The Observer’s Roundtable Week 9
Sam Ouhaj | Thursday, October 28, 2021
Another week of college football is upon us. With only seven weeks left to go before the bowl games begin, let’s dive into some of the week’s most exciting matchups.
NCAA Games of the Week
No. 10 Ole Miss @ No. 18 Auburn
No. 20 Penn State @ No. 5 Ohio State
No. 6 Michigan @ No. 8 Michigan State
Sam Ouhaj — Sports Writer
As J.J. will mention later, Auburn is the betting favorite, but I have no reason to put my money on it. This season, Matt Corral has been one of the best college quarterbacks and will be among the top three picks for the draft. Auburn arguably has a better defense than the rebels, but this won’t matter when you’re facing a Heisman favorite who has had success throwing against some of the top college defenses. The Auburn Tigers will hang around early on, but this game will be over by the half.
Ole Miss 42, Auburn 28
Any chance that I can get to bash Penn State is an excellent day in my book. Everyone was high on the Nittany Lions after a few wins against ranked opponents, Wisconsin (no longer ranked) and Auburn (currently 18). However, this team has little offensive potential with Sean Clifford under the helm. Despite Ohio State’s lone loss coming to Oregon early on, this team has rebounded and is starting to look like the Buckeyes that have dominated college football for the last six years. C.J. Stroud is finally getting a feel for the college level, and it is fantastic to see him blossom. Penn State has a chance with their defense, but the offense will not help them whatsoever. This will be a close one in Columbus.
Penn State 21, Ohio State 28
Michigan vs. Michigan State was a game that many brushed over early on except Michigan natives. MSU has come alive this season and is now ranked in the top 10, and Michigan has surprisingly not fallen off a cliff yet. This will be a game in the trenches, with most of the offense going through the run game. MSU is a +2.5 point underdog, but this does not phase me, and I honestly think they will embarrass Michigan. The most exciting matchup of the weekend will be a classic; just look at the history between these two teams.
Michigan 21, MSU 35
J.J. Post — Sports Writer
While Auburn is indeed the betting favorite, and Jordan-Hare is one of the scariest places to play at night, I like the momentum Lane Kiffin is building in Oxford this year. Matt Corral is making his case for the best quarterback in college football, and will be fired up to mark a statement road victory after the Rebels got comprehensively beaten by Alabama in Tuscaloosa earlier in October. I think it’ll be a nail-biter, with Lane train steaming forward to another victory.
Ole Miss 45, Auburn 38
Just about every year this game seems to serve as the play-in game for the Big Ten East’s spot in the conference championship. But for a couple of reasons this year, it is just not the same. For one, both Michigan and Michigan State look like equal challengers to Ohio State’s near-perennial throne atop the East. And the Nittany Lions are coming into this week on the back of a 9 OT loss at home to lowly Illinois, arguably the most embarrassing possible loss they could have taken in Big Ten play. Of course, it’s still too early to completely write off Penn State. Blips happen, and there’s still a ton of talent in State College. Sean Clifford was clearly limited last Saturday, and if he’s back to full health, James Franklin’s offense can find another gear. The Penn State defense is still one of the country’s best. And with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State still ahead of the Nittany Lions on their remaining schedule, there’s no doubt Franklin will be stressing to his squad that they still (technically) control their own destiny. That being said, no matter how many qualifiers I could put out to explain why Penn State is still potent, it’s very clear right now that Ohio State has at last hit its potential and is on another level. Give me the Buckeyes in Columbus.
Ohio State 41, Penn State 20
This game always seems to be one of the most fun matchups of the season. From Michigan State’s iconic “he has trouble with the snap” walk off failed punt return in 2015, to Michigan’s 17-point comeback win in triple overtime in 2004, few rivalries have a propensity for chaos like the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. And this year the stakes are higher than ever — both teams are in the top 10 and have a very real shot at a wide open playoff. The running backs are almost sure to be the feature attraction, as the Wolverines’ elite one two punch of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum will wear defenses down and rip them to shreds, and Spartan feature back Kenneth Walker III has been stuffing stat sheets all season. Both teams have had their slip ups — with Nebraska notably coming very close to upsets in each of their respective games — but it’s hard to imagine both teams won’t be fired up and ready to bring their best for this one. At the end of the day, I think Michigan is a slightly more talented team overall, but combine an electric Halloweekend College Gameday atmosphere in East Lansing with the Spartan’s love for pulling off stunners over their rivals and I’ll take Michigan State as an upset pick at home.
Michigan State 27, Michigan 24
Tom Zwiller — Sports Writer
With the total set to 67, I am still inclined to take the over. Ole Miss has a high-powered offense averaging 42 points a game and 540 yards, but they also allow 28. On the flip side, Auburn averages 35 points and almost 450 yards but only allows 20. Now, I know that Auburn is the -2.5 favorite, but I think that Ole Miss will win this matchup. My Heisman front-runner Matt Corral should be able to throw for some big yardage and I do not believe that Auburn will be able to keep up.
