College Football Games of the Week – Week 8
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.
#6 LSU at #18 Texas A&M, 12pm ESPN
This is a huge game for the LSU Tigers. If LSU falls to SEC rookie Texas A&M, their championship hopes, and possibly their dynastic aspirations, may be squashed. They continue to get pedestrian play out of QB Zach Mettenberger; he ranks 64th in QB rating and 94th in TDs (with six). Maybe I’m too early on my sky-is-falling caution because the Tigers do have two playmakers on offense in RB Kenny Hilliard (415 yards, six TD) and WR Odell Beckham (385 yards, two TDs) and a great defense (eighth in scoring defense, second in yards allowed), but it’s a gut feeling.
The Aggies’ offensive counting numbers look great (47 points per game, 307.8 passing yards per game, 235.8 rushing yards per game) but their defensive numbers are sullied by a shootout against NCAA’s highest scoring team: Louisiana Tech. A&M is better than they are getting credit for in the polls (18-20 depending on which poll), but they don’t have the talent to keep up with LSU. Aggie DL Damontre Moore is a stud; he has 52 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. If they move him around the defensive line to keep Mettenberger guessing, maybe he can force a key turnover.
Despite the Aggies’ high powered offense, I expect this to be a defensive battle where Moore and LSU LB Kevin Minter steal the spotlight. LSU 17, Texas A&M 15
#7 South Carolina, #2 Florida, 3:30pm CBS
This game has a ton of BCS implications. South Carolina dropped in the rankings due to their loss last week to LSU, and Florida leapfrogged the idle Oregon Ducks. Florida’s remaining schedule, including heavyweights Georgia and Florida State, looks a bit easier after recent losses by the Bulldogs and Seminoles. If they can hold serve, I think it will be tough for Oregon to regain #2 (Oregon’s remaining key games suffered a similar hit when USC and Stanford both suffered losses; Oregon State remains unbeaten but I don’t imagine that will continue).
South Carolina’s All-American RB Marcus Lattimore may miss the game, as he is questionable and has not practiced. That would obviously be a huge blow, but at least they have the experienced Kenny Miles to fill in. Miles averages 4.56 yards per carry for his career and has amassed 1,082 rushing yards over four years of spot duty. Despite QB Connor Shaw’s hype this season, he has yet to hit 1,000 yards passing (910). Shaw, however, is the team’s second leading rusher with 282 yards. LB Shaq Wilson leads the team with 44 tackles and has also contributed two interceptions. Highly touted DE Jadeveon Clowney disappointed me in the LSU game, so he should be looking to rebound.
All season long, I’ve been bashing Florida QB Jeff Driskel and it’s time to relent; while my assertion that he is a below average college QB still holds true, he adds alot on the ground and has a touch of clutch. Driskel had an unreal 177 yards rushing and three TDs against Vanderbilt (full disclosure: I was rooting for Driskel to fail since I picked Vandy in the upset), including a game clinching 70 yarder late in the 4th quarter. The defense is largely a no-name group (compared to previous seasons at least) but is led by senior LB Jon Bostic (33 tackles, three sacks). They are 5th in the nation in scoring defense.
The outcome of this one, in my opinion, comes down to Lattimore. If he plays, the Gamecocks should control the clock and get the win. Without him, though, I’m not sure the South Carolina offense can crack the Gators defense. Since it’s unlikely he plays, I’ll assume it’s Miles who gets the start. Florida 20, South Carolina 14
#4 Kansas State at #13 West Virginia, 7pm FOX
These offenses are averaging a combined 86.5 points per game. If you’re a betting man, take the over.
Much like Shaw and Driskel, K-State QB Collin Klein hasn’t put up big numbers in the passing game (1,074 yards, seven TDs), but he more than makes up for it on the ground (510 yards, 10 TDs). Klein has the same number of carries, 98, as starting RB John Hubert (606 yards, eight TDs). Freshman RB Daniel Sams has only been given 20 carries, but he’s averaging 9.7 yards per carry and has three TDs. The defense has not allowed more than 21 points in a contest, despite matchups with Miami and Oklahoma. Senior LB Arthur Brown leads the team in tackles with 47, but they haven’t had many big plays on defense. As a unit, they only have six interceptions (NCAA leader TCU has 15) and 13 sacks (NCAA leader Tulsa has 31).
Last week’s poor showing against Texas Tech showed how fickle it can be when you rely solely on your offense to win football games. The Mountaineers defense is ranked 111th (of 124) and is allowing 37.3 points per game. QB Geno Smith is the current favorite for the Heisman and has put up gaudy numbers. He has 2,271 yards and 25 TDs through six games. Combined, Shaw, Driskel and Klein have 2,820 yards and 20 TDs in three times as many games. I love WR Tavon Austin (67 receptions, 761 yards, eight TDs). Defenses also need to key on touchdown machine Stedman Bailey (55 catches, 766 yards, 14 TDs). The defense is young, they returned just 6 starters on defense this season, and led by redshirt freshman LB Isaiah Bruce (57 tackles, fumble return TD).
West Virginia’s inexperienced defense will not be able to cope with the dual-threat QB Klein. The Wildcats will have to put up points early to keep pace with the Mountaineers, but their ability to control the ball will help them pull it out late. Kansas State 38, West Virginia 35