By Alex Scheer and John Kaufman
College Football Analysts
(All games on Saturday unless otherwise noted.)
Week eight of the NCAA football season is already upon us, and with it comes a brand new Top 25. Well, not entirely brand new. There are quite a few teams who were ranked last week and remain so this week. But you know what I mean.
Anyway, we have 22 new matchups to go over plus an additional game to cover which features no ranked teams but should provide some excitement regardless. So sit back and relax as Alex and I walk you through this week’s NCAA Football Top 25 games. John covered the first ten games listed below in addition to the extra game at the end. Alex handled #12 Oregon at #25 Washington through #1 Alabama’s game. Oh, and don’t forget to check out Alex and my weekly Top 25 Expert Pick ‘Em Challenge selections found here.
Week eight. Let’s go.
UL Monroe (3-3) at #24 Appalachian St. (5-0)
App St. -15; O/U 67.5
3:30 pm Eastern on ESPN+
Our Top 25 Preview begins with some fireworks, as the UL Monroe Warhawks travel to North Carolina to face the undefeated Appalachian State Mountaineers. There is going to be offense galore in this game, especially on the ground as both teams excel at rushing the football. UL Monroe is 28th in the country in rushing offense and 58th in scoring offense, gaining 217.5 yards and putting up 30.3 points per game. The Mountaineers are just a tick better than the Warhawks in the rushing department. They are 25th in the nation with 218.8 rushing yards per game. But App State is much better in offensive scoring, as they are 10th in the country with an astounding 41 points per game. Their scoring offense is one major edge that the Mountaineers will have in this game.
The other edge will come from the Warhawks’ complete lack of a rushing defense. Louisiana-Monroe is 124th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up a ludicrous 229 yards per game. It seems that the Mountaineers will have zero issues hitting their per-game rushing averages in this contest. Factoring in how good the Mountaineers are at rushing the football and finishing their drives with TDs, I’d expect this game to get ugly pretty quickly. App State should roll in this one for sure.
Purdue (2-4) at #23 Iowa (4-2) Iowa -18; O/U 48 Noon Eastern on ESPN2
How do you stop a two-game losing streak? Well, one surefire way is to invite the Purdue Boilermakers over to your place for a game of football. That should do it.
To the Boilermakers credit, they did end a three-game skid last weekend by throttling Maryland. (It just occurred to me that I’m old enough to remember when we thought Maryland might be good this year. Guess not though, huh?) This week, however, Purdue has to travel to Kinnick Stadium to face an Iowa team that is 5th in the country in total defense, yielding just 261.5 yards per game. (Incidentally, three of the other four teams in the top five are Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State. Look at you, Big 10, showing off your defensive chops. Well done indeed.) To make matters worse, Purdue isn’t very good on offense; they are 82nd in average yards per game at 388.5. That doesn’t bode well for the Boilermakers. Not one bit.
Come Saturday afternoon, Iowa will do what it does: play defense incredibly well, use more tight ends and fullbacks than a pre-forward pass football club would, and will grind out a victory with ease over Purdue. The only drama in this game is if the Hawkeyes will cover the spread. (Hey! That’s probably why sports gambling was invented in the first place!) I would lean towards Iowa covering this near-three touchdown line. But knowing them, it will take all 60 minutes to do it. So if you lay the points with Iowa, you’re going to have to watch all four quarters of this game for sure. And god bless you if you do. You’re my kind of maniac.
#22 Missouri (5-1) at Vanderbilt (1-5) Missouri -21; O/U 56 4:00 pm Eastern on SEC Network
Geezy Pete. It seems that Vanderbilt has overslept the start of the college football season. Could someone please go knock on their dorm room door and wake them? There are actual college football games that they are missing!
Look, that’s the best explanation I could muster to explain the Commodores’ embarrassing home loss to UNLV last week. The Rebels traveled to Vanderbilt last week with a 1-4 record and an abysmal offense. They somehow left with a W and have managed to climb all the way up to 95th in the nation in yards per game (368.8). The Commodores were 15.5-point favorites over the Rebels and they lost by 24. That is the very definition of woeful. This week a 5-1 Missouri Tigers team comes to town. I can’t imagine that things are going to pick up for Vandy.
