2014 NCAAF Week 11 Weekend Preview

November 6, 2014

After a third straight victory over the guests, I’m pleased to unveil the most recent head-to-head prediction game records:

K. Becks: 29-16

Guests: 28-17

I appreciate the support, loyal readers!

Despite my arrogance, this week should be particularly interesting. Not only because this week’s college football lineup is extremely tasty, but also because you will be introduced to the only person I know who comes close to matching the number of smart ass comments I spew both on this blog and in person.

The blog welcomes my brother Kevin, a.k.a King Beck (or K Becks II for those little shits who think you can just slap a nickname on someone without checking the national registry for that kind of stuff). He emailed me his picks earlier this week and proceeded to tell me that he “sent me results”. Yes, results.

I know it’s quite obvious that you all will be rooting for Kevin this weekend since I’ve been cleaning up as of late. And that’s fine. But keep in mind that one of this guy’s most frequent zingers directed at me is “blog about it”. I’m going to take pleasure in kicking his ass this weekend.

Let’s take a look at the fine slate of games I think you should watch, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#10 Notre Dame at #9 Arizona State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The way that these two teams are being talked about in the media and playing on the field, it’s a wonder that they’re right next to each other in the rankings. Notre Dame was seemingly snubbed in the inaugural Playoff Rankings, but an unimpressive victory over Navy last Saturday night did nothing to sway the Committee in its favor. Arizona State has a fairly decent resume, the meat of its conference slate behind it and if you believe some ESPN analysts, a good chance to crash the playoff party if it wins out. Like many contests this weekend, only one team will survive Saturday with its playoff hopes intact.

The Sun Devils haven’t looked as potent offensively since the return of Taylor Kelly at quarterback, but fortunately the defense has stepped up in a big way. While Washington and Utah aren’t exactly the most dangerous offensive teams in the country, Arizona State has managed to hold opponents under 20 points for three consecutive weeks. This is worth noting, because many will look to Notre Dame’s controversial loss on the road to current No. 2 Florida State as proof that the Fighting Irish can steal a victory in Tempe. The difference between Florida State and Arizona State is that the Sun Devils won’t allow Everett Golson to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Instead, the Fighting Irish will need to employ a heavy dose of the run game in order to create scoring opportunities. Sophomore Tarean Folson has emerged as a viable option for Notre Dame and will be a key asset for Brian Kelly in this game. If the Fighting Irish want to win, Folson must eclipse the century mark in rushing yards for the third straight weekend.

Arizona State isn’t the kind of team that will blow opponents away, which is good news for the Fighting Irish. Additionally, having Folson hitting his stride at the right time is a huge boost to Notre Dame. If he is able to find room to run, the Fighting Irish can control the pace of the game. The Navy game is concerning, but it’s very possible that it was a classic case of young men thinking one week ahead of the present. It’s not going to be an easy victory by any stretch, but I like what I saw from the Golden Domers on the road in Tallahassee. I think that Coach Kelly seals the deal in the second big road showdown of the season for the Fighting Irish.

My Pick: 27-24 Notre Dame

Kevin’s Take: Arizona State 28-20. Notre Dame doesn’t have what it takes in the big games. Will come close though.

#7 Kansas State at #6 TCU (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Do you like purple? Because there’s going to be a whole lot of it in Fort Worth this weekend, and these days the Big 12 is owned by schools that don the historically regal color. TCU wasn’t great by any stretch last Saturday, but it takes a gutsy performance to come out of Morgantown with a victory. The Wildcats on the other hand are humming along since suffering a respectable defeat at the hands of Auburn in mid-September. Not only is this a battle atop the Big 12, but also for the right to stay in the playoff hunt. Bragging rights as the best team in purple isn’t bad, either.

Under Bill Snyder Kansas State has been called a lot of things: conservative, calculated, solid in every facet but the best at nothing. That is not the case with the 2014 Wildcats. Kansas State allows the fewest total yards per game in the Big 12 conference, thanks largely to a stifling defensive front that allows a smidgen over 100 yards per contest. But that front will be put to the test on Saturday evening by perhaps the most improved player in the entire country. Trevone Boykin was average against West Virginia, but the junior signal-caller is the reason that the Horned Frogs can strike so quickly on offense. He makes good decisions and has the ability to fool even the most disciplined defensive secondary. And to say that this game will be a chess match between two sharp minds is a major understatement. There isn’t a better coaching matchup this weekend save Urban Meyer vs. Mark Dantonio.

Kansas State has already proven this year that it can make good offenses look incompetent, and it’s no question that TCU has severely bloated statistics with regards to points scored per game. But the Horned Frogs are nearly as careful with the football on offense as the Wildcats. In fact, TCU leads the Big 12 in turnover margin. Ball security will be important in this one, but I think that it will come down to the play of an emerging Heisman contender. If Boykin finds a way to crack the conference’s most collected defense, the Horned Frogs will stay within striking distance of the playoff bracket.

My Pick: 33-26 TCU

Kevin’s Take: Kansas State 24-23. Winning on a field goal in the final seconds.

#14 Ohio State at #8 Michigan State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Apparently it’s not just the AP voters that ride the Big Ten hate train. Neither Michigan State nor Ohio State has received much love from the Playoff Committee thus far. But this is the game that everyone who follows the conference has been looking forward to since the beginning of the season. It will be difficult for anyone to continue to discount the winner of this contest, and with the way the rest of the conference looks it’s hard to imagine the victor falling a second time. The loser? Well, come on…better luck next year.

