We have now fully hit that point.
The out-of-conference games are over. And save for a late season tilt with Louisville at Houston and the rivalry week games of "ACC vs. SEC," the next major out-of-conference games will be the bowl & playoff games in late December/early January. Which means one thing now: the games mean way more for the majority of the schools.
Last week was not a great week as I went 8-5 and now 28-12 for the season. Michigan State let me down more ways than one while LSU, UCLA, Indiana, and Arkansas all followed suit. But let's see with conference play how well these go (and I am hitting the major games). This week, we get THREE top 10 games. Should be a fun one.
(7) STANFORD @ (10) WASHINGTON, 9:00, ESPN: The Cardinal and Huskies showed they could win in hostile environments and do it with defense in both. Stanford did it with defense and showed they could win when McCaffrey wasn't rolling. It feels like the physical defense of Stanford is tough to figure out in the PAC-12, home or road. Washington has a good balance of offense and Jake Browning is getting better each week. That might spell trouble as the Huskies also "get it" with their interior play. This might be another low-scoring game, but winning in Seattle is tough even in college and the Huskies have a better balanced attack than Stanford, especially if they can contain McCaffrey. This will be low scoring and close, but I have to go with the home team. MY PREDICTION: WASHINGTON 20, STANFORD 17
(14) MIAMI @ GEORGIA TECH, 12:00, ESPN2: Mark Richt coaches his first game back in the state of Georgia since he got fired at Georgia. Ironically, it will be in the last place he coached for the Bulldogs: Bobby Dodd Stadium. But Miami is rolling and albeit they haven't faced anybody, this will be the Canes first test. Richt will preach to the Miami defenders to stop the option that Tech has. However, given Miami's great success against Georgia Tech since joining the ACC, it might not mean much. The Canes are very talented this year and Richt has righted the ship early. Miami has won 6 of the last 7 and Richt has owned the Jackets when he was at Georgia as well. Georgia Tech is coming off an embarrassing loss from Clemson last week largely because they do not have the talent like the Tigers or in this case, like the Hurricanes. MY PREDICTION: MIAMI 34, GEORGIA TECH 14
(22) TEXAS @ OKLAHOMA STATE, 12:00, ABC: Texas had all the momentum after the Notre Dame and then blew it in California. For all the talk about how the offense is vastly improved, they really fell back on defense, which was Charlie Strong's strength. But it seems like the Longhorns are giving up points all over the place. On the other side, the Cowboys are reeling from a road loss to Baylor. They didn't play that bad and I guess giving up 35 points to Baylor at home would be equivalent to a defensive moral victory in some cases. But they made one too many mistakes on offense to have a shot. That said, they should respond well this weekend. I don't think Texas is stopping many teams right now. MY PREDICTION: OKLAHOMA STATE 45, TEXAS 35
NORTH CAROLINA @ (12) FLORIDA STATE, 3:30, ESPN: Is Florida State on upset alert? Possible. The Noles defense is getting shredded the last few weeks and the Tar Heels have a good offense, so that will bode a bit of a problem. That said, Florida State has Dalvin Cook and UNC has had their issues stopping teams as well. But Mitch Trubisky has gotten better as the season has gone along as well so this could be an upset brewing, pending on which team comes up with the big defensive stop. This could be an offensive slugfest the way this looks. But right now it seems like the Seminoles and Tar Heels are (dare say it) one-dimensional. You could very easy get a PAC-12 score here, but I think Florida State gets the home field edge. MY PREDICTION: FLORIDA STATE 44, NORTH CAROLINA 39
(11) TENNESSEE @ (25) GEORGIA: We will see how much carry-over the Volunteers win over Florida has this week. How the Vols played in the second half against Florida is what I think everybody expected them to play. But this is their first true major "road test" (not counting Bristol as a road game) and in a hostile Sanford Stadium. That said, the Bulldogs have been a mess since Week 1, squeaking by against Nicholls and Missouri in back-to-back weeks before getting stomped on by Ole Miss. If the Vols defensive line attacks Jacob Eason, it will be a repeat of the 2nd half for Tennessee and all last week for Georgia, but if the Volunteers WANT to win this game they must get more productivity from Joshua Dobbs. He has not been doing much this season at all and he was a sleeper for the Heisman. But the good news is, Kirby Smart has had difficulties with mobile quarterbacks since his Alabama days and it showed last week against Ole Miss. Maybe Georgia is what the doctor ordered for Dobbs. MY PREDICTION: TENNESSEE 31, GEORGIA 24
(8) WISCONSIN @ (4) MICHIGAN, 3:30, ABC: The Badgers finish their Great Lake State two-step in Ann Arbor with the powerful Wolverines. Most people were VERY surprised on how the Badgers dismantled Michigan State last week, especially in the air with their freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook. This might give a very much-needed dimension to the Badgers offense, which has historically been relied with the run. But Michigan has an awesome defense which will create issues for both parts of Wisconsin's offense. But the big question will be can Michigan be able to do what they have done so far and put up points by the gallon on the Badgers? If they can do that, the Wolverines will really have a nice argument for being a top 3 ranked team next week. I think this will be a good defensive game, but Michigan will distance themselves in the 4th to Wisconsin and re-gaining the smack talk of Big Brother took care of Little Brother again. MY PREDICTION: MICHIGAN 28, WISCONSIN 20
