A little bit of a rough patch the last few weeks but ups and downs are to be expected over the course of a long season. 7-1 combined between weeks 2 and 3, but then just 4-8 in the two weeks since then. Hopefully can get it back on track this week and I do feel good about what I’ve got. Here we go…
Georgia Tech (-4): I’ll start off the week by taking the Yellow Jackets on the road Friday night against Louisville. Both teams check in at 2-3, but I rate Georgia Tech quite a bit better and I’m happy laying the 3.5 even on the road. I’ll get back to the Jackets in a bit, but first I’ll start with how bad Louisville is. Their two wins were against lowly Indiana State, and a 3 point home win over Western Kentucky. In their losses they were crushed by Alabama, blown out by Virginia, and choked away a 4th quarter lead against Florida State. Across the board the stats are pretty ugly. They average only 18.4 points per game, only 311 yards per game and to be honest they can’t really run or pass the ball with any kind of success. At QB they are now using Jawan Pass who is more than a little raw as a passer. You can see there is some talent there, but he also has a ton to learn as far as playing the position goes. He’s barely completing 50% of his passes and he has just 4 TD’s to go with 7 INT’s. He’s very erratic and wild as a passer and is still having trouble reading defenses and managing the game. Last week with Louisville protecting a 4 point lead with 2 minutes left he for some god knows what reason threw a pass on 1st down that was picked off and led to FSU coming back for the win. That play I believe was a run and he checked to a pass which was to say the least a curious move. At only 120 yards per game rushing they really aren’t scaring anyone with that aspect of their offense either. On the other side we have a Georgia Tech team that despite being only 2-3 I still think is pretty good. As is always the case with the Jackets they can run the hell out of the ball. They average a whopping 339 yards per game rushing and should be able to get right around that amount or more in this one. TaQuan Marshall is back at QB and he’s now at a point where he could run this offense in his sleep. He’s not much of a passer but the truth is he doesn’t need to be. He’s a very tough kid whose a good runner and good decision maker as far as when to pitch and when to keep it himself. The Jackets don’t throw it much, but when they do they are looking for chunk plays. Marshall is averaging 18.1 yards per completion this year so that element is there and enough to keep defenses honest enough when trying to defend this explosive ground attack. At the end of the day I just don’t think Louisville has enough firepower to score and keep up with the Jackets who will certainly chew up yards and put up points. I think Tech takes this one by double digits.
Oklahoma (-8): Texas has been playing better since that week 1 clunker against Maryland. The Horns for the second straight year opened the season with a loss to the Terps, but to their credit they’ve since won 4 straight including impressive wins over USC and TCU. That said I just don’t see how they are going to keep up with this incredible Oklahoma offense. Through 5 games the Sooners numbers offensively are just absurd. They are averaging 48.6 points, 523.2 yards, and they can move the ball either through the air or on the ground. The catalyst is Murray at QB who is basically doing whatever he wants. As a passer he is completing over 70% of his passes for nearly 300 yards a game and 17 TD’s to go with only 2 INT’s. If that isn’t enough you have the fact he’s averaging 6 yards a carry and 57 yards per game rushing too. They’ve been able to absorb the loss of RB Rodney Anderson with a committee of backs who have capably stepped in. They have explosive WR’s all over the roster and without wanting to over simplify this, they truly just have dangerous, talented, weapons all over the field offensively. On the other side we have a Texas offense that while certainly good is by no means as explosive as Oklahoma. Ehlinger is a good but not great QB, the rushing attack is good, but again far from great, and overall at 28.8 points and 396.6 yards per game they just check in as above average. Now there’s nothing wrong with above average and I’ll certainly concede that when you factor in some of the tough opponents they’ve played the offense is plenty solid enough. That is solid enough unless it faces the challenge of having to try and match Oklahoma. Now it wouldn’t be fair to the Horns if I didn’t admit this is the toughest defense the Sooners have faced so far this season. That said I don’t think they can be stopped, best case scenario for Texas I believe is to be able to slow them down enough to hold them in the high 20’s or low 30’s and that would even be a very tough task. I figure to cover in this game Texas is going to need to find their way to at least 24 points or so. Coming off just 19 points and 339 points against Kansas State last week I’m just not sure they can get there. Then as I said even if they do they’d need to keep Oklahoma nearly 20 points under their season average to stay within the number. If they can do it, I’ll tip my cap and take the loss. I’ll just need to see it to believe it.
