2013 NCAAF Week 7 Weekend Preview

October 11, 2013

Pulling away.

That’s really all I have to say as a lead-in to this week’s post. I’m still four games up on the guests, and no one has been able to beat me yet this season. The overall records in the head-to-head prediction game look like this:

K. Becks: 23-7

Guests: 19-11

This week, my friend Sterling Williams, who has since moved away to a much warmer part of the country, will represent the guests this week. Unlike most of the participants this year, Sterling is not a repeat guest from the 2012 season. Perhaps a fresh face will do the guests some good.

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 Missouri at #7 Georgia (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Missouri has taken care of business so far this season, coming into this game undefeated and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in awhile. However, the Tigers haven’t exactly taken on the toughest of competition this year, and the Bulldogs appear to be in that category. Injuries to Mark Richt’s team could give the Tigers a chance at coming away from Athens with a victory, though.

If Missouri is to become bowl eligible on Saturday, it will need to continue to do what it has been doing all season long: scoring, and scoring often. The Tigers have the SEC’s second best scoring offense, putting up an impressive 46.6 points per game. Georgia isn’t far behind, putting up 39.8 per contest. However, with wide receiver Michael Bennett and running backs Keith Marshall and potentially Todd Gurley out due to injuries, Aaron Murray is without three of his most potent offensive weapons. We saw what happened when Murray was tasked with doing too much in the Clemson game, and while Missouri isn’t Clemson, the Tigers from Columbia can still score at will.

Other than Vanderbilt, I’m not sure that Missouri has really faced the caliber of defense that it will see for the rest of the season. Georgia on the other hand has been through a stretch of games that has arguably prepared them for just about any team it may face the rest of the year. While the Bulldogs may be hurt, I think they deal with the adversity and do not disappoint at home. This one should feature a lot of offensive fireworks, but Mark Richt’s team will win comfortably.

My Pick: 44-31 Georgia

Sterling’s Take: Georgia 42-24

#17 Florida at #10 LSU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The SEC is good for two solid matchups on Saturday, and this one is the second of the two. When LSU and Florida square off in Baton Rouge, we’ll be in for a matchup that we don’t normally see between these two teams. LSU’s potent offense has made it a legitimate contender to take down anyone in the conference, while Florida’s stingy defense is keeping the Gators in games they probably would have a difficult time winning without.

LSU’s Zach Mettenberger has been receiving praise as one of the most improved players in the nation from last season, and it really comes down to one reason. Mettenberger always had the talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC; he just didn’t always have the consistency to back it up. Now, the senior is the main reason why the Tigers are still in the hunt for the SEC West crown. He will have to step up once again against the Gators, which come in with the conference’s No. 1 overall defense, giving up just 217 yards per game. But Mettenberger has played well against strong competition this year, having arguably his best game of 2013 two weeks ago in a close loss to Georgia. Florida has shut down opposing passing games all season, but hasn’t faced someone with the composure and patience of Mettenberger.

I’m starting to wonder whether Florida using Tyler Murphy at quarterback in place of Jeff Driskel should have been a move made before Driskel was even injured, because the Gators actually have something resembling a passing game with Murphy. But in this game, even Murphy isn’t up to the task of keeping up with Mettenberger. The Tigers don’t lose much in Death Valley, and they won’t lose this Saturday, either.

My Pick: 33-24 LSU

Sterling’s Take: Florida 32-14

#19 Northwestern at Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Just how much of a hangover effect will the Wildcats experience on Saturday when they travel to Camp Randall Stadium to take on a Wisconsin team that is also coming off of a loss to Ohio State? We’ll find out pretty quickly, as the Badgers are coming off of a bye week and have had plenty of time to prepare for Northwestern. This game will be full of emotions, with both teams looking to get back on the winning track.

By watching the Ohio State-Northwestern battle last weekend, I came to the conclusion that the Wildcats must come away with some turnovers to win against quality opponents. The defense simply isn’t strong enough to contain a solid offensive attack, and that is what both Ohio State and Wisconsin have. Luckily for Northwestern, the Buckeyes did turn the ball over a few times last Saturday, giving the Wildcats a chance to cash in on those mistakes. Unfortunately for Pat Fitzgerald’s team, Wisconsin takes very good care of the ball. In fact, the Badgers have turned the ball over just five times all season. Thus, it may be difficult for Northwestern to build any sort of lead against Wisconsin, because the Badgers simply won’t let them.

