— ᶜᵃᶰ ᴵ ᵍᵉᵗ ᵃ playoffs (@PrimePoyer) November 7, 2017
Just wanted to start things off with this V funny tweet. My roommate decided to f*** with me this morning by texting me a picture of just the photoshopped cover and got me all excited. What’s funny is my first thought was “wait…they chose DARNOLD?!” What a rat bastard. I miss NCAA games…
Welcome back to another huge week of college football. It’s the second weekend of November, and conference races are heating up as well as the race for the college football playoff. Last week saw a huge slate in which Penn State fell for the second week in a row, the Buckeyes just giving away the Big Ten East on a silver platter, and no shake up in the Top 4 of the CFP rankings. The biggest loser by far last week was the Big 10, who now must pray that Wisconsin goes undefeated and beats a name brand (cough, cough…OHIO STATE…) in the conference title game.
As we turn the page to this week, we get another big-time slate featuring so many top 25, meaningful matchups that some had to be dropped down to the “Maybe Watch” category. There’s just so much to choose from! We get SEVEN top 25 matchups, and 3 of those feature a top 10 matchup! Some teams will clinch conference championship slots while some schools will see their playoff hopes die. I know it’s been spouted by everyone in the business, but this IS the playoff.
Side note: I still favor expanding the field to 8 teams but whatever….
Thursday Nov. 9th
TRASH. LITERAL TRASH.
Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but this is the first time since I’ve been doing this article (about a month now) that I cannot recommend sitting down and watching a game on the slate. Good background noise though! If they get close, sure why not, but there’s very little at stake across the board tonight. Unfortunately, the best mid-week game leading up to Friday was on Wednesday night. Ohio faced Toledo in a huge MAC game that saw the Fightin’ Frank Soliches knock off the Rockets, 38-10. That bursts things wide open in the MAC West especially for a team I’m about to mention. Too bad they didn’t play tonight or Friday. Think of the sweet Logan Woodside blurb I could have written!
Bottom line: we have some snoozers on Thursday night. Let’s quick hit through them.
Ball State (2-7, 0-5 MAC) @ Northern Illinois (6-3, 4-1 MAC)-7 pm on CBS SN: Ball State has really struggled inside their conference this year, and very little has gone right for the Cardinals in 2017. Northern Illinois, on the other hand, just got right back into the MAC West race with a Toledo loss last night. This is a must-win for the Huskies, and I think they get it done at home.
Georgia Southern (0-8, 0-4 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (5-4, 4-1 Sun Belt)-7:30 pm on ESPNU: More like the FUN BELT amiright?! Anyway, a loss by the Mountaineers last week at Louisiana-Monroe means we have a 3-way tie for 2nd in the conference. Arkansas State is still the lead dog, and an upset loss here would knock the Boone Boys out of the race. However, at 0-8, I don’t see Georgia Southern being much of a problem for App State.
North Carolina (1-8, 0-6 ACC) @ Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-3 ACC)-7:30 pm on ESPN: This is the ESPN game on Thursday. Woof. What a disaster season it’s been for the Tar Heels. They almost beat Miami a few weeks ago, and it’s sad to think that may have been the highlight of the season. Should be an easy W for the Panthers on a chilly night at Heinz.
Friday November 10th
#9 Washington (8-1, 5-1 Pac 12) @ Stanford (6-3, 5-2 Pac 12)-10:30 pm on FS1
Had Stanford won last weekend over Washington State, this would have been a clinching opportunity for the Cardinal. Instead, it’s now the Huskies who control their own fate on top of the Pac 12 North with 3 games to go. A win over Stanford and a Washington State loss this week would mean the Huskies would only need to win one of their remaining two in order to clinch. A lot on the line in this one. Stanford got RB Bryce Love back last weekend, but as I said in my article last week, he seemed less than 100% and only rushed for 69 yards on 16 carries and 1 score. That’s a bad day for Bryce Love, trust me. They just aren’t the same team when he’s not on the field and rolling at full steam. Besides watching Love (151 car, 1,456 yards, 12 TD), be sure to check out Washington RB Myles Gaskin (148 car, 918 yards, 10 TD) as he and his Stanford counterpart are two of the best in the conference.
Prediction: Washington 28 Stanford 21
Temple (4-5, 2-3 AAC) @ Cincinnati (3-6, 1-4 AAC)-7 pm on ESPN2: Bit of a snoozer in the American East as Temple tries to fight their way to bowl eligibility. The Bearcats have a promising future behind Luke Fickell I think, but a loss here would mean they will not be in the postseason. I wonder if Matt Rhule and Temple both wish they could do-over this past offseason and put everything back the way it was before.
