2013 NCAAF Week 15 Weekend Preview

December 6, 2013

This is it (with the exception of the Army-Navy game). Week 15. The final weekend of the 2013-2014 college football regular season.

It has all seemed to whiz by, really. But then you step back and realize that it has been a hell of a season already. Both of the teams I predicted would make it to the national title game would need major help to make it there now. Coaching changes have brought good fortune to some schools and relief to others (some yet have experienced both). Impact players have emerged, but not without lingering baggage and the controversy that followed the established stars of the game into the year.

And yet, we still have one weekend to go. One more chance for teams we thought would never be where they are now to turn the system on its head.

Can’t wait? Neither can I.

Oh, and here’s the overall standings in the head-to-head prediction game. Thanks to a well thought out rant on social media earlier this week, my buddy Taylor Glancey will join the program to represent the guests.

K. Becks: 47-23

Guests: 43-27

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this week, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Week

Bowling Green vs. #16 Northern Illinois [in Detroit] (Friday, 8 PM ET)

Northern Illinois enters Detroit with a chance to be sitting pretty with regards to a second consecutive BCS bowl bid. If the Huskies win the MAC Championship Game, something weird will have to happen with the computers vaulting UCF ahead of Northern Illinois for Rod Carey’s squad not to be assured a BCS slot on Sunday. But like last year, a victory in this game will not be an easy task for the Huskies. Bowling Green has lost just one game in conference this year, and brings a stingy defense to the Motor City.

Although it isn’t going to happen, fans of the Huskies are not just blowing smoke when they argue that Jordan Lynch should be in the middle of the Heisman Trophy discussion. Despite being mired down the national list in passing yards per game, Lynch is the nation’s fourth leading rusher and the only quarterback in the top 20. The senior has not quite single handedly propelled Northern Illinois to its current ranking, but it is safe to say that without him the Huskies would not be knocking on the BCS’s proverbial door. However, if there is one team capable of shutting down Lynch and the Northern Illinois offense, it would be Bowling Green. The Falcons come into this game with the MAC’s best defense giving up just under 300 yards per contest. Additionally, a league leading rush defense gives Bowling Green the advantage over the Huskies in what should be a defensively dominated contest. Bowling Green’s best offensive weapon is its passing game, and the pass defense is Northern Illinois’ kryptonite.

As much as I would like to see the Huskies roll to a victory, I think that this game will be extremely close for four quarters. As stated above, this game should be dictated by the defenses, and Northern Illinois may need some heroics from its star quarterback in order to stay unbeaten. The Huskies did not play the top three defenses in the MAC during the regular season, and Bowling Green is by far the cream of the crop. I think that the Falcons have the ability to pull out a close victory, and unfortunately, cost the entire conference some major dollars.

My Pick: 28-24 Bowling Green

Taylor’s Take: I believe that NIU is going to roll in this game. Jordan Lynch has been unstoppable on the ground lately with over 300 yards rushing in 2 of his last 6 games. Obviously playing on Ford Field will allow more passing, but I’m sure Lynch will still get plenty of carries in this game. Up until the Western Michigan game Lynch hasn’t been too shabby passing the ball, either. Surprisingly Bowling Green’s defense is #5 in points allowed per game this year. BG has only allowed 17 points in their last 4 game combined. This will be the toughest opponent NIU has faced since Iowa in the opening weekend. I think there is just too much on the line for NIU’s BCS chances and Lynch’s Heisman chances for them to lose.

NIU 31 BG 24

#5 Missouri vs. #3 Auburn [in Atlanta] (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

Both of these teams need help in order to make it to the national title game, but you wouldn’t guess that based on the coverage it has been receiving. When Auburn takes on Missouri Saturday afternoon, two teams that very few thought would make it to this point will be battling for the SEC’s automatic BCS bid. Without the chance of blowing a BCS title game appearance, this game should feature two loose teams that could produce a lot of points.

This game features the two best rushing offenses in the SEC, so expect a lot of time to be run off the clock on each possession. However, both of these teams know how to score quickly, so don’t think that the heavy reliance on the ground game is going to result in a low score. Auburn may know how to run the ball, but it hasn’t shown the consistent ability to stop other teams from doing it, too. Gus Malzahn’s team is No. 10 in the conference in rush defense, which is making speedsters such as Henry Josey, who will likely eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark in the game, salivate. Missouri is No. 2 in the same category, and has managed to shut most offenses down this season with the exception of South Carolina in the fourth quarter. Statistics mean little though, as we saw last weekend when Alabama’s No. 1 rush defense was gashed for 296 yards.

Auburn’s offense is not like anything Missouri has seen this season, but that doesn’t mean that Gary Pinkel’s team is intimidated. While Missouri has looked in control in many of its games, Auburn has been living on the edge, particularly in the last couple of weeks. This game should be close, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Missouri knock Auburn out of national title talks. Is it un-American of me to speak like that? Probably not if I still stick with Coach Malzahn’s squad in this one.

My Pick: 31-28 Auburn

Taylor’s Take: For once an SEC matchup isn’t in the primetime slot on Saturday. There is a lot on the line for either team if OSU or FSU happens to slip up. I don’t see any way either of these teams make it into the National Championship over 2 undefeated teams from a power conference, so for right now these teams are playing for a Sugar Bowl bid. The big question here is can Mizzou’s defense stop Auburn’s running game? An under the radar matchup is can Auburn’s secondary matchup to Mizzou’s passing game. Mizzou has L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham who are 6’4″ 205 and 6’6″ 225 respectively. They are both big targets and both have 10 TD’s apiece this year. Both teams have QB’s that the opposing defenses need to contain or they will hurt you with their feet. If this ends up being a close one I’m not so sure that Auburn can pull off 3 miracle wins in a row.

Mizzou 35 Auburn 31

#7 Stanford at #11 Arizona State (Saturday, 7:45 PM ET)

Not much controversy here. The winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game will be headed to the Rose Bowl, no better, no worse. This game is a rematch of a September 21 battle that went in favor of Stanford 42-28. But since that time, the Sun Devils have transformed into one of the more complete college football teams, while Stanford has struggled to find the magic that it had through the first three and a half quarters against Oregon. Home field advantage may also come into play in this one, which is one of the unique aspects of the Pac-12’s title game.

Just how important is Marion Grice to Arizona State’s offensive attack? We’re bound to find out on Saturday night. Grice will not play in the game due to an injury, and he is the Sun Devils’ biggest threat in the run game as well as a competent receiver. Additionally, last time Todd Graham’s team played the Cardinal, Grice was held to his lowest rushing total of the season. But Arizona State is far more than Marion Grice. In fact, the passing game is where the team truly makes hay thanks to quarterback Taylor Kelly. More than anyone else, Kelly’s offensive performances have been a main reason why the Sun Devils haven’t lost since October 5. If he can avoid costly turnovers, this is a team that has the ability to put 40 points on anyone, even Stanford.

It will be interesting to see how the home crowd affects the Cardinal. David Shaw’s team has been shaky on the road this season, and Arizona State is undefeated at home. Plus, the Sun Devils appear to be playing their best football right now in contrast to Stanford. Grice’s injury is worth talking about pregame, but it might not matter as much as people think once the game is underway. A high scoring affair favors Arizona State in round two, and I think that is exactly what this will be. It is extremely difficult to beat a team twice in one season.

My Pick: 42-35 Arizona State

Taylor’s Take: This is a rematch from earlier in the year where Stanford won 42-28. After October 5th ASU has not lost a game and Stanford has lost 2 games in that span. I believe that ASU has played its best football in that span and the whole team is starting to click both offensively and defensively. Most recently ASU beat a very good UCLA team and dismantled an Arizona team coming off a win against Oregon. Stanford has played a little iffy lately losing to USC on a last second field goal and barely escaping an average at best Notre Dame team. I think being at home gives ASU a big edge here, but Marion Grice is out for Saturday which might negate their advantage. Grice was both a threat on the ground and through the air and he will be hard to replace. I think Stanford ends up playing traditional Stanford football and is just too physical for ASU. Tyler Gaffney will keep the ball on the ground all day and control the clock. 

Stanford 28 ASU 24

#2 Ohio State vs. #10 Michigan State [in Indianapolis] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The first of two “win and you’re in” scenarios this Saturday takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when Ohio State takes on the Spartans of Michigan State for the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes, currently No. 2 in the BCS standings, are unlikely to be jumped by a one loss team should it beat the Spartans in this game. However, ask the national media, and beating Michigan State is far from a sure thing. This is the most interesting Big Ten title game since the concept began two seasons ago.

Michigan State has the best overall defense in the country, and it’s not even close. The Spartans are averaging an impressive 237.7 yards given up per contest, and compared with No. 2 Louisville’s 257.9 per game it makes sense that this team can win by only scoring two touchdowns. And while the team has shown the ability to score 40+ points per game on offense, it has come against some of the worst defenses in the Big Ten (the exception being against Nebraska, which ranks No. 5 in total defense). Ohio State can also score 40+ points, but does it against everybody. Just twice this season have the Buckeyes failed to score less than 40 points. The defense may be mediocre at best, but that is when the total product is being considered. Ohio State actually has the second best run defense (behind Michigan State, of course), which is what is going to be tested the most against the Spartans. Michigan State averages less than 200 yards passing per contest, and hasn’t had to rely on a starting quarterback all season long.

Mark Dantonio has done a great job with his program, but I’m calling it as it is. He is a defensive mind, and typically it’s the offensive minds that win championships. Urban Meyer has the offense, and the flair, to be able to punish a defense that hasn’t budged this season. As long as Ohio State manages to break the 30 point barrier in this one, the Buckeyes will make it 25 straight victories.

My Pick: 31-21 Ohio State

Taylor’s Take: I thought Jim Delaney said that the Big Ten couldn’t play night games in November/December because the conference would receive too much exposure, but here we are watching a Big Ten game in primetime late into the season. The big matchup here is Ohio State’s rushing offense versus Michigan State’s rush defense. MSU also has a pretty impressive secondary led by Darqueze Dennard. The only problem is that Dennard can only guard one person at a time. If he locks up Devin Smith there is still Philly Brown, Evan Spencer, Jeff Heuerman, Chris Fields and Dontre Wilson to defend. Playing indoors at Lucas Oil will be a nice break for the Buckeyes who have kept it on the ground lately due to the weather in Big Ten country. Ohio State has already played against 2 defenses ranked in the top 11 nationally in points allowed. MSU has not seen any team close to the beast that is the Ohio State offense. Nebraska and Indiana, possibly the two best offenses MSU has played all year, show that you can score points on MSU. Clearly MSU will be by far the best defense OSU has played all year, but I don’t think they will be shocked by it. OSU will get their points, but I don’t think MSU has the firepower to hang on in this one.

OSU 38 MSU 27

#20 Duke vs. #1 Florida State [in Charlotte] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Duke comes into the ACC Championship Game as 29-point underdogs, which basically makes the Blue Devils the loosest Top 25 team that the Seminoles will have faced this season. That is a recipe for disaster if not for the fact that…well, it’s Duke. No one is giving these guys a chance, right? Not so fast, my friend. Talk like that is the kind of stuff that ends up on the reel of “most improbable victories ever”. Duke may be a severe underdog, but it may also throw the best punch Florida State takes during the regular season.

One would think that Duke’s defense would be the singular downfall for the team in this game. The Blue Devils’ ninth ranked ACC defense may have a hard time stopping the nation’s No. 7 offense. But the same could have been said of Boston College, the worst rated defense in the conference. Instead, the Eagles put up 34 points on the Seminoles and gave Jimbo Fisher his biggest scare of the season (if you can really categorize a two touchdown victory as a “scare”). That being said, the name of the game for Duke is to score. Often. Not many times will you hear me suggest that a team fight fire with fire, but that is really the only way Duke stands a chance in this one. With a slew of running backs at their expense, the Blue Devils just might be able to do what Boston College was able to achieve against Florida State.

This is the second “win and you’re in” scenario of the night, and the one that appears to be much easier to call. People may be figuring out the strength-of-schedule similarities between the Seminoles and Buckeyes, but it’s probably not going to matter all that much. If Florida State wins this game, Fisher & Co. can book their flight to Pasadena. Barring something amazing happening in Charlotte, that is what is going to happen.

My Pick: 48-24 Florida State

Taylor’s Take: I’m writing this about an hour before the Jameis Winston decision is announced. If he ends up being suspended then this game becomes completely different, but until then there isn’t much to say about this game. See you in Pasadena Florida State.

FSU 45 Duke 17

5 Games to Flip To

#18 Oklahoma at #6 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Battle of Bedlam decides a BCS bid.

#15 Central Florida at SMU (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Because Louisville beat Cincinnati on Thursday night, the Knights can call themselves BCS bound. But this could still be an interesting game.

Marshall at Rice (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Conference USA Championship Game often gets overlooked, but these are two solid teams that can both put up a lot of points.

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

The BCS candles for both teams are still burning, but the flame may be extinguished for Texas midway through the game if Oklahoma State beats the Sooners.

Utah State at #24 Fresno State (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

The Mountain West Conference Championship Game got a lot less interesting when Fresno State lost to San Jose State last weekend, ending any chances the Bulldogs had at making a BCS bowl.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Kevin 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.

– K. Becks

One Response to 2013 NCAAF Week 15 Weekend Preview

  1. Steve on December 6, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Where do you find these clowns? These picks are a dumpster fire, Roll Tide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *