The Observer’s Roundtable Week 8
Week 7 of the College Football season is here. The matchups we have chosen are going to be among the best in sport this weekend. Enough messing around, let’s get straight into it.
NCAA Games of the Week
No 11. Kentucky @ No. 1 Georgia
UCF @ No. 3 Cincinnati
No 22. NC State @ Boston College
I’m calling the upset this week, and I have Kentucky doing the impossible against Georgia. After beating Flordia and LSU, I have seen enough to know that this team can compete. Will Levis, the transfer quarterback from Penn State, exceeds as a game manager, and Chris Rodriguez runs all over teams. Kentucky’s defense is being led by another transfer in Jacquez Jones, who has provided a confidence boost to this team and is someone Mark Stoops can attest for. There will have to be a tremendous amount of luck to go Kentucky’s way, especially against the top defense in the nation, but after what we have seen happen this season, anything is possible. Maybe I am just filling the role of the crazy one on the Roundtable this week, but give me +22.5 and a Wildcat victory.
Kentucky 21 Georgia 17
When Cincinnati came into South Bend and embarrassed the Irish, I knew this team was the real deal. While it was not a flashy win against the Irish, Cincinnati beat Notre Dame by playing fundamental football. They shut down the run game, forced turnovers, and made the Notre Dame offense beat them by having to throw the ball. Desmond Ridder may not be in the running for the Heisman anymore, but his leadership is what is going to allow for an absolute blowout against the Knights. UCF is notorious for calling out the immense competition, but that Louisville loss has not left the minds of those who follow college football.
UCF 14 Cincinnati 44
NC State beat a terrible Clemson team, and that’s about it. On the other hand, Boston College was 3-0 until they lost to Clemson last week. That is why breaking down this game is challenging, as it will be a coin flip as to who wins. Both teams have been spectacular on offense, though BC lost Phil Jurkovec. Devin Leary, on the other hand, has been playing out of his mind. He currently has 12 touchdowns to 2 interceptions and has thrown for 1,278 yards this season. I will ride with the hot hand this season and take NC State over BC.
NC State 28 BC 17
I like Kentucky; I really do. I don’t think they’ve gotten enough attention for their impressive start, and I expect them to keep on performing as the season continues. But I just don’t think this is as much of a matchup as the rankings might suggest. It’s not a Kentucky-specific problem- the gap between Georgia and any other team in the playoff field this season so far in both consistency and quality has just been massive. Not only will the crowd at Sanford Stadium be absolutely electric as the Bulldogs play their first game as the near-unanimous current number one team and national title favorite, but I just don’t think the Wildcats have the weapons on offense to break down Georgia’s nearly unbeatable defense. Quarterback Will Levis and wideout Wan’Dale Robinson are a great duo, but it’s hard to understate how stifling the Bulldogs unit has been. They’re averaging 5.5 points given up per game, the next best FBS team is at 12 points. Arkansas and Auburn both entered their contests with the Bulldogs with loads of momentum, and Georgia held both to zero and ten points respectively. On the other side of the ball, Stetson Bennett may be a backup quarterback on paper, but he’s performed more than admirably in his time replacing JT Daniels. And if Daniels, who’s return timetable from injury is still unclear, is indeed back for Saturday, that will only add another potential dimension to the Bulldog offense. I don’t think Georgia blows Kentucky out, but I do expect them to score early and control the game in pretty comfortable fashion until the final whistle.
Georgia 30, Kentucky 10
Cincinnati appears destined to be the first group of five team to break down the barrier that has separated non-power five schools from the College Football Playoff since its inception. Once they made their statement with a win over Notre Dame, the consensus among the college football world seemed to be that they just needed to win out over their AAC schedule to make it in, especially in the context of an increasingly chaotic field that has already seen prior favorites for playoff spots take early losses. The Bearcats know the stakes are monumental in every game they play, and won’t be taking days off as long as they’re led by a fantastic head coach in Luke Fickell and an experienced senior quarterback in Desmond Ridder. UCF is a talented team in their own right, and their head coach Gus Malzhan has always had a propensity for upsets, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this one stays close for some time, but I trust Cincinnati to eventually pull away and get it done in front of their home fans at Nippert Stadium.