WAKE FOREST @ NC STATE, 3:30, CHSS(?): Maybe I am thinking a lot over this Wake Forest squad since they are 4-0 and NC State is 2-1, but the Deacons defense is pretty good and could give a major team fits. So they are my one to watch until something happens with them. NC State is off a bye so are ready, but how good are they really? The East Carolina game sticks out like a sore thumb, but the Wolfpack offense can move the ball. Can they move it on Wake Forest is the question? The Deacons are starting to add in some offense on top and that is a bit scary. Logic says Wake Forest should win that game, but playing against NC State in Carter-Finley gives anybody fits. MY PREDICTION: NC STATE 20, WAKE FOREST 17
OKLAHOMA @ (21) TCU, 5:00, FOX: Could the Sooners, the Big 12 favorite and a playoff projected squad be in SERIOUS trouble after this week? Yes. The Sooners go to Ft. Worth against TCU, who has given them fits for the last few years. And the Frogs looked to have recovered since the heartbreak from Arkansas. The Sooners just look inept on offense as Baker Mayfield is trying to do way too much, which is hurting the team and Oklahoma hasn't stopped anybody at this point. Add in the fact that it is a road game for the Sooners and you might see some people in Norman start barking about Stoops after this game is over. MY PREDICTION: TCU 45, OKLAHOMA 35
MINNESOTA @ PENN STATE, 3:30, B10: Probably not a MAJOR game, but the Gophers are undefeated and James Franklin looks to be on the chopping block in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions look a bit overwhelmed so far this season and hasn't impressed, even in their wins. That is a big problem especially for a program like Penn State. Franklin has not delivered to this point. The issue will reside that if Penn State loses, he will be in serious trouble for his job. But I think for one week, Franklin can breathe a sigh of relief. Minnesota hasn't played anybody to this point and I think on a talent-level (notably in the speed department), Penn State wins this one. MY PREDICTION: PENN STATE 30, MINNESOTA 21
(18) UTAH @ CALIFORNIA, 6:00, PAC-12: Maybe there is a change happening in the PAC-12. Defenses are starting to take over. We are seeing it in Stanford, Washington, and Utah while the likes of Oregon, Washington State, and Cal are falling back. The Utes defense is sound and gets enough offense to carry them to win games and it makes me believe they are the favorites in the PAC-12 South. On the other side, we know the Bears can put up points as we have seen, but they need to make stops in order to win. They failed twice against San Diego State and Arizona. Yes, it is in Berkeley, but I don't think it matters much. MY PREDICTION: UTAH 35, CALIFORNIA 31
MEMPHIS @ (16) OLE MISS, 7:00: HAD Ole Miss not blow that game to Arkansas in Oxford, the playoff selection committee would have had a big issue on their hands with the 4th playoff team (as Ole Miss would have notched the SEC West division and sent Alabama home) between the Rebels and Stanford. And the reasoning would have been with Memphis as they gave Ole Miss a nasty loss. After last week, it seems like the Rebels recovered from their two 20-point blown lead losses to Florida State and Alabama and will take out their frustrations from Memphis last year. The Tigers are 3-0 though so it could be interesting for a while. MY PREDICTION: OLE MISS 48, MEMPHIS 16
MISSOURI @ LSU, 7:30 SEC: Speaking of Tigers, the 2nd Tigers battle happens with LSU and Missouri. Of course the big news was Les Miles got canned an Ed Orgeron is now the interim coach (and proceeded to fire Cam Cameron after) and said he would open up the much maligned and predictable Tigers offense. But the question is, can the players familiarize their offense within one week, especially since Missouri is rolling themselves with their offense? I don't know. It is possible. But I think too much upheaval happened this week for giving me a nod to LSU. So I will go with Missouri in an upset. MY PREDICTION: MISSOURI 24, LSU 17
(17) MICHIGAN STATE @ INDIANA, 8:00, BTN: Well, many didn't see Michigan State's implosion against Wisconsin coming. However, they get Indiana, a team that Sparty has owned. The Hoosiers are also coming off a loss as well to Wake Forest, so they are also in the "we must play better" mentality. But I think last week was a perfect storm on Michigan State. I don't see them having two straight disastrous outings in a row, even if Indiana is improved and the game is in Bloomington. MY PREDICTION: MICHIGAN STATE 31, INDIANA 27
(3) LOUISVILLE @ (5) CLEMSON: I think many have been comparing Louisville and Lamar Jackson to 2013 Florida State and Jameis Winston. And for good reason. They are rolling. It is going to be hard to stop the Cardinals regardless as Jackson is putting up video game numbers while the defense is just stomping on everybody on top. However, one does wonder how great Florida State is and it isn't like the rest of the schedule has been mind-boggling for the Cardinals. Clemson, while still trying to establish an offensive identity, is relying with a strong defense, and maybe the best defense they have had in Dabo's run the last 4 seasons. This could be an interesting game of cat and mouse. Honestly, I think the Tigers will play physical enough to take Jackson out of his rhythm and frustrate the Cardinals while Watson finds his footing for the first time in 2016 (exclude SC State). And Death Valley at night? Not sure if Louisville is ready for that step, but they will fight in this game. MY PREDICTION: CLEMSON 38, LOUISVILLE 31
ARIZONA STATE @ USC, 8:30, FOX: The Sun Devils are undefeated to this point thanks to their offense, but still give up way too much on defense. And they have a road game, where they are not overly great. USC is at home for the second time this season and played well in their loss against Utah as Sam Darnold established the Trojans identity. This doesn't bode well for Arizona State and the Trojans rebound while the Sun Devils sputter and many realize their defense is their ultimate downfall. MY PREDICTION: USC 45, ARIZONA STATE 38
That is it for now.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat