It’s been a fairly tame period of action the past couple of weeks compared to what’s coming up on the college football Week 10 schedule.
The Bedlam Series, always a thrill ride, will go a long way to determining the Big 12 champion when Oklahoma travels to Stillwater to take on hated rival Oklahoma State. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are seven — count ’em SEVEN — matchups this weekend between top-25 teams.
With so many big games on the horizon, there are storylines aplenty to dive into. Here are the ones we’re looking forward to the most.
Will Jonathan Taylor play when Wisconsin battles Indiana?
Wisconsin didn’t have Taylor in the second half last weekend against Illinois. It only scored seven points without the phenomenal freshman running back, and the Fighting Illini aren’t known for their defensive prowess. The offense was stagnant without him.
So it’s worth pointing out that Taylor is questionable with a left leg injury heading into his team’s upcoming matchup against Indiana. The Hoosiers are a mite better defensively and can score in a heartbeat with their talented receivers on the outside.
Wisconsin has had the easiest schedule of any undefeated team atop the rankings and hasn’t exactly been blowing opponents out in recent weeks. This is why, in this scribe’s humble opinion, the Badgers are the most overrated team in the nation. If they lose Saturday on the road, the party is over as far as any playoff talk is concerned. If Taylor doesn’t play, that becomes much more likely.
Penn State must rebound quickly against Sparty
Both Penn State and Michigan State come into Week 10 with losses hanging over their heads. Losses that, quite honestly, should not have happened.
Talent-wise, the Nittany Lions are a step above their Big Ten rivals and should win, even on the road in East Lansing. That said, last weekend’s loss to Ohio State was absolutely brutal on an emotional level. They gave up an 18-point lead twice in the game, and there is plenty of blame to spread around.
The Spartans were always playing with house money this year. After losing nine games last year, nobody outside the program really thought they’d be as good as they’ve been to this point. They knocked off Michigan already — at The Big House, no less — and have a defense that is very tough against the run. Anything less than Penn State’s best will lead to the program’s second straight loss.
TAMU looking to play spoiler against Auburn
Auburn is coming to Kyle Field this Saturday and, aside from a narrow loss to LSU, has recently been torching teams. Kamryn Pettway is out for an “extended period” and could miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. This means quarterback Jarrett Stidham needs to step up big, along with backup running back Kerryon Johnson.
With three losses already and only one sort-of-impressive win on the season, the best Texas A&M can hope to accomplish is play spoiler to other teams’ dreams. If they do that, then the Aggies can earn a decent bowl bid and just maybe save Kevin Sumlin’s job. After the past few weeks, that’s not looking like a promising endeavor. But a big win over Auburn could once again put him in the good favor of the university, which put him on the hot seat before the season ever began.
Baylor’s last realistic chance to earn a single victory in 2017
The Bears have come close to winning a few times this year. Yet here we are, approaching Week 10. And Baylor is 0-8. Worse yet, they are facing three of the top Big 12 teams in the final three weeks. This means Saturday is the team’s best chance to win a game in 2017. They Bears will be on the road against the 1-7 Kansas Jayhawks, who, remarkably, are even worse on paper aside from that whole pesky win/loss thing.
It says something that Baylor is favored to win by over a touchdown. The two quarterbacks in this game will likely determine the outcome. Both can get streaky, but they both have a tendency to get streaky in a bad way, just as much as on the positive side. This game could be entertaining, if only in a morbid, so-ugly-it’s-funny kind of way.
Will the Seminoles keep digging a deeper hole or finally start clawing their way out?
It’s hard to believe Florida State was the No. 3-ranked team in the nation heading into Week 1. Alabama pounded the Seminoles into submission, took starting quarterback Deondre Francois out for the season, and Jimbo Fisher’s team never recovered. Now at 2-5, it’s highly likely Florida State is going to miss out on a bowl bid barring a comeback of epic proportions.
If that is going to happen it must start immediately. The Seminoles will be hosting a very competitive Syracuse team that already knocked off Clemson this year and nearly took out Miami two weekends ago before a bye.
The offense has to get better. Right now, it’s about as ugly as it gets. The Seminoles are 113th out of 129 total teams in total offense and 122nd in scoring offense. That’s … well, it’s not going to win many games.
The freshman James Blackman is drowning right now and has thrown seven interceptions in his last four games. If this team is going to win Saturday, he must take better care of the ball.
Bulldogs engaging cruise control
Georgia looks like the No. 2 team in the nation. If not the best. Alabama and Georgia appear destined to meet in the SEC Championship Game, where presumably that ranking will be determined once and for all.
This weekend, the Bulldogs are facing a South Carolina team that’s done better than most predicted, going 6-2. But the Gamecocks haven’t faced a single ranked team and lost to both Kentucky and Texas A&M. Needless to say, it’s not surprising they’re a 24-point underdog.
