2017 Week 7 NCAAF Weekend Preview

October 13, 2017

As we near the midpoint of the season, things are starting to take shape across the landscape of college football. However, in typical fashion, things aren’t materializing quite like the pundits thought it would (well, except for the fact that Alabama continues to roll).

Here are some of the highlights:

-A freshman quarterback has led the Georgia Bulldogs to a top five ranking.

-There is a Big 12 team in the thick of the Playoff hunt. But it isn’t from Oklahoma. Its jersey is purple.

-Luke Falk’s name is brought up in serious Heisman discussions, which is only surprising because his numbers the previous two years at this point in the season were similar, yet he was nowhere to be found in such talks.

-I’m losing in the head-to-head prediction game.

The last one isn’t all that surprising, but overall the guests are still winning even after my 5-0 performance against Tommy last weekend. The records now look like this:

K. Becks – 18-12

Guests – 20-10

This week, my buddy Neil will take a break from rugby, America’s real national pastime, to pick some games. Neil’s knowledge of college football is surpassed only by his knowledge of beer, so don’t pay much attention to his extended commentary that would suggest otherwise.

Let’s take a look at the games to watch this weekend.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#8 Washington State at California (Friday, 10:30 PM ET)

It’s only natural that The Pirate will coach on Friday the 13th in a season where nearly no bad luck has found the Cougars yet. Typically, Washington State has already dropped a game in some unusual way at this point in the season, but right now the Cougars are unbeaten and setting the Apple Cup up to be the premier game of Rivalry Week. Cal is no slouch, however, making USC look like a pee wee team with regards to holding onto the football a few weeks ago.

Assuming that Washington State does a better job in that category, Luke Falk & Co. should have no trouble with the Golden Bears. But superstition has gotten the best of me this week, which is precisely why I added this one to the list of top games. Cal may not be as good on paper as the Cougars, but they’ll play like it on Friday night. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Golden Bears will come up just a bit short.

My Pick: 35-31 Washington State

Neil’s Take: Mike Leach is a pirate, philosopher and football coach. WSU QB Luke Falk is running at a smooth 158 QBR, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt in the classic air raid. Mike Leach has personally commandeered several nautical vessels. The WSU defense is 5th nationally in takeaways, with 15. Cal needed a 4th Quarter rally to beat the Weber State Wildcats.

If this matchup escapes the raging wildfires and rival pirate kings, look for WSU to win big- 56-10. If you’re in the area and not scared of said wildfires, tickets are going for as low as $4, or a buck a quarter.

#24 Texas Tech at West Virginia (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Staying on the topic of Mike Leach, The Pirate’s previous employer was Texas Tech. I won’t go into details here, but it ended poorly. Anyway, this is the first time since Leach was let go in Lubbock that the Red Raiders actually have something that resembles a defense. As a result, Texas Tech comes into this game with a Top 25 ranking and a chance to match the season win total from 2016. Both of these teams have hung tough with good competition, though this is a chance for one of them to add its first solid victory to the resume.

Believe it or not, West Virginia averages more yards per game than Texas Tech. Additionally, the Mountaineers are second in the Big 12 in pass defense while the Red Raiders are nearly last, allowing 299 yards per game through the air. Both West Virginia’s Will Grier and Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek have played well this year, but Grier definitely has an advantage in this one. I’m not talking about the crowd, either, which he has as well and will also play a factor in this one.

My Pick: 38-34 West Virginia

Neil’s Take: The Mountaineers played a highly-touted TCU team damn close on the road last week, and Morgantown is a rowdy atmosphere for visitors. I see WVU pulling out a 42-34 victory.

#10 Auburn at LSU (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

At one time, this was going to be one of the marquee games on the SEC schedule. But LSU’s bad loss to Mississippi State then embarrassing loss at home to Troy two weeks later had the majority of the country pointing fingers and laughing at Ed Orgeron’s squad. However, it’s really puzzling as to what happened in those two games, because on paper the Tigers don’t look like a bad football team. In fact, statistically this game would appear to be a toss up, as LSU is on par with Auburn in most major offensive and defensive statistical categories.

