2019 NCAAF Week 10 Weekend Preview

November 1, 2019

As has been said on Around The Corn the past few weeks, there is no telling where the upsets will come from, only that they will happen.

Notre Dame was the biggest victim of this college football truth, coming out of Ann Arbor bloodied, beaten and out of the College Football Playoff race for this season. Michigan’s offensive outburst wasn’t expected in the least, a cautionary tale for anyone who believes they have the crystal ball and can predict the Playoff picture already.

The result leaves us with a landscape that will very likely only see teams from the Power 5 conferences punch a bid to the four-team Playoff this season, lest SMU somehow finagles its way into the conversation. That would take an obscene amount of chaos, though.

In the head-to-head prediction game, I bested Ryan and have retaken the lead for the season. The overall standings as of this week:

K. Becks – 31-15

Guests – 30-16

To kick off the most critical of months in the college football season, my sister will make her Around The Corn debut as a guest prognosticator. Given her intense interest in the game (a lie), my slight lead in the standings is anything but safe (not a lie).

Let’s take a look at the top games of the weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

Virginia Tech at #16 Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET)

The hope of another College Football Playoff bid is gone for the Fighting Irish, who were demolished in Ann Arbor in a game that felt like a job-saving performance for Jim Harbaugh (at least for the time being). There will be no time for disappointment for Notre Dame, however, as they welcome another traditionally solid program that has struggled as of late. Virginia Tech’s two point overtime victory over North Carolina two weekends ago is not a fluke – the Hokies have struggled with teams like the Tar Heels all season and have issues defensively.

If the Fighting Irish want to get back on the winning track, the offense needs to find its swagger again. Last weekend’s performance was the worst overall by the Notre Dame offense by a long shot, and it was the third straight game in which Ian Book’s passer rating dipped. Book’s ability to soften up the middle of the defense is what makes Notre Dame’s run game so dangerous – without his arm, the offense sputters. Against the Hokies, who are in the bottom half of the ACC in pass defense, expect Coach Kelly to let Book air it out in the first half and the run game to come back to life in the second half.

My Pick: 38-24 Notre Dame

Shannon’s Take: Virginia Tech – 14 Notre Dame – 42

#8 Georgia vs. #6 Florida [game in Jacksonville] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is the weekend’s biggest matchup, which for the good of college football as a whole is how things should be. Thanks to a loss apiece in October, this game will decide which team holds sole possession of first place in the SEC East after the first weekend of November. It’s a good place to be for the winner, and a precarious position to assume for the loser. Statistically Georgia is superior to Florida on both sides of the football, but as of late the Bulldogs have looked less than stellar offensively.

In case anyone forgot, Georgia is coached by a Nick Saban disciple in Kirby Smart who looks to control the game on the ground. The easy answer would be for the Bulldogs to allow Jake Fromm more freedom to throw the ball downfield, but his three interception performance against South Carolina is cause for concern, especially ahead of this game. The Gators are tied third in the country with 12 interceptions and there is a chance that Jacksonville will be damp on Saturday afternoon. If Georgia can do a better job converting on third down than it has for most of the season, they’ll win this game. If not, it’s much tougher to call.

My Pick: 27-23 Georgia

Shannon’s Take: Georgia – 17 Florida – 24

#9 Utah at Washington (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

The Pac-12 would have loved for this to be a marquee matchup with obvious CFP implications, but instead it simply stands as a major roadblock to Utah’s chances of sneaking back into Playoff conversation. Despite a disappointing season in which consistency on both sides of the ball have been an issue, the Huskies are a talented squad with the talent to shut down Utah’s potent rushing attack. The improvement is there as well; since giving up over 200 yards on the ground to Southern Cal in September, the Huskies have allowed an average of 164 yards rushing. That statistic includes games against Arizona and Oregon, two of the top three rushing offenses in the conference.

While rushing yards may come at a premium in Seattle, the area where the Huskies can take advantage is the passing game. Jacob Eason is a better quarterback than Tyler Huntley, and his confidence in his abilities appears to be returning with each game. The Huskies nearly put it all together against Oregon two weekends ago and with a week off to prepare, Chris Petersen should have enough tricks up his sleeve to spoil Utah’s hopes and dreams once again.

