2018 NCAAF Week 7 Weekend Preview

October 11, 2018
By K. Becks

It appears as though “Kyle’s Wishful Thinking” picks become reality more and more as the season changes.

What can I say? I root for the chaos.

The opening weekend of October came with a bang, as three Top 10 teams were upset on Saturday, shaking up the rankings quite a bit as we inch closer to the first installment of the CFP rankings at the end of the month. Two of these upsets also helped me cap off a statement victory in the head-to-head prediction game over Danny. The overall standings now look like this:

K. Becks – 20-10

Guests – 18-12

This week my buddy Steve returns to ATC after missing the 2017 season. Steve is a huge sports guy as well and as a result, I’m prepared for a tough matchup. Typically I’m playing catch up all season but am in the somewhat rare position where I actually lead the pick ‘em game over the guests. This rarity is what justifies me writing a sports blog, in case you were wondering.

Before we dive into the matchups for this week, here are my “Three Thoughts” from last weekend.

1. Losses by LSU and Auburn to lower or unranked teams last weekend all but confirmed that Alabama will waltz into the CFP undefeated. Neither Tigers squad is getting strong enough offensive results to suggest anything different, and the reliance on the run game by both schools plays right into Alabama’s hand.

2. This Ian Book kid is the real deal, and so is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have transformed into a terrorizing force offensively with Book behind center, giving Brian Kelly the type of weapon he has been searching for ever since he got to South Bend. This team is Playoff bound unless it trips over itself.

3. It may be time to start getting worried in Lincoln. The Scott Frost era at Nebraska has begun in the worst way possible, with the Cornhuskers failing to win a single game through its first five. It would be one thing if Frost’s team were competitive, but it’s not. The last time Nebraska lost a game by fewer than two touchdowns was against Troy Week 3. The fact that we’re even arguing positively about a loss to Troy is a testament to what this season has been for the Cornhuskers.

Now let’s take a look at the top games to watch this weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#2 Georgia at #13 LSU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Tigers fans were hoping that this one was going to be a massive Top 5 matchup, but the Gators had other plans on the weekend that they honored the 2008 national championship team. Instead, this week is an opportunity for redemption for LSU, which has an uphill battle to get back into the CFP discussion. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they haven’t shown enough this season to suggest that they will survive the rest of the schedule unscathed. Georgia’s rushing offense is a load to stop and last weekend Florida proved that a healthy dose of the running game is a good way to move the ball on Ed Orgeron’s defense.

There’s no reason for the Bulldogs to be looking ahead to future weekends, because this is still a big game being played in a tough atmosphere. Therefore, I see no reason why Georgia’s superior run game and stalwart defense won’t take care of the Tigers in Death Valley on Saturday afternoon. Unless Joe Burrow takes the reins and has his best game of the season, the Tigers are going to have a tough go of things offensively.

My Pick: 30-18 Georgia

Steve’s Take: Starting out hot out of the gate, a game that will have HUGE SEC and CFB Playoff implications, and I think LSU is going to pull this one out. I think Georgia has shown they are extremely talented but outside of a kind-of close game with Missouri. The big problem for Georgia in this, to me, is its struggles with pass protection. They’ve struggled the last few weeks with keeping their QBs from taking unnecessary hits, and I think LSU’s talented defensive line is going to have a field day. I think the biggest thing is that LSU gets this game at home, in Death Valley, and I think Joe Burrow will bounce back from the loss at Florida last weekend. LSU – 34  UGA – 24

#7 Washington at #17 Oregon (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

It has been a couple of weeks since the Pac-12 has had a big matchup that the entire country will be interested in viewing, but that will change on Saturday afternoon when the Huskies roll into the Autzen Zoo for a date with the Ducks. Chris Petersen’s team has been a complete mystery this season – all the talent in the world offensively but only mediocre results to show for it. Oregon has been more predictable – pass happy with Justin Herbert on offense and questionable on the back end of the defense, but at least with the Ducks the general consensus is that they are meeting expectations for the season. Save a complete meltdown in the fourth quarter of the Stanford game and the country would likely be very high on Mario Cristobal’s squad.

