2013 NCAAF Week 8 Weekend Preview

October 17, 2013


That is what I am doing in the head-to-head prediction game this season. Thanks to an awful 1-4 debut by Sterling (sorry, buddy), I’m now six games in front of the guests. My 3-2 record last week wasn’t exactly stellar, but it’ll do the job if no guest is able to pull off a 5-0 record. That will get increasingly more difficult to do as the season wears on.

Here is what the overall records in the prediction game look like at the midpoint of the 2013 college football regular season:

K. Becks: 26-9

Guests: 20-15

This week my buddy Bill Hughes will try to close the gap for the guests. I see Bill as a worthy opponent, seeing as how he and I both picked all five games correctly last year when he was the guest prognosticator. I know he had hoped that we would have different picks this year, and he got his wish. We’re different on a couple. With this weekend having some of the toughest matchups of the year to predict, it should be very interesting to see how we do.

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

Central Florida at #8 Louisville (Friday, 8 PM ET)

Although a lot can happen in half a season, both supporters and critics alike will be thinking the same thing on Friday night: if the Cardinals can win this game, they’ll almost surely be headed to a BCS game of some sort. But not so fast, my friend. The Knights are not to be taken lightly, and Louisville’s performance against Rutgers last week almost feels like a precursor to something bigger. UCF has already gone on the road and stolen a win this season, and George O’Leary’s team has the talent to do it again.

Fans who haven’t followed Rutgers all that closely this season would assume, based on the past few seasons, that Kyle Flood’s team has one of the best defenses in the AAC. However, other than being stingy against the run, Rutgers isn’t nearly the defensive stalwart it has been the past several years. The pass defense is atrocious. And sure, Teddy Bridgewater took advantage of that by throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. But as a whole, the Cardinals were only able to post 24 points on the Scarlet Knights. They should have been able to do better in a game that was arguably the biggest of the year up to that point.

The Knights are led by Blake Bortles, the best quarterback Louisville’s defense will have seen this season. The junior can get rid of the ball very quickly and has the ability to hurt the Cardinals with the short passing game, something that Rutgers could not do. If Bortles doesn’t turn the ball over and running back Storm Johnson is able to navigate through Louisville’s talented defensive front, UCF can have the Cardinals on their toes all game. The victory over Penn State in Happy Valley is a much bigger win than the Knights have gotten credit for; just ask Michigan how tough it is to win there. I think that George O’Leary’s squad has just the right combination of talent and experience and presents enough matchup issues to pull off the upset.

My Pick: 34-28 Central Florida

Bill’s Take: “There isn’t much of a matchup here” would be something someone could say about this one. UCF has only been in one real test this year, and that came in a 28-25 loss to #12 South Carolina. Besides, Teddy Bridgewater has been out of this world this year. He’s currently completing over 70% of his passes en route to helping the Cardinals to putting up 41.0 points per game. Sure, you can argue that UCF is putting up some strong numbers of its own, but I refer back to my earlier point. Penn State is the second hardest team they have played all year, followed not so closely by Memphis.

Louisville 35 UCF 13

#22 Florida at #14 Missouri (Saturday, 12:21 PM ET)

Missouri’s impressive win over Georgia in Athens last weekend was made considerably less enjoyable by the news that Tigers quarterback James Franklin would miss the remainder of the regular season with a separated shoulder. Now Gary Pinkel’s team must regroup without their on-field leader as they prepare to take on the Florida Gators, who have had a trying year in their own right. When two frustrated teams meet up, it can only mean one thing: lots of physical play.

Without Franklin, it will be difficult for the Tigers to continue to put up 40+ points per game (they average 45.7 per game, good for second best in the SEC). The senior accounts for a little over 310 yards of Missouri’s total offensive output per game, and is the main reason why the Tigers are a surprising 6-0. Even with Franklin, Missouri was going to have a difficult time scoring against Florida’s defense, which is No. 3 nationally in yards given up. Now it would be surprising if the Tigers manage to score two touchdowns against the Gators.

