As another week of college football goes into the book, fans are rewarded with a moment of clarity as several of the top-ranked teams won convincingly in week 5. However, as fans and pundits know all to well, a relatively quiet weekend usually results in a successive weekend that completely obliterates everything you thought you knew about the college football elite. Yes, Clemson, Alabama, Penn St. and Georgia looked every bit like the worthy candidates to make the College Football Playoff. Yet, amidst these perceived top-tier programs is a sleeping giant that is waiting to emerge and knock off one of these highly praised kings of college football. Could the Cinderella schools take center stage this weekend? Let’s find out.
1. Louisville Cardinals (17) vs. NC State Wolfpack (24)
Initially, this game could be viewed as a paltry ACC matchup that will adequately appease college football fans until the weekend slate of games starts. However, this contest offers a unique blend of offense and defense, with the two opposing quarterbacks being proficient in very different ways. For junior quarterback Ryan Finley, it’s all about working within the pocket and making high percentage throws to open receivers. Signal caller Lamar Jackson could not be any more different as his success is predicated on working outside of the pocket to complete a big throw and/or utilizing his athleticism to run downfield. While both defenses are solid, it’s hard to imagine either one making a huge impact in this affair. Ultimately, Jackson’s ability to garner massive yardage chunks with fewer plays will be the deciding factor in this overlooked matchup.
Final Score: Cardinals 38 Wolfpack 34 Spread: Louisville -3.5
2. Georgia Bulldogs (5) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Although many fans consider an entertaining game as one that is especially close from start to finish, there are a few exceptions that are worth watching just to get a look at a superior program on the rise. This is that game. While Vanderbilt held its own against the Florida Gators on the road through three-quarters, the once anointed “best defense in the country” (yes, shamefully by me at one point) looked lost as they gave up 38 points on the road. In particular, it was the Commodores inability to stop the run that prevented them from ever having a chance. Against the Bulldogs, the defense of the Commodores will be worn out much quicker and considering how inconsistent their offense has looked it won’t be long until Georgia goes on a tear for another blowout victory.
Final Score: Bulldogs 45 Commodores 17 Spread: UGA -17
3. Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Clemson Tigers (2)
One of these days, the Clemson Tigers will be seriously challenged for the ACC crown. While the Demon Deacons are well poised and tough-minded on defense, they will not be the team to humble the Tigers. While Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has looked fairly shaky against great defenses if anything was evident in the Tigers impressive win against Virigian Tech it was that he doesn’t have to play perfectly for his team to win. The Tigers have arguably the best defense in the country and their offense is potent enough to score big early while leaving offensively impotent teams in the dust. The Demon Deacons will come out angry and hungry at the start, but the firepower that Tigers have on both sides of the ball will help them win commandingly in the end.
Final Score: Demon Deacons 23 Tigers 39 Spread: Clemson -21.5
4. LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators (21)
Normally an exciting affair with both teams relying on their defenses and running attacks to violently earn a victory, this years meeting could be decidedly underwhelming by comparison. After an embarrassing loss at home to Troy, the Tigers are most likely spending the majority of this week trying figure out their identity while attempting to prepare for a Florida team that has found the answer to their offensive woes in a dynamic and physical running game. With that being said, LSU still has a respectable defense and Florida is still shaky at the quarterback position with Luke Del Rio out for the season with a broken collarbone. The youth and fury of the Tiger defense will keep them in this game throughout the first three-quarters, but Florida has the advantage at home and will eventually wear down an undisciplined Tigers team.
Final Score: Tigers 20 Gators 30 Spread: Florida -3.5
5. West Virginia Mountaineers (23) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (8)
If there are two teams that do not get nearly enough praise in the Big 12 it’s the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs. After a close loss to Virginia Tech in week 1, the Mountaineers have worked out some of the kinks on offense and junior quarterback Will Grier has flourished under Dana Holgorsen’s tutelage and has shined with confidence when asked to throw downfield (9.54 yards per pass attempt, 65.3 CMP%). The Horned Frogs have looked like one of the best teams in college football since the start of the season and proved their greatness when they dispatched the Oklahoma State Cowboys on the road. Senior quarterback Kenny Hill has looked like a veteran by minimizing the careless turnovers that he was prone to giving up last year. However, it will be the legs of sophomore running back Darius Anderson that will eventually secure the Horned Frogs another impressive victory against a competitive Big 12 opponent.
