A LOOK BACK AT WEEK SEVEN – The American Athletic Conference is flexing its muscles. For the first time, the conference has three undefeated and ranked teams this late in a season. Memphis, Houston and Temple all sit at 6-0. This past weekend I was in attendance to see the Tigers squash the SEC’s Ole Miss Rebels. Memphis QB Paxton Lynch showed off to NFL scouts Saturday, throwing for 384 yards and three TDs against a stout Rebel defense. He now has for 1,919 passing yards, with 13 TDs and just 1 interception! The Tigers are now the top-ranked Group of 5 team, but they have challenges ahead against Temple, Houston and Navy.
Undefeated Houston is led by first-year Head Coach Tom Herman. He came from Ohio State where he was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, and won the Broyles Award as the top college football assistant coach. For leadership on the field, the Cougars turn to QB Greg Ward Jr. , a dual-threat who has thrown for nine TDs, while rushing for an additional 14. Ward’s recipe for success is simple — first, he is extremely accurate, completing 72 percent of his passes. The other part comes naturally according to Central Florida Head Coach George O’Leary who said, “the kid can flat-out play.” The 6-0 Cougars got a signature win in week two at Louisville, 34-31. The Cougars will be tested multiple times in the second half of the season. “We aren’t taking anything for granted,” said head coach Tom Herman. The Cougars host Vanderbilt, Memphis, Navy and Cincinnati, and travel to UCONN and Central Florida.
Temple is my choice to win the conference title. The Owls won’t overwhelm you by scoring points in bunches. However they have one of the best defenses in the country, allowing only 14 points per game! The Owls already have big wins over Penn State and Cincinnati. They draw both Notre Dame and Memphis at home. A tricky match-up will come tonight at East Carolina.
Besides these three schools, only one other team from the Group of 5 is nationally ranked. Toledo from the MAC also sits at 6-0, and the Rockets will likely be favored in the remainder of their games, giving them more than a moonshot at going 11-0. They own impressive wins over Power 5 schools, winning at Arkansas and beating Iowa State at home. With the other undefeated Group of 5 schools facing each other down the stretch, a special season could be written in the stars for Toledo.
COOL FACTS OF THE WEEK
- Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, continued on a torrid pace in a win over Oregon State. In the first half, Falk had more passing touchdowns (six) than incompletions (five). He completed 28 of 33 first-half passes for 323 yards and six TDs.
Pitt may have finished the regular season at 6-6 in each of the past four years, but the Panthers appear to be headed for a much stronger record in Pat Narduzzi’s first year as a head coach. Unlike many first-year coaches, Narduzzi inherited a fully-stocked cupboard and has made nothing but all the right moves with it. He signature is are all over their 5-1 start, as the No. 25 Panthers are tied for eighth nationally in sacks with 22, which is three more than they tallied all last season. Pitt’s only loss was on the road at undefeated Iowa, which got the win on a 57-yard field goal as time ran out. All this without last season’s ACC Player of the Year James Connor who was lost for the season in week one
- Since a fourth-quarter pick against Nebraska on Sept. 19, Miami QB Brad Kaaya has been nearly outstanding, going 125 straight pass attempts without an interception. He’ll need to be flawless this weekend against Clemson.
- Georgia Tech has lost five straight games for the first time since 1994. The five teams that beat the Yellow Jackets are a combined 27-4. They gauntlet run continues, next up is 6-0 Florida State.
- Dak Prescott continues to shine for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs quarterback has 11 TD passes and zero interceptions this year, He is the only FBS quarterback to throw for at least 1,500 yards this season without a pick.
TOP GAMES THIS WEEK
No. 20 CALIFORNIA (5-1) AT UCLA (4-2) The Bears enter this game coming off a bye week, that followed their loss at Utah. Jared Goff had a game to forget, throwing five interceptions against an opportunistic Ute defense. Yet in the end, the Bears were in a position to pull out a victory. The next three weeks will define the Bears season as they play UCLA, USC and Oregon. The Bruins have been up and down all season. Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen has been good when given time to throw the pigskin. But back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford have the Bruins retooling. The defense has been their Achilles heel, giving up 94 points in the two losses. I expect Rosen to have a big game here as the Bear defense won’t be able to mount the kind of pass rush that will pressure Rosen into mistakes. If the Bears can control UCLA running back Paul Perkins, they can win this game. GOFF IS THE DIFFERENCE, MATURE BEARS BEST BRUINS 45-41.
