North Carolina (6-1) at #23 Pittsburgh (6-1) Thursday 7:00 PM on ESPN
First place in the ACC Coastal division is on the line on Thursday night. The biggest difference between these two teams is found in the time of possession. Pittsburgh ranks fifteenth in the nation, holding the ball for 32 minutes and 49 seconds per game. North Carolina, on the other hand, possesses the ball for a tick shy of 25 minutes per game. Only Mississippi State and Hawaii rank lower. What does that mean? Well, clearly the Panthers like hanging onto the ball for the majority of the game, and apparently that doesn’t bother the Tarheels.
My x-factor for this close game is North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams. If he plays well I like his team’s chances. If not, I’m not sure they have enough around him to overcome such a formidable opponent.
USC (4-3) at Cal (5-2) Saturday 3:00 PM on Fox
College football is full of up’s and down’s. You don’t need to tell these two teams. The Trojans have had a puzzling season that’s been tough to predict from week to week. They saved it last week with a big win over Utah. The Bears’ last two times out have resulted in disappointing losses that have them in a similar position to USC last week.
UCLA exposed the Cal offensive line last Thursday. With little time to sit in the pocket, Jared Goff was quieted relatively easily. Look for the Trojans to blitz throughout the game in an attempt to keep Goff unsettled. If the Cal offense isn’t scoring, they’re in trouble. The Bear defense isn’t terrible, but I imagine they’ll have a hard time containing a USC offense that can put up points in bunches.
Georgia (5-2) at #11 Florida (6-1) Saturday 3:30 PM on CBS
As usual, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will go a long way in deciding who will represent the East division in the SEC championship game. Florida holds that top spot now, but a loss here would see Georgia take it over.
I want to know if these teams are for real, especially Florida who played much better at LSU than I anticipated. After this tilt both teams have two winnable conference games, a joke of a non-conference game, and a rivalry game against an ACC foe. This is likely our last chance to see what the Gators and Bulldogs are really about.
Both have had a bye week to prepare. Both have lost an important playmaker. Florida quarterback Will Grier is suspended. Unfortunately, Georgia running back Nick Chubb has become just another in a long list of future first-round draft picks to suffer a tragic injury. Of the last eight matchups, each team has won four. Tune in to find out who will control their own destiny going forward.
#9 Notre Dame (6-1) at #21 Temple (7-0) Saturday 8:00 PM on ABC
This is easily the biggest game in Temple football history. It’s funny how at the beginning of the season we looked at this game as an easy win for the Irish, and now it’s turned into one of their tougher tests.
How have the Owls ascended to #21 in the nation so inconspicuously? They play stout defense and haven’t come across a ranked team yet. They give up 14.6 points per game, good for eighth in the country, sandwiched between Clemson and Ohio State. They’re one of eleven teams that allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. And they rush the passer well. Their 23 sacks tie them for eleventh in that category.
That means it’s on DeShone Kizer to keep the Owls honest. Kizer needs to be an accurate passer and scramble effectively when no one is open. If he can consistently move the chains the Irish should triumph. This atmosphere will be nuts and you’ll want to say you saw this game.
#8 Stanford (6-1) at Washington State (5-2) Saturday 10:30 PM on ESPN
You probably had to do a double take to make sure you read this matchup correctly. Yes, with a win here Wazoo will take control of the Pac-12 North. Surely, no one saw this coming when the Cougars opened the season by losing to Portland State.
Speaking of turning it around after a week one loss, how about Stanford? The Cardinal lost to Northwestern in a game that seems like it was ages ago. Since then they’ve been arguably the best team in college football, scoring 31 points or more every time out. In that time, quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Christian McCaffrey have been a deadly combo that no team has been able to stop.
Washington State probably won’t either. That’s not their game. In true Mike Leach fashion, the Cougars will air it out in an attempt to roll up enough points that it won’t matter. Luke Falk holds the keys to the nation’s second best passing attack that averages 415 yards through the air. Falk’s numbers are mind-blowing. He throws 55 passes per game, far more than anyone else. That makes his FBS-leading 72.9 completion percentage that much more impressive.
The Cougars score 36.4 points per game. The Cardinal put up 37.4. Assuming the offenses are a wash, look for the Stanford defense to make the difference on Saturday night.
The Game of the Weak
Texas San Antonio (1-6) at North Texas (0-7) Saturday 7:00 PM
It’s the Roadrunners against the Mean Green in the battle for last place in C-USA. This is the single greatest matchup of nicknames we’ve ever seen. It gets no better than this. Football wise, I’m not sure it gets worse. Math is not my strong suit, but I believe I’m correct when saying these two have been collectively outscored 577-261 this season. I’d go into more detail, but I think that tells you everything you need to know. Sparingly, it doesn’t look like this game will be broadcast anywhere.