2015 Week 6 NCAAF Weekend Preview

October 9, 2015

They say what goes around, comes around.

After three straight weekends without a victory, I finally got back on the right track last weekend against Sal. I received a text from him on Saturday afternoon reading “I thank you for the opportunity to be the guest analyst this week but as you see…I don’t know shit lol”.

Well Sal, you’re always welcome back in future seasons, as far as I’m concerned. As a result of the lopsided victory, the overall records now stand:

K. Becks – 14-11

Guests – 12-13

This week, the final of my three former college roommates joins the blog to make picks. Matt likes to be the underdog, I think, so he will relish the chance to make up the two game gap that the guests suddenly have. My other two roommates have already beaten me this season, so hopefully I can save face a little against the last one.

Here is a look at 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

#13 Northwestern at #18 Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Both of these teams have been playing as well as anyone, so it’s unfortunate that one’s momentum is going to be halted on Saturday afternoon. On the other hand, as fans we should witness a battle that will decide who is the biggest surprise (and potential title threat) in the Big Ten. I’ve been touting Northwestern as the real deal for a few weeks now, but the Big House will be no picnic.

Neither team has proven to be one of the juggernauts on the offensive end, but both are frustrating opposing teams on the defensive side of the ball. Michigan leads the Big Ten with the fewest yards allowed on average per game and has given up just 14 total points in its past four contests. Northwestern isn’t far behind, matching the Wolverines’ two shutouts this season and limiting Stanford to just six points in the home opener. While this one will obviously be defensively dominated, some offense is needed to separate these two. The Wildcats lead the conference in rushing yards per game and have been pleasantly surprised with sophomore back Justin Jackson, who trials just 12 other players in the country in total yards on the ground this season.

If Northwestern’s offensive front can find a way to get a push against Michigan’s tough line, the Wildcats can continue the unbeaten streak. But when push comes to shove (no pun intended), I just don’t know if Pat Fitzgerald’s team will have enough variety to get it done. Michigan’s Jake Rudock has struggled this season, but I think he has just enough magic in him to will the Wolverines in an extremely tight victory.

My Pick: 17-16 Michigan

Matt’s Take: These two teams have the number one and number two scoring defenses in the nation. If you didn’t enjoy watching Texas Tech and TCU a couple weeks ago, you’ll love this. Michigan wins 20-17.

#21 Oklahoma State at West Virginia (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

West Virginia will finish its “Oklahoma” part of the schedule this weekend, as the Mountaineers are coming off of a respectable loss to now No. 10 Oklahoma on the road last weekend. The Cowboys will look to make it a clean sweep for the Sooner State, but nothing is a given for Oklahoma State as of late. Mike Gundy’s team has escaped in both of its prior two Big 12 contests in 2015 and will likely get a stiff test from the Mountaineers as well.

Considering that Oklahoma is averaging well over 500 yards of offense a game, West Virginia allowing just 427 last weekend was actually an accomplishment despite giving up 44 points. The defense should look better in this game, as the Cowboys only faintly resemble their in-state rivals on the offensive side of the ball. Mason Rudolph has been serviceable at quarterback, but the sophomore has thrown almost half as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (9). The Mountaineers have the perfect defense to take advantage of that. Only Boise State has more interceptions this season than West Virginia, and the Mountaineers have two games of five or more takeaways. Ball control will be essential for both teams.

Although the final score last weekend would suggest that West Virginia was outmatched, I saw a lot of good things from this team through the first three quarters. If the defense can force Rudolph into mistakes and Skyler Howard cuts down on his, the Mountaineers are good enough to pull off the upset. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Oklahoma State as it is, so going with West Virginia here was fairly easy.

My Pick: 31-27 West Virginia

Matt’s Take: OSU has won its two conference games by a total of 5 points. If West Virginia can figure out how to protect the QB, after giving up 7 sacks last week, they should pull out a victory. West Virginia wins 34-28.

#11 Florida at Missouri (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Gators surprised most of the country last Saturday night by obliterating then No. 3 Ole Miss at home, but the question is already being asked: is Florida really the No. 11 team in the nation? The recent trend from the voters is to do “ranking swaps” with teams, replacing the previously lower ranked team with the higher one, even if that means a huge jump in the polls. Florida’s new-found respect will be tested mightily this weekend in Columbia and we’ll find out quickly whether the new ranking was prematurely given.

They may not be Jim McElwain’s players, but the Florida offense sure played like a McElwain coached team last weekend. Four touchdown passes by Will Grier was a continuation of an already surprising passing game for the Gators, which have struggled in that area the past few seasons. This weekend will be more challenging for Grier, however, as Missouri boasts the SEC’s best pass defense, allowing just over 150 yards per contest through the air. Both Tennessee and Ole Miss have had issues defending the pass this season, so we’ll see if Florida can have success on Saturday evening. If not, we will most likely see the return of the old Gators: a good defense hanging on for dear life.