BYU (2-8) @ UNLV (4-5, 3-3 MWC)-10:30 pm on ESPN2: It’s been a season to forget for BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake as the Cougars have had very little to cheer about at 2-8. The Cougars will miss a bowl for the first time in 12 seasons, but the Rebels will be looking for their first postseason appearance since the 2013-2014 season. I expect a win here for the Rebels.
Saturday November 11th
Like I said in the intro, it’s a fat slate this week with a multitude of playoff and conference championship implications. The Big XII seems to be delivering big game after big game this season, so I have a feeling I’m going to be banging the drum to keep the round robin format. Also, a few teams have real opportunities to play spoiler and throw everything into chaos which I (low-key) AM HERE FOR! I live for chaos. Let’s get to the games!
#12 Michigan State (7-2, 5-1 Big 10) @ #13 Ohio State (7-2, 5-1 Big 10)-Noon on FOX
Ok…raise your hand if, before the season, you had the Spartans coming into this game with the same exact record as Ohio State? Keep your hands raised if you had the Spartans being the higher ranked team in Columbus on November 11th. Liars! I don’t believe you if you still have your hand raised. Not one person thought the Michigan State rebound of 2017 would have them here with a chance to play for a Big 10 title in a few weeks, but Mark Dantonio proves year in and year out he’s a miracle worker. Last year not withstanding, of course.
Ohio State is coming off one of their worst losses under Urban Meyer (a 55-24 shellacking at Iowa), and I guarantee the Buckeyes will be motivated to right the ship this weekend. The winner of this game will obviously have a massive advantage in terms of getting the Big Ten East title, so there is a lot to play for. The matchup to watch will be the powerful Michigan State rush defense with their 87 yards/game average (3rd best in NCAA!) against the high-powered Ohio State offense that averages 549 yards/game. I think last week can be chalked up to a fluke in a tough environment for the Buckeyes as JT Barrett quadrupled his interception total in one game. I expect him to come back to reality this week, and I’ll call for Ohio State to win a close one at home.
Prediction: Ohio State 31 Michigan State 24
#15 Oklahoma State (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) @ #21 Iowa State (6-3, 4-2 Big 12)-Noon on ABC/ESPN2
Another week, another big game in the Big XII. Both of these teams have been written about extensively in this article series, and for good reason. Oklahoma State has one of the most elite offenses in the country with their three-headed monster made up of QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill, and WR James Washington. Meanwhile, the Iowa State Cyclones have slowed multiple high-powered offenses down to their level with stifling defense. Although both teams are coming off tough losses, neither is out of the conference race just yet. They’re both in a 3-way tie with West Virginia for second in the Big XII, but the loser is all but eliminated from the conference title game. Oklahoma State’s offense averages 579 yards per game while the ISU defense allows an average of just 378 yards per game. Something has to give in this one. I’ll say Iowa State slows the high-flying attack slightly but not enough to steal another victory in the crazy Big XII.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 30 Iowa State 27
#1 Georgia (9-0, 6-0 SEC) @ #10 Auburn (7-2, 5-1 SEC)-3:30 pm on CBS
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry! These two teams have been playing since the Stone Age, and this could be the best edition yet. Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs continue to look like an indestructible force on their march to the postseason after a hard-fought 24-10 against pesky South Carolina last week. With the win, the Bulldogs punched their first ticket to the SEC title game in Atlanta since 2012 where they nearly knocked off…you guessed it…Alabama. The matchup everyone has been waiting for may be ruined if the Auburn Tigers can win out. Though they stumbled in Baton Rouge a few weeks ago, Auburn still controls their own destiny in the SEC and could disrupt the 2-team SEC party projected for the playoff as of today. It’s funny to think that Auburn could literally be the reason no SEC team gets in to the playoff. But more on the game…
The story of this one will be their respective running games matching up with the smothering, aggressive defenses on both sides. We get to see two of the best RBs in the SEC when UGA’s Nick Chubb (140 car, 867 yards, 9 TD) faces off with Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson (166 car, 868 yards, 15 TD). However, Georgia’s defense only gives up only 89 yards per game on the ground, which is 2nd best in the conference to Alabama and 5th best in the nation. Don’t sleep on the Auburn front line, though, as they only give up 126 yards per game on the ground. This should be one of the most physical games of the year in the SEC, and I expect this to come down to the waning seconds of the game.