This would have been an extremely interesting matchup were Franklin healthy, but without him, the Tigers could be at a total loss on offense. Backup quarterback Maty Mauk has thrown a total of six passes this season and will be making his first collegiate start. If the Gators don’t rattle him early, there should be some concerns about the coaching at Florida.

My Pick: 27-13 Florida

Bill’s Take: Last week Missouri faced an impossible battle. They were challenged with beating the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. Any reasonable person would pick Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs over the Tigers. However, we all know how that turned out. Missouri flew home with a 41-26 win over Georgia. This is not something that will be repeated. Last week the Gators held LSU’s powerhouse offense to 17 points. With Missouri averaging 45.7 points per game this season Florida’s defense will get another strong road test this weekend. This weekend Missouri’s magic won’t continue, as Florida will contain the No. 8 ranked offense in the land.

Florida 17 Missouri 10

#24 Auburn at #7 Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Auburn comes into the weekend ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the beginning of the 2012 season, but the stay may be short lived. The Tigers will have to find a way to slow down Johnny Manziel and the No. 7 Aggies in order to avoid dropping right back out of the rankings. This could be a tough task for a squad that has gotten to 5-1 thanks in large part to the offense, not the defense.

Neither Texas A&M nor Auburn seems to care much for stopping opposing offenses, as both are in the bottom half of the SEC in average yards given up per game (Auburn is tenth, Texas A&M dead last). Fortunately, the offense has been bailing out the defense in both cases this year. Quite obviously, for the Aggies a lot of the credit can be given to Johnny Football. Auburn has been getting it done primarily on the ground, as the Tigers lead the SEC in rushing yards per game. Heck, they don’t just lead the conference in the category…they dominate it. This is how Gus Malzahn’s team stands a chance. Texas A&M gives up over 200 yards per game on the ground, and Auburn chews up nearly 300 yards per game that way. If the Tigers can keep the ball out of Manziel’s hands, they have the ability to slow down the game.

Auburn is not totally outmatched in this game by any stretch of the imagination. Both teams have a weakness, and both teams will likely have that weakness exploited. I don’t think that the Tigers have quite the juice to outlast the Aggies, but this one should be more interesting than most people think. I’ll take Texas A&M in a close one.

My Pick: 38-33 Texas A&M

Bill’s Take: Can we all just forget about this game? Honestly, all you need to know is one thing…well one person. Johnny Football. Manziel will be enough for the Aggies to win yet again. Behind Teddy Bridgewater and maybe even before him, Manziel is the best quarterback in the nation. This is an easy pick and doesn’t deserve much thought, but since I feel like filling some space I’ll discuss how Auburn doesn’t stand a chance.

First off, if you haven’t heard of Johnny Manziel you probably aren’t reading this blog. Next, the 12th man is unstoppable when the Aggies do what they do: play football. Texas A&M’s sixth ranked passing offense can roll through Auburn’s 21st ranked defense. I think that’s enough talk about Johnny Money, sorry I mean Manziel.

Texas A&M 31 Auburn 14

#9 UCLA at #13 Stanford (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Stanford is coming off of a somewhat shocking loss to Utah last weekend, but when you take a look at the past few games for the Cardinal, the loss becomes a lot less surprising. Despite picking them to make an appearance in the national title game, my opinion of David Shaw’s squad has changed considerably since the beginning of the season. Stanford must put the loss out of mind if it wants any realistic shot at the Pac-12 North crown, because a loss to UCLA this weekend will essentially kill those chances.

The Utes found a way to do what was once thought impossible — beat Stanford on the ground. Utah managed to rush for 176 yards against the Cardinal last weekend while holding Stanford’s offense to just 143 rushing yards. The Cardinal still have the conference’s second best defense against the run, but if UCLA wants to follow in Utah’s footsteps, it needs to literally follow Utah’s footsteps. The Bruins have an explosive offense through the air, but must establish a presence on the ground game first and foremost. If UCLA can take the crowd out of this one early, it will be very difficult for Stanford to benefit from any sort of vengeance factor that may be boiling.

