KEY CONFERENCE MATCHUPS are the magical three words that headline this coming CFB Saturday, as familiar (but more often important) foes head into increasingly hostile environments. I talked about it earlier this season, but now is where things really reach a climax. 11 teams remain unscathed with losses, but this is when those numbers begin cutting fast, considering strengths of schedules often go on runs this time of year.
This is going to be one of those weeks that won’t go as clearly expected, which sucks for writers like me, but I hope you readers can enjoy it and my potential suffering for a week or two. Upset City is ahead.
Before we proceed ahead, let’s look back at the even more wild day we faced LAST Saturday….
About Last Week…
I went 8-3 (72.7%) which puts me at 50-16 (75.6%) on the year.
Week 6 proved to be the beginning of the section of the season that peaks on the fun scale, with Texas pulling off a win on the last play at the Cotton Bowl, giving them a quality win over their Red River rivals, Michigan State losing to an upset-hungry Northwestern team (I picked that one!), Florida with an upset over LSU (I didn’t pick that one), Indiana unleashing chaos (as they do) until Ohio State could pull away late, Notre Dame taking care of business in Blacksburg, and Stanford falling to Utah to cap off the wild day (I considered it as a possibility but did not pick that one).
My third loss came with Mississippi State’s statement win (and yes, technical upset) over Auburn. Additionally, Michael Raupp correctly picked Michigan’s smashing of the Maryland Terrapins.
This week most certainly (and as predicted) shook up this CFB season, it not affecting the end-of-season picture would be the most surprising.
Now it’s time for the main event: Let’s get ready to preview!
Noon Game of The Week:
Tennessee @ #21 Auburn
When: 11:00 CT
TV: SEC Network
Rain (Above 40%)? No.
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, AL)
Series History: Auburn 55-13 in 2013 (Auburn leads 28-3-21 all-time)
Unfortunately, this is not one of those Saturdays that you get pumped for early games. More interesting action takes place later, and the noon games hold some slow undercards. At least it’s football (because we get far too little of that anyway, the second half of the season already upon us)!
This undercard, per say, features a ranked Auburn Tigers team, who recently suffered a big loss at Mississippi State. They come back home this week with the cowbells no longer ringing in their ears, and they feature what will now (for the 60 minutes of play) be the angriest team in the country, seeking redemption.
Coming into this game off of a bye week are the opposing Tennessee Volunteers, who are aimed at shaking things up as much as possible. Two weeks ago, this team had an unembarrassing loss to Georgia, which is a plus, but still features a losing record and rebuilding program.
The Vols will be seeking to expose the Tigers’ biggest weaknesses, which all starts with an unproductive run game that was absolutely smothered last week. The great news is, Tennessee features an experienced defensive front that will make things far closer. The Auburn defense will be the deciding factor, and will be what delivers.
Auburn Wins, 26-20
Other Noon Games of Note:
#14 Florida @ Vanderbilt (ESPN)
Iowa @ Indiana (ESPN2)
Oklahoma State @ Kansas State (ESPNU)
Afternoon Game of The Week:
#2 Georgia @ #13 LSU
When: 2:30 CT
Rain (Above 40%)? Nope.
Where: Tiger Stadium
Series History: UGA 44-41 in 2013 (LSU leads 16-1-13 all-time)
Considerably one of the most encouraging inter-divisional games in the SEC this year, arguably the second best team comes into the toughest of road environment to take on a scrappy, rebuilding LSU Tigers team.
The Bulldogs have notable specialties in their defensive backfield. This team shuts down big plays, and wins games by doing that. In addition, Jake Fromm is a quarterback who is serviceable to put games away.
Death Valley is the site of this game, and it’s legendary how crazy cajun college football fans can get when the sun goes down, which will happen by the fourth quarter. This LSU Tigers team is going to obstruct UGA from taking care of the victory in any way they can, and they have the defense and the higher quality wins to make a case.
The key to this game will be it’s watchability, which will extend later than expected. This Georgia team, no matter how hard they will try, will start flat in this game. It will take them to dig out of a hole to make things the way they are used to. Until the fourth quarter, LSU will make some very important stops and keep Jake Fromm and the Bulldog offense on edge.
Once the fourth quarter rolls around, however, adjustments will be made and Georgia will start making all of the defensive plays LSU was getting all game, including a very important interception, putting things away in Baton Rouge.
Georgia Wins, 34-21
Other Afternoon Games of Note:
#7 Washington @ #17 Oregon (ABC)
Night Game of The Week:
#15 Wisconsin @ #12 Michigan
When: 6:30 CT
Rain (Above 40%)? Hopefully (And Probably) Not.
Where: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI)
Series History: Wisky 24-10 in 2017 (UM leads 50-1-15 all-time)
College GameDay will be on site for this one, as Wisconsin comes into The Big House for only the sixth night game ever played there.
The Badgers are what they always are, with stout machines for offensive lineman, a shifty running back (Bradrick Shaw is this year’s edition), and cornerbacks wearing hoodies. They are the Hufflepuff of the Big Ten, but at the same time, they get things done. Although their division remains dramatically easier than the daunting B1G East, a TON of credit is deserved for their perennial power capabilities in that region, solidifying almost a constant shot at the B1G Championship. Many teams across college football would do a lot for both the program and results Wisconsin delivers. Although a non-conference BYU brought some scares, wins otherwise (most recently with a Scott Frost Nebraska confidence boost).
They take on a Michigan team that is coming off of an impressive homecoming showing against Maryland. The Wolverines now have an established consistency of shutdown defense, and a running game that then opens up for a passing game, with Shea Patterson (QB) and Karan Higdon (RB) handling the ball. Although the defense is exciting, this offense is not nearly that, with a very fundamental Jim Harbaugh-coached pro style offense.
Last time the two teams met, it was a B1G grudge match in which Wisconsin came out victorious, and the year before that did the same, with Michigan (quite notably considering it’s recent rarity) getting the big win. This edition will be no different. Both offenses will come out quiet but productive, and I firmly believe that the keys will lie in the early parts of the game, as Michigan’s chronic problem of starting slow will continue. Readjustments will be made, and then UM’s offensive production against a strong Wisconsin defense will be the defining factor of this game.
Here is TFS NFL Previewer Michael Raupp For Specific Unbiased Predictions (I will be at the game, and you can look for me and my sign on College GameDay. GO BLUE!):
This Big Ten showdown Saturday night from the Big House in Ann Arbor features two top 15 teams. After losing in heartbreaking fashion against BYU at home, Wisconsin has pulled off two consecutive conference wins. Meanwhile, Michigan rolled to a fifth consecutive win, and their offense has looked drastically improved from Week 1. However, Wisconsin will pound the ball with Jonathan Taylor to victory against a Michigan defensive front that currently is banged up.
Wisconsin Wins, 28-23
Other Night Games of Note:
#6 West Virginia @ Iowa State (FS1)
#16 Miami @ Virginia (ESPN2)
Late Game of The Week:
#19 Colorado @ USC
When: 9:30 CT
Rain (Above 40%)? 40% Chance Peaking in Mid-Afternoon, No Storms
Where: LA Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles, CA)
Series History: USC 38-24 in 2017 (USC leads 12-0 all-time)
In this edition of “PAC 12 After Dark” the USC Trojans enter the picture; a team that has had plenty of wins, but lack wins over ranked teams. After a bye week, they get their shot at the Coliseum late Saturday night as the Buffaloes from Boulder come into town.
Although Colorado is ranked far higher (USC is unranked) the Trojans remain the favorites.
This game will rely on USC’s defensive adjustments since the bye week. They had some struggles previously with defensive ability and probably have worked toward improvement in this regard most of all. The secondary has struggled, which especially does not compare well to Colorado’s high passing productivity.
This suggests a need for a heavily good defensive performance from USC, and they can deliver with both a strong front and a weak Colorado offensive line matchup.
All of this will even out in the end, and a combination of early troubles for USC’s defense to evolve into better form and a Colorado offense that will deliver will give the slight (unexpected) edge to the Buffaloes.
Colorado Wins, 38-27
Enjoy your Saturday, everyone!
Photo Courtesy: Junfu Han, AP
Weather Source: weather.com