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The Week That Will Be: Down The Stretch

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Can the Longhorns snare that first big win of the Tom Herman era?

Texas v Baylor Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Last Week: 2-4 ATS 5-1 SU

For the Year: 27-27 (.500) (-$270) ATS 41-13 (.759) SU

We learned last week…

  • Notre Dame’s Josh Adams rushed for 202 yards and has now rushed for 159 rushing yards per game since being held to 53 yards by Georgia earlier this season. All of that on an average of 16 carries per game. Things are looking up for the Irish, as they are ranked third in the college football playoff. They host Wake Forest this weekend before hitting the road at Miami next weekend in what should be a great game.

  • Florida quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire were a combined 10-of-25 for 66 yards and an interception in Florida’s biggest loss to Georgia since 1982. The defeat cost Jim McElwain his job, as it probably should have.

  • Perhaps we shouldn’t have written off J.T. Barrett so soon, as the Ohio State quarterback was 13-for-13 with 170 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone to bring the Buckeyes back from a special teams grave. Ohio State would have been sick if they had given this one up, as the Buckeyes outgained Penn State 529-283, or an average of 2.4 yards per play.

  • The Iowa State Cyclones had one win over a Top 5 in program history (2011 Oklahoma State), but now they have had two such wins in a month. The Cyclones are ranked in the Top 20 for the tenth time in history.

  • Oklahoma State scored plenty of points on Saturday, however it was their defense that set the stage, holding West Virginia to 62 rushing yards on 30 carries, and forcing Mountaineer quarterback Will Grier into four interceptions.

  • The Texas defense also had an outstanding day, as they held Baylor to 31 rushing yards on 37 carries and only 12 first downs total. More stats: the Bears were 4/18 on third down conversions, 1 of 5 on fourth down conversions and averaged only 3.3 yards per play on the day. The offense was adequate, but this defense could win you a lot of games by themselves.


A funny thing happened this week. The first iteration of the College Football Playoff rankings managed to come out and were met with….crickets.

Usually the hysteria is at an all-time high, as fans contemplate Texas A&M in the playoffs, or Mississippi State as #1, or Iowa or Ole Miss cracking the Top 4. Some fans even like to get worked up when complaining about a team being #3 when they should be #3, although literally the only difference is what color uniform they would wear in the first playoff game.

Let’s take a look at the rankings:

1. Georgia: they’re ranked this high because they have the best win of the bunch (#3 Notre Dame). They also have a win over #16 Mississippi State. Sure, the rest of their schedule has been garbage, but for now, those two are enough, and if they win out, they’ll stay #1.

2. Alabama: They are ranked this high because they’re Alabama. The Crimson Tide do not have a victory over a team this season that received even a single vote in last week’s AP poll. It isn’t their fault that Florida State fell apart (or the rest of the SEC outside of Georgia, for that matter), and if they might even get in if they lose one, but the tests for the Crimson Tide have been few and far between this season.

3. Notre Dame: Wins over Power 5 opponents with a winning record: 4. Including #17 USC, #20 North Carolina State and #24 Michigan State. We’re always quick to point to favoritism with the Irish, but not this year. They’ve earned it. Still left on the schedule: #10 Miami and #21 Stanford.

4. Clemson: You probably could have talked me into Oklahoma here just because Clemson’s loss was so bad, but the Tigers have wins over #13 Virginia Tech and #14 Auburn and four other Power Five opponents with winning records.

5. Oklahoma: Sure, the Sooners haven’t always looked good while doing it, but they have the second best win of the contenders (over Ohio State), and even their loss, against #15 Iowa State, isn’t looking as bad as it once did.

6. Ohio State: The Buckeyes probably have played as well as anyone in the country since their loss to Oklahoma, but following the established Supreme Court case of Texas v. Oklahoma 2008, when two teams have the same record I can’t put the one that lost in front of the other.

7. Penn State: Get past Michigan State on Saturday and the rest of their schedule is garbage, however they are in trouble because they probably need Ohio State to lose twice the rest of the season, which won’t happen. What a devastating loss that was last week.

8. TCU: The Horned Frogs had a clear path but that went away last week in Ames. Beat Oklahoma in two weeks and then win the Big 12 game and they might have a chance, but the committee might be tired of the Big 12 falling all over themselves by then.

9. Wisconsin: The Badgers also don’t have a win over an opponent that received a single vote in last week’s AP poll. In fact, their best win is over Florida Atlantic (!) But if they win out, they’ll have a win over Ohio State so that will be good enough to get into the playoff. Left on the schedule? Home games with Michigan and Iowa and road games at Indiana and Minnesota. Yuck.

10. Miami: Once you get into this range, you understand why they don’t allow this many teams in the playoff. The Hurricanes are unbeaten, but have the Hokies this week and Notre Dame next week. They won’t be unbeaten much longer.

There you have it. Four of these teams will likely be in the playoffs at the end of the year, with the only team outside of these with a shot being Oklahoma State if they were to win out.

If I had to guess at this moment, I’m taking Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State.

But ask me again in two weeks.

On to the games...

