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The Week That Will Be: Don’t Stop Believin’

Four Games. Four wins to get back to Arlington. The stretch run begins with a familiar foe.

Oklahoma State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last Week: 2-3-1 ATS 5-1 SU

For the Year: 28-30-2 (.483) (-$500) ATS 41-19 (.683) SU

Quick Thoughts From Last Week:

Utah Wins Fifth in a Row – On Collision Course With Oregon: The Utes overcame an 11-point first half deficit to defeat Washington 33-28, re-taking the lead in the Pac-12 South and thus setting up a potentially delicious match-up between 11-1 teams in the Pac-12 Championship game. The stout Utah defense forced three turnovers and Tyler Huntley threw for 284 passing yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the win.

Oregon Wins Eighth in a Row – On Collision Course With Utah: USC quickly jumped out to a 10-0 lead but an Oregon onslaught in the second quarter that included a pick-six and a kickoff return for a touchdown with only 20 seconds left in the first half seemed to demoralize the Trojans. Kedon Slovis was picked off three times (all turning into Oregon points) and was held to 4.6 yards per attempt by a stout Oregon defense.

SMU Drops a Thriller on National Television: How bizarre was it to hear Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit call a SMU game on Saturday night? Shane Buechele threw for 456 yards and three touchdowns, but he was out-shined by Memphis’s Antonio Gibson, who totaled 368 all-purpose yards and scored a touchdown by air, land and kickoff return (all three scores were on plays longer than 50 yards). The Mustangs now needs Memphis to drop another (still on the schedule: @ Houston, @ South Florida, Cincinnati) if they want to win the American Athletic Conference.

Georgia Sits on Florida Until They Say Uncle: The Bulldogs held Florida to 272 total yards and 2 of 9 on third down as they pulled off their third-straight win in the series. The Bulldogs, who haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, could effectively win the SEC East this week with a victory over Missouri in Athens.

Chuba Hubbard Keeps Rolling: Chuba Hubbard racked up his fourth 200-yard game of the year but, and how crazy is this stat, it was the first time in the Gary Patterson era at TCU that they have allowed a 200-yard rusher.

Baylor Gets Full on Halloween Candy, Can’t Play Football: West Virginia’s first nine drives of the game ended like this: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, fumble, yet they still were trying a field goal to tie with a little over a minute remaining and had the ball at the end trying to win. It doesn’t inspire many to consider them a full contender in the Big 12, much less nationally when they struggle with a Mountaineer team that Saturday marked its fourth-straight loss.

Not much drives me crazier in sports than college football playoff talk starting in September – But Texas A&M really put it to South Carolina with future Heisman winner Kenny Hill – What will we do if A&M, Alabama, LSU, Georgia AND Florida are undefeated? What will we do? And what about one-loss South Carolina???

But now that the Made For TV and Totally Made Up To Create Controversy Rankings are out, let’s take a look at the national picture and see who I think will be standing in the end.

1. Ohio State

Remaining schedule: Maryland, @ Rutgers, Penn State, @ Michigan

As painful as it is, I’m not sure how anyone beats the Buckeyes this year, they look very complete on offense and defense. They’re so good that opponents that you think are good (Wisconsin) aren’t any good anymore because they beat them so bad.

Which of course means, being the crazy sport that it is, this is the year Michigan beats Ohio State.

2. LSU

Remaining schedule: @ Alabama, @ Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M

I dare say that if LSU wins this weekend, and take care of the three patsies remaining on their schedule, they could drop the SEC Championship Game and still go to the playoff. Burrow and company look unstoppable but Alabama is Alabama.

3. Alabama

Remaining schedule: LSU, @ Mississippi State, Western Carolina, @ Auburn

Finally Alabama plays someone. Their strength of schedule is about on the level of Baylor’s. But watch – if they lose to LSU in a close game and win out, and the rest of the SEC goes to chalk – Alabama will go to the playoff. The Crimson Tide could hire O.J. Simpson as an offensive analyst and the playoff committee would highlight that as a positive for them making the tournament.

4. Penn State

Remaining schedule: @ Minnesota, Indiana, @ Ohio State, Rutgers

See above about made for TV controversy. Penn State was put here to create conversation and because the committee knows there is no way they beat both Minnesota and Ohio State – meaning the rankings don’t get stale between now and the first weekend of December.

