James Madison -7.5 Points
Over/Under 63 Points
For the first time in six seasons, the Football Championship Series (FCS) will have a champion not named North Dakota State. The Bison had captured the previous five titles, but were upset in the national semifinals by James Madison (13-1). The Dukes will face Youngstown State (12-3) in Frisco, Texas, on Friday night for the FCS title.
Youngstown State is no stranger to FCS title games. The Penguins have appeared in six and have claimed four national championships winning in 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1997. Former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has guided the Penguins back to the title game with an emphasis on a strong running game and a powerful defense. Last week, YSU got a last-second touchdown pass from QB Hunter Wells to TE Kevin Rader who made an acrobatic catch pinning the ball on the back of Eastern Washington defender Kenter Kupp.
The Penguins are led by running backs Jody Webb (1,301 yards rushing) and Martin Ruiz (1,163). Webb recorded his sixth straight game of 200-plus all-purpose yards in the semifinal win over Eastern Washington. YSU is 6-0 in those games. The Penguins defense is equally good. Pelini’s unit is ninth in the nation in scoring defense (19.4 points per game), ninth in sacks per game (3.17), and has given up just 10 rushing touchdowns the entire season.
James Madison pulled one of the biggest FCS upsets in recent history when they beat defending champ North Dakota State in the Fargo Dome 27-17 in the semifinals. The Dukes have the No. 2 scoring offense (48 points a game) that is led by running back Khalid Abdullah who is second in the nation in rushing with 1,708 yards. JMU is fourth nationally in rushing averaging 284.6 yards per game. If the Dukes are able to have success against Youngstown State, head coach Mike Houston might add a second national title to the trophy case. JMU won a national title in 2004.
Alabama -6.5 Points
Over/Under 51 Points
It is just what college football needed – a national championship rematch. Alabama and Clemson will play again for the College Football Playoff national title next Monday. Remember, a year ago Alabama outlasted QB Deshaun Watson and his Tigers in a 45-40 victory. This year’s Crimson Tide defense might be head coach Nick Saban’s best and the offense blossomed this season. For Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, a win is going to come down controlling the tempo of Monday night’s game.
Alabama shut down a powerful Washington offense in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the first of two national semifinals. The Huskies actually scored first grabbing a 7-0 lead and then were promptly stifled to the tune of 194 total yards. Washington was held to 44 rushing yards and a 1.5 average per rush. This is the type of thing that Alabama has done all year. Opponents have averaged just 63.4 rush yards and 11.8 points (both lowest in the nation) against the Crimson Tide. In last year’s title game, Clemson did rush for 145 yards and score 40 points.
The big difference for Clemson this year is likely the defense. The Tigers defense, led by coordinator Brent Venables, shut out an Ohio State offense that averaged over 40 points a game in a 31-0 victory in Clemson’s semifinal. Clemson manhandled the Buckeyes allowing just 88 yards rushing, 215 total yards, and forced three turnovers. The Tigers will have to stop an Alabama running game that pounded Washington for 269 rushing yards, 180 of which were by 230-pound Bo Scarborough. The Tide averaged 5.4 yards per carry and controlled the tempo of the game. That is what Clemson cannot allow if it is to pull the upset.
Michigan -7 Points
Over/Under 52 Points
Sixth-ranked Michigan (10-2) looks to cap its 2016 season with a win after losing two of their final three regular season games in the Capital One Orange Bowl against Florida State. The Seminoles’ season, like the Wolverines, didn’t turn out exactly as they had hoped. Both teams entered the 2016 season as College Football Playoff contenders. Florida State’s chances of playing in the CFP were dashed early in the season when they fell 63-20 to Louisville and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. For Michigan, it was a season-ending loss to Ohio State that removed the Wolverines from contention.
The Orange Bowl will pit one of the nation’s best running backs, Dalvin Cook, against the 13th-best run defense in the nation. Michigan also ranks second in scoring defense allowing just 12.5 points per game. Jabrill Peppers, a Heisman Finalist, is a jack-of-all-trades defender aligning all over the field and disrupting opposing offenses. Peppers has 16 tackles for loss, four sacks, and is excellent in pass coverage. He is extremely versatile and will return punts and kickoffs and even take some snaps on offense.
The Michigan offense will have starting quarterback Wilton Speight back after missing the final two games of the season with a collarbone injury. The Wolverines offense relies on a power running game, but depends upon Speight to be efficient in the passing game. The Seminoles defense suffered a severe blow when All-American free safety Derwin James was injured early in the season. He has not played since and Florida State gives up an uncharacteristic 24.4 points per game.
Alabama -13.5 Points
Over/Under 54 Points
Washington (12-1), winners of the Pac-12 title, will take on the nation’s No. 1 team, Alabama (13-0), in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the first College Football Playoff semifinal on New Year’s Eve. The Huskies, who surprised everyone but themselves this season, put up points on offense by the bunches and are also very stout on defense. Their opponent, the Crimson Tide, has the best defense in college football. Alabama is first in scoring defense allowing just 11.5 points per game. Take away Ole Miss and Arkansas and the Tide did not allow more than 16 points to any one opponent. They recorded two shutouts and held six opponents to single digits in points.
The Huskies have an offense led by QB Jake Browning that averages 44.5 points a game, fourth-best in the nation. Browning has 42 touchdown passes, RB Myles Gaskin is a 1,000-yard rusher (1,339), and speedy WR John Ross has 1,122 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. In Alabama’s last seven games, head coach Nick Saban’s defense has allowed just 8.6 points a game. Something has to give.
For all the talk of Alabama’s defense, it’s the offense that has really caught the nation’s attention. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, the new head coach at Florida Atlantic, has introduced Saban and Alabama to the future. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has completed 65 percent of his passes, has 22 TD passes, and is the team’s second-leading rusher with 841 yards. He also has 12 rushing touchdowns. Wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley have combined for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Washington’s defense is tied for eighth in the country in scoring giving up 17.2 points per game.
Ohio State -3 Points
Over/Under 59 Points
In the second College Football Playoff semifinal, Ohio State will take on ACC champ Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. The second-ranked Tigers (12-1) are led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson who has passed for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 529 yards. Watson is not the Tigers only weapon as RB Wayne Gallman has rushed for 1,002 yards and 15 touchdowns and WR Mike Williams is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. Williams has 84 receptions for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Buckeyes (11-1) became the first team to make the CFP without having won its conference title. A 24-21 loss to Big Ten champ Penn State is the only blemish on Ohio State’s record. The Buckeyes lost a ton of talent from last year’s team and still had enough remaining to finish ninth in the nation in scoring offense (42.7 points per game) and third in scoring defense (14.2). The offense is led by junior quarterback J.T. Barrett who has 24 TD passes and is the team’s second-leading rusher (847 yards). Head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense is dependent upon getting the ball to RB Mike Weber (1,072 yards) and Curtis Samuel (704 yards rushing, 822 yards receiving).
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has taken a page from Meyer’s book, literally, to help the Tigers return to the championship game for the second straight year. Swinney read Meyer’s Above the Line hoping to gain an edge on the Buckeyes.
LSU -3 Points
Over/Under 59.5 Points
The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl was going to feature a matchup of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Heisman contender and LSU running back Leonard Fournette. That will not happen as Fournette will not play in the bowl game as he prepares himself for the 2017 NFL Draft. Still, it should be an interesting contest as Jackson looks to lead head coach Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals to a 10-win season.
Jackson won this year’s Heisman by passing for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns and leading Louisville in rushing with 1,538 yards and another 21 TDs. He is the nation’s most dynamic player and is a threat to score on every play. He is not his team’s only weapon either. Running back Brandon Radcliff has 877 yards on the ground and the Cardinals have four receivers with nearly 600 yards or more receiving.
For LSU and its new head coach Ed Orgeron, winning without Fournette is something they have already done. Sophomore Derrius Guice is actually the Tigers leading rusher with 1,249 yards. He is equally as capable as Fournette and his 252 yards against Arkansas and 285 against Texas A&M prove it. The big spark to the LSU offense was the change to former Purdue transfer Danny Etling at quarterback. Etling (1,906 passing yards) gives the Tigers a legitimate passing quarterback.
Old Dominion -4 Points
Over/Under 64 Points
Eastern Michigan completed one of college football’s great turnarounds in 2016 finishing the regular season 7-5. The achievement is impressive since the seven wins come just after the program won one game in 2015. Head coach Chris Creighton leads the Eagles into a bowl game for the first time since 1987. They will face Old Dominion, a program resurrected in 2009 and in just its third year at the FBS level, in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
Creighton and the Eagles will rely on QB Brogan Roback who took over at the position four games into the season. He has 2,394 yards passing and makes the EMU up-tempo offense go. He is capable of huge numbers as evidenced by his performance against Ball State. Roback helped the Eagles rally from 21 points down to gain a 48-41 win over Ball State. In the victory, Roback threw for 468 yards and three touchdowns.
Old Dominion is equally capable of putting up huge offensive numbers. The Monarchs offense is run by QB David Washington who is one of just four FBS quarterbacks to throw for 25 or more touchdowns and four or fewer interceptions. He has 2,648 yards and has completed 60 percent of his passes. It is the first bowl trip for ODU so emotions will be high. The Monarchs have won their last five straight games.
Louisiana Tech -7 Points
Over/Under 67 Points
Two conference championship game losers pair up in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Tex. Louisiana Tech, which lost to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA title game, get a shot at American Athletic Conference loser and 25th-ranked Navy. It will be a contrast in styles as the Bulldogs like to throw the ball around, especially to the undersized Trent Taylor, while Navy prefers to grind it out on the ground with their triple option attack.
Louisiana Tech actually beat Western Kentucky, 55-52, during the regular season behind 454 yards from QB Ryan Higgins. For the season, Higgins has 4,208 yards passing and 37 touchdowns. Taylor has 124 receptions for a team-high 1,570 yards and the Bulldogs have another 1,000-yard receiver in Carlos Henderson. The 5-foot-11 junior caught 72 passes for 1,406 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The question for Navy is who starts at quarterback. Will Worth, who ran and passed for over 1,000 yards during the season, was injured in the AAC title game and missed the rivalry game with Army, which Navy lost for the first time in 15 years. The likely starter will be 6-2 sophomore Zach Abey who rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Army. Navy will have to control the football and make plays when it needs to in order to keep the ball away from a Louisiana Tech offense that is fifth in the nation in scoring averaging 44 points per game.
