2015 Week 10 NCAAF Weekend Preview

November 7, 2015

Three things have happened since Week 9. Only one of them is significant.

The first insignificant thing is that the College Football Playoff rankings were released for the first time in 2015. If you don’t understand why this is insignificant, read my most recent article before this one.

The second insignificant thing is that the guests have once again pulled even with me in the head-to-head prediction game. The Gardner brothers have batted 1.000 against me this season, which makes me sad. What makes me even more upset is that we have seemingly lost Matt from Chi Alpha Chi after this response to my tweet last Friday: “team bieber is taking the lead this week”.

No, Matt, no one from Team Bieber will ever be a guest prognosticator on this blog. But I digress.

The only real significant thing that has happened since Week 9 is that the calendar has turned over to November. This is the month that college football gets serious. The good teams grind out tough wins and the weaker teams crumble under the pressure. With so many teams still unbeaten, it will be a fun month to watch. Most of those unbeatens won’t make it through the next four weeks unscathed.

Week 10 could appropriately be called Validation Week. Several top teams will face difficult competition, and if history is any indication, not all of the favorites will survive.

To help the guests gain an edge this week is my good friend Jack, who admittedly “bases all of his football knowledge on the water cooler talk”. I can tell you right now, that means he’s probably in good position. Water coolers from multiple locations have the overall standings all knotted up:

K. Becks: 27-18

Guests: 27-18

Jack also lies about that kind of stuff; I know he researched. So this should be fun.

Here is a list of ATC’s 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

Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The 2015-2016 academic year could be a historic one for Duke and North Carolina athletics. I can’t be sure because the research would be too cumbersome, but it can’t be often that these schools are two of the best in the ACC in both football and basketball. With the Blue Devils and Tar Heels fighting for the Coastal Division lead, this is more than a battle for the Victory Bell. Buckle up, because this rivalry has become more than just a hardwood classic.

Duke comes into this game feeling slighted, and the ACC agrees with that sentiment. The entire officiating crew for last weekend’s UNC/Miami game was suspended after a series of errors that resulted in the Blue Devils becoming the undeserving victims of a wild, last second set of laterals that saw Miami reach the end zone to win the game. The apparent lapse of focus was not only proven to be unfair, but also unusual for this Duke team. The Blue Devils have had issues with special teams, but overall are one of the best defensive units in the conference. It will be interesting to see how the much improved North Carolina offense will fare against the first ACC defense it has seen this season ranked in the top half of the conference in total yards allowed. If the Blue Devils can glue a man to shifty wideout Ryan Switzer, the Tar Heels may have trouble in third down situations. That has been North Carolina’s bread and butter this season and it’s where Duke can gain a major advantage.

All statistics aside, this is a rivalry game that doesn’t normally see both teams fighting for the division lead. Expect emotions to be a part of this game, with plenty of extra shoving to accompany plays. When it comes down to picking a winner, however, I still have to go with the team that appears to have an advantage on paper. Duke’s running game should find plenty of room against a porous North Carolina run defense and allow the Blue Devils to get back on track in the Coastal Division.

My Pick: 27-24 Duke

Jack’s Take: Boy, would this be a game to watch if it was mid-February and basketball. However, with that being said, this is a rivalry game and both teams are looking to come out strong.

Unfortunately, for Duke, UNC has the upper hand. This is purely based on the fact that Duke allowed a 4-5 Virginia Tech team to score 43 points on them and take them to four overtimes. The UNC team had a wake up call against the Gamecocks Week 1 and they have proven that they are getting better with each week. Duke doesn’t stand a chance. UNC 26, Duke 17.

#16 Florida State at #1 Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Clemson gets no time to enjoy its No. 1 ranking, as the No. 16 Seminoles enter Death Valley looking to do what no one in the ACC could do to Florida State last season. The Tigers have already faced some heavy hitters, including current No. 5 Notre Dame, and may see a Florida State team without Everett Golson or a 100 percent Dalvin Cook. But in an eerie coincidence, the Seminoles landed No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, which is the same spot that last year’s national champs started. In other words, don’t make any big bets yet, Clemson faithful.

While the absence of Golson would definitely have an effect on the Seminoles, who have struggled offensively as of late, Dalvin Cook is the locomotive of the offense and far more valuable to their success. Cook’s injury didn’t hurt Florida State against the lowly Syracuse defense, but it very well could play a role against the stout Clemson unit. The Tigers are also more likely to take advantage of an iffy Florida State defense than the Orange. Thus, Cook’s value is twofold. Not only does he open up the passing game for whoever is behind center taking snaps, but he keeps Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense off the field. Granted, even that may not be enough for the Seminoles. Clemson is the top scoring offense in the ACC despite sitting eighth in the conference in time of possession.

The past years, the Seminoles have been too much for the Tigers to handle. This time around the tables could turn. Clemson is solid on both sides of the ball and can make up a deficit quickly if need be. Florida State has struggled on offense and may not be 100 percent on that side of the ball. Unless the Seminoles play lights out on defense, the home team will win this one and stay at No. 1 in the committee’s rankings.

My Pick: 35-24 Clemson

Jack’s Take: This is a game that could be exciting if anyone still cared about Florida State, or if they could win a game against a real opponent. Clemson’s shutout against The U Week 9 says it all. *Drops mic* Clemson 40, Florida State 24

#8 TCU at #14 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

One of these two teams will no longer be unbeaten after Saturday, which will effectively end its playoff hopes. Believe it or not, the Big 12’s reputation is actually worse this season than it was in 2014, when it was locked out of the dance by the playoff committee. Backloaded schedules aside, it’s a fair assumption that any Big 12 team with a loss is pretty much eliminated from playoff contention. Thus why this game is so important and interesting.