Cincinnati 37, UCF 24
I think this is possibly the best game of the week. Both teams have had impressive starts, but I think most can agree there still haven’t been enough games to call either a contender or pretender in a wide open ACC title race. I bought plenty of stock in Boston College at the start of the season, and so far they’ve repaid me even after their quarterback Phil Jurkovec went down with an injury. On the other side of the field are the Wolfpack, a talented and scrappy side in their own right, who have an upset over Clemson and subsequent top-25 ranking on their resume. But at the end of the day, I think the most talented player on the field is an Eagle, and that’s why I’m giving the home team the nod. Zay Flowers is as explosive as they come at wide receiver in the college game, and his big play potential will be extremely tough for the NC State secondary to contain. Jurkovec’s replacement Dennis Grosel has been inconsistent, but having Flowers as an option out wide ensures that Boston College’s aerial attack will be potent no matter who is under center. I doubt this game turns into a shootout, but I expect Flowers to find the endzone late and clinch another nice victory for Jeff Hafley’s project in Chestnut Hill
Boston College 31, North Carolina State 24
I think Kentucky is a great story, but I do not see them posing a legitimate problem for Georgia. Their only win against a top-25 team was when they played Florida, and while they had a great defensive showing, they did not have a good enough offensive performance. When playing top-25 teams, Georgia has allowed an average of 5 points and has scored 35.5. Georgia simply has a front seven that can stymie a Kentucky offense led by its rushing attack. The Bulldogs are well on their way to the SEC Championship and the CFP.
Kentucky 10 Georgia 35
Thanks to road losses by Alabama and Penn State and their road win against Notre Dame (I am merely the messenger, do not shoot the messenger), Cincinnati has made a legitimate case to be in the CFP. Both UCF and Cincinnati can score, but I trust Cincinnati to shut down UCF, whereas I do not see UCF scoring on the road. This one feels strangely fitting, the only Group-of-Five school in recent history to win a New Years Six bowl game passing the torch to the next Group-of-Five school with a chance at the CFP.
UCF 17 Cincinnati 38
For what has to be the first time, NC State at Boston College has ACC Football relevance. NC State is currently 4-1, 1-0 in conference play, while BC is 4-1 with just one in-conference loss. These two teams seem to be incredibly similar; both average 30+ points per game and allow under 17. The Wolfpack averaged 434 yards while the Eagles average 409. NC State allows 295 yards against while BC allows 320. I will give this matchup to the Wolfpack, but it is the pick I am least confident in.
NC State 28 Boston College 24
This is a classic example of two teams that have identical records but are nowhere near on the same level. And that is why Georgia is a 22.5-point favorite at home this weekend. Kentucky has only beaten one good team in Florida, and while I am pleasantly surprised by the Wildcats this season, I don’t see much upset potential here. Georgia’s defense is just way too good. Stetson Bennett has been solid for the Bulldogs at QB, and their deep backfield makes this matchup seem very unfair on paper. Unless the Dawgs really falter at this point, they seem like a lock for the playoff. Georgia won’t quite cover this weekend, but this contest won’t be competitive.
Georgia 33, Kentucky 16
Cincinnati backed up their win over Notre Dame with a 52-3 thumping of Temple last week. The Bearcats actually look like CFP contenders this year, and QB Desmond Ridder has them headed in that direction. UCF has struggled as they sit at just 3-2, and the Knights are in for a rough afternoon when they visit Cincinnati this weekend. Expect Ridder and RB Jerome Ford to have a field day for Cincy. The Bearcats should cover quite comfortably in this one.
Cincinnati 38, UCF 17
Both teams should be well-rested coming off a bye week, making me less concerned about NC State having to travel to Boston for this one. With BC QB Phil Jurkovec out for the season the Eagles offense has suffered slightly, as backup QB Dennis Grosel has thrown four touchdowns and four picks. The NC State offense is more balanced and more dynamic, and the Wolfpack displayed some real toughness in their win over Clemson. I like NC State in this one, but I think it will be a thriller that comes down to the last possession.
NC State 26, Boston College 24
Kentucky’s 6-0 start is one of the most surprising in college football, and it’s been exciting seeing fans in Lexington get excited about something other than basketball. But the undefeated season is going to end for the Wildcats this weekend in Athens. Even though Georgia’s offense isn’t the most potent in the country, the defense is an absolute juggernaut. The Bulldogs are only giving up 5.5 points per game, and they are leading the country in total yards allowed as well. Kentucky has a strong squad, but there’s no chance they upset the Bulldogs this weekend.
Georgia 38, Kentucky 13
After a dominant win over Temple, Cincinnati jumped to its highest ranking ever, coming in at No. 3 in the AP Poll. They are a legitimate contender to make the CFP, especially with quarterback Desmond Ridder keeping his name in the Heisman conversation and the defense and cornerback Ahmad Gardner locking up opponents. If UCF had a healthy Dillon Gabriel at quarterback, this could be an interesting matchup. However, ever since Gabriel broke his left clavicle against Louisville, the Golden Knights offense hasn’t looked the same. Look for Cincinnati to run away with this one.
Cincinnati 42, UCF 17
NC State and Boston College have both had strong starts, as they currently sit at 4-1. They are coming off bye weeks as well, giving them plenty of time to prepare for this weekend’s matchup. The loss of quarterback Phil Jurkovec for Boston College has significantly hurt the offense, as backup Dennis Grosel has thrown for four touchdowns and four interceptions. Meanwhile, quarterback Devin Leary for the Wolfpack has been dominant, tossing 12 touchdowns against two interceptions. Leary’s steadying presence for NC State will be the difference in this ACC clash, giving the Wolfpack a narrow win on the road.
NC State 27, Boston College 24
Contrary to what you might expect based on these teams’ respective rankings, this isn’t expected to be a close game. Georgia has absolutely dominated this season behind its nearly impenetrable defense, so – despite the Wildcats impressive start – it’s hard to imagine Kentucky making this a close game. This statement of reality is not to discount Kentucky at all; Mark Stoops’ squad has acquitted itself quite well against squads like Florida and LSU, and the remainder of the Wildcats’ schedule should put them in position to compete for a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl amid a crowded SEC field. But the reality is that Georgia has given up 5.5 points per game against a mostly difficult schedule. That’s just unfair. The Dawgs will roll easily, even if Kentucky makes it a tad bit closer than expected.
Georgia 31, Kentucky 13
Another one of the top defensive teams in the country, the Cincinnati Bearcats should cruise to a victory over a UCF team that has struggled in nearly every one of its games this season. Despite an increasingly impressive win over Boise State in their opener, the Knights have suffered a truly bad loss to a struggling Navy team, as well as to a mediocre Louisville squad. Just because both of these teams are part of the Group of Five’s top tiers historically and are ascending to the Big 12 together does not mean these two are in the same class of teams. Cincinnati is a legitimate playoff contender with its remaining schedule and has shown no indication of any desire to play down to the level of its competition, with its defense shutting down top opponents and terrible teams alike.
Cincinnati 34, UCF 10
While the loss of starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec is devastating for the Boston College offense, it has no bearing on the Eagles’ strong defense, which is this team’s backbone and is what will deliver them the victory at home this Saturday. Both these teams have looked good so far this season and will look to compete for an ACC crown in a conference that lacks a clear frontrunner with Clemson’s decline. Based on each team’s results this season, this matchup could easily go either way, but it’s never a bad decision to go with a good defense at home when in doubt.
Boston College 24, NC State 23