For anyone that has produced any type of prognostications on sporting events, you know how much fun and, at times, how immensely difficult it can be. For college football, in particular, attempting to predict the outcome of any game is almost always a crap shoot, just look at what Iowa did to Ohio State this past weekend! However, this type of unpredictability is what makes this sport so much fun and exhilarating to watch every week. With another weekend of several ranked teams going head to head, it’s fairly safe to assume that upsets and last-second wins will be in abundance as the regular season nears its inevitable end. Which teams will continue to rise? Which teams that are masquerading as contenders will be exposed this weekend? Let’s find out.
Washington Huskies (12) vs. Stanford Cardinal (21)
Before this past weekend, many pundits assumed and rightfully so that the Pac-12 was all but eliminated from having a team in the College Football Playoff. However, with two BIG 10 juggernauts falling to supposedly inferior opponents, an intriguing path was created for a team like Washington to make a compelling run at a Playoff spot. Considering how well the Huskies defense has played all season long combined with the fact that their offense has finally found its groove, it becomes a very real possibility that Washington could continue the rise up the rankings. With that being said, the Huskies will have a difficult task in trying to keep Stanford running back Bryce Love in check while attempting to get their offense going against a stingy Cardinal defense (21.3 points allowed per game). Given how well the Washington State Cougars handled the Cardinal rushing game last week, I expect the Huskies to be just as effective in that regard while relying on quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin to put up points down the stretch.
Final Score: Huskies 29 Cardinal 20 Spread: Washington -7.0
Oklahoma State Cowboys (11) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (15)
With both programs coming off of brutal losses, it’s fair to expect a thriller in Ames this weekend. The Cowboys deep-threat passing attack going up against the vastly underrated defense of the Cyclones should make for one of the more compelling contests of the weekend. Initially, this matchup would appear to favor the Cowboys as the Cyclones allowed West Virginia quarterback Will Grier to gash them through the air as he threw for over 12 yards per pass attempt. However, the Mountaineers were still held to just 20 points in the contest, suggesting that Mason Rudolph and the Cowboys will need to finish off drives rather than just repeatedly chucking the ball downfield and hope one results in a 50-yard touchdown. Of course, the Cowboys will give up a ton of points in this affair, but their aggressive passing attack combined with their veteran receiving corps will be just a bit too much for the Cyclones to handle in the end.
Final Score: Cowboys 38 Cyclones 34 Spread: Oklahoma State -7.0
Michigan State Spartan (24) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (6)
After an emphatic win over the best scoring defense in the country (Penn State) the Spartans appeared to have become a prolific scoring team that plays physical defense as well. Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke has looked fantastic in his teams last two contests as he has thrown for six touchdowns and over 800 yards in those affairs (threw for just one touchdown and under three hundred yards in the previous two games). Unlike the Spartans who are trending upward, the Buckeyes have gone from electric Playoff contender to a fairly hopeless program that allowed the Iowa Hawkeyes to put up 55 points in a blowout loss on the road. While losses to lesser-known programs do happen, it was the way in which the Buckeyes lost that was particularly shocking as quarterback J.T. Barrett threw a season-high four interceptions and completed a season-low 52.9% of his passes. While Barrett and the Buckeyes could easily bounce back at home, I’m going with the team that, at the very least, has a proven defense and an offense that has looked elite against legitimate competition.
Final Score: Spartans 34 Buckeyes 28 Spread: Ohio State -16.0
NC State Wolfpack (20) vs. Boston College Eagles
Despite losing their last two contests, the Wolfpack have played valiantly all season long and have far exceeded the expectations of fans and analysts across the country. While the Eagles may not be quite as respected in this regard, they have quietly won three games in a row while scoring 35 points or more in each of those contests. While Eagles quarterback Anthony Brown has been much better at not carelessly throwing interceptions to the opposition, it has been the improved play of running back AJ Dillon who has scored five rushing touchdowns in his last three games (scored just two rushing touchdowns in all of his previous appearances). However, with one of better defensive lines in football combined with the cerebral quarterback play of Ryan Finley, the Wolfpack should be able to win a close one on the road.
Final Score: Wolfpack 27 Eagles 24 Spread: NC State -3.0
Virginia Tech Hokies (13) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
After being considered heavy favorites to dispatch the Miami Hurricanes on the road, the Hokies put up one of their worst performances on offense and defense in a brutal loss. With that being said, the Hokies still have one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the country in Josh Jackson and senior wide receiver Cam Phillips has been a stable deep threat that has averaged less than 10 yards per reception only twice this season. While the Yellow Jackets have not looked great on defense recently, their triple-option attack is still as potent as ever with quarterback TaQuon Marshall carrying his team on his back with his impressive athleticism. Yet, as prolific as the Yellow Jackets can be when rushing the football, they have been exposed against superior defenses and the Hokies are one of the best teams in the country in suppressing opposing offenses.
Final Score: Hokies 30 Yellow Jackets 17 Spread: Virginia Tech -3.0
Georgia Bulldogs (1) vs. Auburn Tigers (14)
Even when the Bulldogs are not on top of their game at rushing the football, Jake Fromm, and Georgia’s defense still find a way to win games fairly convincingly. Such was the case in the Bulldogs most recent victory against the South Carolina Gamecocks as they failed to score a rushing touchdown but still won the contest 24-10. With that being said, it’s highly unlikely that Bulldogs will be able to skate by a Tigers team that is also great defensively while having a dynamic offense to boot. Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been a godsend for an Auburn program that has lacked reliable quarterback play in recent years and running back Kerryon Johnson has scored 15 rushing touchdowns despite not playing in two games this season. It will be the Bulldogs toughest challenge of the season since they played Notre Dame in week 2, but I believe the Bulldogs defense and rushing game is slightly better and will help them win a nail-biter on the road.
Final Score: Bulldogs 31 Tigers 30 Spread: Georgia -2.5
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers (9)
If ever there was a team that could be considered borderline elite with three losses on their resume, it would be the Hawkeyes. Considering those losses were by a margin of seven points or less to formidable opponents (Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern), the Hawkeyes have been a program that loves to come close if not outright spoil the playoff hopes of several big-name programs (see Ohio State). With another compelling matchup against the defensively dominant Badgers, the Hawkeyes go on the road feeling supremely confident that they can pull off another crazy upset. However, the Badgers have looked much better offensively with quarterback Alex Hornibrook being more active in the passing game while hefty running back Jonathan Taylor continues to be the main contributor for the Badgers offensively (has rushed for less than 100 yards only three times this season). While the Hawkeyes looked phenomenal on offense in their blowout win over Ohio State, I expect this contest to be low-scoring with the Badgers being slightly better on defense and rushing the football.
Final Score: Hawkeyes 19 Badgers 24 Spread: Wisconsin -13.0
Alabama Crimson Tide (2) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (16)
If ever there was ever a ranked vs. ranked matchup that could be a blowout victory for one opponent, it would be this game. Sure, the Bulldogs are undefeated at home, but they were down by seven points at halftime to a UMASS program that is dreadful defensively. On top of that, the Bulldogs have been blown out by ranked opponents by a scoring margin of 80-13. As far as the Crimson Tide are concerned, you know the story. Stout defensively; dynamic and physical running and oh yea they’re the best-coached team in college football. While there are no sure things in this sport, when you look at how these programs matchup combined with the level of play they bring to the table, this is as close to a lock as it gets when two ranked teams square off.
Final Score: Crimson Tide 39 Bulldogs 19 Spread: Alabama -14.5
TCU Horned Frogs (8) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (5)
There is no getting around it, Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback in college football right now. In the Sooners victories, Mayfield, and company have scored less than 30 points only once, a testament to how relentlessly potent this offense is every week. With that being said, the Sooners will have their work cut out form them as they face a well-rounded Horned Frogs defense that has allowed just 13.9 points per game this season (6th in college football). While the offense for TCU has not been nearly as prolific as it was at the start of the season, Kenny Hill has done a good job at not carelessly turning over the football while versatile running back Darius Anderson has been a serious scoring threat as a rusher and reliable as a pass catcher. Although it’s hard to bet against a Sooner offense that scored 62 points last week, the proven defense of the Horned Frogs combined with a fairly efficient offense should be enough for TCU to pull out a crazy win on the road.
Final Score: Horned Frogs 30 Sooners 23 Spread: Oklahoma -7.0
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3) vs. Miami Hurricanes (10)
After pulling out a dominant victory over a dynamic Hokies program, the Hurricanes have to feel optimistic as they get to play in front of their home crowd again against a reputable opponent. While the passing game for the Hurricanes is not great, quarterback Malik Rosier is more than capable of making plays with his legs while having the arm strength to make big plays downfield from time to time. Although the Hurricanes have proven time and again that they have an extremely opportunistic defense, it has yet to face the athletic rushing attack of Brandon Wimbush and the Fighting Irish. While Notre Dame also has issues passing the ball effectively, Wimbush is not afraid to chuck the ball downfield if an opportunity presents itself and running back Josh Adams is both an electric runner and proficient pass catcher. It will be a tough test for both teams, but the Fighting Irish have better weapons on offense and a great defense that should be able to rattle Rosier throughout the contest.
Final Score: Fighting Irish 33 Hurricanes 26 Spread: Notre Dame -3.0