Well, last weekend was ugly.
It would be cliché to say that both Coleman and I limped to the finish last Saturday, but there’s really no other way to put it. Despite winning the Arizona State/USC matchup to end the night, I was already bloodied and beaten from earlier in the day (thanks, Notre Dame).
Now as we inch closer the midpoint of the college football season, the standings in the head-to-head prediction game look like this:
K. Becks: 19-6
This week, my buddy Keegan Fitzpatrick will try to take a chunk out of my current four game lead. Coleman thought he was going to be the savior last weekend, but faltered late. Based on the games included in the five to watch list, it’s safe to say that what happens under the lights will decide what the overall standings look like on Sunday morning.
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
#25 Maryland at #8 Florida State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)
Where exactly have the Terrapins come from? Maryland was supposed to be a team struggling to keep its head above the .500 waters, but hasn’t pulled any punches through its first four contests, obliterating every opponent it has faced. The stakes will be much higher this weekend when Randy Edsall’s team takes on the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee.
The Terrapins are doing things right on both sides of the ball this season, which makes them the most complete team that the Seminoles will have faced up to this point in the season. Maryland is going to need a huge game from quarterback C.J. Brown, who will have to outplay Florida State’s Jameis Winston for the Terrapins to have a chance in this one. Brown is a dual threat option who leads the team in both passing and rushing yards, but may end up getting more done on the ground in this one. The Seminoles have the ACC’s best pass defense, but are a disappointing ninth against the run. Maryland on the other hand gives up under 100 yards per game on the ground.
Maryland has the ability to go blow-for-blow with Florida State offensively. But can they do it against one of the nation’s stingier defenses? My guess is probably not enough to counter Winston, who is making his case as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. Expect a lot of points in this one, but the Seminoles will come away with the victory.
My Pick: 44-35 Florida State
Keegan’s Take: I’ve only seen FSU play this year out of these two teams but I was extremely impressed by them and their freshman QB, Winston. Both of these teams are undefeated although haven’t really played anybody yet. I’m rooting for Maryland (future of the Big Ten!) but I think with the home field advantage and speed, I’ll take FSU 41-31.
Arkansas at #18 Florida (Saturday, 7 PM ET)
After starting the year 3-0, Arkansas has dropped its last two games and will look to avoid slipping back to .500 against Florida on Saturday evening. This game is a matchup of differing styles, with Florida possessing a stifling defense and Arkansas proving to have a powerful offense.
The Gators are beaten up on both sides of the ball. The injury to quarterback Jeff Driskel has received the most attention, but it might not be the most important one to Florida. When senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley tore his ACL during practice last week, the Gators lost an integral piece to the most important part of their defense. This is especially unfortunate news with the Razorbacks coming to town. Arkansas is second in the conference in rushing yards per game and will look to take advantage of the hole in Florida’s defense created by the absence of Easley.
The game two weeks ago against Rutgers wasn’t a good sign (the Scarlet Knights are basically a poor man’s Florida), but I think the Razorbacks have a good chance to pull off the upset in this one. Two weeks in a row Bret Bielema’s team has played well and come away with nothing. They’re hungry, and I think they’ll finally get a victory against a quality team on Saturday.
My Pick: 34-31 Arkansas
Keegan’s Take: I can’t offer much commentary on this game because I haven’t watched either team. I don’t like Bret Bielema and Florida has been disappointing. Bret Bielema is dumb soooo Florida 28 Arkansas 14.
#22 Arizona State vs. Notre Dame [in Dallas] (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)
I foolishly picked the Fighting Irish last week against Oklahoma, which hasn’t lost to a team in consecutive years since Bob Stoops has been in Norman. But this week is a different story. I don’t know if I buy Arizona State’s No. 22 ranking. Then again, I don’t know what to think about Notre Dame…period. The Fighting Irish are an enigma.
Arizona State put up an astounding 62 points on Southern California at home last weekend, and a lot of credit has to be given to the Sun Devil offense, which has been performing at a high level all season. But it seems almost wrong not to take into consideration the current state of USC’s football program, which is entirely in disarray. Most good teams in the Pac-12 would have put a similar number up against the Trojans. That being said, how many points can Arizona State score against Notre Dame’s defense? The Fighting Irish are having trouble against the pass once again, and that could spell trouble for Brian Kelly’s team. The Sun Devils will pass, pass and pass some more. The Notre Dame secondary must be on its toes for the entire 60 minutes.
I don’t feel all that comfortable doing this, but something tells me that the Fighting Irish aren’t going to drop back-to-back games. Arizona State is a solid opponent, but the Sun Devils aren’t Oklahoma and Todd Graham isn’t Bob Stoops. I’ll give the nod to Notre Dame in a very close one.
My Pick: 31-30 Notre Dame
Keegan’s Take: Arizona St has looked like a solid team this year so far and I still can’t believe they scored 62 on USC. With that being said, ND’s defense hasn’t looked great this year, struggling against Purdue, Oklahoma and Michigan. I think ASU routes ND this weekend 45-21.
#4 Ohio State at #16 Northwestern (Saturday, 8 PM ET)
When you watch this game, pay close attention to the crowd. Home field advantage may come into play in this one, because chances are Ryan Field will be absolutely rocking on Saturday night. This is the biggest game in history for the Wildcats, 1996 Rose Bowl be damned. Ohio State cannot afford to fall behind early, because if it does, the crowd won’t relent until the clock hits all zeroes in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern’s offense has been extremely consistent and balanced through its first four games. Fourth in scoring offense in the Big Ten. Fourth in passing offense. Fourth in rushing offense. In other words, there aren’t a lot of problems with the team’s ability to get the ball into the end zone. The problem for the Wildcats lies in keeping the other team from reaching the goal line. Northwestern is seventh in the conference in run defense and dead last in pass defense. Braxton Miller not be the greatest passer in the world, but he is capable of taking advantage of a defense that gives up over 300 yards through the air alone. Plus, being seventh best in run defense probably doesn’t give Northwestern fans a warm, fuzzy feeling with the knowledge of Miller’s running ability.
If Northwestern wants to win this game, they are going to have to take advantage of Ohio State’s somewhat soft linebacker corps and simply outscore the Buckeyes. Since Ohio State plays the “score ’til you drop” game as well, this won’t be easy. As much as I was thinking this could be a trap game for the Buckeyes, things just aren’t quite adding up for Northwestern. This one will be fun, but Urban Meyer’s squad will survive.
My Pick: 42-37 Ohio State
Keegan’s Take: OSU has been somewhat of a disappointment to me this year. Yes, they’re undefeated and Smooth Jazz is breaking records but they haven’t really played anybody and looked very sloppy against Wisconsin. They haven’t played a complete game in my eyes. Not to mention, they are 7-5 on the road at night in Big Ten games since 2003, with one of those losses at NW. NW has had some big wins this year and Evanston will be ready to party. I think OSU will struggle this weekend…NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! This is an Urban Meyer team with a high scoring offense that can pound the ball with a plethora of RBs. I believe this is where OSU will finally play like they are the #4 team in the nation and show everyone what they are truly capable of. There’s a reason “The Chase” is hanging up at the practice facility. OSU 38 NW 17.
#15 Washington at #5 Stanford (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)
Washington has proven itself to be one of the major players in the Pac-12 Conference this season with a convincing 31-13 victory over previously undefeated Arizona last Saturday. The stakes are heightened this weekend, though when the Huskies travel to Palo Alto to take on the No. 5 Cardinal. The winner of this game positions itself to battle with Oregon for the North Division crown.
The Huskies are firing on all cylinders right now. Steve Sarkisian’s team is first in the Pac-12 in total defense and second in total offense. Most would have guessed that it would be Stanford boasting those accolades at this point in the year. However, statistically the Cardinal have been pretty average this season. One thing Stanford has done well is keep the foot on the gas when it has a lead. The Cardinal posted their season high points total last weekend against Washington State with 55, and will need that offense again this weekend to avoid being upset by the Huskies. The Huskies haven’t really been tested offensively yet this season, so it will be interesting to see how Stanford does against Washington’s surprisingly stout defense.
As my preseason pick to make it to the national title game, I have to ride the Cardinal until they lose a game. But this one will be very interesting, as the Huskies are strong on both sides of the ball. I expect the Cardinal to expose Washington’s defense, but it may not be pretty.
My Pick: 34-30 Stanford
Keegan’s Take: Stanford looks like one of the best teams in the nation right now in my opinion. They could beat anybody. I don’t know much about Washington except they clobbered Boise St and have a top 5 defense. I think this game will be close through 3 quarters but Stanford closes out in the 4th quarter. Stanford 35 Washington 17.
5 More to Flip To
Michigan State at Iowa (Saturday, 12 PM ET)
Iowa looks to keep its lead in the Big Ten Legends Division against a Michigan State squad that returns to the field after a week off.
Georgia Tech at #14 Miami (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)
At some point, Miami will come out flat. This could be that game, and Georgia Tech can take advantage.
Minnesota at #19 Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)
It’s a realistic possibility that the Little Brown Jug will go to Minnesota for the first time since 2005.
#24 Ole Miss at Auburn (Saturday, 7 PM ET)
The Rebels didn’t fall far at all for getting shut out by Alabama last weekend. Hugh Freeze’s team will try to hang on to that Top 25 ranking against the other Alabama squad.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)
The Tigers bring the SEC’s best running game to Nashville to try to preserve a perfect season.
If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Keegan did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.
- K. Becks