Missouri may have overslept their late August alarm clock as well, dropping their first game of the year at Wyoming of all places. Although, since that opening game slip-up they have ripped off five wins in a row and are 2-0 in SEC play. Offensively speaking, the Tigers are an above average team. They are 35th in the country in passing offense (274.8 yards per game) and 38th in rushing offense (199.5). Their well-balanced attack should travel well in this contest, as Vandy is 120th in the country in scoring defense, giving up a pathetic 36.8 points per game. They only thing that can stop the Tigers in this game is themselves. If they can manage to avoid letting their guard down on the road against a bad conference opponent, Missouri should win its sixth game in a row on Saturday.
As for the point spread, laying 21 on the road in a conference matchup is always tough. I don’t know that I would do that here. This game can probably only go one of two ways:
Either Missouri shows up with their game faces on and whips a bad Vanderbilt team, covering the spread with no issues whatsoever. Or they’ll come in cocky and have a letdown, perhaps barely escaping with the win. Since handicapping the emotions and mental preparations of 20-year olds is not something I pretend to excel at, this will be a stay away spot for me.
Tulsa (2-4) at #21 Cincinnati (5-1) Cincinnati -17.5; O/U 47.5 3:30 pm Eastern on ESPNU
Cincinnati has managed to stay ranked in the bottom half of the Top 25 for the past few weeks now, so I’ve had the chance to write about them for a few weeks in a row now. This team have been extremely impressive so far in 2019. The Bearcats are 79th in total offense with 395 yards per game. Not bad, but not stellar either. They are much better on defense, however, as they are only giving up 339.3 yards per game, which is 38th-best in the nation. And most importantly, Cincinnati’s only loss came at the Horseshoe to an Ohio State team that might be the best team in the country. Not a bad résumé that the Bearcats are putting together. Not bad at all.
Tulsa is… how to put this nicely… struggling a bit this year. The Golden Hurricane are 69th in total defense, yielding 396.2 yards per game. But, they do have an inept offense to go along with their porous defense. They are 92nd in the nation in total offense, gaining a paltry 379.2 yards per game. I know we tease Oklahoma as being a state that is traditionally tough to live in since there is really nothing to do. This Tulsa team is not helping to break that stereotype whatsoever.
This game is going to get away from Tulsa for sure. Since Cincinnati has a better rushing than passing offense, and they are excellent at controlling the pace of play, I would feel comfortable laying the big number here. The Bearcats might not begin to pull away until late in the third quarter, but they should cover with ease, as Tulsa will be in way over their heads on the road on this contest.
#20 Minnesota (6-0) at Rutgers (1-5) Minnesota -28.5; O/U 47.5 3:30 pm Eastern on BIG10 Network
There comes a time in every college sportswriter’s life when he is going to have to talk about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That time, it seems, has come for me. I don’t know if I’m ready for this. Time to dig deep, John.
Rutgers is tough to discuss. They do a great many things very poorly and not a whole lot entirely well at all. So, I thought it might be wise to avoid looking up one awful stat after another just to regurgitate them to you in this preview, and instead tell you about one Rutgers’ stat that is so insanely impossible, I must have made it up. (I didn’t, mind you, but you’ll think I did.)
Last week, Rutgers got shutout at Indiana by a score of 35-0. Nothing bizarre about that though; the Scarlet Knights get shut out a lot, actually. In fact, they’ve been blanked three times already this season. No, shutouts are old news in Piscataway, New Jersey.
What is brand new news, however, is this:
Last week against Indiana, Rutgers’ quarterback, Johnny Langan, completed five passes in 13 attempts for one yard. No, don’t bother Googling that stat. I swear to you it is true. In a Big 10 Conference game, the Scarlet Knights’ QB tossed the ball 13 times and gained one lousy yard while doing it. I just… I just have heard of anything like that before. It seems impossible to fathom; one yard passing in a 2019 college football game. Yet, here we are. I would say that is amazing, but we need a better word for that performance. Inconceivable! Yeah, that’s it.
As for Minnesota, what can I really say here that you don’t already know? Head Coach P.J. Fleck is in his third season there, and he has these Golden Gophers rowing the boat like lunatics. They are undefeated so far in 2019, a trend likely to continue this weekend against Rutgers. It is true that Minnesota has had a remarkably easy schedule thus far, so we don’t really know anything about this team. And it seems that we will have to wait until early November for those answers, as the Gophers will welcome the Penn State Nittany Lions to campus and then travel to Iowa in back to back weeks. Those games should be very intriguing indeed.
