Big Games in Big 10, Pac-12 and AAC
This weekend offers several quality football games. The Pac-12 features two, Top-25 match-ups, and the AAC gives us two tasty contests with Temple traveling to Dallas to face No. 19 SMU, while the Tulane Green Wave walk into Memphis in what should be a classic. Saturday night brings a White Out to the Happy Valley, where Penn State will host Michigan. Read on for my analysis on the big games this week, the Upset Express and the Super Pick Six.
This week’s featured games
No. 12 OREGON (5-1) AT No. 25 WASHINGTON (5-2) I love the Oregon football program, but at the same time I am a realist. I do think Oregon is the only remaining hope for the Pac-12 to reach the College Football Playoff, but to get there, a win over Washington in Seattle is a must. The Ducks are an anemic 4-11 in their last 15 Pac-12 road games and Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen will have the Huskies flying high to defend their home turf. To win, the Washington offense will need big games from both QB Jacob Eason and RB Salvon Ahmed. Oregon still has the opportunity to go 12-1, but Head Coach Mario Cristobal has yet to win a big game. I think Petersen will dial up a couple of key trick plays that will tip the scale in favor of the Huskies. PETERSEN 26 CRISTOBAL 23.
No. 16 MICHIGAN (5-1) AT No. 7 PENN STATE (6-0) Before the season started, I would have told you that the Michigan will win this game. But the Wolverines have struggled to find a real playmaker this season. Quarterback Shea Patterson has yet to find success throwing deep down field. Their top tailback, Zack Charbonnet may also miss this contest with an injury. Meanwhile, the Lions have gotten better play each week from QB Sean Clifford. The emergence of RB Noah Cain and Wide Receiver K.J. Hamler give Clifford two weapons at his disposal. Ultimately, this game will be decided in the trenches. I think the Lions have the better offensive and defensive lines. Penn State Head Coach James Franklin has called for a “seismic event” and the game at Beaver Stadium will be a White Out. That makes for great television, and it is the location of ESPN’s College Gameday. PARTY IN HAPPY VALLEY STARTS EARLY, ENDS LATE, LIONS 26-13.
No.18 BAYLOR (6-0) AT OKLAHOMA STATE (4-2) The Cowboys have a chance to knock the Bears from the unbeaten ranks. Baylor holds the Big 12’s longest winning streak at eight games and will try to keep pace with No. 5 Oklahoma atop the conference standings. The Bears have been living on the edge lately, and needed double overtime to beat Texas Tech last weekend. The Bears also lost leading tackler Clay Johnston for the season last week. The Cowboys have an explosive offense that will be on full display here. Tailback Chuba Hubbard who leads the country in rushing, will once again top 100 yards and QB Spencer Sanders will find Tylan Wallace for at least one TD. The Cowboys are off a bye week and will be fresh and ready to avenge a 35-31 loss last year. COWBOY UP, 41-27.
No. 17 ARIZONA STATE (5-1) AT No. 13 UTAH (5-1) There is so much on the line in this tilt. Both teams part of a four-way tie in the Pac-12 South standings, and the loser here, likely will be out of the race. The Sun Devils are led by true freshman QB Jayden Daniels. Daniels rallied the Devils past Washington State 38-34 last Saturday, a game I attended. The Devils have actually owned this series with Utah, going 13-2 in the last 15. This Saturday, Utah should get RB Zack Moss back, providing the Utes with a huge lift. The Sun Devils will be starting two freshmen on the offensive line against Utah’s “Sack Lake City” defense. That spells disaster for me. UTES BIG, 35-13.
TEMPLE (5-1) AT No. 19 SMU (6-0) Things are good at SMU. The Mustangs find themselves nationally ranked for the first time since the “Pony Express” days. The City of Dallas has really gotten behind this team and Head Coach Sonny Dykes. Dykes has built this team into an offensive juggernaut with the addition of Texas transfer Shane Buechele. The Mustangs are averaging 42 points per game and nearly 500 yards per contest. The Owls will counter with a staunch defense that allows only 19 PPG. Owl QB Anthony Russo has been inconsistent, but still has 13 touchdown passes. Temple is off a huge homecoming win over undefeated Memphis, while SMU has the benefit of playing this game off a bye week. That situational edge, plus the fact that the Owls are in the middle of a Memphis and UCF sandwich, seals the deal. I’ll be on the sidelines for this one, PONY UP, 41-31.
TULANE (5-1) AT MEMPHIS (5-1) This is the second big game in the AAC this weekend. The Tigers are coming off an emotional loss at Temple, falling 30-28, while Tulane has won four straight since losing at Auburn in week two.
“That team is for real,” said Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell about upstart Tulane.
The Tigers still control their own destiny in the AAC and they are a contender for a New Year’s Day bowl game. I think this game comes down to the quarterback battle between Tulane’s Justin McMillan and Memphis’s Brady White. McMillan, the (LSU) transfer, is a dual-threat QB who has dramatically improved his decision making over last season. The Green Wave is playing at a very high level under head coach Willie Fritz. In Norvell’s three seasons at Memphis, he has had difficulty getting his team ready after a loss. I think we could see more of the same. TULANE HEADS BACK TO THE BIG EASY WITH 38-35 WIN.
SUPER PICK SIX: SIX GAMES, SIX WORDS, SIX PICKS
IOWA STATE (4-2) AT TEXAS TECH (3-3) Cyclones have won three straight in this series. Brock Purdy makes it four, Cyclones 35-24.
DUKE (4-2) AT VIRGINIA (4-2) Head Coach David Cutcliffe has a poor record on the road against coastal teams. He’s also not very trendy, Cavs 25-20.
No.14 BOISE STATE (6-0) AT BYU (2-4) Cougars are a mess in the quarterback room. BYU keeps this one close, Broncos 24-23.
AIR FORCE (4-2) AT HAWAII (4-2) These two play for the “Kuter Trophy”. Flyboys grind it out on island, 38-27.
RICE (0-6) AT UTSA (2-4) Both these teams are ranked in the Bottom 10. Super genius Owls go Roadrunner hunting, 14-10.
COLORADO (3-3) AT WASHINGTON STATE (3-3) This is a must win for both teams bowl hopes. Cougars back in the win column, 42-24.