No.3 UTAH AT USC (3-3) The Utes simply find a way to win each week, so one has to wonder how a Utah team ranked No. 3 can be an underdog in this game. The Ute defense has been opportunistic leading the nation with 13 interceptions. On offense, QB Travis Wilson is healthy again, and he combines with Devontae Booker, giving the Utes a solid one-two punch. Pre-season favorites to make the College Football Playoff, the Trojans have gone sideways, with the firing of Steve Sarkisian and the inability of the Trojan defense to stop the run. Will this be the week Cody Kessler has a breakout game? The talent is there and sooner or later the Trojans are going to play a complete game. The Utes are just 1-6 against USC in Los Angeles all-time, with the lone win coming back in 1916. Since then, Utah has lost its last six road games to the Trojans by a combined margin of 160-26. UTES TAKE A FALL, 41-33.
KANSAS STATE (3-3) AT TEXAS (2-4) The Wildcats started the year 3-0, but have since lost three in a row, as injuries have kept the Wildcats searching for answers. The quarterback position has been hit extremely hard, forcing head coach Bill Snyder to use five different quarterbacks. The Longhorns may have turned their season around with a gigantic win over Oklahoma in the “Red River Rivalry,” and QB Jerrod Heard has given the Longhorn offense a shot in the arm. Last year, the Wildcats dominated in a 23-0 victory. This is a big game in the Big 12 and I believe the Longhorns are about to go on a major run. HORNS WIN FOR BEVO, TEXAS 38-17.
TEXAS TECH (5-2) AT No.17 OKLAHOMA (5-1) If you like offense or catchy fight songs, this game could be the best of the weekend. Red Raider QB Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 2,628 yards and 20 TDs, and rushed for six more scores. The question is which Oklahoma defense will come to play? The defense that allowed 427 yards passing to Tulsa or the unit that sacked Skyler Howard of West Virginia seven times, while picking him off three times? The Red Raiders defense has been especially bad on the ground, allowing opponents to average 5.8 yards per carry and 263.9 yards per game with 19 TDs on the ground. Sooners have won six straight in this series, and I expect a big day for Sooner running backs. FIRST TEAM TO 55 WINS! SOONERS GET THERE FIRST, BOOMER 55-52.
No.15 TEXAS A&M (5-1) AT No. 24 MISSISSIPPI (5-2) The Rebels were stunned on the road last Saturday at Memphis, while the Aggies were beaten soundly by Alabama. This is the week we find out just how resilient the these two teams are. The Aggies were beaten up by the physical play of the Tide. At Ole Miss, Rebels Hugh Freeze remains confident, even after the loss at Memphis. “We know we’re the best team in the land. I have no doubt about that,” Freeze said. “We have the players and the coaches. As long as everyone believes in that, then we’re tough to stop.” Both these teams have loaded offenses that should find the end zone. The difference is that the Rebels have the advantage on the defensive side. The Landshark D should bounce back, and being at The Grove is always a positive. AGGIES IGNORE LANDSHARK WARNINGS, AS REBELS YELL, OLE MISS 38-24.
No.22 TEMPLE (6-0) AT EAST CAROLINA (4-3) The Owls haven’t won in Greenville since 1985, and this is a tough spot for the Owls, as they are traveling in a short week, and have Notre Dame on deck. In last year’s meeting the Owls defeated the Pirates 20-10. In that game, the Pirates outgained the Owls by 293 yards, but fumbled eight times, losing five. This year the Pirates can score, but they have trouble defending. This Thursday night prime-time affair, will go the distance. IT MIGHT TAKE 30 YEARS, BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT. OWLS FLY HOME WITH A WIN, TEMPLE 20-16.
PICK SIX—- SIX GAMES, SIX WORDS, SIX PICKS
AUBURN AT ARKANSAS——Have the Tigers turned the corner? YES! AUBURN 33-28
KENTUCKY AT MISSISSIPPI STATE——Bulldogs beat Cats last six times. MAKE IT SEVEN, STATE 31, KENTUCKY 24.
UTAH STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE——Farmer’s daughters made to feel alright. AGGIES 28-24.
CLEMSON AT MIAMI (FL)——Hurricanes come up a little short. TIGERS 20-17.
WESTERN KENTUCKY AT LSU——I’ll be there! Fournette vs. Doughty. Fournette 48-31.
PITTSBURGH AT SYRACUSE——Pitt won nine of last 10. PANTHERS 28-24.
SEASON RESULTS TO DATE
- KEY GAMES 23-12
- PICK SIX 27-15
- UPSET EXPRESS STRAIGHT 4-3 SPREAD 5-2