College Football: UK TV Preview Week 11

#5 Cincinnati Bearcats (9-0) Vs. USF Bulls (6-4) – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida

Friday 12th September 11pm (UK)

Cincinnati 23 point favourites at the time of writing

After another rocky performance against Tulsa last week the Bearcats are looking to finally make a statement and prove they deserve a shot at the college football playoffs this year. 

Never overlook an opponent that leads to losses but USF shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the undefeated Bearcats team. USF is unsure of who they have starting at quarterback, a heap of banged up players and they can’t coach against Luke Fickell. This game SHOULD only go one way. As we know that’s not always the case in college football but if Desmond Ridder can finally come out of the gate hot we might get to see what this #6 ranked team is really made of.

That’s Cincinnati’s biggest problem currently, their star signal caller is struggling to start as anything other than mediocre and it’s one of the most confusing things in college football. He’s a first round talent based on his ceiling but he always seems to start painfully slow meaning a majority of the early game success for the Bearcats comes from running back Jerome Ford and the elite defence Fickell has built. If Ridder can get firing early and not have to rely on his defence until he wakes up we could see a special performance.

I won’t get lost in the weeds musing about Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant but these two corners have been exceptional throughout the year and I have no doubt that they’ll feast on the inexperienced USF quarterbacks all game long.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-4) vs. #17 Auburn Tigers (6-3) – Jordan–Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama

Saturday 13th November 5.00pm (UK)

Auburn 5.5 point favourites at the time of writing

The No.17 ranked Auburn play host to Mississippi State in a UK-friendly clash in Alabama. Both sides come off the back of disappointing losses to Texas A&M and Arkansas respectively. Although they lost to ranked teams, the manners of the defeats will be fresh in their mind. Auburn were comprehensively beaten by the Aggies, and held to just 3 points, whilst Mississippi State missed out to the Razorbacks due to a touchdown and 2-point conversion with just 25 seconds left.

Despite Bo Nix’s poor performance last week against the Aggies, where he went 20-for-41, 153 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception, he has been pretty good so far this season. He has 1916 passing yards, 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, with a completion rate of 60.3%. Looking at this alongside his rushing statistics of 171 yards from 55 carries, as well as 4 touchdowns, it is easy to see the big quarterback can get the job done in the air, as well as on the ground.

Outside of the quarterback role, Auburn can cause problems with their impressive running backs. Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter have combined for 1282 yards and 10 touchdowns, particularly impressive seeing as Hunter is a true freshman. This will be a good battle between a generally good Auburn offense, and a solid Mississippi State defense.

From the Bulldogs’ perspective, they rank fourth in the Southeastern Conference for defense, but they also have the incredible Will Rogers leading their offense. Rogers has passed for a nation-3rd 3307 yards and thrown 22 touchdowns so far this season. If he can get the ball moving regularly in the early stages to put the Tigers under pressure then he can once again have another standout performance.

He will rely on Makai Polk, Jaden Walley and Austin Williams to be his targets, and they have already proven themselves to be valuable members of Mississippi State’s arsenal. Polk is currently the standout receiver out of the 3, with 80 yards per game, and 6 touchdowns to boot.

I don’t expect anything other than a slobberknocker between these two. Yes, the Bulldogs’ defense has been solid, but Auburn can cause problems both on the ground and in the air. From the other side of things, the Tigers may struggle to deal with an in-form Rogers and company. Expect plenty of offense, and plenty of points. I certainly would go above the over/under of 50. Potentially I would lean towards Mississippi State picking up the win as well.

#6 Michigan Wolverines (8-1) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3) – Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania

Saturday 13th November 5.00pm (UK)

Michigan 1 point favourites at the time of writing

Penn State was the subject of the TV Previews a couple of weeks ago when they took on Ohio State. I stand by what I said then now, they are a solid team. An offense guided by Sam Clifford, with Jahan Dotson as the main man, finally guided themselves away from a losing streak that hit 3 after their loss to Ohio State. Michigan, on the other hand, bounced back from their disappointing loss to Michigan State to comprehensively beat Indiana, setting themselves up for an exciting end to the season by hitting 8-1 for the year.

Penn State need to come out and make something happen in Pennsylvania. They have been good, without really laying down a marker. Their offense has been good in terms of Clifford and Dotson, but their running game has been average at best. They are averaging 108.1 yards a game, including a 209-yard game against Indiana, thus showing a level of inconsistency in that department. If they can start producing some more on the ground, then Michigan will have something different to deal with. With the powerful force of David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson leading the way with 15 sacks between them, Penn State will really need to focus on protecting Clifford, allowing the receivers to get into space before the pass, and introducing their running game.

Michigan have started to show some consistency within their offense. Cade McNamara has been good, but not excellent, and their running game has started to show an upward trend again. After a couple of poor performances from their usual standard against Wisconsin and Rutgers, they have started to show improvement and are ranked 6th in the nation for yards/game (234.1). 

Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum have been formidable runners all year. 21 touchdowns between them and over 1500 rushing yards has seen them average 92.1 and 86.4 yards a game respectively. Penn State will have a big task stopping the power of the running game, but it has been shown that they can be stopped.

Although Penn State can’t win the Big Ten this year, they can have a say in how the rest of the season pans out for the other teams. A win against Michigan would be massive for them, and certainly not out of the question. If they can keep the Wolverines’ running game to a minimum and allow their own to really kick on, then they can cause big problems. Home field will be a big advantage for them, but I’m not sure they can cover the 1-point spread. The over/under points total of 48.5 is an interesting one, this could genuinely go either way, but I would sway towards the over purely based on both their offenses’ ability to put points on the board.

SEC Game of the Week

#1 Georgia Bulldogs (9-0) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (5-4) – Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Saturday 13th November 8.30pm (UK)

Georgia 20 point favourites at the time of writing

Georgia is the TV game once again this week, and this time they are in the SEC Game of the Week in Tennessee. This game is much bigger than maintaining their winning record, this game could be the difference of making history for the Bulldogs. A win in Tennessee would make them 8-0 in the SEC for the first time, but that can be dangerous as the Volunteers will be looking to spoil the party.

Georgia have been relentless in their first 9 games. They have blown teams away week-by-week, and truly outscored them in every game. They have a 346-59 points difference so far this season, allowing double figures just three times. They have also only been kept under 30 points on one occasion, in week one! This should make them big favourites against the Volunteers, and why not? They have really flexed their muscles this season and continue to do so without having one player truly outscoring others in terms of touchdowns. They have shown their ability to utilise their whole offense and it has been refreshing to see their dominance whilst doing so.

Tennessee have been hit-and-miss this season, but they are showing an upward trend in what they are trying to achieve. A big loss in Alabama was followed by inflicting Kentucky’s first home loss of the season last week. The impressiveness of Hendon Hooker last week earned him the SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, whilst Cade Mays earned SEC Lineman of the Week honors. Hooker has been very good all year, 21 passing touchdowns and just 2 interceptions with over 200 yards a game has really laid down a marker for a team who have stuttered in recent weeks. He will need to be on top form again this weekend to cause Georgia problems, and his receiving duo of Velus Jones Jr. and Cedric Tillman, alongside the running duo of Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small can easily put up enough yardage and points to take the game to Georgia.

Georgia should win this game, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Tennessee could cover the 20-point spread, and easily surpass the over/under of 56. It will be an exciting game, and certainly worthy of the title it has been given.

19. Purdue Boilermakers (6-3) vs. 4. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1) – Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Saturday 13th November 8.30pm (UK)

Ohio State 21 point favourites at the time of writing

The Saturday evening schedule concludes with an all-ranked affair between Purdue and Ohio State. Both teams have been impressive this season, and put up some big results, so this game could easily become a good battle. Purdue came off the back of a 2-game winning streak, which saw them defeat Michigan State last week, whilst Ohio State have won their last 7 games in a row and been unstoppable as of late.

Despite their alternation of quarterbacks, Purdue sit 2nd in the Big Ten with 333 passing yards a game. This was largely helped by a big performance by Aidan O’Connell, who passed for 536 yards and threw 3 touchdowns, in their impressive win over then-no.3 ranked team Michigan State last week. Although their running game hasn’t really been a focal point of their offense this season, they have options to get the ball moving on the ground. However, their targets of David Bell and Milton Wright will need to be stopped by the Buckeyes’ defense due to how well they have done this season. 

They have combined for 100 receptions and 1371 yards, with 8 touchdowns. Although Bell has most of the receptions, yardage and touchdowns, there is still another threat for Ohio State to keep an eye on this weekend. Will they double cover Bell? Or will they rely on their ability to outscore opponents and not worry about Bell as much? I think this game could shift based on their approach to defending David Bell in particular.

Ohio State’s offense has been near-on impossible to defend. They are 2nd nationally to just Virginia in total offense, whilst having the ability to use both their passing game and running game. TreVeyon Henderson has seen the majority of the handling out of the backfield, rushing for 930 yards with 12 touchdowns, but he was scarcely used against Nebraska, having just 92 yards from 21 carries. This showed C.J. Stroud’s ability to pick and choose when to use him, and when to target his receiving trio of Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Garrett Wilson instead. Smith-Njigba saw the ball 15 times against Nebraska, surpassing the other 2 in terms of total receptions for the season. They will be tough for Purdue to control and stifle, but they have shown they can handle the best teams and sit 16th nationally for defense this season.

Ohio State will need to keep Bell quiet if they are to run over Purdue like the spread suggests, but I see a much tighter game than anticipated with Purdue covering the spread and should just about surpass the over/under total of 63. This will be an exciting game to watch, just had to be the same time as the SEC Game of the Week!!

