2014 NCAAF Week 7 Weekend Preview

October 11, 2014

I don’t often say this (or maybe I do, because I write a blog that practically no one reads and I need some way to make a splash), but Week 6 of the college football calendar was my favorite weekend of games in a long time. It isn’t often that we see what occurred last weekend. In fact, we’ve only seen it a handful of times…ever. The year 1990 was the last time that four of the top six teams in the country went down in the same weekend, and it’s only the second time since 1936.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t fare too well in the head-to-head pick ’em game on such a crazy Saturday. Jack ended up beating me, but only by one game. The overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 13-12

Guests: 15-10

This weekend, Around The Corn welcomes just its second female perspective ever to share her gridiron knowledge via the head-to-head prediction game. My friend Sarah Weyer will be making picks against me, and she’s beaten the daylights out of me in fantasy football before so don’t be shocked if she wins this battle as well.

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

#13 Georgia at #23 Missouri (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

On the heels of the rather shocking news that Heisman Trophy contending running back Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely for the Georgia Bulldogs, the momentum heading into this game has shifted tremendously. The Bulldogs were already one of college football’s most unpredictable squads, but without Gurley the potential for Mark Richt’s team to be a grab bag of sorts is even higher. Missouri may no longer have to prepare for one of the country’s most electric rushers, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers are looking at a guaranteed victory. This game should still be a thriller.

In Todd Gurley the Bulldogs had an offensive presence that was head and shoulders above anyone else that would have stepped foot in Memorial Stadium this coming Saturday. But without him, this is still a talented football team. Hutson Mason has stepped in nicely as Georgia’s starting quarterback this season and has done a good job of taking care of the football with the exception of the Tennessee game. However, Mason hasn’t really been called upon to be “the guy” which is the knock on him coming into this one. He may not be in this game, either. Even with Gurley and freshman Sony Michel likely out for this game, the well isn’t dry for the Bulldogs in the running back department. Freshman Nick Chubb is good enough to assume the same duties Gurley had and can make Mason’s job a lot easier. Missouri doesn’t exactly have the most stellar defense anyway.

Without their star running back, the Bulldogs will need to have a solid game defensively in order to avoid being run out of the building on Saturday. Missouri has a talented running back in its own right in Russell Hansbrough and quarterback Maty Mauk is one of the best passers in the SEC. But assuming that Georgia is dead in the water simply because it lost one player, albeit a great one, is silly. If the Bulldogs were to lose to Missouri, it would’ve happened with or without Gurley. That’s just how this team has been in 2014. The same goes for winning.

My Pick: 30-24 Georgia

Sarah’s Take: Yup, you could say that Georgia’s on my mind – I think they’ll beat the Mizzou Tigers 23-21.

#9 TCU at #5 Baylor (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Horned Frogs provided us with one of the most thrilling upsets of the weekend last Saturday, which is actually saying something considering how many upsets occurred. In addition, going with TCU over the Sooners has become my favorite call of the season. But Gary Patterson’s team has no time to celebrate cracking the Top 10 as a trip to Waco awaits. The Bears have been laying low for most of the season, not having impressed many people based on strength of schedule, but all of that will be thrown out the window if Baylor manages to beat the Horned Frogs. This game defines the weekend, which I’ll dub “Validation Saturday”. You’re welcome, ESPN.

Baylor may not have played the most quality of competition thus far, but the Bears are doing everything in their power to prove to the voters that they deserve a top five ranking. I’ve talked about Oklahoma’s offense and TCU’s defense in past weekend previews, but can you guess who leads the Big 12 in both categories this season? That’s right…Baylor. Art Briles has continued to make strides on the defensive end which has transformed Baylor into a team that doesn’t necessarily need to score 55 points to win a meaningful football game. The Bears were held to fewer than 400 total offensive yards last weekend against Texas but still managed to pull off a three touchdown victory. Chances are that TCU will be able to handle Bryce Petty as well, so Baylor’s defense needs to be up to the task of stopping a real threat at quarterback in Trevone Boykin.

The Horned Frogs have proven themselves once already this season, but going on the road to take on a top five team is another animal entirely. No one on Baylor’s coaching staff is underestimating Boykin and the Bears are hungry for respect as well. Don’t be surprised if overall defensive numbers take a hit on both sides, but even in a high scoring game the defenses will be important in this one. The Horned Frogs may begin to make a habit of playing tight games against quality competition.

My Pick: 35-33 Baylor

Sarah’s Take: Da Bears! I know, wrong organization, but I’m pretty confident that they’ll take the win over the Horned Frogs (Is that really TCU’s mascot?) 38-30.

#2 Auburn at #3 Mississippi State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Bulldogs have gone from pleasant surprise to legitimate playoff contender in a matter of two weeks, which isn’t something that happens often in the SEC. However, it is also a testament to just how messed up the AP poll is on a week to week basis. Auburn on the other hand has been playing like one of the best teams in the country all season long, and now Gus Malzahn’s team is in position to take a crack at the national title for a second time in as many seasons as long as it continues to win. Something has got to give, but you know what? No matter what happens in this game, it’s pretty easy to predict what will happen in the AP poll on Sunday afternoon.

Dak Prescott is no longer the nation’s best kept secret. In fact, with Todd Gurley out indefinitely, he could very well be the Heisman front runner after this weekend. The junior tore apart Texas A&M’s defense, racking up five touchdowns in total and helping put the game out of reach before the fourth quarter was half over. But in order to make it three for three against ranked opponents this season, Prescott will need to do the majority of his damage through the air against Auburn. The Tigers have been stellar against the pass and statistically are the strongest defense that Mississippi State will have faced thus far. In addition, Auburn doesn’t mess around offensively. The Tigers will look to score quickly and efficiently against the Bulldogs so ball possession will only help the home team so much. However, Auburn has yet to face a run defense as talented as Mississippi State’s.

