2014 NCAAF Week 13 Weekend Preview

November 20, 2014

It seems as though I have fallen back into my old ways.

My old ways, of course, being losing.

Billy was able to beat me by one game last weekend, meaning that the guests have pulled ahead once again. In addition, I am now on a two week losing streak.

The overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 35-20

Guests: 36-19

This weekend is particularly intriguing, however. Although the number of high profile matchups is a bit lower than we’ve experienced the last few weekends, this is the type of week that can take everyone by surprise. Think the SEC is safe because its teams play primarily FCS squads? Okay, in that case they’re probably safe.

But for other conferences, there is still the potential nightmare of losing its only team with a fighting chance at making the playoff. November football is what separates the men from the boys in this game, and no week is really a guaranteed victory.

This week my buddy Taylor Black will represent the guests in the head-to-head prediction game. This is Taylor’s first time making picks, making it consecutive weekends in which a rookie has stepped up to the plate. Hopefully I can actually beat one them…

Here are 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 Minnesota at #23 Nebraska (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The way that a team plays in a loss can say a lot about its character. Minnesota would very much have liked to beat the Buckeyes at home in the snow, but a seven point defeat was enough for the Committee to leave the Golden Gophers in the Top 25. Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers were one of the biggest losers in the rankings this week, dropping seven spots after being run over by Melvin Gordon & Co. While these two teams will need some help regardless, a win in this game preserves a sliver of hope of reaching the Big Ten title game.

On one hand, Nebraska losing to Wisconsin is understandable. When its superhero running back gets held to under 70 yards rushing, the Cornhuskers are going to have a difficult time moving the football effectively. But on the other hand, Nebraska’s offense isn’t really to blame for the 59-24 drubbing that the Badgers doled out last Saturday afternoon. Melvin Gordon managed to set a new FBS record with 408 rushing yards in the game, putting an end to any talk about Nebraska’s defense being one of the most improved in the Big Ten. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, Minnesota has a stud tailback of its own in senior David Cobb. Although not a household name, Cobb is No. 8 in the country in total yards rushing. He hits the hole hard and will be similarly difficult for Nebraska to arm tackle. Additionally, the Golden Gophers have a unique downfield weapon in tight end Maxx Williams. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota, who is last in the Big Ten in yards per game passing, is able to mix it up against a defense that is now unsure of itself.

The Cornhuskers come back home to Lincoln, but the Golden Gophers are a solid football team. Unless Tommy Armstrong Jr. has a breakout game, there is enough film on Nebraska to know exactly how to stop their main man. Jerry Kill has done a terrific job with Minnesota and the team is no longer a doormat on the road. I think that the Golden Gophers will be excited about the chance to stay in the West Division race and win a close one.

My Pick: 28-24 Minnesota

Taylor’s Take: Rumor is that Ameer Abdullah will be back for this game and thank goodness. Nebraska looks helpless without him. Minnesota seems like a decent team but they have to go through the gauntlet of their schedule to finish the season. Minnesota could easily finish 7-5 (which I think they will). Their loss to Illinois is a head scratcher and this game is on the road for the Gophers. Abdullah runs wild and Nebraska wins 27-19.

#8 Mississippi at Arkansas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Don’t look now, but the Arkansas Razorbacks are just a win away from becoming bowl eligible this season. For many teams that isn’t much to get excited about, but the Razorbacks are likely rejuvenated after suffering through a 17-game conference losing streak before breaking the spell against LSU last Saturday. There is no rest for the weary, however, as Bret Bielema must prepare his squad for the No. 8 team in the country. Ole Miss is hanging onto its playoff hopes by a single thread, so don’t expect the Rebels to take Arkansas lightly.

Even during their winless drought, the Razorbacks were known throughout the SEC for having one of the better rushing attacks thanks to the two-headed monster of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. But this season Arkansas has managed to keep games close against quality competition because of its run defense. The Razorbacks are No. 4 in the conference allowing just over 126 yards per contest on the ground. The Rebels are a bit different than many of their SEC counterparts, however, in that they like to get things going offensively through the air. Bo Wallace has been more good than bad in 2014, and even with the loss of leading receiver Laquon Treadwell he should be able to find holes in the Razorback defense. Arkansas has been in the best position to win games when holding its opponent to fewer than 20 points, but it will be difficult to stifle the Ole Miss passing attack to that extreme.

The Razorbacks still need one more win in order to be playing sometime during the holidays, and you can bet that is included in Coach Bielema’s pep talks. Beating either Ole Miss or Missouri won’t be easy, though. The Rebels are better equipped offensively to avoid being stifled by the Razorbacks on the ground, which is good news for their playoff chances. But this game will be close because of how badly Arkansas would like to play in a thirteenth game this season.