#9 Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish (8-1) @ Virginia Cavaliers (6-3) – Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Virginia

Sunday 14th November 12.30am (UK)

Notre Dame 5.5 point favourites at the time of writing

On the face of it, this game between the Cavaliers and the Irish looks to be a really interesting one – Both teams are having strong seasons, perhaps stronger than expected. Virginia has the best offense in the whole of college football in terms of total yards per game (545.2), but also a bottom 10 defense by the same metric, giving up 466.2 yards per game, which is below the likes of Vanderbilt and New Mexico State. Notre Dame is steadier, possessing good not great units on both sides of the ball.

However, whether this game really is a contest for us really only comes down to one thing, and due to the Cavalier’s coyness in press conferences this week, we don’t have the answer to that.

I am of course talking about the health of Virginia’s QB Brennan Armstrong. Armstrong appeared to have injured his ribs in the most recent outing against BYU, a game that they lost 66-49 – A scoreline that reflects their differing units on both offense and defense.

You cannot play without your star QB when you need to win track meets every weekend, and I would be willing to give Notre Dame a comfortable win if Armstrong doesn’t take the field. He may even be limited if he does suit up, but as anyone who has injured ribs before will tell you; it’s not easy to breath, nevermind throw a football or avoid oncoming pass rushers, let alone take hits to the area.

Virginia don’t plan on letting anyone in on information about Armstrong’s health until they’re forced to, Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall having this to say;

“I probably won’t have an update until the ball is kicked off, and we all look out there and see who our quarterback is – It means collectively where I don’t really plan to address it, because I don’t think it will help you, me or anyone else in terms of our preparation. It helps our football team best to let Brennan heal, recover and our team to get ready to play.”

As for Notre Dame, they have a chance either way and they’re having a good season, they’ve also won both of their other games this season against ACC opponents, including their previous visit to Virginia, when they narrowly overcame Virginia Tech 32-29.

This is by far their most challenging game of their remaining schedule, with Georgia Tech and Stanford to close out the regular season.

A road win against a good Cavaliers team will do their resume the world of good, albeit it’s probably still not going to get them into the college football playoff this year, even at 11-1.

Lastly, more bad injury news for scouts and college football fans in general – Notre Dame star Kyle Hamilton is still not cleared to play after sustaining an injury against USC, Head Coach Brian Kelly had the following to say;

“Kyle Hamilton is not ready to play,” Kelly said. “Let me be really clear on this, because I think there’s a bunch of narratives out there about Kyle. Kyle is not cleared medically to play. Once he’s cleared medically to play, he has every intention of playing. He just hasn’t been cleared yet.” 

5.5 point favourites feels about right for Notre Dame considering they’re missing their best player, but if Virginia have theirs, this one could be another exciting and high-scoring game, similar to what we saw last week between UNC and Wake Forest.

Washington State Cougars (5-4) @ #3 Oregon Ducks (8-1) – Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Sunday 14th November 3.30am (UK)

Oregon 14 point favourites at the time of writing

Oregon’s job is a simple one. Just keep winning.

Four more wins and Oregon should make it into the college football playoff, which will be the first appearance for the Ducks since they were beaten finalists in 2015, and it’ll be the first Pac-12 representative since Washington made it to the final four in 2017.

Can they do it, or will the Pac-12 do what it does and trip itself up?

Oregon has about the toughest in-conference schedule that it could wish for as well – They have this game against Washington State, who are second in the Pac-12 North, Utah who are looking like they’ll be the Pac-12 South champions and Oregon State in their final regular season game, and the Beavers are having their best season in a long while and also lie third in the North division. Plus there’s all that in-state, aquatic animal hate to deal with between a bunch of Ducks and Beavers too in what used to be referred to as the Civil War game – Which Oregon State actually won last year 41-38.

Then will come the Pac-12 championship game and a probable rematch with Utah.

So, simple then?

If the Ducks successfully navigate those four games and successfully hold off any outside challengers to their college football playoff spot they will certainly deserve it. However, as much as it will be fantastic for them and the Pac-12 to have a representative, in the event that Ohio State wins out, and enters as a one-loss Big Ten Champion, they’ll likely move to the #3 spot on strength of schedule and their amount of wins against ranked opponents… Meaning Oregon’s prize will be getting waxed by Georgia in the semi-final.

However, I am sure Mario Cristobal’s team will look to cross that bridge when they come to it and will be laser-focused on this game.

Washington State has had a topsy-turvy season with some really differing results… Back in September they were beaten by Utah State and then handily beaten by USC, a team who are in turmoil, but rallied to take a couple of tough wins against Oregon State as well as Arizona State a couple of weeks ago.

So the Cougars are dangerous and unpredictable but when looking at the numbers, they possess both a below-average offense and defense.

Oregon themselves aren’t a vintage Ducks team but nevertheless they should have enough to take this one relatively comfortably, although it probably won’t live up to the 2013 game between these two…

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