Final Score: Mountaineers 29 Horned Frogs 36 Spread: TCU -14
6. Maryland Terrapins vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (10)
Before the season began, Maryland was the favorite team to hate in the Big 10 and rightfully so. The Terrapins have not won more than seven games since 2010, which was also the last time they won a bowl game. However, this Terrapin team appears to have higher aspirations as they won a shootout against the Longhorns in week 1 and took care of business against conference opponent Minnesota in week 5. However, the Terrapins may be overmatched against a Buckeyes team that is superb on both offense and defense. While it’s nice to see the Terrapins be competitive for a change and their running game is legitimate, they will see their hot start come to an end this week.
Final Score: Terrapins 23 Buckeyes 37 Spread: Ohio State -31.5
7. Alabama Crimson Tide (1) vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Here we are again. Another contest where the Crimson Tide is all but certain to win as they skip merrily with glee to the next contest. This is in no way a shot at an Aggies team that has looked great since giving up a monster lead to the Bruins in week 1. It’s just that the Crimson Tide are so effective on both sides of the ball that the opponents they have faced thus far just lack the firepower to even come close to giving them a decent scare. While I believe Aggies running back Trayveon Williams is a great rusher and could eventually become one of the premier backs in college football next year, it’s not even remotely enough to stop the roll of the Tide.
Final Score: Crimson Tide 46 Aggies 26 Spread: Alabama -26.5
8. Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines (7)
One of the biggest and most beloved rivalries by college football fans, the Spartans and the Wolverines hatred for each other is almost always matched by their gritty play on the field. Even more exciting is the fact that these teams are both built to win with their defenses while relying on their solid running games to score for them on offense. Although the Wolverines will be without starting quarterback Wilton Speight for multiple weeks due to an undisclosed injury, I don’t believe this will drastically affect the outcome. The Wolverines will still need to lean on running back Ty Isaac and their physical front seven to win this pivotal matchup. However, given that the Spartans defense is nearly on par with their arch-rivals while having a much more dynamic offense led by sophomore dual-threat quarterback Brian Lewerke, I believe the Spartans will win another classic on the road.
Final Score: Spartans 27 Wolverines 26 Spread: Michigan -13.5
9. Washington State Cougars (11) vs. Oregon Ducks
After securing a hard-fought victory over USC, the confident Cougars are ready to take their offensive show on the road to take on the best scoring offense in college football (49.6 PPG for Oregon). Senior running back Royce Freeman has been a godsend for the Ducks as he can run swiftly for massive yardage (5.7 yards per rush attempt) while being a reliable receiver out of the backfield (14.2 yards per reception). However, the Ducks have not faced a high-flying passing attack like that of the Cougars. On top of that, the Cougars are a very good defensive team that bends but does not always break and can dash Oregon’s hopes of an upset by stifling the production of Freeman. Even if they fail to do the latter consistently, Quarterback Luke Falk is more than capable of leading his team to another wildly entertaining shootout victory.
Final Score: Cougars 40 Ducks 33 Spread: Oregon -1.5
10. Stanford Cardinal vs. Utah Utes (20)
The Pac-12 nightcap of the week features two relatively unimaginative teams that are actually fiercely competitive. The Cardinal possess one of the most explosive rushers in Bryce Love (11.1 yards per rush, eight touchdowns, and 1088 rushing yards) but lack a competent passing game and defense to be consistently competitive every week. The Utes have one of the most underrated defenses in college football and sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley has looked sharp as the signal caller for the Utes. While I admire what the Cardinal have in their fearless running back, the Utes are much more well-balanced and will do enough on the offensive side of the football to win this matchup.
Final Score: Cardinal 29 Utes 34 Spread: Stanford -6.0