All season long, I’ve been wanting to talk about college football. Heck, ever since this site was created, I’ve been wanting to talk about a sport that I deeply care about, and spent countless fall Saturdays watching over the past decade plus.
Unfortunately, the site began weeks after last season ended, and I’ve been too busy to talk about the sport so far this season. I had plans to do the same with college football as I have been doing with the NFL, such as creating matchup rankings and weekly game predictions.
So, now that I have time, why not start now? I will rank my top ten games of the week, and predict scores for all of them, as well as weekly recap articles. Unfortunately, I haven’t even been able to create time to do the latter for the NFL, but now, I will. Without further ado, here we go.
12) Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-3 ACC) at North Carolina (4-5, 2-3 ACC) (12:30/11:30a.m. CT, ACC Network)
Why on earth is a matchup between two losing teams best known for their basketball teams on the list? One word: offense. The average score of a Pitt Panthers football game in 2014 is 32-28. Pittsburgh has allowed 107 points in their last two games, and North Carolina has allowed over 40 points in five of their eight games this season, including 50 in three of them. The average game result for them has been 41-35. Expect fireworks, between two teams that desperately need a win to keep any potential bowl hopes alive. Prediction: North Carolina 48, Pitt 42.
11) Rice (6-3, 4-1 Conference USA) at Marshall (9-0, 5-0 Conference USA)
Honestly this game should be a blowout. Marshall averages over 40 points a game, has a great running game, and a quarterback in Rakeem Cato who has been around forever. But, Marshall is undefeated, and they deserve some recognition. Prediction: Marshall 41, Rice 24.
10 and 9) #4 TCU at Kansas (3:30/2:30c, FS1) and #6 Arizona State at Oregon State (10:30/9:30c, ESPN)
There’s a reason why there are two games placed together. Both games feature two teams that have a shot at making the playoff, and they are both facing subpar teams on the road. It is November, a month notorious for crazy college football upsets. I’m not saying that either TCU or Arizona State will fall tonight, but if they do, crazier things have happened. Oh, and let’s not act as if these two teams have a rich history of championship success over the last 50 years.
8) Toledo (6-3, 5-0 MAC) at Northern Illinois (7-2, 4-1 MAC)
Why is this game listed above a matchups involving ranked teams? Well, this is a game between to of the best teams in the MAC. Also, this is a rivalry game, which has historically been a high-scoring bonanza. In 2011, Northern Illinois won at Toledo by a score of 63-60. The pst two games haven’t been as great, but this is one game that should be a thrill to watch. Prediction: Northern Illinois 34, Toledo 31.
7) #19 Clemson (7-2, 6-1 ACC) at #22 Georgia Tech (8-2, 5-2 ACC) (Noon, 11a.m. CT, ESPN)
There is only one reason why this game is rated so high, and that s because it is only five games between ranked teams taking place this week. Simply put, I believe it will be a washout. I have no faith in Clemson, a team known for choking in big games. I will not pick them to beat a team that runs for an average of over 335 yards per game, and throws deep balls as it primary passing attack. This is the best Georgia Tech team in years, and it’s facing the one of the most overrated Clemson teams in quite a while. Believe me, there’ve been a lot of them over the years, but this one has no redeeming value. You do the math. Prediction: Clemson 14, Georgia Tech 34
5) Ohio State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) at Minnesota (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) (Noon, 11a.m. CT, ABC)
In one of two Big Ten game in this week’s top ten, the surging Ohio State Buckeyes take on the impressive Minnesota Golden Gophers. Coming off a dominant win over the previously 6-2 Iowa Hawkeyes, in which they ripped off 51 unanswered points, the Gophers have momentum heading into the game. Led by dual threat qb Mitch Leidner and running back David Cobb (1,205 yards, eight touchdowns), they have been a great story.
That said, Ohio State will run over them. J.T. Barrett (2,126 pass yards, 582 rush yards, 34 total touchdowns) has done a phenomenal job covering for Braxton Miller, who suffered a preseason injury that ended his season before it started. Considered one of the best quarterbacks in the 2013 recruiting class, Barrett may be a Heisman Trophy candidate.
