This week brings us a few key matchups in college football. Unlike most other weeks, though, you won’t find these key matchups in the Southeastern Conference. Yeah, Alabama and A&M should be interesting and Arkansas has a great shot at handing the Todd Gurley-less Bulldogs their second loss of the season. The real action, with national championship implications, will come from outside the friendly confines of the SEC.
Let’s break it down!
#2 Florida State vs #5 Notre Dame
Notre Dame has a history of coming up big on the road in nationally-televised games against ranked opponents, especially when they’re big dogs. Two years ago the Irish went into Norman and upset the 10.5-point favorite Sooners. Notre Dame also has a history of breaking long winning streaks. The Irish snapped Texas’s 30-game win streak in 1971, and they snapped Oklahoma’s 47-game win streak in 1957.
Florida State is on a 22-game win streak right now, and were 13.5-point favs before the game was pulled off the board due to uncertainty surrounding Jameis Winston. Do I think the Irish will continue that tradition by pulling an upset on the road and snapping a streak of dominance all in the same night? Yes.
Even without my fervent personal desire to see “Famous Jameis” go down in flames, I would still pick the Irish to win this. FSU does not dominate like they did last year. In 2013, the Noles won their games by an average of 39.5 points. This year, their average margin of victory is a mere 18.3 ppg.
This looks respectable until you factor in that FSU’s schedule has included the likes of The Citadel, Syracuse, and North Carolina State. Notre Dame, despite their serious letdown against North Carolina last week, is a better defensive outfit and has the ability to score a ton. Everett Golson needs to eliminate the turnovers or at least keep it to maybe just one.
If he does that, the Irish will roll.
Notre Dame 38, Florida State 27
#14 Kansas State vs #11 Oklahoma
Great coaches shine in great moments. They shine a lot brighter with two weeks to prepare. Kansas State’s Bill Snyder is in that position right now, and he’s reminding any and all who will listen that it was Bob Stoops’s OU quad that beat the Wildcats 41-31 last year. With added prep time and added motivation, I give the edge to K-State on the road.
It’s not all about K-State, though. Oklahoma just hasn’t played great football in about a month. Joe Fortenbaugh at National Football Post writes that “after blowing out Louisiana Tech and Tulsa to open the 2014 campaign, the Sooners have converted just 33.3 percent on third down over their last four matchups (Tennessee, at West Virginia, at TCU, Texas).”
To be honest, the Sooners should feel extremely lucky to have gotten past a very raw Texas team in the Red River game last week. Trevor Knight has shown some slippage in his last two games, throwing for two picks against TCU and only 120 yards against Texas. K-State also has an excellent run defense that will put more pressure on Knight to throw. Which, if recent trends matter, won’t be a good thing.
K-State 30, Oklahoma 20
#4 Baylor vs West Virginia
If you hate defense, I strongly urge you to watch this game. It’s not often that a college football team, or any football team at any level, needs 61 points to win a game. That’s exactly what Baylor needed to get past TCU. West Virginia needed similar late-game heroics to get past Texas Tech. When you don’t play defense you’re going to occasionally need late-game heroics and highly-unusual point totals to win. The last time these two faced-off in Morgantown, the Mountaineers prevailed 70-63 in what was and still is the highest scoring game in league history.
This year’s winner will largely be determined by which defense is slightly less reprehensibly bad than the other. The answer to that question is Baylor. Getting Daryl Worley back from suspension is a huge boost for WVU, but Baylor simply has too many weapons for the Mountaineers to keep up with for four quarters. Meanwhile, Baylor does just enough defensively to hang.
I would in no way be shocked if WVU pulls off the upset. With Art Briles’s ability to throw up a basketball score in almost any given game, though, I’ll stick with the Bears.
Baylor 55, West Virginia 34