The Pac-12’s Playoff hopes seemingly dashed as Oregon’s CJ Verdell galloped up the middle of Washington’s defense six yards for the game-winning TD in OT in Eugene over the Huskies. Notre Dame flirted with disaster vs Pitt and Tennessee beat Auburn, snapping an 11-game losing streak to SEC foes! That Tennessee win also marks their first vs an SEC West opponent since 2010 and the first SEC win for first-year HC Jeremy Pruitt. Things are looking up for the Vols, except that Alabama is coming to Knoxville Saturday… (cue the losing horn from The Price is Right)
Friday October 19th
9:00PM Colorado State at Boise State (ESPN2) – The Rams were supposed to be developing into a pretty solid program in the reputable Mountain West conference; they had a brand new on-campus stadium, a coach who spent a good portion of his career as a coordinator in the SEC and have had players selected in the NFL. The Rams started the season slow (1-4), but following two straight conference wins, things are looking up in Fort Collins. Meanwhile, in Boise, the Broncos were hoping to contend for the Group of Five New Years Six Bowl game slot but a couple of losses have derailed that plan. Both teams are 2-1 in-conference and being in the same division means a win here is big, especially with both teams chasing 2-0 Utah State.
Saturday October 20th
12:00PM #6 Michigan at #24 Michigan State (FOX) – “Must Watch.” This is a battle of the brothers – an intense rivalry that historically has been dominated by Michigan over Sparty. However, Michigan State HC Mark Dantonio has completely turned the tables on the Wolverines. Since arriving in East Lansing, Dantonio has gone 8-3 vs Michigan. This year, Michigan State has been an odd team to get a feeling for. The Spartans started the year ranked #11, lost in week two at Arizona State and then lost in week five to Northwestern, only to then beat Penn State last weekend on the road. So are they the team that lost to Northwestern or the one that beat Penn State? One thing is for certain regarding Michigan State: they stop the run. The Spartans own the #1 ranked defense against the run. The Wolverines are 6-1 on the season and have won six straight, including last week’s primetime thumping of #15 Wisconsin (38-13). Michigan ran all over the Badgers, accounting for 320 yards rushing, and if they are able to duplicate that rushing performance against the Spartans, I’d expect a W for the Maize and Blue. Let us not forget the elephant in the room – Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh is 3-7 vs his big rivals, which includes a 1-2 mark vs Michigan State. Winning this game will put away the Harbaugh detractors for another week – but not for long – as they host Penn State in two weeks.
3:30PM #16 NC State at #3 Clemson (ESPN) – “Must Watch.” This game features two cream-of-the-crop programs in the ACC. This is also the last match-up of Power 5 undefeated teams from the same conference. The last two games between these two teams have been decided by a TD, including 2016’s OT thriller (Clemson won both). NFL scouts have been excited about NC State’s QB Ryan Finley and view him as a potential first round talent, but this isn’t the same NC State team that nearly upset Clemson the last two years. The Wolfpack are without their impressive D-line that starred DE Bradley Chubb (all four D-linemen went to the NFL last year). Clemson has been running the football better than every team in the ACC – sophomore starting RB Travis Etienne is averaging 10.25 yards per carry against ACC opponents and had 167 yards and 3 TDs against Wake Forest two weeks ago. I’m expecting a track meet here.
Colorado at #15 Washington (FOX) – Both teams are coming off painful losses, especially Washington, who had a chance to win their game on the road at rival Oregon with a last second FG last week, but missed it and then fell in OT. Colorado was outclassed by USC in the Coliseum. The Huskies and the Pac-12’s College Football Playoff hopes are seemingly over with that loss. It’s easy to suspect that Washington will bounce back with a win, but after watching Washington play last week it’s pretty obvious they have an offense that is struggling to find a rhythm. QB Jake Browning isn’t putting up the sort of numbers that he put up in his sophomore season when he had NFL talent at WR in John Ross and Dante Pettis. Ross left for the NFL after that 2016 season and Pettis in 2017, and it’s not surprising that Browning’s numbers have declined with their departures. Colorado wasn’t able to get anything going on offense against USC, as they slogged their way to a 7 for 23 on third downs, only 95 yards rushing, and 265 of total offense – a season low. All-American candidate WR Laviska Shenault injured his toe in the game where he missed the final 18 minutes of play, so he’s listed as questionable. These two programs last played in the 2016 Pac-12 title game (a Washington win). Who’s going to bounce back first?
7:00PM #22 Mississippi State at #5 LSU (ESPN) – Night game in Death Valley, sign me up! Those LSU Tigers are coming off an emotional and huge win vs Georgia last week as they physically dominated and humbled the then-unbeaten Georgia Bulldogs. Now comes the other Bulldogs, from Mississippi State. Mississippi State ran all over LSU last year in Starkville, rushing for 285 yards en route to a 37-7 slashing of the Tigers. The Bulldogs seem to have found their stride under new HC Joe Moorhead, as QB Nick Fitzgerald has returned to his running form. Two weeks ago, Fitzgerald ran for a season high 195 yards and 2 TDs vs Auburn and is looking to replicate that form in this game tonight.
7:30PM #12 Oregon at #25 Washington State (FOX) – Oregon finished the deal and vanquished their hated rival Washington in OT last week in a highly emotional and exciting game. Now they have to travel to Pullman, WA and take on Mike Leach’s Wildcats. How does Oregon handle the success? The Ducks are 2-1 in the Pac-12 right now, but cannot afford a slip-up if they are looking to win the Pac-12 North. Washington State has won the last three in this series and are sitting at 5-1 and 2-1 in the Pac-12. Both of these teams control their own destiny (winning out means they win the Pac-12 North), but the road seems easier for Oregon as they’ve already played the two bullies of the North (Stanford and Washington), while the Cougars have yet to play either of them. College GameDay is in attendance, so expecting a feverish environment and a kick-off in the mid-40s (BRRRR!).