It will be interesting to see if Auburn can run wild against anyone or just those teams with a problem up front. The Bulldogs should answer that question, but even if the Tigers do have success it doesn’t guarantee a victory. Prescott is the most dynamic athlete that Auburn’s defense has seen this season and he has the ability to change the game on his own. Auburn has proven it can go on the road and beat a quality opponent, but this is a tougher challenge than Kansas State. The Bulldogs have all the confidence in the world and I expect this game to be one of the best of the entire season.

My Pick: 31-28 Mississippi State

Sarah’s Take: Despite the fact that I can’t spell Mississippi without first saying each letter out loud, I’m going to say that they will beat Auburn 24-17.

#12 Oregon at #18 UCLA (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

What a difference a week can make. Last Wednesday, the Pac-12 was sitting pretty with two teams inside of the Top 10, and this battle was gaining traction as the potential game of the weekend. But surprise losses to Arizona (what?) and Utah (double what?) have left these two heavy hitters on the outside looking in as far as the playoff race is concerned. The winner of this game will have a chance to climb back into the conversation as upsets happen and the top teams continue to shuffle in the rankings, but both teams have already used their get out of jail free card. The loser of this game is definitely out of playoff contention.

If you watched Oregon lose to Arizona last Thursday evening, then you were probably quite surprised at how flat the Ducks looked. Marcus Mariota was particularly sloppy, but the entire offense was to blame for the inability to crack the 30-point barrier. If the Ducks want to avoid losing two in a row, there needs to be more urgency on the offensive side of the football. Defensively, it’s hard to imagine much improvement by the Ducks when they take on Brett Hundley. Oregon was already struggling against the pass before Anu Solomon torched the Ducks, and Hundley should be able to do the same. However, UCLA is likely to have the same problems provided Mariota returns to his old form in this one.

Statistically, these teams are fairly even. Both have quarterbacks that are capable of taking advantage of a poor pass defense, so there is the potential for offensive fireworks in this one. It’s easy to say that UCLA has looked worse when taking the entire season into account, but upon closer inspection these are teams headed in opposite directions. The Ducks almost lost to Washington State on September 21 before falling to Arizona. UCLA blitzed Arizona State before losing to 4-1 Utah on a field goal in the final minute of play. The home field advantage also favors the Bruins, so while I originally had Oregon as my No. 1 team in the country, I can’t go with the struggling Ducks here.

My Pick: 41-35 UCLA

Sarah’s Take: “We are ducks, and ducks fly together.” That’s exactly what the Oregon Ducks will do as they beat UCLA 27-17.

#3 Mississippi at #14 Texas A&M (Saturday, 9 PM ET)

Mississippi’s victory over Alabama may seem like a total shock to some people, and just by looking at the scoreboard I’d have to agree. But digging deeper, the Rebels did exactly what I said needed to happen in order to win that game. Bo Wallace played a nearly perfect football game and the defense did just enough to give him a chance. In order to beat the Aggies on Saturday night, a much different scenario will have to play out. Texas A&M is not Alabama; perhaps not as talented overall, but just as dangerous offensively. It is entirely possible that last weekend’s script could be flipped, leaving Ole Miss longing for a taste of No. 1 in the country for at least another season.

The fact that Ole Miss actually allowed more yards to Alabama than it gained itself is a good sign, because chances are that Texas A&M will outgain the Rebels offensively. Kenny Hill had his first bad game as Texas A&M’s starting quarterback last weekend, throwing three interceptions (one of which was not his fault) which contributed greatly to Mississippi State building an insurmountable lead. However, Hill still managed to throw for four touchdowns and 365 yards, albeit against the worst pass defense in the SEC. Ole Miss, in contrast, has the SEC’s best pass defense and held Blake Sims to his lowest QB rating of the season (116.62). As the season wears on, it is becoming apparent that the AP poll may have actually gotten something right when it had the Aggies at No. 21 in the preseason. Not having Johnny Manziel wasn’t going to be the biggest issue for this team; similarly to last season, the problem is the lack of any semblance of an SEC defense. The Aggies have been exposed against the pass and the run already this year.

The Rebels must face an Aggies team that is likely embarrassed after last weekend’s blowout, which won’t be easy considering the home team will have the backing of the 12th Man. However, statistically this game favors the higher ranked squad. Bo Wallace needs to be sharp once again, but the defense is good enough to slow down Hill enough for Ole Miss to keep pace offensively. I don’t see the Rebels blowing out Texas A&M like their in-state rivals, but I do think that Hugh Freeze’s team is good enough to pull out a victory in this hostile environment.

My Pick: 34-31 Mississippi

Sarah’s Take: From what I hear, this will be the game to watch (even though I will not be watching it myself…). I predict Texas A&M will defeat Ole Miss 27-20.

5 Games to Flip To

Northwestern at Minnesota (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Remember what I said about Northwestern last week? This is another winnable game for the Wildcats, who are currently in first place in the Big Ten West Division.

Duke at #22 Georgia Tech (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)

The Yellow Jackets are the only undefeated team in the country outside of the Top 10 in the AP Poll, but beating Duke will give Georgia Tech some credibility with the voters.

Washington at California (Saturday, 6 PM ET)

Both are likely to be middle of the road Pac-12 squads by season’s end, but the winner keeps itself in the thick of the North Division race for the time being.

LSU at Florida (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

This game is normally a marquee SEC matchup, but this season there are plenty of much better games being played on the same weekend. Still, neither team can score so it should be close.

Southern California at #10 Arizona (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

As long as the Wildcats are ranked they’ll work to validate their spot, simply because they’ve been in so many close games already. The Trojans are good enough to spoil the party after just one week, though.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Sarah 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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