Troy -4 Points
Over/Under 49 Points
Troy was 8-1, its only loss to College Football Playoff participant Clemson. The Trojans became the first Sun Belt team to ever be ranked in the AP Top 25. Then, they committed five turnovers and got blown out by Arkansas State and dropped their season finale to Georgia Southern to finish 9-3. They will face the MAC runner-up Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl in Alabama.
The Bobcats (8-5) won the Eastern Division of the MAC the way it won games all year, with defense. Ohio beat Akron 9-3 to secure a spot in the MAC title game where it lost to No. 17 Western Michigan. The Bobcats have plenty of defensive talent including the MAC Defensive Player of the Year Tarell Basham. The senior defensive end had 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss this season. Basham will play a key role in chasing down Troy QB Brandon Silvers.
Silvers completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,945 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Troy running game has a good one in RB Jordan Chunn who has gained 1,232 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. This year’s Dollar General Bowl is likely to be a battle of running games. The Bobcats leading rusher is 5-11 junior Dorian Brown who has gained 802 yards this season. Like Troy, Ohio enters the bowl game having lost two of its final three games.
Hawaii -3 Points
Over/Under 52 Points
Middle Tennessee’s success against Hawaii in the annual Hawai’i Bowl will depend upon whether or not starting quarterback Brent Stockstill is good to go. Stockstill, who had 2,801 yards passing and 27 touchdowns in a little over eight games, suffered a broken collarbone in a loss to Texas-San Antonio. He has not played since but could be available. He is the triggerman in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s spread system that has produced some gaudy numbers this season.
The MTSU offense also produced a 51-45 win over the SEC’s Missouri this season, a game in which Stockstill had 280 yards passing, 81 rushing, and four touchdowns. If Stockstill can’t go, it will be either John Urzua, a 6-3 freshman who has 816 passing yards and eight touchdowns or possibly WR Richie James, who has rushed for 300 yards and is the team’s leading receiver with 97 receptions for 1,463 yards and 11 touchdowns. If Stockstill is able to play, the Blue Raiders offense, which averages over 40 points a game, may be able to run and pass all over a suspect Hawaii defense.
The Rainbow Warriors (6-7) won their last two games to reach bowl eligibility. They are led by their quarterback Dru Brown who has 2,214 yards passing and 15 touchdowns. Running backs Diocemy Saint Juste and Steven Lakalaka have combined for over 1,200 yards and 15 scores. Wide receiver Marcus Kemp has 70 catches for 1,036 yards in the Hawaii spread offense. The Warriors problem is that their defense hasn’t really stopped anybody all year. Hawaii gives up 455 yards and 37.5 points per game.
Southern Miss -5.5 Points
Over/Under 58.5 Points
On the heels of a nine-win season a year ago, first-year head coach Jay Hopson led Southern Miss to a 6-6 record and got the Golden Eagles back to a bowl game. Southern Miss seems to go through coaches like crazy as Hopson is the fifth man to lead the program in nine years. Even with that kind of turnover, the program has excelled, enough that the Golden Eagles will face Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl this Saturday.
Quarterback Nick Mullens is the key for Hopson’s squad. He threw for 2,926 yards and 22 touchdowns in the 10 games that he played. His worth was evident when the senior was knocked out of a game against Charlotte, one of the newest programs in FBS. With their signal-caller sidelined, Southern Miss gave up 31 straight points and lost at home to a school in just their fourth year of FBS play. Mullens then missed games with Old Dominion and North Texas, both losses.
For Louisiana-Lafayette, the fifth-place finisher in the Sun Belt, they will lean heavily on running back Elijah McGuire who leads the Ragin’ Cajuns in rushing with 918 yards on the season. Head coach Mark Hudspeth’s team was 3-5 before going 3-1 in the final four games to reach the New Orleans Bowl for the fifth time in six years. The Ragin’ Cajuns last won the in 2014 beating Nevada 16-3.
Central Florida -6 Points
Over/Under 49.5 Points
Arkansas State started the season 0-4 but rallied to win six in a row at one point and gain a share of the Sun Belt Conference title and a spot in the AutoNation Cure Bowl against Central Florida. The Red Wolves finished 7-5 overall and, surprisingly, it is their defense that has helped get them bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. Arkansas State gives up an average of 38.7 points per game which is a little misleading considering that in the team’s seven wins, the defense gave up an average of just 14 per game.
The Red Wolves’ biggest win came late in the season when they whooped up on a nationally ranked Troy, 35-3, forcing the Sun Belt’s No. 1 offense into five turnovers. Junior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has 11 sacks and 16 tackles for loss this season. One more sack and he will break the school’s career record (28). Rolland-Jones and the Red Wolves defense will have to keep pace with an equally good UCF defense.
A year ago, the Black Knights went 0-12. New head coach Scott Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback, came in a put a heavy emphasis on defense and that is why UCF went 6-6 this season. Shaquem Griffin was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and played much of the season with just one hand. He is tenth in the nation in sacks with 11 and his twin brother Shaquill leads the Black Knights with 12 pass breakups.
Toledo -1 Points
Over/Under 59.5 Points
Appalachian State will attempt to win its second consecutive Raycom Media Camellia Bowl when it faces Toledo (9-3) from the MAC. The Mountaineers had another impressive season in just their fourth season of FBS football. Head coach Scott Satterfield’s team began the season by nearly upsetting then No. 9 Tennessee. The Mountaineers lost 20-13 in overtime. Only a 28-24 late-season loss to Troy prevented Appalachian State from winning the Sun Belt Conference outright.
The Mountaineers, like Toledo, run a spread offense and like to run the football. Marcus Cox, the team’s second-leading rusher this season with 872 yards, broke the school’s career rushing record earlier in the season. His backfield mate, Jalin Moore, is the team’s leading rusher with 1,367 yards. Quarterback Taylor Lamb has added 380 yards on the ground and has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,162 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Rockets have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Logan Woodside. With 43 touchdown passes, Woodside leads the nation. The 6-2, 200-pound junior has 3,882 yards passing but Toledo does like to run the football. They have a very capable running back in four-year starter Kareem Hunt who has rushed for 1,355 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
North Dakota State -2 Points
Over/Under 52 Points
Five-time reigning national champion North Dakota State will face James Madison in the FCS semifinals at the Fargo Dome this Saturday. It’s the Bison’s seventh straight trip to the FCS semifinals and it took a huge effort last week against South Dakota State, the only team to beat NDSU during the regular season. James Madison, the top FCS scoring program in the nation averaging 49.6 points per game, destroyed previously top-ranked Sam Houston State in the Dukes quarterfinal game. JMU beat the Bearkats 65-7.
Who moves on to the title game in January will come down to defense. The Dukes absolutely stymied Sam Houston State’s high-powered offense last week. The Bearkats led FCS with 547.3 yards per game and were second in scoring (49.3), so the Dukes can play defense. Are they as good as the Bison?
North Dakota State is third in scoring defense yielding just 15.8 points per game. The Bison are eighth in rush defense (99.2 ypg) and ninth in total defense (310.2). They will have their hands full trying to contain James Madison RB Khalid Abdullah who is fourth in the FCS in rushing with 1,528 yards. Dukes QB Bryan Schor was the Colonial Athletic Association’ s Player of the Year throwing for 2,648 yards and 24 TDs and adding 534 more on the ground to go with 10 rushing scores.
The two teams are the most complete in the FCS and the advantage may go to North Dakota State playing at home. The Bison are 18-0 in the playoffs in the Fargo Dome. They are also riding a 22-game playoff win streak.
Navy -6 Points
Over/Under 47.5 Points
It is the epitome of college football. It is what the game is about. It’s the 119th meeting of Army and Navy this Saturday from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. The Midshipmen own a 14-game winning streak in the series, which could be in serious jeopardy this Saturday. Navy enters the game 9-3 after losing in the American Athletic Conference championship game last week. Not only did head coach Ken Niumatalolo lose a chance at a conference title, he also lost some of his key players.
Do-it-all quarterback Will Worth and team co-captain and slotback Toneo Gulley were lost, ironically, on the same play in the team’s loss to Temple last week. Worth took over early in the season when senior Tago Smith was injured. All Worth did was rush for 1,198 yards and pass for 1,397 more. He accounted for 33 touchdowns. He will miss this week’s game as well as the bowl game. Taking his place is sophomore Zach Abey who ran for 70 yards in the Temple loss.
Army has had plenty of time to recover from its last game, a 60-3 blowout of Morgan State. The Black Knights are in their second year under new head coach Jeff Monken and they are 6-5 heading into Saturday’s rivalry game. Army is second in the nation in rushing averaging 328.5 yards per game and is led by RB Andy Davidson who has 818 yards on 150 carries. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (622 yards passing) is the team’s second-leading rusher with 646 yards on the ground.
South Dakota State -6 Points
Over/Under 58 Points
The dominance of the North Dakota State football program is well-known through FCS and among true college football fans. The Bison have won the past five straight FCS championships. If there has been a thorn in the side of the Bison, it has been one team – it’s opponent in the 2016 FCS quarterfinals this Saturday. North Dakota State will face the only team it lost to this regular season, South Dakota State.
The Bison lost 19-17 at home in the Fargo Dome on a last-second touchdown pass from Taryn Christion to Jake Weineke. South Dakota State scored the game’s final 16 points to claim the victory. Can they do it again? The Jackrabbits, 9-3 overall, are lucky to have been in a position to beat NDSU after losing two of their first three games of the season. They lost 59-41 to TCU and two weeks later dropped a 38-31 decision to Cal Poly.
North Dakota State once again beat an FBS opponent when the Bison defeated Iowa, 23-21, on a last-second field goal. The Hawkeyes were ranked No. 11 in the nation at the time. With the loss, NDSU was named co-champs, along with SDSU, of the Missouri Valley Conference. It will be up to Bison QB Eaton Stick to lead the Bison to a win Saturday. Stick went 12-for-20 for 208 yards passing and three touchdowns last week in a win over San Diego. He also rushed for 99 yards on four carries.