And quite honestly, if this scribe were a betting man, I’d take those points. Georgia’s offense is a steamroller. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are benefiting from a tremendous offensive line and Kirby Smart’s excellent, albeit conservative, game plan. And the Bulldogs are scary good on defense.
Potential for emotional letdown for Buckeyes on the road
After pulling off a huge upset win over then-No. 2 Penn State last Saturday at home, the Buckeyes are hitting the road in college football Week 10. Iowa is no powerhouse but could throw a monkey wrench into Urban Meyer’s grand plan.
For the Hawkeyes, this is the equivalent of their Super Bowl. The crowd is going to be 100-percent engaged. It’s going to be a blackout at Kinnick Stadium, and Iowa’s players will be emotionally charged to pull off another signature upset for their program.
Talent-wise, the Buckeyes should come out on top, especially given the way J.T. Barrett is playing right now.
But given the incredible emotion that was spent last weekend taking down their arch-rival, they need to be extra sharp to avoid this trap game. All it would take to derail this train is one big play by Josey Jewell and Co. defensively, and suddenly that last win means very little in the grand scheme of things.
Can Irish keep piling up huge wins?
Some still aren’t convinced that the Irish are for real. But if you’ve watched their games lately, you know that’s just last year’s 4-8 not-so-recency bias creeping in. This team is as dangerous as any in the nation. The only real question mark is what happens if budding Heisman candidate Josh Adams gets shut down against a top defense. Can Brandon Wimbush win games with his arm?
We’re not likely to find out the answer to that question in Week 10. Because while Wake Forest is very dangerous — just ask Louisville — the Demon Deacons don’t stop the conventional run very well. So if Notre Dame’s defense continues to stay hot and shuts down John Wolford and Co., we expect another huge win for the Irish this Saturday.
Clemson and NC State should be very tight
It’s funny. Clemson might be an easier opponent for NC State than Notre Dame was last week. The reason the Fighting Irish ran away with it was, quite simply, because they are a powerhouse running team. The same cannot be said for the Tigers, who can rip off huge gains but aren’t as ground-and-pound at the running back position.
This means Bradley Chubb and Co. will likely have a bigger impact going up against Kelly Bryant than they did last weekend.
We’re expecting a very close game when Clemson visits Raleigh Saturday afternoon. If Ryan Finley — who entered last week without a single interception — avoids a pick-six in this one, the Wolfpack can certainly pull off a huge upset.
Can Iowa State keep the momentum going?
One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2017 college football season has been the emergence of Iowa State as a monster slayer. Having already taken down Oklahom and TCU — and to a lesser extent, Texas Tech — this team has earned its No. 14 ranking entering Week 10, to be sure.
In addition to former third-string quarterback Kyle Kempt suddenly coming up as a brilliant passer out of nowhere, the Cyclones have been tremendous defensively. In their four-game winning streak they’re holding opposing teams to under 13 points per game, and that counts the 31 put up by the Sooners.
Iowa State’s going to need all hands on deck once again to beat West Virginia in Morgantown Saturday. Will Grier and Co. were outmatched last Saturday against Oklahoma State but still feature one of the most potent offenses in the nation. It’s going to be fun watching these teams duke it out.
Can Wazzu stop the bleeding or will Bryce Love gash them deeper?
Quite recently, the Cougars were sitting pretty with an undefeated record, a No. 8 ranking and appeared to be cruising. Then Cal and Arizona slapped them silly, and suddenly things aren’t looking great. Luke Falk was benched for the third time this year in the second quarter last Saturday and never got back in the game, despite the fact that his replacement, Tyler Hilinski, threw four interceptions.
Throw in the fact that it’s going to be freezing with snowy conditions Saturday in Pullman as the Cougars host Stanford, it could get even uglier for this team. The big question is whether Bryce Love will play. He was unable to go in Week 9 with an ankle injury, and the Cardinal barely escaped with a win against lowly Oregon State. Head coach David Shaw said Love is feeling better and will be a game-time decision, so anyone who likes to place wagers needs to keep a very keen eye on this situation.
If Love plays, then Stanford might just bully its way to a big win. If not, it’s anyone’s guess.
Bedlam will shape the Big 12
Electric. That’s the one word that describes what Saturday’s matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in Stillwater will be like. We’re talking about the No. 4 and No. 6-ranked offenses in the nation going head-to-head. Baker Mayfield vs. Mason Rudolph. And it’s for all the marbles in the Big 12 (probably).
Both teams enter college football Week 10 with one loss on their record, and both of those losses were against strong opponents. Whichever team wins Saturday will be in the driver’s seat to win the conference title, not to mention they’ll have a shot to make it into the playoff. Another loss will almost certainly eliminate the loser.