Arkansas (+35): Before I get going in this write up I’ll just say Alabama is the best team in College Football. Frankly I don’t think it’s that close and they are absurdly, ridiculously, good. All that said I do think that due to how good they are, and everyone knowing how good they are that this line is a bit inflated. I won’t bother to try and say anything bad about them or nit pick at them and try to find flaws that aren’t really there. Instead I’ll take a look at Arkansas who I really don’t think is as bad as things look on the surface. Sitting at 1-4 with 4 straight losses there’s no denying things look really rough for the Razorbacks at the moment. The losing streak started when they blew a big 2nd half lead and lost at Colorado State. They then lost 44-17 to North Texas despite only being outgained by 40 total yards. Next up was a 34-3 loss to Auburn where they actually won the total yardage battle. Then most recently a 24-17 loss to Texas A&M in a game where they played them even for 59:50 after an A&M kickoff return for a TD to open the game. So yes, while 4 straight losses is certainly not a good thing the truth is they’ve still been pretty competitive in those games. I would assume the game plan from Chad Morris would be to keep the ball on the ground and try to keep that explosive Alabama offense on the sidelines as much as possible. For the Razorbacks Storey isn’t much of a threat at QB and to be honest the passing attack is pretty pedestrian. That said, the ground attack is fairly solid and with the duo of Whaley and Boyd. Whaley missed last weeks game against Texas A&M with a concussion but they are optimistic he could play this week. The heat is getting turned up on Chad Morris and the fans down there are starting to get a bit frustrated with how things are going. This game is their super bowl and frankly it should mean a hell of a lot more to them than it does the Crimson Tide. For Alabama this is just another inferior team they have to beat on their way to what are much bigger and better long term goals. It also should help Arkansas that Bama has been calling off the dogs in recent weeks. In their last 3 games the Tide are only averaging 11.3 points in the 2nd half. For Arkansas it’s a chance to try and save some face, show some pride and at least keep things somewhat competitive. There’s no chance in hell I’m calling for an Arkansas win but I really do think we see an inspired effort and that they can at least keep this thing from getting too out of control. I see something like a 42-17 Alabama win.
Arizona State (+3): With the strength of a 4-0 start Colorado has worked their way into the top 25 in the polls and are having some people start to believe they could be a solid team. I however am not yet among that group. I’ll actually need to see them play a decent opponent before I start drinking the kool-aid that many others have already begun to. Their schedule has been very, very soft in the early going and this game against the Sun Devils will be their toughest test of the season to date. ASU checks into this one with a 3-2 record, but unlike the Buffaloes they are battle tested. They’ve already had games against Michigan State, Washington and SDSU. They were able to beat Michigan State back in week 2 and their two losses were both by 7 points on the road to Washington and San Diego State. Neither of which is really anything to be ashamed of. Last week when they level of opponent dropped they did exactly what they were supposed to do and beat the hell out of Oregon State 52-24. Herm Edwards is doing a nice job with this program and right now they have a well rounded and impressive offense. Manny Wilkins is leading the way at QB and he’s completed over 63% of his passes for 245 yards a game and 10 TD’s with just 1 INT. He’s also a threat with his legs as he’s rushing for about 30 yards per game to go with it. Keep in mind sack yardage comes out of your rushing totals in college so that 30 yards per game is more impressive than it sounds. On the ground Eno Benjamin is averaging 119 yards per game and over 6 yards per carry. Then of course at WR they are led by N’Keal Harry who is future 1st round pick and one of the best WR’s not just in the PAC-12, but in all of the country. For Colorado all the numbers are great, but honestly against the opponents they’ve played they better have impressive numbers across the board. UCLA sucks, Nebraska sucks, Colorado State sucks, and New Hampshire is an FCS school. They haven’t played anything close to a good team yet this year so all the gaudy video game stats they have need to be taken with a grain of salt. I rate Arizona State as the better team here and I’m perfectly comfortable taking them with a FG in my back pocket, even on the road.
Florida State (+13): I know FSU is down this year and their struggles with the offensive line and some of the early rough waters for new coach Willie Taggart have been well documented. That said, I’m just not sure what Miami has done to justify being a 13 point favorite in this game. We’ll start with the Noles before taking a look at some of my concerns with the Canes. Florida State has won 2 straight and is now sitting at 3-2 and believe it or not starting to get a little momentum going. I’m not saying they are great or even good right now, but at the very least they have things moving in the right direction and they are starting to believe in themselves a bit. Two weeks ago they handled Northern Illinois 37-19 and last week they came from 21-7 down in the 2nd half to beat Louisville 28-24. Now of course neither of those is anything close a marquee win or anything but there are signs of improvement. For as bad as NIU is, the Noles did hold them completely in check offensively. Then last week for as bad as Louisville is, coming back from double digits down on the road in a conference game is no easy task. The unquestioned leader of this team is Francois at QB who is as tough as any QB in the nation. This kid takes a ton of hits behind a shaky O-Line and just pops up, shakes himself off and keeps playing as hard as he possibly can. For all the flaws you can point to with this team, Francois is not one of them. This year he’s working on 62.5% completions with 9 TD’s and 5 INT’s to go with about 275 yards per game. With Nyqwan Murray and Keith Gavin he has a good but not great WR duo that serve as his favorite targets. The first 3 games (Va Tech loss, narrow Samford win, Syracuse loss) were no doubt ugly but I do give Taggart credit for not letting the wheels come off when it started to look like they were going to. On the Miami side the big news is the QB swap from Malik Rosier to N’Kosi Perry. Perry has been solid since stepping in and he seems to have given not only the offense but the team in general a shot in the arm. As you probably remember the Canes lost their opener in that Labor Day 33-17 beating at the hands of LSU. Since then they’ve won 4 straight, but have done it against weak opposition. I’ll agree they are the better team and absolutely should be favored but my number in this game is only 7.5 and I think 13 is nearly a touchdown higher than it should be. I see this as a low scoring, grind it out, physical rivalry game. In games like that 13 points are a lot. I think Miami wins but FSU hangs around and loses something in the area of 27-20.
Georgia Tech (-4)
Arizona State (+3)
Florida State (+13)