Florida State’s comeback over Louisville loudly announced the arrival of Week 10 of the college football season. Several additional games with playoff implications–Auburn-Ole Miss foremost among them–highlight Week 10. Let’s assess the matchups.
#3 Auburn vs #4 Ole Miss
The College Football Playoff committee cometh, and already, it hath giveth. The CFP committee ranked Auburn and Ole Miss right next to each other in the final four, just in time for their head-to-head matchup this weekend, and that has made all very, very, well.
Of course, it will be a short stay at the top for one of those teams and I suspect the short-timer will be Ole Miss. Yes, they’re at home. Yes, they’ve got a great passing game and a defense that allows only 10 points-per-game.
I’m remembering, though, that gut-wrenching loss to LSU last week; and a loss that brought back “Bad Bo.” Bo Wallace hadn’t thrown an interception in three weeks leading up to the LSU game, causing Hugh Freeze to trust his QB with the ball in his hands at the end. Needless to say, his trust was poorly rewarded.
Auburn’s defense lacks a natural pass-rusher, which doesn’t bode well going up against a team that throws as well as Ole Miss. They do have a very opportunistic secondary, though, that knows how to pick-off erratic QB’s.
Additionally, LSU showed last week that the Rebel defense can be run on. LSU runs with more of a power game versus Auburn’s perimeter/speed attack, but the Tigers exploded for 551 yards against South Carolina last week, with 395 yards of it on the ground. Finally, Auburn’s run-game has resembled its earth-shattering 2013 form, which spells bad news for the Rebels.
I expect an emotional hangover from last week’s game for Ole Miss, coupled with a renewed sense of urgency from Auburn. For Auburn this is the first of three games against highly-ranked opponents in the next month. If they want to make a championship run, it has to start now.
Auburn 24, Ole Miss 20
#7 TCU vs. #20 West Virginia
It’s irresponsibly dramatic to say this game decides the Big 12, especially when Kansas State, the only highly-ranked team in that conference that plays good defense, remains on the schedule for both of these squads. Still, TCU and West Virginia, #1 and #2 in the Big 12 respectively, make this a pretty darn important game.
West Virginia currently has a four-game winning streak that includes a win in Morgantown against Baylor, the only team to knock off TCU this year. I don’t say that to mean that West Virginia should beat TCU simply because they beat the team that beat TCU. Rather, I say it as a reminder that Morgantown tends to ground even the highly ranked and high-flying when they play there.
West Virginia has turned things around lately, largely due to better defense, holding potent offenses like Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma State to 34, 27, and 10 points respectively–basically, the equivalent of pitching a shutout.
However, a shutout, or the equivalent thereof, is not likely against TCU. The Frogs have the highest scoring offense in the country (50 ppg), which tempts me to go with WVU here, with Morgantown as the Bermuda Triangle of college football. TCU QB Trevone Boykin plays at far too high a level right now to have an off day against the Mountaineers, and Gary Patterson has proven too good of a defensive coach to allow his defense to collapse in another pivotal game the way it did against Baylor.
TCU 37, West Virginia 24
#14 Arizona State vs. #17 Utah
Finding our 3rd matchup to breakdown seemed difficult this week. However, Stanford is awful enough that Oregon may only need 17 points to beat them. Since I’ve been accused in the past of not giving enough love to the Pac 12, we will go to the Pac 12.
ASU has dominated this series, and won the last 10 against the Utes. This matchup carries with it the added importance of conference championship implications. Whoever wins this game will have at least a share of the Pac 12 South Division title.
The Utes may have a way of snapping ASU’s win streak this weekend. Utah has 35 sacks on the season, which tops all other FBS schools. Conversely, ASU gave up seven sacks last weekend against Washington. Expect continued endangerment of the already banged-up ASU QB Taylor Kelly.
The news isn’t all good for the Utes though, with leading receiver Dres Anderson out for the year with a knee injury. That will no doubt slow down the air show. However, the ground game remains strong with Devontae Booker who averages 166 ypg in conference matchups.
I’ll pick ASU to win it since they play at home and based on Utah’s injury situation. Nevertheless, it should be a great game. Notre Dame fans should definitely root for the Sun Devils in this one. ASU remains the sole-ranked opponent on Notre Dame’s schedule. The more highly-ranked when the Irish play them, the better ND’s slim-to-none chances of getting in the playoff become.
ASU 27, Utah 21