2015 Week 5 NCAAF Weekend Preview

October 2, 2015
By K. Becks

Perhaps the Utes did celebrate with bible study last Saturday night. Probably not, though.

At any rate, Trent was Tront at the end of the day, not Brent as I had hoped. Thanks to Utah’s drubbing of now unranked Oregon, the guests now have an overall lead in the head-to-head prediction game and my former roommates are now two for two against me this season. The records now stand:

K. Becks: 10-10

Guests: 11-9

This week, a new guest joins the blog to make predictions. My friend Sal, or as I like to think of him, my “sometimes concert buddy”, will look to extend the guests’ lead for the year.

Here is a look at ATC’s 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

#23 West Virginia at #15 Oklahoma (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

It’s a bit early in the season to be labeling teams, but both West Virginia and Oklahoma have been a surprise in the way that each has come out of the gates playing so well. Granted, West Virginia has been doing it against less than stellar competition, but the Mountaineers get a terrific chance to validate their quick start when they travel to Norman for an early Saturday showdown. The Sooners have already beaten Tennessee on the road and appear poised to challenge for the Big 12 title.

For as much grief as Bob Stoops has taken the past few years, it’s a wonder he’s not flipping the middle finger at all the critics already. Not only have the Sooners played well against decent competition, but issues from last season appear to have been solved. Oklahoma’s pass offense is dangerous again, with Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield lighting up the scoreboard and filling up the stat sheet for the Sooners. West Virginia has the best pass defense in the Big 12, however, which admittedly only means so much. But the Mountaineers do have nine interceptions on the season, which leads the FBS.

Neither team will be afraid to put the pedal to the metal for four quarters, which is expected in the Big 12. But as with many tight games in the country’s most offensive minded league, defense will play in integral role in determining who wins this one. West Virginia has looked as opportunistic as anyone in the country on defense, but it has come against teams that are turnover prone to start. Oklahoma stalled a decent Tennessee offense, which is why I’ll go with the tested team in a close game.

My Pick: 41-37 Oklahoma

Sal’s Take: Oklahoma is coming off of a poor defensive effort against Tulsa, getting killed in the air and on the ground. That will be the deciding factor of this game. Both WV and OU have had some impressive offense number against meh teams. This game will come down to whether OU’s defense shows up. WV’s D looks solid so I say WV for the W.

High scoring game. WV takes it home midway in 3rd.
WV 31-21 OU

#13 Alabama at #8 Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

It’s not often that Alabama comes into any game the lower ranked squad under Nick Saban, much less one taking place the first weekend in October. But such is the case when the Crimson Tide travel to Athens to take on the No. 8 Bulldogs between the hedges. Unlike Alabama, Mark Richt’s team has yet to see any teams inside the Top 25.

Alabama’s pass defense was exploited as a clear weakness the last time the Crimson Tide played in a marquee game, so Georgia knows that it can score points through the air. Like Mississippi two weekends ago, however, the Bulldogs are led by an unproven quarterback that has played well against lesser competition. Greyson Lambert has a chance to become a campus hero in Athens, because his play will go a long way in deciding this game. The Crimson Tide are far and away the best run defense in the SEC, which puts Nick Chubb’s consecutive 100 yard rushing streak in jeopardy. That being said, Chubb could make a huge early Heisman Trophy statement if he can get over the century mark in this one.

Here are the scenarios, as told by K. Becks: if Nick Chubb fails to rush for over 100 yards, Alabama wins. If Nick Chubb rushes for over 100 yards but Greyson Lambert has more than two turnovers, Alabama wins. But if Chubb gets his yards and Lambert does to Alabama’s secondary what Chad Kelly was able to do, Georgia has a very good chance of winning this game. The Crimson Tide have a chink in the armor now and a solid game by a solid team is enough to defeat them. That being said, I think Lambert struggles and Georgia again fails to win the big one under Coach Richt.

My Pick: 28-21 Alabama

Sal’s Take: Initial Statement – Bama, 2015 ain’t your year. The only thing that will keep Bama afloat is their beast of a running back because their QB ain’t doing it. Georgia has been attacking from the air and the round; if one doesn’t work the other one will. Bama’s D is good, not great. Georgia’s D: solid, they’ll stop the run.

To the copious amounts of Bulldogs fans reading, start celebrating, you could be on your way to the SEC title.
UG 30-17 Bama

#3 Mississippi at #25 Florida (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

It didn’t take long for Jim McElwain to get the Gators back into the Top 25. There is still a long way to go, but after an exciting victory over Tennessee last weekend, Florida has positioned itself as a contender in the SEC East. On the other side, Mississippi has propelled itself into a much bigger conversation: that of the college football playoff. But for all the talk about both of these teams, it’s still early and as the season has already proven, anything can happen.

It’s hard to say that this Florida team is truly Jim McElwain’s, as the first year head coach is primarily working with guys that previous head man Will Muschamp brought in during his stint with the program. That explains almost everything about this team. The defense has been good, allowing fewer than 300 yards total per game, but the offense is still struggling. McElwain lacks the type of offensive players needed to run his more wide open style, and it has begun to show in the past few weeks. Since blasting New Mexico State in the season opener, Florida’s margin of victory has decreased every game and none of the past three wins have been by more than seven points. Unfortunately for the Gators, they’ll have to score more than their season average of slightly over 33 points to win this one. Ole Miss had no trouble scoring on Alabama’s defense two weeks ago and has proven to be one of the most potent offenses in the country.