Both teams are well equipped to stop the run, so we should get a very good look at two of the country’s most talented college quarterbacks in this one. Although I’m a big fan of Jake Browning and he’ll be going up against a much weaker secondary, there is no question that Justin Herbert has been outplaying his competition for this weekend. The Oregon faithful is going to do everything it can to rattle Browning, which has appeared to happen more than a few times already this season. Expect a high scoring affair, but the Ducks have the advantage of playing at home. That advantage won’t make all the difference, but it will certainly help.

My Pick: 38-34 Oregon

Steve’s Take: Washington has looked like the preseason top 10 team everyone expected them to look like before they lost to Auburn the first week of the season. Oregon has really surprised me with how good they’ve been, with a lot of names I’d never heard before. Oregon is a weird 4th quarter away from being undefeated, and outside of the end of that Stanford game, they’ve really impressed me. The fact that this game is at Autzen Stadium in Eugene really helps Oregon, because that place will be LOUD Saturday afternoon. I think Oregon pulls this one out at home thanks to the crowd and the fact that they will score a LOT and Washington has struggled at times to score points. UO – 42  UW – 31

Baylor at #9 Texas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The common reaction from pundits and casual fans alike after Texas’s upset victory over Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout is that “the Longhorns are back, baby”. But in the words of our friend Lee Corso, “not so fast, my friend”. Keep in mind that the Longhorns nearly blew a 45-24 fourth quarter lead and needed a last second field goal to preserve a victory. It was as if the Texas defense forgot that it was playing Kyler Murray, having held the dynamic Oklahoma quarterback in relative check for most of the game before almost letting him bring the Sooners back from the dead. In my opinion, this highlights the aspect of this team that is still unknown – its mental toughness. Tom Herman was always going to turn them around offensively – but does he have the ability to get them to think like true winners is still out for debate.

This weekend’s game is a good litmus test. Now that Texas has a target on its back as a Top 10 team for the first time since 2010, it’ll get everyone’s best shot. The Bears are questionable defensively but have an offense that can hang with the Longhorns if Herman’s team gets lazy on defense. Texas has shown it is a solid defensive squad for the majority of the year, however, so to convince me that the Longhorns are truly back, they’ll need to do what they’re capable of doing in this one – win convincingly. I think they’ll get the victory, but I’m concerned about the mental makeup of this squad moving forward.

My Pick: 45-31 Texas

Steve’s Take: Texas looks night and day different than the team that played Maryland during Week 1. The offense has really come around and is starting to put up points and the defense has played well, even though that’s hard to see after giving up over 40 to Oklahoma last weekend. I think winning the Red River Rivalry was a big turning point for Texas, because that was the first big test they faced, and they pulled out a huge win over a rival. However, a win like that drains a team, and I could see a letdown coming from Texas. Baylor is much improved after being awful last year, and while I don’t think they’re good enough to go into DKR and win, if they can catch Texas on a hangover early, they could potentially give Texas a scare. But in the end, the Longhorns will end up getting the W.  UT – 41  BU – 21

#6 West Virginia at Iowa State (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Dana Holgorsen’s squad has quietly – well, very quietly (who has been talking about the Mountaineers this season?) moved into the CFP conversation as other teams around them fall by the wayside. The reason that the Mountaineers haven’t received a lot of love up to this point is that they simply haven’t played anybody, but this is the kind of trap game that, if West Virginia survives, will earn the team some credit. The Cyclones are one of the better defensive teams in the Big 12 and have already shown the ability to hang with solid competition, giving Oklahoma a run for its money for most of the game. West Virginia is similar to Oklahoma in that it is stacked offensively, but the key in this game will be its defense as well. The Mountaineers have allowed over 320 total yards just once this season, and that came against the top offense in the country, Texas Tech.

Iowa State is a trendy upset pick for this weekend, which I would normally be on board with if the Mountaineers were receiving the attention they deserved. But Coach Holgorsen’s team is still searching for respect nationally and that will keep it focused in games such as this one. Will Grier is without question the best quarterback in the Big 12, has plenty of talent on the outside and will continue to roll even against this Iowa State defense. West Virginia is the better team here and will be able to block out the noise en route to a victory in Ames.