My Pick: 34-28 Mississippi

Taylor’s Take: I heard David Pollack (ESPN analyst) say that Arkansas would win the Big Ten West Division. Granted, Arkansas had lost something like 17 straight SEC games but I guess Pollack thinks they’re still a good team? Arkansas always seems to keep the games close but can never come away with a win. Ole Miss is too good in this situation and I think it will be a defensive struggle. Ole Miss wins 17-14.

#16 Wisconsin at Iowa (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

After last weekend’s convincing victory over Nebraska, the Badgers are now in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten West Division. The Hawkeyes are quietly putting together a solid season in their own right, though, and could really muddy the waters by upsetting Wisconsin at home on Saturday afternoon. But the question everyone would like answered is, “can anyone stop Melvin Gordon?” Step up to the the plate, Iowa, and show the nation what you’ve got. The West Division title will be earned, not given in 2014.

Whether or not Melvin Gordon has a realistic chance to win the Heisman Trophy because of where Wisconsin is currently ranked is not worth the argument. What is worth talking about is just how important Gordon is to the success of his team’s offense. Only Minnesota averages fewer passing yards per game than the Badgers in the Big Ten, yet Wisconsin is still third in the conference in total offensive yards per contest. Gordon blows away the rest of the conference when it comes to total rushing yards for the season, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards per game and is second to teammate Tanner McEvoy in yards per attempt. In fact, Gordon would be seventh in the conference in total rushing touchdowns if he were a team. If you think this is just a love affair for the Wisconsin running back, you’re not wrong. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the Hawkeyes. Iowa doesn’t have a standout offensive producer and is middle of the pack when it comes to nearly all major statistical categories. But perhaps the most damning tidbit is that all seven of Iowa’s victories have come against teams with a losing record.

Wisconsin is far from a team playing sub-.500 football. Frankly, the team is playing its best football of the season in the most crucial month. Beating a team on the road is rarely an easy task, but the Hawkeyes probably aren’t as good as the 7-3 record would suggest. This is a chance for Iowa to prove the critics wrong, but it will have to find a way to slow down Gordon. If a 51-14 loss to Minnesota on November 8 in which the Hawkeyes allowed 291 yards rushing is any indication, that is an extremely tall task.

My Pick: 35-20 Wisconsin

Taylor’s Take: Did you know that Iowa’s coach (Kirk Ferentz) is one of the top 10 highest paid coaches in college football? Seems pretty high for a coach that always seems to finish 7-5 or 8-4 every year. Melvin Gordon has solidified himself as a Heisman contender and it seems that no one can stop him (at least we know Nebraska can’t). It would be good for OSU to have Wisconsin win this game easily and I think they will. Gordon runs wild and Wisconsin coasts 42-17.

#15 Arizona at #17 Utah (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

While the Pac-12 North Division is all but wrapped up at this point, the South Division is still wide open. Both of these teams could technically wind up as the South’s representative in the Pac-12 title game, which makes this game important from a championship standpoint. But even if that wasn’t the case, the opposite styles of play that these two teams bring to the table make this chess match worth watching.

It is no secret how these teams make their hay. Arizona is the offensively minded squad, lighting up the scoreboard but sometimes having trouble keeping the opponent out of the endzone as well. Utah is more defensively oriented, choosing to keep games tight and rip the heart out of opposing teams with consistent offensive drives and points late in the fourth quarter. But another thing that separates these teams is overall consistency. While Arizona seems to play to its opponents’ strengths, Utah is more predictable and forces teams to play to its own pace. The Utes have been involved in five games that were decided by three points or less this season. The Wildcats were the No. 1 offense in the Pac-12 when they faced UCLA on November 2 and proceeded to score a paltry seven points against the Bruins. In this game, it’s difficult to predict consistency because the last time Utah played at home it was demolished by Oregon. The Wildcats play a similar up-tempo style on offense, so Utah’s more calculated approach may backfire.

At the same time, trying to predict whether Arizona’s offense will show up is like trying to guess the exact combination of winning numbers in the Super Lottery. Against two of the Pac-12’s better defenses in UCLA and Washington, the Wildcats were held to fewer than 30 points in both games. Utah is better defensively overall and against the pass than either of those squads, which should give the Utes a fighting chance on Saturday. This game is destined to be decided by a field goal, and I’m going to go with the home team in this one for no other reason than because it seems like the safer pick.

My Pick: 24-21 Utah

Taylor’s Take: I can’t figure out Utah. They look good one second and then the next they make a boneheaded play like dropping the ball on the goal-line…okay sorry, too soon! Rich Rod has solidified himself out in the desert. He has always quietly been a good coach and Michigan was wrong to let him go so soon. I think Arizona simply has a better team than Utah but it will come down to the final seconds. Plus, we all know the Pac-12 doesn’t play defense so whoever has the ball last will probably win. Arizona wins 41-38.