Youngstown State -3 Points
Over/Under 61 Points
Remember former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini? Well, he’s leading the Youngstown State football program back to FCS greatness. The Penguin program has a long history of greatness winning four national championships under former coach Jim Tressel, now the university’s president. Pelini took over the program in 2015 and went 5-6 his first season. It had been 10 long years since YSU had made the playoffs but Pelini responded with an 8-3 regular season and a berth in the FCS playoffs.
The Penguins beat Samford, 38-24, and Jacksonville State, the No. 3 seed in the region, 40-24. Pelini and company have succeeded by running the football and playing defense. The Penguins have two 1,000-yard rushers. Martin Ruiz leads the team with 1,159 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jody Webb adds 1,025 and six scores.
YSU’s opponent on Saturday, Wofford, also makes a living by running the football. They are one of the few teams in all of Division I football that runs the true triple option offense. The Terriers are also very good on defense yielding just 277.5 yards per game (fifth-best in FCS). The Wofford running game averages 278.3 yards per game, fifth in the nation, just two slots ahead of Youngstown State (258.5). Running back Lorenzo Long leads Wofford with 1,382 yards on the ground, seventh-best in the country.
James Madison -4 Points
Over/Under 53 Points
The FCS quarterfinals kick off on Friday night with Sam Houston State, a perennial playoff participant, traveling to James Madison. The Bearkats have made it to the semifinals in five of the past six FCS playoffs. Sam Houston State reached the national championship game two years in a row, 2011 and 2012, only to lose to North Dakota State.
The Bearkats are difficult to defend running the Air Raid a la Mike Leach at Washington State. Quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe is second in the nation in passing yards with 4,459 and leads FCS with an incredible 57 touchdown passes. Sam Houston State has three wide receivers in the Top 50 nationally in receiving yards. Yedidiah Louis is 10th with 73 catches for 1,133 yards; Nathan Stewart has 50 receptions for 951 yards and is 27th; and Davion Davis is 30th with 52 catches and 927 yards. All three have 10 or more touchdown receptions.
James Madison, the national champion in 2004, has lost just once all season and that was to FBS North Carolina. The Dukes won the Colonial Athletic Conference with a perfect 8-0 mark and beat No. 22 New Hampshire, 55-22, last week to advance to the quarterfinals. JMU, which averages 48 points a game, is led by RB Khalid Abdullah who has 1,425 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
Wisconsin -2.5 Points
Over/Under 48 Points
The Ohio State win over Michigan allowed Penn State (10-2, 8-1) to sneak into the Big Ten championship game where the Nittany Lions will take on No. 6 Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2). Head coach James Franklin’s team has won eight in a row since a 49-10 loss to Michigan. That streak includes the dramatic 24-21 victory over Ohio State.
Both teams have some injury issues heading into Saturday night’s title game. Penn State leading rusher Saquon Barkley injured an ankle and left last Saturday’s game, a 45-12 win over Michigan State. It appears that he will be ready to go for Saturday, which is a huge boost for the Nittany Lions. Barkley has rushed for 1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
For Wisconsin, starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who is from Pennsylvania, is listed as questionable. Hornibrook was injured in last week’s win over Minnesota. He left the game and was replaced by fifth-year senior Bart Houston, who began the season as the Badgers’ starter. Hornibrook and Houston had both been playing in the final six games of the season as Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst utilized a two-quarterback system. Regardless of who plays Saturday, the Badgers offense is run-heavy with Corey Clement leading the way with 1,140 yards rushing this season.
Where the Badgers separate themselves from the competition is on defense. Wisconsin is third in the nation in scoring defense allowing opponents just 13.7 points per game. Wisconsin gave up 20 or more points just twice all season and one of those was to Ohio State in overtime.
Alabama -12 Points
Over/Under 58 Points
Since the institution of the SEC championship game, Alabama and Florida have met for the title eight times. Each team has won four games. The two teams met last year with the Tide claiming a 29-15 victory and their sixth conference championship since 1992. It’s no surprise that head coach Nick Saban’s team will be favored once again this year. The top-ranked Tide has dominated every opponent they have faced this season.
Saban and Alabama are well known for the program’s defensive prowess, but the offense has become dynamic under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Using different tempos, spread formations, and a freshman quarterback who can do it all, Alabama averages 39.4 points per game. Jalen Hurts, that freshman quarterback, has thrown for 2,454 yards and is the team’s second-leading rusher with 840 yards. Hurts has accounted for a total of 33 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Alabama once again features a defense full of future NFL draft picks. The Crimson Tide defense leads the nation in scoring defense giving opponents just 11.4 points a game. Alabama has held eight of its opponents to 10 points or less. That is not good news for Florida, which struggles on offense. The Gators haven’t scored over 20 points in a game in over a month. Like Alabama, Florida is built around its defense. The Gators are fifth in the nation in scoring defense (14.6) and sixth in total defense (292 yards per game).
Oklahoma -11 Points
Over/Under 77.5 Points
The Bedlam Rivalry will determine this year’s Big 12 champion. The Sooners have engineered as a good a comeback as anyone this season. They lost two of their first three games – to Houston and Ohio State – and have reeled off eight straight victories since. One more and Oklahoma will win the Big 12 title…again.
The Sooners have done it primarily with an offense that appears as if it cannot be stopped. In their eight-game winning streak, Oklahoma has scored over 40 points six times and over 50 three times. The Sooners are second in the nation in scoring offense (45.3). Quarterback Baker Mayfield spearheads the offense. Mayfield has thrown for 3,381 yards and 35 touchdowns. There may not be a better pair of running backs in the country than Joe Mixon (1,084 yards) and Samaje Perine (735) and WR Dede Westbrook (70 rec., 1,354 yds., 15 TDs) is one of the nation’s best.
Oklahoma State (9-2, 7-1) has a prolific offense of its own led by QB Mason Rudolph who has 3,591 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. The Cowboys don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher, but Justice Hill (943) is close. Wide receiver James Washington is one of the most exciting players in the country. Washington has 60 catches for 1,159 yards and nine touchdowns. Saturday’s game could turn into a shootout between two of the best offenses in the country.
Washington -7 Points
Over/Under 58 Points
Just one year ago, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntrye and his Buffaloes went 1-8 in Pac-12 play. Last week, they capped off a dramatic worst-to-first turnaround with a win over No. 22 Utah. Colorado can add to its best season in over a decade when it plays for the Pac-12 championship on Friday night against Washington.
The Huskies (11-1, 8-1) were picked by many to win the Pac-12 this year. Head coach Chris Petersen had slowly built a program that was ready to take the program back to national prominence. The Huskies responded by winning their first nine straight before a heartbreaking home loss to USC, the only blemish in the Washington schedule. The Huskies do it with a prolific offense and a defense that is one of the best units in the country.
Washington QB Jake Browning is one of the nation’s best. He has thrown for 3,162 yards and 40 touchdowns thus far this season. Running back Myles Gaskin has rushed for 1,180 yards and WR John Ross (1,071 receiving yards) gives Washington a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, and a 1,000-yard receiver. On the other side of the ball, the Huskies have been ranked in the Top 10 in scoring defense for most of the season. Currently, they are tied for 10th allowing 17.8 points per game.
Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre has rebuilt the Colorado program using a similar approach. Colorado’s defense is 13th in the nation in points allowed (18.8) and Phillip Lindsay is a 1,000-yard rusher. Colorado’s only losses this season were to USC and Michigan.
Ohio State -5 Points
Over/Under 44.5 Points
It is one of college football’s all-time greatest rivalries. This year, Ohio State-Michigan will play a big role in which team wins the Big Ten and which team will definitely make the College Football Playoff. It’s simple for Michigan – win and the Wolverines are in the Big Ten title game. For the Buckeyes, a win puts Penn State into the championship game.
Ohio State will rely on its quarterback J.T. Barrett who has rushed for a combined 228 yards and five touchdowns in the past meetings with Michigan. If the Wolverines manage to slow down Barrett, the Buckeyes have plenty of weapons beginning with running back Mike Weber. The redshirt freshman leads Ohio State with 1,046 yards on the ground. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State’s leading receiver with 790 yards, also averages 7.7 yards per carry and has 650 yards rushing on the season. Michigan will have its hands full trying to stop the Buckeyes offense which averages over 490 yards and 43.8 points per game (fifth in the nation).
If anyone can stop Ohio State, it is Michigan. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has arguably the nation’s best defense. The Wolverines are first in scoring defense giving opponents just 10.9 points per game. Michigan has given up over 20 points just twice all season. The Wolverines will need to get production from their offense which will again be led by QB John O’Korn. The Houston transfer started last week in place of the injured Wilton Speight. He will have to generate some offense for the Wolverines.
Alabama -18 Points
Over/Under 47.5 Points
At the beginning of the 2016 season, the Iron Bowl didn’t look like it would be much of a game. Then, the Tigers caught fire and won seven of their last eight games. Auburn has slowly moved up the rankings and, at 8-3, is No. 13 in the country. A win by the Tigers does nothing more than give Auburn bragging rights for a year. Top-ranked Alabama has already clinched the SEC West and will play East champion Florida for the conference title.
For Auburn to pull the unthinkable, the Tigers will have to slow down the Crimson Tide offense. That begins with stopping Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who rushes for 73 yards a game and passes for 197. Alabama averages 478 yards of offense per game. The Auburn defense is much improved over last year though. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has installed a defense that has given up just 15 touchdowns in Auburn’s 15 games.
Auburn will likely have trouble with the Alabama defense which is second in the country yielding just 11.4 points a game. In Alabama’s last three games, the Tide has surrendered a total of six points. Sophomore quarterback Sean White has been nursing a sore shoulder and sat out last week. Senior Jeremy Johnson started and led the Tigers to a win over Alabama A&M. Whoever plays quarterback will have to find a way to move the football and produce points against a very stingy Alabama defense.
Florida State -7 Points
Over/Under 47 Points
It’s hard to believe but the 8-3 Seminoles are ranked one spot higher, 14th, than the 8-2 Gators that will be playing next week for an SEC title. Florida State’s season hasn’t gone exactly as planned but that’s how a few key injuries can affect an entire season. The end-of-the-season clash between the two in-state rivals will likely be a factor in bowl selection as well as recruiting.
The Seminoles lost FS Derwin James early in the season. James was labeled by many as the best defender in the country. His loss has showed as the Florida State defense, thought to be one of the strongest in the nation, has given up points by the boat loads at times. In the team’s three losses, the Seminoles have surrendered at least 37 points. One plus this week for FSU – the Gators offense is limited.
If Gators head coach Jim McElwain had any offense, Florida might be unbeaten at this point. Florida has had to play its last two games with backup quarterback Austin Appleby. The former Purdue transfer has been efficient in wins over South Carolina and LSU. It’s no secret that the key to the Gators recording a ninth win this season is their defense. Florida is third in the nation in scoring defense (13.0 points per game) and hasn’t given up more than 14 points in all of its wins this season. If they can keep FSU quarterback Deondre Francois and RB Dalvin Cook in check and hold the Seminoles under 14 points, the Gators will head to the SEC title game with another win under the belts.
Colorado -9.5 Points
Over/Under 54 Points
For the first time in many years, this game has some significance. Colorado, ranked ninth in the country, can win the Pac-12 South with a second straight win over a ranked opponent on Saturday. The Buffaloes took care of Washington State last week, a 38-24 victory over the Cougars. A win over the Utes completes a worst-to-first turnaround for head coach Mike MacIntyre and the Buffaloes.
Quarterback Sefo Liufau passed for 300 yards and rushed for over 100 last week in the win over Washington State. He is the key to the Colorado offense, but the Buffaloes are far from one-dimensional. Running back Philip Lindsay has rushed for 1,081 yards and Shay Fields has 43 receptions for 741 yards and eight touchdowns. As impressive as the Buffaloes are on offense, their defense is even better.
Colorado is 13th nationally and first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (18.5 points per game). The Buffaloes will have to slow down a very good Utah offense. Running back Joe Williams has rushed for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing five games this season. Quarterback Troy Williams has thrown for 2,419 yards, but Colorado catches Utah at an opportune time. The Utes lost a heartbreaker to Oregon last week in the final seconds. The loss took Utah out of the Pac-12 title race. If head coach Kyle Wittingham and his team are not over the emotional loss it could get ugly at Folsom Field on Saturday.
Oklahoma -2.5 Points
Over/Under 66.5 Points
The Sooners have games with the 16th-ranked Mountaineers and No. 13 Oklahoma State remaining on the schedule. Win them both and the Sooners will win the Big 12 title…again. After losing two of their first three games of the season, No. 11 Oklahoma could actually play its way back into the College Football Playoff picture after all the upsets last week.
West Virginia has quietly gone 8-1 on the season, its only loss to Oklahoma State on the road. Head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers are usually synonymous with plenty of offense, but it has been the West Virginia defense that has really made the difference this season. In the pass-happy Big 12, the Mountaineers have found a way to slow down offenses to the tune of just 20.6 points per game (19th-best in the nation). In Big 12 play other than the loss to the Cowboys, the most points given up by WVU has been 21.
The Sooners will have both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine back at running back. The pair was instrumental in Oklahoma’s 45-24 win over Baylor last week. Mixon ran 14 times for 124 yards and a touchdown while Perine had 100 yards and two scores. The passing game is just as good with QB Baker Mayfield and WR Dede Westbrook who had four catches against Baylor, two of which were touchdowns.
Colorado -4.5 Points
Over/Under 60 Points
At the beginning of the season, who would have thought that Saturday’s game between the Cougars and Buffaloes could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game? After Washington’s loss to USC last week, the Cougars are the last remaining unbeaten team in conference play. Colorado, ranked No. 12 in the nation, leads the South Division and controls its destiny. The Buffaloes have a mighty challenge ahead though as they must defeat the 23rd-ranked Cougars and then finish the season with No. 15 Utah.
The Colorado defense will have to contend with one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The Buffaloes have improved greatly and are tied for ninth in the nation in scoring defense giving up just 17.9 points a game. Colorado has held five of its ten opponents to 10 points or less. The Buffaloes defense will have its hands full with the Cougars.
Washington State QB Luke Falk leads an offense that produces over 510 yards of total offense each games. The Cougars score 43.7 points per game (10th in the nation) and have put 56 and 69 in each of the last two weeks. Wide receiver Gabe Marks is Falk’s primary target with 68 receptions, 709 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Like Colorado, the Cougars are much improved on defense. Washington State will have to slow down quarterback Sefo Liufau and RB Philip Lindsay who is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
Ohio State -22.5 Points
Over/Under 55 Points
A year ago, this game helped to decide the Big Ten championship. This year, not so much. The Spartans are struggling though they did end a seven-game losing streak by beating Rutgers 49-0 last Saturday. Ohio State will be heavily favored especially after it likely becomes the No. 2 team in the College Football Playoff poll. With Clemson, Michigan, and Washington losing last week, the Buckeyes, a 62-3 winner over Maryland, should move up to No. 2 behind Alabama.
Head coach Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are second in the nation in scoring averaging 46.5 points per game. The offense is balanced and Ohio State has plenty of weapons with which to beat opponents. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is the catalyst. Barrett has thrown for 2,218 yards and rushed for 617 more. The junior has scored 31 total touchdowns. The ground game is strong with RB Mike Weber close to 1,000 yards on the season (935) and hybrid WR/RB Curtis Samuel who has added 637 yards on the ground. Samuel is also the team’s leading receiver with 57 catches for 750 yards and six touchdowns.
Michigan State has had its issues on both sides of the ball. Still, a strong ground game led by L.J. Scott (775 yards) could give Ohio State some issues. Ohio State’s defense is solid though and is tied for third in the country in scoring defense giving up just 12.7 points per game. Ohio State has won consecutive games over Nebraska and Maryland by a score of 62-3.
LSU -13.5 Points
Over/Under 37.5 Points
Florida, which will win the SEC East, travels to Baton Rouge to take on No. 24 LSU in a game that was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. The Gators enter the game 7-2, 5-2 in SEC play, and win or lose, Florida will face SEC West champ Alabama in the conference title game. LSU and its interim head coach have something to play for, specifically Ed Orgeron’s job.
Orgeron, a Louisiana native, has led the Tigers to a 4-1 record since taking over for fired head coach Les Miles. Miles was let go after LSU lost to Auburn in September. The Tigers have played much better since, especially on offense. Purdue transfer Danny Etling has taken over at quarterback and led an offense that has averaged nearly 35 points a game, and that includes the Tigers’ shutout loss to Alabama.
Both teams are outstanding on defense. They are big up front and speedy everywhere else. Florida is fifth nationally in scoring defense giving up just 13.3 points a game, while LSU is sixth (13.9). The Gators did lose safety Marcus Maye for the rest of the season when he broke an arm in last week’s win over South Carolina. Florida’s defense shut down the Gamecocks last week and allowed backup quarterback Austin Appleby to go 17-for-21 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Another performance like that will be needed on Saturday.
Oklahoma -19.5 Points
Over/Under 79.5 Points
The Sooners will be looking for the 14th straight Big 12 win when they welcome Baylor to Norman on Saturday. The Bears are on a two-game skid having lost to Texas and TCU the past two weeks after starting the season 6-0. A seventh consecutive win for Oklahoma could put the Sooners right back into contention for a College Football Playoff berth. No two-loss team has ever qualified for the CFP, but a Big 12 champion Oklahoma might have a shot.
Baylor is spiraling downward. Last week, the Bears defense gave up 688 yards of total offense, which included 431 on the ground. On the sideline, Baylor’s leading rusher Shock Linwood got into a scuffle with a graduate assistant and is suspended for Saturday’s game with the Sooners. While Linwood will miss this week’s game, Oklahoma gets its top two rushers back.
Joe Mixon, who was suspended for last week’s win over Oklahoma, and Samaje Perine, nursing a muscle pull, are both expected to play against Baylor. Perine has missed the past three games and did practice this week. With both backs returning, expect Oklahoma to run all over a Baylor defense that has allowed an average of 344 yards rushing over the last two games.
Washington -8 Points
Over/Under 59.5 Points
It’s hard to believe that the Trojans were once 1-3. Head coach Clay Helton and company are now 6-3 and ranked 20th in the nation. USC now has to travel to fourth-ranked Washington to prove itself. The Trojans did beat Colorado, now ranked No. 12, earlier in their current five-game winning streak. The Trojans will have their hands full with the Huskies on Saturday night.
Washington, now firmly in a College Football Playoff spot, needs to win out and win the Pac-12 title to secure its berth in the playoff. The Huskies may be the one conference school that has benefitted the most from the sanctions placed on USC. When the Trojans had their scholarship numbers cut, Washington began a recruiting pipeline that brought several Southern California recruits to Seattle.
The results of that recruiting have led to an offense that averages 48.3 points per game, second in the nation, and a defense that is ranked 11th in scoring defense allowing 17 points a game. Quarterback Jake Browning, a product of Folsom, Calif., is one of the nation’s best. Browning has thrown for 2,273 yards and has 34 touchdown passes. Running back Myles Gaskin, a sophomore like Browning, has 952 yards rushing and gives the Huskies’ offense another threat in the backfield.
Washington State -17.5 Points
Over/Under 79.5 Points
The scoreboard operator in Pullman will definitely get a workout on Saturday night as two of the more explosive teams in the nation square off in the Pac-12. Two of the most prolific quarterbacks in the nation will face one another as Cal (4-5) travels to Washington State (7-2). Luke Falk of Washington State and Davis Webb of Cal are No. 3 and 4 in the country in passing yards. Both head coaches, Sonny Dykes of Cal and Mike Leach of the Cougars, are proponents of the Air Raid which oftentimes will see outrageous passing numbers.
Last week, the Cougars put up 69 points on Arizona and Falk completed 32-of-35 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns. Falk’s backup, Tyler Hilinski, came on in the third quarter, went 15-for-17 for 163 yards, and threw for two touchdowns of his own. The Cougars rolled up 474 yards passing and also added another 140 on the ground. Washington State averages over 42 points per game, 10th in the nation, and if it wins out, would win the Pac-12 North.
Cal has lost its last two games giving up over 100 points in the process. While prolific offensively (39.7 points per game, 16th in the nation), the Bears are dead last in scoring defense in the nation. Cal gives up 44.4 points per game and has been in several shootouts this season. The Bears have given up at least 40 points in seven of their nine games this season. It means that Webb and the up-tempo Cal offense is going to have to score. Webb has thrown for 3,176 and 30 touchdowns thus far. His primary target is former walk-on Chad Hansen who has 840 receiving yards and nine scores.
