Henry Huber: This week in college football is a special one. The College Football Playoff rankings were put in place on Tuesday, and with that fact comes a lot of questions. How will Cincinnati respond to getting disrespected again? Are Michigan State and Oregon legit playoff teams, or just placeholders? Will Wake Forest keep this up and continue to climb? And when will Oklahoma finally lose? Some of these may be answered this weekend, others… we may have to wait.
But for now, let’s get into what happened last week. And man, was it crazy or what?
Three teams with playoff aspirations got knocked down a peg (four if you considered Pittsburgh to be one). Michigan suffered the dullest of blows, losing in a climactic battle against their elusive and highly-ranked rivals in Michigan State. Ole Miss and Kentucky each suffered rough SEC losses on the road, plummeting their chances of making it dramatically. And lastly, Iowa. Iowa has scored 7 points in each of their last two contests, getting dominated in both. Their path to the playoff was crystal clear but now it lies in shambles, their victory against Penn State a distant memory. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.
Henry’s Last Week: 3-2
Henry’s Season: 17-12-1
This was an exciting week. Some of my picks came down to the last drive, and others I didn’t really have to worry about. Let’s get into them.
Michigan -4 vs. Michigan State L
Amazing game. I was very confident in my Michigan pick for this one, and for a while, that confidence was warranted. The Wolverines were up 30-14 midway through the third quarter, and it seemed like they were going to run away with the momentum and the game. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Michigan State quickly closed the gap.
I expected Michigan’s stout defense to slow Kenneth Walker III down and man, was I wrong. The Heisman favorite ran for basically 200 yards and five touchdowns, which is just plain absurd. One of his biggest plays of the afternoon came at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Down 30-22, Walker III took a stretch to the right and turned it into a 58-yard touchdown. The Spartans would get the two-point conversion, tying the game with the momentum on their side.
This game was a classic, one of the best of the season in my eyes.
Washington State +16 vs. Arizona State W
I’m still not sure why this spread was so much in Arizona State’s favor, but I’ll take it I guess. Since their decisive win against UCLA a few weeks back, the Sun Devils haven’t been the same team. They were dominated by Utah in the week before this one, then they were dominated by the Cougars. They went from a team that could’ve contended with Oregon for the PAC-12 to a team that will be lucky if they manage to make a good bowl game.
It didn’t seem like they were mentally prepared for this game, and that’s strange considering the tear Washington State has been on as of late. They started the game off with two fumbles in their first three plays that transitioned into 7 points for the Cougars. Then, they followed those fumbles off with a successful drive into Washington State territory that ultimately resulted in a Washington State... interception. Yep.
Arizona State turned the ball over four times in the first half, with three of those resulting in touchdowns the other way, and the score at the end of the first half was 28-7. All the Cougars had to do after that was slow Arizona State down, and they did. Disappointing, sloppy performance for the Sun Devils.
SMU vs. Houston (EVEN) W
This pick was similar to the San Diego State-Air Force one I made two weeks ago. It involved two incredibly even teams facing off and giving it everything they have in an attempt to gain headway in the race for their conference title. In this case, these two teams are fighting to be the ones that challenge Cincinnati for the throne. The result?
A hard-fought game till the last second, literally. After a first half that featured each team going on scoring runs, the second half was completely back-and-forth. It started with four straight touchdown drives, including a kickoff return by SMU at its beginning. Houston appeared to steal the momentum, ending the trend of touchdowns with an interception. They had a three-point lead and could potentially finish the Mustangs off with a touchdown. But they were forced to punt and a couple of drives later, SMU lined up for a field goal and knocked it through with just 30 seconds left on the clock.
Overtime between these teams would have been crazy, but what we ended up getting was legendary. Mirroring 2017 UCF, Houston would return the ensuing kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown, and the game was over.
North Carolina vs. Notre Dame -3.5 W
I’m really hoping North Carolina finds a way to replicate the surrounding cast Sam Howell had last season because this is hard to watch. Howell did everything in his power to win this game for the Tar Heels, throwing the ball for 341 yards and a touchdown on a 77% completion percentage and rushing for 91 yards and another touchdown. The problem isn’t him, it’s everywhere else, especially on defense.
Their defense is abysmal. They have given up 40.3 points their last three games and against Notre Dame, a team with an average offense statistically, they forced just one punt in the second half, which is where the game ultimately got away from them. They are paper-thin, like running the ball through cardboard cutouts (especially apparent on Kyren Williams’ 91-yard touchdown run). You can’t win football games with a defense that’s that bad (unless you play in the Big 12).
Notre Dame once again played just well enough to win, encompassing the theme of their season (with the exception of Cincy of course).
Virginia -2.5 vs. BYU L
So… last week I said that BYU couldn’t score enough points to keep up with Virginia’s high-powered offense. How did they respond?
By scoring 66 points on 734 yards of total offense and zero turnovers. They were led by their running back Tyler Allgeier, who had the best game of his career, rushing for 266 yards and 5 touchdowns. He continued what has been a very impressive sophomore campaign so far, surpassing 1000+ yards and 15+ touchdowns in that game.
This game had the potential to be one of the craziest offensive games of all time, the only problem is that Virginia slowed down. After scoring 35 points in the second quarter, they only scored a single touchdown for the remainder of the game. BYU forced the Cavaliers to make multiple mistakes throughout the game and that was the difference here.
Jared’s Last Week: 3-2
Jared’s Season: 17-18
Hello winning football, it’s me. Sup.
Pitt -9.0 vs. Miami L
Oh Pitt. So close. Kenny Pickett threw a nasty pick near the end of the game to lose the game outright. It was a wild but enjoyable one. The Panthers still are at the top of their division for now, but that would have been a great win to have, much less cover.
Liberty -35.5 vs. UMass W
Yeah, Liberty won 62-17. So that went well! Malik Willis is must-see TV if you haven’t had the chance to watch him yet. Uber-talented quarterback.
West Virginia +7.5 vs. Iowa State W
Didn’t I say West Virginia would have a chance! Jarret Doege threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns! Even despite Breece Hall running for 167 yards and a touchdown, the Mountaineers prevailed. Such a tough season for Iowa State with such high expectations but that’s college football. There will always be a winner and a loser.
UTEP +11.0 vs. FAU W
Unfortunately for UTEP, their effort was not enough to win the game and set up an amazing game against UTSA for conference control. But fortunately for you and me, a 28-25 loss pays. UTEP outgained FAU 454 to 279! Hoping for good things for the Miners the rest of the way.
Kentucky +1.0 vs. Mississippi State L
I don’t want to talk about it. I just don’t.
My pride, my hope, my religion. Big Blue Football. Stifled by Mike Leach. Ugh.
But when the Wildcats turned the ball over four times, they deserved the loss. The important thing to do was control the ball, and giving it up via three picks from Will Levis and a fumble is not the recipe for success. Mississippi State took advantage and they are to be credited for it. This is only Kentucky’s second loss against the spread this year, to put them at 6-2 on the season.
Army vs. Air Force, 10:30 AM CT, CBS
The Pick: Army +2.5
These teams are very similar obviously, with both teams relying heavily on the triple option. But there are a lot of small differences as well. Army has faced two Power 5 teams in their last two games, and performed well in both of them, showing a strong ability to adapt but just being a bit too outmatched to finish the job. Army also showed another ability in those two games that is absolutely worth keeping an eye on: the ability to pass.
Jabari Laws is a senior quarterback that has proven himself to be an effective passer in a run heavy offense over the past two games, throwing the ball for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns on a 82% completion percentage. In a game that’s likely going to be a low-scoring brawl, this will surely come in handy, and I believe it will be the difference here.
Score: Army 20 Air Force 17
Liberty vs. Ole Miss, 11:00 AM CT, SECN
The Pick: Liberty +9.5
Hugh Freeze facing off against his “Ole” team? Don’t mind if I do. While I feel like Liberty has taken a small step back since last season, I also feel like their losses were somewhat fluky. They got upset by ULM due to mistakes made by Malik Willis, and they got off to a slow start against Syracuse. They have high expectations for this game against Ole Miss, and I guarantee they won’t be pulling their punches in this one.
Ole Miss is coming off a subpar three-game stretch offensively (by their standards), scoring an average of 28.7 points in those contests. While Liberty’s defense hasn’t been tested much this season, they had strong performances against UAB and Syracuse, two of their toughest opponents this season. They’ve given up just 17.8 points per game this season and have been especially effective defending the pass, and I don’t expect the Liberty defense to get blown out of the water against the Rebels.
On the other hand, I can see them taking this Ole Miss defense to town. Though their defense has performed better in recent weeks, they struggled to Bo Nix last weekend in their loss to Auburn, and I expect Malik Willis to have similar success. They won’t pull the upset, but they’ll at least make it interesting.
Score: Ole Miss 38 Liberty 33
Michigan State vs. Purdue, 2:30 PM CT, ABC
The Pick: Purdue +3
This is an interesting matchup for a lot of reasons. For one, Michigan State is not only coming off of their biggest win of the season, but they were also placed in the top-4 in the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings. With all of that, they are probably confident, which could lead to problems against a sneaky Purdue team.
Purdue is iffy against the run and that showed in their loss against Wisconsin. They gave up 100+ yards to multiple running backs in that game and they are facing off against Heisman front runner Kenneth Walker III, so that’s worth keeping an eye on. However, this also goes both ways.
Michigan State ranks near the bottom in the country in defending the pass and they are facing a team that’s top-15 in the country in passing yards per game. Sure, they rely heavily on it, but it’s effective, especially in big games like this one. The Spartans struggled immensely against Michigan’s McNamara last weekend and that would have cost them the game had it not been for the heroics of their running back. Couple that with a quarterback that makes occasional mistakes that’s facing off against a secondary that’s top-15 in the country in interceptions and there's a potential upset there.
Score: Purdue 23 Michigan State 20
Mississippi State vs. Arkansas, 3:00 PM CT, SECN
The Pick: Mississippi State +4.5
Three + signs in a row, I can’t tell if that’s good or not. We’ll see. I find a lot of the SEC matchups this weekend to be interesting, and definitely worth watching. Along with this one and Ole Miss’ matchup against Hugh Freeze, you’ve got Auburn-Texas A&M and Kentucky-Tennessee, so be sure to keep your eye on those.
Anyways, Mississippi State has played extremely well over their past four games (besides against Alabama of course). Meanwhile, Arkansas has stalled a bit, with Georgia appearing to have deflated their confidence a bit. They are coming off a routing of Arkansas Pine-Bluff and a bye, whereas Mississippi State is coming off a blowout of Vanderbilt and a dominant upset over Kentucky.
Arkansas’s secondary hasn’t had great performances in their last two SEC matchups, and that’s going to be where Mississippi State exploits them again and again. Their offense also crumbles at the sight of above-standard defensive play, and that’s something the Bulldogs have going for them. I still see it being a great game, but one that falls in Mississippi State’s favor.
Score: Mississippi State 24 Arkansas 21
San Jose State vs. Nevada, 9:00 PM CT, FS2
The Pick: Nevada -11
This is a weird one. The night games for this slate are somewhat subpar but this one caught my eye. San Jose State is an interesting case because they’ve been playing without their senior quarterback, Nick Starkal for a couple of weeks. The backup, Nick Nash, has started to get it together over the past few weeks, leading the Knights to their biggest win in a while against Wyoming the last time they suited up.
The problem is, I do not believe San Jose State will be able to keep up with Nevada’s potent passing offense. Their secondary is slightly above average, just barely ranking in the top-50 in passing yards given up per game, and I honestly don’t believe that’s enough to make it close. Couple that with huge differences in turnover margins, with Nevada ranking near the top and San Jose State ranking near the bottom, and I can’t see Nevada not winning by at least two scores.
Score: Nevada 38 San Jose State 21
Georgia vs. Missouri, 11:00 AM CT, ESPN
The Pick: Georgia -39.5
I know! 39.5 is too much right?
Well, in order to cover that big of a spread, you have to have a good defense. Good thing for us, Georgia does. Jordan Davis is a force in the middle of that defensive line, and Nakobe Dean zooms across the field like a missile. They rank 1st in the NCAA in total yards allowed and are unquestionably the reason Georgia has been so good. I just don’t think Missouri has any kind of defense to slow Georgia enough from scoring. The march to Atlanta continues for the Bulldogs.
Score: Georgia 52, Missouri 10
TCU vs. Baylor, 2:30 PM CT, FOX
The Pick: Baylor -7.0
Up the Bears! The familiar face of Dave Aranda has done such a great job of putting Baylor in a position to compete for a playoff berth this season, sitting pretty at 7-1. It’s all about Abram Smith on the ground for the Bears. Expect him to eclipse 1000 yards rushing by the end of the game. Aranda has his team on a mission, and with a date with Oklahoma on the horizon next week, I don’t see them faltering to a TCU team that just let Gary Patterson go after a long and relatively successful tenure with the Horned Frogs. Baylor is also 6-2 against the spread this season, while TCU sits at 1-6-1. I like them to cover and gear up for that game of the week next week.
Score: Baylor 35, TCU 24
Notre Dame vs. Navy, 2:30 PM CT, NBC
The Pick: Navy +21.0
You know what Navy is? A service academy.
You know what service academies do? Run that football.
You know what’s bad for teams trying to cover large spreads? The other team running the ball. And having Jack Coan as your quarterback.
I think Notre Dame wins the game with relative ease, but Navy’s record doesn’t reflect their physicality. I don’t see the Irish covering this one with as much possession as I think the Midshipmen will have.
Score: Notre Dame 38, Navy 17
Fresno State vs. Boise State, 6:00 PM CT, CBSSN
The Pick: Fresno State -5.0
My boy Jake Haener makes it back on the article. The Bulldogs are at home and sport a pretty 7-2 record. Boise State is no slouch, and they’ll play Fresno tight, but not tight enough. Haener sits 4th in the NCAA in passing yards, and I think he’ll pass the 3000 yard benchmark Saturday. The Broncos are middling against the pass, and I think Fresno State will take advantage. Bulldogs are 6-3 ATS this year!
Score: Fresno State 37, Boise State 28
South Carolina vs. Florida, 6:30 PM CT, SECN
The Pick: South Carolina +20.5
At the risk of being accused as just picking Kentucky every week, I’ll go with another SEC East game I like: The annual Steve Spurrier Bowl.
Remember when Florida played LSU not that long ago? Ty Davis-Price broke LSU’s single game rushing record. How about the Georgia game just a week ago? Zamir White and James Cook combined for 151 rushing yards. This Florida team can’t defend the run. And just like Navy and Notre Dame, that spells trouble for Florida covering a big spread in Columbia. With a similar two-headed backfield in Zaquandre White and Kevin Harris, I think the Gamecocks look to establish their ground game, and they’ll find success doing so. Florida will win, but I just don’t think their defense will be good enough to cover 21 points.