The team has reeled off eight straight wins after losing Barrett’s second career start against Virginia Tech, and has been dominant in every game since, barring a 31-24 double-overtime win at rival Penn State. Urban Meyer’s squad features a balanced offensive attack that averages over 250 rushing and passing yards a game, and, like Georgia Tech, has a propensity to score deep passing touchdowns, as well. The difference is, they do it against better competition, and at a much more frequent rate. This one will be close enough to keep Gopher fans believing their team has a shot, but not enough to make others feel differently Prediction: Ohio State 41, Minnesota 23.
4) #3 Florida State (9-0, 6-0 ACC) at Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) (8/7c, ABC)
It’s the defending champs, facing their biggest remaining threat of the season. Miami has one offensive player worth addressing. No the offensive player is not freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. It’s running back Duke Johnson, who is finally healthy this season. He has run for 1,213 yards on just 158 carries, averaging 7.7 yards per carry, and scoring nine rushing touchdowns. He has also been a reliable receiving threat, garnering nearly 300 yards receiving.
As for Florida State, well, they have not looked too good this season. They are still undefeated, and they are defending champions, but they nearly got upset by Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, and even North Carolina State! Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has not looked like his former self, having thrown 23 less touchdowns than he did last season, and already having thrown more interceptions. The lone offensive weapons from last season that have returned, receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary have been reliable, but there’s nobody else that has stepped up to replace the departed.
That said, this team is cardiac. They trailed by 21 at Louisville, 17 at NC State, needed a controversial call to beat Notre Dame, and beat Clemson because the Tigers are a joke. This team knows how to overcome obstacles, and I see them trailing early, before prevailing late yet again. Prediction: Florida State 31, Miami 27.
3) #16 Nebraska (8-2, 4-1 Big Ten) at #20 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) (3:30/2:30c ABC)
In the other Big Ten game in this week’s top ten, we have a game featuring two of the best running backs in the country. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (1,250 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns) and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (1,501 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns) each average a lot of yards per carry (6.7 for Abdullah, 7.6 for Gordon), and each anchors a top ten rushing attack. The difference,though, will be the field. Wisconsin is near unbeatable at Camp Randall, and I see them edging the Cornhuskers out by a field goal. Prediction: Nebraska 35, Wisconsin 38.
2) #9 Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC) at #15 Georgia (7-2, 5-2 SEC) (7:15/6:15c, ESPN)
The second-rated game of the week might wind up being the best game of the week. A rematch of a classic game from a year ago, the Bulldogs will look to avenge a heartbreaking 43-38 loss at Auburn.
It was a game in which Georgia trailed by 17 on multiple occasions, including a 34-17 deficit going into the final quarter. The Tigers scored a field goal just a few minutes into the frame, and led 37-17 with 12:39 remaining. However, senior Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray scored three touchdowns in a span of less than seven minutes, capped off by a five-yard run with just 1:49 to go.
Down 38-37, it seemed as if the Auburn Tiger’s miraculous championship hopes were going to be dashed. This was especially true with the Tigers facing 4th and 18 from their own 27-yard line. Then, magic happened.
Quarterback Nick Marshall threw a prayer into the air, and the pass got deflected. Surely, the game was over, and the Auburn Tigers were no longer unbeaten. But, the tipped pass miraculously landed in Ricardo Louis’ arms, and he raced into the endzone for the game-winning touchdown!
That play was arguably the most notable symbol of the crazy season the Auburn Tigers had last year, in which they nearly won the national title. While they did fall short, and their chances of returning are slim after losing two games already, they still have a small shot. And, they have both Nick Marshall and Ricardo Louis, as well as a bevy of players from last year’s game playing today!
