Brace Yourself, Chaos is Coming
The midway point of the season is here and if history serves us well, the Chaos is coming in full force. During week six last season, things started to unravel for many teams in the Top 25 and in 2015 more of the same with four teams ranked in the Top 15 losing or escaping by less than a touchdown. Perhaps 2014 was the worst of them all, seeing five Top 10 teams lose outright. What is to come this weekend, hold onto your seat because it’s any one’s guess.
Biggest Games of The Week
Michigan State at Michigan
This matchup is always intriguing despite the two team’s records. This game is about state pride, bragging rights and most importantly, hoisting the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Going into this year’s matchup, the Wolverines lead the series 69-35-5 and have solidified themselves as the top dog in the state. However, the series hasn’t been as dominant lately and the Spartans of Michigan State will be looking to regain control of the Axe after last season’s failed comeback bid.
This should be an incredible matchup between two teams that rely on defense. Both the Wolverines and Spartans rank in the Top 5 of Total Defense, #1 and #5 respectively. Michigan is allowing just 13.5 points per game while Michigan State is allowing just 18 points per game. Both teams like to run the ball averaging over 180 yards on the ground but both defenses rank in the Top 16 in Rush Defense. The Wolverines are first in that category allowing opponents only 69.3 yards per game and only 2.2 yards per carry. The Spartans aren’t far behind them, allowing 96 yards per game and 3.07 yards per carry.
What we haven’t seen between the two teams is a win against a quality opponent. Michigan’s opener against Florida looked like it could have been a quality win but we have found out in recent weeks, Florida was just another over ranked team in the preseason. All four of the Wolverine’s opponents rank 80th or worst in total offense. Michigan State who had an opportunity to make a statement against a much-improved Notre Dame team, squandered that chance with a 38-18 loss that wasn’t truly indicative of the final score. The Spartans outgained the Irish by 141 yards, they held the time of possession by 8 and a half minutes and converted more than 50% of their third-down opportunities. Unfortunately, the turnover bug bit Michigan State hard, throwing one interception and losing two fumbles. Like the Wolverines, the Spartans only own wins against teams with a ranking of 90th or worse in Total Offense.
With Speight still out because of injury, the Wolverines will have to turn to O’Korn again. O’Korn started last week’s game on the road against Purdue and did what exactly what the coaches asked. He managed the game well, went 18-26 for 270 yards and a touchdown. He did throw an interception in the second quarter that lead to a Purdue field goal but after halftime, O’Korn settled in nicely and the Wolverines took over. O’Korn’s counterpart, Brian Lewerke, has played better than expected as a first-year starter. Through four games, Lewerke has thrown for 963 yards, 8 touchdowns and only two inceptions. Facing an Iowa defense that held its own against the Nittany Lions, Lewerke remained calm and found time to throw for two touchdowns and avoided throwing a costly interception. Unlike Penn State, the Spartans didn’t need a last second effort to beat the Hawkeyes and you can credit Lewerke for that.
Who has the edge in this game? At this point for both teams, it really depends on who you ask. But, since you’re reading this, I guess you are asking me. While Michigan is undefeated, Michigan State has been the better team, even at 3-1. The Wolverines struggled in the first half against Florida, Air Force and Purdue. The only one of those three teams with defense better than 69th, Air Force at #31. The Spartans haven’t had a problem moving the ball but against their most quality opponent and only the 74th ranked defense, they turned the ball over. This game is in the Big House and the seats will be packed to brim with Maize and Blue. O’Korn has played well on the road and finally gets his shot at home. He won’t let the Mr. Khaki Pants (Head Coach Jim Harbaugh) or the fans down. It will be a low scoring affair but the Wolverines will prevail. Mich St. 10 – Mich 16
Miami at Florida St
One of the youngest but most storied rivalries in College Football belongs to the Hurricanes and Seminoles. These two teams didn’t start playing until 1951 and that seems like a travesty. However, we all learn something new and I am not the exception. In preparing for this article, I had no clue that Seminoles didn’t start playing football until 1946. Think about that for a moment. Other great programs in the Southeast like Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn and Florida, all had football programs before 1907. Even Duke and UNC were playing football in the late 1800’s.
In 71 years, FSU has accumulated 3 National Titles, 3 Heisman winners and played in two other National Championship Games. Clemson (FSU’s Divisional Nemesis) has only two National Championships and doesn’t have a Heisman winner yet. The Seminoles have only had 9 different head coaches in their history. It seems like Texas, Houston, and Baylor have had 9 different head coaches in 5 years. The great Bobby Bowden held the position at FSU for 34 years winning 75.8% of the games he coached. Almost half of FSU’s history belongs to that man.
But back to the rivalry and the game that approaches. Until this season, there hasn’t been much of a spark for the Hurricanes. The Seminoles have won 7 straight in the series and the current ranking for Miami could spell trouble. During the Seminoles 7-game win streak, FSU has beaten a ranked Miami team three times. When Miami has been ranked (regardless of the Seminoles record), FSU has beaten the Hurricanes by an average of 18.7 points. When the Hurricanes are unranked, the Seminoles have beaten Miami by an average of only 6.5 points. Find the logic in those numbers for me. Last season was the only time in the seven-game streak that Miami was ranked and lost by less than 27 points (20-19).