My Pick: 34-17 West Virginia

Steve’s Take: This just has the feeling that WVU should roll all over Iowa State, but it won’t be that easy. Top 10 teams seem to always struggle when they go to Ames, Iowa, as Oklahoma struggled there early this season, and the Cyclones have upset numerous teams over the years. Will Grier has been great for the Mountaineers, and that offense puts up a TON of points. But I’m getting this feeling that Iowa State is going to pull this one out by causing a couple turnovers and win with a late field goal. ISU – 27  WVU – 24

#15 Wisconsin at #12 Michigan (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Both of these teams are still searching for a victory to bolster the argument that they are deserving of their current ranking. That being said, this game was going to be close anyway. Michigan’s offense has been as up-and-down as any team in the country this season, getting solid production from its running back corps and enough of a spark from Shea Patterson that it’s clear the Wolverines can put up a lot of points when everything comes together. Jim Harbaugh’s team hasn’t been consistent enough to accurately predict that, however. Wisconsin will continue to try to do what it does best, which is run the football with Jonathan Taylor, but the Badgers are going up against the Big Ten’s top run defense this weekend. Michigan will force Alex Hornibrook to make some plays and Hornibrook needs to be more accurate than he was against Nebraska last weekend for the Badgers to continue moving the chains in this one.

Although the Badgers boast the top spot in the conference in terms of time of possession, it would not be surprising at all if the Michigan offense that likes to chew up clock and play conservatively on first and second downs shows up Saturday evening to challenge Wisconsin in that area. Harbaugh has a knack for the unconventional, though this one will be anything but that. Expect a classic Big Ten battle that will come down to the final few possessions to decide a winner. Since it’s at the Big House under the lights, I’m giving the nod to Michigan.

My Pick: 23-21 Michigan

Steve’s Take: Wisconsin losing early in the season to BYU makes this game a little less interesting, as an undefeated Wisconsin would be in the No. 5-7 range right now, against a Michigan team that broke in a new QB by going on the road to Notre Dame (and having a chance to tie the game before ND forced a fumble). These teams being one-loss right now means they each still control their destiny in their respective B1G division. Michigan has been much improved over the last few weeks, as Shea Patterson has been able to get the WRs more involved than they had been the past few years, and their running game is coming back on with Karan Higdon healthy again. Wisconsin has been typical Wisconsin, running the ball down your throat and then occasionally letting Alex Hornibrook make plays with his arm. Michigan has yet to allow a rusher over 100 yards this season, while Jonathan Taylor has topped 100 every game this season, including going over 200 twice.  I think this is going to be one of the more fun games of the week, especially because it doesn’t change either team’s division outlook. In the end, I think Michigan just has more playmakers at skill positions with a QB that will take shots downfield if the running game opens them up. I think Michigan wins by a comfortable score, but it’ll be closer than that most of the game. Michigan scores late to win by 14. UM – 31  UW – 17

5 To Flip To

Iowa at Indiana (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Each team is still looking for its annual upset over a top team in the Big Ten, but in this one there isn’t much to separate the two teams. Expect a close one to ensue.

Pittsburgh at #5 Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET)

The Panthers played spoiler to Miami at the end of last season and Clemson the season before last. The Fighting Irish can’t afford to let up despite being a sizable favorite in almost every game through the end of the regular season.

Michigan State at #8 Penn State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Spartans have had a tough season already and things don’t get easier this weekend when the Spartans travel to Happy Valley to face a Penn State squad continuing to grind and hoping for an Ohio State slip up.

#10 Central Florida at Memphis (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Not many are giving the Knights a real shot at the CFP, and part of that reasoning is because teams like Memphis represent one of the stronger games on UCF’s schedule.

#19 Colorado at Southern Cal (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

It’ll take a few more weeks of winning for the undefeated Buffaloes to receive any real respect from the national media, but by that time it won’t matter and the only thing Mike MacIntyre’s team will be worried about is moving up the CFP rankings.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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