For much of the past two months, J.T. Barrett was making people forget that he is still a redshirt freshman that wasn’t even supposed to see the field in 2014. From September 13 to October 18 Ohio State’s quarterback threw for no less than 3 touchdowns and 261 yards per game, numbers that would elevate him to the top half of the Big Ten in passing and prompt some of the more bold Buckeye fans to wonder about that bronze trophy. But then the Ohio State faced the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley and the honeymoon came to a screeching halt. By the end of regulation, gone was the cool and collected passer and in his place stood a frazzled youngster who, to his credit, won the game in overtime primarily with his legs. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Michigan State was watching that game. Mark Dantonio has the blueprint to slowing down Ohio State’s offense, which is something that will need to be clicking in order for the visiting team to pull an upset this Saturday night. Somewhat surprisingly, the Spartans lead the Big Ten in total offensive yards per game, besting Urban Meyer’s squad by nearly 10 yards.

Mark Dantonio is a coach in the mold of his former boss at Ohio State, so it can be said with confidence that the Spartans won’t do much to totally surprise people. Michigan State is likely to score somewhere around 30 points in this one. The Buckeyes on the other hand are a complete wildcard. It’s possible that the athletes in the backfield could blow this thing up and post 45 on the Spartans. It’s also possible that Barrett is pestered all night long and the Buckeyes struggled to score two touchdowns. Unfortunately for the fans in Columbus, after watching the Penn State game I think the latter scenario is more likely.

My Pick: 30-17 Michigan State

Kevin’s Take: Ohio State 38-31. Simply go Bucks!

#5 Alabama at #16 LSU (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

This is the first time since 2008 that only one of the two teams in this rivalry are ranked in the Top 10 when squaring off against one another. In that game, the No. 15 Tigers took the top ranked Crimson Tide to overtime before succumbing 27-21. Don’t be surprised if this year’s edition is similarly exciting; LSU has been inconsistent in 2014 but has the defense to keep this one interesting. Alabama already has some chinks in the armor, but few are willing to budge on the opinion that the team should still get a shot in the playoff. Perhaps there will be some changed minds after this showdown.

Without much of a passing game to rely on, the Tigers are woefully one dimensional on offense. But LSU hasn’t had to lean on the defense as much as one might be led to believe. Only twice this season have the Tigers been held to under 28 points in a game, and only once has the team been held to under 300 total yards of offense. Don’t expect LSU to roll over and play dead against an Alabama defense that has its weaknesses. Unfortunately for Les Miles, Alabama’s defensive shortcomings don’t match up with what LSU wants to do offensively. The Crimson Tide aren’t great against the pass, but who is going to lead the air raid? Anthony Jennings, who has thrown for 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions this season on a 50 percent completion rate? Put simply, it’s going to be tough sledding for LSU on offense. Still, Alabama’s offense isn’t as scary as it has been in past years and the Tigers have a knack for playing well under the lights in Death Valley.

I don’t think I’m being a visionary when I say that LSU’s offense has been unimpressive. The lack of a passing game will hurt the Tigers in this one. But defensively there are few teams in the country as gritty as the one from Baton Rouge. I think that Alabama will win this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one turn into yet another classic between these two squads. The Crimson Tide are by no means a guarantee to win this contest.

My Pick: 27-13 Alabama

Kevin’s Take: Alabama 40-20. Roll tide. They know how much is on the line in this one.

#4 Oregon at #17 Utah (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

The Utes may have been flying under the radar for everyone else it seems, but clearly the Committee has taken notice of Utah’s surprising success. Even after a tough three point loss in overtime to Arizona State in Tempe, Kyle Whittingham’s team did not drop a single spot in the rankings this week. But despite being 6-2 on the season, Whittingham is not above creating a midseason quarterback competition. Definitely an interesting way to approach playing the Ducks.

Utah has been stingy on defense all year, which is the main reason why the Utes are playing even with the best that the Pac-12 has to offer. Unfortunately, a good defense will only get you so far against the Ducks. Just ask Stanford. The conference’s top overall defense in terms of yards allowed was torched by Oregon last weekend, and Utah runs the risk of being a second consecutive victim of Mariota and friends. The Utes are consistent yet conservative offensively, and that’s because they have to be. In contrast, the kinds of teams that have given the Ducks trouble this season are the ones that are aggressive offensively. Utah is essentially the polar opposite of Arizona and Washington State, the two teams that seemed to have Oregon’s number.

It is possible that the Utes will be able to control the pace of the game and keep the football away from Oregon’s offensive playmakers, but at some point Utah will have to take some chances to win. Against UCLA and Arizona State, the Utes were able to stifle offenses that weren’t nearly as dynamic as Oregon’s. Defense alone will not save Utah, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Whittingham coach the game as if it can. As a result, I see the Ducks winning this one pretty easily.

My Pick: 35-17 Oregon

Kevin’s Take: Oregon 51-35. Oregon too fast to be beat.

5 Games to Flip To

#12 Baylor at #15 Baylor (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

How Oklahoma manages to stay in the top 15 is beyond me. But this game should be close even if the Sooners don’t deserve to be where they’re at.

#24 Georgia Tech at North Carolina State (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)

The Yellow Jackets are always a good bet to be playing a somewhat satisfying mid-day contest.

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

Not that long ago, this game would have been one of the most anticipated of the weekend. But without Kenny Hill the Aggies are going to have a hard time pulling off the upset.

#18 UCLA at Washington (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Neither team has been all that consistent this season, which makes this one hard to predict.

Louisville at Boston College (Saturday, 7:15 PM ET)

Louisville almost took down Florida State last Thursday, but the Eagles could get the best of the Cardinals this weekend.

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

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