2015 Week 9 NCAAF Weekend Preview

October 30, 2015

The midpoint of the regular season has come and gone, and Neil’s comment that he got a “weekend full of barn-burners” wasn’t false, despite it being a slight at the games he was given to pick.

Sure, I missed completely on the Clemson/Miami game being a good one, but Florida State and Georgia Tech reminded us all why games like the Michigan/Michigan State classic happen on an almost weekly basis in college football.

Regarding Neil’s picks, the guests have once again assumed the role of chaser in the head-to-head pick ’em game. The overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 23-17

Guests: 22-18

This week, the younger brother of Trent (Week 4 guest) will join the blog as guest analyst. Matt was one of my favorite visitors at our house in college, largely because he seemed to regard me as a god among men. I must say, for his age he was a visionary. Anyway, his opinion on Cleveland sports alone is reason enough to read this guy’s thoughts; he can deliver some real zingers.

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

Southern California at California (Saturday, 3 PM ET)

After a huge win over Utah last Friday, the Trojans are flying high despite being led by an interim head coach. California had a chance to really solidify its surprisingly strong season last Thursday, but was stifled by a UCLA squad that finally showed its talent on both sides of the football. Needless to say, it was a good weekend for Los Angeles schools in football. To keep the momentum going, the Trojans must travel to Berkeley to take on a Golden Bears squad still looking for a validation victory.

Southern Cal showed last weekend why it was once a College Football Playoff contender. The Trojans played well on both sides of the football, taking full advantage of four Utah interceptions and mixing in a solid run game with Cody Kessler’s deadly passing attack. If Southern Cal plays like it did against Utah, this won’t be much of a game. Unfortunate for Trojans fans, it’s unclear which team will show up on a week to week basis. The team that was held to 12 points total against Washington will be beaten by Cal, whose offense had its lowest total yards output of the season (426) against UCLA but still posted 24 points in the game.

The Southern Cal team that shows up will dictate how many points are scored in the game. Cal tends to play at the pace of its opponent this season, which is new territory for a Sonny Dykes team. As much as I was wanting to believe that the Golden Bears were for real, picking them last weekend reminded me why my dad and I joke about the Berkeley eggheads. Southern Cal may be inconsistent, but they won’t lose to the rivals from up North.

My Pick: 34-27 Southern Cal

Matt’s Take: USC 28 Cal 25

#12 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Cowboys have been flying under the radar all season, winning games without the glitz or glamour of some of their Big 12 brethren. Oklahoma State isn’t the only team in the country doing things this way, as there are a dozen unbeaten teams left and not all of them have been labeled as something special. But when you do nothing but win games, games like this one in Lubbock are never easy. The Red Raiders have already been on the cusp of a major upset this season and look primed to make this one worth watching.

Oklahoma State has faced none of the Big 12’s top four offenses in terms of yards per game this season, which likely has a lot to do with the fast start for the Cowboys. The one offense ranked in the top five of the conference, West Virginia, hung nearly 100 yards more on the Cowboys than any other team this season. It also took overtime for Oklahoma State to get past the Mountaineers. Texas Tech’s run-and-gun offensive style will be a stiff test for the Cowboys and one they haven’t truly faced yet. Patrick Mahomes II attempts more passes per game than any other quarterback in the Big 12, and if he can connect at his current average of 64 percent, it should be enough for the Red Raiders to hang tough in this one.

As much as I like to see good teams come out of nowhere, I have a feeling that Oklahoma State is much like Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago in that the Cowboys just haven’t faced anyone capable of putting heavy pressure on its defense to perform. In this case, it won’t take Alabama to make people realize that. The Red Raiders play well at home and will clip the number of unbeatens left by one this weekend.

My Pick: 42-37 Texas Tech

Matt’s Take: Oklahoma State 38 Texas Tech 31

Georgia vs. #11 Florida [game in Jacksonville] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (a name that has since been retired as an official name of the rivalry) looked like it might be a marquee matchup a few weekends ago. And while it isn’t quite as anticipated around the country at this point, it should still be a good one. Each team has lost a star player but it’s still unclear how much that will affect them as the season wears on. Although nothing is a sure thing in a rivalry game, it’s a good bet that we’ll at least find out just how much each squad is suffering.

Georgia has essentially the same offensive scheme with Sony Michel, just slightly less dynamic. Michel is a solid back that most teams in the country would be more than happy to have as their No. 1 guy, but when you’re used to a potential Heisman Trophy candidate there’s going to be a bit of a drop off. The Bulldogs will have to work a little harder on the defensive end to stay competitive against top teams from here on out unless the passing game becomes more of a threat. Unfortunately for Georgia, Florida’s offense didn’t appear to miss a beat without Will Grier behind center. Keep in mind that no one ever doubted Treon Harris’s talent, only whether he would be rusty after losing the starting job after the season opener. That wasn’t an issue against LSU’s stout defense and it likely won’t be against Georgia’s, either.

As Andrew wisely stated in his Week 7 analysis of the Michigan/Michigan State game, it’s difficult to predict rivalries solely based on the stat sheet. While Georgia has clearly taken a step back since Chubb’s injury, I think that the hatred for the Gators will be enough to keep them interested all four quarters. The question is whether the Bulldogs will be able to stop Harris and the surprisingly legitimate Florida offense. My prognosis is that they will not be able to do it enough for a victory.

My Pick: 27-22 Florida

Matt’s Take: Georgia 17 Florida 24

#9 Notre Dame at #21 Temple (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

What a time to be an Owl! Temple hasn’t been this good since the Pop Warner era, when the school was invited to the inaugural Sugar Bowl after finishing the 1934 regular season 7-0-2. College GameDay will visit Philadelphia for this matchup as the Owls try to keep a firm grip on an unlikely shot at a playoff bid. The opposition is also hoping that a victory in this game will bolster its playoff hopes, as Notre Dame is still within spitting distance despite losing earlier in the year.

Since many of ATC’s readers probably haven’t seen Temple play this season, here’s a high-level rundown of the team. The Owls are built on defensive efficiency, being far and away the best squad in the AAC allowing just 307 yards per game. Offensively, quarterback P.J. Walker is the poster child for “terrific game manager”. Temple doesn’t rack up a ton of yards, but they take advantage of the opportunities they have (averaging 32.3 points per game) and don’t squander them often (12 turnovers). Defensively, Notre Dame needs to play well on third and manageable situations. The Owls have only seven plays from scrimmage that have gone for over 30+ yards and none of 60+, so the big play isn’t what they’ll rely on to stay in this game. Stamina and discipline will play a role in determining whether the Fighting Irish can stifle Temple’s methodical offense.

Notre Dame hasn’t let me down in that they are still a playoff contender as I thought they would be when the season began. While it hasn’t been pretty the entire way, the Fighting Irish have taken care of business for the most part and very nearly took down what appears to be a very good Clemson team on the road. If Brian Kelly’s team can play the way it did against the Tigers, they won’t lose this road test. Temple will have to play nearly flawlessly to win if the Fighting Irish come out focused.

My Pick: 33-16 Notre Dame

Matt’s Take: ND 42 Temple 28

#8 Stanford at Washington State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The swashbuckling pirate Mike Leach is again loose in the Pacific Northwest, leading the Cougars to a surprising 5-2 start built on lots of offensive fireworks. Almost any game featuring Leach is one worth keeping an eye on, but this time there’s something more at stake. If the Cougars were to win this game, they would be tied with Stanford for the Pac-12 North Division lead. Since the Pac-12 has beaten itself up this season, the Cardinal remain perhaps the only team from the conference left with a legitimate playoff shot.

Washington State has made a habit of playing to the strengths of the opponent this season. Or, maybe that means that the Cougars just aren’t very good at asserting their own strengths. Either way, the trend must be broken if Leach is to lead his team to a big upset. The Cougars have yet to face a top five defense in the Pac-12, and they have struggled against one of the better ones (California) that they have seen. Stanford is the best that the Pac-12 has to offer in the defensive department and will at the very least be tougher to throw against. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the Cardinal have found a rhythm offensively as well thanks to a balanced attack. In other words, Washington State will need to put together a complete performance on both sides of the ball in order to remain competitive.

The chances of that happening are slim in my estimation, but you never know what you’re going to get with Coach Leach. Pullman has been a place where the unconventional works and the incredible happens from time to time, so this one could get interesting. But nothing is pointing towards a Washington State victory here. Stanford is playing well, confident and does things well, like playing defense, that should be enough to stop the home team.

My Pick: 34-27 Stanford

Matt’s Take: Stanford 31 Washington St 21

5 Games to Flip To

#19 Mississippi at Auburn (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

It’s hard to count out the Tigers in any game this season, despite the disappointment that they have been overall in 2015.

#15 Michigan at Minnesota (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Assuming that the Wolverines aren’t haunted by what could have been, they should be able to dispatch of a now Kill-less Minnesota squad.

Vanderbilt at #18 Houston (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

This one is really for SEC haters, although ATC has been known to impart the kiss of death on teams. Sorry in advance, Houston.

Tennessee at Kentucky (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Just another Tennessee game that will likely end in a close-but-no-cigar fashion for the Volunteers.

Arizona at Washington (Saturday, 11 PM ET)

Neither team has been particularly exciting this year, but contrasting styles have produced some good games in the Pac-12 this season.

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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