Ole Miss 41, Auburn 38
Until last weekend, I thought this could be one of a few key games that would shape the Big 10 Championship game. Now I feel a lot less sure. Ohio State has only lost once in their second game of the season against Oregon. Since then, Ohio State has been perfect, going 4-0 in conference play. Penn State has done the opposite of that, losing their last two games to Iowa and Illinois. The Nittany Lions do not have the rushing attack to support their offense; it cost them in their previous two games and it will cost them again against the Buckeyes.
Penn State 21, Ohio State 42
As a Michigander, I cannot wait for this matchup. The last time these two teams faced off both as top 10 teams was in 1964! And it is not just me thinking that this game will be another great chapter in the rivalry: According to the Detroit Free Press, a ticket to the game will set you back about $300. Despite them being the underdogs, I am going to take MSU. They are at home, had a bye last weekend, and have the better passing attack. I like Michigan, but I take Payton Thorne over Cade McNamara.
Michigan 24, Michigan State 28
Jamison Cook — Sports Writer
While this game is in Auburn and the Tigers will most definitely have a raucous crowd behind them, I believe the Pick ‘em betting line is an accurate one. This game will ultimately come down to leadership in big moments, and as this responsibility most often falls on the quarterback, I am going to have to take Ole Miss in this game. Rebels QB Matt Corral is still in the thick of the Heisman race, and his dynamic play has carried Ole Miss to this point in the season. Simply put, I trust Corral way more than Auburn QB Bo Nix, who tends to play backyard football and can be turnover-happy at times. Lane Kiffin has this Ole Miss program on the up-and-up, and the Rebels will score another big SEC win this weekend to continue in the right direction. Expect a lot of points in this one.
Ole Miss 37, Auburn 33
Two weeks ago, my prediction for this game might have been very different. But, due to some key injuries and epic choke jobs, Penn State has regressed to the middle-of-the-road, slightly above average football that I always enjoy seeing from them. The joy I get from seeing Penn State struggle might be enough to overcome the distaste I get from seeing Ohio State win, which they will surely do in a big way this weekend. Penn State QB Sean Clifford is nowhere near 100%, and the Nittany Lion offense will be incredibly limited until he is healthy. Ohio State QB CJ Stroud, on the other hand, is healthy and rounding into final form. Ryan Day has been here before, and he will have his team ready to effectively end their rivals’ season at home in Columbus. The Buckeyes are (unfortunately) back, and this will not be the year that Penn State dethrones Ohio State in the Big Ten East. Maybe Michigan or Michigan State will do so in the coming weeks. My gut tells me that the Ohio State -17.5-point line is a lot for a rivalry game, but this one won’t be close.
Ohio State 34, Penn State 20
College Gameday will be at this matchup in East Lansing, and rightfully so. This game is sure to be an unbelievable showdown between two rivals looking for a Big Ten crown and College Football Playoff berth. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is finally finding some success in Ann Arbor, something we hate to see here at Notre Dame. That being said, I am still not sure if this Michigan team is good enough to take the next step. While the Wolverines clearly have the deeper rushing attack behind Blake Corum and Hasaan Haskins, Kenneth Walker III has been incredible for the Spartans. I would give the edge in quarterback play, however, to the Spartans, as Payton Thorne seems to be a more complete and reliable passer. The Michigan -2.5-point line seems way to generous for a Sparty home game, and when it comes down to it, Michigan State seems to come up big in the big moments in this rivalry (i.e. blocked punt in 2015). I’ll take Michigan State in an instant classic that features some gritty, defensive, Big Ten football. First one to 20 wins.
Michigan State 20, Michigan 19
Matt Smith — Sports Writer
Auburn is coming off of a bye week, and the extra rest will be beneficial for the Tigers as they face off against an explosive Ole Miss offense. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy, alongside Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and his legs could make the difference instead of his arm in this matchup. Ole Miss has the third-best rushing attack in the country, and Corral leads the team in rushing yards and touchdowns. I say a late Corral rushing touchdown against the stingy Tigers defense is the difference in this one.
Ole Miss 35, Auburn 31
Penn State has dropped back-to-back games after starting 5-0, and that losing streak is likely to grow against a hot Ohio State squad. The Buckeyes have scored 50+ points in their past four games, and quarterback C.J. Stroud has been dominant. He has thrown 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions so far in October, and his chemistry with wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson has been improving each week. The Buckeyes won’t score 50 against a Penn State defense that has only given up 14.7 points per game, but I still think they’ll cruise to an easy win.
Ohio State 34, Penn State 17
East Lansing will host another huge Big Ten matchup this weekend between the only two undefeated teams left in the conference. Michigan has the fifth-best rushing attack in the nation at 253.3 yards per game, but the Spartans have the better lead running back with Kenneth Walker III. A transfer from Wake Forest, Walker III has emerged as a Heisman contender as the second-leading rusher in the country with 997 yards. Michigan’s defense, led by defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, is elite, but I think Michigan State and Walker III will squeak by and upset the Wolverines at home.
Michigan State 24, Michigan 23