By: James Ward
Joel Lanning: The Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week did it on both sides of the ball in Iowa State’s upset against Oklahoma in Norman. Lanning finished with 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recover, 35 rushing yards, 25 passing yards. They’ll be talking about Lanning’s performance for a long time. Underrated.
David Sills III: Former quarterback turned wide receiver is having a break out season for West Virginia. He leads the nation in touchdown receptions and was just named to ESPN’s midseason All-American list. Underrated.
UCF: There are 13 unbeaten teams in the FBS and none more likely than the UCF Golden Knights. In 2015, UCF went 0-12, but right now, head coach Scott Frost has his team playing as well as any team in the country. Of their four wins, the lowest margin of victory was 27 points. Underrated.
Gary Andersen: The former Oregon State coach became the second coach in the FBS to pack up his office midseason, after Texas-El Paso coach Sean Kugler resigned earlier this month. Andersen left Wisconsin abruptly for Corvallis and it’s safe to say leaving Madison wasn’t the best career move. Overrated.
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:
1. Texas and Oklahoma will play this Saturday for the 102nd installment of the Red River Showdown (Rivalry, Shootout, Classic, etc.). Of note, this is the first time since 1947 where both schools feature first year head coaches.
2. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate set the single-game FBS rushing record for a quarterback with 327 yards on the ground against Colorado. Amazingly enough, Tate didn’t even start the game. Tate is now a “co-starter” for the Wildcats and he possesses Lamar Jackson-type speed and elusiveness.
3. Second-year head coach of Tulane, Willie Fritz, has quietly turned the Green Wave into a competitive team. Fritz initially made waves at Blinn College, where he won two national junior college championships. His quarterback for one of those championship teams was Michael Bishop, before he became a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Kansas State. (h/t @RichAckerman)
Navy (+3.5) at Memphis: The Memphis Tigers have the No. 94 run defense in the country, allowing 187.2 yards per game. Navy has the No. 1 rushing attack in the country, averaging 414.2 yards per game. The Midshipmen are also averaging 410.5 yards on the ground against Memphis in the last two meetings. Navy quarterback Zach Abey has dominated so far on the ground. He is fourth in the country in rushing yards, ahead of NFL hopefuls Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb and Royce Freeman. He also has nine touchdowns on the ground.
This isn’t a good matchup for the Tigers. Memphis has a powerful offense and the Tigers are coming off a 70-point performance against UCONN where quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for seven touchdowns. While Memphis undoubtedly has an explosive offense, the Midshipmen’s run game will dominate the clock and limit the Tigers’ possessions. Navy has won both prior matchups against Memphis since joining the AAC, with both wins coming by more than 14 points. In 2015, Navy won 45-20 vs. Memphis, as a double-digit underdog on the road. Take the points, but Navy should win this game outright. Pick: Navy (+3.5)
Utah (+13) at USC: Since 2014, Utah has lost just two games by double digits. In addition, the Utes have been double-digit underdogs three times with outright wins in two of those matchups. This season, Utah is 4-0-1 against the spread, while USC is 1-5 against the spread. All of the trends suggest Utah will keep this game close and if you’ve watched Utah play the last few seasons, you know this is just how they play. Utah keeps games close. Conversely, USC has been unable to put teams away this season.
Last week, the Utes held Stanford running back Bryce Love in check for most of the game, before allowing a 68-yard touchdown run in the second half that changed the game. Utah has the No. 20 run defense in the country, largely because of their massive defensive line. USC’s offensive line is still banged up, and their lack of an off week has done them no favors in getting healthy. USC quarterback Sam Darnold presents a huge challenge for the Utes, but Utah should make the USC offense one dimensional, keeping the game close. Pick: Utah (+13)
Boise State at San Diego State (-7): In this Mountain West after dark matchup, Boise State looks to build off last week’s win against BYU. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they’re facing one of the best teams in the Group of Five. The Aztecs have a real shot at an undefeated regular season, after wins against Stanford, Arizona State and Air Force earlier in the season. San Diego State hasn’t played Boise State since 2014, and while the Aztecs have two straight Mountain West Championships, this game feels like a changing of the guard in the Mountain West.
The Boise State defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, but San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny is a different sort of talent. The Aztecs lost the NCAA all-time leading rusher to the NFL and their ground game has actually gotten better. For the season, Penny has 993 yards on the ground while averaging 6.9 yards per carry. The Aztecs play a lot like Stanford (you can argue that this incarnation is actually better than Stanford currently), as they rely on a power ground game and they look to force turnovers on defense. Boise State has had issues on offense all season, and while the Broncos looked better last week against BYU, the Cougars are a complete mess. San Diego State should dominate this game and win easily. Pick: SDSU (-7)
Last Week: 3-0
Season Record: 12-7
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 70-54-0
James Ward is the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends and Sunday Morning Football. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).