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The Week That Will Be: Calm Before the Storm

With the Horns on a bye, let’s take a step back and look at the national picture.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: 2-4 ATS 3-3 SU

For the Year: 14-27-1 (.341) (-$1,450) ATS 27-15 (.643) SU

We learned last week…

  • Oregon became the first team this season to score more than 24 points against Washington. It happened because the Huskies missed a 37-yard field goal that would have won the game in regulation. Ouch.

  • How bad of a day was it for Wisconsin against Michigan on Saturday? Michigan held on to the football for 37 minutes, and when they did have the football, Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed just 7 of 20 attempts for 100 yards with a touchdown and an interception, with most of those yards coming already down 31 points.

  • Raise your hand if you foresaw LSU converting 4 of 4 fourth down conversions and racking up four plays of more than 35 yards against Georgia last week. Sit down, Ed.

  • In a week where the Top 10 went 1-8 against the spread, perhaps none of the ranked looked worse than West Virginia, which became the third Top-10 Big 12 team to lose in Ames in the last two seasons. Quarterback Will Grier can cancel his plans for New York in December, as the former Heisman hopeful was sacked 7 times on his way to throwing for just 100 yards and one score. The Mountaineers completed only 1 of 10 third down conversions.

  • Coming off a bye week, TCU managed only 411 total yards (their lowest output of the season) and were fortuitous to only turn the ball over three times, as they had three more fumbles that they recovered themselves. A tip of the hat goes to Kliff Kingsbury, who spent an off week tailoring the offense towards third-string quarterback Jett Duffey. We should also mention Texas Tech’s defense, which has now allowed just one touchdown in the second halves of games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU.

  • It had been 290 days since Shane Buechele threw a pass in a collegiate football game, and it showed. Everyone can talk about how close of a game it was against “only Baylor”, but convert even two of those five field goal attempts into touchdowns and the narrative is different.

We are less than two weeks away from the first installment in 2018 of the College Football Playoff rankings, so it is time to take a step back and look at who still has a realistic chance of making it to Arlington or Miami on December 29, the date of the semi-finals.

Already In

You know that Alabama could still drop one and would still make the playoffs. With a trip to LSU and home games against Mississippi State and Auburn, there are chances to lose – but also chances to further cement their chances.

Notre Dame is on pace to be 12-0 – and if Notre Dame is 12-0 you can be assured they will be in the playoff, no matter who’s “spot” they take. With their toughest tests behind them (Michigan, Stanford), the entire nation will be USC fans Thanksgiving weekend to save us from another drubbing they received at the hands of Alabama last time.

Just Win

Win out and LSU will gladly take one of the other spots – lose, then there will be very little chance. Georgia is probably in this camp as well – win the SEC and they are in. You might as well throw Florida in there as well. Ohio State and Michigan could be playing an elimination game when they meet in Columbus later this year.

Needs Some Help

Quick – name Clemson’s most impressive victory to date – Texas A&M? Syracuse? They have NC State this weekend, but you won’t find another ranked opponent on their schedule, even if they make the ACC Championship game. If it came down to Ohio State or Michigan or LSU for that final spot, I can see the Tigers getting left out even if they finish undefeated. This would be your nuclear option if you are in favor of expanding the playoff.

I’m not sure what anyone would do if NC State were to run the table…

Next up – Texas & Oklahoma could benefit if Notre Dame is to lose – win the Big 12 and it will be hard to keep a Texas or Oklahoma out of the playoff on brand name alone. But if the Irish are there – they have to take somebody’s spot.

That’s it – one of these 11 teams will win the championship – no others invited.

Michigan -7 @ Michigan State

Jim Harbaugh is undoubtedly hearing the talk about his record against Ohio State and Michigan State (a combined 1-5) and feeling the heat on pulling a victory here, but Michigan’s troubles with the Spartans began long before he arrived in Ann Arbor.