Virginia Tech -2.5 @ Miami:

The Hurricanes are the proud owner of the nation’s current longest winning streak (12), but while they are three blowout wins to start the season, they are definitely playing with fire as they have won every game since then by single digits.

In fact, a late escape against Georgia Tech is their only victory over a Power 5 opponent with even a winning record.

While the Miami defense isn’t a unit to take lightly, the Hokies defense is playing very solidly, giving up 17 points or less to every team not named Clemson or West Virginia

A strange oddity, look how similar these two quarterbacks are:

Miami Malik Rosier 252 attempts, 2,071 yards 17 TD/4 INT; 279 rushing 2 TD

VT Josh Jackson 239 attempts, 2,039 yards 17 TD/4 INT; 263 rushing 2 TD

Virginia Tech 27 Miami 16

ATS – Virginia Tech

SU – Virginia Tech

Penn State -9 @ Michigan State:

Michigan State prepared for Penn State and Ohio State in successive weeks by going out and promptly losing to Northwestern last week. So much for the drama.

The Spartans have the nation’s 6th best S&P+ defense, but Penn State is the more well rounded of the two squads, featuring not only a very solid defense, but an offense that can put up points anywhere and often.

Penn State 34 Michigan State 23

ATS – Penn State

SU – Penn State

LSU @ Alabama -21.5:

We tend to think of this game as one of the best on the schedule every year, but LSU hasn’t beaten Alabama since that awful 9-6 game in Tuscaloosa in 2011. Alabama has won all six meetings on the schedule since.

LSU usually relies on their defense to keep them in this game, but they are not as strong on that side of the line of scrimmage this year as they have been in years past. They currently rank 26th in S&P+ defense, and have given up 24 points or more four times this season, including the noted football powers Syracuse and Troy.

Derrius Gice will need to run for more than 200 yards for the Tigers to win this ballgame. Good luck with that.

Win this one, and LSU will be favored in every remaining game (ARK, @ TN, A&M) and have a chance at a 10 win season. Lose big and the questions about Coach Orgeron will be plentiful.

Alabama 31 LSU 17

ATS – LSU

SU – Alabama

Iowa State @ West Virginia -2:

Who thought this would be an important game on the schedule two months ago when the season was kicking off?

Win this one, and the Cyclones have an inside track to the Big 12 Championship game, with Oklahoma State at home and away games to Baylor and Kansas State remaining on the schedule. For certain those are very winnable games.

But you have to wonder if a program like Iowa State can keep up the momentum. Sure, they are good enough for an upset, and can even get another one a few weeks later in a dogfight of a game, but have they “arrived” yet where they can go on the road and win against a formidable opponent week in and week out?

Of course, after getting stomped by Oklahoma State last week in a game where the final score was no indication of how much they were dominated you have to wonder if West Virginia is a formidable opponent at this point of the year.

It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see Iowa State keep up the magic, but I have a feeling that it takes a break this week and they get tripped up on the road.

West Virginia 31 Iowa State 24

ATS – West Virginia

SU – West Virginia

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State -3:

Oklahoma State is at home. They have just as good of an offense as Oklahoma. Mason Rudolph is one of the few quarterbacks in the country that you at least pause when you ask who is better, Baker Mayfield or Player X. They have a much better defense than the Sooners, ranking 33rd in the country in S&P defense versus 103rd for the Sooners. They have looked better this season.

But Mike Gundy is 2-10 against the Sooners in his head coaching career at Oklahoma, including a 1-5 record in Stillwater. The last two years, Oklahoma was a 7-12.5 point favorite and won those two games by a combined score of 96-43.

Of course I guess you could say yeah, but that was against Bob Stoops.

The Cowboys should win this game. And might even win it decisively. But if they get in trouble early, those same old doubts might creep in.

Oklahoma State 41 Oklahoma 35

ATS – Oklahoma State

SU – Oklahoma State

Texas @ TCU -7:

TCU currently owns a three-game winning streak against Texas, winning those three games by a combined score of 129-26.

Damn.

I don’t have a good feeling about this one.

Can Texas win this game? Of course. Kenny Hill had his first multiple turnover game of the year last week against Iowa State when he turned it over three times, but part of my problem with trusting TCU this year is because of Hill. He is erratic, and old habits come to the surface under duress.

And the Horned Frogs will beat themselves, too, as their 11 penalties for 104 last week against Iowa State will show (they rank 94th in the country in penalties, averaging 7 per game).

But TCU excels at controlling the clock and on third down conversions. For a Texas offense where each offensive possession is a precious commodity, that can be troublesome.

No, for Texas to win this game, it will need to be an ugly 17-13 game, somewhere in that neighborhood. The offense will need to be efficient, cannot turn the ball over, and when they do get something, they can’t commit a drive-killing penalty.

Do you trust this team to do that?

All bets are off if Todd Orlando’s crew comes into the ballgame and gets a couple of early turnovers, but the Texas offense will have to grow up quickly in order to sneak out of Fort Worth with a win.

But then again I am 0-6 picking TCU games this year so what do I know?

TCU 28 Texas 17

ATS – TCU

SU – TCU

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for a night on West 7th in Fort Worth.