By Bryan Foti
Last Week: (2-2-1)
It’s a big week in College Football as the first rankings of the College Football Playoffs will come out on Tuesday. Teams will want to impress the committee this week to try to gain a spot in the playoff. Let’s take a look at some matchups that could impact the rankings.
#4 Washington at #17 Utah
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium
Time: Saturday, 3:30 EST.
Line: Washington -10
This could be a preview of the Pac 12 Championship as Washington heads to Utah to take on the Utes.
The Huskies are off to their best start since the 2000 season and that season ended with a Rose Bowl victory. This Huskies team is looking to qualify for the College Football Playoff.
As of now, Utah will be the last ranked team Washington will face on their schedule this season. The Huskies have already knocked off a top-10 team in Stanford earlier this year, but that game was at home. If Washington wants to beat Utah they will have to continue to play well.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning continues to light up the Pac 12 and now is seriously involved in the Heisman conversation. Browning has thrown for 1709 yards and 26 touchdown passes. Two weeks ago he tossed six touchdown passes against Oregon.
The Huskies need him to stay healthy and continue to play well if they want to make it into the playoffs. Browning is the key.
Washington also has a pretty good running game to go along with their passing attack. Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman have had nice seasons with each back averaging over six yards a carry.
Washington’s defense will be tested as the Utes can score. Utah put up 52 in the win against UCLA. Running back Joe Williams stole the show last week, running for 322 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
If Utah wants to win they will need their run game to be effective. Washington has been allowing 145 yards per game on the ground, so there is a chance that Utah will have success.
Utah at times will control the ball using their run game, but unfortunately for the Utes the Huskies haven’t allowed many points this year. They have only allowed 14.6 points per game. Browning will have another big game passing and this game won’t be close when the fourth quarter starts.
Take the Huskies and lay the points.
Final: Washington 42, Utah 21
#14 Florida at #Georgia
Location: EverBank Field
Time: Saturday, 3:30 EST.
Line: Florida -7.5
This game is always an interesting one as two rivals meet up in their annual showdown in Jacksonville. The Gators are leading the SEC East and trying to earn a spot in the conference championship game. A win will go a long way to help secure that.
Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio returned from injury last week, but he did not play well. Del Rio threw three interceptions in the Gators win over Missouri.
Florida has been relying on their defense to win games this season and they will have to do that again on Saturday. Jalen Tabor and Qunicy Wilson are a good tandem in the secondary and should lock down the Georgia receivers.
Bulldog quarterback Jacob Eason has been up and down during his first season under center for the Dawgs. Last week Eason had one of his better games of the season throwing for 346 yards and a touchdown in a win over Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs offensive line will be a big factor in this game, because Florida can pressure the quarterback. They will need to keep Eason upright if they want to stay in it. They also need Nick Chubb to have another big day if they want to pull the upset.
Kirby Smart should have a good defensive game plan to stop Del Rio.
This game is always tough to predict, but the key will be who will win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Georgia will want to run the ball well on offense, and stop the Gators run game, which will put pressure on Del Rio who did not play well last week. Florida will want to keep Chubb in check and force Eason to beat them.
The Gators should win the battle, and look for the Gators to force turnovers in this game, which will give them the win. The question will be will it be enough to cover. It should, take the Gators and lay the points.
Final: Florida 30, Georgia 20
Miami at Notre Dame
Location: Notre Dame Stadium
Time: Saturday, 3:30 EST.
Line: Miami -2
This matchup certainly isn’t as intriguing as it was back in the late 80s and early 90s, but Miami will be in South Bend to take on the Irish.
Since starting 4-0 and being ranked in the Top 10 Miami has dropped three straight games. The Canes dropped a close one to rival Florida State and followed it up with losses to North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Miami has not played well on offense during the losing streak. Miami has been held to under 20 points in each of those three games. Luckily for them, Notre Dame’s defense has been bad.
The Irish come into this one allowing opponents to score 27 points per game. However, the Irish have played well the past two games. Notre Dame allowed 17 points against Stanford and only allowed ten against N.C. State, but both games resulted in losses for the Irish.
Both teams have had a couple of extra days to prepare for this game. Miami last played last Thursday night against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame is coming off a bye week.
Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer has not played well in the last two games throwing three interceptions over that span. Plus he has not thrown for more than 154 yards in either game. Kizer threw for just 54 yards against N.C. State, but to be fair the weather was not cooperating that day.
On the other side Miami has had its own offensive woes. Two of the last three games Miami has had problems running the ball. Joseph Yearby has been held in check over the past three games. Defenses have held him to under 100 yards rushing per game.
Miami will need quarterback Brad Kaaya to continue his solid play. Kaaya has not been the reason the Hurricanes have dropped their last three, but he certainly hasn’t been spectacular. Kaaya threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns last week. Look for him to have a big game against the Irish.
This game will be tough to predict because both teams are struggling. Notre Dame has lost two games in a row, but they have looked better on defense. They need a win in the worst way. If the Irish can make Miami one dimensional, it will make life much easier on their defense. The Canes have not been running the ball well during this streak. Look for that trend to continue Saturday afternoon.
Notre Dame needs a win in the worst way. If they fall to 2-6 it would be very embarrassing for the Irish. Notre Dame is at home and has been playing better defensively, which is why they will find a way to win this one. The safe pick is Notre Dame.
Final: Notre Dame: 29, Miami 27
#7 Nebraska At #11 Wisconsin
Location: Camp Randall Stadium
Time: Saturday, 7:00 EST.
Line: Wisconsin -9
This is the game that will have the most impact on the playoff race this week. Nebraska travels to Madison to take on the Badgers. Right now the Cornhuskers hold a two game lead in the Big 10 West. A win would knock Wisconsin out of the playoff race and would give Nebraska a clear path to the Big 10 Championship game.
Nebraska has been relying on its running game this season. Running back Terrell Newby and quarterback Tommy Armstrong have provided a nice running tandem this year. Newby has rushed for 510 yards and has scored four touchdowns, while Armstrong has gained 380 yards on the ground and has run it in six times.
Armstrong can also sling the ball around too. He has thrown for 1611 yards and has thrown for 11 touchdown passes, and has only thrown five interceptions.
Wisconsin’s defense will be the toughest challenge thus far the Cornhusker offense. The Badgers come into this game ranked ninth in total defense in the country. They have been carrying the Badgers this season. Last week the Badgers defense came up big on the road, they held Iowa to just nine points and were able to do enough to win.
Badger Head Coach Paul Chryst has decided to go a bit unconventional on the offensive side of the ball. Last week the Badgers used two quarterbacks in their win.
Redshirt Freshman Alex Hornibrook has seen most of the action this season, but Chryst informed the media that Senior quarterback Bart Houston will see a significant amount of playing time as well this week.
Hornibrook hasn’t been able to put many points on the board this season, so this move will change the look of the Badger offense when they are on the field. Nebraska will now have to prep for both guys.
However, Houston has not had much game experience and it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.
So how will this game turn out? Nebraska has not faced a defense as tough as the Badgers all season, but Wisconsin can’t score, so who wins? The answer: Wisconsin in a tight one. The Badgers are at home and should be able to keep the Cornhuskers running game in check. Nebraska hasn’t played a team that is more physical than them this season. The Badgers are the more physical team. They will win, but will they cover? Wisconsin’s offense has been vanilla this season. Chryst is looking to spice it up by playing two quarterbacks, but the decision won’t work, as they will struggle to score. Wisconsin wins but does not cover.
Final Wisconsin 24, Nebraska 16
#3 Clemson at #12 Florida State
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium
Time: Saturday 8:00 EST.
Line: Clemson -4
Another game with playoff implications, the Tigers travel to Tallahassee to take on the Noles.
Clemson is 7-0 on the season and has had a week to prepare for their showdown with Florida State. On the other side FSU is also coming off a bye week after beating Wake Forest two weeks ago.
Clemson got a scare from N.C. State two weeks ago, as it needed overtime to beat them. Running back Wayne Gallman was knocked out early due to injury and was only able to carry the ball two times. Dabo Swinney expects his star back to be in the lineup come Saturday.
DeShawn Watson also threw his first pick-six of his college career against N.C. State, so it will be interesting to see whether or not Florida State will be more aggressive and look to force turnovers.
Clemson’s defense has been very good this season as well. They have held opponents to 15 points per game and should have another good game plan in place to slow down Florida State.
If the Seminoles want to pull the upset they will need to establish the run game early on. Last year Dalvin Cook was able to rush for 194 yards and a touchdown, but it was still not enough to defeat Clemson.
The Noles will also need quarterback Deondre Francois to play well too. This will be Francois biggest game in his career, so we will see if he is up to the challenge. Look for Clemson to come after Francois and try to force him into some bad mistakes.
On defense Florida State is down this year. Besides defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker there is not another top tier defensive player on Florida State. So if they want to win, they will need to take some chances. That will not work out for the Noles, as Clemson has chemistry on offense and will not be rattled.
Clemson is clearly better than Florida State and they will show it Saturday night. Take the Tigers in this one. It’s a lock!
Final: Clemson 30, Florida St. 21