Almost halfway into the college football season, some things are starting to become quite clear — namely that every single team is vulnerable in some way, shape or form. Last weekend was a case study of this as previously unbeaten teams Ole Miss, Georgia, Notre Dame, and UCLA all lost.
Cal is undefeated, Florida is on top in the SEC-East and Sark is a coach at USC. What year is it again —2003? With a show of hands, how many of you thought Cal and Utah would be playing in one of the top matchups of this weekend? Anyone besides the Cal fans? Yeah, that’s what we thought too.
For those of us accustomed to the traditional power programs of college football leading the pack at this point in the season, fear not — this week’s unusual matchups are still likely to give us exciting, down-to-the-wire games. That’s certainly been the theme of this season thus far. And there will no doubt be even more upsets and craziness this weekend as every conference, save the Big Ten, looks up for grabs.
You may be wondering — why I’m not talking about the results of the model last week? Well, in case you were too busy studying for midterms last weekend and didn’t watch any football, there were quite a few upsets and our model took quite a hit. Hearts were broken, tears were shed, but USC is off its bye week so we’ve still got something to cheer about. Alright, let’s get to the games!
|Day||Time||Home Team||Away Team||Spread|
|Thu||05:00 PM||Houston||Southern Methodist||-20.5|
|Thu||06:00 PM||Southern California||Washington||-20.5|
|Fri||04:00 PM||Marshall||Southern Mississippi||11|
|Fri||05:00 PM||Virginia Tech||North Carolina State||-6.5|
|Sat||01:00 PM||Arizona||Oregon State||4.5|
|Sat||01:00 PM||Mississippi State||Troy||-15|
|Sat||03:00 PM||Oregon||Washington State||-15.5|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Colorado State||Boise State||18.5|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Louisiana-Lafayette||Texas State||6.5|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Nevada||New Mexico||-10|
|Sat||04:00 PM||Texas-San Antonio||Louisiana Tech||13|
|Sat||04:30 PM||Brigham Young||East Carolina||-16.5|
|Sat||04:30 PM||Kansas State||Texas Christian||8.5|
|Sat||05:00 PM||Florida State||Miami (Florida)||-7.5|
|Sat||05:00 PM||Rutgers||Michigan State||19|
|Sat||06:00 PM||Nevada-Las Vegas||San Jose State||-12|
|Sat||07:00 PM||Arizona State||Colorado||-17|
|Sat||07:15 PM||Air Force||Wyoming||-13.5|
|Sat||07:30 PM||Fresno State||Utah State||14.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Florida International||Texas-El Paso||-8.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Mississippi||New Mexico State||-20|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Ohio State||Maryland||-20.5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Penn State||Indiana||-5|
|Sat||09:00 AM||South Carolina||Louisiana State||15|
|Sat||09:00 AM||Western Michigan||Central Michigan||15|
|Sat||11:00 AM||Bowling Green State||Massachusetts||-20.5|
|Sat||11:00 AM||Ohio||Miami (Ohio)||-18|
|Sat||12:00 PM||Boston College||Wake Forest||-20.5|
|Sat||12:00 PM||Eastern Michigan||Akron||18.5|
|Sat||12:00 PM||Toledo||Kent State||-15.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Clemson||Georgia Tech||-13.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Georgia State||Appalachian State||17.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Northern Illinois||Ball State||-2.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Notre Dame||Navy||-18|
|Sat||12:30 PM||South Florida||Syracuse||8.5|
|Sat||12:30 PM||Texas Tech||Iowa State||-6.5|
|Sat||12:45 PM||Central Florida||Connecticut||5.5|
|Sat||9:00 PM||Hawaii||San Diego State||15|
No. 23 California at No. 5 Utah (Spread: )
One of the biggest questions going into this game is how Jared Goff will fare versus Utah’s front seven. Goff has thrown for 1630 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season, but hasn’t yet faced a defense of the same caliber as Utah. Cal’s undefeated record and Goff’s four interceptions on the season mask the fact that he has struggled making throws under pressure, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs against Utah’s tough defensive line.
In a rout of Oregon last weekend, running back Devontae Booker had a quiet night compared to past weeks. Expect things to be quite different as Booker and the rest of Utah’s offense go up against a Cal defense which gave up 44 points to Texas (the same Texas team that really struggles with all things special teams).
Our model favors California in this matchup, but Cal is going to have to bring their A game in order to beat a tough Utah team.
No. 19 Georgia at Tennessee (Spread: )
While it always seems as if every college football coach is in the hot seat, Tennessee’s coach is truly in a must-win scenario to keep his job. Tennessee has lost three of its last four games and has blown a two-touchdown lead in each of those losses. The Vols have also allowed 172 rushing yards per game, so don’t expect them to stop Georgia’s running back, Nick Chubb, who has rushed for 745 yards on the season and racked up seven touchdowns or quarterback Greyson Lambert who’s also managed to throw for seven touchdowns. To stay in this one, Tennessee is going to need to keep up offensively, as their defense hasn’t been particularly strong and Georgia will be out for blood after their win-streak was snapped at home by Alabama.
Tennessee is in for a tough matchup this week and our model has Georgia slightly favored, but this game could easily be a blowout.
No. 13 Northwestern at No. 18 Michigan
Oh boy, a tale of two defenses. Both teams shut out their opponents last week. Funnily enough, one of the biggest obstacles in the way of Michigan and their continued shutout streak is their quarterback. Michigan’s quarterback, Jake Rudock has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season and he’ll need to make smart decisions this weekend because every offensive possession is going to count against Northwestern. Despite Michigan’s quarterback issues, Michigan does have its home field advantage going for it at “The Big House” this Saturday.
Washington at No. 17 USC
Well, hopefully the Trojans are well-rested after their bye week and ready to take on a familiar opponent here at home. With UCLA and Arizona both going through losses last week, our Trojans are still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South race and should be looking to use this game as another tuneup before our series of tough matchups to close out the season.
The Huskies are also coming off a bye and their last game was a loss to Cal. Washington has a very young offense and true freshman quarterback Jake Browning hasn’t thrown a touchdown against a Power Five conference team. This young offense is going up against a USC secondary that’s only allowed three passing touchdowns all season. Despite their offensive struggles, Washington has lost by a less than a touchdown in both of its losses, despite being outgained offensively 818 yards to 438 yards. This shows that Washington’s defense should not be taken lightly. Furthermore running backs Myles Gaskin and Dwyane Washington lead the Huskies’ running attack with 347 yards and six touchdowns, combined. With Washington’s quarterback struggles, expect coach Chris Petersen to try to get their running game started early in the game.
Questions raised about Justin Wilcox’s defense were quieted after the game against the Sun Devils where the Trojan defense came up with four key turnovers. Regardless, USC’s run defense will have to step up against the Huskies. Our rushing defense has allowed 164 yards per game and they’re going up against a team that’s going to be relying primarily on their rush offense for most, if not all of their offensive production. If the Trojans can limit the run and put pressure on Jake Browning, the Trojans should be in the clear.
But USC’s defense isn’t the only group that needs to make some adjustments for this Thursday’s game. USC’s offensive tempo is significantly lower this year at 66 plays per game. Look for Sark to up the tempo and focus on improving third down conversions to keep our offense on the field for as long as possible.
Our model has USC as the favorite for this game but when it comes to USC football the adage “one step (game) at a time” is key.
Data provided by cfbstats.com
Team logos courtesy of sportslogos.net
Patrick Vossler is a senior majoring in economics. His column, “College Football Pick’em,” runs every week.