Prediction: Georgia 24 Auburn 21
#3 Notre Dame (8-1) @ #7 Miami (8-0, 6-0 ACC)-8 pm on ABC
Over/Under the number of times that the Gameday crew will spout the phrase “Catholics vs. Convicts” on Saturday morning? I’ll set it at 35 and take the over. Hey, at least the weather will be glorious for the first time in weeks on the Gameday set! This rivalry got resurrected in 2010 after being a yearly battle of top teams for most of the 80s, and for the first time in awhile, both teams have a legitimate shot at playing for a national title. THROWBACK! Though Notre Dame clearly already has attention from the committee, the Hurricanes desperately need a signature win over a top team like Notre Dame to get the respect they deserve. However, it obviously won’t come easy. Notre Dame has been riding star RB Josh Adams this year as he is 9th in the country with 1,191 rushing yards. As a team, the Irish average 324 yards/game on the ground (5th in NCAA), so it’s easily the best rushing attack the Miami D has faced all year. While Miami has won every game this season, it hasn’t always been pretty or against the best opponent. After their big win against the Hokies last week, though, I think they’ve shown they can come up big. I’ll take the Canes in what should be a raucous atmosphere at the Hard Rock Saturday night.
Prediction: Miami 30 Notre Dame 28
#6 TCU (8-1, 5-1 Big XII) @ #5 Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1 Big XII)-8 pm on FOX
Ah, I see what’s happened here. The committee has decided to add another layer to this possible Big XII title game preview! TCU and Oklahoma are now the first two teams on the outside looking in of the CFP Top 4. VERY INTERESTING…As if we weren’t already going to watch! With that extra bit of intrigue, we’ve got a huge game in Norman this weekend as the winner basically clinches a spot in the conference title game and has the fast track to a playoff spot. That is of course if one of the Top 4 stumbles. Oklahoma is guided by super QB and Heisman frontrunner Baker Mayfield (3,226 yards, 28 TD, 5 INT) who seems to save his best games for the biggest spots this year. He torched a porous Cowboys’ defense last week, but the competition is MUCH better this week as TCU only gives up 284 yards/game defensively. The Horned Frogs will make sure it’s Mayfield’s arm that does all the work as they only give up 69 rushing yards/game, which is better than Alabama. Though it’s a stellar passing game they’re up against, I’ll say the Horned Frogs stand firm and pull the upset in Norman.
Prediction: TCU 35 Oklahoma 28
#20 Iowa (6-3, 3-3 Big 10) @ #8 Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0 Big 10)-3:30 pm on ABC
The Battle for the Heartland Trophy! I love trophy games in college football except the Civil Conflict mess. More on that later…
Iowa was able to shock the world last weekend and decimate Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes by a lot, but something happens to the Hawkeyes on the road. They leave all their magic in Kinnick Stadium’s pink locker room it would seem. Regardless, we’re in for a typical Big 10, cold, wet November afternoon in Madison that promises to feature power running games slamming against hard-nosed defenses. Wisconsin has definitive advantages in two areas: rush defense and rushing offense. Wisconsin only gives up 87 yards/game on the ground while Iowa gives up 147/game. Offensively, the Badgers average 244 yards/game behind Jonathan Taylor (190 car, 1,368 yards, 12 TD) compared to Iowa’s 143. Big advantage to the Badgers in both areas. Wisconsin can wrap up the Big 10 West with a win or a Northwestern loss to Purdue this weekend.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38 Iowa 14
#2 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) @ #16 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC)-7 pm on ESPN
After beating LSU last week in what could be considered a sloppy game if you’re Alabama, the Tide come into Starkville where they haven’t lost since 2007. That was Saint Saban’s first season for those keeping score. Bama can clinch a date with Georgia in Atlanta with a win and an Auburn loss this weekend. Even if Bama loses and Auburn wins, the Tide still control their own fate heading into the Iron Bowl in two weeks. Mississippi State will obviously have their work cut out for them as Alabama has the 2nd best rush defense in the country (75 yards/game) as well as a top 10 pass defense. Add to that the fact that the Crimson Tide only allow an average of 9 points per game, and all signs are pointing to Bama rolling in this one. The Bulldogs will give their best shot, as they always do in this game, but I don’t think it will be enough. They certainly don’t have the talent or depth on paper to keep this close. I’ll call for a comfortable Bama win.
Prediction: Alabama 35 Mississippi State 14
FAU (6-3, 5-0 CUSA) @ Louisiana Tech (4-5, 2-3 CUSA)
Wait what?! This isn’t on TV? JOEY FRESHWATER ISN’T ON TV THIS WEEK?! What the heck, college football.
