Saturday, October 4, 2014

Intriguing Showdowns on This Week's Schedule

(Note: We had heavy storms in the area Thursday, causing widespread power outages. Consequently, the college football column I had planned to post prior to the Arizona–Oregon game that night could not be posted. Power has been restored, and I am publishing that column today, minus the Arizona–Oregon prediction and the prediction for the Utah State–Brigham Young game last night, which began while I was busy working with the Richland College newspaper staff.)

We're getting into the conference portion of the college football schedule.

Most of this week's games are between conference rivals. In the SEC, that frequently means games between ranked teams, and there are three of those this week — #3 Alabama against #11 Ole Miss, #15 LSU at #5 Auburn and #6 Texas A&M travels to #12 Mississippi State.

In all, there are half a dozen games between ranked teams this week, and all six have the potential to be exciting games.

Idle: #24 Missouri

  • Wake Forest at #1 Florida State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: The series is lopsided in Florida State's favor, but Wake Forest actually has enjoyed more success against the Seminoles in recent years than in the first 50 years of the series' existence.

    I don't think Wake Forest will win, but the Deacons do have a much higher ranked defense. That could be put to the test. Defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston is ranked 19th in passing in spite of having to sit out a game. No matter who the QB has been, Rashad Greene has been catching the passes. He is fourth in the nation in receiving yards.

    Unfortunately, Wake Forest has one of the worst offenses in the nation. Even Florida State's #77 defense should be able to stop Wake Forest. I pick Florida State.
  • #3 Alabama at #11 Ole Miss, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: This is a great old rivalry, but it is one Ole Miss seldom wins. Alabama has won 10 in a row. In fact, although this will be their 58th meeting, Ole Miss has won only seven times. It is the most lopsided series in the SEC.

    The Rebels have lost the last four played on Mississippi soil — but their last win over Alabama came on their home field in 2003. I guess it is possible that they can win this one; after all, their in–state rival, Mississippi State, beat LSU a couple of weeks ago.

    But I just don't see it happening. Should be an entertaining game to watch, but, in the end, I expect Alabama to prevail.
  • #4 Oklahoma at #25 TCU, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: After an extended absence, TCU is back in the Top 25 (barely). The Frogs' reward? Facing Oklahoma.

    The series predates TCU's joining the Big 12, but no matter when they have played, the Frogs have never won a home game against the Sooners (OU is 5–0 in Fort Worth).

    TCU is ranked higher than OU in both offense and defense; in fact, the Frogs are #2 nationally in defense. But what does that really mean when you have only faced Samford, Minnesota and SMU? I pick Oklahoma.
  • #15 LSU at #5 Auburn, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Any hope that LSU has of winning the SEC — and possibly playing for a national championship — will be on the line tonight at Auburn.

    If this game was being played in Baton Rouge, I'd probably pick LSU. In spite of the Tigers' loss there to Mississippi State a couple of weeks ago, it's still one of the toughest places for a visitor to play. And, historically, LSU beats Auburn in Baton Rouge nearly 79% of the time.

    But Auburn owns the advantage at home, although the margins of victory there for either team have been small.

    This might be the game of the week, and I pick Auburn to win it.
  • #6 Texas A&M at #12 Mississippi State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: This is an interesting early SEC West clash. Mississippi State made believers of some with their win in Baton Rouge, and the schedule then gave the previously unranked Bulldogs the week off to savor that victory. But now, as a ranked team, they face the challenge of A&M this week and Auburn next week.

    This is when they can prove they belong at this level.

    The Aggies beat my alma mater, Arkansas, in overtime last week, a game even Aggies conceded they should have lost. I don't know what that means for this Aggie team. They played very well in the season opener against highly touted South Carolina. This is a chance for them to prove something, too.

    I pick Texas A&M.
  • #7 Baylor at Texas, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: When I was growing up, the idea that Baylor might beat Texas was laughable. It almost never happened, especially in Austin.

    But Baylor has won three of its last four meetings with Texas and is likely to do so again today. The Bears have the top–ranked offense (behind QB Bryce Petty and receiver K.D. Cannon) and the sixth–ranked defense. This isn't your father's Bears team. I take Baylor.
  • Utah at #8 UCLA, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Historically in this series, outcomes tend to be lopsided, but the last couple of meetings have been close. Perhaps this one will be, too.

    Some more historical trivia in this series. UCLA is 6–0 at home.

