College Football Games of the Week – Week 7
NEW YORK- By Robert Cowper
Each week, we’ll take a look at the best upcoming matchups in college football. I’ll try to focus on games that are easy to find on the dial, and not all on at the same time; my hope is that you can use this as a reference to plan your college football Saturday.
We all got spoiled last week. This week is a bit lighter on the quality matchups, but we do have two games that should be hard-fought battles between top teams and one game that could seriously impact the BCS rankings, which debut this weekend. And by the way, I’m not buying the hype on the Red River Rivalry, and left it off the list this week.
#17 Stanford at #7 Notre Dame, 3:30pm NBC
I’m willing to finally admit that Notre Dame is for real. They’ve shown up here in the Games of the Week more than anybody else, which is a testament to their strength of schedule. While most top teams schedule September creampuffs, Notre Dame was playing Navy in Ireland and battling with Top 25 teams in Michigan State and Michigan. Trust me, the BCS computer rankings will keep this in mind. The Irish defense is their hallmark this season. They are currently ranked second in points against (7.8) and haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game this year. Stanford, who is still trying to break in new QB Josh Nunes (1,145 yards, eight TDs) has had four of their five games come down to one possession. Notre Dame’s strength on offense is their rush game where George Atkinson III, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood have combined for 745 yards and eight TDs.
Expect a slow and plodding game where a late turnover will seal it in Notre Dame’s favor. Notre Dame 17, Stanford 13
#4 Florida at Vanderbilt, 6:00pm ESPNU
This is a textbook case of a trap game. Florida is coming off a huge win against then #4 LSU and is looking ahead to current #3 South Carolina next week. In between, however, stand the Commodores. Florida’s offense continues to rely on Mike Gillislee as their only source of offense. Gillislee has five times more carries than any other Florida RB and 10 more carries than QB Jeff Driskel has pass attempts. He’s amassed 548 yards rushing and seven TDs and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, so there really is no need for another option.
Similarly, Vanderbilt will be relying on their backs if they hope to upset the Gators. Senior RB Zac Stacy has 413 yards and three TDs. Freshman Brian Kimbrow only has 181 yards rushing, but is averaging eight yards per carry so he’s a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. Vanderbilt’s defense is solid, ranked 37th in the nation.
I think Florida’s dearth of a passing game will finally catch up to them late when they are trailing. Vandy will control the ball and limit Gillislee’s touches; I’m calling for the upset. Vanderbilt 20, Florida 16
#3 South Carolina at #9 LSU, 8:00pm ESPN
This one is going to be all about defense. If you remember that 9-6 barn burner between LSU and Alabama last year, I’m expecting a similar affair here. South Carolina’s top players, QB Connor Shaw and RB Marcus Lattimore, will be slowed by an LSU defense that is allowing 220 total yards per game; the Gamecocks are averaging 406 total yards on offense, so something has to give. Junior LB Kevin Minter leads the Tigers in tackles with 54 and also adds two sacks and an impressive 8.5 tackles for loss.
When South Carolina is on defense, keep an eye on DE Jadeveon Clowney. He’s likely the nation’s best defensive player and his modest stats belie how dominant he has really been. Clowney has 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. WR/PR Ace Sanders is a game changer for South Carolina; he averages over 15 yards per punt return and has scored five total TDs (one passing, three receiving, one return).
The margin between these two teams is razor-thin and will come down to one home run play that wins the game. The Gamecocks, in my opinion, have the more explosive team and will prevail. South Carolina 17, LSU 11
If my Vanderbilt over Florida prediction is true, it will throw a wrench in the opening BCS rankings. If rankings hold true this weekend, you would expect Alabama, Oregon, South Carolina, Florida and West Virginia to be the Top five in the first BCS. However, if Florida falls as I predict, you’re looking at a different landscape (especially if LSU wins as well). A Florida loss makes LSU’s loss to the Gators in Week six look worse; furthermore if LSU looks weaker due to their loss to Florida, South Carolina’s presumed win over the Tigers in Week seven looks weak as well. In my opinion, the standings would then look like Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia, Notre Dame (bonus points for strength of schedule) and Oregon State (helped that their game against FCS Nicholls State was postponed and not factored into the computer rankings yet; two Top 25 wins). South Carolina may end up anywhere between fourth and sixth.
I know, it looks crazy, but it could certainly happen.