That being said, it’s hard to see how this game won’t be close. Not only is the contest being played at Death Valley, but the victory in Gainesville last weekend suggests that this team can still compete with SEC opponents. The biggest question will be whether Auburn allows LSU to try to control the clock and hide Danny Etling or stack the box consistently and make the senior beat them. Etling has yet to throw for more than 230 yards in a game this season and his completion percentage has dropped significantly since a decent performance against BYU in the season opener. Florida doesn’t score enough to expose a guy like Etling – Auburn can.

My Pick: 24-16 Auburn

Neil’s Take: The Loser SEC has been bigly bad this year, apart from Bama (OK, and Georgia). Sad. No wonder ratings are garbage. Look for LSU to play Auburn close, casting doubt on the chops of this conference.

27-24 LSU, OT
Also, the two teams to beat Troy this year? South Alabama and Boise State.

#12 Oklahoma vs. Texas [game in Dallas] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Given that the Sooners lost to a program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2012 and hasn’t had a winning record since 2009, I think it’s safe to say that Oklahoma is coming off of a very bad loss. Keep in mind, additionally, that Texas had to go on the road to beat the Cyclones two weeks ago and held them to just seven points. However, the Longhorns have been wildly inconsistent during the first year of the Tom Herman era and it’s difficult to predict just what kind of offensive performance you’re going to see from this team.

If the Texas offense that beat Kansas State in overtime last weekend shows up, then this will be a very exciting contest with lots of scoring. The problem I see for the Longhorns is that the defense has been unable to defend the pass against teams with a competent quarterback. Oklahoma has more than just that with Baker Mayfield, and he’s a bit of a wild card himself that probably took last week’s loss quite personally. I see Mayfield going off in this one. It wasn’t his fault the Sooners lost last weekend, but the way he’ll play against rival Texas, you’d think he was after some sort of redemption.

My Pick: 45-28 Oklahoma

Neil’s Take: Maryland beat Texas 51-41. Ohio State beat Maryland 62-14. Oklahoma beat Ohio State 31-16. So, because math, Oklahoma beats Texas by 73.

This is actually possible with Oklahoma fuming from a really embarrassing loss, but hell, it’s a Shootout, or a Showdown, so let’s say 38-17 Sooners.
#21 Michigan State at Minnesota (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Spartans may have beaten then No. 7 Michigan last weekend, but last time I checked ESPN hasn’t filmed a documentary about their coach. The same cannot be said of Minnesota, which is looking to avoid a three game losing streak after beginning the season with three straight victories. The spotlight is tough to handle, but the Big Ten Conference may be tougher, at least for P.J. Fleck.
Unfortunately, there has been nothing particularly special about Minnesota’s offense this season, while Michigan State’s defense has been spectacular with the exception of the Notre Dame game. The Golden Gophers have a solid running back tandem in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, which will be leaned heavily upon in this one, but unless there is regression in Michigan State’s offensive improvement, it won’t be enough. The Spartans are not turning the ball over, which will be very important in this game since it likely won’t have a lot of scoring chances.
My Pick: 21-13 Michigan State
Neil’s Take:

An October Big Ten night matchup, 90% chance of rain and temps in the 40’s? this is comfort food to the Midwestern football fan’s soul. MSU 24- Minn 17.
Little Brother UM will also face a struggle in Bloomington, look for 34-28 Wolverines.
5 Games to Flip To

#6 TCU at Kansas State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Both coaches preach discipline, so it could be a close one. But am I the only one that wishes this game would feature a little more of the color purple?
#25 Navy at Memphis (Saturday, 3:45 PM ET)

It’s still early, but both teams have played well this season so it could end up being what decides the AAC West conference.
#9 Ohio State at Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Going to Lincoln is never easy for the opposition, and the Cornhuskers remember what the Buckeyes did to them last year. While Ohio State has played well lately, Nebraska is much better suited than Rutgers or Maryland to give the Buckeyes a scare.
Utah at #12 Southern Cal (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Utah’s pass defense is more than capable of shutting down the Trojans attack and making this one a really interesting game.
Oregon at #23 Stanford (Saturday, 11 PM ET)

Both of these teams have gotten blown out at some point this season, but the series has been really good over the past decade. A week ago I would have said expect a lot of offense in this one, but it could go either way after what we witnessed in Eugene last Saturday.
If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Neil 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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