LSU -7.5 Points
Over/Under 45 Points
After a huge loss (56-3) to Auburn, the 25th-ranked Razorbacks rebounded to stun then No. 11 Florida last week. It’s a perfect example of the inconsistency that Arkansas has shown all year. This week, head coach Bret Bielema’s squad has a chance to prove it belongs among the SEC’s best. LSU, ranked 24th this week, travels to Arkansas for an SEC West showdown on Saturday night.
LSU has had its share of turmoil this season too. The Tigers lost two of their first four games, fired head coach Les Miles, and then rebounded to win three in a row including a 38-21 win over a No. 23 Ole Miss team. The Tigers fought hard and battled top-ranked Alabama last week but fell, 10-0. This week, LSU and interim head coach Ed Orgeron have the opportunity to prove they are still LSU. The Tigers close the season with Florida and then No. 8 Texas A&M.
Both schools rely heavily on the run game. LSU has one of the nation’s best running backs in Leonard Fournette who is now healthy. Fournette has 705 yards rushing and LSU runs for 214 per game. Bielema teams are usually known for their running games but the Razorbacks have relied more on the arm of QB Austin Allen who has 2,291 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. Rawleigh Williams III leads the ground games with 955 yards. The Razorbacks will have to face the nation’s sixth-best scoring defense (14.4 points per game).
Notre Dame -6.5 Points
Over/Under 64.5 Points
Who would have thought that Notre Dame would enter its Nov. 5 game with Navy sporting a 3-5 record? The Irish did pick up a big 30-27 win over Miami last week and now must face the triple option offense of the Midshipmen. Navy is fifth in the nation in rushing averaging nearly 300 yards per game (296.6). Head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team is tough to defend and scores an average of 35.7 points per game.
The Middies lost their first American Athletic Conference game last week, a 52-45 defeat at the hands of South Florida (7-2). Navy is led by its do-it-all quarterback Will Worth. Worth emerged as the guy after the season-ending injury to Tago Smith earlier in the year. Worth leads the team in rushing with 987 yards on the ground and passing with 618. He also has a combined 19 touchdowns. Wide receiver Jamir Tillman (23 rec., 362 yards) gives Worth a big-play weapon in the passing game.
Navy’s defense will have to slow down a Notre Dame offense that has been picking up some steam. Quarterback DeShone Kizer has 2,038 yards passing and 16 touchdowns and WR Equanimeous St. Brown has caught 37 passes for 683 yards and seven scores. Josh Adams is the leading rusher (510 yards) and Kizer has added 316 yards on the ground along with seven touchdowns.
Washington -17 Points
Over/Under 77 Points
After a snub from the College Football Playoff committee, Washington travels to Berkeley where the Huskies will square off with a very pesky Cal squad. The Golden Bears’ offense works at a frenetic pace and has been able to score on virtually anyone. Cal averages 41.3 points per game on offense, which is 14th-best in the nation.
The problem for Cal is that their defense is as bad as their offense is good. The Bears yield 41.8 points per game on defense. They have given up at least 45 points in their last three consecutive games. That is good news for the Washington offense, which is fourth in the nation scoring 46.1 points per game. Quarterback Jake Browning leads a very efficient offense that can run it and throw it. Browning has 1,895 yards passing and 28 touchdowns. Running back Myles Gaskin has rushed for 878 yards and seven scores and WR John Ross is the Huskies leading receiver with 38 receptions for 534 yards and 11 touchdowns.
A week after having to face a very good running game at Utah, the Washington defense now faces the task of defending the nation’s fourth-ranked passing attack. Cal QB Davis Webb has attempted more passes than anyone in college football and he has the most touchdown passes (29). The Huskies defense just happens to be the top-ranked pass defense in the Pac-12 giving up just 171.9 yards a game.
Alabama -7 Points
Over/Under 45 Points
It is one of the season’s more anticipated games. It looked like it might be a dud after the Tigers dropped two of their first four games and fired head coach Les Miles. Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has led LSU to three straight victories and a No. 13 ranking. The Tigers will host No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night.
Head coach Nick Saban and Alabama have won the last five straight meetings between the two teams including last year’s 30-16 victory. The last time the Tide came into Baton Rouge ranked No. 1 was in 2012. Alabama won 21-17. Things are much different in Tuscaloosa these days, especially on offense.
The Tide have evolved into a quasi-spread offense that utilizes the no-huddle frequently. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has been masterful at guiding the Alabama offense. The Crimson Tide averages 43.9 points per game, ninth-best in the nation. The beauty of Saban’s team is they are just as good on defense. Alabama yields just 14.9 points per game. They have held five of their eight opponents to 10 points or less. LSU and RB Leonard Fournette, who played poorly in last year’s game, are going to have to take advantage of playing at home.
Ohio State -17 Points
Over/Under 52 Points
For the second straight week, the Cornhuskers face a Top 10 opponent in primetime. This time around it is No. 6 Ohio State. The Buckeyes rebounded from their only loss of the season to Penn State by beating Northwestern, 24-20, last week. Head coach Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes did not play well but still found a way to win.
Nebraska, ranked No. 10 in the College Football Playoff poll released on Tuesday, lost its first game of the season last week, a 23-17 loss to Wisconsin in overtime. Saturday night’s matchup between the Cornhuskers and Buckeyes will have serious implications on the Big 10 championship as well as the College Football Playoff.
Both teams are balanced offensively, though the Buckeyes are the eighth-ranked rushing offense in the country. Mike Webber leads the team with 770 yards on the ground and all-purpose player Curtis Samuel has 558. Samuel, listed as a wide receiver, leads Ohio State with 539 receiving yards on 44 receptions. He is explosive and dangerous. Quarterback J.T. Barrett runs the offense and has 1,675 yards passing and 531 more on the ground.
Nebraska is led by its senior quarterback, Tommie Armstrong. He has 1,764 yards passing and 11 touchdowns on the season. Last week’s loss to Wisconsin was the first time all season that the Cornhuskers failed to score at least 20 points.
Clemson -4.5 Points
Over/Under 60 Points
Third-ranked Clemson faces its second tough test of the season when the Tigers travel to Tallahassee on Saturday night to take on Florida State. The Seminoles, an early season favorite for a College Football Playoff bid, fell out of contention with a blowout loss to Louisville and then a two-point defeat at the hands of North Carolina. A Florida State victory on Saturday can really throw the CFP picture into a tizzy.
Clemson, 7-0, is coming off a bye week. Head coach Dabo Swinney’s team is just beginning to gel. Preseason Heisman favorite QB Deshaun Watson has not put up the kind of numbers that everyone expected, but he has still enjoyed a successful season. Watson has thrown for 1,950 yards and 20 TDs but has only run for 279 yards and one touchdown. For Watson and his teammates, the only statistic that matters is 7-0.
Florida State started the season 2-0 with a big opening win over Ole Miss. Then, head coach Jimbo Fisher ran into QB Lamar Jackson and Louisville. The Cardinals blew out FSU, 63-20, and knocked the Seminoles from the ranks of the unbeaten. Two weeks later came the North Carolina loss and a shot at a national title. The Seminoles have rebounded with two straight wins in their last two outings. The Seminoles’ problem has been defense. They lost star Derwin James early in the season and have given up over 28 points per game. That has changed recently as Florida State yielded just 19 to Miami and six to Wake Forest.
Wisconsin -9 Points
Over/Under 43 Points
Big Ten West Division leader Nebraska puts its unbeaten streak on the line at Wisconsin on Saturday. The Cornhuskers lost seven close games a year ago. Now, the Cornhuskers have found a way to win those close games and are 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the country as a result. Camp Randall Stadium is a difficult place to play and the Badgers will present Nebraska with its first real opportunity to prove if they are for real or not.
The Cornhuskers are extremely well balanced. They put up nearly 450 yards of offense per game that is almost evenly distributed between the run and pass. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is the guy that makes the offense go. He has thrown for 1,611 yards and 11 touchdowns so far this season. Armstrong is also the team’s second-leading rusher (380 yards) behind RB Terell Newby who has 511 yards and four touchdowns. Alonzo Moore averages nearly 25 yards a catch and Jordan Westerkamp leads all receivers with four TDs.
Nebraska runs into the nation’s fourth-best defense. The Badgers are fourth in the nation in scoring defense holding opponents to just 14.3 points a game. Wisconsin held Michigan to just 14 points and Ohio State to a mere 30, which was at least 20 points below their season average. The Badgers need a win. They have lost both of their games against ranked opponents (Michigan and Ohio State). A win could put Wisconsin on a path toward a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Auburn -4.5 Points
Over/Under 63 Points
Remember when Gus Malzahn was going to get fired? Auburn was 1-2 with two losses to ranked opponents. A month and a half later, Malzahn and his Tigers have defeated two ranked opponents and are primed to win their fifth straight game. Auburn is doing it by getting back to what it does best – run the football and play defense.
Malzahn gave the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Since doing so, the Tigers have been a machine. They have averaged 50 points per game over the course of their past three games. The once-vaunted running game that Auburn and Malzahn were so well known for has returned. The Tigers have not been as strong a team on the ground over the past two seasons, but that has changed. Auburn averages 302.9 yards rushing per game, third-best in the nation.
Auburn will take on a 3-4 Ole Miss team that has watched their season fall apart with consecutive losses to No. 22 Arkansas and No. 25 LSU. The Rebels have been ineffective running the football. Quarterback Chad Kelly cannot carry the team by himself. Where head coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels are having the most problem is on defense. Ole Miss gives up 31.4 points game. The past two seasons, Ole Miss has been a Top 10 defense nationally. They are nowhere near that capability this season and it shows.
Washington -10 Points
Over/Under 54 Points
It’s a battle that could be a prelude to the Pac-12 championship game in December. Undefeated and fourth-ranked Washington travels to one-loss Utah on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies are 7-0 and the Pac-12’s only hope of getting an entrant into the College Football Playoff. Utah is 6-1 and has yet to lose at home this season. The Huskies will be the first ranked team that the Utes have faced.
Washington has been dominant this season on both sides of the ball. Head coach Chris Petersen’s Huskies are fourth in the nation in scoring (48.3 points per game) and sixth in scoring defense (14.6). Washington has beaten every one of its seven opponents, with the exception of Arizona, by at least 24 points. Quarterback Jake Browning is the second rated passer in the nation with a 199.6 efficiency rating and the Washington defense leads the country in turnover margin at plus 2.0 per game.
