On paper it’s not a great week of games. That only means that all hell is going to break loose across college football. The exciting weekends are normally boring and the boring weekends are exciting. I don’t make the rules, that’s just the way college football works.
R: Utah (-5.5) at Arizona State
Arizona State was last seen losing to Oregon in a game that refused to be a blowout. The Sun Devil defense bended extremely hard but didn’t break. Manny Wilkins, the Sun Devil quarterback who was out against Oregon, is reportedly going to be playing.
We last saw Utah pushing Washington to the edge with the Huskies needling a late punt return for a touchdown by Pettis. Utah and ASU are both coming off bye weeks but I like the line for the Utes more on both sides of the ball. Running back Joe Williams, who is only a few weeks removed from retirement, is possibly the hottest running back in the country. He has rushed for nearly 700 yards in his last three games. The Utes are one game behind Colorado in the South and I expect Utah to win and keep their conference championship game hopes alive.
S: Utah (-5.5) at Arizona State
Haven't seen anything to suggest that ASU can stop anyone. Have seen a lot of evidence that Utah's defense can hold a lot of good offenses down. I'll take those odds, even though Utah's offense is quite pedestrian. Utah wins by 10 on the road.
R: LSU (-7) at Arkansas
I hate picking this game. I don’t know why I chose to have us write about it. Arkansas beat Florida by 21 last week by forcing Florida to rush only 12 times for .9 yards per carry. The Gators fell behind early and had to throw the ball to try and gain ground. I still think their offense is a little too dependent on running the football.
The Tiger defense is excellent but there is a risk of an emotional hangover. Last week was the biggest game of the year for LSU and they came away scoreless. Also, teams can struggle the week after playing a physical offense like Alabama’s. LSU’s defense is built to stop a team like Alabama, who they held to 10 points, and Arkansas’, who likes to line up in I-formations. To me, LSU has a small advantage on offense and a good advantage on defense, making me comfortable with the 7-point spread. These players love competing for Ed Orgeron who could possibly get the full-time job with a win over the Razorbacks.
S: LSU at Arkansas (+7)
You guys: NovemBERT is here. Bet against the Hogs at your own peril. LSU has nary a pulse at QB, even with Danny Etling. Arkansas has a ton of momentum after a blowout win over Florida, and gets a beat-up LSU squad in Fayetteville. Give me those points.
R: Stanford at Oregon (+1)
I am irrationally optimistic about this game. Stanford’s offense is worse than Oregon’s defense. It is extremely easy to defend. The Cardinal have already swapped quarterbacks once this year and McCaffrey’s Heisman run has ended. However, the Stanford line struggled early on in the season. McCaffrey has since put up nearly 200 yards of offense in each of his last two games. Although, the opponents were Oregon State and Arizona, two teams that couldn’t push Stanford on offense.
The Oregon defense is going to win the game for Oregon, which is scary because the defense has been downright awful at times this year. The Stanford defense is not what it was even a year ago and I think the Ducks have a big advantage on offense. I think Oregon’s defense is also much more prepared to be working in a phone booth this year although the lack of depth in the front seven will be a huge challenge for the Ducks. But the ability to make Stanford one-dimensional will turn this game around. If Oregon can force Stanford to run the football then the Ducks will win.
S: Stanford (-1) at Oregon
I am pretty sure I am still 0-fer in picking the Ducks this year. I feel like I am also going to get this one wrong, so let's reverse-jinx the living hell out of this situation. Cardinal by a touchdown.
R: Cal (+14) at Washington State
The Cougars have been winning some close ones as of late. They had a 6-point win over UCLA, a 5-point win over ASU, and a 4 point win over Oregon State. Although the domination over Arizona happened I think that says more about Arizona’s defense than anything about Washington State. This week Washington State is hoping to win and move to 7-0 in conference play for the first time in school history. Gabe Marks continues to be the go-to receiver and with Luke Falk throwing completions at a rate of 74.1% the Cougars will pull off the win.
