Last weekend I pulled within one game of the guests, but not without some luck. Penn State getting the raw end of the deal against Nebraska ensured that I would have bragging rights over my dad.
This week, Around The Corn’s first female guest will share her predictions. My friend Hannah Clifford has graciously agreed to be the guest prognosticator, despite her insistence that she has “no idea what I’m talking about”.
What Hannah may not be aware of is that many weekends it appears that I too have no idea what I’m talking about. I hope that isn’t the case, however, as the overall records now stand:
K. Becks: 27-13
Guest Prognosticators: 28-12
Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.
5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend
#22 Rutgers at Cincinnati (Saturday, 12 PM ET)
After Louisville was handed its first loss of the season last weekend against Syracuse, both Rutgers and Cincinnati gained new life in the Big East title race. This weekend’s game between the Scarlet Knights and the Bearcats will decide which team still has a shot at dethroning Louisville and snagging the Big East’s automatic BCS bowl bid. If Cincinnati were to win, the Bearcats would have to rely on the Scarlet Knights to beat the Cardinals next weekend in order to win a tie-breaker scenario. However, all Rutgers has to do is beat both schools, and it wins the conference title outright.
Cincinnati had been dealing with a quarterback controversy for most of the season, but it appears that things have finally settled down. Senior Brendon Kay has taken over the starting job in place of Munchie Legaux, who has struggled throwing the ball all season. While it is a relief to Bearcats fans, the switch to Kay probably won’t mean much this weekend. Without question Cincinnati has the best running game in the conference, and will likely rely on it to beat a solid Rutgers squad. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, Rutgers has one of the best run defenses in the entire nation, allowing only five rushing touchdowns all season. The Bearcats will need a big game from leading rusher George Winn to stay competitive.
Another area where Cincinnati will need to step up is the defensive secondary. Rutgers may be without top rusher Jawan Jamison and will need to get the passing game going in order to generate points. Cincinnati has struggled against the pass this season, but can make things a lot easier on the offense by forcing turnovers. Rutgers suffered its only loss this season to Kent State thanks to six turnovers, and this game might come down to ball security as well. If the Scarlet Knights have success in the passing game, it could be a long day for the Bearcats.
My Pick: 24-20 Rutgers
Hannah’s Take: This game is a tossup in my eyes. I’m siding with Cincinnati on this one even though Rutgers has had a pretty solid defense this season. For this game, I think home-field advantage will work out well for the Bearcats and have them bring home a victory seeing as they haven’t lost a home game yet this season.
#18 Southern California at #17 UCLA (Saturday, 3:05 PM ET)
Who would have guessed at the beginning of the season that we’d be debating which Los Angeles area college had the best offense by the time they were set to play each other? Well, that is the case now, as UCLA has made an argument this season for why it has a more potent offense than the struggling Trojans. Thanks to redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Bruins are thriving in the Pac-12 using the spread offense and have a chance to win the Pac-12 South Division with a victory over the crosstown rivals.
It has been quite awhile since USC has faced as good a UCLA squad as the 2012 version has turned out to be. In order to keep the five-game winning streak over the Bruins going, Lane Kiffin’s team is going to need to play better defense than it has against the spread offense this season. Arizona ripped apart the Trojans’ defense in route to a 39-36 upset at home, and Hundley has the mobility to cause problems as well. However, the redshirt freshman has also thrown nine interceptions, and USC can really help itself by forcing a couple of turnovers.
Ultimately, this game will come down to turnovers. USC has lost three times this season, and each time the blame could have been placed on something different. The loss that stands out is the one to Arizona, because the Trojans should have won. If Matt Barkley makes good decisions and avoids throwing costly interceptions, the Trojans have too much talent on offense to lose this game, even one that turns into a shootout. USC has been wildly inconsistent though, so don’t expect the result to be similar to last year’s 50-0 drubbing of the Bruins.
My Pick: 48-37 Southern California
Hannah’s Take: This game may seem close, but I think USC just has more talent than UCLA. USC’s three loses all came to quality opponents. Matt Barkley is still a more experienced than UCLA’s freshman quarterback (Even though Brett Hundley is having a great year). But I think in a game of this magnitude USC will prevail.
Ohio State at Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)
From a standings perspective, this game means nothing. Wisconsin has already locked up a spot in the Big Ten title game, but only because the Buckeyes are ineligible to play. Otherwise, the Buckeyes would have a two-game lead over the Badgers and would need to have a very bad next couple of weeks not to play in Indianapolis. But again, none of that is relevant, so this is simply an interesting game between two surging teams that have developed somewhat of a rivalry over the past decade or so. What may surprise some people is that the Buckeyes, who are currently undefeated, are the underdogs in Vegas.
No one is really sure how good the Buckeyes are since the Big Ten appears to be having a down year as a whole, but it’s hard to argue with a perfect record. Thanks primarily to Heisman candidate Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes have looked very strong offensively the past few weeks. While there may be some concerns about Ohio State’s ability to put up similar numbers against Wisconsin, it should be noted that the Badgers’ defensive numbers are comparable to Penn State’s. Two weekends ago the Buckeyes traveled to Happy Valley and scored 35 points on the Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin’s running game has gotten back on track, but Brett Bielema’s team will face much stiffer competition this week than it has the past two. The Buckeyes are ranked second in the conference in run defense behind the Badgers, while Wisconsin’s last two victories came against Minnesota and Indiana, which rank 8th and 12th in that category. While Wisconsin will be a tough test for Ohio State at Camp Randall, I think that the Badgers will have a tough time keeping pace with Urban Meyer’s up-tempo offense. Since Vegas insists it would be one, I’m going to pick the upset here.