Arkansas State (5-2, 4-0 Sun Belt) @ South Alabama (3-6, 2-3 Sun Belt)-5 pm on ESPN 3
That’s right! It’s the debut of the Sun Belt in something other than the quick hits or weekday slot. A real, honest-to-god breakdown of a Sun Belt game! This one makes the list because there is a 3-way tie for second place behind Arkansas State right now, and an upset loss to the Jaguars would throw the conference into chaos. And we deserve chaos! Anyway, Arkansas State is going for their 5th conference crown in the last 6 years, which is impressive no matter the level. The Red Wolves have a big advantage in terms of yardage on offense (465 vs. USA’s 347), but these two match up pretty evenly on defense. Arkansas State’s QB Justice Hansen has some impressive stats this season (2,159 yards, 25 TD, 7 INT) and will be fun to watch in this one.
Prediction: Arkansas State 35 South Alabama 24
Boise State (7-2, 5-0 MWC) @ Colorado State (6-4, 4-2 MWC)-10:30 pm on CBS SN
Boise makes the list again this week as they go on the road against one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. A win on the road by the Broncos here would leave the Wyoming Cowboys as the sole team standing between Boise and a berth in the conference title game. Boise will have their hands full stopping the impressive trio of QB Nick Stevens, RB Dalyn Dawkins, and WR Michael Gallup who have helped the Rams rack up 483 yards/game on average. Colorado State has sputtered this year against lesser opponents, so I think Boise racks up another important conference win on the road.
Prediction: Boise State 31 Colorado State 21
Pac 12 After Dark: Oregon State (1-8, 0-6 Pac 12) @ Arizona (6-3, 4-2 Pac 12)-10 pm on ESPN2
A week after falling short against USC, the Wildcats will try to get back on track against a pitiful Beaver team at home. Oregon State nearly knocked off a Bryce Love-less Stanford team two weeks ago, but that’s about all they’ve had to cheer about since last season. This is a pretty lackluster Pac 12 After Dark game, and honestly, I’d rather watch Boise-CSU than this game. Arizona QB Khalil Tate is the only reason I’d tune in as he is one of the most exciting QBs in the Pac 12.
Rutgers (4-5, 3-3 Big 10) @ #14 Penn State (7-2, 4-2 Big 10)-Noon on BTN: The Nittany Lions were stunned in back-to-back weeks after loses to Ohio State and Michigan State. They are now out of the playoff race and maybe even the Big 10 East race as well. However, given the chaotic nature of the season, you never know. James Franklin will have them back and focused this week in what should be a blowout against Rutgers.
UConn (3-6, 2-4 AAC) @ #18 UCF (8-0, 5-0 AAC)-Noon on ESPNU: The Knights are the most disrespected team in the country at an unfathomable #18 in the CFP rankings. This week, the Civil Conflict aka “the best rivalry trophy that never was” takes center stage in Orlando. UConn tried to make this a thing, but this is not a thing. Knights should roll in this one. But like…google the Civil Conflict. It’s so sad and hilarious.
Arkansas (4-5, 1-4 SEC) @ #24 LSU (6-3, 3-2 SEC)-Noon on ESPN: Will this be the final Golden Boot game of Bret Bielema’s Arkansas tenure? I think it’s very possible. LSU is coming off a hard-fought loss to Alabama and should be able to take out their frustrations on a weak Arkansas team. I expect a heavy dose of LSU RB Derrius Guice.
Florida State (3-5, 3-4 ACC) @ #4 Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC)-3:30 pm on ESPN: Clemson escaped with a win over NC State last weekend, and now gets to come home to face one of the worst teams in their conference. Everyone had this game circled at this time last year figuring both would be in the Top 4, but college football is famous for being unpredictable. Although not much has gone right for the Seminoles, expect them to take their best shot at the Tigers. I won’t call for the upset, but it will be closer than you think. Also, see: Michigan State 2017 for a preview of next year’s Florida State.
West Virginia (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) @ Kansas State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12)-3:30 pm on ESPN2: This should be fun! It’s never easy to go into Manhattan, Kansas and come away with the victory. Bill Snyder is famous for coaching up his kids against good opponents, so I’m looking forward to what should be a physical Big 12 matchup. The Mountaineer offense is high-flying and tough to stop, so I’ll call for a win here.
That wraps things up this week. Last week was another good one for my prediction numbers as I went 10-5. I am now 32-9 on the season, which means I should basically start working for one of the big networks. Give me a follow on Twitter @jakebridges03, and don’t forget to poke around the blog. Terrific writers all around!
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