Since 2009, Michigan State has beaten a higher ranked team 11 times – four of those were against Michigan, including last year’s heart breaker at the Big House that saw Michigan turn the ball over five times.

The Spartans have been one of the worst rushing teams in the FBS division this season, which doesn’t bode well against a Michigan defense that ranks first in the country in S&P+ defense and hasn’t given up more than 21 points since the first week of the season against Notre Dame (24).

The Wolverines will get just enough offense from Shea Patterson and an emerging Karan Higdon to end their streak at 10 straight of not covering against the Spartans.

Michigan 28 Michigan State 13

ATS – Michigan

SU – Michigan

Colorado @ Washington -15.5

Both of these teams are coming off losses last week. The Huskies probably dropped out of college football playoff contention with their overtime loss to Oregon, while Colorado dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten (and from the polls) with a loss to USC.

Washington still has a very real chance of winning the conference, as they will likely be favored in each remaining game, and for good reason, as three of those games are at home, where they have won 11 in a row (with only two of those victories by a margin smaller than 21 points).

Colorado was already in a for a hard time, but it will be impossible if they are without star wideout Laviska Shenault Jr., who leads the nation in receiving yards per game (130 a game) but is questionable after an injury in that USC game.

Washington 41 Colorado 21

ATS – Washington

SU – Washington

North Carolina State @ Clemson -17.5

I don’t know if NC State’s schedule thus far this season is going to win any awards, but they have won every one of them, and could really take control of their half of the conference if they were to somehow pull of the upset.

Quarterback Ryan Finley leads the ACC in passing yards (1,621). A lot of his success can be attributed to the strength of their offensive line, which has only allowed two sacks all season.

It isn’t all offense for the Wolfpack, however, as their defense has yet to give up more than 400 yards in a single game.

Clemson has won 6 straight and 13 of 14 in this series, but the last two have been decided by a single touchdown in each game. The Tigers haven’t looked too impressive thus far as a complete unit (2-4 ATS this year), but their defense should be good enough to stave off any upset bid at home.

Clemson 31 NC State 24

ATS – NC State

SU – Clemson

Mississippi State @ LSU -7

Another week, another highly ranked opponent for LSU, and another victory as they manhandled Georgia. It was a highly emotional victory for the Tigers…while Mississippi State sat home and watched it on their couch.

This should be a defensive struggle. LSU’s prowess on defense is well known – however the Bulldogs have been just as stingy this season, leading the country in fewest points allowed per game and holding 5 of 6 opponents to 14 points or fewer.

This one will be close…but LSU pulls it out. Again.

LSU 20 Mississippi State 16

ATS – Mississippi State


Oregon @ Washington State -3

Speaking of emotional victories, Oregon hits the road after stopping a series losing streak to Washington, only to get a ticket to Pullman, Washington to face a Cougars team that had a bye week last week.

The Ducks have had their share of troubles on the road, winning only two of 10 outside of Autzen Stadium in Pac-12 play.

This doesn’t appear to be a good matchup for Oregon, as Washington State is averaging an astounding 414 yards through the air. The Ducks are currently giving up 14 yards per completion.

Washington State 44 Oregon 38

ATS – Washington State

SU – Washington State

Oklahoma -8 @ TCU

This game is only one of two Big 12 matchups this weekend, and with Kansas involved in the other, it might as well be the only one.

This is just Oklahoma’s second road game of the year. Historically the road has been kind to them as they haven’t lost a “true” road game since October of 2014…against TCU.

The first game without Mike Stoops (again) is the focus of this one. Can Ruffin McNeal turn around their defensive narrative? TCU’s turnover problems are well documented – but the Sooners have only forced five turnovers all year.

Something has to give.

The Horned Frogs haven’t scored more than 17 points in any of their three Big 12 contests. They’ll break that streak here, but the Sooners don’t lose two in a row.

Oklahoma 38 TCU 23

ATS – Oklahoma

SU – Oklahoma

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Britney Spears/Bruno Mars tickets.