The offense is helped by RB Myles Gaskin, who is the Pac-12’s leading rusher averaging 103.9 yards per game. His counterpart at Utah, Joe Williams, is coming off a game to remember. Williams carried 29 times for 332 yards and four touchdowns, a career day, in a 52-45 win over UCLA last week. Williams will be hard pressed to come anywhere near those totals against a very stingy Washington defense.
Utah quarterback Troy Williams, who has thrown for 1,725 yards thus far this season, has only thrown for 221 yards the past two weeks. He didn’t need to against UCLA with Williams running wild and played in a rain storm the week before, a 19-14 win over Oregon State.
Alabama -18 Points
Over/Under 58.5 Points
For the third consecutive week, top-ranked Alabama faces a ranked SEC opponent when the Crimson Tide welcomes No. 6 Texas A&M to Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Nick Saban coached Tide destroyed former No. 9 Tennessee last week, 49-10, just one week after taking care of then 16th-ranked Arkansas.
It’s business as usual for Saban and company who expect to be playing the best in the nation in order to become the best in the nation at year’s end. The Alabama offense is lighting it up this year under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin who is taking full advantage of the athletic ability of freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurst has 1,385 yards passing and 428 rushing. He has 17 total touchdowns (9 passing, 8 rushing). Damien Harris (572 yards) is the leading rusher and WR Calvin Ridley (477) is the leading receiver and one of the nation’s best sophomores.
Senior QB Trevor Knight leads a Texas A&M offense that scores over 40 points a game and is seventh in the country in rushing (274.3 yards per game). It is going to be tough going up against one of the nation’s best defenses in Alabama. The Tide give up just 15 points a game (8th in the nation), but they have given up over 30 points twice – Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Auburn -10 Points
Over/Under 55.5 Points
As college football tends to focus on Alabama in the SEC, many may not realize that both Arkansas and Auburn are 4-2 and nationally ranked. The Razorbacks are 17th in the nation and battled Alabama only to lose 49-30. The Tigers started the season 1-2 with losses to Clemson and Texas A&M. Many were calling for head coach Gus Malzahn’s job, but then the Tigers ripped off three straight victories.
The Tigers will have the advantage of playing at home on a Saturday night. They will also continue to improve on both sides of the ball. Auburn is actually 11th nationally in scoring defense giving up just one more point, 16, than in-state rival Alabama. The offense, which Malzahn is well-known for, is getting better and averages nearly 480 yards and 33 points a game.
It will be a contrast of styles as Arkansas and its head coach Bret Bielema prefer to pound opponents with fullbacks and tight ends and big running backs like Rawleigh Williams III (5-10, 225), who leads the Razorbacks in rushing with 785 yards so far this season. Arkansas’s biggest weapon though is quarterback Austin Allen who has 1,861 yards passing and an SEC high 18 touchdown passes.
Ohio State -20 Points
Over/Under 59 Points
A week after traveling to Madison and beating No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime, the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes have to travel to Happy Valley and take on a resurgent 4-2 Penn State. It’s a difficult place to play, but head coach Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes will be favored to win. They will first have to shut down Nittany Lions RB Saquon Barkley.
Barkley has 582 yards rushing and sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley has thrown for 1,436 in Penn State’s new up-tempo spread offense. Head coach James Franklin hired Joe Moorhead, formerly of Fordham, to come in and modernize the Nittany Lions offense. Penn State is averaging 30.5 points per game nearly 10 points more per game than they averaged in each of the last two seasons.
Still, beating Ohio State is a monumental task. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is an amazing talent. He has 1,207 yards passing and 16 TDs and has run for 434 yards and another six scores. Running back Mike Weber (612 yards) is the next great Buckeyes back and Curtis Samuel, the team’s leading receiver (403 yards) is also the team’s second-leading rusher (456).
Ohio State is fourth in the nation in scoring offense (49.3 points a game), but they are also third nationally in scoring defense (12.8). Penn State is definitely not Wisconsin and will likely become the Buckeyes seventh victim this season.
Oklahoma -13 Points
Yes, Oklahoma can still win the Big 12 Conference championship. They will not, however, have a shot at sneaking into the College Football Playoff. The Sooners’ two early losses eliminated them from any title contention, but that hasn’t stopped head coach Bob Stoops and company from winning three in a row. Now, the Sooners will take on pass-happy Texas Tech and QB Patrick Mahomes III.
The Red Raiders were shut down last week by unbeaten West Virginia. They scored just 17 points and it was the first time this season that Mahomes did not have multiple touchdown passes in a game. The Sooners have given up a boatload of points but did hold Kansas State to just 17 last week. Mahomes did injure a shoulder two weeks ago and it has been giving him problems, but he still fights on. He is the big reason why Texas Tech is fifth nationally in scoring (48.8) and first in passing yards per game with 510.8.
Where the Red Raiders fall short is on defense where they give up 40.2 points per contest, which is 124th out of 128 FBS teams. Oklahoma is just beginning to come into its own with a super talented offense that includes QB Baker Mayfield and running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. With all their talent on offense, Oklahoma is 11th in the country in total offense gaining an average of 525 yards per game.
Ohio State -11 Points
Over/Under 44.5 Points
It will be the first real test for the Buckeyes, ranked No. 2 in the nation at 5-0. Ohio State has beaten its first five opponents by an average of 41.6 points per game. The Badgers (4-1) are ranked No. 8 and are known for their tough defense. Wisconsin held a Michigan team that is averaging over 50 points a game to 14 in a 14-7 loss two weeks ago. Head coach Paul Chryst and his team will also enjoy the benefit of having had a week off to prepare for the Buckeyes.
Wisconsin is fourth in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 12.2 points per game. That could change against an Ohio State team that averages 537.6 yards and 53.2 points per game. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown for 981 yards and rushed for 342 more. He has 19 total touchdowns and RB Mike Weber has done an admirable job of filling Ezekiel Elliot’s shoes. Weber has 566 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries. It will be up to the Badgers defense to slow down the Buckeyes’ running game. That will be a tall task as Ohio State averages 323.6 rushing yards per game.
The Badgers will again go with Alex Hornibrook at quarterback. The redshirt freshman took over the starting job from Bart Houston and led Wisconsin to a big win over Michigan State. He struggled somewhat against Michigan, and he will need to make plays against Ohio State. If the Badgers get into a shootout, their offense just won’t be able to keep up.
Notre Dame -3 Points
Over/Under 55 Points
Two teams that were preseason favorites to be contenders for a College Football Playoff berth are desperately in search of a win. Stanford started the season 3-0 and has now dropped two straight to Washington and Washington State. It was head coach David Shaw’s first loss to the Cougars since becoming the Cardinal head man. To make matters worse, star running back Christian McCaffrey may not play against Notre Dame on Saturday.
McCaffrey was injured in the second half of Stanford’s loss to Washington State. He was held to a season-low 35 yards rushing. Without him, Stanford loses over 75 percent of their offense. Even without McCaffrey, the Cardinal will go up against an Irish defense that is struggling. Head coach Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder earlier in the season. Last week, it was Hurricane Matthew that helped to slow down N.C. State. Still, the Irish lost 10-3, their fourth loss of the season.
Ole Miss -7.5 Points
Over/Under 67 Points
It’s an SEC showdown that neither team can really afford to lose. Both teams have two losses and a third will likely eliminate the loser from New Year’s Six bowl contention. The Razorbacks’ two losses were to No. 10 Texas A&M and top-ranked Alabama just last week. Ole Miss started the season with a loss to then fourth-ranked Florida State and also dropped a 48-43 decision to the Crimson Tide. Head coach Hugh Freeze’s team led in both of those games but couldn’t hold on to win.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for either team, so it is now or never. The game will feature a contrast of styles as the high-flying spread offense of the Rebels will tangle with head coach Bret Bielema’s run-oriented offensive attack. Arkansas does have a very capable passing game though led by QB Austin Allen who has thrown for 1,632 yards and 15 touchdowns already this season. Rawleigh Williams III is the Razorbacks go-to back and he leads the team with 605 rushing yards.
The Rebels’ offense is built around senior quarterback Chad Kelly. Ole Miss averages 41.6 points (15th in the nation) per game and Kelly has 1,596 passing yards and 13 TD passes thus far. Kelly’s tight end, Evan Engram, is the team’s leading receiver with 30 catches for 479 yards and four touchdowns. Ole Miss will have an advantage as they operate against an Arkansas defense that will be without linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who will miss four to six weeks with a foot injury.
Alabama -13 Points
Over/Under 57 Points
Tennessee faces another monumental task as the Vols take on the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, Alabama, on Saturday. The Vols get the Crimson Tide at home and a victory would give head coach Butch Jones and his program the validation it needs to claim that Tennessee really is back. The Vols took a huge step forward last week when they beat eighth-ranked Texas A&M 45-38 in overtime.
Tennessee’s offense features seniors Joshua Dobbs, the quarterback, and RB Jalen Hurd. The pair happens to be a couple of the SEC’s best players. Dobbs has 1,433 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. He also has another five touchdowns on the ground. Hurd leads the team in rushing with 407 yards. Both will have to play one of the best games of their lives against arguably the best defense in the country.
Head coach Nick Saban’s defense gives up 15.8 points per game, 11th nationally. The amount of talent Alabama has on defense can frustrate opponents. The Tide did give up 473 yards and 30 points to Arkansas last week, but the Alabama defense scored twice, once on a fumble return and the other on a 100-yard interception return by Minkah Fitzpatrick.
If there is a shot to upset Alabama, the Vols may have the best chance. The Crimson Tide has won the last nine straight. Last year, the Vols had a shot to win but fell, 19-14. Tennessee ended its drought with Florida earlier this season winning for the first time in 12 years.
North Carolina -2.5 Points
Over/Under 59 points
A week after Louisville-Clemson, the ACC features another matchup of ranked teams. Virginia Tech, under new head coach Justin Fuente is back in the AP Top 25 and travels to North Carolina. The Tar Heels recorded one of their biggest wins in recent memory when Nick Weiler drilled a 54-yard field goal as time expired to beat Florida State. The Tar Heels score over 40 points a game, play good enough defense, and have a quarterback in Mitch Trubisky that just wins. The Hokies are looking to make themselves relevant once again. They are off to a 3-1 start and are coming off wins over Boston College (49-0) and East Carolina (54-17).