Oklahoma State scored 70 points against Texas Tech last Saturday, the second time in as many weeks that the Cowboys have eclipsed the half century mark. But let’s see how Mike Gundy’s team does against a defense that doesn’t allow over 570 total yards per game. That’s right; Texas Tech and Kansas are actually the two worst defenses in the wild West Big 12, each allowing over that mark. TCU has had its close calls this season, but the Horned Frogs are generally much better than those two on the defensive side. Gary Patterson’s team also takes better care of the football, coughing it up fewer times than every team except Texas in the Big 12. The Cowboys have benefited greatly from turnovers, forcing at least one in seven games (including four multiple turnover outings). Discipline on the offensive end will serve as an advantage to the Horned Frogs in this one.

I thought that it would happen against a different team from Texas first, but Oklahoma State’s luck is going to run out at some point. I don’t see anything particularly spectacular about the Cowboys, and it’s tough to stay unbeaten with that being the case. The Horned Frogs may not be truly great, either, but they have a capable offense and a much better defense than anyone the Cowboys have seen previously. Boone Pickens Stadium will be rocking when the game begins but silent when it ends.

My Pick: 42-24 TCU

Jack’s Take: TCU hasn’t played against anyone worth beating this season. Then again, Oklahoma State hasn’t either (I mean, Kansas? Really? Kansas’s curling team could play better football than their actual football team). Neither team has any sort of a defense, making an exciting high scoring game. TCU 45, Oklahoma St 35

#9 Iowa at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

There hasn’t been this much excitement between the cornfields of Iowa in a long time, and this blog couldn’t be happier for the Corn Belt kings. But at some point you have to wonder if this is all just a crazy dream. Iowa couldn’t possibly make the College Football Playoff without having to play a single one of the Big Ten’s top five teams during the regular season, could they? But the closer you look, the more real it becomes. Indiana may be the last legitimate threat separating the Hawkeyes from rolling into Indianapolis unbeaten.

The Hoosiers have yet to win a Big Ten game this season, but they are still the league leader in average yards gained per game. At some point, the wins have got to follow, right? Perhaps, but if the first is going to come this weekend, Indiana needs to find a way to slow down the run. Iowa trails only Ohio State in the Big Ten in rushing yards and is also very good at holding onto the ball for long stretches. The Hoosiers can’t outscore the Hawkeyes if they can’t keep the likes of Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels, Jr. off the field. If they can, look out. Nate Sudfield was a hidden gem before the season began, but he has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s most dangerous offensive threats. Given enough opportunities to do so, Sudfield can expose Iowa’s defense as a sham.

At 4-4 on the season, Indiana has given up hope of a prestigious bowl berth after beginning the 2015 campaign so well. But all is not lost. A surprise victory over the Hawkeyes could serve as a springboard for a second half resurgence. Maybe I’m biased because my alma mater struggled against them, but I don’t think the Hoosiers are that bad. I like the home team in the upset, ridding the current Top 10 of its most unproven member.

My Pick: 34-30 Indiana

Jack’s Take: The Big Ten may just be the strongest conference in college football this year, which has been far from the truth in the past. Indiana has really surprised me this season and they have a shot, but it won’t be enough against the Hawkeyes. Iowa 31, Indiana 27

#2 LSU at #4 Alabama (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Well, doesn’t this look familiar? LSU and Alabama, both ranked in the top five, both fighting for the SEC West lead and, more importantly, a chance to play for a national title. This year the backdrop is Tuscaloosa, but in a slight twist it’s the Tigers that come into this monster matchup the higher ranked team. If the season ended today, both teams would be included in the College Football Playoff. But we know that was just for media attention. This game means so much with regards to the SEC’s representative to the playoff, make no doubt about it.

Not surprisingly, these two teams feature the top two backs in the SEC and two of the better rushers in the entire country. But to compare them is unfair. Leonard Fournette’s 193 yards per game average is insane and makes Derrick Henry’s 130 yard posting look pedestrian (which it isn’t). Fournette’s yards per carry average (7.68) is nearly two yards better than Henry’s (5.80), and although the LSU sophomore has amassed 306 more total rushing yards, he has done so in four fewer carries. In one sentence, if Fournette runs wild against the Crimson Tide, the New York City Athletic Club might as well wrap the Heisman with a bow and present it to him next week. But chances are that won’t happen for either back. Les Miles and Nick Saban are too smart to let that happen. Rather, this game will come down to the play of the quarterbacks, as it often has with these two coaches on the sidelines. And more specifically, it will come down to one of these two quarterbacks leading his team down the field late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

Only one of the two quarterbacks has done that already this season. While he hasn’t been perfect, Jake Coker has been in position to choke and didn’t. Quite frankly, we don’t know how Brandon Harris will react when the game is on the line. For that reason, I think that the Crimson Tide are in better position to win this game when it ultimately comes down to a final drive. This series has been decided by double-digits just once in the last eight regular season games. Make it nine after this one, where an unsung hero will need to step up for the victor.

My Pick: 28-24 Alabama

Jack’s Take: Everybody and their brother knows that Alabama is overrated. Based on that alone LSU 27, Alabama 17

5 Games to Flip To

#5 Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Pittsburgh proved last Thursday why you never put Pittsburgh in the Top 25.

Penn State at #21 Northwestern (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Wildcats are a personal favorite of mine this season, so I’ll continue to support this somewhat rickety ship.

Navy at #13 Memphis (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Midshipmen are not an easy team to keep an unbeaten record against. This one will be interesting.

Minnesota at #3 Ohio State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Fans will welcome back Cardale Jones to the starting lineup. For a week, at least. It shouldn’t matter much in this game, though.

California at Oregon (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

This could be one of the highest scoring games of the entire season.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Jack 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *