By Bryan Foti
Last Week: (3-2)
The first rankings of the College Football Playoff came out Tuesday night. Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, and Texas A&M are your playoff teams as of now. Now comes the hard part, will these teams actually make the playoffs. Lets take a look at some big matchups this weekend.
#4 Texas A&M at Mississippi State
Location: Davis Wade Stadium
Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. EST.
Line: Texas A&M -13.5
The Aggies find themselves as the last team into the College Football Playoff currently. Texas A&M recovered from its loss against Alabama by defeating New Mexico State 52-10 last week. This week the Aggies resume SEC play and take on SEC West foe Mississippi State.
Texas A&M should have no problem getting ready for this game. The Aggies will have to win out in order to stay in the number four spot, and then hope that the committee doesn’t decide to put a conference champion in the playoffs over them.
Once again, it looks like star defensive end Myles Garrett will miss the game with his ankle injury. Garrett didn’t play last week against New Mexico State. The Aggies won’t need their star defensive player to win.
Texas A&M should dominate this game. Offensively, A&M is one of the most potent teams in the country averaging 38 points a game. On the other side, Mississippi State is one of the worst teams statistically on defense, allowing 30 points per game to opponents this season.
Offensively the Bulldogs can score, but their offense is revolved around one player. Sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads the team in both passing and rushing this season.
Last week Fitzgerald tossed five touchdown passes in the win over Samford. As long as Texas A&M can contain Fitzgerald they should have no problem winning the game.
Trevor Knight and Trayveon Williams should be able to make big plays for the Aggies. A&M should have no problem covering the spread. Kevin Sumlin should have his team focused and ready to go because every game is now so important.
Don’t be afraid of the high spread take the Aggies and lay the points.
Final: Texas A&M 39, Mississippi State, 20
#8 Wisconsin at Northwestern
Location: Ryan Field
Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. EST.
Line: Wisconsin -7
Wisconsin is in a good position to reach the Big 10 championship game if they can win the remaining games on their schedule. Nebraska is taking on a tough Ohio State team this weekend, if they lose, Wisconsin controls its destiny for the championship game.
Wisconsin still has been struggling to put points on the scoreboard. Last week, the Badgers used a two-quarterback system, but it was not effective. Alex Hornibrook got a majority of the snaps under center. Bart Houston, Wisconsin’s other quarterback, threw the ball seven times last week, and one of those passes was intercepted.
The Badgers have not revealed what they plan on doing at quarterback Saturday. Running back Corey Clement told the media that he hopes that the Badgers figure out the situation. Meaning that he would probably like Wisconsin to stick to one.
Clement rushed for 82 yards last week and did not score a touchdown. Wisconsin will need to a productive in the run game to put some points on the board. Look for Clement to bust out and have a big game.
Northwestern has rebounded after starting their season 1-3. The Wildcats have not yet beaten a ranked team, however Northwestern has competed in their games against ranked opponents. They lost 24-13 to Nebraska, and just last weekend the Wildcats played Ohio State tough, losing 24-20.
Wildcat quarterback Clayton Thorson has played well this year throwing for 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. If Northwestern wants to pull the upset he will need to have a big game. Thorson is also the team’s second leading rusher. He has scored four rushing touchdowns as well.
Besides two games this season the Wildcats have been very solid defensively. Expect that trend to continue this weekend. The Wildcats have held opponents to 22 points a game.
This game will be a defensive stalemate. Wisconsin will win this game, but it won’t be easy. Take the points and the Wildcats in this one.
Final: Wisconsin 20, Northwestern 14
#11 Florida at Arkansas
Location: Razorback Stadium
Time: Saturday 3:30 p.m. EST.
Line: Florida -5.5
This game is one of the more interesting matchups of the week. Florida’s top ranked defense will go up against the high-powered offense of Arkansas.
Arkansas’ offense has put up good numbers this season and has had a bye week to prepare for this game. Two weeks ago, the Razorbacks were embarrassed by Auburn 56-3 and did not put up a fight.
Bret Bielema will have his team ready to go this week. Arkansas would love to knock the Gators out of the College Football Playoff picture. The Gators have an outside chance to make the playoffs if they can win out the rest of the way, including the SEC Championship game.
Expect Razorback running back Rawleigh Williams to have a bounce back game on the ground. He was held to 22 yards rushing against the Tigers two weeks ago.
Arkansas loves to run the ball, so we will get to see how their big offensive line fares against the number one defense in the country.
Entering the game the Gators are ranked first in total defense and fifth in the nation in stopping the run. Jim McElwain group can stop anyone. Surprisingly the Gators have been bad on offense this season.
Luke Del Rio has been injured for most of the year, but the Gators still have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, which makes it a puzzling situation.