Until then, all we can really do is revel in the impossible one-yard passing performance with which Rutgers dazzled us last week, and then make the assumption that Minnesota is going to handle the Scarlet Knights this weekend. Not much of a preview, I know. But we did have fun talking about that passing performance, didn’t we?
Temple (5-1) at #19 SMU (6-0) SMU -7.5; O/U 60 3:30 pm Eastern on ESPN2
Boy oh boy, I am really looking forward watching to this game. Temple and SMU come into this game with only one loss between them (Temple’s weird road trouncing at the hands of Buffalo back on September 21), and no losses in American Athletic Conference play as both teams are 2-0.
Temple got a big win last week over conference foe Memphis, who was ranked #23 heading into that game. Their reward for beating the Tigers is a road trip to Dallas to face undefeated SMU, followed by a home game next week against perennial power UCF. Not an easy three game stretch for the Owls, but they will definitely have every opportunity to show the world if they are a good football team in 2019.
Meanwhile, SMU is 6-0 for the first time since they went a perfect 10-0 way back in 1982 with a team appropriately nicknamed “The Pony Express,” since they featured both Eric Dickerson and Craig James at running back. Now THAT is an impressive stable of horses.
Thus far, the 2019 Mustangs have been remarkable as well, having a signature win at TCU three weeks ago. That 41-38 road win announced the Mustangs as a legit football team, and since then they have done nothing but back up that announcement. A game against a hungry Temple team will be a stiff test, but one that the Mustangs seem equipped to handle.
I am going to predict a Mustangs win and cover in this game. SMU is 6th in the country in points per game (44.2), 19th in passing offense (291.8 YPG), 35th in rushing offense (207 YPG), and 11th in total offense (498.8 YPG). That is too potent an attack for Temple’s defense to handle. Though it should be mentioned that the Owls are 31st in the nation in yards given up per game with 326, a lot of that seems schedule related. Two wins over a Georgia Tech team that cannot find any traction in 2019, and the East Carolina Pirates who are 99th in the country in total yards per game (363.5), betray the Owls’ current defensive ranking. They have not seen an offense like SMU’s yet, and that will cost them on Saturday.
#18 Baylor (6-0) at Oklahoma St. (4-2) Oklahoma St. -3.5; O/U 68.5 4:00 pm Eastern on FOX
This should be another fascinating game to watch for college football fans. Baylor’s reinvention of themselves is going well under Matt Rhule thus far, as they will bring a perfect record with them to take on conference opponent Oklahoma State this weekend.
The Cowboys only have two losses this year, and they could not be more different. Their dropped a game in Austin against the then-ranked #15 Longhorns. No shame in that one, for sure. However, two weeks ago they traveled to Lubbock, TX, to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders and lost by 10 as 10-point favorites. It was an unexpected result to say the least.
So which team will we will see take on the Bears this weekend? I believe that the odds-makers have this one correct in naming the Cowboys as the favorites in this contest. Oklahoma State is coming off a bye so they have had extra time to prepare for this game. I expect to see their 7th-ranked rushing offense (279 YPG) and 11th-ranked scoring offense (39.8 PPG) take control of this game and give them the edge in a tight game that they will win. Baylor’s defense isn’t awful, mind you. They are 40th in the country in total yards given up per game at 340.2. But again, scheduling is everything in college football. Who you have played matters more than maybe anything else does. And while Baylor has beaten everyone on their schedule – an impressive feat no doubt – they haven’t really been tested yet. Well, they certainly will this Saturday. Look for the Cowboys’ high-octane rushing attack to help knock Baylor from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Kansas (2-4) at #15 Texas (4-2)
Texas -21; O/U 62.5
7:00 pm Eastern on Longhorn Network
You have to feel badly for Kansas in this game. They get the dubious honor of having to travel to Austin to face the Longhorns the week after they lost a close game to the hated Oklahoma Sooners. That is just unlucky scheduling. Still, it hardly seems fair at all.
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, are doing Jayhawk things in 2019. They lost a home game in week two to Coastal Carolina University, which is a real school despite what you may think. And then the following week they traveled to Boston College and annihilated the Eagles. It seems that each season, Kansas will lose an embarrassing game to some school no one’s ever hear of, and then win one they had no business even being in. Kansas gonna Kansas, y’all.
