Last Week: (1-4)
We are nearing the halfway point of the college football season. Teams should be looking to make their run at a spot in the first edition of the College Football Playoff. This week features some intriguing matchups to watch and to pick.
Texas vs. #20 Oklahoma
Location: Cotton Bowl
Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. EST
Line: Oklahoma -10
The Red River Rivalry returns to Dallas for another installment as Texas takes on Oklahoma. Both teams face questions entering this game.
The Longhorns were outclassed by Oklahoma St. last weekend, as their defense was gashed for 555 total yards. And Texas head coach Charlie Strong finds himself back on the hot seat with his team’s second loss in a row after starting the season (2-0).
Last year’s 24-17 upset win over Oklahoma may have helped Strong keep his job going into this season. At the time, he thought it might turn around his season, however the Longhorns sputtered to a 5-7 finish that didn’t include a bowl bid.
Texas will need to rely heavily on running back D’Onta Foreman who is averaging seven yards per carry so far this season. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele may be a bit nervous to start, but the matchup favors him, as Oklahoma has one of the worst secondaries in the country. The Sooners come in ranked 86th in passing defense.
Thankfully for Oklahoma their offense carries the team. The Sooners notched there first win in conference play last week beating TCU 52-46 in a back-and-forth game. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield should be in line for a big game against Texas. Last year Mayfield threw for 211 yards and a touchdown. Expect an even better day Saturday.
Backs Joe Mixon and Samajie Perine should have good games. Last week the duo rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns.
Both Oklahoma and Texas are out of the playoff conversation, so this game is their championship. Oklahoma will not forget what happened last year, and will not overlook Texas. Take Oklahoma in this one.
Final: Oklahoma 45, Texas 31
#25 Virginia Tech vs. #17 North Carolina
Location: Kenan Stadium
Time: Saturday 3:30 p.m. EST
Line: UNC -2.5
North Carolina is flying high after beating Florida St. in Tallahassee last week. Larry Fedora’s group should be very confident returning home to face Virginia Tech.
After dropping its opening game to Georgia the Tar Heels have strung together four straight wins. The last two were thrillers. Two weeks ago, trailing by 13 in the fourth quarter, UNC Quarterback Mitch Trubisky found Bug Howard in the end zone with two seconds left to tie the game at 36. UNC added an extra point to win.
Last week UNC led Florida State most of the game, until Deondre Francois’s touchdown run gave the Seminoles the lead with 23 seconds remaining. Turbisky got the Tar Heels in field goal range, aided by an FSU penalty. And kicker Nick Walker drilled a 54-yard field goal to seal the win as time expired.
UNC should find themselves in another tightly contested game, as Virginia Tech has played well this season. Justin Fuente has led the Hokies to a (3-1) start to the season; their only loss came at the hands of Tennessee in Bristol back in September.
The key for Virginia Tech is their quarterback Jerrod Evans, who threw for three touchdowns in a win over East Carolina last week. He will have to play well for Virginia Tech to get the win on the road.
UNC’s strength is their offense, so they will need another big performance from Trubisky and company. And that’s not a given against the Hokies, who have a top-five defense.
Go with UNC, the home team, to win in a nail-biter.
Final: UNC 30, Virginia Tech 27
#9 Tennessee vs. #8 Texas A&M
Location: Kyle Field
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST
Line: Texas A&M -6.5
This is the best matchup of the week in college football. Tennessee has been living on the edge all season. Last week the Vols needed a 20-point fourth quarter, which included a Hail-Mary pass at the end of regulation, to stun Georgia 34-31. The football gods have been on Tennessee’s side, but that could change against the Aggies at Kyle Field.
Texas A&M is a much better team than what they appeared to be at the beginning of the year. Quarterback Trevor Knight has done an excellent job running the offense and taking care of the football, throwing three interceptions, and seven touchdowns. Knight has also produced on the ground, rushing for six touchdowns so far.
The Aggies should expect a big day from freshman running back Trayveon Williams. He has 487 yards on the ground this season including an 89-yard run earlier in the year.
Knight, as a dual-threat quarterback, is a tough matchup for Tennessee. And the Vols need their capable defense to step up. Tennessee junior Derek Barnett, while not the caliber of A&M’s outstanding Myles Garrett, is coming off back-to-back strong games in which he recorded two sacks. Aggies offensive tackle Jermaine Eluemunor didn’t make the trip to South Carolina last week, so the Vols could take advantage if he’s still banged up.
Tennessee will need Josh Dobbs to step up again in what should be another back-and-forth game. But how emotionally drained are the Vols after the two come-from-behind wins? We will find out Saturday. Still, expect their luck to run out this time around. Take A&M and the points.
Final: Texas A&M 35, Tennessee 28
#9 Washington vs. Oregon
Location: Autzen Stadium
Time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST
Line: Washington -9.5
Washington, back in the top 10 for a second straight week, is a program on the rise. And Chris Petersen has his team playing at a high level. Oregon, on the other hand, is slumping. They have lost three straight games and are staring at their first four-game losing streak since the end of the 2006 season.
The Huskies’ strength is their defense. Washington enters the game with the country’s second-ranked defense, featuring a bunch of future pros. Safety Budda Baker, cornerback Sidney Jones and linebacker Azeem Victor lead a squad that only allows 12.8 points per game. They match up well against the Ducks.
Oregon won their first two games of the season, then lost the next three, including their first two conference games. The Ducks will look to running back Royce Freeman, who has rushed for 463 yards and scored seven touchdowns, to have a good game.
Ducks quarterback Dakota Prukop will need to have a bounce-back game. He struggled last week against Washington State, passing for only 132 yards and an interception.
Washington’s quarterback Jake Browning has been the picture of efficiency this year, tossing 17 touchdowns against only two picks. Last week he threw for three touchdowns against Stanford.
This game should be the lock of the week. Washington is just a better football team. They have failed to beat Oregon in 12 tries. That streak will end Saturday night, and they will cover.
Final: Washington 34 Oregon 17
#23 Florida St. vs. #10 Miami
Location: Hard Rock Stadium
Time: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST
Line: Miami -3
The Canes and Noles renew their rivalry in what will be a very interesting matchup in primetime Saturday night.
Mark Richt has restored life into the ‘U.’ The Canes enter the game undefeated (4-0) after winning their ACC opener against Georgia Tech last week. Quarterback Brad Kaaya has been solid for the Canes this season, throwing for eight touchdown passes.
Miami’s defense has also looked sharp, having held opponents to 10 points or fewer in three of their four games. Georgia Tech’s 21 points last week is the only exception.
This is a big test for Miami, who plays their first top-level team this season. Florida St. may not be playoff-bound, but they certainly don’t lack talent.
The Noles were shocked last week, losing on a last-second field goal to North Carolina. The loss snapped the their 22-game home winning streak. You can bet Jimbo Fisher will be preaching the saying “misery loves company” this week, as the Noles look to make life difficult for their rival this Saturday.
To pull off the upset, Florida St. needs Dalvin Cook — 635 yards, seven touchdowns — to have another good game. Deondre Francois, who has played well in his first season as starting quarterback will also need to produce. Francois has seven touchdown passes and two touchdown runs to help pace the Florida St. offense.
The Noles have always been known for their defense, but it just isn’t very good this season. Florida State has allowed at least 34 points in three of their five games. Their defense will be fired up to play, but can they actually stop Miami?
Florida State has a talented though very undisciplined squad. If FSU brings their ‘A’ game it could be a long day for Miami. However, the Noles haven’t played well on defense all year. Expect Miami, who haven’t defeated Florida St. since 2009, to be fired up as well. This should be a tightly contested game, but for some strange reason the Noles have Miami’s number. Be safe and take FSU with the points.
Final: Florida St. 24, Miami 23