Last week gave us a big upset out West as Washington State downed USC thanks to an Erik Powell 32-yard field goal and a defense that harrassed Sam Darnold into completing just 15 of his 29 pass attempts for only 164 yards. The Cougars once again find themselves in our must watch category for this week, but it’s Mike Leach’s team that’s now on potential upset alert facing an Oregon team that can score with the best of them.
Without further ado, let’s get to the games that you’ll want to make time for this weekend, beginning with a Thursday night clash in the ACC.
#17 Louisville @ #24 N.C. State (+3.5), Thursday 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Lamar Jackson makes any game must-watch, but this match-up against the Wolfpack is intriguing because N.C. State brings a pretty solid pass rush that comes in with 13 sacks this season averaging about 2.6 per game so far this year. We saw what happened to the Louisville offensive line when they faced another intense pass rush in Clemson earlier this year.
Now, N.C. State doesn’t have nearly the same pass rush that Clemson does. But, how well the offensive line holds up in front of Jackson and how he handles pressure will be interesting to watch in this one. This could turn into a shootout as well as the Wolfpack’s offense has rolled up 34.8 PPG so far this year with QB Ryan Finley and RB Nyheim Hines leading the way. The Wolfpack took down Florida State two weeks ago, adding a win over Louisville would continue their ascent up the rankings.
LSU @ #21 Florida (-3), Saturday 3:30 p.m. (CBS & CBSSports.com)
LSU is in a bad way right now. They lost to Troy last week at home and now have to head to the Swamp to face a Gators team out for revenge after last year’s antics that got the game moved from Gainesville to Baton Rouge. Ed Orgeron has reportedly told offensive coordinator Matt Canada not to do the things on offense that he’s known for doing.
That seems……sub-optimal. Coming off a 24-21 loss to Troy, the Tigers now hope to have that “simplified” offense fixed in time to face a Gators team that is dealing with a bevy of injuries on both sides of the ball.
Florida will turn full-time now to freshman QB Feleipe Franks after switching between him and Luke Del Rio over the past couple of weeks. Del Rio was injured last week so now it’s the Franks show moving forward. LSU’s young defense is still figuring things out, so it will be interesting to see how this match-up plays out on Saturday afternoon.
#23 West Virginia @ #8 TCU (-13.5), Saturday 3:30 p.m. (FS1)
TCU has the Big 12’s best win (in-conference), beating Oklahoma State a couple weeks back, fairly easily, in Stillwater. West Virginia enters with little fanfare surrounding Dana Holgorsen’s team largely because of the schedule they’ve played. Since opening with a hard-fought loss to Virginia Tech, they Mountaineers have feasted on East Carolina, Delaware State, and Kansas.
Despite that, the Mountaineers offense has looked very good, averaging 48.8 points and 596 yards per game, and Grier has been comfortable all year in the pocket picking teams apart. The Horned Frogs however, pose a different kind of test. Yes, Gary Patterson’s group is aggressive, but they disguise where their attack is coming from on each and every snap. Patterson is a master at showing different looks to QBs and you can expect more of the same in this one. TCU has given up just 18.5 points and 323.5 yards per game. Something’s got to give in Fort Worth on Saturday.
Michigan State @ #7 Michigan (-10), Saturday 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Ahhhh the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Always a fun rivalry game that provides wild moments. The last time this game was played in Ann Arbor we got this beautiful mess of an ending.
It also gave us the meme that continues to pop up any time something bad happens to the Wolverines.
Yes, the surrender cobra isn’t unique to Michigan and its fans, but it was certainly at its most applicable and its most despairing after that finish.
This year’s game in Ann Arbor is different. Two years ago, it was the Spartans with hopes of a Big Ten title and playoff berth hanging in the balance while Michigan was just entering the Harbaugh era. This year, the Michigan fans hope, no, expect, their team to make a playoff berth while Sparty’s fans were just hoping for a turnaround from last year’s 3-9 debacle.
So far so good for Mark Dantonio’s team as it enters this game at 3-1 coming off a win against Iowa in which the defense looked like the typical Dantonio/Narduzzi units of old. They allowed just 19 rushing yards on 25 carries and 207 yards through the air. The offense struggled, with the running game averaging just 2.2 yards per carry (40 carries 88 yards).
That kind of offense will make life difficult against the Wolverines, who have been one of the best defensive units in the country allowing 13.5 points (t-8th), 69.6 yards rushing (1st), and 134 yards passing (4th) per game. However, Michigan’s offense has well, frustrated fans would be the polite way of putting it. John O’Korn takes over as the starting QB now with Wilton Speight dealing with a back injury. If this game follows the same script as Michigan’s last two games, it’ll be a close slugfest until the fourth quarter when the Wolverines pull away.
#11 Washington State @ Oregon (+2.5), Sautrday 8:00 p.m. (FOX)
Washington State is riding high after upsetting USC at home last weekend. That makes this week’s game against Oregon a bit of a trap game as we often see teams come out sluggish the week after a big win. Doing that against Willie Taggart’s group could put the Cougars in a hole in a hurry as the Ducks have returned to their prolific selves on offense this year.
The Ducks lead the nation in scoring offense averaging 49.6 points per game, but they did lose starting QB Justin Herbert to a broken collarbone last week. But, they do have a dominant running attack to fall back on with Royce Freeman (103 carries 592 yards 10 TDs), Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit. They average 260 yards per game on the ground, though the Cougars have been pretty successful at stopping the run allowing just 129 yards per game this season.
The best part of this game is that we’re not in #Pac12AfterDark territory with an 8 p.m. start time, so, you don’t need to grab that extra coffee to make it through this one.