Thursday, October 24, 2013

Five College Football Games to Watch (Week 9)

Week 9 will see one great game in particular, but you'd be surprised at some other nice looking match ups I have found here. In order of must watch to will probably be a good game, here are 5 bouts that I'll be tuned to this weekend. At the very least I'll catch post game coverage, with highlights. My motto with regards to making predictions? Fortune favors the bold. 

#12 UCLA at #2 Oregon:  I am really impressed with the team head coach Jim Mora has put together in sunny Los Angeles. The Bruins started this year ranked 21st, but have shown that they are not to be messed with. They hung in there with 8 Stanford (a 14 point loss at Stanford), and with a sophomore stud QB in Brett Hundley and 3 freshman starting on the offensive line, they will be a team to watch in the next couple of years. All this being said, you know what's coming here. In the only real challenge they have faced all year, the Ducks beat then 15 Washington 45-24. This is a team averaging 57.6 points per game. Oregon takes this one, and it won't be close. It'll be pretty though, as Mariota will pass for at least 400 yards, putting on an offensive clinic. UCLA defense is allowing an average 250 yards per game against through the air, and 165 yards on the ground. Both of those numbers are about to change drastically. Mariota will step up big (with that much needed "Heisman moment" in the back of his mind) and drop at least 45 on the Bruins defense (19th in the country with a 19.2 points against average). I see him running for at least 1 TD and passing for at least 3. The Ducks defense will pressure UCLA's very young offensive line, and it will be Oregon 46 UCLA 17.

#20 South Carolina at #5 Missouri: This is not the most likely upset this week, but it'll be pretty darn close.  A win against the Gamecocks would be huge this week for the Tigers, who are ready to pounce on a berth in the SEC title game. South Carolina is coming off a horrendous loss to Tennessee last week, but I don't see them rolling over. Sophomore RB Mike Davis (5'9" 215 lbs, which I just find awesome) will have a day for himself, as dazzling young running backs tend to enjoy doing, and South Carolina's defense will be better equipped to deal with red shirt freshman Maty Mauk than 22 Florida was last week. In his first career start, Mauk put many doubts to rest with a 36-17 victory against a good Gators squad, but this week I see the SC defense showing a little more spine. Ultimately Mauk will have a second good start in homecoming at the 'Zou, the Conner Shaw-less Gamecocks will fall short late, and I go Mizzou 23 South Carolina 20.

Penn St. at #4 Ohio St: My big upset pick this week. OSU is coming off 2 mediocre wins, and so many good teams have lost this year after close wins the week before. Then 5 Stanford fell to Utah, 7 Georgia lost to a 25 Missouri, an unranked Texas team beat then 12 Oklahoma, #6 LSU fell to the unranked Rebels, #7 A&M lost to #24 Auburn, the list goes on, and on, and on. What is the point of this, besides to demonstrate my ridiculous command of college football statistics? These games illustrate my favorite aspect of college football, upsets. Emotions run high, the season is a grind, and every once in a while (or every week, it seems) a "bad" team beats a "great" one. That's a wonderful part of the game at this level, whether you attribute it to younger men, playing for your school, or a flawed ranking system, it happens. Enter the Nittany Lions. Vegas doesn't think this will be close, but the Lions are coming off a 4 OT win against Michigan two weeks ago, and a bye week. OSU can only escape fate so many times and were just saved by RB Carlos Hyde last week, but Penn St. defense has been stout against the run this year, allowing an average 117 yds per game on the ground. True freshman Christian Hackenburg is leading the Big 10 with close to 300 yards per game. Urban Meyer can kiss his unblemished record goodbye. Penn St. 24 OSU 17

#10 Texas Tech at #17 Oklahoma: A great opportunity for Texas Tech to prove its legitimacy against a quality opponent. The Sooners are 7-1 in their last 8 meetings, but Texas Tech is 7-0 this season, and 5-2 against the spread (Oklahoma -7 in this one at home, incidentally.) Every year under Bob Stoops, the Sooners look like national title contenders until they drop a game in which they are big favorites. This year, that game was another great installment in the great Red River rivalry, against an unranked Longhorns squad. However, once they get the loss out of they way they usually play some terrific football. While the Raider defense has allowed just 18.7 points per game this season, that average is against a schedule of relatively little manliness. I see a shootout, Oklahoma 43 Texas Tech 35. 

North Carolina St. at #2 Florida St: Now this won't be a great game, by any stretch. Winston at home will take care of business handily against the Wolfpack, but I'll be checking this game out for one reason. The Ducks and the Seminoles are going to be battling for the #2 spot all season long, and chances are neither of them loses for the remainder of the season. I was so happy when the Seminoles were bumped up, not because I am a fan but because, finally, the BCS changed it up even though the #2 team did not lose. This is rare, but fair, as we can safely say FSU had a big day against Clemson. What we got here was clearly a declaration that either of these teams, whichever one outplays the other, will win the right to a national championship berth vs Alabama. This ensures that every remaining game for FSU and Oregon will be interesting, as each week brings an opportunity to punch the ticket. Meanwhile, I hope every week those rankings change. This week, I see FSU beating the Wolfpack, but the Ducks beating a much better Bruins team. After FSU 38 NCST 17, Oregon will move into the #2 spot. It's going to be a great final stretch of the season to see these two battle it out, and if neither squad loses, may the best man (with the best wins) win.

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