Washington at Stanford: This should be the weekend’s best game. Unfortunately, it starts at 10:30pm ET. Postpone your day drinking. Load a second pot of coffee. The Huskies have been this season’s surprise team through four games. They rank 15th in yards/play and 3rd in yards allowed/play. They have done it against reasonable opposition, facing Boise State, Illinois and Arizona. Sark’s team looks set to eclipse the seven-win barrier. Can they contend for a Pac 12 title? We’ll learn a lot on Saturday.
Stanford will like this matchup, at least for a difficult top 20 game. The Cardinal have the advantage on both lines. They should be able to contain Bishop Sankey, which throws off everything else Washington does. Yes, the Huskies beat Stanford last year. They did that, at home, by loading the box and daring Josh Nunes to throw. Kevin Hogan is much better than Josh Nunes.
Washington has to play 60 full, physical minutes in a road night game against one of the nation’s best teams. Can they? Maybe. Will they? We’re doubtful. [Pick: Stanford -8.5]
Ohio State at Northwestern: This may be Ohio State’s toughest game. That says much about their schedule. GameDay is in town. Some notable ESPN alums will be as well. Evanston, however, is still a soft home field advantage. Both teams have a lot of talent in the backfield and can score points. We have more faith in Ohio State’s defense. The Buckeyes proved themselves against Wisconsin’s run game last week. They have the fourth-ranked third down defense. Northwestern has the 96th ranked one, and hasn’t played a good offense yet.
We have more faith in Ohio State’s experience as well. OSU players have won big games. Urban Meyer has won big games. Northwestern has had chances to win big games to move into the top tier in the Big Ten the last few years, and has not taken them. Ohio State has Braxton Miller. Northwestern has two guys who can sort of match his production but telegraph what they are going to do. [Pick: Ohio State -6.5]
Maryland at Florida State: Maryland is 4-0, fresh off a 37-0 road dismantling of West Virginia. Coupled with Connecticut’s descent into the abyss, this has been a banner couple of weeks for Randy Edsall’s reputation. Maryland is Florida State’s biggest test thus far. It’s also the first top-flight defense to face off against Jameis Winston.
History does not bode well for the Terps going to Tallahassee. The Seminoles are 19-2 against Maryland since joining the ACC. Neither of the two losses were at home. Randy Edsall, albeit with inferior resources, is 1-22 all-time against ranked opponents. Not sure it’s close, but Maryland has a good enough defense to hang around and explosive enough of an offense to slip through the backdoor. Maybe their fancy uniforms will provide some form of mystical power. [Pick: Maryland (+16.5)]
Will Michigan Be Any Good? Michigan faces another team that, on paper, it should pummel. Minnesota is 77th in yards/play and 79th in yards allowed/play in 2013. They rank 108th in sacks per game. Michigan has outscored them 93-13 the past two years under Hoke. The Wolverines had a bye week. They reshuffled their offensive line. If they do not make progress against Minnesota at home, it’s going to be a loooong year for them in the Big Ten.
The B1Ggest of B1G Games… Michigan State vs. Iowa. Watch this at your own peril. The Spartans are No. 1 in yards per play defense and No. 112 in yards per play offense. Iowa, at 13th and 68th respectively, is close enough. Because these teams weren’t brutish enough, the forecast calls for rain and 20mph winds, which may further inhibit the forward pass. This is the lowest over/under on the board at 38. FEI projects this as a 14-8 Iowa win. F-plus projects it as a 4-3 Iowa win. Yuck.
Sweat Equity… North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner is not merely a dancing fool. He also has prodigious sweat glands. According to UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, it has been affecting his throws.
“He sweats so bad – he really does. His hands and arms will be dripping wet, and he missed a series where he didn’t get a towel or something, or it got ripped off. And he had a couple balls get away from him, no doubt. And he’s just got to be smart about it. He knows that it’s never stopped. … We get out of the meeting room, he’s sweating. So we just have to put another wrist band on, put another towel, and keep it dry as best we can and then let it rip.”
The Helmet Bowl… You don’t show up to Jerry World without big hair and a shiny new belt buckle. Arizona State will be debuting custom, high octane flame helmets. Notre Dame will counter with some flashy, two-toned gold shamrock helmets.
Navy and Air Force are Playing… Which is awesome because this gem of a music video would have gone to waste otherwise.
Tennessee (+10.5) vs. Georgia: We’ll ride with the screwy line. Oregon and Florida’s defenses made Tennessee look very bad. Georgia’s defense is nowhere near that caliber. This is a let down spot on the road for Georgia after LSU, for both the young defense and maybe the offense with turnovers. The Vols will be looking to bounce back after a scare against South Alabama.
Auburn (+3) vs. Ole Miss: Ole Miss is in a classic sandwich spot between Alabama and Texas A&M. It’s their fourth-straight FBS road trip. Auburn will run on them and run tempo against a team that was beat up by Alabama last week. That’s not to mention off the field distractions.
Syracuse (+13.5) vs. Clemson: Clemson on the road. Clemson that has neither a Top 40 yards per play offense or defense through four games this year. Syracuse has put up 50 for two-straight games since switching quarterbacks. This team caught Louisville sleeping in 2012 and blew them out. Ditto with West Virginia in 2011. Clemson sleepwalks into this one and gets a scare.
Arizona State (-6) vs. Notre Dame: Arizona State can score points rapidly on good defenses. Notre Dame struggles scoring and does not have that great of a defense. The Sun Devils can force turnovers. If they build a lead, this is over.