Games to Watch
No. 6 Georgia (-9.5) at No. 11 Kentucky (3:30 CBS)
Just like everyone expected, the SEC East will be decided this Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky. Each team comes in 7-1, 5-1 and have been impressive all season, at least on one side of the ball. Both teams’ offenses have been inconsistent at best with Georgia having the better offense by far. The Bulldogs have scored over 100 more points than Kentucky (309-205). Kentucky’s offense has been downright absent since beating No. 23 Mississippi State 28-7. The Wildcats are averaging less than 17 PPG over their last four games with over 35% of their points coming off turnovers (24 of 67). Kentucky has scored only scored seven offensive touchdowns over that stretch (one defensive TD, one special teams TD).
At the same time, the defense is good enough to keep Kentucky in it against Georgia this weekend. The Wildcats are only giving up 13ppg while Georgia’s defense is nearly as stingy, giving up just over 16 PPG. Expect this game to be a bruiser and a low-scoring affair. Kentucky can not afford to get down early. The Wildcats are going to have to feed off their home crowd, get pressure on Jake Fromm, force some turnovers, run the ball exceptionally well and control the clock. If Georgia jumps out to a 10-0 lead this will be a blowout. If Kentucky scores first and gets its run game going this will be a close one.
No. 12 West Virginia at No. 15 Texas (-2) (3:30 FOX)
West Virginia (6-1, 4-1) still has a shot at a National Championship. Yeah yeah funny I know, but its true. Most of the country wrote the Mountaineers off as frauds after they got embarrassed at Iowa State, but a dominating win over Baylor put the country on watch, at least for another week. Texas (6-2, 4-1) is coming off getting upset 38-35 at Oklahoma State and although Texas isn’t “back” I find it hard to see them losing back to back games as long as quarterback Sam Ehlinger is healthy, especially at home. Although Texas is likely eliminated from CFP contention, this is a must-win for both teams as each has one conference loss and is tied for the Big 12 lead.
Will Grier still has an outside shot at a Heisman and with a grueling stretch to end the season that includes Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, he could really improve those chances, or West Virginia could lose three more games. We shall see.
No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan (-10) (3:45 ESPN)
No. 3 Notre Dame (-9.5) at Northwestern (7:15 ESPN)
No. 1 Alabama (-14) at No. 4 LSU (8:00 CBS)
Nick Saban. Ed Orgeron. Alabama at LSU. Baton Rouge. Tiger Stadium in primetime. Need I say more? This is hands down Alabama’s toughest test of the season. LSU (7-1, 4-1) has the same type of athletes the Crimson Tide have and won’t be intimidated, but there is one position where Alabama (8-0, 5-0) has an overwhelming advantage. Quarterback. Tua Tagoviola, if you haven’t been paying attention, has been an absolute cheat code this season. The southpaw has thrown 25 TDs versus 0 INTs (he doesn’t have a TD:INT ratio!)
On the other side, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has been a pleasant surprise, managing games and not turning the ball over. The offense has run smoothly with Burrow but hasn’t been explosive especially in the passing game. Come Saturday night, LSU can’t let Alabama determine how the game is played. The Tigers have to stick to their game of ground and pound, play great defense, force some turnovers and take some deep shots here and there. In order to do so though, they have to get off to a fast start or at least not let Alabama start fast. The Crimson Tide have scored a touchdown on EVERY opening drive this season. If LSU can get pressure on Tua, force some turnovers and control the clock with its run game the Crimson Tide’s starters will actually have to play the fourth quarter for the first time all season.
No. 7 Oklahoma (-12) at Texas Tech (8:00 ABC)
The last time these two played in Lubbock, two guys named Mayfield and Mahomes set all kinds of NCAA offensive records. Oklahoma won that one 66-59 and went on to win the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners (7-1, 4-1) have their sights set on a return trip to the CFP, but it won’t be easy on the road against an explosive Texas Tech team.
The Red Raiders (5-3, 3-2) are averaging over 42 PPG and their only home loss, 42-34 against West Virginia, came in a game starting quarterback Alan Bowman was knocked out of. Expect a lot of points in this one. The Sooners shaky defense will be tested, to say the least. The only way Texas Tech pulls off the upset, however, is if Kyler Murray gets hurt or Oklahoma turns the ball over three or more times.
Game of the Week: No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan (-10)
I think this game will be a classic. Penn State (6-2, 3-2) is arguably the best two-loss team in the country. The Nittany Lions are two plays away from being undefeated. Although hopes of a division title are pretty much gone, upsetting Michigan (7-1, 5-0) when the Maize and Blue have a chance at a CFP berth would be the highlight of the season for James Franklin and Co.
Michigan has a tremendous defense that can shut anyone down, but I think Penn State has the experienced talent, namely quarterback Trace McSorley, to go into the Big House and not just hang around but possibly lead this game going into the fourth quarter. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson makes a big play with his legs late to keep Michigan’s CFP hopes alive. Remember Michigan is far from done in the Big Ten with a loss. The Wolverines lone loss to this point was out of conference against Notre Dame.
Game of the weak: utep (0-8, 0-4) at rice (1-8, 0-5)
I’ve heard people around CUSA say UTEP, losers of 20 in a row, isn’t the worst team in the conference this season. Well, the Miners get their shot to prove that against 1-8 Rice whose only win came by THREE POINTS against Prarie View A&M in the season opener. There is an important storyline believe it or not. With another loss, UTEP would keep pace with UCF for the longest streak in the country at 21. Maybe not the streak you want but hey it’s still impressive!
Honor (un) able Mention: Kent State (1-7, 0-4) at Bowling Green (1-7, 0-4)
Upset Pick of the Week: Northwestern over No. 3 Notre Dame (-9.5) 27-24
I know the Wildcats (5-3, 5-1) are unranked, lost at home to Akron, nearly lost to Rutgers and probably should’ve lost at home to a winless Nebraska team, but they are dangerous. The Wildcats led No. 5 Michigan 17-0 before losing and have two top 20 wins after last week’s 31-17 triumph against No. 20 Wisconsin. It might sound crazy but Northwestern is actually good. Sneaky good.
Northwestern is tough, disciplined and if a top ten team isn’t on their A-game the Wildcats can take full advantage. Notre Dame (8-0) could be that team. The Fighting Irish tend to let less-talented teams hang around (ie: Ball State & Pitt). If Notre Dame let’s a decently talented, confident and motivated Northwestern team hang around on its home field than I see Notre Dame going down. In three games against top 25 opponents, Northwestern has only given up 18.66 PPG, has outscored those opponents 77-56 and is 2-1. The Wildcats can hold Notre Dame to less than 24 points and have a player to watch, receiver Flynn Nagel, who can be the difference maker.
Team with the Most to Prove: No. 11 Kentucky
Kentucky gets the nod because they are by far the least respected one-loss team in the top 15. Think about this. 1. The Wildcats and the Bulldogs have identical records (7-1, 5-1), Georgia lost by 20 while Kentucky lost in overtime yet Georgia is still ranked five spots better than Kentucky. 2. Georgia is nearly double-digit favorites ON THE ROAD at Kentucky (-9.5).
There is good reason for that though. While Alabama’s question marks are out of its own control (schedule), Kentucky’s question marks are on-field related. The Wildcats needed a last-second TD to beat the worst team in the SEC, Missouri (4-4, 0-4), and haven’t scored 30 points or more against an FBS team since they scored 35 against 1-8 Central Michigan in the season opener. Kentucky has proven it can compete against the middle of the SEC, it’ll get the chance to prove it can compete with the best of the SEC on Saturday when the SEC East is on the line. Just how everyone predicted.
Honorable mention: I really had to restrain myself from picking Alabama in this spot believe it or not. Yeah, I know the Crimson Tide have looked historically dominant, but they also haven’t played a team with less than three losses. Will they dominate a top 5 team (14-point favorites)? Can they play four quarters (haven’t had to all season)? Will they beat a top 5 team (pretty sure they can, but haven’t seen it)? Questions with what appear to be obvious answers sure, but still questions without definite answers heading into Baton Rouge. As a result, the Crimson Tide actually have quite a bit to prove Saturday night. Just the way Nick Saban likes it.
- Temple at No. 9 UCF (-10) UCF 45-20 *
- Pitt at No. 23 Virginia (-7.5) Pitt 30-27 **
- Louisville at No. 2 Clemson (-39) Clem 49-13
- Nebraska at No. 8 Ohio State (-20) OH ST 45-20
- No. 22 Syracuse (-5) at Wake Wake 38-35
- No. 25 Texas A&M at Auburn (-5) Auburn 27-24
- Mich St (-1.5) at Maryland MSU 34-24
- No. 6 UGA (-9.5) at No. 11 Kentucky UGA 27-17
- No. 12 WVU at No. 15 Texas (-2) Texas 35-34
- No. 19 Iowa at Purdue (-2.5) Iowa 31-27
- Navy at Cincy (-13.5) Cincy 31-20
- No. 14 Penn St. at No. 5 Michigan (-10) Mich 27-20
- No. 24 BC (-2) at Va Tech Va Tech 31-27
- Mizzou at No. 13 Florida (-6) UF 27-24
- No. 16 Utah at Arizona St Utah 34-27
- App State (-14.5) at Coastal Carolina App St 34-20
- No. 17 Houston (-14) at SMU Houston 45-27
- Duke at Miami (-9.5) Mia 34-24
- No. 3 Notre Dame (-9.5) at NW NW 27-24 ***
- La Tech at No. 21 Miss St (-22) Miss St 31-14
- FAU (-3.5) at FIU FAU 31-28
- No. 1 Alabama (-14) at No. 4 LSU Bama 31-13
- No. 7 Oklahoma (-12) at Texas Tech Okla 45-34
- Stanford at Washington (-8.5) Wash 31-27
- BYU at Boise St (-13.5) Boise 27-13
- No. 20 Fresno St (-25) at UNLV Fresno 45-17
- Cal at No. 10 Wazzu (-10.5) Wazzu 34-14
- No. 18 Utah St (-19) at Hawaii USU 45-20
* played on Thursday
**played on Friday
***Upset pick of the week
Bold = upset pick
Straight up: 165-80 ATS: 120-120-6
Upsets (straight up): 15-23 Upsets (ATS): 18-19-1