2016 Week 9 NCAAF Weekend Preview

October 28, 2016

Last weekend was a disappointing one for two reasons.

One is that my alma mater lost for the first time this season. The other is that Jack was the first guest since Week 2 to beat me in the prediction game.

October has not been a particularly good month for me, as I have been unable to extend my lead since the first weekend of the month. Perhaps things will turn around in the last one against my Dad. The problem is, historically I haven’t fared well against him, either.

My dad joins in what the major networks are dubbing “Big Saturday”, thanks to the slew of Big Ten games that will take center stage throughout the day. Whether B1G games are what separate father from son remains to be seen.

Overall, the standings now look like this after Jack’s one-game victory last week:

K. Becks: 26-13

Guests: 21-19

Let’s take a look at the five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#10 West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Not only has West Virginia elevated itself to the Top 10 after starting the season unranked in the AP poll, but the Mountaineers are essentially the Big 12’s lone hope to snag a Playoff bid if they can remain unbeaten. That won’t be an easy task, however, starting with this game in Stillwater against a dangerous offensive opponent.

Oklahoma State is mired in the middle of an unimpressive Big 12 and already has two losses this season, but that paints a bad picture of an otherwise pretty decent football team. The Cowboys losses have come on a controversial final play against Central Michigan and a competitive road loss against current No. 8 Baylor. West Virginia has flown under the radar most of the season as well, despite already beating BYU, Kansas State and TCU (all teams with greater than .500 records). Skyler Howard has matured tremendously as a passer this season and gives the Mountaineers a legitimate threat to score every time they touch the ball on offense.

If the Cowboys want this to be a tight game, they need to find a way to limit Howard. The Mountaineers are third in the Big 12 in total defense and have already held an offense like Texas Tech to fewer than 20 points. Going on the road, especially in a place like Stillwater, is tough but West Virginia hasn’t flinched this season. That being said, the pressure will begin to mount as the reality of an undefeated season heading into the final month of the season sets in. I like Oklahoma State to spoil that before it becomes a reality.

My Pick: 34-31 Oklahoma State

Dad’s Take: Improving Cowboys win at home – Oklahoma St 35-31

#2 Michigan at Michigan State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Spartans have had a rough season already, and by all accounts have nothing to lose in this game. That could be very dangerous for the Wolverines, which have been playing well but have a target on their backs the size of the state of Montana as the Big Ten’s highest ranked team. Everyone remembers how last season’s edition of this rivalry ended, so be prepared for madness in this one despite the records.

Michigan State’s run defense, typically a strong point for Mark Dantonio’s squad, has let the team down this season. The Spartans are ninth in the Big Ten in run defense and have been gashed on the ground several times, allowing at least 150 yards rushing in the past four games (all losses). The defense could be the least of Michigan State’s worries, however. The Wolverines have the Big Ten’s top defense in terms of yards allowed and it isn’t even close. When Michigan’s offense isn’t clicking, the defense has been there to carry the weight.

Unfortunately, things are not pointing towards a competitive game. But weird things happen in rivalry games, as we were reminded in this one last year. While Michigan State is outmatched, they won’t have any less heart (at least when the game begins). I expect this one to be a bit closer than statistics would suggest, but Michigan still wins.

My Pick: 28-13 Michigan

Dad’s Take: The return of “little brother” – Michigan 38-10

#4 Washington at #17 Utah (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Huskies have asserted themselves as serious Playoff contenders over the past several weeks, easily dispatching of all Pac-12 comers looking to derail what has been a surprising rise to a top five ranking. Utah poses perhaps the greatest threat so far, however. The Utes are extremely balanced and not easy to beat in Salt Lake City.

Kyle Whittingham’s teams have always been tremendously balanced on offense, but what’s more amazing than the fact that the Utes average nearly as many rushing yards (214 per game) as passing yards (218 per game) is that they do it regardless of the cast. Gone are Travis Wilson at quarterback and Devontae Booker at running back, but to take their place are Troy and Joe Williams to take their place. Joe has emerged as the leader of a deep running back stable that could give Washington’s defense some trouble as a unit. The run defense is the one area Washington hasn’t been stifling this season.

