By Bryan Foti
Last Week (2-3)
We enter the final month of the College Football season with some interesting playoff races. The College Football Playoff Committee released their second edition of the rankings this past Tuesday. The top three teams remained the same. The fourth and final spot went to the Washington Huskies, which isn’t a surprise to many. Lets take a look at some key matchups this week that will impact the playoff picture.
Baylor at #11 Oklahoma
Location: Memorial Stadium
Time: Saturday 12:00 p.m. EST.
Line: Oklahoma -15.5
This is a matchup with teams headed in opposite directions. Oklahoma is on the ascend, as they won six straight Big 12 games, and have a chance to crack the top-10 in the College Football Rankings next week with a win. On the other side Baylor seems ready to fall into a total tailspin. The Bears are losers of two straight. They lost a heartbreaker to Texas and followed it up getting crushed by TCU last week.
In two weeks the Bears have seen their ranking go from number eight in the country to not ranked at all.
The matchups in this game seem to favor the Sooners as well. Oklahoma will have running back Joe Mixon back after he served a one game team suspension last week. Mixon was suspended after he ripped up and threw a campus parking ticket in the face of a campus-parking attendant.
The Sooners should also get back running back Samaje Perine who has missed the past three games with a pulled muscle in his leg.
Baylor’s defense last week gave up six rushing touchdowns last week to TCU. Mixon and Perine should be very fresh, so expect them to have big games.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield should also look to expose a shaky secondary that did not play well in the Texas game.
If Baylor wants to keep pace with the Sooners and win this game, they will need to be productive in the running game as well. Sophomore running back Terrence Williams was held to only 68 yards and did not score a touchdown against TCU. The Bears will need him to be productive to have a chance.
Baylor quarterback Seth Russell will likely play well against a bad Sooners secondary, but he has struggled the past two games. Russell has not been accurate. His completion percentage has been under 55 percent the past four games. Russell has also thrown an interception in each of the last two games. Both games resulted in Bears loses.
Oklahoma will win this game, but will they cover the spread. Oklahoma offensive game plan will have a good mix of both run and pass, so they should be able to put points on the board. Oklahoma’s defense isn’t great but it will do enough to hold the Bears off. Take the Sooners and lay the points in this game.
Final: Oklahoma 45, Baylor 28
# 9 Auburn at Georgia
Location: Sanford Stadium
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST.
Line: Auburn -10.5
Cross division opponents meet in an SEC showdown on CBS this Saturday afternoon. Auburn has won six games in a row and they control their destiny to the SEC title game. If the Tigers win their next two conference matchups they will be in the SEC Championship game and would have an outside shot of making the College Football Playoffs.
Georgia limps into this game losing two of their past three contests. Last week the Bulldogs were able to squeak by Kentucky on the road, winning 27-24. They will have to play even better if they want to knock off the Tigers.
Auburn’s offense is clicking on all cylinders right now. However, the Tigers may be without out a major piece of that offense Saturday. Running back Kamryn Pettway suffered a leg injury in the win over Vanderbilt last weekend and his status is questionable.
Tiger Head Coach Guz Malzahn told the media that Pettway is doing well and is a quick healer, and he will know more later this week. Pettway is the teams leading rusher, gaining 1106 yards, and has scored seven rushing touchdowns this season.
If Pettway can’t play the Tigers have depth at the running back position. Kerryon Johnson has rushed for 616 yards and has scored nine touchdowns. Also quarterback Sean White is a threat to run as well.
It’s been an up and down season for Kirby Smart in his first year as Bulldogs Head Coach. The Dawgs will need to relay on their running back tandem if they want to pull the upset. Sony Michael has been a good complement to Nick Chubb. The duo has been a nice tandem and has also taken pressure off true freshman Jacob Eason.
Eason has shown the ability to win close games. Last week he led a game winning drive to get the win over Kentucky. But for the rest of this year he needs to be a game manager and not turn the ball over.
Georgia is ranked 16th in total defense. Auburn’s offense will be a good challenge for them. Auburn has been averaging close to 35 points a game this season, the key for Georgia will be to slow down the rushing attack. If the Dawgs can do that they will stay in the game.
This one has the makings of a close game. Auburn will win, but it will not be easy. Take the Bulldogs and the points.
Final: Auburn 28, Georgia 21
Pitt at #3 Clemson
Location: Memorial Stadium
Time: Saturday 3:30 p.m. EST.
Line: Clemson -20.5
This should be an easy win for Clemson once again this Saturday. Last week the Tigers demolished Syracuse 54-0. This week Pitt comes to town hoping not get embarrassed.
