2014 NCAAF Week 10 Weekend Preview

October 31, 2014

So what did you all think of the inaugural college football rankings as determined by the Playoff Committee?

My thoughts are obvious. And no, they didn’t change after the rankings were revealed.

It’s okay, it’s not like I’m going to start loathing the rest of the college football season. The cat is out of the bag, and we’ll get what we need in due time.

I’m on a small winning streak in the head-to-head prediction game. After beating Andrew last weekend, the overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 26-14

Guests: 26-14

This week another member of my loyal readers club joins the blog for the third consecutive year. Keegan Fitzpatrick, and to some extent his girlfriend Madi from what I’m told, will try to break the overall deadlock and also my streak. Let’s get this done!

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

#7 TCU at #20 West Virginia (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Horned Frogs running up the score in an 82-27 drubbing of Texas Tech last weekend, but the Committee didn’t do me any favors by placing TCU at No. 7, three spots higher than in the AP poll. Gary Patterson’s team will have its hands full against the Mountaineers this weekend, though, as West Virginia returns to Morgantown after a convincing victory over Oklahoma State last Saturday. Both of these teams are playing well, and while the Mountaineers may not necessarily be in playoff contention at this point, they would love to spoil the party for the visiting team on Saturday afternoon.

The 785 total yards and 82 points scored last weekend didn’t exactly do anything to skew TCU’s season statistics any further, but at this point it goes without saying that you can’t judge the Horned Frogs on numbers alone. Trevone Boykin is the real deal, B.J. Catalon gives the offense a legitimate rushing option and the defense is actually a lot better than the 61 points allowed to Baylor two weeks ago. But the difference between these two teams is that the nation has finally come around to respect the Horned Frogs while West Virginia continues to fly under the radar. Senior Clint Trickett may be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but the only thing he can do is continue to win games, because he is overshadowed by at least three signal-callers in his own conference. The reason the Mountaineers will be a true test for TCU, however, is because of the emergence of a very capable defensive secondary. West Virginia stifled Oklahoma State in Stillwater primarily because of the defense, although Trickett still played decently.

It became quite clear last weekend that Dana Holgorsen has kept his team focused since the upset victory over then fourth ranked Baylor at home. TCU comes in this weekend with a similar ranking, similar offensive numbers and similar flaws. West Virginia may not be a team to look out for in the playoff, but I’ve bought into the strides that this team has made since Week 1. I don’t see the Horned Frogs being able to score at will in this one, which will be the difference against a team that can also score a lot of points.

My Pick: 35-30 West Virginia

Keegan’s Take: Both teams are coming off big wins and seem to be able to score at will. Morgantown will be insane this weekend and I fully expect couches to be burning as WVU wins in a shootout 45-42.

#3 Auburn at #4 Mississippi (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

To some extent it’s all controversial, but it was especially surprising to see these two teams end up in playoff slots as things stand currently. Ole Miss just came off of a loss to then No. 24 ranked LSU in Death Valley, and Auburn has a major blemish on its schedule after a 17 point defeat at the hands of Mississippi State on October 5. It just didn’t seem like ether team really deserved to be in the top four at this point. This much is for sure, though: the loser of this game will have a lot of work to do. I can’t say eliminated from contention, because we know that just isn’t the case when an SEC team loses to another highly ranked SEC squad.

A lot of people were quick to place the blame on “bad Bo” – and yes, Bo Wallace did not play his best in Death Valley last weekend. But keep in mind that LSU is far and away the best defense against the pass in the SEC. Most quarterbacks don’t have a good outing against the Tigers. That being said, Wallace will get a much needed break when going against the Auburn secondary on Saturday evening. Although it looked like the Tigers were much improved over 2013 to start this season, things have tanked. Auburn now allows an average of 242 yards per game through the air, and expect Ole Miss to take advantage of that. There will be a lot of points scored in this game, not only because Auburn will attempt to push the pace but also because the Rebels could have a field day against the opposing secondary.

As ineffective as Ole Miss looked on offense this past weekend, it’s not worth taking that information into this game. Auburn is a completely different squad defensively, essentially using the defense as a thin buffer in the case that the Tigers can’t score 35 or more points. Unfortunately, the Rebels are a more complete team, are playing at home and will be angry about last week’s loss. It’s difficult to say whether Hugh Freeze should be coaching a team currently in the playoff bracket, but they’ll survive another week in that position.

My Pick: 33-28 Ole Miss

Keegan’s Take: Ole Miss wins because of The Blind Side 27-21 (see if you can guess who made that pick).

Editor’s Note: Solid pick, Madi!

Stanford at #5 Oregon (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

This game has become one of the most anticipated on the Pac-12 slate over the past several years because of Stanford’s uncanny ability to use Oregon’s shortcomings for its own gain. Not many teams in the entire country have been able to do that. This year’s version of a budding rivalry could be especially interesting because it is the first time in awhile that one team has been favored so heavily. Normally, Stanford is right alongside the Ducks in the rankings. The Cardinal have the chance to spoil Oregon’s shot at the playoff, simultaneously ruining almost any chance that the Pac-12 is represented in the group of four.