5. Clemson

Remaining schedule: @ NC State, Wake Forest, @ South Carolina

Watch out for Wake Forest next week, they might be able to keep it within two touchdowns (Clemson’s average margin of victory this season is 32.6 points so that would be an improvement). Clemson’s likely opponent in the ACC Championship Game? Either three loss Pittsburgh or three loss Virginia…and that is if they don’t lose between now and then.

Clemson will be there.

6. Georgia

Remaining schedule: Missouri, @ Auburn, Texas A&M, @ Georgia Tech

I’m sorry, but if you want to make the playoff, don’t lose to a terrible South Carolina team with a coach that is about to be fired. Go away, Georgia.

7. Oregon

8. Utah

Remaining schedule: Arizona, @ Arizona State, Oregon State; UCLA, @ Arizona, Colorado

I’m going to put these two teams together because they are basically one entity right now. Oregon is playing just about as well as anyone in the country right now, 8 wins in a row and led Auburn for 59 minutes in their lone loss. Utah had what looks to be a bad loss against USC, but look very solid on both sides of the ball. Let’s hope we get an 11-1 vs. 11-1 matchup in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

9. Oklahoma

Remaining schedule: Iowa State, @ Baylor, TCU, @ Oklahoma State

It probably isn’t good for the Sooners that they are behind Georgia/Utah/Oregon at this point. That seemed like a message from the committee.

`10. Florida

Okay apparently the committee gave up at this point so we’ll wrap up this intro.

I would be willing to put some coin down that the playoff will be Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Alabama, barring any huge upsets (like the certainty that Michigan beats Ohio State).

Imagine debating this for 12 weeks only for it to be Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson again.

Iowa @ Wisconsin -9:

Both of these teams sit two games behind Minnesota in the Big 10 West standings, and both have the Golden Gophers on their remaining schedule, so if Minnesota loses to Penn State earlier in the day, this becomes a de facto Big 10 championship semi-final.

The Hawkeyes have lost two games by a combined 12 points to Michigan and Penn State, while Wisconsin has lost two in a row, falling to big underdog Illinois and then getting lambasted by Ohio State two weeks ago.

Wisconsin has won 6 of 7 in this series. In fact, in the past three seasons (counting this one), Iowa has only lost by more than 10 points twice – last year to Wisconsin 28-17 in Iowa City, and in 2017 38-14 in Madison.

The O/U in this game is only 38 points, so Vegas really doesn’t have any faith in the Iowa offense.

Wisconsin 28 Iowa 17

ATS – Wisconsin

SU – Wisconsin

Penn State -7 @ Minnesota:

It has been 115 years since Minnesota started a season 9-0, but that is exactly what they can accomplish Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis. No wonder this is likely their first-ever appearance in this column.

The Gophers are undefeated, but they haven’t played much. Their best non-conference game was a double overtime win over Fresno State. Their Big 10 schedule has consisted of Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland, five teams that are a combined 8-22 in Big 10 play.

Penn State is another animal, as they currently only allowing 9.6 points per game and haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a single game this year, but they face a Minnesota offense that currently ranks 8th in the S&P+ offensive rankings and haven’t scored less than 28 points in a game this year.

This is the biggest game in Minnesota in quite some time. P.J. Fleck’s crew will be ready, but I fear Penn State just has too much to be overcome.

Penn State 27 Minnesota 24

ATS – Minnesota

SU – Penn State

LSU @ Alabama -6.5:

This year’s Game of the Century occurs Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, as according to the Associated Press, #1 meets #2 for the first time since…LSU and Alabama in 2011.

That 2011 game was the infamous 9-6 LSU victory, which coincidentally enough, was LSU’s last victory over Alabama. The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 21-0 two months later in the national championship game and have proceeded to win the next 7 match-ups. Most of those games haven’t even been close, either, as just two of those games have been one score games and Alabama has won by an average score of 24-9.

Another tally since that 9-6 match-up?

Alabama national championships: 4 LSU national championships: 0

All of that is to say there is a reason that LSU finally went out and found an offense, and have they ever, as the Tigers currently rank 3rd in the country in S&P offense, right behind….Alabama at second. Alabama is 4th in the country in yards per attempt at 10.5, but LSU is right above them at 10.8.

Most expect a shoot-out in this one. 65 points is the over/under, and according to Stewart Mandel, only once in 84 meetings has the score been that high, LSU’s 41-34 win in 2007 in Nick Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa.

It certainly would be a change from recent meetings, which have averaged a total of 33 points per game this decade.

Shootouts are becoming more of a thing recently for Alabama, which gave up 106 points in three post-season games last year and have given up 31 points to Ole Miss and 28 to Texas A&M this year.