While Florida firmly planted itself into the SEC East title conversation with the win last weekend, I think it’s a bit early to suggest that a team that does one thing particularly well is really this good. The Gators forced four turnovers and won. Let’s see what happens against a team that will be on guard against the same thing happening to them and see if Florida can still put up 30+ points on the road. I don’t see it occurring this weekend.

My Pick: 30-17 Missouri

Matt’s Take: Will Florida finally lose this week? No. Florida wins 35-32.

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

The Horned Frogs nearly made everyone forget about its last minute, thrilling victory over Texas Tech two weeks ago when it blasted Texas at home last weekend. Nearly everyone, except K Becks. Like many others, I’m not completely sold on the Horned Frogs yet, nor do I believe that their offense is unstoppable in the Big 12. I’m excited for this matchup filled with purple.

The Wildcats are exactly the team that you would expect them to be as coached by Bill Snyder, which isn’t the least bit surprising. Kansas State plays the same way year in and year out, which would seem to be an advantage for the opposition. But Synder’s teams do things so well and so consistently that it’s difficult to break them. This is the biggest difference between these two squads. TCU has been anything but consistent this season, looking dominant one week then completely beatable the next. Kansas State will need to find a way to contain Trevone Boykin in the pocket, because the Wildcats have had trouble defending the pass this season. But Texas Tech gave up 750 yards of offense to the Horned Frogs and were excruciatingly close to upsetting them anyway. The key to beating TCU is do best the Horned Frogs at whatever sets the tone for the game. In this one, I think defense will play an integral role.

Go back to the Minnesota game. The Golden Gophers played conservative, disciplined football and nearly beat the Horned Frogs. Kansas State will play similarly but have looked better overall than Minnesota this season. Given a similar scoreline heading into the fourth, I believe that the Wildcats are good enough to shut down TCU and grind out an important scoring drive when it matters. The Horned Frogs have beaten its two opponents with winning records by a total of nine points. The luck will run out early this season.

My Pick: 33-31 Kansas State

Matt’s Take: Looks like another high scoring affair for TCU this week, which is exactly what they want. TCU 49-32.

#23 California at #5 Utah (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

The Pac-12 has been perhaps the strongest league and league with the most parity at the same time. The depth is incredible and we have seen great games featuring a team from the conference every week. The aforementioned parity is why this game is anything but a lock, despite Utah’s quick start and surprising results. And as my dad and I jokingly ask every season, we need to know, “is Cal for real?”

Only one team in the Pac-12 averages more yards per game than Cal, but more surprisingly is that more than one team allows more yards on defense than the Golden Bears. The biggest difference between this year’s Cal team and others coached by Sonny Dykes is that they can, on occasion, force a punt. The name of the game will still be to outscore one another, however, as Utah has already shown its muscle on the offensive end. The Utes are also solid defensively, but have not faced a quarterback like Jared Goff yet this season. Goff is one of several future NFL quarterbacks currently on a Pac-12 squad and will be the key to Cal’s success (or failure) in this game. If the senior is at his best, Utah will have its hands full.

Cal’s definite improvement should not surprise Utah. The Utes experienced a similar revival last season and will not overlook the Golden Bears, especially because of Goff. While Utah is one of the most balanced offensive teams in the Pac-12, there may be a shift towards a heavy dose of the run game just to keep Goff off the field. This one will be exciting and a lot of scoring will ensue. But back to the original question about Cal being for real. The answer? Close, but not quite.

My Pick: 38-35 Utah

Matt’s Take: Everyone thought Michigan’s season was over when they lost to Utah. Turns out Utah was ranked last year and still pretty good this year. Utah is going to keep flying under the radar and play above what people expect. Utah 38-34.

5 Games to Flip To

Illinois at #22 Iowa (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

If Iowa continues to win and move up in the rankings, expect Kirk Ferentz to become the highest paid football coach in the world. Whale face.

#19 Georgia at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Bulldogs are angry and Tennessee’s season has been a chronicle of “close, but no cigar” events. This one may not end well for the home team.

Navy at #15 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Keenan Reynolds is the best Navy quarterback since Ricky Dobbs, and when Dobbs was a senior the Midshipmen beat Notre Dame by 17 points.

Arkansas at #8 Alabama (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Crimson Tide played angry last weekend, which doesn’t serve as good news to the struggling Razorbacks.

#25 Boise State at Colorado State (Saturday, 10 PM ET)

The Broncos are back in the Top 25, but with so many other Group of Five teams playing well, another loss likely means no return trip to a New Year’s Six bowl.

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

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