Del Rio first game back was last was last week and he only threw for 130 yards passing. He will need to do more if they want to win on the road.
Luckily for Florida the Razorbacks are not a great defensive team. Arkansas is ranked 82nd in the country on defense. Florida should have some great opportunities to make plays.
Florida needs to win this game to stay alive in the playoff race. Their defense a top-level group, and will do enough to shut down Arkansas.
Take the Gators and lay the points they will cover.
Florida 27, Arkansas 17
#10 Nebraska at #6 Ohio State
Location: Ohio Stadium
Time: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST.
Line: Ohio State -17
Everyone is wondering, what is going on with the Buckeyes? Ohio State has not looked sharp in its last three games. Ohio State needed overtime to beat Wisconsin. They then lost to Penn State, and last week against Northwestern, they were tied with the Wildcats in the fourth quarter at home.
Urban Meyer would like to see his team play better, but despite all the questions and media hoopla about their struggles, Ohio State finds themselves in prime position to qualify for the College Football Playoff. If the Buckeyes win out they will be in.
Nebraska is coming off its first loss of the season. The Cornhuskers have everything to play for as well because if they win out, they will be in the playoffs too. However Nebraska is nowhere near as talented as Ohio State. Nebraska will need to rely on its defense once again if they want to win and pull the upset.
The Cornhuskers quarterback, Tommy Armstrong, will have to play better in the passing game this week. Last week, he threw two interceptions. The Cornhuskers will need to run the ball better this week too. Nebraska was only able to run for 152 yards against Wisconsin. Ohio State has been allowing 124 rushing yards per game this season. There will be an opportunity for Nebraska to have success though.
Ohio State will look to its running game for success too. Ohio State comes into this game ranked seventh in the country in rushing. Last week freshman Mike Webber had two rushing touchdowns in the win over Northwestern. Webber and Curtis Samuel have provided a nice one-two punch on the ground for the Buckeyes.
J.T. Barrett has run for six touchdowns this season. In the passing game Barrett has under performed this season. He has only eclipsed 250 yards passing once, and he hasn’t thrown multiple touchdown passes since the Rutgers win.
So how will this game play out? It’s a very big spread. The question is: do you believe in Nebraska? Ohio State has more talent than them in every area. Before playing Wisconsin, Nebraska had faced a very soft schedule.
This is finally the game where Ohio State turns it on. Barrett will throw for two touchdowns and rush for another. Take Ohio State and the points in this one.
Final: Ohio State 42, Nebraska 20
#1 Alabama at #13 LSU
Location: Tiger Stadium
Time: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST.
Line: Alabama – 7.5
Last year when these two teams met in Tuscaloosa both teams were unbeaten and had national championship aspirations. After that game LSU’s season changed dramatically, as it would lose three in a row and fall out of playoff contention.
Believe it or not, LSU still has a very slim shot at the College Football playoff. If they somehow win out, they will have earned a right to play for the title. In order for that to happen LSU will have to start with a win at home over the #1 ranked team in the land.
Ed Orgeron has led the Tigers to a 3-0 mark under his watch so far. A win Saturday would perhaps be the biggest of his career and probably land him the LSU coaching job on a permanent basis.
Two weeks ago Leonard Fournette reminded us why he was a Heisman candidate coming into this season. Fournette was a beast against Ole Miss racking up 284 yards on the ground on only 16 carries. He also scored three times in the Tigers road win. Fournette should have been the best player in college football this season, but for some reason it was not in the cards.
LSU has not beaten Alabama since 2011. It was the same year they went to the National Championship game, only to face Alabama again and lose 21-0. This LSU team has the ability to pull the upset, but it will be very hard to do so.
They will need to be perfect in every aspect, but most importantly on offense. Alabama has been holding its opponents to low point totals this season. Florida statistically may be the best defense in the country, but Alabama has the most talented defense in the country. The Tide continue to dominate on the defensive side of the ball. They have held their opponents to under 15 points a game, and they are ranked fourth in total defense in the country.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts continues to manage the offense well. Hurts has been a factor in the Tide’s running game this season. Two weeks ago against Texas A&M he ran for another rushing touchdown.
Hurts didn’t have his best passing day against the Aggies, he threw two interceptions in that game. LSU has some playmakers on defense, so look for them to be aggressive and try to force the young freshman to make a mistake.
It would be such a great story if the Tigers could pull the upset and beat Alabama. However it’s not going to happen. Alabama is just simply too good and too talented to be upset by LSU. Fournette will have his moments in this game, but there won’t be too many, as Alabama will pull away in the second half.
Roll Tide lay the points and take Alabama.
Final: Alabama 31, LSU 17