#19 Southern California at #9 UCLA (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

It seems odd to be preparing for the Crosstown Rivalry any time before the last week of the regular season, but such is the case in 2014. Granted, if the stakes continued to be this high in future contests I really wouldn’t mind when the game is played as much as that I actually got to watch it. The national Game of the Week takes place in the Rose Bowl this weekend and it should be a terrific contest. Both teams are peaking at the right time and the outcome of this game will have a major effect on the South Division race.

The Bruins absolutely have the right to wonder what could have been had the team started the season as many pundits thought they would. At No. 9 in the current playoff rankings, UCLA is within striking distance of No. 4 but still has a lot of work left to do. The turning point for the Bruins this season was when Brett Hundley stopped trying to do too much and began to trust the rest of his offense to do the heavy lifting. Since a close call with Cal on October 18, Hundley’s passing yards have been down but so has his turnover rate. He is still the most important piece to the UCLA offense, but allowing other athletes to do work has transformed the Bruins into a difficult team to stop. One battle that will be particularly interesting in this one is UCLA’s run game against the USC run defense. Both are ranked No. 2 in the conference and that matchup will likely be the quiet decider.

Southern Cal has had an up-and-down year, but beating the Bruins and ending any hope of a playoff berth (as well as a Pac-12 title game slot) for its rival would be about as sweet as solidifying first place in the Pac-12 South. Although the Trojans can get it done on the offensive end, they are in much better position the fewer points are scored. Intimidating UCLA will be extremely tough, though. The Bruins have either been on the road or faced a ranked opponent (or both) the past seven weeks. Talk about running the gauntlet. Being battle tested at this point in the season is an advantage, so I’ll go with the powder blues in this one.

My Pick: 30-24 UCLA

Taylor’s Take: The winner will more than likely play Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. If you’re an OSU fan like myself, I think UCLA will put up the best fight to knock Oregon off in the Pac-12 title game. That being said, the committee for some reason is in love with UCLA, having them ranked at No. 9 this week. There is a slight fear for me that UCLA could pass OSU with a win against USC and Oregon at the end of the season. Either way, USC is not a bad team either and could put up a fight against Oregon as well. I think it will be close but UCLA has looked good as of late, plus it is a home game for the Bruins. UCLA wins 24-20.

5 More to Flip To

*Taylor requested we pick winners in these games as well, which I have no problem doing. Although these won’t count in the overall prediction game records, check out our picks compare.

Boston College at Florida State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

It would be a major shock if the Eagles managed to beat the Seminoles, but not if they kept things close. I’ll go with Florida State 35-24.

Taylor’s Take: I want to say that Boston College will pull the upset of the season and finally knock off Florida State but I would be lying if I said that. The only thing I know about Boston College is that they have a good running back and they beat USC earlier in the season. I want FSU to lose but they somehow always find a way to win. Boston College may be up early, but FSU will win. They deserve it, after all, because they have been such a GREAT group of student athletes all year, right? FSU will pull away in the fourth quarter and win 32-14.

#24 Louisville at Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Raise your hand if three weeks ago you thought that Louisville would be the only team ranked in this one. Put your hand down, liars. I’ll take the Fighting Irish to break the losing streak, 30-28.

Taylor’s Take: The wheels have come off for Notre Dame. Golson has turned into a turnover machine and Louisville seems to have been ranked just inside the top 25 all season. That vaunted Louisville defense has to be licking its chops at the thought of Golson turning the ball over. I think it will be an ugly game but Louisville will win 17-10.

Stanford at California (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

This game is entirely overshadowed by the other California rivalry this weekend, but the teams appear about even for the first time in awhile. I see Cal being able to do just enough to beat the Cardinal. 24-21 California.

Taylor’s Take: Cal seems to love the last second Hail Mary. I don’t think it will be enough for them to overcome Stanford. 20-13 Cardinal win.

#20 Missouri at Tennessee (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Tigers could create a problem for the SEC by winning the East Division. Missouri rolls 42-21.

Taylor’s Take: Somehow Indiana beat Missouri yet the Tigers are in the thick of the SEC race. They have quietly been winning games in the SEC and no one has been giving them a chance to win their conference because the SEC East is so “bad”. Missouri deserves more credit than it is getting and it will inch ever closer to the coveted SEC title game with a win against the Volunteers. 24-14 Missouri.

Oklahoma State at #7 Baylor (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Bears, nay, the entire Big 12 was disrespected by the Committee this week. Expect Baylor to score, score and score some more in a desperate attempt to earn some brownie points. 49-24 Baylor.

Taylor’s Take: Baylor continues to get no credit from the Playoff Committee. This is a game they should win and I think they will. Oklahoma State is on a four game losing streak and they have not scored more than 14 points during that streak. Baylor will once again not get the credit they deserve after they beat Oklahoma State but we all know the big showdown for them is on December 6 versus No. 12 Kansas State. It will be the last time Baylor has a chance to make its case for the playoff. Baylor beats OSU 54-21.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Taylor 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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