Don’t be fooled by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any marquee matchups on this weekend’s college football schedule. By the time Sunday rolls around, there’ll be plenty of, “I can’t believe such-and-such beat so-and-so,” going around.
Wednesday night’s game between Troy vs South Alabama seemed to be pretty predictable, right? After all, Troy had dispatched heavily favored LSU on the road a night in Death Valley two weeks ago, 24-21. The talking heads on television kept alluding to that in defense of their laughter directed at South Alabama’s chances.
And what happened? Backup running back Tra Minter had 104 total yards, South Alabama’s defense and special teams forced four turnovers, and the Jaguars upset the Trojans 19-8.
That set the tone for what we’ll see this weekend. Anytime the schedule of games looks bland, especially at the midway point of the season when fans and analysts think they’ve figured out who’s-who and what’s-what, is typically when the most chaos will ensue.
No.1 Alabama is favored by 30 points against Arkansas, who is coming off a 48-22 loss at South Carolina. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban was furious with their showing in last week’s 27-19 win over a tough Texas A&M squad.
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So don’t expect Alabama to walk in against the Razorbacks with a sense of entitlement and complacency, especially after hearing Saban rant all week. The Crimson Tide will roll over Arkansas and look like the team that smashed its first two SEC opponents by a combined score of 125-3.
No. 2 Clemson has the nation’s longest active winning streak overall with 11 in a row and they’ve won 12 consecutive games on the road.
Even with Clemson’s questions at quarterback due to Kelly Bryant’s injured ankle, and even if a time machine could import Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Larry Csonka, Donovan McNabb, Art Monk and Marvin Harrison, they’d still have their hands full against the Tigers formidable defense. But don’t be surprised if Dino Babers’ Orangemen and their fast-paced offense gives the Tigers a run for their money in the Carrier Dome.
No. 3 Penn State is idle and No. 4 Georgia will be in full Rick James mode, asking Missouri, “What did the five fingers say to the face?“, before dispatching them with relative ease.
5 Georgia Bulldogs at Vanderbilt Commodores
But after that, all bets are off.
Few teams have had a better two-game stretch this year than No.6 TCU has with their wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia. But beating Kansas State on Saturday night will not be easy.
No. 8 Washington State has been one of the best stories thus far this year, with an explosive offense and what looks to be a dominant defense. Cal has lost three games in a row, but if the Cougars are looking past the Bears and towards their later tests against Washington and Stanford with an eye towards a coveted playoff slot, they could be in for a rude awakening.
Luke Falk threw for 340 yards and broke the Pac-12 record for all-time completions in No. 16 Washington State’s 30-27 upset win over No. 5 USC on Friday night in Pullman.
No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 11 Miami, No. 13 USC, No. 17 Michigan, No. 20 North Carolina State, No. 23 Stanford and No. 24 Texas Tech better not fall asleep at the wheel either, because they could get knocked out by their respective opponents – Purdue, Georgia Tech, Utah, Indiana, Pitt, Oregon and West Virginia respectively.
Those matchups might not look very sexy right now, but Saturday night’s highlight reels will tell a different story. Some teams will realize that this was a weekend that they should have circled on the calendar, and will regret not doing so.
The one game not to miss will be Texas vs Oklahoma, because The Red River Rivalry is one of the best rivalries in all of college football, regardless of each team’s record or ranking. This will be the 112th time they’ve played one another in this legendary series.
“Sooners Never Win and Winners never Sooner!” A tribute to the Red River Shootout which features the nation greatest college football rivalry, The University of Texas Longhorns vs The University of Oklahoma Sooners. The video features numerous highlights with specific emphasis on the rivalry’s key moments up to the 2008 game when I made it.
The Sooners are reeling after their shocking upset loss to Iowa State, but they still have a shot at a Big 12 title and perhaps an outside hope of gaining a playoff invitation. The Longhorns suffered two early losses, but they’re undefeated in conference play and sit atop the Big 12 standings at 2-0 alongside TCU.
The Sooners’ ability to defend the pass has been more atrocious than Shaq’s acting in Kazaam. They’ve given up 831 passing yards in two conference games, and they haven’t even seen one of the league’s top aerial attacks. They made Iowa State walk-on senior transfer Kyle Kempt looking as sharp as Kyle korver from deep with the Hawks when he lit Oklahoma up for 343 yards and three touchdowns.
Texas has a crew of big receivers, led by 6-foot-6 Collin Johnson. He’s caught 25 passes for 485 yards this year. But the Longhorns need to find a running game to keep the Sooners off balance. Without last year’s Doak Walker Award winner D’Onta Foreman, who has taken his talents to the Houston Texans, Texas’ ground game has not been pumping fear through the hearts of any of their opposing coaches.
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The best player on the field on Saturday afternoon will be Oklahoma’s exceptional QB Baker Mayfield. He’s completed 75% of his passing attempts this year for 1,635 yards and 15 touchdowns, and has not tossed one interception. He’s on the short list of Heisman favorites alongside Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Stanford’s Bryce Love and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Sooners have one of college football’s best pass rushers in defensive end/linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who got busier than a horny rabbit in their 31-16 win over Ohio State.
When the Loghorns are on defense, keep your eyes on their stellar safety DeShon Elliott, who leads the Big 12 with five interceptions. He’s picked off passes in each of their last three games. He also has 24 tackles, three pass breakups, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Linebacker Malik Jefferson is a force to be reckoned with as well with 43 tackles with a team-high five of those coming behind the line of scrimmage, 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.
In order for Texas to win, Elliott and Jefferson will have to disrupt Mayfield’s ability to create something out of nothing.
Don’t be fooled by the schedule, this weekend’s games will provide plenty of fireworks.