The Cardinal have had trouble moving the ball this season, especially in the red zone where it matters most. The identity that David Shaw prefers to build for his team has been difficult to establish this season for two reasons. One is that there is no “go-to” running back. Stanford is still operating by committee in the run game, which can work but hasn’t to perfection for the Cardinal this season. The second reason is the inconsistency of Kevin Hogan, who has just looked uncomfortable in the pocket. Despite Oregon’s iffy numbers defensively, the Cardinal aren’t going to be able to simply use physicality to beat the Ducks this season. Hogan is going to have to have his best game of the season and someone is going to need to step up and rush for over 100 yards. Otherwise, there just isn’t enough offense to keep up with Oregon.

Many years I could see what I described happening for Stanford. I don’t think that Kevin Hogan is a bad quarterback, and in a couple of years the country may find out that these guys fighting for carries in the backfield are actually pretty solid. But 2014 just doesn’t appear to be Stanford’s year; the team is just a notch below the elite. Oregon won’t score a ton of points in this one, but it won’t need to in order to win. This one will be close on the scoreboard but never really feel like Oregon lost control.

My Pick: 24-14 Oregon

Keegan’s Take: Stanford has been a disappointment this season and they haven’t been able to run the ball as well as they have in previous seasons. Oregon seems to be back on a roll since the loss to Arizona. I think Oregon finally takes care of business against Stanford and pulls away in the second half, winning 38-17.

#12 Arizona at #22 UCLA (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

If the Ducks slip up again, Arizona will be the Pac-12 team in the best position to contend for a playoff bid provided the Wildcats continue to win. Unfortunately for Rich Rodriguez’s squad, the caveat is that it won’t be easy. The team that many thought would be the cream of the Pac-12 crop, UCLA, stands in the way this Saturday night. While the Bruins haven’t had the kind of season they would have hoped for, there is still plenty of opportunity to play spoiler. They just need to have a good outing at home, which hasn’t happened much in 2014.

If you look at the way that Arizona has played this season, it makes sense that the Wildcats were able to beat Oregon but doesn’t make sense the way it happened. Arizona is a legitimate offensive power, ranking No. 6 in the country in total offense and lighting up the scoreboard on more than one occasion this season. Against the Ducks, the Wildcats were opportunistic defensively and forced Marcus Mariota into arguably the worst game of his college career. The way that Brett Hundley has played in 2014, it is entirely possible that Arizona could once again capitalize on the defensive end. But at the same time, it is difficult to know what to expect with Hundley this year. He has been hurt, he has been inconsistent, but he has also shown flashes of the guy that could end up being a successful NFL quarterback someday.

If UCLA is to win this game, it will be because Hundley and the offense return to the form that was expected of them every week. I think that is entirely possible considering the situation this team is in at the moment. Currently fifth in the Pac-12 South Division, there is little to no pressure on this team. Despite Arizona looking much better on the whole, I like the Los Angeles teams to complete the sweep over the Wildcats this season.

My Pick: 34-31 UCLA

Keegan’s Take: Arizona wins 34-28 and Michigan fans continue to wonder why Rich Rod couldn’t win at Michigan.

#17 Utah at #14 Arizona State (Saturday, 11 PM ET)

If you want to watch the most undervalued team in the entire country, look no further than this game. The Utah Utes are the surprise of the season. However, Arizona State is making a pretty good case to be the class of the Pac-12 as well and can hang onto sole possession of first place in the South Division with a victory. If you’re game to stay up for this one on the East Coast, you’re in for a treat.

The Utes outdid Southern Cal at its own game last Saturday night, hitting a field goal in the second quarter that proved to be the difference in a 24-21 victory at home. Utah now has the second best run defense in the Pac-12 statistically, so it will be difficult for the Sun Devils to establish much of a balance offensively. On the same hand, with Taylor Kelly recently working back from a foot injury, it likely isn’t in Arizona State’s best interest to use its quarterback in such a reckless manner. The best thing for Kelly to continue to shake off the rust is to get comfortable in the pocket, which also happens to be the best way to move the ball against Utah. On the offensive end, the Utes have been particularly solid in the running game, amassing nearly double the number of yards on the ground (356) compared with through the air (211) in October.

Flying under the radar is often times a lot easier than living up to the hype created for a team. But in the case of Utah, it would help to have a few more pollsters and Committee members on its side. A loss in this game is not only a major blow to the South Division title chances, but it essentially ends any chance that the Utes could climb into sniffing distance of the playoff. This will be a tight game, but I think that the Sun Devils will pull through.

My Pick: 21-17 Arizona State

Keegan’s Take: I haven’t watched either of these two teams this year but I think Arizona St wins 31-24.

5 Games to Flip To

Florida at #11 Georgia (Saturday, 3:3o PM ET)

It’s a rivalry game which makes things interesting, but a Florida victory would be a huge upset.

Kentucky at Missouri (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

Missouri is still fighting to sit alone atop the SEC East, but Kentucky is a formidable opponent in 2014.

South Alabama at UL-Lafayette (Saturday, 5 PM ET)

The game of the year in the Sun Belt Conference.

Arkansas at #1 Mississippi State (Saturday, 7:15 PM ET)

Wouldn’t it be something if Arkansas’s first SEC victory in over two years comes against the No. 1 team in the country?

#10 Notre Dame at Navy (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Expect the Fighting Irish to come out angry after being snubbed by the Committee. Navy is no pushover, though.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Keegan 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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