This isn’t Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles and they aren’t very good. Last week the Seminoles gave up 17 tackles for loss. To make that stat look even more ridiculous, it was in a last-ditch winning effort against Wake Forest. Yes, the Demon Deacons pushed the Seminoles to their limit and FSU barely came out of there with a one finally in the win column. FSU is currently 1-2 and their atrocious offensive line is the main reason. The Seminoles currently rank 126th in Sacks Allowed and 129th (DEAD LAST) in Tackles for Loss. On defense, Miami is tied for 2nd in Tackles for Loss and 8th in sacks. With a Freshman QB and an OL that gets manhandled like pizza dough in New York, I can’t see the Seminoles holding onto hope.
While FSU does rank 33rd in Total Defense, they also rank 51st in Defense. The Hurricanes are averaging 41.3 points per game and have arguably the most complete offense that the Seminoles have faced thus far. The offensive line for the Hurricanes have only allowed 1.5 sacks per game and with FSU barely pushing opposing OL back for 1.67 sacks per game, it looks like Malik Rosier could have all day to pick apart the Seminole defense.
I‘m not ready to call this one a blowout yet (okay, maybe I am), but if Miami gets out in front early, Mark Richt won’t play nice like he did at Georgia (I think he realizes it cost him his job). Derwin James must be a factor in this game, if not, Miami will walk away with this one and cause a downward spiral that may cost Fisher his job down the road. Miami 38 – FSU 20.
Where Does the Chaos Start?
West Virginia @ TCU
Only once in the past four meetings has TCU decisively walked away with a game against the Mountaineers. WVU has won two of the last four against the Horned Frogs and while TCU did defeat Oklahoma State a couple of weeks ago, West Virginia has the upper hand in playing a stronger defense (VT in Week 1). Both teams had a bye week heading into this matchup and this one should be fun. Don’t be surprised if fans in Morgantown are burning couches at the end of this one. TCU with a close win 38-34.
California @ Washington
The Huskies have been near perfect when playing Cal over the last decade (two games being the exception). However, this isn’t last season’s Huskies nor is it last year’s Bears. Cal got destroyed by Washington last year and after playing USC close and facing a high-powered Oregon team (the Ducks are flying high again), Cal should be ready for what Washington could throw at them. It shouldn’t matter though; Jake Browning and Washington are playing well and know their margin for error this season is nonexistent. This game won’t start any riots and I haven’t met anyone in the Northwest with a mullet, so couches should be safe.
Wake Forest @ Clemson
There seems to be a trend here. Three teams ranked in the Top 10 defending their home turf against lower or unranked opponents, something wild usually happens this time of year. In August, if I would have told you that Wake Forest would be #1 in one of the most important defensive categories, you would have laughed me right out of a job and into the unemployment line. Well guess what, Wake Forest leads the country in Tackles for Loss. The Demon Deacons are disrupting backfields at an alarming rate of 10 per game. Clemson only averages 8 TFL per game and the last time the Tigers were at home, the OL wasn’t playing to Dabo’s standard. If Clemson regresses after their emotional win at Virginia Tech and the OL doesn’t show up, Wake Forest could make for a miserable afternoon. It took the Tigers two wakeup calls last season before they finally played their best football. Having had that against the Eagles early, Clemson can ill afford a second close call in the first half of the season. I don’t think Chaos is among us just yet but it is coming. WF 13 – Clem 41
Most Entertaining Games Outside the Top25
Eastern Michigan at Toledo – This game will be full of offense as the Rockets are one of the nation’s best offenses again. Remember the old NCAA Football games on console? Toledo was my favorite to take to the Natty every time I played.
Air Force at Navy – While this game won’t feature the best athletes and probably won’t be that close of a contest, the men and women who fight for our country day in and day out should be recognized. If you’re a fan of the option, turn off Georgia Tech for a while and tune into this one.
SMU at Houston – Like Toledo, both teams know how to move the ball. For the first time since he took over at SMU, Chad Morris has the Mustangs 4-1 and Houston lost a tough one to Texas Tech. This has the makings of a good old-fashioned shootout. First team to 60 wins!
Alabama Gets Another Shutout!
The Tide already own a 122-point advantage over their last two opponents. Texas A&M struggled against South Carolina but ultimately came away with a win. Alabama will be ready to prove to the nation again that they are still the #1 Team in the country (even if they are playing against the “Mighty SEC”). Alabama 51 – A&M 0
If LSU fails to move the ball against the Gators and they fall to 3-3 (0-2 in Conference), Matt Canada could see his stint in the SEC cut very short, Orgeron wouldn’t be far behind.
Mizzou is another team that cannot afford another blowout loss. Missouri has been dreadful on defense (ranking 109th). The Tigers from Columbia run the risk of falling to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in SEC play. Barry Odom’s time at Missouri is all but over.
Mike Riley could find his house for sale soon in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Corn Huskers have a tough test against Wisconsin on Saturday and if they aren’t competitive, the head coach will be cleaning out his office. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that once Nebraska finds a new AD, Riley will be gone. Lucky for him, they haven’t named anyone just yet.