My Pick: 24-21 Ohio State
Hannah’s Take: This game is HUGE! I’m definitely excited to see this one this weekend, especially with all the hype that I’ve seen around campus and heard on the news. I know a lot of people are siding with Wisconsin on this one, but you’ll never catch me betting against my Buckeyes. Keep up the undefeated season…
Ohio State 28-21
Utah State at #20 Louisiana Tech (Saturday, 4 PM ET)
This is my pick for the game of the week. Despite it being a WAC contest, this game has implications for both a conference title and potentially for an at-large BCS bowl bid. Ranked 20th in the current BCS standings, Louisiana Tech has a decent shot at finishing in the Top 16 of the rankings and being ahead of an AQ-conference winner, which would guarantee the Bulldogs a BCS bowl. But first, Sonny Dykes’ team needs to beat Utah State, who poses a major threat to Louisiana Tech thanks to a great defense.
Louisiana Tech has one of the most exciting offenses in the nation, scoring over 50 points in a game eight times this season. Much of the success is thanks to senior quarterback Colby Cameron, who has thrown 27 touchdown passes but has yet to throw an interception this season. While it is a nice statistic, it does not take into account the type of defenses that Cameron has faced thus far. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron looked flawless through the Crimson Tide’s first eight games, also managing to avoid throwing a single interception. However, McCarron threw two picks last weekend against Texas A&M and did not impress against LSU, either. Those were the two best defenses McCarron had faced this season.
Similarly, Cameron and the rest of the Louisiana Tech offense will be tested this weekend against Utah State, which boasts the best defense in the WAC. Still, the most important factor in this game will be how Louisiana Tech’s defense plays. The Bulldogs give up over 505 yards per game, and will have to stop a Utah State offense that has been playing well lately. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is very capable of making the Bulldogs pay for playing loose defense, and running back Kerwynn Williams has already eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
While I would love to see Louisiana Tech have a shot at a BCS bowl, I think their luck runs out this weekend. The close game with Texas A&M last month was encouraging, but lately the defense has looked bad even against poor competition. Utah State is grossly underrated, and is more than good enough on defense to slow down the Bulldogs. I expect this one to be close, but defense will ultimately win this game.
My Pick: 30-28 Utah State
Hannah’s Take: In this matchup, I feel that Utah’s defense will prove to be too much for Louisiana Tech even though this team has been averaging high scoring games all season. This game I wasn’t as sure on, so I’ll be anxious to see the results. Louisiana’s offense will definitely present a challenge in this game though!
Utah State 56-44
#13 Stanford at #2 Oregon (Saturday, 8 PM ET)
The objective is simple for the Ducks: win out, and you’re in the national title game. Getting there isn’t so simple, though. Chip Kelly’s squad must first beat a Stanford squad that is gaining confidence behind its redshirt freshman quarterback, Kevin Hogan. Stanford has had trouble with Oregon in the past, but with a slew of injuries for the Ducks on defense, this game could end up being much closer than it has been in prior years.
Stanford will look to take control of this game’s tempo and upset Oregon’s normal fast-paced offensive style. The key for the Cardinal will be sustaining long offensive drives that result in points. This seems like a much more attainable goal thanks to Kevin Hogan, who has been instrumental in Stanford’s success on offense the past two weeks. Hogan has the ability to buy time with his legs and makes smart decisions that don’t result in turnovers, two things that former starter Josh Nunes struggled with. While Oregon’s defensive front will not allow Hogan much time to move around, Stanford is no longer completely one-dimensional on offense.
Oregon cannot afford to come out flat against the Cardinal like it did last weekend against Cal. If Stanford is able to gain an early lead, it will be much more difficult for the Ducks to storm back like they did last Saturday night. Like Stanford, the Ducks will want to establish a pace that suits their game. If Chip Kelly’s squad can score a couple of quick touchdowns early in the game, this one could get ugly. Ultimately, this game will come down to offensive pace. If it’s fast, Oregon rolls. If it’s more controlled, Stanford has a chance.
My Pick: 35-17 Oregon
Hannah’s Take: With Oregon’s current record, I think this game will probably speak for itself. I believe that Oregon will continue with their winning streak and overtake the Cardinal, especially with this game being at home for the Ducks.
5 More to Flip To
Kent State at Bowling Green (Saturday, 12 PM ET)
The winner of this game takes control of the MAC East division.
Duke at Georgia Tech (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)
Duke is 6-4. Georgia Tech is 5-5. In the crazy ACC, both of these teams could still find a way to the conference title game.
#23 Texas Tech at #24 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)
While this is one of the only games this weekend featuring two ranked teams, its importance is diminished by the fact that Big 12 leader Kansas State thrashed both squads.
#1 Kansas State at Baylor (Saturday, 8 PM ET)
It would be a monumental upset, but the Bears do have the offense to compete with Kansas State if the Wildcats are sloppy on defense.
BYU at San Jose State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)
The Spartans are having a tremendous year. It will be very entertaining to watch them during bowl season.
- K. Becks