Texas A&M -7 Points
Over/Under 55 points
A year after Kevin Sumlin was on the hot seat, he is once again loved in College Station. The Aggies are 5-0 and the offense is back. Graduate transfer and former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is running the show that is creating 521 yards of total offense per game. Texas A&M is deep at wide receiver, but they are also very talented on the other side of the ball. Defensive end Myles Garrett (6-5, 270) is one of the nation’s best and could be the top pick in next year’s draft. Tennessee pulled off one of the most incredible victories last week beating Georgia 34-31 on a last-second Hail Mary toss from QB Joshua Dobbs to WR Jauan Jennings. Look for similar excitement on Saturday.
Alabama -14 Points
Over/Under 49 points
While everyone is busy looking ahead to Tennessee-Alabama next week, one team that could beat the Tide at their own game is Arkansas. Now, the Razorbacks have not beaten Alabama since 2006 and it was by a mere point, 24-23. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema would hope to avoid what happened in 2012 and 2013 when the Tide won by identical scores of 52-0. The 16th-ranked Razorbacks are big up front and have a solid running back in Rawleigh Williams III who has 559 yards in five games. The Tide gives up just over 250 yards and 13 points a game and have a roster loaded with NFL talent. Freshman QB Jalen Hurts has been a nice surprise. Alabama gets to prove it is deserving of the No. 1 ranking as it faces Arkansas, No. 9 Tennessee, and No. 8 Texas A&M in successive weeks.
Miami -3 Points
Over/Under 64.5 points
Hiring Mark Richt has proved to be a blessing for Miami. The Hurricanes are off to a 4-0 start. They have given up just 44 points in four games and the ‘Canes offense is tied for fourth in the nation in scoring. The cupcake part of the schedule is over though as now Richt and company must face Florida State, which is already 0-2 in the ACC. Miami will take on the Seminoles, then No. 15 North Carolina, and then No. 25 Virginia Tech. Richt gets to prove that his Hurricanes are for real. It starts Saturday night by slowing down a powerful FSU offense and RB Dalvin Cook. The problem for the Seminoles is that they are not stopping anyone. Head coach Jimbo Fisher’s defense is missing its star FS Derwin James and it shows. Florida State is 105th in the nation giving up 35.4 points per game.
Over/Under 44.5 points
When Chris Petersen took over the Washington program in 2014, he knew that the Huskies would reach a point where they would be playing for championships. Although early in the 2016, Petersen’s squad is essentially playing for the Pac-12 South Division when the Huskies welcome No. 7 Stanford to Husky Stadium on Friday night.
Washington, 4-0 on the season, is ranked No. 9, its highest ranking of the Petersen era. The Huskies were tabbed by many as the team to beat in the Pac-12 South this year. They will have to prove that they can take on a national power like Stanford in order to do so. The Huskies faced their first test last week when they grabbed their first conference win, a thrilling 35-28 victory over Arizona in overtime.
Petersen is solid on both sides of the ball. His opportunistic defense is tied for first in the nation with 13 takeaways and the Huskies are 15th in scoring defense (14.5 ppg). Offensively, sophomore quarterback Jake Browning is third in the country in passing efficiency and running backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman are speedy and must produce against a stout Stanford defense.
Cardinal head coach David Shaw has been doing this for years at Stanford. A power running game run by a quarterback that doesn’t make many mistakes all built around a defense that will punish opponents. Shaw is also fortunate enough to have a Heisman Trophy contender in RB Christian McCaffrey. The junior once again leads Stanford in rushing (436 yards) and receiving (119 yards) and has accounted for four touchdowns. If Washington doesn’t have a plan to stop McCaffrey, they are in for a long night.
Michigan -10.5 point
Over/Under 44.5 points
Something has to give when No. 4 Michigan hosts No. 8 Wisconsin on Saturday. Both teams rank in the top 15 in scoring defense, Michigan 13th (13.8 ppg) and Wisconsin seventh (11.8 ppg). The Badgers (4-0) are fresh off of a demolition of previously unbeaten Michigan State. Wisconsin held the Spartans running game, usually very good, to just 85 yards in a 30-6 victory. Can they do the same against the Wolverines?
While the Badgers were manhandling the Spartans, head coach Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan squad was dismantling the Penn State defense to the tune of 326 rushing yards. The Wolverines offensive line is big and good. Michigan rushes for 230 yards per game and De’Veon Smith and Chris Evans each average over 6.5 yards per carry. The running game is a key for Michigan, which surprisingly is fourth in the nation in scoring averaging 52 points per game.
The ground game is also important for Wisconsin and has been through the years. This year, it’s even more of a key as head coach Paul Chryst works on turning freshman Alex Hornibrook into a top-notch quarterback. Hornibrook got his first start last week against Michigan State and performed admirably, completing 16-of-26 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Running back Corey Clement, who was banged up in the win over the Spartans, is expected to play. The senior is the Badgers leading rusher with 251 yards and five touchdowns.
The X-factor could be Michigan’s do-it-all Jabril Peppers. The sophomore rotates between safety and linebacker on defense and is the team’s second-leading tackler. He also has 9.5 tackles for loss already this season. He also contributes on offense as a running back and receiver and Harbaugh will likely use him even more this week against Wisconsin.
Louisville -2 points
Over/Under 66.5 points
Another matchup of Top 10 teams takes place at Clemson on Saturday night when the No. 5 Tigers welcome Lamar Jackson and the third-ranked Louisville Cardinals to town. With his exploits thus far, Jackson is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. He is doing everything right, but facing Clemson and defensive coordinator Brent Venables in Death Valley is going to be a challenge.
Louisville leads the nation in scoring, averaging a whopping 63.5 points per game. The Cardinals average 682 yards of total offense per game and Jackson is the catalyst with 1,330 yards passing and another 526 on the ground. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns through just four games.
For all the hype surrounding Louisville’s offense, it is really the defense that is special. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, like Venables, is well-respected throughout the FBS as one of the best. The Cardinals shut down Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, limiting him to just 54 yards on 16 carries in Louisville’s 63-20 victory over the Seminoles in Week 3.
Clemson returns a special quarterback of their own in junior Deshaun Watson, also a Heisman candidate. Watson has not put up the kind of numbers that Jackson has, but he is still dangerous. The Tigers struggled earlier in the season with Auburn, a 19-13 win, and Troy, a 30-24 victory. Head coach Dabo Swinney’s offense has come to life the past two weeks scoring 85 points in wins over South Carolina State and Georgia Tech.
Saturday will be a test for both teams. The winner puts itself clearly in the running for the ACC title and a College Football Playoff berth. The loser, while not out, will probably need to win out to have similar aspirations.
Oklahoma -3.5 points
Over/Under 69.5 points
A year or two ago, this was one of the biggest games in Big 12 play. This year, TCU is barely in the Top 25 (the Horned Frogs are No. 21) and Oklahoma is already 1-2. Could the Sooners really start the season 1-3? It’s hard to believe but, in fact, highly possible as Oklahoma must win on the road Saturday to avoid the dismal start.
Granted, the Sooners have lost to some very talented football teams. Oklahoma lost to No. 6 Houston and No. 2 Ohio State sandwiched around a big (59-17) victory over Louisiana-Monroe. If the Sooners have any hopes of a second consecutive Big 12 title, they face a must-win on Saturday. Next week, they will face No. 22 Texas in the Red River Rivalry.
If head coach Bob Stoops and his Sooners are going to have a chance, their defense must find a way to slow down quarterback Kenny Hill. The former Texas A&M transfer is guiding an offense that averages 42.8 points a game. Hill has thrown for 1,487 yards and six touchdowns thus far. Slow down Hill, and the Sooners have a chance.
Offensively, Oklahoma is solid with Baker Mayfield at quarterback and one of the best running back tandems in the nation in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who averages over eight yards a carry. Oklahoma has won five of the previous six meetings in Fort Worth. To make it six of seven, the Sooners have got to improve on defense.
Ole Miss -7 points
Over/Under 61.5 points
Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze may want to rethink jumping out to a big early lead against 12th-ranked Georgia on Saturday. After claiming 20-point-plus leads on Florida State and Alabama, Ole Miss collapsed and lost both games. Now at 1-2, Freeze faces the possibility of having three losses before October as Ole Miss hosts Georgia.
The Bulldogs have shown the ability to come back from deficits of their own albeit against somewhat inferior opponents. Georgia trailed FCS opponent Nicholls State 16-14 before rallying for a 26-24 victory. Last week, first-year head coach Kirby Smart won his first SEC game but the Bulldogs had to come from behind to do so. Trailing 27-21 late in the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to WR Isaiah McKenzie with 1:29 left in the game in a 28-27 victory.
For Georgia to control the game Saturday, RB Nick Chubb is going to have to return the form he had in Game 1, a 33-24 win over North Carolina. Chubb, who suffered a horrific knee injury last season, ran for 222 yards against the Tar Heels. He has gained 143 yards in the two games since the win over UNC. Ole Miss has struggled against the run thus far and Freeze’s defense, usually stout, is giving up an astounding 243 yards per game (next to last in the SEC). There is no question that the Rebels can score, but they will have to stop the Georgia running game to grab their first SEC win of the 2016 season.
Michigan State -5 point
Over/Under 42 points
It was 2011 when one of the greatest plays in Big Ten history took place. There could be a repeat on Saturday as No. 11 Wisconsin travels to face No. 8 Michigan State. The 2011 game ended when Keith Nichol caught a tipped Hail Mary from QB Kirk Cousins to give the Spartans a 37-31 win. The two teams haven’t met since the 2012 season and this year’s game has some serious implications.
Michigan State is coming off a huge win over Notre Dame while the Badgers are 3-0 with an impressive Week 1 victory over LSU. The two teams are similar in style and both defenses are among the best in the nation. The difference on Saturday may come at the quarterback position. The Spartans are led by fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor, who waited patiently behind Connor Cook for his opportunity to start this year. O’Connor has been nothing but efficient, completing nearly 73 percent of his passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns.
