There’s a new sheriff in town for college sports at The Total Bro… and I’m your Huckleberry.
We’re midway through the majestic beauty of another glorious, painful, exhilarating, incomprehensible college football season, so let’s not waste any time and look ahead to what awaits us in Week 8. We’ll start with the must-watch game in each conference.
ACC: Syracuse (4-3) at No. 8 Miami (5-0)
This week is a bit of a snoozer in the ACC, but this week’s meeting between ‘Cuse and the ‘Canes provides a bit of intrigue. Miami will look to keep its undefeated season rolling – albeit against mostly lackluster competition so far – in what has been a downright fantastic first half of the season for South Florida teams, with Miami, USF and UCF making up 37.5% of remaining unbeaten teams (that’s 3 out of 8 for you math whizzes).
Meanwhile, Syracuse will attempt to capitalize on the momentum from its stunning upset of then No. 2 Clemson in what was a pretty complete 27-24 performance in the Carrier Dome last week.
While shocking, Syracuse’s showing against Clemson was not a total outlier this year. The Orange defense has shown significant improvement – about two touchdowns per game better than last year – and have been tough against the run, which has been Miami’s most reliable offensive weapon. On the other side of the ball, Syracuse boasts a solid passing game, in which junior QB Eric Dungey has paced the Orange with 2,080 yards and a 12:4 TD to INT ratio. Miami’s pass defense has been strong, though, adding another wrinkle to what should be a very close game.
If the Hurricanes can weather Syracuse, Virginia Tech will be just about all that stands between them and a berth in the ACC title game. Both teams are coming into this game with loads of momentum and some of the strongest football they’ve played in years. However, Miami is coming off of back-to-back last-second wins against Florida State and Georgia Tech and that will be hard to sustain if they’re caught in another nail-biter, which I expect this game will be. But, they have the distinct advantage of playing this game at home and Syracuse won’t be sneaking up on anyone else this year. I like Miami to pull off another escape act this week, but don’t expect them to stretch this undefeated season too much longer.
Clint’s call: Miami over Syracuse, 28-24
B1G: No. 19 Michigan (5-1) at No. 2 Penn State (6-0)
In what is undoubtedly the game of the week, unbeaten Penn State and Heisman hopeful running back Saquon Barkley continue their revenge tour after being held out of the college football playoff by everyone’s favorite undeserving perennial playoff participant, Ohio State. Stepping into the monochromatic buzzsaw this week is Michigan, one of two reasons – besides Ohio State’s mere existence – that the Nittany Lions were held out of the playoffs last year, thanks to a 49-10 win by Big Blue.
Besides revenge, Penn State needs this win in a bad way, as it has by far the least impressive resumé of the current top 4 so far. It’s time to put up or shut up, as Michigan kicks off the toughest three weeks of the season for Penn State, followed by trips to Ohio State and Michigan State. But with two weeks to prepare and a hell of a lot of motivation, I like Penn State to start this gauntlet strong.
Michigan’s defense is solid and the Wolverines will no doubt key in on Barkley, who has been held largely in check over the past few game and hasn’t been able to sniff 100 yards on the ground in either of his previous two games against Jim Harbaugh’s boys. But, if Michigan is going to force Trace McSorley to bet them, he’s more than capable, especially against a Michigan secondary that hasn’t proven much of anything yet. On the flip side, if Michigan is forced to keep up with Penn State’s offense, they further haven’t proven they have a passing game capable of doing so, especially against Penn State’s strong DBs.
If Michigan’s defense, led by its solid D-line, can make some stops early, then this could be another close one, but with the home crowd behind them, Penn State is bound to have a hot start. I’m thinking Nittany Lions comfortably.
Clint’s call: Penn State over Michigan, 31-17
Big 12: Iowa State (4-2) at Texas Tech (4-2)
In a week of Big 12 mis-matches, Tech-Iowa State presents the most potentially competitive game between two squads that have so far performed much better than many expected.
Led by surprise QB Kyle Kempt, Iowa State is red hot the past two weeks, including an upset at then No. 3 Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Tech holds signature wins over Houston and Arizona State with near misses against West Virginia and Oklahoma State in the Big 12’s top tier.