David Shaw is one of the best minds in the game, so beating Stanford in consecutive weeks will never be easy as long as he is there. But the Cardinal had been showing weaknesses in games leading up to last weekend, and it is unlikely that the problems can be solved in just one week. This one will probably be close because Stanford will be motivated, but I think that UCLA is the better team overall.

My Pick: 33-27 UCLA

Bill’s Take: At the start of the season I made Alabama my national champion and called that Stanford would be meeting them in Pasadena. Well, after last week’s embarrassing loss at Utah the Cardinal can forget about going to the national championship unless some fluke happens.

They will attempt to reboot this weekend at home against the ninth ranked UCLA Bruins. This is unfortunately not the team they want to play after last week. They’d be better off playing Cal, but they are not. This will be a very good game and one that I am looking forward to. David Shaw and the Cardinal will definitely rebound from last week. I still have them only losing one game this year. In a traditional offense first, defense second PAC-12 game the Cardinal will pull this one out.

Stanford 44 UCLA 38

#5 Florida State at #3 Clemson (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The game of the week is an ACC game. Really. When Clemson and Florida State face off on Saturday night, fans will be watching what could potentially be a national title knockout game. The conference isn’t the strongest in the nation, and a win would be the marquee victory that both teams need to cement their case as a true title contender.

In college football’s biggest games, something can be said for experience at the quarterback position. Dealing with the crowd, the pressure and the expectations…it’s not something that you usually want to put on a redshirt freshman. But that’s exactly what the Seminoles will be doing when they hand the ball to Jameis Winston and ask him to be everything he’s been up to this point against the No. 3 team in the nation. I’ve learned my lesson about not believing in the young guys (thanks, Johnny Manziel), so I’m not going to say that Winston can’t live up to the expectations set for him. He definitely can. But so can Tajh Boyd. And Boyd is a senior playing at home. The Tigers have been in this situation with Boyd before. Florida State hasn’t with Winston.

I expect both offenses to play well in this game. Regardless of strength of schedule up to this point, it’s clear that Florida State is capable of hanging with Clemson. But great teams have good players step up when needed most. Tajh Boyd is a good, but not great player. I think he understands Winston may be a better talent than he is, but this is Boyd’s moment to seize. He won’t disappoint, and the Tigers will remain undefeated when all is said and done on Saturday night.

My Pick: 42-38 Clemson

Bill’s Take: When Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston play heads turn. This is going to be the best game of the season. Finally Clemson looks like they are among the top teams in the nation to stay. One of the best offenses in the nation cannot go unnoticed. Boyd has been unstoppable this season and so has Winston. This will by far be the best game of the weekend.

Well, since there has to be a winner at the end of the day I’m going to go with the upset even though it’s not much of an upset. Both of these teams have put up amazing numbers this season. I mean look at when Florida State played a “game” against Maryland. By putting up 63 points I felt like I was watching Alabama play Allegheny College. If you want to see 100 points scored you can be sure to not tune in to this game. While both offenses are out of this world, neither of the defenses gives up much.

Florida State 20 Clemson 13 

5 Games to Flip To

#11 South Carolina at Tennessee (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

If Tennessee can give Georgia a game at home, it can give South Carolina a game at home.

#16 Texas Tech at West Virginia (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Kliff Kingsbury may have become the first man at Texas Tech to win his first six games as head coach, but each week the Red Raiders remain undefeated, the tougher each subsequent matchup will be.

BYU at Houston (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Both teams are flying under the radar, but this should be a fun, physical game between two teams that know what it takes to win a close one.

#20 Washington at Arizona State (Saturday, 6 PM ET)

You have to wonder how much wind was taken out of Washington’s sail last weekend. They’ll need to avoid any type of hangover effect in order to beat the Sun Devils in Tempe.

USC at Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Ed Orgeron somehow transformed the Trojans into a team that wants to perform, so this one should be just as exciting as you’d expect for a Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Bill 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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