Once again the CFP committee has spoken, and once again they give us match-ups between closely ranked opponents with postseason implications playing each other in the same week. I did not include Michigan State vs. Ohio State in this breakdown. I believe that they will play a good game, however, I also feel like OSU trails so far behind the Spartans at this point that even a Michigan State victory wouldn’t move them up in the rankings.
The same exact reasoning applies for why I didn’t include Oregon vs. Utah. Plenty of games, though, could lead to major changes in rankings this week. Here are a few of them:
#6 TCU vs. #7 Kansas State
If you will remember, last week I called it an exaggeration to claim that the WVU vs. TCU game would decide the Big 12. This week, I see no exaggeration in saying that that the winner of TCU vs. K-State will decide the Big 12. They face-off as the two best teams in the conference, and also as the only two among the contenders who play consistently good defense.
However, these teams have traditionally played great defense; the difference this year lies in the fact that both have played great offense as well. TCU averages 48 points per game. Good enough for second in FBS. The Wildcats don’t fall far behind with 38 ppg, which has them at 15th in FBS.
Trevone Boykin played terribly last week against West Virginia, so expect a bounce-back performance from him. Especially at home, where the Frogs stand at 5-0 for the first time since 2010; a year where they eventually finished 13-0. Not that K-State is some kind of slouch on the road, the Wildcats most impressive win—Oklahoma—came on the road, and K-State has won four of their last five road games against Top 25 teams.
Nevertheless, I think their streak ends this weekend. I found myself hugely impressed with TCU’s win on the road in Morgantown. Moreover, they proved that they could win even without Boykin on top of his game, as B.J. Catalon showed when he compiled 105 yards and two touchdowns in the rain against the Mountaineers. Look for Boykin to bounce back and rain touchdowns on K-State.
TCU 38, K-State 31
#9 Arizona State vs. #10 Notre Dame
No bigger surprise existed in this week’s CFP rankings than the meteoric rise of ASU from 14 to 9 on the strength of a 3-point win against Utah. Although maybe the committee sees something in the Sun Devils that others don’t. Whatever they saw in ASU will be on display when they take on the Irish Saturday night.
Unfortunately for ASU, the other team on display will have Everett Golson. Golson, a master of mobility, extending plays, and finding open receivers down the field, poses a particular threat to the Sun Devils. Why? Because that’s the exact same skill-set possessed by one Brett Hundley, quarterback for UCLA, who used those abilities to torch Arizona State for 427 all-purpose yards and 5 touchdowns.
That’s the bad news for Arizona State. The good news? The Irish defense is a MASH unit right now, with injuries all over the place, highlighted by the loss of linebacker Joe Schmidt who had led the team in tackles. This game hinges on whether or not Notre Dame’s defense can keep ASU in-check, and ND’s defense has proved awful as of late.
Irish defenders have yielded 30 points or more in each of the last three games. Some good news for the Irish stems from the fact that while ASU ranks 22nd in the FBS in yards per game, they don’t score nearly as many points as their yardage output would suggest. The Sun Devils have only eclipsed the 30 point mark once in the last five weeks.
For that reason, I think the Irish defense does just enough to keep ASU at bay, while Golson has another arcade-game performance.
Notre Dame 41, Arizona State 24
#5 Alabama vs #16 LSU
At the end of this game the tombstone should read: “Something had to give. So it did.” Just who will end up giving, and who will end up taking, remains to be seen. But the epitaph fits. Why? Because the strengths of these two teams cancel each other out; LSU runs the ball better than it does anything else, and defensively Alabama stops the run better than it does anything else.
The Tigers have run the ball 50 times or more in six different games this year, and they’ve done it highly-effectively. LSU amassed 567 yards on the ground in their last two games, with one against arguably the best defense in the country in Ole Miss where they gashed the Rebels for 264 yards.
For Alabama’s part, they only allow 78 yards per game on the ground. On the other hand, except for Arkansas, the Tide has not faced a slew of great running teams this year. Certainly nothing like what LSU can throw at them. Leonard Fournette has gone full man-child in the last three games, racking-up 293 yards and three touchdowns.
Nevertheless, despite the greatness of LSU’s rushing attack, they need QB Anthony Jennings to play mistake free and make a few big plays through the air, which stands as a distinct possibility, considering the vulnerability of Alabama’s secondary. I’m extremely tempted to pick LSU here, with the Tigers 46-4 in night games in Baton Rouge under Les Miles.
Still, given their style of play, points will come in small amounts for LSU. They managed to best Ole Miss while only totaling 10 points. I doubt that, or something similar to that, will be enough to outscore a Bama team that features a great ground game led by T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. Plus, a potent air attack led by Amari Cooper. So I’ll roll with the Tide but won’t be surprised at all if LSU shocks again at home.
Alabama 17, LSU 13