There just isn’t that much to discuss in this game. The Longhorns are probably pretty upset at not only losing the Red River Shootout last weekend, but that they also dropped a tough game to LSU earlier in the year. I would expect Texas to just destroy Kansas in this game.
As for the point spread and laying 21? Sure! Why not? It’s only money!
#14 Boise St. (6-0) at BYU (2-4) Boise St. -6.5; O/U 47 10:15 pm Eastern on ESPN2
This game may just boil down to one important factor: the health of Boise State’s quarterback, Hank Bachmeier, who left last week’s win over Hawaii with a hip injury. As of this writing, his status is unknown. And, I would expect that we won’t find out whether he’s playing or not until just about kickoff on Saturday night.
BYU is dealing with their share of bumps and bruises as well, losing both their starting quarterback, Zach Wilson, and their top rusher, Ty’Son Williams, to injuries earlier in the season. Then last week, backup QB Jaren Hall left the game with a head injury of his own and is now dealing with the remnants of a concussion. Hall may play against the Broncos, but if he can’t go, the Cougars will have to start third string QB, Baylor Romney, who fared decently well in relief duty last week.
This game is a home contest for BYU, which definitely helps them. But Boise State should do just fine in this game regardless of who starts at quarterback for them. The Broncos’ defense is no joke, holding opponents to just 19.5 PPG, the 27th-best mark in the nation. BYU is missing key components and facing a strong opponent in Boise State. Perhaps the Cougars can get the cover if Bachmeier misses the game, but I suspect otherwise.
#17 Arizona St. (5-1) at #13 Utah (5-1)
Utah -13.5; O/U 45 6:00 pm Eastern on PAC12 Network
What an interesting matchup this should be. At first glance, you see that both of these teams are enjoying 5-1 seasons. Then you notice the point spread and you think, wow, Utah is favored by two touchdowns in this game? I thought these teams were evenly matched. A closer look, however, reveals otherwise.
The Utes’ only loss this year came in a road game at USC. Sure, the Trojans were unranked when Utah came to town, but conference road games are always tricky, a fact that these Utes had to learn the hard way. Otherwise, they have looked very solid in their wins over bitter rival BYU (30-12), and conference foes Washington State (38-13) and Oregon State (52-7). The Utes have a home game next week vs unranked California, so there is no reason for them to look past the Sun Devils this weekend.
Arizona State, meanwhile, has been doing just enough to stay tied for first place in the PAC-12 South. Their only loss came at home to Colorado (34-31) back on September 21. The week prior, the Sun Devils traveled to Lansing, MI, and defeated Michigan State 10-7. The film for that game, by the way, is now being shown to children with ADHD to help them calm down and even to get them to fall asleep more easily. Parents everywhere are rejoicing, of course.
Since the loss to Colorado, ASU traveled to Cal and won that game (24-17), and then defeated Washington State at home (38-34), setting up the matchup with Utah this weekend.
The styles that these two teams employ, especially when the Sun Devils have the ball, really favors Utah. ASU Head Coach, Herm Edwards, likes to play a slow, grind-out type of offense. To that, Utah will say, “Bring it.” The Utes are yielding just 13.2 points per game on defense, which is the 8th-best mark in the nation. One major reason for their stingy defense is that they are only giving up 52.8 rushing yards per game, the 2nd-best number in the entire country. ASU will want to get stud running back Eno Benjamin going to help control the pace of play. Nevertheless, they simply will not be able to do that against this incredible defensive front. If I had to pick a side as far as the point spread goes, I would probably lean towards laying the points with Utah. But the Sun Devils’ slow and deliberate nature could help them hang around in this one longer than I would prefer if I had a betting slip in my pocket. This is a pass for me, but straight up I would clearly take the Utes all day long and twice on Saturday.