Utah’s balance is impressive, but it done one better by Washington, which has been more potent offensively and is the best the Pac-12 has to offer on defense. Jake Browning emergence as a potential first-team Pac-12 selection has been the real difference on offense for the Huskies, and he’ll carry them in this game as well. Expect Chris Petersen’s team to get a hard earned victory on the road in this one.

My Pick: 37-31 Washington

Dad’s Take: Huskies prevail and stay in hunt – Washington 42-38

#7 Nebraska at #11 Wisconsin (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

In many circles, Wisconsin is regarded as the best two loss team in the country, losing close games to Ohio State and Michigan. The Badgers have a third shot at taking down a Top 10 team this weekend when the Cornhuskers come to town boasting an unbeaten record, just as the Buckeyes and Wolverines did. Expect Camp Randall Stadium to be rocking for this one.

In both previous contests against Top 10 foes, Wisconsin was in the game late but wasn’t able to capitalize offensively when it mattered most. In this game, freshman Alex Hornibrook can make a name for himself in Madison. Whereas Ohio State and Michigan are the top two pass defenses in the Big Ten and scoring on them is as improbable as me landing a date with Margot Robbie, moving the ball through the air on Nebraska is more like securing a Tinder date. Hornibrook should find his receivers with more separation than in the previous two weeks and needs to take advantage.

Unless Nebraska is able to blow things wide open offensively, it could be tough sledding on Saturday evening. Wisconsin has been denied not once but twice already in primetime games and is now sitting in fourth in the Big Ten West standings. Not only should the Badgers be loose, but they’re looking to crawl back into the title game race. Wisconsin brings its “A” game and hands Nebraska its first loss of the season.

My Pick: 28-24 Wisconsin

Dad’s Take: Wisconsin wins this defensive struggle – Wisconsin 20-13

#3 Clemson at Florida State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Clemson is riding a 22-game regular season winning streak and will put it on the line against the Seminoles in Tallahassee on Saturday night. While things haven’t always been easy during that stretch, there is no denying that the Tigers are the gold standard in the ACC right now. In order for Florida State to take back what was once its own title, a young signal caller will need to step up in a big way.

Deondre Francois has been excellent in his first year at the college level, standing in the pocket to make clutch throws right before being blasted by defensive linemen all season. But for Florida State to win this game, they need to keep Francois off of the ground as much as possible. Clemson will come hard at him – the Tigers are tied for the ACC lead with 25 sacks this season – and if the Seminoles are unable to keep Francois from getting hit then there will be lots of punting. The more Clemson has the ball, the more this game will resemble the Florida State/Louisville game from earlier this season.

Whether Clemson isn’t really that strong or the winning steak just becomes too much pressure does not matter. The fact is that I’m taking Florida State in this one despite my gut telling me that the Seminoles have no business winning this game. Yes, the Tigers have the offense to chew up the Seminoles secondary. And yes, the defense is aggressive enough to limit Francois. But this is late October football, where weird things happen and top teams go down in unexplained ways.

My Pick: 38-35 Florida State

Dad’s Take: Clemson is best in ACC – Clemson 41-24

5 Games to Flip To

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

The Gators lead the SEC East, but only as of right now. That division is far from being settled and this game is one of the reasons why.

#8 Baylor at Texas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

With every loss, Charlie Strong’s seat gets a little hotter.

Northwestern at #6 Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Wildcats have been playing well lately, but Ohio State’s loss last weekend likely set any Buckeyes straight that were thinking the season would be a breeze until Michigan.

#13 Boise State at Wyoming (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The highest ranked Group of Five team is looking for more than just a New Year’s Six bowl berth, but it’ll take more than a victory over Wyoming on the road to get there.

#15 Auburn at Mississippi (Saturday, 7:15 PM ET)

After a rough start to the season Auburn has climbed into the Top 15, but Ole Miss is my choice as the 2016 season’s Jekyll and Hyde Award recipient. Who knows what to expect from this one.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like my Dad 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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