sports information department notes, the largest victory ever for a non-Power Five school over a Power Five opponent (59-0).  The Cougars’ point total that day eclipsed that of their previous four games against the Bruins (57).  BYU’s lone win in that four-game period was a 17-16 decision in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl.
  • It’s early, but:  Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen has already broken twice as many UCLA freshman quarterback records (four) as he has played games (two).  Rosen owns the new high-water marks for most passing yards in a game (351), touchdown passes in a game (three), passing attempts in a game (42), and completions in a game (28).  Rosen is 13th-best among FBS quarterbacks in completions (50) and 25th-best in passing average per game (287 yards per game).
  • Whitewash:  No opponent has scored on the Cougars in the fourth quarter through two games.  BYU’s late-game heroics have been well-chronicled, but the Cougars have notched 30 points in the final stanza this year.  Opponents have outscored UCLA 10-6 in the fourth quarter so far, but both of the Bruins’ victories have been rather lopsided.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  The clock has to strike midnight at some point on BYU, but a victory in the Rose Bowl would trump the previous two.

Trivia answer:  I asked earlier:  Four straight Fighting Irish quarterbacks have won their first start as a Golden Domer.  Who was the last Notre Dame quarterback not to win his first start?

Evan Sharpley took the snaps for Notre Dame in a 38-0 loss to USC on October 20, 2007.  Sharpley was 17-for-33 for 117 yards and a rip.  He finished his Notre Dame career completing 81-of-147 passes for 761 yards and five touchdowns, against three picks.  Sharpley later was a 50th-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, batting .267 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs over parts of two seasons in Minor League Baseball.

Comment (1)

Extremely well written analysis of the upcoming contests.There are some really good games,potentially,and could spell a march toward the BCS,or a fallback for some.