College football forecast: Haskins for Heisman?

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

September 15, 2018 02:22 AM
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Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins has completed 79 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns. His odds to win the Heisman have been adjusted from 25-1 in the preseason to 8-1.
© USA Today Sports Images

In recent weeks, media critics taking aim at Urban Meyer have called the Ohio State coach a fraud and a liar. No insults are being tossed at his football team, though.

The Buckeyes are true national championship contenders, and quarterback Dwayne Haskins is the real deal. Next week, Meyer will reappear from a suspension and embark on a Tom Brady-like revenge tour, determined to silence the Paul Finebaum’s of the world.

But for now, the Buckeyes’ biggest problem is Gary Patterson. The gruff Texas Christian tactician is a coaching wizard who rarely gets touted by the media but also avoids scandals. When he has a team capable of playing for a title, Patterson usually ends up playing second fiddle to Oklahoma in the Big 12 or getting snubbed in favor of Ohio State.

This is not one of Patterson’s best teams. He’s rebuilding the defense and breaking in a new quarterback. But he will coach up this team, which is so far untested, and he will have a coaching edge Saturday in Arlington, Texas, because Meyer still is serving time.

Meyer has not been missed. Haskins is putting up Heisman Trophy-worthy numbers, completing 79 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns. His odds to win the Heisman have been adjusted from 25-1 in the preseason to 8-1.

With the help of running backs Mike Weber (217 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (147), the Buckeyes have totaled 127 points in two games. Of course, the Oregon State and Rutgers defenses rolled out the red carpet in Columbus and early-season stats are full of stuffing.

This will be a different world for Haskins, who’s facing a quality defense and an elite coach deep in the heart of Texas. The Horned Frogs can survive if dual-threat quarterback Shawn Robinson (336 yards passing, 112 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns) moves the sticks and matches scores with Haskins’ high-powered offense. Robinson, a sophomore, was the highest-rated recruit in TCU history.

If the Buckeyes have a weakness, it’s their run defense. Patterson’s plan will be to run at Ohio State and try to even the time of possession. It might not work, but there’s always risk in siding with a double-digit underdog.

The Frogs should be live ‘dogs getting 13 points, and the line could hit 14 before kickoff as the betting public piles on the favorite. I’ll say the Buckeyes survive and win by six.

Seven more plays for Saturday:

 

* PURDUE (plus-6½) over Missouri: Jeff Brohm is a no-nonsense coach, but he has witnessed enough nonsense — costly penalties, interceptions and missed kicks — in two games to last an entire season. The Boilermakers are 0-2 and highly motivated. Purdue, which whipped Missouri 35-3 on the road a year ago, has two good quarterbacks, a stable of talented running backs and explosive freshman wideout Rondale Moore. Tigers quarterback Drew Lock might also light up the Purdue defense. This should be a shootout, and it also could be an upset. The Westgate’s preseason line was pick’em. This number has been adjusted too much.

 

* UCLA (plus-3) over Fresno State: After nearly reaching college football’s mountaintop, Chip Kelly left for the NFL and failed the climb. Now, he’s a home ‘dog to a Mountain West team. The Bruins’ primary reason for hope is freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a good athlete with a strong arm, unlike USC’s freshman QB. Thompson-Robinson passed for 254 yards and a touchdown a week ago at Oklahoma, and Kelly will continue to tailor his offense to what his quarterback does best. The Bulldogs hit the road for the second straight week after a deflating 21-14 loss at Minnesota. Fresno has scoring firepower with quarterback Marcus McMaryion (72.4 percent completions) and wideout KeeSean Johnson (12 receptions, 207 yards). However, the Pac-12 class difference could show. I’ll go against the line move and sharp money and take the 3 offered at the Westgate and a few other books. It’s a must-win for Kelly, who’s not going to win many this season.

* Other plays: Temple (plus-16) over MARYLAND; Brigham Young (plus-23) over WISCONSIN; AUBURN (-10) over Louisiana State; BUFFALO (-3) over Eastern Michigan; UTAH (plus-5) over Washington.

Last week: 3-4 against the spread

Season: 6-8

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