Is there any way we can just forget last week happened? At least the late national games salvaged a little bit of what was an embarrassing week. Aside from a couple matchups between ranked teams in the SEC, there isn’t much else nationally, so it was a stretch to find the best of the rest.
Last week ATS: 3-7-1 (2-2-1 National, 1-5 B1G)
Season ATS: 37-45-3 (15-19-1 National, 22-26-2 B1G)
North Carolina State v. No. 3 Clemson (-18) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
After a slow start to the season, Clemson is finally looking like the team that many were expecting to challenge for a national title this year. A big reason for the impressive play as of late has been the performance of Deshaun Watson, who has thrown nine touchdowns over the past two games. Last week the Tigers had little problem with Boston College, using a first quarter in which they had three plays go at least 50 yards to jump all over the Eagles.
NC State is 4-1 so far this season, but a lot of that can be attributed to a weak early schedule. Last week’s 10-3 win over Notre Dame was one of the ugliest games of the 2016 college football season thanks to Hurricane Matthew. Neither team surpassed 200 yards of total offense thanks to the wet and windy conditions.
Clemson has a bye next week followed by a big game against Florida State, so the Tigers will want to head into their week off on a high note. Quarterback Ryan Finley hasn’t played anybody yet this year up to the caliber of the Clemson defense, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tigers force Finley into his first interception of the season. Clemson by at least three touchdowns in this one.
Clemson 41, NC State 17
Kansas State v. No. 19 Oklahoma (-10.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
Oklahoma’s offense has righted their schooner after subpar performances against Houston and Ohio State earlier in the year, but the defense still has some work to do. One big reason why the Oklahoma defense has underachieved this year is due to a ridiculous amount of injuries. At least some of those injured players should start to return this week, so I would expect the defense to tighten up a little bit.
The Oklahoma offense needs no help though, as on Saturday against Texas the Sooners became the fifth FBS team to have a 300-yard passer, 200-yard rusher, and 200-yard receiver in the same game. If the Oklahoma offense continues to fire on all cylinders like it has the last two weeks against TCU and Texas, it’s hard to imagine Kansas State being able to keep up.
One thing Oklahoma does really well is win after playing Texas, as the Sooners are 16-1 following the Red River Rivalry under Bob Stoops. Although, the only loss did come to Kansas State two years ago in Norman. Still, even though Bill Snyder teams always find a way to frustrate me, I like Oklahoma to win this one by at least two touchdowns.
Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 23
No. 20 West Virginia (-1) v. Texas Tech - 12:00 PM EST - FS1
Win or lose, it’s not often Texas Tech plays a game that isn’t fun. The Red Raiders are averaging 55.2 points per game, and they are giving up just about as many. If Texas Tech had anything resembling a defense, quarterback Patrick Mahomes might be a Heisman Trophy candidate with the type of numbers he is putting up. Instead, the Red Raiders already have two losses, so it’s unlikely to see Mahomes make it to New York, especially with what some of the other quarterbacks around the country are doing.
It’s sort of weird to see a Dana Holgorsen team that might actually have a better defense than offense, but West Virginia has given up 21 points or less in three of their four games. It’s not like the Mountaineers don’t have any offense at all, as quarterback Skyler Howard has been solid so far this season, throwing for 1,272 yards and seven touchdowns through four games.
While I have plenty of concerns about the Red Raider defense, this team is a completely different animal in Lubbock. In their last nine home games, Texas Tech has scored an average of 66 points per game and rolled up 668 yards per contest. This has the feel of one of those Big 12 contests in which the first team to 60 ends up winning. Kliff Kingsbury’s squad gets there first and hands West Virginia their first loss of the year.
Texas Tech 63, West Virginia 56
No. 1 Alabama (-13) v. No. 9 Tennessee - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
It had to happen sooner or later, but Tennessee’s luck finally ran out last week. The Volunteers turned the football over seven times against Texas A&M but somehow almost found a way to beat the Aggies. One thing is for sure, if Tennessee turns the ball over seven times this week, Alabama surely won’t squander those opportunities and let the Volunteers back into the game. A bonus for Tennessee heading into this rivalry game is they should get Jalen Hurd back after the running back missed last week’s game.
Alabama will be on the road for the second week in a row, and next week will welcome an undefeated Texas A&M squad into Tuscaloosa. For any normal team this would be a perfect spot for a poor performance, but Alabama isn’t any normal team. The Crimson Tide is only allowing opponents 69.2 yards per game on the ground this year, while their offense is extremely balanced, passing for 252.8 yards per game and running for 237 yards per game.
The difference between Alabama and all of Tennessee’s opponents so far this year is Alabama knows how to finish games. The Crimson Tide’s 48-43 victory over Ole Miss earlier this year was the only Alabama game this year that was decided by less than 19 points. I expect Tennessee to come out flat after their tough loss last week and the Volunteers dig themselves into a hole that Alabama won’t let them climb out of.
Alabama 34, Tennessee 14
No. 12 Ole Miss (-7.5) v. No. 22 Arkansas - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
This will be a little bit of an unfamiliar position for Ole Miss this week, as the Rebels will have to play a true road game. So far this season the only time Ole Miss has had to hit the road was for the season opener against Florida State, which was played in Orlando. The Rebels likely want to forget the last time they were in Fayetteville, which ended with Arkansas shutting out Ole Miss 30-0 in 2014.
My expectations for Arkansas were a little high last week, but that doesn’t mean they are a bad football team. Alabama is just on another level right now. Austin Allen has been impressive at quarterback, and Rawleigh Williams III should have a strong day on the ground against an Ole Miss defense that is giving up 215 yards per game rushing.
We saw that Chad Kelly spent his bye week meticulously studying the Arkansas defense. And by that I mean he nearly got into a fight watching his brother at a high school football game back in Buffalo. I just think these are too many points for Ole Miss to be giving up on the road against an Arkansas team whose only two losses have come to undefeated teams. Give me the home underdog here in a tight game.
Ole Miss 35, Arkansas 31