Northwestern’s offense is good enough to win this game. But I’m not sure about the defense. And since Wisconsin has a defense just good enough to slow down the Wildcats enough to win by a field goal or so, I’m going to give this game to the home team. As I alluded to in the first paragraph, I think the letdown against the Buckeyes last weekend will also have something to do with the final outcome.

My Pick: 31-28 Wisconsin

Sterling’s Take: Northwestern 27-24

#2 Oregon at #16 Washington (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

Here’s an insane stat for you: four teams in the Pac-12 average over 500 yards of offense per game, and three more teams average at least 480 per game. Not surprisingly, both Oregon and Washington are included in that first category, averaging an astounding 630.4 and 557 per game, respectively. However, what if I were to tell you that this game will be decided by the defense that is more capable of shutting down the opposing offense? Because it will.

In addition to having powerful offenses, Washington and Oregon and ranked No. 1 and 2 in the conference in total defense. Despite the fact that Oregon has scored at least 55 points in each of its first five games, the Ducks aren’t going to be getting close to that number in this game. Washington isn’t going to let that happen, although it is concerning that the Huskies were beaten by Stanford last week primarily because they couldn’t find an answer for Cardinal wide receiver Ty Montgomery. In this game, the Huskies will have to find a way to contain Marcus Mariota, who is making an early case to be this year’s Heisman Trophy recipient. Mariota has torched just about every defense he has faced this season, but none of those defenses are anywhere near as good as Washington’s.

I’m not a believer in Oregon quite yet, but this game could change that. Even a ten point win over the Huskies would convince me that the Ducks are a legitimate national title contender. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Oregon will win this game, but it will be very close. Washington is dangerous, especially in Seattle.

My Pick: 35-31 Oregon

Sterling’s Take: Oregon 42-14

Oregon State at Washington State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

Two of the nation’s best gunslingers will dual it out when the Beavers and Cougars meet on Saturday night. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion leads the country in passing yards with 2,018, while Washington State’s Connor Halliday isn’t far behind at No. 3 in the nation with 1,993 yards on the year. This game will undoubtedly be a passing clinic.

Oregon State surprised many people by losing its first game of the season to FCS opponent Eastern Washington, but has since reeled off four straight victories to at least somewhat re-instill confidence in the team. The Beavers have one of the weaker defenses in the Pac-12, but are fairly even with the Cougars when it comes to pass defense. Since neither team runs the ball much (Washington State is dead last in the conference in rushing yards per game, Oregon State next to last), this is really the only defensive statistic that matters other than turnovers. Those will be key, because each team has the ability to score on every drive if things go smoothly.

As much as I would like to see Oregon State come away with a victory (for no reason other than to pull a Vegas upset), I don’t know if any of its wins are really that impressive. Cal isn’t a juggernaut by any means, but the way Washington State took care of the Golden Bears on the road last weekend was impressive. I have a hard time picking against Mike “The Pirate” Leach, too, so too much is stacking up against the Beavers for me to go with the upset.

My Pick: 45-38 Washington State

Sterling’s Take: Washington State 21-14

5 More to Flip To

Indiana at Michigan State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Indiana’s offense has looked good, but so has Michigan State’s defense. Contrast of styles in this one.

Pittsburgh at #24 Virginia Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Hokies are finally back in the Top 25, but face a Pittsburgh team that has also experienced somewhat of a resurgence in 2013.

#12 Oklahoma vs. Texas [in Dallas] (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Red River Rivalry should always be included in the 5 to Pay Attention to This Weekend list, but the Longhorns just aren’t good enough. It could be a long day in Dallas for the burnt orange.

#18 Michigan at Penn State (Saturday, 5 PM ET)

The Wolverines are on upset watch this weekend, thanks to some close calls against not so strong competition earlier in the year. But Penn State hasn’t exactly looked dominant against anyone, so I’m not quite sure where the upset watch is coming from…

Bowling Green at Mississippi State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

This game, however, should definitely be an upset watch special…

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Sterling 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

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