The Tigers are 9-0 on the season and are looking to advance to 7-0 in conference play. A win on Saturday would lock up a spot in the ACC Conference Championship Game. Clemson has been clicking on the offensive side of the ball. Last week quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for two touchdowns in the win before being relieved by backup quarterback Nick Schuessler.
Pitt enters the game with a record of 5-4 and 2-3 in ACC play. The Panthers did not play well in south Florida last week losing to Miami 51-28. The Panthers defense has had its problems this year allowing 34.4 points per game. It won’t get any easier against the Tigers.
Pitt will need to score touchdowns early and often to keep pace with the Clemson offense. Panthers quarterback Nathan Peterman has thrown for 14 touchdowns this season. He will most definitely need to play well if Pitt wants to pull the upset. Running back James Conner will need to have a big game as well. If Pitt can get both its run and pass game going, it should keep the Clemson defense guessing.
However Pitt’s offense will not play perfect in this one. The Tiger defense is too talented for the Panthers.
This game should be an easy one to predict. Dabo Swinney’s team knows a win gets them to the championship game, so they will be ready to play in this one.
Clemson is going to win the game but by how much. 20.5 is a big spread, however, the Tigers have shown the past two weeks they are capable of putting up high point totals.
Lay the points and take Clemson. They win big.
Final: Clemson 42, Pitt 21
#20 USC at #4 Washington
Location: Huskie Stadium
Time: Saturday 7:30 p.m. EST.
Line: Washington -8.5
This is the game of the week in college football. USC has rattled off five straight wins, and travels up the coast to take on the undefeated Huskies.
Since benching quarterback Max Browne, and inserting red-shirt freshman Sam Darnold the Trojans have been very successful. USC has a 5-1 record since making the move. Darnold has rewarded the Trojans by throwing for 1874 passing yards and tossing 20 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.
Over the past three weeks Darnold has 12 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. If USC wants to shock Washington and put an end to their playoff dreams Darnold will need to be on point.
USC will also need Ronald Jones II to have another productive day running the ball. Jones II has averaged 6.8 yards a carry this year.
Washington’s defense have been good against the pass, so if USC gets their ground game going early, it will take a lot of pressure of Darnold.
Everything is on the line for the Huskies in these final three regular season games. One loss will probably knock them out of the College Football Playoff picture. Right now the Huskies are 9-0 on the season, and are a confident team.
Washington hung 66 points on Cal in a road win last week, and quarterback Jake Browning will want to do the same thing to the Trojans. Browning has been fantastic this year for the Huskies. Browning probably won’t win the Heisman, but he could easily be the runner up for it. The sophomore has thrown for 2273 yards passing and 34 touchdown passes this season.
So how will this game turnout. USC has potential to pull the upset because of their offensive. Defensively it will be a challenge for the Trojans. The one bright side for USC is their defense has only allowed 23.4 points per game this season. If they can hold the Huskies to that amount Saturday night, they will be in the game.
USC won’t forget that the Huskies beat them in their house last year, so they will want to return the favor this year.
USC is going to hang with Huskies in this one. Darnold has played well since being inserted into the lineup and defensively USC has enough talent to keep pace with Washington. In the end, Washington will win the game because Browning is simply too tough to contain for 60 minutes, but USC will be right there every step of the way.
Take USC and the points in this one.
Final: Washington 33, USC 27
#3 Michigan at Iowa
Location: Kinnick Stadium
Time: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST.
Line: Michigan -21.5
Jim Harbaugh is about to lead the Wolverines to back-to-back ten win seasons, it would be the first time since the 2002-03 seasons that has happened.
Michigan has been steam-rolling opponents this year. The Wolverines have been running the football extremely well. Michigan has been averaging 251 yards rushing per game.
De’Veon Smith leads the Wolverines in carries this year with 109, and he has rushed for 564 yards and eight touchdowns.
Quarterback Wilton Speight has managed the offense well. Last week Speight had his best game of the season throwing for 362 yards and two touchdown passes in a win over Maryland.
Unfortunately, Iowa has zero chance of winning this game Saturday night. Harbaugh will not let his team get embarrassed on national television.
Iowa’s defense is not the same from a year ago. They have been allowing over 400 yards a game, and they only way they can win this game is if they slow down the Wolverine offense. It is not likely to happen.
Jabrill Peppers has been in the middle of everything this year for Michigan. Peppers is a star on defense and has been a factor on offense too, scoring three touchdowns this year. Expect him to have another impact night on both sides of the ball.
Michigan wants to be in the College Football Playoffs this year, if they were to lose Saturday night, it would be the biggest upset of the season. But that won’t happen. Michigan has shown us the ability to put points up in bunches this season. This will be the case Saturday.
Lay the points and take Michigan. It’s a big spread but this the lock of the week.
Final: Michigan 42, Iowa 17