#12 Oregon (5-1) at #25 Washington (5-2) Oregon -3; O/U 50.5 3:30 pm Eastern on ABC
This matchup proves pivotal for the PAC-12 race as we eclipse the midway point of the season. Oregon comes into this game with the ever lingering loss to Auburn to kick off the 2019 campaign, while Washington comes limping in to the game after dropping 2 conference games, hoping to play spoiler to the Ducks slim playoff hopes. Justin Herbert is absolutely crushing it with 1600 passing yards and 17 scores and he wants to add more as he takes on a Huskies defense that allows just 19 points per game, although opposing offenses have been wracking up the yards, taking 364 yards in the air. Can Washington hang? Well, Oregon hasn't exactly been an easy out, allowing just under 9 points per game to opposing offenses. Jacob Eason has tossed up 13 scores and only 3 picks, but something tells me it won’t be enough to beat the Ducks, even at home.
#11 Auburn (5-1) at Arkansas (2-4) Auburn -19; O/U 55.5 Noon Eastern on SEC Network
#11 Auburn is ANGRY after their loss to Florida last week. It wasn't a heartbreaking loss, it was an old fashioned “kicked up and down the field for three and a half hours” loss. Bo Nix is coming off his worst performance of the year, adding three interceptions to his season, bringing his total to five. Arkansas will likely not have an answer to the Tigers “revenge game” if you will. A porous defense allowing 410 total yards per game, watch for Bo Nix and Co. to rebound and stifle the same Razorback offense that barely mustered 24 points against San Jose State this season. Nick Starkel is going to have his hands full trying to keep Arkansas in this game. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Auburn cruises to an easy conference victory, keeping them alive for everything they can still hope for.
And now, the Top 10...
Kentucky (3-3) at #10 Georgia (5-1) Georgia -25.5; O/U 46.5 6:00 pm Eastern on ESPN
Kentucky seems to have more questions than answers entering this game. After starting the season 2-0 against the Mid American Conference, the Wildcats dropped 3 straight in conference play, before finally capturing a W against Arkansas. Georgia is coming into this game after putting a dent in their seemingly invincible armor, dropping a double OT thriller to South Carolina, sending them back to the drawing board. The Bulldogs are doubling up on EVERYONE in both score and yardage, averaging 39 points on offense while surrendering just a paltry 12.3 per game. Kentucky has been averaging 23 points per outing, but they give up 24 points to opposing offenses, and they haven’t had anyone as explosive as Georgia thus far. Jake Fromm can absolutely take advantage of the chance to rebound and get a new win streak going. Bulldogs chase the Wildcats off the field in a blowout victory.
#9 Florida (6-1) at South Carolina (3-3) Florida -5.5; O/U 48 Noon Eastern on BIG10 Network
South Carolina and Florida have vastly different emotions coming into this game. The Gators are fresh off of an exhausting loss to now #2 LSU and South Carolina is feeling invincible after toppling then #3 Georgia in double overtime. Talk about feeling some kind of way. The expectations for the Gators are still the same despite their setback last week: Win the SEC and go to the playoffs. The tale of the week is all about how each team responds after emotional games the week before. Can the Gamecocks secure back-to-back victories over top 10 opponents? Averaging 29 points a game should be enough, but despite the setback, the Gator defense is strangling opponents and holding them to 14 points per outing. South Carolina needs Ryan Hilinski to have a great performance if they want to repeat last week’s result. I think Florida comes in extremely frustrated and refocused, setting their sights on something bigger, and knowing any more mistakes will ruin their season. Gators clamp down and take a closer-than-expected contest, improving to 7-1.
#16 Michigan (5-1) at #7 Penn St. (6-0) Penn St. -9; O/U 47 7:30 pm Eastern on ABC
This game is super intriguing as the Wolverines are trying to stay alive in the Big Ten race, and Penn State is trying to establish their dominance in the conference. After losing a blowout to Wisconsin, the Wolverine are only allowing 9.3 points per game to their last three opponents, including just 3 points to Iowa. The offense is barely outpacing the defense, but it's doing enough to get to 5-1 on the year, scoring 30 points a contest, thanks to the efforts of Shea Patterson and Zach Charbonnet. Penn State is playing extremely well with Sean Clifford, who has thrown just two picks to 13 touchdowns, and a defense who is holding opponents to just 8.8 points per game. Michigan has far more questions on offense than previously thought, and they don’t look to be answered on the road against Penn State. The Nittany Lions defense plays its best, and gives way to the offense to score almost at will. Close early, but the Wolverines just can’t compete in Happy Valley in a primetime spot.
