Nov. 05, 2016
Games To Watch: Week 9- Last Week of AP Polls
I thought it would be at least one good game between Alabama and another ranked team, but the Tide overtakes them with ease. Texas Tech and Oklahoma went into a shootout in Baker Mayfield’s return to Texas Tech, but no one in Lubbock was happy to see his return nor were tortillas raining down on him on the field. Houston says goodbye to their New Year’s Six Bowl chances after a surprising upset by SMU, Western Michigan and Boise State continue to roll as undefeated non-Power 5 schools trying to nab a New Year’s Six Bowl spot, and Penn State whitened out Ohio State’s road success with a big upset victory. This weekend’s matchups will feature 13 ranked teams on the road with Michigan, Clemson, and Washington involved in a true road game to stay in the Top 5. Wisconsin is once again in a Top 10 matchup with another Big Ten opponent and this could be their very last opportunity to stay in the playoff hunt and Big Ten West title. These Top 5 Games to Watch matchups will feature not only the AP Top 15 teams on the road but for the first time in my post, it will feature all five of the Power 5 games. One team that should worry the most about holding their top ten spot is Nebraska. Happy Halloween everyone!
5) #15 Auburn (5-2 overall; 3-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (3-4 overall; 1-3 SEC)- 4:15pm PST/ 7:15pm ET [SEC Network]
Auburn is rolling and head coach Gus Malzahn is happy to find his offense running smoothly again. Quarterback Sean White seems to be their quarterback locked in for the season while hoping to avenge last year’s loss despite playing a good game. Running back Kerryon Johnson is set to return which gives Auburn an added offense to go along with their fourth best defense in the SEC in total yards allowed per game (328). Ole Miss lost two straight games and was held under 30 points for the first time this season. Ole Miss’s defense has lost their stride and are near the bottom in the conference with yards allowed per game. Ole Miss’s offense carries the entire team on their shoulders as they now face Auburn’s best defensive line in the nation. If offensive line starters Rod Taylor and Jordan Sims are not healthy enough to play Saturday, slowing down the pass rush will be a problem. Auburn hasn’t allowed over 220 passing yards in their five wins but in their two losses, they allowed two 240 passing yards and Chad Kelly has yet to throw under 200 passing yards in his starting career. If Auburn’s defense continues their success past Ole Miss, they could be the dark horse out of nowhere vying for the SEC West title.
4) #10 West Virginia (6-0 overall; 3-0 Big 12) at Oklahoma State (5-2 overall; 3-1 Big 12)- 9am PST/ 12pm ET [FOX]
Last season, Oklahoma State escaped Morgantown with an overtime victory to stay undefeated. Now undefeated West Virginia are going to Stillwater to try and do the same. The Mountaineers’ defense could be the best in the Big 12 and allowing only 43 points in the Big 12 is an early accomplishment (especially against Texas Tech). Albeit, they still have Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor and boy do they score a “BIG 12” amount of points. Oklahoma State looks a little skeptical since their impossible loss to Central Michigan. Their last three games involved shutting out their opponents in the 4th quarter, but all three are not that strong. The Cowboys lost at Baylor and need to bounce back to stay in the hunt for the Big 12 title. Quarterback Mason Rudolph has thrown only two interceptions but he’s facing a defense that caused 13 turnovers overall (7 INTs, 6 fumbles). Rudolph needs his line to protect him and open opportunities for the run game to take form. West Virginia and Oklahoma State will score points, but can Oklahoma State’s defense follow through and can West Virginia’s defense slow down Mason Rudolph and his top three receivers (James Washington, Jalen McCleskey, and Jhajuan Seales)?
3) #4 Washington (7-0 overall; 4-0 Pac-12) at #17 Utah (7-1 overall; 4-1 Pac-12)- 12:30pm PST/ 3:30pm ET [Fox Sports 1]
Utah got their first win against Washington during their great 2015 season run after Washington owned the first eight matchups all-time. They look as good as last season’s team except their offense improved with some new faces. Quarterback Troy Williams is currently in the Top 5 with other quarterbacks like Davis Webb, Luke Falk, Josh Rosen, and Jake Browning. While the offense is manageable, the defense again is the reason why Utah is so successful. They combined for 51 tackles for losses, 14 interceptions, 22 sacks and 12 forced fumbles and senior defensive end Hunter Dimick sets the example for how the team plays. Washington is looking legit, and next to other quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina), Jerod Evans (Virginia Tech) and Zach Terrell (Western Michigan), Browning is the most efficient quarterback who throws over 19 touchdowns while allowing two interceptions or under this season. The offense is second in red zone efficiency with 93.9% behind Arizona State. The defense looks much better and has allowed only 14.6 points per game (6th in the nation). Seven defensive players have caused seven total interceptions and the team caused 25 sacks. Cornerback Budda Baker is the player that no quarterback wants to throw to unless they want to face the consequences. Washington looks for real and are trying to go 8-0 for the first time since 1992, but Utah wants a second straight win against Washington in their program’s history and maintain their chance for a Pac-12 South title. This matchup could potentially be a preview for the Pac-12 championship matchup.
2) #3 Clemson (7-0 overall; 4-0 ACC) at #12 Florida State (5-2 overall; 2-2 ACC)- 5pm PST/ 8pm ET [ABC]
This game would usually decide who goes on to win the Atlantic division, but Florida State’s two ACC conference losses has left them distant and would need a lot of help to get themselves back into the conversation. However, a shocking loss to North Carolina was more like a defibrillator to wake up the Seminoles’ defense. Since then, they’ve kept their last two opponents under 20 points but injuries are starting to pile up. Despite that, key players in the front four including linebacker Jacob Pugh are still bringing the pressure and will continue to do it against Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Wayne Gallman. Clemson is sputtering through their schedule, and they’re like the 2014-2015 Florida State team that came off their national championship run and sputtering through their schedule. Even though Deshaun Watson’s doing well to keep his team in games, he’s making mistakes at times. If Wayne Gallman and Hunter Renfrow stays healthy in this game, this could take plenty of pressure off their quarterback. This weekend is Florida State’s last chance and Clemson’s undefeated season is on the line. Both offensive lines will feel the defensive front seven’s pressure all game long. Then it boils down to who plays better in the backfield: Watson and Gallman or Francois and Cook?
1) #7 Nebraska (7-0 overall; 4-0 Big Ten) at #11 Wisconsin (5-2 overall; 2-2 Big Ten)- 4pm PST/ 7pm ET [ESPN]
The last time both teams played each other while ranked that high was in 2011 when Wisconsin was #7 and Nebraska was #8. While Nebraska scores around 34 points per game, Wisconsin allows around 14 points per game. Wisconsin has owned four of the last five games dating back to 2011. This is Wisconsin’s third game against a Top 10 team in the Big Ten and two previous Big Ten losses should be on their mind to make them play three times better. Wisconsin overall has the second-best defense in the Big Ten. They only allowed over 20 points once against Ohio State (30 points), allowed eight total offensive touchdowns (4 pass, 4 rush), and got 19 sacks with linebacker T.J. Watt leading the team with seven. The Cornhuskers have been impressive this season and could get over the “four losses or more each season” hump. They’re in the top three in Big Ten offense overall behind Ohio State and Michigan. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has slowly improved year after year with his passing despite his completion percentage being a mere 55.4%, but his legs are the difference maker. Receivers Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp and running back Terrell Newby are key factors in Nebraska’s offense. Nebraska got themselves back into the Top 10 since 2011 and will face their toughest test in Madison while Wisconsin looks to avoid their third straight Top Ten defeat against a Big Ten team. Nebraska’s win will give them more confidence going into The Shoe next weekend, but the Badgers will not make it easy for them.