Unless Florida plays a terrific game defensively and surprises nearly the entire country on the offensive end, this one could get ugly. The Rebels are coming in with loads of confidence and are not known to play to the strength of their opponents under Hugh Freeze. Florida’s strength does not yet equal that of Ole Miss and it may become apparent early. I don’t see this one being very competitive by the fourth quarter unless the Gator defense comes through in a big way.

My Pick: 35-17 Mississippi

Sal’s Take: Florida has only had one good game against the redheaded stepchild of the SEC (Tennessee) and even then it was too close. Their QB has too many turnovers and they have no run game. Though my last speculation suggests that Bama isn’t that great, don’t get me wrong, they are good (not the best). But if Ole Miss takes it to them…no Gator chomps this weekend.

I’M CALLING IT A SHUTOUT.
Miss 35-0 UF

#21 Mississippi State at #14 Texas A&M (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Texas A&M is one of those teams that I am just waiting for to lose, because I don’t believe that the Aggies are actually a top 15 team right now. But the funny thing about the teams I wait for to lose is that they have a way of not losing for the entire season. Or something to that extent. Anyway, this is another game that I think the Aggies will struggle to win as Mississippi State’s young squad has played fearlessly through its first four games.

Since rather easily dispatching of Arizona State in the season opener, Texas A&M has steadily declined on the defensive side of the football. Allowing a ton of yards through the air is a staple of Kevin Sumlin’s bend-but-don’t-break defense, but that hasn’t been the biggest issue this season. Rather, the run defense is what has kept opposing teams coming at the Aggies for all four quarters. Fortunately for Sumlin, Mississippi State has the fewest rushing attempts in the SEC and doesn’t look poised to break the 200 yard mark on the ground as Arkansas did last week. Instead, Dak Prescott will look to pick apart the defense as he did when these two teams met last season.

Mississippi State has looked like the more consistent team in 2015, and the close game with LSU continues to look better every week. But Texas A&M is going to have an advantage if it decides to open this game up and turn it into an offensive shootout. In College Station, I think that the Aggies will be able to set the pace and feed off of the crowd, making things difficult for the young Bulldogs. I like the way Mississippi State has played this season, but this won’t be the week that Texas A&M is exposed.

My Pick: 38-28 Texas A&M

Sal’s Take: This is a tough one. Both have similar numbers in terms of years gained and yards given up along with playing some talent but, to put it simply, A&M will come out on top because when Miss St. plays a good opponent their score and offense drop. It’ll be a close one.

A&M 20 – 17 MissSt

#6 Notre Dame at #12 Clemson (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The game of the week takes place in the other Death Valley, the one where players run down a hill and touch a sacred rock before heading onto the field. The atmosphere is just as wild in this Death Valley as it is in Baton Rouge, which means that it will take an extreme amount of discipline and focus for Notre Dame to come away with a victory. The Fighting Irish are inching closer to the top five and a win over the Tigers would certainly help the team’s case to be there.

It’s difficult to tell how good either one of these teams really are at this point, but we’ll have a decent idea after this game. Clemson has had an extra week to prepare for the Fighting Irish, which is probably a good thing from an offensive perspective. Louisville made Deshaun Watson look pedestrian with the exception of his completion percentage, and although Notre Dame isn’t quite as stifling against the pass, the Fighting Irish are close. Watson will need help from his offensive line and running game to open up the passing lanes, otherwise Clemson may have a difficult time moving the football. Notre Dame is in the same boat, however. Statistics are misleading for Brian Kelly’s team, because the Fighting Irish have racked up yards on inferior competition. Clemson is the best defense the Domers will have faced thus far.

Notre Dame is 2-5 against AP ranked teams on the road under Brian Kelly, but that is only part of the reason why I’m going with Clemson. Inconsistency from the Fighting Irish is bound to catch up with them at some point, more than likely against the first strong team they play. The Tigers may not be a playoff team, but they are good enough to finish what fellow ACC teams Georgia Tech and Virginia could not. This should be a back and forth game with more scoring than the solid defenses would like to allow, but the home team will simply make more plays than the visiting one.

My Pick: 31-27 Clemson

Sal’s Take: What is that you say? Clemson gave up almost 300 total yards to Louisville? Yeah, as much as it pains me (yes, I’m showing my dislike), ND brings a W home to Jesus.

TL;DR Notre Dame is good.
ND 41 – 21 Clem

5 Games to Flip To

Iowa at #19 Wisconsin (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Hawkeyes will look to stay unbeaten against the Badgers, who are now without their best running back.

Minnesota at #16 Northwestern (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Northwestern is quietly working its way up through the rankings, but Minnesota has been a brick wall to surprising teams before and could be again this weekend.

#5 Baylor at Texas Tech (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Bears will likely be on guard after watching TCU nearly get knocked off by the Red Raiders last weekend, but it’s obligatory to add this game to the list just in case. At any rate, there will be a lot of scoring in this one.

Kansas State at #20 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

Like Texas A&M, I’m unsure that the Cowboys really belong in the top 20. It will be interesting to see if Kansas State can play well enough on the road to pull off the minor upset.

Arizona at #18 Stanford (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

If Anu Solomon plays, Arizona will be dangerous in this one. If not, the Wildcats may struggle mightily.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Zach did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, 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. Stanford (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

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