Here is the thing. I do believe LSU might be the best team in the country, or at least this side of Columbus, Ohio. But to win this game, LSU must overcome not just a very good Alabama team and the best coach of our generation, they must overcome ghosts and demons and whatever other scary creatures you can imagine. Imagine the pressure if their first couple of drives result in three-and-out.

Alabama hasn’t lost in Tuscaloosa since September of 2015, and with their recent success over LSU, I can’t go against those streaks until LSU shows me they’re not just “almost as good as Alabama” yet again in 2019.

Alabama 34 LSU 27

ATS – Alabama

SU – Alabama

Baylor -2 @ TCU:

The schedule starts to get a little tougher for Baylor. Their opponents winning percentage thus far this year is least TCU is 4-4.

TCU leads the country in highest percentage of drives forcing three-and-out at 46.5%, so if Baylor shows up with the woeful offense they ran out there against West Virginia on Halloween night, then this one could be ripe for an upset.

The Horned Frogs have won four in a row in this series, including last year’s 16-9 victory in Waco, which sounds like a piss-poor version of 2011 LSU/Alabama. Baylor didn’t manage more than 22 points in any of those four losses, but something tells me this year will be different on a couple of different levels.

Baylor 31 TCU 23

ATS – Baylor

SU – Baylor

Iowa State @ Oklahoma -14.5:

This series has traditionally been a laugher for the Sooners, who own an absolutely ludicrous 75-6-2 series edge over the Cyclones. However, one of those six was Iowa State’s 38-31 victory two years ago in Norman as a 31-point underdog.

In fact, the last three match-ups have all had a 10 point or less differential, as Iowa State has played Oklahoma as tough as anyone in recent years.

Iowa State has the best offense in their school’s history, as they’re averaging 479 yards per game (nearly 40 yards more than their school record), and rank 7th in the country in yards per play. They’ll face an Oklahoma defense that is much improved, that is until two weeks ago when Kansas State went up and down the field on them. The Sooners also haven’t forced a turnover in four games.

Oklahoma hasn’t lost consecutive regular games since 1999, and I don’t see that changing here, but the Cyclones don’t let anyone beat them at a 92% clip forever.

Oklahoma 37 Iowa State 28

ATS – Iowa State

SU – Oklahoma

Kansas State @ Texas -7:

There was a time in the not so recent past that Kansas State owned Texas, but you then you look up and Texas has won two in a row in the series, have won three out of four and four out of the last six, and Kansas State hasn’t won in Austin since 2011.

But it’s still Kansas State, right?

And dammit they are good again. They had fallen off somewhat in recent years as the Bill Snyder years waned away, but they’re back this year, sitting at 6-2 with a win over Oklahoma and a very mediocre (or even bad) Mississippi State team.

But they are 16th in the country in the College Football Playoff rankings (although someone needs to explain that one to me), and sit at 32 in the S&P+ rankings, right above #33 Texas.

Their formula to success is quite simple – run the football (they ran for 213 yards on the Sooners and 334 on the Kansas Jayhawks last week, QB Skylar Thompson leads the country with 7 rushing touchdowns the past two weeks), keep the ball from the other team (3rd in the country in Time of Possession at 35:10) and play defense (2nd in third down defense, 12th in first downs allowed, 18th in passing yards allowed).

You expect Michael Bishop or Collin Klein to get under center.

So how does Texas stay in the Big 12 race?

Three things:

  • Get off the field on defense: The Longhorns rank near the bottom of the country in defensive three-and-outs. The excuse has been youth and inexperience being forced into the game due to injury – the Horns expect nearly everyone back this week – it is put up or shut up time. Kansas State is by no means an explosive offense – they like to be methodical and chew time. Get the ball back for your offense.
  • Be efficient on offense: As mentioned, KSU likes to limit the game by holding onto the football. This isn’t a game where Texas is going to have the ball eight times in a half – they simply must capitalize on the opportunity when they have the football – they cannot wait two and a half quarters to get the offense going again.
  • Run the damn football: Oklahoma let their impatience show against Kansas State – only giving Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks six combined carries. The Horns rank 9th in the Big in both rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt – give the offense 3rd and 2s to convert instead of 3rd and 7s…it will do wonders.

Kansas State is a different animal away from Manhattan (they have lost six Big 12 games in a row away from Manhattan or Lawrence).

It is do or die time for the Horns — if they want to go anywhere.

I believe the Horns come to play in this one.

Texas 34 Kansas State 24

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for NCAA Football 2021.