Another week, and it’s another big week in the college football world (which is pretty much the only world I live in). Last week, I punished Ross a little bit for his uppity little “Studs and Duds” jab. I managed my first double winning record, posting a 6-4 mark in both categories. Meanwhile, Ross could only muster 4-6 outright, and 3-7 ATS. That brings our season totals to 56-30 and 36-49-1 for me, and 49-31 and 22-55-2 for Ross.
Ohio State vs. Minnesota
Ohio State is coming off of their biggest win of the season, and is looking to keep their newly rejuvenated playoff hopes alive. The Golden Gophers have been flying (or perhaps burrowing would be more appropriate) under the radar this season, but have a fairly impressive resume. They are also coming off of absolutely hammering a halfway decent Iowa team last Saturday. Minnesota has a brutal schedule to end the season, starting this Saturday. Their next two games are road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Keys to the Game:
Last week, I may have suggested that J.T. Barrett would struggle against Michigan State. That suggestion was wrong. Barrett accounted for 386 yards and 5 touchdowns and no turnovers. The Golden Gophers have made their living this season off of defense and forcing turnovers. They are one of the top teams in the country in total defense, turnover margin, and turnovers forced. They are led by the defensive back trio of Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Cedric Thompson, and Damarius Travis. These three have combined for 8 interceptions so far this season. Unfortunately, one thing the Gopher defense doesn’t do well is sack the quarterback. They are only averaging two sacks per game. I fear if they don’t pressure J.T. Barrett, then they will struggle to stop him and the rest of the Buckeye offense.
Prediction: Too much Barrett 41-17
JT Barrett has been fantastic this season. Last week he torched the Sparty defense, which many consider to be one of the better units in the country. The question for me is who will be the quarterback next season when Braxton Miller is healthy? The Gophers have had a solid season, but they are no match for the Buckeyes. Ohio State 38 Minnesota 14.
Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
The other big matchup in the B1G 10 this weekend is Nebraska vs. Wisconsin. These two will both watch and pray that Minnesota lose on Saturday, so that they may take sole possession of first place in the West with a win. Wisconsin was written off after a lackluster 4th quarter collapse against LSU in the season opener, but they have rebounded nicely since then. Part of that may be due to the return of Joel Stave’s luscious locks to the quarterback position. Nebraska suffered some national backlash after a near loss to McNeese State earlier in the year, but they are one of the few one-loss teams left for a reason.
Keys to the Game:
You can’t mention these two teams without mentioning the running game. Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah are two of the premier backs in the country. Imani Cross adds a nice second punch to the Husker backfield as well. I mentioned Stave’s locks in the overview, but the key in this game is legs not locks. The team with the most rushing yards will win the game.
Prediction: The Badgers come away feeling sweet as honey (get it Honey Badgers?) 23-20
Rushing yards will be aplenty in this matchup. Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon can both make a case to have their named called in NYC for the Heisman. The difference for me is Bo Pelini’s terrible record on the road. Against top 25 teams, Pelini and the Cornhuskers have lost 5 straight, and are 3-8 overall. They are not good when facing a team like Wisconsin, who can pound it all day long. Badgers 28 Huskers 21.
Mississippi State vs. Alabama
I hate predicting Alabama games. I really do, but this is one of the top games of the week and it needs to be done. Alabama comes in nicked up and probably still pretty tired after a tough overtime game in Death Valley. They did manage to escape with their dreams still intact, though. The injury to T.J. Yeldon and others is concerning. The opponent is also a little concerning. Mississippi State is number one in the country for a reason. They are one of three undefeated teams left, and they haven’t done it against an easy schedule either. Bryant-Denny is not an easy place to play, but you better believe the Bulldogs will bring the best they’ve got on Saturday.
Keys to the Game:
Crowd factor aside, there are a couple of key things for fans to keep an eye on this Saturday. The first is the health of T.J. Yeldon. Alabama may have a “stable” of backs, but Yeldon is by far their most proven producer. Also, having lost Kenyan Drake to an injury at Ole Miss earlier in the year, means that the cupboard is a little barer than Alabama fans might want to admit. If T.J. can’t go, or is extremely limited it’s a massive blow to both the running and passing game, and put’s significantly more of the offensive burden on Blake Sims. For Mississippi State, my message is simple. Dak needs to produce in both facets of the game. Alabama, particularly in the Saban era, struggles with dual-threat quarterbacks. The one knock against Dak’s game is his downfield accuracy. He will need to be able to throw the ball down the field effectively on Saturday to keep the mammoth Alabama defensive front honest.
Prediction: Alabama 28 Mississippi State 21
Dak Prescott is probably the Heisman favorite right now, and for good reason. Blake Sims have Alabama fans saying Jacob who? How Coker was on preseason awards watch lists I have no idea. I have a gut feeling that Alabama could blow out the Bulldogs and position themselves to make a major championship run. The Tide are dominant at home, but I’ll say Dak and company can keep it close but not close enough to get it done. Alabama 23 Mississippi State 17.
Auburn vs. Georgia
Another game I hate trying to predict. My alma mater vs. my biggest childhood rival. Last year was heart breaking. I was there, so I know firsthand. You better believe those Georgia guys are going to want to avenge that loss, but Auburn has vengeance of their own on the mind. The Tigers are looking to bounce back from a shocking loss at home last week to Texas A&M. They also need this win to keep their SEC West hopes alive.
Keys to the Game:
Whoever scores last probably wins. These teams combined for 101 points last week. They also gave up a combined 72 points. There will be fireworks in Athens on Saturday night. It is also the return of Todd Gurley. #FreeGurley finally happened, and you can bet that he’s anxious to run free on Saturday night. Auburn looks to run free as well with its potent running attack spearheaded by Cameron Artis-Payne and Nick Marshall. Roc Thomas and Corey Grant figure to contribute as well. My bold prediction for this one is a combined 700 rushing yards in this game.
Prediction: I’m sorry fellow Dawgs…Auburn wins 45-38
This game features two dominant running attacks and two terrible defenses. Auburn leads the league in rushing, thanks, in part, to Cameron Artis-Payne’s 1190 rushing yards. The Bulldogs get Todd Gurley back and now have a Hulk-like two headed monster in the backfield with Gurley and Nick Chubb. I realize Sam and I have the same picks so far, but a wise man once told me, “We ride together, we die together. Bad boys for life.” I’m going with Auburn on the road 45-42.