ACC: Virginia at North Carolina
Talk about a world of differences between the Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels. A month ago, the Cavaliers were undefeated and on the verge of cracking the top ten, while the Tar Heels were coming off a crushing loss to the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Now, things are much different for both teams and this game could easily decide who plays Clemson in December.
The Cavaliers have gone 1-3 since opening the season 4-0 and are barely clinging to a one game lead in the Coastal Division. In this four-game stretch, quarterback Bryce Perkins has thrown half of his total interceptions and only added three touchdowns to his total. The defense has struggled to get after the quarterback as well, recording just 10 sacks in these four games.
North Carolina has improved greatly since opening the 2-2. While they did lose to Clemson, they fell by just one point and were a two-point conversion away from pulling the then-top ranked Tigers. They fell in six overtimes to Virginia Tech and have rolled past Georgia Tech and Duke. With Sam Howell playing like he has all year and the secondary continuing to impress, they should be able to pull out a big win over Virginia.
Prediction: North Carolina 27, Virginia 16
American Athletic: 15 SMU at 24 Memphis
This is one of the few times that an American Athletic Conference games gets a primetime slot on ABC and people are actually going to care about the game. Both SMU and Memphis are competing for a New Year’s Six bowl berth with the former looking to stay undefeated and possibly give the playoff selection committee something to think about. This will be a huge game and could determine the West division champion.
Shane Buechele has been a huge get for the Mustangs since transferring in from Texas. He is ninth in the country and tops in the conference in passing yards and has 20 touchdowns through the air. Reggie Roberson Jr has been a great target for Buechele with over 800 yards and six touchdowns. They have been scary up front with the front seven recording 30.5 of their 36 sacks on the year. Rodney Clemons has been a beast as well, pulling down four interceptions.
Memphis has been great all year and they are back in the top 25 after a week sitting out. Their offense has been their strength this year with Brady White looking like a real NFL prospect and freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell looking like an emerging Heisman candidate in coming years.
This game is going to be a back-and-forth offensive battle and is really going to be about which defense makes the first big play. SMU is just a little better right now in that aspect, so expect them to make the right move at the right time.
Prediction: SMU 48, Memphis 42
Big 12: TCU at Oklahoma State
Just a few days ago, it looked like the TCU Horned Frogs of missing the bowl season. After a big win over Texas last week, things are certainly looking up for Gary Patterson’s squad. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are young and have made young mistakes, but the team is still very talented. This all leads to this game possibly being one of the best in the country this week.
The Horned Frogs pulled out a huge upset win over the Texas Longhorns last week and they now have a chance to work towards the bowl season after a dreadful start to the year. Jalen Reagor still leads the team in receiving despite quarterback play being subpar. Garret Wallow looks like a future NFL linebacker, leading the team with 72 tackles and 2.5 sacks while Trevon Moehrig has three interceptions.
The Cowboys looked a little lackluster in the last month, going 1-3. However, they pulled out a huge win over Iowa State, who was a contender for the Big 12 title game, last week and they have a lot more confidence going forward. The team is very young with a freshman at quarterback in Spencer Sanders. Running back Chuba Hubbard leads the country with 1,381 rushing yards, is on pace for 2,245 yards if the team plays in a bowl, and is only a sophomore. Oklahoma State should win this game and look to the future, which is very bright at this point.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, TCU 14
Big Ten: Rutgers at Illinois
Look, I know both of these teams have been in the cellar of the Big Ten for some time now, but if you look at the rest of the games in the conference, this one has an air of intrigue around it. No, neither of these teams will win their division, but the Illinois Fighting Illini have a chance to make a bowl game, something they have not done since 2014.
Just two weeks ago, it looked like Lovie Smith could be on his way out of Champaign after a 2-4 start. Then the Wisconsin game happened and the Illini pulled out a 24-23 upset on a last-second field goal. Then they dominated the Purdue Boilermakers last week 24-6. The team is sitting at 4-4 and will likely get to five wins against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights this week.
The Illini have relied heavily on their defense, as per usual with a Lovie Smith-coached team, and it has worked. They have 19 sacks on the year and Dele Harding has certainly been the leader, with 97 tackles on the season, which is fifth in the country. Rutgers is just a bad, bad football team and you can expect to see Illinois win this game walking away.
Prediction: Illinois 28, Rutgers 3
Conference USA: UAB at Tennessee
The Tennessee Volunteers are going to have to go 3-1 to get to 6-6 and make a bowl and if UAB isn’t one of the teams they beat along the way, it could be a rough ending to the 2019 season for them. This is certainly not an easy win for Tennessee, who has already proved they struggle against teams they should beat. UAB is also 6-1 and looking to win the Conference USA West again this year.
While the Volunteers have admittedly played better in the last few weeks, including competing with Alabama two weeks ago, the team is still struggling and cannot get over the losses to Georgia State and BYU to open the season. Jauan Jennings has been a bright spot for the team this year, as expected, with over 600 yards receiving. Nigel Warrior has been great on defense, pulling down three picks and recording 44 tackles.
For UAB, the Blazers are looking to continue their storybook return to college football after an 11-3 season in 2018 and a 6-1 start this year. Tyler Johnston has been nearly perfect for the Blazers and they have a prolific rushing attack with four players over 200 yards on the year. Kristopher Moll, Jordan Smith, and Garrett Marino have combined for 14.5 of the team’s 26 sacks. I think we are going to see another upset this week and it could be the final nail in Jeremy Pruitt’s coffin.
Prediction: UAB 21, Tennessee 17
Mid-American: Northern Illinois at Central Michigan
The Northern Illinois Huskies are sitting at 3-5 on the season and still have a shot to represent the MAC West in the conference championship game. The Central Michigan Chippewas are coming off a brutal loss to the Buffalo Bulls and face a must-win situation if they want to keep their division title hopes alive. It is safe to say that this game is huge in the MAC.