The Georgia Bulldogs get their star rusher back, as Todd Gurley’s four-game suspension has been fulfilled. Arguable the best running back in the country, Gurley had registered 779 yards on just 94 carries in the first five games of the season, before getting suspended for profiting from autographed memorabilia. He was running for a blistering 8.2 yards per carry, and has averaged over six yards per carry over the course of his college career.
This game should be a barnburner, with Auburn averaging over 38 points per game, and Georgia averaging 43 per game. I want to pick Georgia, but I don’t trust their quarterback Hutson Mason. I don’t trust Nick Marshall either, but I’m going to have to side with the team that does not have a history of blowing big games. Unfortunately, Georgia has been notorious for doing just that, and I simply cannot pick them to win. Prediction: Auburn 41, Georgia 34.
1) #1 Mississippi State (9-0,5-0 SEC) at #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) (3:30/2:30c, CBS) (Matchup focus)
Without question, this is the top game of the week. It is a top five matchup, between one of the sport’s biggest powerhouses, and a team that has been beleaguered for decades.
Alabama has won 19 national titles (four of which were unclaimed), three of which came in the last five years, 27 conference championships, 60 bowl appearances, and countless other achievements over their rich history.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State has a mediocre record (adjusted due to vacated games, etc), 18 bowl appearances, and one conference title in its 119-year history. The lone conference title came in 1940.
After a much maligned history, the Bulldogs believed they had finally found a coach that could make them relevant, when they hired Dan Mullen to become their head coach in late 2008. That was right before the then University of Florida offensive coordinator won a championship against the Oklahoma Sooners. Best known as the coach who helped mold Tim Tebow into a successful college quarterback, Mullen was in high demand.
The team was a rocky 5-7 in Mullen’s first season in 2009. The following four seasons, they went an impressive 31-21, winning three of the four consecutive bowl games they went to over that stretch, which is the best stretch in school history.
That stretch has been capped off by this season, in which the Bulldogs are 9-0, and number one in the nation for the first time in school history. Their quarterback, Dak Prescott, resembles Tim Tebow in many ways, and is the top Heisman Trophy candidate in the country thus far. He has thrown for over 2,200 yards, run for an additional 779, and has a combined 29 touchdowns. His running back, Josh Robinson, has run for 984 yards on just 146 carries (a 6.7 average), and has rushed for 11 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs score about 40 points per game, and allow just under 20. They win games by utilizing their running game, and forcing turnovers. But Alabama is their toughest test to date.
The Crimson Tide come into the game with a terrific 8-1 mark, the lone loss being a heartbreaking 23-17 one at Ole Miss back on October 4th. The following game was a hairy 14-13 win at Arkansas, but the followed up with their best game of the season. They blanked a high-powered Texas A&M team 59-0 the following week, in which they held the Aggies to under 200 yards of total offense.
However, for most of the season, the Crimson Tide have been underwhelming. They began the season with a 33-23 win over a West Virginia team that, albeit being ranked for a few weeks this season, was expected to be trounced by the Tide handily. But, aside from their other two non-conference games (both against teams already eliminated from bowl contention), and the Florida Game, they haven’t looked great.
Basically, the team has looked great in four games, and far from it in their other five games. I know they are the favorite to win this game by many “experts”, but I don’t see them as a sure bet. Granted, Blake Sims (17 touchdowns, three interceptions) has been pretty good at quarterback this season, and Amari Cooper just might be the best receiver in college football (79 catches, 1,215 yards, 11 touchdowns), but I don’t believe the team is great.
That said, Mississippi State hasn’t exactly been great lately, either. They have been dominant against non-conference teams, but since their 35-23 win over Auburn, they haven’t exactly been dominant against SEC teams. They barely held off floundering Kentucky squad, and were held to just 17 points in a touchdown victory over an Arkansas team that hasn’t won an SEC game in years!
If this game were taking place in Starkville, I would give Mississippi State a good shot of winning. However, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I don’t see it happening. As much as I hate to conform, I have no choice. I am picking the home team, in an incredibly begrudging manner. Ignore the score. Prediction: Mississippi State 27, Alabama 34.