Notable college football games, that will end before bed time on the East Coast. What a novel idea.
The Red River Shootout… This game has been the most flagrant gauge of Texas’ disintegration the past three years. The Longhorns have lost three-straight to Oklahoma, the last two by an average margin of 40. Those Sooner teams were among the worst of the Bob Stoops era. A win would not resolve the endemic instability around the Texas athletic department. But it could make or break Mack Brown’s prospect of sticking around for 2014. To sum up how far Texas has fallen from the summer, this game was a pick’em when initial lines were announced. The line opened this week at Oklahoma -12.5.
Texas should struggle scoring. Case McCoy, in for David Ash, is inaccurate. Oklahoma, by whatever measure you wish to use, has an elite pass defense. Texas’ running game has not been productive, thanks to a lackluster offensive line. Despite recent vulnerability, Oklahoma should be able to clamp down on them. The Sooner has found some stability with Blake Bell and a more familiar passing game, but does not measure up to years past.
We’d expect this to be closer than the past two games. We’re not sure these teams are that far apart. This game means everything to Texas. It’s Mack Brown’s last stand. Oklahoma may be tired, coming off a road trip to Notre Dame and a tough home game against TCU. Texas has had extra time to regroup after Iowa State. We would be wary with real money, but… [Pick: Texas +13]
Columbia River Shootout..Whether the Pac 12 North will be a three-team race or a two-team one will be decided here. Oregon has boat-raced a soft schedule. The only thing that has slowed them down in 2013 was the monsoon against Cal (still won 55-16). The Huskies proved their toughness against Stanford, in a loss that probably should have been a win.
Washington may be beat up from the Stanford game. Keith Price took some wicked shots from Stanford’s front seven. Bishop Sankey carried the ball 67 times the last two weeks. Can they rebound well enough to go toe-to-toe with Oregon’s offense? The Huskies’ defense also had to grind with physical Stanford as well. Now, they switch course and chase Oregon all over the field. Alternatively, Oregon has not played anyone yet or had to play a full four quarters. Historically, the Ducks don’t saunter in and blow the house down against top-tier opponents. We think Washington is that, or close enough.
The Huskies have been one of the nation’s best teams at limiting big plays. Oregon has not been that efficient thus far. GameDay and an excited crowd may alleviate some of the let down. Not sure Washington can win outright. But this feels like a game where the Ducks can’t quite fly away. [Pick:
SEC Slugfest... Both teams have brutal schedules. Here is where that reality sets in. After losing to Georgia, LSU must win to keep its SEC West hopes alive. For that matter, they also must win against Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Arkansas afterward. The Tigers have been an offensive revelation this year. Florida, perhaps the nation's best defense, may be equipped to counter it.
The Gators are allowing less than four yards per play. No team has eclipsed 170 passing yards against them. They have allowed triple-digit rushing yards once in five games. Florida has thwarted 47 of 61 third down conversion attempts. The Gators have not allowed an SEC offense to score more than 20 on them since Nov. 2011. We love what Zach Mettenberger has been doing his senior year, but this is not Georgia's defense.
If that is a stalemate, the two lesser units that decide this one. LSU's defense is traditionally a strength. But with young, inexperienced players, John Chavis' crew has underwhelmed. Florida has looked improved since Tyler Murphy took over for Jeff Driskel. But it's hard seeing Will Muschamp remove the hand break on the novice QB in a tough environment on the road. This should be low-scoring. We'll take the points. [Pick: Florida +6.5]
The Battle to Be Ohio State’s Best Win… The unranked team is the heavy favorite. The flaw is with the rankings, not the odds. Wisconsin has a Top 10 yards/play offense and defense. Northwestern does not. The Wildcats are playing a tough road game, in a major letdown spot after the narrow loss to Ohio State last week. The Badgers lost to OSU as well, but have regrouped after a bye week. Wisconsin can pound the ball with Melvin Gordon, something Northwestern’s defense won’t be able to stop, especially if they tire in the second half. [Pick: Wisconsin -10]
Missouri (+7) at Georgia: Both these teams have explosive offenses. The difference is Missouri’s skill players are healthy, for once. Georgia will go to battle without its top three receivers and top two running backs. The Dawgs are coming off draining games against LSU and Tennessee. Georgia also does not put teams away. They are 84th in third-down conversions and 99th in opponent third-down conversions. Roll Pinkel.
Kansas State (+17.5) vs. Baylor: Baylor has not been challenged and has not left home. The Bears are just 1-7 in true conference road games the past two years. That one win was 31-30 over Kansas in overtime in 2011. The Bears win. We aren’t spotting them that many points until they prove worthy of it.
Ole Miss (+6) vs. Texas A&M: Important thing to remember with Ole Miss: they have played four reputable FBS teams in five games. All on the road. Now, the Rebels come home. They should be able to get their running game kick-started against the Aggies’ 112th ranked run defense. This was a close game last year, when the talent differential was greater.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]