The Chippewas need to continue to exploit their two-headed monster at running back with Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis accounting for 1,370 yards on the ground. Kalil Pimpleton has been a threat all year and he will have to be that if Central Michigan is going to avoid an upset.
Tre Harbison has been great for the Huskies on the ground, going for over 700 yards on the ground. If he has a career game Saturday, then you can expect to see Northern Illinois get the win and stay alive in the MAC West race. However, they have not received much production from anyone else on the roster, so the Chippewas should be able to pull out the win.
Prediction: Central Michigan 33, Northern Illinois 23
Mountain West: 21 Boise State at San Jose State
The Boise State Broncos are coming off their first loss of the year when they fell to BYU 28-25 two weeks ago. They are certainly going to be out for blood this week when they travel to play the San Jose State Spartans. The home team this week has had an up-and-down season, getting big wins over Arkansas and Army, but they haven’t had that much luck in conference play.
The Spartans are led by an amazing passing attack with Josh Love at the helm. He is in the top ten for passing yards (2,355) and has a 15:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. They will have to keep Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither involved in the passing game if they are going to get the win. Brandon Ezell and Bobby Brown II both have noses for the football, each intercepting three passes on the year. That could prove a problem for Chase Cord, who could possibly be starting in place of the injured Hank Bachmeier.
The Broncos proved two weeks ago that they are a different team without Bachmeier at quarterback. Cord did not perform very well in the loss to BYU, throwing two interceptions and having his two touchdowns come in the fourth quarter when the team was down three scores. If Bachmeier does not play, we could very well see a huge win for the Spartans. They may have to rely on defense to win this game for them and that will fall on the hefty shoulders of the nation’s third-leading sacker Curtis Weaver. While it may be tougher for the Broncos to win without Bachmeier, expect them to still pull out the win and stay in the lead for the Mountain division.
Prediction: Boise State 27, San Jose State 20
Pac-12: 7 Oregon at USC
I am sure the Oregon Ducks have had about enough of any teams from the state of Washington after their last two games went down to the wire. Now, they have to contend with one of the most up-and-down teams in the country in USC. This could be an early preview of the Pac-12 championship game later this year and has a lot riding on it, so expect both teams to be prepared for this one.
The USC Trojans have had one hell of a roller coaster ride this year. The team started out with quarterback JT Daniels going down to injury in the season opener. Matt Fink took over and went down with an injury himself. Enter freshman Kedon Slovis. He has had a great season since taking over as the Trojans’ signal caller, throwing for 1,625 yards and 13 touchdowns. It also helps that Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns are two of the best receivers in the conference.
For the Ducks, they are one of the hottest teams in the country, winning seven straight since the season-opening loss to the Auburn Tigers. Justin Herbert looks like the first round prospect he was projected as all of the 2018 season. But it has been a great defensive look that has carried the team. Oregon has 14 interceptions on the year with half of them belonging to Jevon Holland (4) and Verone McKinley III (3). Expect them to make all the difference as the Ducks keep rolling towards a Rose Bowl berth.
Prediction: Oregon 35, USC 23
SEC: 8 Georgia vs 6 Florida
This will be the second week in a row the SEC has featured a top ten matchup and will be the second of three straight weeks with LSU and Alabama meeting next week in a possible 1 v 2 showdown. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is always full of hate and, for the last few years, has determined who would win the SEC East. The 2019 edition of the game is no different.
The Georgia Bulldogs are still trying to figure out what is going to work on offense after their 20-17 loss to South Carolina three weeks ago. The Bulldogs looked sluggish against the Kentucky Wildcats but still pulled out the 21-0 win. If Jake Fromm and their offense can’t turn it on, a mediocre performance will get nowhere against the Florida Gators.
The Florida Gators, on the other hand, have looked nearly unstoppable on defense and Kyle Trask has done a terrific job filling in for the injured Feliepe Franks. The offense has looked good, racking up nearly 3,400 yards total on the year, but they will only get better if they get all-around athlete Kadarius Toney back from injury. Defensively, you have to point out the team’s 29 sacks, seven shared by linebackers Jeremiah Moon and Jonathan Greenard. The Bulldogs have had the Gators’ number in recent years, but looking at the last few games, it is hard not to believe that Dan Mullen will get a key win in Year Two in Gainesville.
Prediction: Florida 24, Georgia 10
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern at 20 Appalachian State (THURSDAY)
Before last week, I would have told you that there was really no chance in Georgia Southern pulling off the upset over Appalachian State this week. But the team has rallied around a tragedy and that could lead to them having a ton of momentum going into the last third of the year. This game is going to be bigger than it has before with the nation watching on ESPNU on Halloween night.
Last Monday, the Eagles dealt with the tragic passing of freshman offensive lineman Jordan Wiggins. The team came out on Saturday and demolished the New Mexico State Aggies in an emotional win. The team has turned things around since a 1-3 start and is 4-3 and looking to make a push for the Sun Belt championship. With former Oklahoma State Cowboy JD King and true blue Eagle Wesley Kennedy III leading the rushing attack, they could be raring for an upset in Boone. Plus, the schedule calls for rain this week and the Eagles have proven to play much better in sloppy weather.
You cannot, however, overlook the Mountaineers and what they have done this season. The team is 7-0, the first Sun Belt team to ever do that, and is looking to make a push towards a New Year’s Six bowl. If they can stay undefeated and win their conference, there is no doubt the team will be playing in January. However, it’s difficult to overlook the Eagles’ emotional momentum right now. This will be a great game, but Georgia Southern will win it.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 41, Appalachian State 38 3OT