Anyone expecting a defensive struggle should find another game to watch. This one’s all about who can hold the ball until the end and hopefully win the game on the final drive. We cannot wait to see what happens when the Sooners and Cowboys clash.
Texas could pose problems for TCU
For those who might not have been paying attention to the Longhorns lately, know this: That defense is starting to come together. Texas has recently beaten Iowa State, nearly beat Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and then laid the hammer on Baylor last weekend.
Meanwhile the Horned Frogs are coming off their worst offensive performance of the year against the Cyclones. Kenny Hill threw two interceptions and lost one of his two fumbles, and the offense managed just one score on the game.
So, it wouldn’t be all that shocking if the Longhorns were able to force a turnover or two of their own. And with Sam Ehlinger clearing concussion protocol, Texas’ offense should be raring to go, too.
Get your track shoes ready for UCF vs. SMU
No team in the nation scores more regularly than UCF, which is coming off a 73-point performance against poor Austin Peay. SMU is also a very high-scoring team as well, ranking No. 9 while averaging 41.5 points per game. The Mustangs might just have the offense to keep up with the Knights. However, UCF is also doing a darn good job defensively as well this year. It held Memphis to just 13 points a few weeks back, and the Tigers have been torching other teams.
Watch out for Adrian Killins in this one. He’s a lighting rod — any time he touches the ball he has a chance to score (like this). The Mustangs have some amazing playmakers, too, like Braedon West and Courtland Sutton. It should be a blast.
It’s Brandon Peters’ time to shine for Wolverines
John O’Korn has been utterly miserable since the game in which he first replaced Wilton Speight, who’s still out with an injury. Then last Saturday after another stagnant start and his fifth interception in as many games, Jim Harbaugh benched him in favor of the redshirt freshman, Brandon Peters. Like O’Korn did in his first extended time working with the offense, Peters was the spark it needed.
As of now, it’s looking like Harbaugh is going to turn to his youngster again. And honestly he has to. O’Korn proved he’s too mistake-prone to leave out there. So now it’s time to see if Peters can do better. Minnesota shouldn’t win this weekend in Ann Arbor. But if Peters turns out to be as turnover-prone and inefficient passing the ball as his two predecessors, the Wolverines will continue to underwhelm.
Can ‘Bama be stopped?
This is a legitimate question every year. So far, the Crimson Tide have rolled over every team they’ve faced. The only team that gave them any trouble at all was, funny enough, Texas A&M. The Aggies aren’t that great, so this game served as the perfect opportunity for Nick Saban to get super pissed off about his team, which he said bought into the “rat poison” lies the evil media spews.
Like Bill Belichick, there’s a certain level of gamesmanship that goes on between coach and players. Saban used that game to put the fear of god into his players, and since then they’ve won their last two by a combined score of 86-16. Now, coming off a bye week, Alabama will host LSU, which is a natural and hated rival.
The Tigers have lost six straight to the Crimson Tide. You have to go back to November of 2011 when LSU was ranked No. 1 at the time to find the last time it beat ‘Bama. And that game went into overtime.
The big reason we don’t see LSU winning Saturday is that Alabama’s defense is too stout up front. The Tigers won’t be able to bully their way to a win, and quarterback Danny Etling has proven time and time again he’s not going to be the kind of passer who puts the team on his back. So, for at least another week the Crimson Tide should continue their reign atop the college football world.
ACC battle extraordinaire in Miami
Miami has somehow stayed undefeated to this point in the season. The Hurricanes have lately survived in similar fashion to Tennessee last year, which gave its fans heart palpitations every week until finally losing in overtime to Texas A&M.
The buck might stop Saturday, however. The Hurricanes are hosting ACC rival Virginia Tech, which, with one loss, is second place behind Miami in the ACC Coastal division. Though, unlike Miami, aside from getting beat by Clemson, the Hokies have generally been putting teams under their heel early and winning in blowout fashion.
Virginia Tech’s defense is better than Miami’s. Malik Rosier has more experience than Josh Jackson. And he’s at home. Still, we’re giving the edge to the road team in this matchup, and it will propel the Hokies into the ACC Championship Game, where they could very well get a rematch against the Tigers of Clemson, once again.
Arizona gets another chance to shine against USC Saturday night
East coast football fans who haven’t stayed up late to watch Arizona of late have missed out on one of the real treats the game has to offer right now. Arizona’s sophomore quarterback, Khalil Tate, has been putting the Wildcats on his back in recent weeks and is one of the most explosive players in the nation.
Tate was barely used as a freshman last year. He only started four games this year, all in the month of October. Since that point, he’s put up 1,583 total yards and 14 touchdowns, and the Wildcats have won all four games, including a 58-37 beat down at home against Washington State last Saturday night.
It’s going to take a real team effort by USC to win Saturday night in Los Angeles. If Sam Darnold has another one of his sloppy games, the Wildcats might romp.