College Football Pick Six: Week Five
Autumn has arrived; leaves are dropping and so are Playoff contenders
It’s official. Our calendars tell us that autumn has officially begun effective this past Saturday. As such, the college football calendar is about to become crowded with intriguing matchups on a weekly basis. After four weeks, college football fans have a clearer picture of the sport’s landscape than we did during the final weeks of summer.
TCU looks like a Playoff contender after beginning the season unranked. Florida State is unranked after beginning the season as a supposed Playoff contender (obviously some of this is due to factors outside the team’s control). Clemson has announced its intentions of defending its throne and repeating as champions. Alabama appears determined to stampede every team standing in its path on the road to a third consecutive date with Clemson in a still-too-distant-to-speculate-about National Championship Game (although that’s unlikely to stop us all from discussing this possibility ad nauseum).
Favorite thing from last week
This is DEFINITELY worth a minute of your time. If there is one thing we can all agree on in 2017, it is that cute animals doing stuff at sporting events makes us happy.
Running Backs Run Amok
Saquon Barkley (Penn State) is a bona fide game breaker. He is a human highlight reel. He is college football’s most dynamic player and yet he also makes the crucial mundane plays. Having said that, he’s also hogging all the national spotlight.
As college football is experiencing a running back renaissance, Barkley is deservedly the face of the movement. But let’s take a few moments to recognize his positional peers…
Bryce Love (Stanford) is amazing. He has a blend of vision, patience, power, and acceleration that makes him a special talent. He leads the nation with 787 rushing yards through his team’s first four games. Let’s show Bryce some Love! (Sorry.)
Royce Freeman (Oregon) is equally adept at running through and running away from defenders. He already has 541 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State) is second in the nation with 716 rushing yards. He earns tough gains between the tackles and also explodes for game-changing plays when needed.
John Kelly (Tennessee) is a physical, punishing back who constantly churns out tough yards. Kelly can wear down a defense and he can generate breakaway plays. Kelly and his teammates face Georgia this weekend, a team which arguably has the nation’s best running back tandem in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. (Quick aside: I think Tennessee is far better than they showed in a narrow win over UMass, and I think they’ll provide a tough test for Georgia. I still think UGA finds a way to escape Knoxville with a win. 23–20 Dawgs.)
There are at least ten other fantastic running backs that I could mention but I’m already taking up enough of your time so let’s change the subject…
The Clemson Tigers travel to Blacksburg, VA to face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday night. Both schools are 4–0. College Gameday will be in town. Oh, by the way, these two teams both feature a top-25 rushing attack on offense. (Running Back Renaissance, y’all!) Clemson struggled to distance itself from an inferior Boston College squad. I think the Tigers will have a much stronger showing this weekend. The crowd will be revved up at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg and I think the Hokies will feed off the energy and play a great game. Ultimately though, I anticipate Clemson winning a one-possession game. 27–23 Tigers.
The Miami Hurricanes and the Duke Blue Devils also meet in a battle of two undefeated ACC teams. Miami has had an altered schedule so far due to the effects of Hurricane Irma so this will be its first test of any significance. Duke has outperformed expectations (mine, anyway) up to this point and is scoring 40 points/game during its 4–0 start. I don’t expect the Blue Devils to score 40 against the ‘Canes defense though. I think Miami gets a solid road win and passes the test. 34–24 ‘Canes… although, maybe Duke will outperform my expectations once again.
Despite any preseason shine that may have faded away, the USC Trojans are still undefeated. The Trojans will try to remain undefeated as they trek up to Pullman, WA for a Friday night showdown against the 4–0 Washington State Cougars. I expect a weird game because its a Friday night and its the Pac-12. I think USC barely wins and remains undefeated while many critics wonder what’s wrong with this team. 41–38 Trojans.
Friday Night Lights: The college football spin-off
I think the Friday night headliner between USC and WSU will have enough late-game drama and enough wacky plays to satisfy fans of the immortal NBC series, Friday Night Lights. However, this game isn’t the only one the sport offers on Friday night this week.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers head to Champaign to face the Illinois Fighting Illini. Nebraska just parted ways with its athletic director and many are speculating that this could spell the end for Coach Mike Riley. The Huskers are 2–2. If they lose to Illinois, the negative noise surrounding the program will only be amplified. Are there any parallels between the Nebraska Football program circa 2017 and the Dillon Panthers’ Football program circa Season 5? I can think of a few.
- Nebraska brought in a hot-shot QB (Tanner Lee) that is hailed as the program’s savior and is possibly just a bit over-hyped, like JD McCoy for the Panthers in the show.
- Nebraska has grumpy boosters and a fan base that is impatient and appears to harbor irrational expectations; the fans and boosters of the Dillon Panthers had zero chill and were always in the “championship or bust” mindset
- Nebraska ousted a successful coach (Bo Pelini) because of some philosophical differences and because the program felt it deserved a better coach; in Friday Night Lights, Coach Eric Taylor was unceremoniously ousted for similar reasons although Coach Taylor was more successful and much more handsome.
I think the tension in the atmosphere continues to build in Lincoln. 28–24 Illini.
Speaking of weird night games replete with drama…
Pac-12 After Dark
You know the drill. Everyone in the house is asleep. You cautiously tiptoe downstairs. You turn on the tv and immediately mute the volume so you won’t wake anyone. You scroll through the Channel Guide until you find it, that late-night program you know you shouldn’t watch but you do because you can’t suppress your urges. I am referring, of course, to the Pac-12 After Dark experience.
Live programming events usually favor one time zone, which is unavoidable given the three-hour difference between the east and west coasts in the US. Nearly all Pac-12 schools are located in the Pacific time zone. Therefore, at least one conference game per week takes place with a kickoff time that seems absurd if you live in the Eastern time zone. This week, college football night owls have two games to flip between: Colorado-UCLA and Cal-Oregon.
I think both of these games will be wild and thrilling late-night watches. Josh Rosen and the UCLA offense can light up the scoreboard, but so can any offense that opposes UCLA’s defense. As spectacular as Rosen is, Colorado defends well against the pass and I like its chances of getting stops on defense more than I do UCLA’s. 30–28 Buffaloes.
So far this season, Cal has been better than anyone expected it to be. The Golden Bears are 3–1 with the only loss coming in a competitive showing against a top-five USC team. Oregon is coming off a loss to an Arizona State team that, to be blunt, is probably not good. I think the Ducks’ offense paves the way for Oregon as it returns home and takes care of a less-talented Golden Bears squad. 38–24 Ducks.
Viewers that tune in to Pac-12 After Dark can always expect weirdness much like how Florida Gators fans can always expect a murky QB situation…
Florida QB Musical Chairs
For all the criticism that Florida Head Coach Jim McElwain receives, his SEC record as the leader of the Gators is 15–3. He has won the SEC East in each of his two seasons at the helm. He has done so without any semblance of reliable quarterback play. I take that back…as a Gators fan you can rely on terrible quarterback play so I’ll instead say that the program has succeeded without any semblance of competent quarterback play.
McElwain announced that redshirt junior QB Luke Del Rio will start against Vanderbilt this Saturday. Del Rio replaced Feleipe Franks midway through last Saturday’s comeback win against Kentucky. Neither of the two were particularly effective in the win over UK. I predict we’ll see three quarterbacks in the Gators’ contest with Vandy this weekend as McElwain frantically shuffles between Del Rio, Franks, and Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire in a desperate attempt to find a spark on offense. I also predict that despite this continuous game of QB musical chairs, Florida still finds a way to win thanks to its talent advantage at every other position. 23–16 Gators.
American Athletic Conference Splendor
One team in the state of Florida that does not have QB issues is the South Florida Bulls. Quinton Flowers is the signal-caller for USF for the third consecutive season and has helped lead his team to a 4–0 start. Flowers and his teammates are not the only undefeated team in their conference though.
In the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Navy, Memphis, and Central Florida are also still without a loss. At least one of these AAC unbeatens will fall this weekend as Memphis and UCF go head to head. Both Memphis and UCF have shown that they are capable of explosiveness on offense. However, UCF appears to have a much sturdier defense. I predict UCF stays undefeated and beats Memphis at home. 35–28 Knights.
I also predict that USF and Navy will both win and remain undefeated for the time being. The AAC is quietly putting together a solid collective resume.
One PSA before I go: Don’t claim “We Want ‘Bama.” Don’t even do it as a joke. It will ensure that your favorite team has its soul devoured by the ruthless Saban Woodchipper that is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Thanks for reading!
Extra point: Mississippi State-Auburn will be the best game this weekend (6pm EST, ESPN). I think its a toss-up game so I’ll give AU the nod as the home team. 28–24 Tigers.