Cal is another team that can score a lot of points but they have shown that they can be slowed. They were held to 24 points against USC, 23 poins to Utah, and 27 points to Washington, but the Washington State defense is a different animal. Cal will keep pace with the Cougars throughout the game with a good shot at winning.
S: Cal at Washington State (-14)
The wheels have come off at Cal, and the wheels are turning into spiky, Mad-Max-esque wheels up in Pullman. A beat-up, no-defense Cal squad going to the Palouse spells doom. Lay those points on the Cougs at home.
R: USC (+9) at Washington
When USC quarterback Sam Darnold took over the starting spot under center the offense seemed to change. The redshirt freshman is a great passer who can also make plays with his legs. He can extend plays and scramble for first downs. The offensive line has also been opening up huge holes for surging running back Ronald Jones II. Oh yeah, and JuJu-Smith Schuster is on the team still at receiver. Lastly, the USC defense looked excellent against Oregon with an overwhelming defensive line and playmakers at the defensive back positions. USC is probably one of the hottest teams in the country.
Washington is now ranked for the first time in the college football playoff rankings coming in at number four, meaning they would play Alabama. We will see if the Huskies can deal with the pressure of being at the top of the college football world. Both Husky lines are good and quarterback Jake Browning is one of the best playmakers in the country. John Ross is a dangerous player in the red zone and running back Myles Gaskin is 48 yards shy of 1,000 yards on the season. I like the Huskies to win but USC will keep it close.
S: USC (+9) at Washington
Don't say it too loudly, but USC has quietly been playing some of the best football in the country over the past month. I put USC and Penn State in the same category: improved QB play, solid (if not elite!) run game, an improving defense that found its rhythm. USC is happy to be flying under the radar, but I don't discount the defensive effort the Trojans put up against our Ducks last week. USC keeps it tight in Montlake.
R: West Virginia (+2) at Texas
Texas has won their last two games and are two wins away from bowl eligibility. The players are probably playing for Charlie Strong’s job. The win over Texas Tech was fueled by the success the Longhorns had at running the football. Unfortunately, West Virginia has shown the ability to stop the run well enough to slow the Longhorn offense and force them to throw the ball to keep pace.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen has rebuilt the Mountaineers into a spread, power running offense and a defense that plays very aggressively out of a 3-3-5 defense. Receivers Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Givson are standouts and there are two running backs with over 500 yards each and 9 touchdowns between them. I like West Virginia to make some plays, force a couple turnovers, and win a close one.
S: West Virginia at Texas (-2)
Weird, weird line. There was a time this season when I trusted WVU absolutely, but I think they are onto the tougher part of their schedule, and the truth serum is coming out. WVU has lost momentum after losing to Okie State, and Texas has a ton of momentum after two straight wins with improved defense. Texas is a dangerous team here.
R: Baylor at Oklahoma (-16)
Baylor is a dumpster fire. Actually, they are way worse than that. It is a shameless organization with no self-reflection whatsoever. Guys are getting into fights with each other on the sidelines and there is very little recruiting going on. They lost to Texas and then got rocked by TCU, giving up 62 points and losing by 40. After the insane offseason and the proceedings this year I think the wheels have finally fallen off
Oklahoma’s only losses were to Houston, who was very highly ranked at the time, and Ohio State at its peak. The offense can put up an absurd number of points and quarterback Baker Mayfield has already thrown 31 touchdown passes to only 6 interceptions. Joe Mixon is averaging 6.8 yards per carry coming out of the backfield. I don’t think Baylor is going to be able to break past 30 points and Oklahoma could easily top that.
S: Baylor at Oklahoma (-16)
Remember how I said that the wheels were off for Cal? The wheels, transmission, and steering wheel have come off the Baylor bus. Things are falling apart in Waco, and going to the Oklahoma offense's buzzsaw isn't really the prescription. OU minus whatever here. They roll by 30.