Not a banner day for college football this Saturday–but it beats the heck out of golf. Saturday’s low-profile slate gives us fewer must-see matchups, but games that can reveal a lot about teams that are going to be competing for the CFP. Let’s dig in!
Should See Games
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas
Again, there is no real “must-see” this weekend. But there are more than a few “should sees.” The Aggies and the Hogs lead off that list. Texas A&M had one of the worst defenses against the rush in CFB last year. They appear to be significantly improved this year, but the Aggies have been playing out-of-conference games for the better part of the last month, and as Bob Stoops has reminded us so often, the Aggies OOC slate hardly looks like a murderer’s row.
They did very well against the run in the opener against South Carolina, holding the Gamecocks to only 67 yards. But Mike Davis only carried the ball six times in that game. Why does the Aggie run defense matter so much? Because the top two rushers of the Hogs come into this game averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Yes, they built a lot of that average while throttling the Nicholls States and Texas Techs of the world.
But they did manage to sustain 5.2 yards-per-carry against Auburn, and I’d wager Auburn’s run defense is better than A&M’s. So ground-and-pound and clock control will be key for Arkansas.
That’s the good news for Arkie. The bad news is that A&M doesn’t need a lot of time to score, and Arkansas’ defense is a hot mess. The Hogs surrendered over 13 yards per pass play when they faced Auburn, which boasts an offense comparable to A&M’s. Arkansas’s only chance hinges on A&M making mistakes, mistakes the Aggies aren’t likely to make after sleepwalking through the last three weeks of their schedule. Sumlin will have his guys ready for this. But A&M’s defense plays as one of the looming question marks about whether or not the Aggies can make a real run at the SEC championship. This game should go a long way towards providing an answer.
Texas A&M 47, Arkansas 27
Missouri vs. South Carolina
Stop laughing, this is a big game. Okay, you can keep laughing. But still listen to what I have to say. Yes, South Carolina had an extremely humbling win against Vandy, and yes Missouri lost to Indiana.
These are not great football teams. But the SEC LEast is not a great conference and if South Carolina wins this game, they could have an inside track at winning the LEast. Heck, even if Missouri would win there would be a few scenarios where that could work.
But Missouri won’t win. Why? Because South Carolina running back Mike Davis and his offensive line won’t let them. South Carolina averages 188 yards rushing since the debacle against A&M. I feel safe saying that if Mizzou can give up 241 yards on the ground to Indiana–at home–they can definitely get trucked on the road at Williams-Brice.
It would be wise for South Carolina to keep this game on the ground as well. As good as their offense has been, their defense has been abysmal. South Carolina’s defense gets very little pressure on the QB, ranking dead last in the conference in sacks. Plus, the Gamecocks secondary is a mess. Maty Mauk should have all day to throw to wide-open receivers.
Therefore, the “ball coach” will have extra incentive to maximize time of possession in this one and keep things on the ground, which should get him the win.
South Carolina 30, Mizzou 24
Keep an Eye on It
Florida State vs. North Carolina State
No, I’m not calling for an upset here. But keep an eye on FSU’s defense. Jameis Winston sat out last week’s game against Clemson, but Jameis Winston doesn’t play defense. So that in no way explains why the Noles allowed an atrociously incompetent Clemson offense to rack-up 407 yards.
North Carolina State’s offense is nowhere near as dysfunctional, and averages 502 yards and 40 points a game. Again, Jameis is back and FSU will win. But the Noles defense was more than exposed last week against Clemson. If they can’t rebound against NC State, then the speculation about the Noles facing a major upset at the hands of Notre Dame in a few weeks is going to be greatly increased.
FSU 45, NC State 31
Stanford vs. Washington
This was a game that many in the preseason circled as a potentially important Pac 12 match-up. Alas, it is still a Pac 12 match-up. But based on the way the two teams have played, one not likely to have conference championship implications.
Stanford’s defense has been great. But lack of explosion and key play-calling mistakes in the 4th quarter continue to plague the Cardinal. However, this game is being played at Husky Stadium, a tough place to play and it’s a huge step-up in competition for Washington and new head coach Chris Petersen. It’s a chance to prove that the Huskies offense, which has scored at least 44 points in their last three games, can be prolific against the likes of something better than Georgia State.
For that reason, it’s a potential upset and something worth keeping an eye on.
Stanford 30, Washington 21