While the Spartans have stability at quarterback, Badgers head coach Paul Chryst has yet to name a starter for Saturday’s game. Fifth-year senior Bart Houston was replaced last week in the second half as the offense struggled in a win over Georgia State. Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook finished the game last Saturday and went 8-of-12 for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Wisconsin might also be without starting RB Corey Clement who has been bothered with an ankle injury. Clement did not play against Georgia State last week or in the 54-10 win over Akron the week before. Clement is a big part of an offense that has rushed for 205 yards per game. Without Clement, the Badgers will be hard pressed to have success against a Spartans defense that yields just 72 rushing yards a game.
Tennessee -6.5 points
Over/Under 43.5 points
Very quietly, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has his Volunteers ranked No. 14 in the nation and 3-0 on the season. Are the Vols for real? They will find out on Saturday when they host rival and 19th-ranked Florida. Tennessee has lost 11 straight to the Gators including last year when, on 4th-and-14, Florida WR Antonio Callaway scored the game-winning touchdown in a 28-27 Florida win.
If there was a year to end the Gators’ dominance, it is this year. Florida lost starting QB Luke Del Rio to injury and he will be replaced by graduate transfer Austin Appleby, who started four games at Purdue last season. The reason Appleby was beat out by Del Rio has to do with accuracy. While Appleby may have the stronger arm, he only completed 57 percent of his passes last year at Purdue. He will have to be sharp and make plays when called upon on Saturday for Florida to win its 12th in a row in the series.
What Tennessee will have to overcome is possibly the nation’s best defense. The Gators have given up just 14 points in three games and lead the nation in scoring defense (4.7 ppg). None of Florida’s three opponents – UMass, Kentucky, North Texas – gained more than 130 total yards against the Gators.
It’s no secret that the Tennessee offense will rely on QB Joshua Dobbs and RB Jalen Hurd. Dobbs has 486 passing yards, 161 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns. Hurd leads Tennessee in rushing with 270 yards. Wide receiver Josh Malone has four touchdown receptions. The Vols offensive stars will have to come through in front of their home crowd if Jones and Tennessee is to end Florida’s command of the series.
Texas A&M -6 points
Over/Under 49.5 points
It will be a huge contrast in styles on Saturday night when No. 17 Arkansas plays at 10th-ranked Texas A&M. The up-tempo spread offense of the Aggies has produced nearly 531 total yards and over 42 points per game. Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema favors a ground-heavy attack though the normally potent Hogs run game is averaging just 170.7 yards a game thus far this season. History doesn’t favor Arkansas either as the Aggies have won the past four meetings in a row, including the last two in overtime.
The key for both the Aggies and the Razorbacks will be the play of their quarterbacks. Texas A&M is led by Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight, who has 830 yards passing and five touchdowns. Arkansas’s Austin Allen is the younger brother of Brandon, the Razorbacks’ starter last season. Allen has 655 passing yards and seven touchdowns. He is also a capable runner as he displayed on a 5-yard TD run in the second overtime in a 41-38 win over TCU in Week 2.
The Aggies have an edge defensively and it starts with All-American defensive end Myles Garrett. The 6-5, 270-pounder led the SEC a year ago with 12.5 sacks and is off to a great start in 2016. Garrett has three sacks and four QB hurries. His running mate, DE Daeshon Hall is a 6-6, 270-pound senior who can wreak just as much havoc as Garrett off the edge. Texas A&M is much better defensively this season and that defense may be the difference on Saturday night.
Alabama -10.5 points
Over/Under 55 points
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide have lost to Ole Miss two years in a row. They can’t possibly make it 3, can they? After suffering a loss to Florida State to open the season last week, the Ole Miss Rebels will have to upset Alabama if they want to keep their name in the college football playoff hunt. Alabama has looked like the best team thus far in the early goings of the college football season, but even they aren’t without flaws. The Tide’s running game has been disappointing after two weeks of play. While some drop off was expected after losing some lineman and running back Derrick Henry to the NFL, but Alabama is used to losing and replacing star players with young star players. Alabama is a heavy favorite going into Ole Miss and will look to execute and avoid the upset away.
Ohio State -1 point
Over/Under 63 points
Ohio State opened the first two weeks of the 2016 season with some soft competition in Bowling Green and Tulsa, but now they’ll travel to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in what will be their first big test of the season. Urban Meyers’ Buckeye team is very young and inexperienced, and it’ll be interesting how some of the younger players deal with the adversity of a hostile environment. Oklahoma currently sits at 1-1 on the year with a week 1 loss to Houston, then a blowout win in week 2 over Louisiana-Monroe. It’ll only be the 3rd time the two teams have ever played, and if Ohio State wins on the road in Norman, they’ll push their current away winning streak to a record 18 games.
Nebraska -3 points
Over/Under 74.5 points
Both Nebraska and the Oregon Ducks are off to a fast 2-0 start with two blowout wins each in the first two weeks of the season, though it was against generally lesser talented programs. The Cornhuskers own a 5-1 record ever against the Ducks, but the two teams haven’t met since 1986. A lot is at stake for both programs as Oregon tries to bounce back from last year’s 9 win season, this is an early test for them that they’ll need to win in order to get back to prominence. And for the Nebraska Corhuskers, they’re expected to contend for the Big Ten West title. It’ll be a fiery atmosphere in Lincoln, Nebraska, but Oregon is used to that stage. Nebraska’s biggest question mark thus far seems to be its young defensive line. The Ducks are going to need to exploit that weakness with the running game if they want to pull off the upset on the road this Saturday.
Florida State -1 point
Over/Under 67 points
The Florida State Seminoles enter Saturday’s contest ranked as the 2nd team in the nation behind Alabama, and they’ll be taking on a Louisville team that’s currently ranked 10th in the polls. After an impressive 22 point comeback in the opening week of the season against the Ole Miss Rebels, the Seminoles dominated Charleston Southern in week 2. The Noles’ defense will have their hands full with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson who is equally dangerous in the running game as he is in the pocket. Florida State does have history on its side with a 15-2 record overall against the Louisville Cardinals in their 17 meetings. Despite that favorable record, it should be a closely contested game in Louisville on Saturday between the two.
Tennessee -11.5 points
Over/Under 54 points
Tennessee is coming off a very lackluster performance to open the season against Appalachian State which they won in overtime. Virginia Tech will be a much tougher test for the Volunteers this week, but many in Tennessee are banking on a bounce back game at home. The improvement will have to start up front on the Tennessee offensive line who were disastrous last week. Quarterback Jalen Hurd was on the run for much of the night and will need more time to throw against the Aggie defense. Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans will need to build on last week’s four TD pass performance against Liberty if he wants to pull off the upset this week in Tennessee.
Pittsburgh -4.5 points
Over/Under 47.5 points
It’s Joe Moorehead’s 2nd game as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, but this Pittsburgh defense is one of the toughest they’ll face all year. The Pittsburgh offensive line is expected to be a solid unit this season, but opened with a disappointing performance in the week 1 game against Villanova. They’ll be facing a young Penn State defensive line that looked solid in their first outing last week, but Pitt is a step up. This game will come down to the trenches and whose team can get more push from the lines. Penn State’s defense should be able to create some turnovers, but it’ll be up to the offense to make the Pitt Panthers pay in order to pull off the upset.
North Carolina -7.5 points
Over/Under 58 points
The North Carolina offense is packed and loaded with weapons particularly in the passing game, but they unimpressed in their showing last week against Georgia. While the Illinois defense does have some talent of its own, they’ll find themselves outmatched by the Tar Heels offense on Saturday. If Illinois is to pull off the upset at home, they’ll have to win the game by running the ball consistently and productively. Both Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin got off to a great start to the season for Illinois on the ground last week, and their offensive line should be able to create some space against an average Tar Heel defensive line.
TCU -7.5 points
Over/Under 58.5 points
The TCU Horned Frogs were down early to South Dakota State last weekend to open the season, but came back strong in the second half to put them away. The Horned Frogs’ defense was highly touted entering the season, but were no shows last week against what was thought to be an average South Dakota offense after losing quarterback Carson Wentz to the NFL this off-season. Arkansas is outmatched at most levels in the game, but especially in the secondary where TCU quarterback Kenny Hill should be able to have a strong game against the Razorbacks. The total opened at 61, but the public is expecting a bounce back game for the TCU defense as its moved down to 58.5 as of Thursday.
Alabama -11.5 points
Over/Under 55 points
The defending National Champs will kickoff the 2016 season at AT&T Stadium in Dallas against the USC Trojans. Alabama brings two of the best lines on both the offensive and defensive side, and are loaded with play makers on offense. The Crimson Tide are an 11.5 point favorites over the Trojans who are only 1-5 against the spread in their last six games. Alabama has won their conference in three of the last four years and will look to kickoff another Championship season with a big win to get started.
Florida State -4.5 points
Over/Under 58.5 points
The number 4 ranked Florida State Seminoles from the ACC will face-off with the 11th ranked Ole Miss Rebels from the SEC to start the 2016 College Football Season. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly will be the key to Ole Miss’ hopes of pulling off the upset in Orlando at a neutral field. For the Noles, Heisman hopeful Dalvin Cook will command the backfield, and is considered arguably the best running back in all of college football. Florida State’s season and championship hopes will hinge at the quarterback position this year. They’re stacked on both sides of the ball, but due to an injury to starting quarterback Sean Maguire, they’ll need someone to step up in his absence till he returns.
Oklahoma -11.5 points
Over/Under 67 points
The Houston Cougars and the Oklahoma Sooners will square off in their week 1 match-up at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Cougars have been strong against the spread the last few years and also against Big 12 opponents as they’re 3-2 against the spread and straight up in their last five with them. Houston is also 4-0 ATS in their last four home games against the Big 12. NRG Stadium is technically a neutral field, but given its closer proximity to the in-town Cougars, expect a home game-type atmosphere when they take on the Sooners.
Clemson -7.5 points
Over/Under 63.5 points
Another ACC vs SEC showdown scheduled to kickoff the opening week of the 2016 season is the Clemson Tigers vs the Auburn Tigers. For Clemson, all eyes will be on quarterback Deshaun Watson who threw for over 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns last season. He also added another 1,105 yards on the ground as he led the Tigers to the ACC crown. Auburn will counter with one of the stronger backfields in college football with a combination of Jovon Robinson and Kerryon Johnson sharing the load. However, they’ll be running against one of the nation’s best run defenses in the Clemson Tigers. Strength against strength and something has to give, but Clemson is a better overall balanced team and should put Auburn away in the second half.