Both teams have serviceable defenses – no small accomplishment for Tech – and big-play offenses. In a matchup so close, the uniquely tough atmosphere at Jones AT&T Stadium could be a major factor. It’s also hard not to side with Tech in a shootout.
Clint’s call: Texas Tech over Iowa State, 42-38
SEC: No. 24 LSU (5-2) at Ole Miss (3-3)
It’s rivalry week for two of the SEC’s most confusing and flawed teams. It’s hard to know exactly what to make of either LSU or Ole Miss this year, but one thing is for certain: LSU is clearly the better team. Whether or not they can survive a rivalry game in Vaught-Hemmingway with their “squeak by Florida and Auburn, but manage to lose to Troy at home” attitude is another question. By the way, none of those aforementioned teams are that great.
But short of an Oxford miracle, LSU should take this one and keeps its SEC West hopes relatively alive. The Tigers’ defense is the strongest part of the team and LSU’s D-line should terrorize Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson behind a suspect O-line. If LSU’s run game can get going with Derrius Guice again and control the clock, forget about it.
Clint’s call: LSU over Ole Miss, 24-10
Pac 12: No. 11 USC (6-1) at No. 13 Notre Dame (5-1)
Ah, the once storied rivalry in which two of today’s most consistently comically overrated teams battle for bragging rights and a bejeweled Irish bludgeoning device. Voting bias aside, this year’s meeting between the Irish and Trojans is shaping up to be a tasty one.
On a side note, is there a stupider mascot than the Trojan? Why name your team after a group of ancient Turks most famous for losing a war and being associated with sexual prophylactics? Anyway…
USC came into the season with high rankings and expectations, but have since lost to upstart Washington State and nearly lost to Utah and a bad Texas team. They hobble into South Bend with some key injuries and a QB who can’t seem to take care of the ball – Sam Darnold has 9 interceptions already this year.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame has had a week to get healthy and prepare for this game. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush will be back to compliment a solid rushing attack. Come to think of it, Notre Dame’s ranking might not be totally unearned this year considering how close they played Georgia – the Irish lost to one of the nation’s very best, 20-19.
I’m expecting a bit of a shootout, but a healthy Irish squad, plus the home crowd and Darnold’s inaccuracy should spell victory for the Golden Domers.
Clint’s call: Notre Dame over USC, 38-35
Group of Five Game of the Week
American: No. 20 UCF (5-0) at Navy (5-1)
As a lifelong TCU Horned Frog, I’m never one to overlook the little guys, and this week’s Group of Five clash to watch is going down in Annapolis.
Like Miami, UCF is looking to continue a strong season for the schools of South Florida – Orlando is still technically South Florida, right? But the Midshipmen are no strangers to playing spoiler, especially with a home crowd behind them.
What makes this matchup extra interesting is that both offenses are equally potent with drastically different philosophies: UCF’s modern spread is the highest scoring offense in the nation, while Navy’s more traditional triple option is just as capable of piling up stats (a clip of 479 yards and 35.5 points per game).
UCF has been tough on the run this year, but the Golden Knights have never played Navy and they’ve never faced a triple-option team since Scott Frost took over as head coach last year. Granted, Frost did run the triple option as a QB in his playing days at Nebraska, but teaching an offense how to stop it is a truly unique animal that is hard to fully understand unless you’ve been a part of the game planning process.
Navy’s Achilles heel has been turnovers – they were bitten by 5 in last week’s loss to now No. 25 Memphis. The winning formula for Navy is to keep the other offense off the field as much as possible while they chew clock, eventually score, and the defense rests. It’s an old and great philosophy. But for it to work, limiting turnovers is obviously paramount.
Navy isn’t getting much love from most experts this week and the defense is definitely going to have a challenge slowing down UCF’s offense. But one week after five turnovers resulted in a 3-point loss on the road? I like the chances that our young servicemen in training tap into that discipline and take care of the ball enough on homecoming night to pull a big upset.
Clint’s call: Navy over UCF, 31-28