Week 5 is here. Eight-game conference play begins for some, continues for others. GameDay will be in Clemson (get ready for some rousing bus circling). The collective football gaze will be on the SEC. Two teams square off with grave playoff implications. Two teams play-off for all the schadenfreude.
ALABAMA AT GEORGIA
This was among the season’s most anticipated games. For Alabama, at least, it’s a playoff semifinal. Georgia could weather a loss. With Auburn falling apart, their schedule lines up well to run the table. Their toughest paper team remaining is either Tennessee or Florida. Whether 11-1 or 12-0, their playoff hopes probably come down to the SEC title game.
Beating Georgia would set the Crimson Tide up well. On paper, they would be a home win over LSU away from 11-1. If Ole Miss drops games, they can win the West. If Ole Miss runs the table, they still have a strong résumé to get in as the 2nd SEC team. Losing, barring carnage at the top, eliminates them.
This game should provide one of the season’s better unit collisions. Georgia’s running game, with Nick Chubb averaging 8.44 yards/carry, lines up against Alabama’s defensive front, perhaps the nation’s best run defense (1.97 yards/carry). Of course, that means the game could come down to the aerial battle between Lane Kiffin and Brian Schottenheimer. Alabama stemmed the turnover tornado against Louisiana-Monroe, but averaged just 4.9 yards/att.
Competitive angle not juicy enough? There’s the Mark Richt contention. One could argue Richt has been impressive, with nine double-digit win seasons and seven top 10 finishes. One could argue Richt has underwhelmed. He has, perhaps, the nation’s best job. He has lost four or more games in four of the past six seasons. Richt last won the SEC in 2005. Here’s another big game for Richt to bring Georgia from the precipice to the discussion.
ARKANSAS AT TENNESSEE
The Sad Face Bowl. The Battle To Be Left Alone. Tennessee and Arkansas were expected to be Top 20. As we enter October, they aren’t. The Razorbacks have lost thrice and twice outside the SEC to Toledo and Texas Tech. Bret Bielema has had his nose rubbed in his own bullshit multiple times.
Tennessee choked away late, double-digit leads against Oklahoma and Florida. The former would have been a major win. The latter would have felt like one. Both defeats can be pinned on poor Butch Jones game management.
Neither team is a comprehensive disaster. Arkansas, per stats, has not been far away. They’ve just been atrocious in the red zone (three points from five trips against Toledo). Tennessee has talent. They put themselves “a play or two away” from beating ranked Oklahoma and Florida teams. Unforced errors are not cruel twists of fate that should even out. But, they are preventable.
One team will win, deaden the clamor and, for at least a week, right the rails. The other fanbase will careen right off a cliff. Either way, it’ll be a big weekend for BigVOLdaddy.
SOUTH CAROLINA AT MISSOURI
We’re not previewing this game. We’re just warning you it airs at Sat. 12:00pm on the SEC Network. If you’re affiliated, don your hazmat suits. If you’re unaffiliated, steer clear.
COACH WHO MOST NEEDS A WIN
Besides the aforementioned two, George O’Leary. The halcyon days of Blake Bortles and his girlfriend are a faint memory. UCF is off to an 0-4 start, with home losses to FIU and Furman. If the Knights are to salvage something from 2015, it needs to happen this weekend at Tulane. These disgruntled UCF bar owners would appreciate it. The Knights should be careful not to look ahead to the Civil Conflict.
Our picks were 4-1 last weekend. We are 15-5 ATS on the season.
Minnesota (+5) at Northwestern: Northwestern has a good defense and a flaccid offense. Minnesota has a good defense and a flaccid offense. These teams are similar per advanced metrics. Ryan Field is the least intimidating road environment in the Big Ten. Take the points in a power outage.
Cincinnati (+6.5) vs. Miami: The Bearcats are home dogs in a Thursday night game. Their potent passing attack, even without Gunner Kiel, goes against a Miami secondary with its two starting safeties suspended for the 1st half. The Hurricanes rank 127th in FBS in 3rd Down conversion rate. We’ll ride with the Riverboat Gambler.
Baylor (-17) vs. Texas Tech: This is prime letdown territory for Texas Tech, after the crushing loss to TCU. The Red Raiders are overvalued. Baylor has the nation’s best offense going against what may be the worst Power 5 defense. The Bears will be on alert, after last year’s near upset.
Boston College (+7) at Duke: Boston College is playing arguably the nation’s best defense right now. They held a more talented FSU team to seven offensive points. Duke edged Georgia Tech on a couple special teams returns and an opportune fumble. They’re not that great. BC does enough to cover.
UConn (+18.5) at BYU: We’ll roll with our 2015 trap games list (2-1 ATS) here. BYU was exhausted last week, before coming out flat and getting beat up by Michigan. The come back home to face a UConn team with a decent defense on a short week. The Huskies cover, possibly award themselves a trophy for the effort.