By Bryan Foti
Last Week: (3-2)
The Middle of October is always the best time for College Football. We are in the middle of conference play, and there is a lot at stake this week featuring top-ten matchups, along with a bunch of other exciting games.
#1 Alabama at #9 Tennessee
Location: Neyland Stadium
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST.
Line: Alabama -12.5
For a second it looked like the fairy tale season for Tennessee would continue. Tennessee forced a fumble on a play that Texas A&M should have scored on and it allowed Josh Dobbs to get the ball back and lead the Volunteers down the field for the game-tying score to force overtime. However, the Vols’ luck would come to an end in OT when Dobbs threw an interception to end the game.
Tennessee did not slip in the rankings. They still have a chance to make the College Football Playoff, but now they have to beat Alabama.
The Crimson Tide continue to roll. Last week Alabama beat Arkansas to improve their record to (6-0). They are unbeaten in SEC play so far and have already won at Ole Miss earlier in the season.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has managed the offense well this season. He rarely turns the ball over, and gets the ball into the hands of the Alabama playmakers. Hurts is third in rushing for Alabama with 296 yards on the ground and he leads the team in rushing touchdowns with five.
Look for Alabama to run the football on Saturday. The Vols gave up 353 yards on the ground to the Aggies and Alabama’s main strength on offense is their running game. Alabama is ranked 15th in the country in rushing.
Tennessee will need to play better on defense if they want to win Saturday. Last week Tennessee gave up 21 points in the first quarter. If they do that against Alabama there will be no fourth quarter comeback this week. The Vols also turned the football over seven times last week and you can’t win games when you do that. So Dobbs and the offense have to do a better job of taking care of the ball.
Neyland Stadium should be rocking. Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones will want to use the crowd to his advantage. If the Vols can score a touchdown first, that will give the team hope that they can pull the upset. Alabama has the best defense in America, so this feat will be extremely hard to accomplish.
The Tide will win this game. Tennessee has been the luckiest team in America these past couple of weeks. They have not been able to put together complete games and they won’t be able to put one together against Alabama. Take the Tide and lay the points.
Final: Alabama 52, Tennessee 24
#10 Nebraska At Indiana
Location: Memorial Stadium
Time: Saturday, 3:30 EST
Line: Nebraska -3.5
Nebraska is in the Top 10 for the first time since 2011. The Cornhuskers have gotten off to a 5-0 start and have won their first two Big 10 games.
Nebraska has not played the strongest schedule so far this season and their only win against a ranked team came against Oregon, who has since fallen off the radar. Nebraska has a bunch of key injuries that they will have to deal with on Saturday.
Wide Receiver Jordan Westerkamp is dealing with a back injury and won’t be able to play this weekend. Westerkamp leads the Cornhuskers in receiving touchdowns with four. Running Back Devine Ozigbo has been in a walking boot all week and his status for Saturday is uncertain. Ozigbo has four rushing touchdowns on the season.
The Cornhuskers will have running back Terrell Newby who leads the team rushing and has three touchdowns.
On the other side Indiana is (3-2) on the season, they lost last week to Ohio State but hung in the game into the second half. Their only other loss came to Wake Forest by five points.
Indiana is led on offense by quarterback Richard Lagow, who has thrown for 1,460 yards and 11 touchdowns passes.
Indiana has already beaten Michigan St. this year and last week the Hooziers stayed in the game with Ohio State for three quarters before losing 38-17. This Indiana team can compete in the Big 10, which makes them a tough matchup for Nebraska.
Indiana has played well on defense this year. They are ranked 31st in defense and have been allowing 25 points per game. Nebraska comes into this game averaging 37, so something has to give.
The key in this one will be the injuries for Nebraska. Will it be too much to overcome? Experts like Indiana, they are at home, they have played tougher opponents and Nebraska has a lot of players down this week. However, Nebraska has depth and matches up well against Indiana. They will win in a tight one and remain unbeaten. Take the Cornhuskers and lay the points.
Final: Nebraska 27, Indiana 21
#12 Ole Miss at #22 Arkansas
Location: Razorback Stadium
Time: Saturday, 7:00 EST.
Line: Ole Miss -7.5
Both these teams need to win to keep their slim hopes alive to reach the SEC Championship game. Ole Miss travels to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas.
The Rebels are 3-2 after losing two of their first three. Ole Miss followed it up with back-to-back wins over Georgia and Memphis. The Rebels have their first true road game this season.
Ole Miss fans remember the brutal loss to Arkansas a year ago in overtime. The Razorbacks were able to convert on a fourth and 25 with a wacky play and eventually scored a touchdown. They then added a two-point conversion to give the Razorbacks a one-point victory.
The Rebels want this year to be different. They will have to play a lot better on the defensive side of the ball since last year Arkansas was able to record over 600 yards of total offense.
So far this year Ole Miss’ defense has played well when they were the more talented team. They did not fare well against Alabama and Florida St though, so how will they do against Arkansas? Razorback quarterback Austin Allen has had a productive season this year throwing for 1632 yards and 15 touchdown passes. Last week, he threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama, but he also had three interceptions, which was a killer for Arkansas. Allen needs to protect the ball if the Razorbacks want to have a chance.
Arkansas can run the ball effectively as well and running back Rawleigh Williams has had a nice season for the Razorbacks, he has rushing for 605 yards and five touchdowns thus far.
On the other side the Rebel offense has been very efficient in its last two outings. Ole Miss has scored 45 and 48 points in the last two games. Chad Kelly has thrown for 1596 yards and 13 touchdown passes on the season. The Rebels will need Kelly to lead the team. Kelly has only thrown one interception since opening night, so he has been doing a good job of protecting the ball.
This game should be a back and forth contest. The defenses’ of Arkansas and Ole Miss are not the best in the nation. Ole Miss will have to adapt to the unfriendly confines of Razorback Stadium. If they don’t turn the ball over and don’t under estimate the Razorbacks they will win this game. However, it will be a tough game for the Rebels, Arkansas has played them tough the past couple of times and it won’t be any different this time. Ole Miss wins, but take Arkansas with the points.
Final: Ole Miss, 42, Arkansas 38
Stanford at Notre Dame
Location: Notre Dame Stadium
Time: Saturday, 7:30 EST.
Line: Notre Dame -3
When the schedule came out, you figured this would be an exciting game to watch as Stanford travels to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. However, both teams will not be in the College Football playoff this year.
Notre Dame has been brutal this year to watch. They are (2-4) with some ugly losses. Last week Notre Dame did not bother to sure up when they traveled to North Carolina State. The Irish lost 10-3 on a day where the field conditions were terrible because of Hurricane Matthew. The Irish offense was only able to muster up 113 total yards of offense. Even though the offense was bad last week, that hasn’t been the problem most weeks for Notre Dame. The main problem has been their defense.
The Irish defense has been flat out awful this year, which prompted Brian Kelly to fire defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. The defense has surrendered 30 points or more in three of their last four games. This week Notre Dame may get a break because Christian McCaffrey may not be available to play.
McCaffrey departed early during the Washington State game with an injury. Stanford head coach David Shaw said he was pretty banged up, and that he didn’t want to risk further injury if they brought him back in the game. McCaffrey’s status is up in the air for Saturday. If he cannot play the Cardinal chances at winning take a significant hit.
McCaffrey’s streak of gaining 100 yards or more of all-purpose yards came to end at 19 games. He only gained 83 all-purpose yards last week against Washington State. Teams have been focusing much more on McCaffrey this year since Stanford’s passing game is not as strong as it was a season ago. Quarterback Ryan Burns has only thrown for over 200 yards passing once this season, and that was last week in the loss to the Cougars.
The key in this game revolves around McCaffrey. Assuming he plays, Notre Dame will load the box and force the Cardianl to beat them with their passing game. The question is which weakness is worse, the Stanford passing attack or the Notre Dame defense? Right now that answer is really hard to know.
This is a rivalry game. McCaffrey will want to be on the field for this one. He should play and have a good showing on national TV. That is why the safe pick is to take Stanford and the points in this one.
Final: Stanford 28, Notre Dame 27
#2 Ohio State at #8 Wisconsin
Location: Camp Randall Stadium
Time: Saturday, 8:00 EST.
Line: Ohio State -10
The Big 10 is the premiere conference in college football right now, as they have four teams ranked in the top-10. Ohio State and Wisconsin will take center stage when they matchup in prime time in Madison.
Wisconsin is in the midst of arguably the toughest five game stretch of any team in the country. So far the Badgers are 1-1 during that time. They upset Michigan State in East Lansing. Then last week they lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor. Next up is a date with Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, and then they will face Iowa on the road next week, then take on No. 10 Nebraska in Madison to conclude the gauntlet.
About the only positive thing for Wisconsin is that they cannot over look any opponent. Ohio State is no slouch either.
The Buckeyes have looked sharp this season. They blew out Oklahoma in Norman, and followed it up with a drubbing of Rutgers 58-0. Last week Ohio State let Indiana hang around for three quarters, but pulled away in the fourth winning 38-17.
J.T. Barrett is the focal point of the Buckeye offense this year. The dual-threat quarterback has had a nice season throwing for 981 yards and 15 touchdown passes. Barrett has also picked up 342 yards on the ground, adding 4 touchdowns.
Urban Meyer likes to use his running backs. Freshman Mike Weber leads the team in rushing with 556 yards on the ground, and running back Curtis Samuel is the team’s leading receiver. Samuel has 23 receptions for 345 yards.
Ohio State would love to see Noah Brown put together solid games consistently. Brown had 4 touchdown catches against the Sooners, but other than that he has not done much this season.
On the other side Wisconsin will need their defense to play like they did two weeks ago against Michigan. T.J. Watt will definitely be in the mix on defense for the Badgers this week. Look for him to have a big game.
Alex Hornibrook did not play well against Michigan two weeks ago, throwing three interceptions. Wisconsin should look to utilize its running game. Wisconsin needs to get Corey Clement going this week.
Ohio State has shown us over the years they can win tough games on the road under Urban Meyer. Wisconsin has played well this year, but their wins over LSU and Michigan State do not look as impressive as they did the week they beat them. However, Wisconsin will come to play Saturday night. Their defense is talented enough to slow down the Buckeyes and make life difficult for Barrett and company.
Wisconsin won’t win this game because they don’t have enough firepower on offense, but they will cover the spread. Go Bucky, take the Badgers and the points.
Final: Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 19