My Pick: 28-24 Washington

Shannon’s Take: Utah – 28 Washington – 7

#15 Southern Methodist at #24 Memphis (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Eleven weeks into the season, the AAC is finally getting the attention it has been due. College GameDay visits Memphis to highlight a primetime matchup between two ranked opponents from the forgotten “power” conference, which doesn’t earn an automatic New Year’s Six bowl bid but arguably should. The Mustangs have been a complete surprise this season, but their perfect record will be on the line this weekend against a Memphis team that can match the offensive firepower Sonny Dykes has summoned from Shane Buechele & Co.

It’s hard to imagine Buechele wanting to be anywhere else in the country right now, including his old stomping grounds in Austin. Under Dykes, the junior is able to do just about anything he wants with the ball in his hands, something that has paid dividends for the Mustangs. Buechele leads the conference in passing yards and is tied for the lead along with Memphis’s Brady White with 20 passing touchdowns. Stopping the air raid will be paramount among the concerns of both defensive sides. It’s tough to see where the advantage lies there. Memphis is much better at defending the pass, but SMU is second in the country in sacks and the Tigers have done an excellent job of keeping White off the ground this season. If the Mustangs can effectively interrupt White’s ability to scan downfield, it may be enough to cancel out their deficiencies otherwise against the pass. I’ve seen this narrative with a Sonny Dykes led team before, though, and I don’t like how it ends for them. The game will be close, but the ranks of the unbeaten will be cut by one at the end of it.

My Pick: 45-41 Memphis

Shannon’s Take: Southern Methodist – 3 Memphis – 24

#7 Oregon at Southern Cal (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Ducks maintain enough proximity to the Top Five to be considered a Playoff contender at this point, but the loss to Auburn continues to look worse and there aren’t many chances left in-conference for marquee victories. Based on this season’s results, a win against Southern Cal certainly would not qualify but needs to happen nonetheless. This could be difficult against a talented yet inconsistent Trojans offense that has risen to a challenge on multiple occasions this season. The Air Raid offense employed by offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is no joke and has been proven effective with multiple Southern Cal quarterbacks this season.

Assuming that Oregon’s defense is truly the second best in the Pac-12 is dangerous because of the competition it has faced. The Ducks were dominant against Stanford and Cal, Pac-12 bottom-feeders in terms of offensive yards per game, as well as Colorado, seated in the bottom half of the conference in that category. Against the two Washington schools, it took an explosive offensive performance for Oregon to sneak by with a victory. Granted, the Ducks have Justin Herbert running the show and the running back stable is capable of gashing Southern Cal’s suspect run defense. But the Trojans have nothing to lose, and rumors of Urban Meyer’s potential interest in coming back to coaching has to have Clay Helton puckered. The best way to calm those nerves is a win – something ATC believes the Trojans can pull off here, effectively ending any chance that a Pac-12 team makes this season’s Playoff.

My Pick: 38-35 Southern Cal

Shannon’s Take: Oregon – 28 Southern Cal – 10

5 Games to Flip To

#22 Kansas State at Kansas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

After an emotional victory at home last Saturday, the Wildcats are prime candidates for a letdown game against a surprisingly potent Kansas offense that will look to pull off an upset for the Governor’s Cup.

Army at Air Force (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The struggling Black Knights can set up a winner-take-all scenario in December against Navy if they can upset the Falcons at home, which have already lost to the Midshipmen earlier this year.

Miami (FL) at Florida State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Once again, this rivalry isn’t that relevant to anyone outside of the two fanbases, but ABC is sure to conjure up plenty of memories of when it did throughout this year’s contest.

UAB at Tennessee (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Blazers will have the opportunity to take down an SEC opponent, something they have failed to do the previous two seasons. Tennessee is probably the best chance in three years for that to happen, though.

Virginia at North Carolina (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Knotted atop the ACC Coastal standings, this game has far more significance than most people would initially assume.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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