#6 Wisconsin (6-0) at Illinois (2-4) Wisconsin -31; O/U 50.5 Noon Eastern on BIG10 Network
The first road game of the season for the Badgers finally happens this weekend as they travel to Illinois in a less than exciting conference game. The Badgers have been absolutely rock solid at home, giving up a national best 4.8 points per game, pitching three shutouts in the last six weeks. The offense, lead by Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor, is destroying opponents as well, earning 447 yards and 42.5 points per game. Can the Illini do enough to to stop this high powered offense? Can the offense do enough to keep pace with the Badgers? Averaging 30.7 points per game on offense and allowing 30.7 points per game to opposing offenses, its safe to say no, no they can’t. Even if the offense can put up 30 points this weekend on the stifling Badgers defense, Brandon Peters would need to have the game of his life to pull the biggest upset in school history. Star receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe has looked pretty good, snagging 20 catches for 322 yards and 5 scores, but that’s about the only thing this offense has going for it. Badgers move to 7-0, and gear up for a big showdown in Columbus… their only job this weekend is to take care of the middling Illini.
West Virginia (3-3) at #5 Oklahoma (6-0) Oklahoma -33.5; O/U 63 Noon Eastern on FOX
Country Roads will definitely take the Mountaineers home after they visit high flying Oklahoma… the question is will they be if Austin Kendall can lead them to victory on the road. West Virginia is surrendering 30 points a game to opposing offenses, giving up 38 to Iowa State and 42 to Texas in back to back games. Oklahoma is averaging nation leading 620 yards per game, and outscoring their opponents by 30 points per contest. West Virginia is going to struggle to keep up with Jalen Hurts, who has combined for 2388 yards passing and rushing, and 25 scores. The Mountaineers won’t be singing with joy and triumph as they load the bus heading to the airport, but hopefully they can earn a moral victory this weekend… although a moral victory doesn’t mean much in the world of college football.
#4 Ohio St. (6-0) at Northwestern (1-4) Ohio St. -28; O/U 49.5 8:30 pm Eastern (Fri. Oct 18) on BIG10 Network
This game had a lot of hype coming into the season as the Big Ten Championship rematch… until Northwestern decided to just not play football this year. Putting up a measly 14.4 points per game, the Northwestern offense isn't exactly playing high caliber football. The defense has been the bright spot, keeping them in games against Wisconsin, Nebraska and Stanford. But those foes, as formidable as they may be, aren’t on the same page as the Buckeyes, who are cruising at 6-0, averaging 49 points against and stiffening to allow single digit scores to opponents at just 8.8 points a game. Justin Fields has looked phenomenal with an 18:1 touchdown to interception ratio, while JK Dobbins averages 7.1 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns. The biggest talking point for the Buckeyes on this crowd angering Friday Night game isn’t if they can win. That much should be fairly obvious. It’s if Northwestern gives them a better game than anticipated, and if Ohio State will overlook the lowly Wildcats in anticipation of their matchup against Wisconsin. Buckeyes roll, and Northwestern faithful should just watch this game from the warm comfort of their homes.
#3 Clemson (6-0) at Louisville (4-2) Clemson -23.5; O/U 61 Noon Eastern on ABC
Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about how vulnerable Clemson looked. Now, we are talking about what spot they are going to have in the College Football Playoff at season’s end. We see Trevor Lawrence and the high flying Tiger offense take on a peculiar Louisville team who has won back to back shootouts, most recently a 62-59 scoring affair over then #19 Wake Forest. Louisville has the ability to light up the scoreboard, but against Clemson? That proves to be a tall order, with just one team in the last 5 weeks putting up more than 14 on the Tigers. It's a tall order, and ESPN only gives Louisville a 6.6% chance to win and we have to agree… Micale Cunningham doesn’t have the firepower to match Trevor Lawrence. Tigers win a crucial conference game on the road.
#2 LSU (6-0) at Mississippi St. (3-3) LSU -18; O/U 61 3:30 pm Eastern on CBS
LSU is trending upwards after their statement win over the Florida Gators last week. Talk about a huge win. Joe Burrow further improved his Heisman chances now sitting at 25 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Wow. Make that two signature wins for the Tigers this year. With a blistering 560 yards per game and 53 points for the offense, LSU is really starting to look like a (*GASP*) National Championship contender. Seriously. The question that lingers? Will LSU break 50 points for the 4th time this season against the Bulldog defense that surrenders almost 30 points a game and 400 yards to opposing offenses? Survey says YES! Mississippi State won’t hang with the SEC contender, and it won’t even be close.
Tennessee (2-4) at #1 Alabama (6-0) Alabama -34.5, O/U 61.5 9:00 pm Eastern on ESPN
How long has it been since Tennessee took down the Crimson Tide? Nick Saban was in the NFL coaching the Dolphins. Saban’s crew has been absolutely dominant in their quest to hoist another National Championship Trophy, and their next victim hasn’t exactly “Volunteered” for the snackdown on the road. Alabama and the Crimson offense has been putting up 51 points per game, and eclipsing the 55 mark twice in the last five weeks. How good is this offense? Tua Tagivailoa has thrown for just over 2000 yards and 27 touchdowns… to just ONE interception. His favorite target is DeVonta Smith, who claims 38 catches for 636 yards and 9 scores on the year, and they don’t look to slow down. The Volunteers are surrendering 359 yards per game, and 26 points to each opponent, but they haven’t exactly had an easy road. Back-to-back losses to then #3 Georgia and #9 Florida are coupled with wins over Chattanooga and Mississippi State. Can the offense keep up with Bama? Jarrett Guarantano has 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions on the year, 5 of them going to Jauan Jennings. Watch for the Tide to shut him down and force JG to beat him with their other players. This is another live practice for Alabama, and they send Tennessee home with another mark in the L column.
But wait, what's this? There's one more game?
That's right! It's time for the...
*Underrated, Unranked Matchup of the Week*
Florida St. (3-3) at Wake Forest (5-1) Wake Forest -1.5; O/U 68.5 7:30 pm Eastern on ACC Network
This week’s Underrated, Unranked Matchup of the Week will focus on this ACC contest between Florida State and Wake Forest.
Wake Forest is just one puzzling loss to Louisville away from being undefeated on the season. Early on in that game, the Demon Deacons were blitzed by the Cardinals and eventually fell behind by 22 points. Wake’s QB Jamie Newman then lead his team on an epic comeback that came up just three points short, thus giving Wake their first loss in 2019.
On the other side of the field will be the Florida State Seminoles who continue to be mere shadows of their former selves. We need to remember that we are not that far removed from watching Jameis Winston lead FSU to the last-ever BCS National Championship over the Auburn Tigers back in January of 2014. We are only six seasons removed from watching the Seminoles dominate the college football landscape, yet it feels instead like FSU has not won a game in six years. This truly is a program in decline.
The 2019 version of the Seminoles are 3-3 so far this year, which is about as ho-hum as you can be, but they are 2-1 in conference play, only losing to defending champion Clemson (45-14) three weeks ago. FSU’s woes stem from an utter lack of any kind of a defense. They are an eye-opening 119th in the nation in offensive yards per game yielded, giving up an impossible 464.5 yards per game. They are equally bad at defending the pass (giving up 290.5 YPG) as they are the run (174 YPG). They will have their hands full defending Newman and the Demon Deacons’ offense.
Speaking of, let’s talk about that Wake Forest offense really quick. They are 7th in the country in passing yards per game (331) and 33rd in rushing yards per contest (209.5). Newman has been spectacular this year, completing 67.5% of his passes while averaging 8.5 YPA. He has 17 touchdowns to go along with only five interceptions. He has been fun to watch for us fans, while being a nightmare to game plan against for college coaching staffs.
So, seeing as how things feel so lopsided, why feature this game in this spot? Good question, dear reader. The point spread was the first thing that caught my eye. A 5-1 Wake Forest team at home versus struggling FSU and the Demon Deacons are laying less than two points? That simply does not add up, does it?
I really cannot say why the Seminoles are such short dogs in this game. As I mentioned above, this really feels like a game that Wake should win handily. But Las Vegas doesn’t seem to think so, which intrigues me greatly. I would gladly lay the point and a half with Wake Forest in this one, but perhaps that is a sucker bet. I will be glued to the TV on Saturday night to find out if FSU can pull of the upset on the road, or if Wake Forest can continue to make the Seminoles’ lives miserable. I cannot wait to find out which one of those two scenarios plays out.
Alex Scheer and John Kaufman
Across the Board Sports