    The Bruins also have a better offense, which is what matters in the Pac–12. Utah has the better defense, which doesn't matter nearly as much in the Pac–12. I take UCLA.
  • #14 Stanford at #9 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: This series dates back to the Knute Rockne era, to Notre Dame's first bowl appearance (the Rose Bowl) on New Year's Day 1925.

    This will be the 29th time they have met, and the Irish tend to win about 65% of the time. They're even better at home; they beat Stanford nearly 79% of the time in South Bend. In fact, Notre Dame has won 80% of its last 10 home games against Stanford so that historical trend has been confirmed in recent times.

    The story of this game might just be defense. Notre Dame is #38 (facing the 68th–ranked offense), which is good, but Stanford's defense is ranked #1 and may have an easier time dealing with Notre Dame's 55th–ranked offense.

    This will be a legitimate test for a Notre Dame team that I think is overrated. I take Stanford.
  • #19 Nebraska at #10 Michigan State, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: I think this could be one of the best games of the season, let alone this weekend.

    Both have Top 20 offenses (Nebraska is #8, Michigan State is #18); on defense, Michigan State is #11 while Nebraska is #31. There are several offensive stars to watch. Nebraska is led by rusher Ameer Abdullah (#3 nationally in rushing yardage), QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. and receiver Kenny Bell. Michigan State has QB Connor Cook (#3 nationally in passing efficiency), receiver Tony Lippett and rusher Jeremy Langford.

    Michigan State lost its first seven meetings with Nebraska, then won last year's game in Lincoln. I expect Michigan State to win today — narrowly.
  • Vanderbilt at #13 Georgia, 3 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network; Georgia is 8–2 in its last 10 home games against Vanderbilt.

    Georgia has been good but not great so far. This may be a chance for the Bulldogs to improve their numbers, especially against the woeful Vanderbilt offense (#121 in the country). I take Georgia at home.
  • Arizona State at #16 Southern Cal, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: The Sun Devils have been a bit of a thorn in the Trojans' sides.

    They won their first meeting in 1978, handing Southern Cal its only loss of the year. They actually won six of the first 10 games between the schools.

    But, since 1991, USC has had the upper hand, winning 15 and losing five. Two of those losses, however, have come in the last three meetings, including last year's game in Tempe.

    The Trojans have won seven straight in Los Angeles against Arizona State, but I have to wonder if that streak could be coming to an end. The Pac–12 is known for offense, and ASU's offense is currently ranked ninth in the nation with QB Taylor Kelly, receiver Jaelan Strong and back D.J. Foster. I'm thinking they might be too much for the Trojans' defense. In what may be an upset, I'll take Arizona State.
  • #17 Wisconsin at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Northwestern is much better than when I was growing up. The Wildcats have had some pretty good seasons in the last couple of decades.

    But they have also had seasons that suggested that they were still the same old two– or three–win Wildcats. I don't know which one they are this season or which one they will be today. But they have lost three in a row to Wisconsin at home, and I see no reason to think it won't be four in a row by sundown. Got to take Wisconsin.
  • #20 Ohio State at Maryland, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: I'd almost like to find some rationale for picking Maryland in its first–ever meeting with Ohio State.

    But I just can't come up with one.

    The Buckeyes are ranked higher in both offense and defense — by pretty significant margins. As a result, I expect Ohio State to win by a pretty significant margin.
  • Iowa State at #21 Oklahoma State, 11 a.m. (Central) on FS1: This series has been tighter than you probably think, although the upper hand has belonged to OSU in recent years. In fact, the Cowboys have beaten Iowa State the last three times the game has been played in Stillwater.

    Neither team has been impressive statistically so far, but Iowa State has been spectacularly unimpressive. The Cyclones aren't in the Top 100 in either offense or defense.

    I'll take Oklahoma State.
  • SMU at #22 East Carolina, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNU: This series is tied, 2–2. East Carolina won the first two, and SMU has won the most recent two.

    There really doesn't seem to be a home field advantage. Both teams are 1–1 in each other's stadium. SMU won the last meeting at East Carolina in 2010.

    I haven't seen much of SMU this season, but what I have seen isn't good. Plus there has been a lot of turmoil in the program. I think East Carolina will take advantage of the situation and win.
  • Texas Tech at #23 Kansas State, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Things happen in complementary streaks in this series.

    Tech won the first three meetings, then K–State won three. Then Tech won five straight. Now K–State is on a two–game winning streak.

    I watched Tech play my alma mater, Arkansas, a few weeks ago. Frankly, I wasn't impressed. I saw K–State play Auburn. The Wildcats lost, but I was still impressed. I'll take Kansas State.

Last week: 16–2

Season: 83–11

No comments: