Categories
Sports

Week 11 of College Football: Top 5 games

5. No. 15 North Carolina @ Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2, (Wake Forest -3.5)

North Carolina has run the table since their loss to Notre Dame, making the Irish win look all the better. The Tar Heels are currently 8-1 and are favorites to win the ACC Coastal division. The line favors Wake Forest, but the Tar Heels are 5-0 on the road this season. UNC quarterback Drake Maye has been lighting it up the entire season, passing for nearly 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. The fact that he is putting up these gaudy numbers as a freshman should be extremely encouraging to Tar Heel fans. Maye is absolutely destroying defenses and could even garner some consideration for the Heisman. Wake Forest is coming off of two straight losses, which has seemingly eliminated them from conference contention. The only thing they have left to play is the role of spoiler; they could derail North Carolina’s hopes for a New Year’s Six Bowl. After a great start to the season, Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman has thrown 3 interceptions in each of his last two games. North Carolina has a porous pass defense, so there will probably be holes in the coverage.

4. No. 22 UCF @ No. 16 Tulane, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2, (Tulane -2)

Tulane is the top-ranked team in the Group of Five, which puts them on track for a New Year’s Six game. The Green Wave are 8-1, with a signature win over a Kansas State team that is currently ranked 23rd. Their only loss was a letdown game to Southern Mississippi the week after their upset. Running back Tyjae Spears has been on a tear for the Green Wave, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his last three contests. On the other hand, UCF has a case for being the best team in the state of Florida. The Golden Knights are 7-2 and trail only the Green Wave in the conference standings. Head coach Gus Malzahn has engineered an offensively talented team; UCF has put up 40 points in four of their games this year. Two weeks ago, UCF won their biggest game of the season so far, beating Cincinnati 25-21. Backup Mikey Keene had to lead the Golden Knights to victory, and he also beat Memphis last week by a score of 35-28. 

3. No. 24 Washington @ No. 6 Oregon, 7:00 p.m., FOX, (Oregon -13.5)

The seminal PAC-12 game of the week is a pivotal rivalry contest. Washington needs a win to keep their hopes of a PAC-12 championship alive. The Huskies have shown flashes of an extremely talented team in the first year of the Kalen DeBoer era, but lack a true signature win. Last week, quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. led a game-winning drive to beat a ranked Oregon State team and the Huskies are largely dependent on the play of Penix. In their losses to UCLA and Arizona State, Penix has made crucial mistakes, throwing interceptions in each. The Huskies also have a suspect pass defense due to both injuries and inexperience. Oregon has inspired its fans into once again thinking about a potential playoff bid. Quarterback Bo Nix is having a lot more fun than he did in the season opener, as the Ducks have ripped off eight straight wins since a 49-3 demolition at the hands of Georgia. Nix has 22 touchdowns compared to just 5 interceptions. Last week, the Ducks destroyed a 1-8 Colorado team 49-10. If there is more chaos on the national scene, the Ducks could back their way back into the playoff. However, they have to win out. 

2. No. 10 Alabama vs. No. 11 Ole Miss, 3:30 p.m., CBS, (Alabama -11.5)

It’s a rare sight to see Ole Miss with the better record in the annual meeting between these two SEC teams. The Rebels are 8-1, but haven’t done it in a very convincing manner. Last week, they needed another monster performance from freshman running back Quinshon Judkins in order to beat a 3-5 Texas A&M. Judkins rushed for 205 yards in last week’s victory, a game he played on his 19th birthday. The Rebels needed a bounce back from their first loss two weeks ago, 45-20 to LSU in which they utterly collapsed after holding a 17-3 lead. The Tide are still sore from their own loss to LSU, a 32-31 overtime classic. After scoring a touchdown to start overtime, LSU responded with a touchdown of their own and scored on a two-point conversion to win the game. Alabama is 7-2, but has lost their games by a combined 4 points. Quarterback Bryce Young was routinely throwing under pressure last week, and an opportunistic Rebels defense needs to try and take advantage of any weakness they can find. Alabama was favored by nearly two touchdowns in their last game, but will the Rebels pull off another upset and send the Tide reeling?

1. No. 4 TCU @ No. 18 Texas, 7:30 p.m., ABC, (Texas -7)

TCU might just be the surprise of the season in college football. In head coach Sonny Dykes’ first season, the Horned Frogs have sprinted out to a 9-0 record (their best start to a season since 2010) highlighted by wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Although they’ve won all their games, they haven’t looked unbeatable. They have faced double-digit deficits twice: down by 18 to Kansas State and by 17 against Oklahoma State. Quarterback Max Duggan has been the architect behind the Horned Frogs’ meteoric rise. Duggan has 24 touchdowns compared to just two interceptions this season. He also has a host of talented receivers to spread the ball around to — nine have a touchdown this year. Texas is coming off of a huge win over Kansas State that keeps them in the race for the Big 12. Star running back Bijan Robinson ran for 209 yards and a touchdown as Texas withheld a Kansas State comeback to win by a touchdown. The defense came through for the Longhorns against Kansas State, forcing a fumble to ice the game. The Longhorns will need a similar effort if they want to win against this high-flying TCU offense.

Contact Joseph Tunney at jtunney@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

Tunney: Five College Football games to watch in Week 5

Even though the Irish have a bye this week, there is still a ton of entertaining college football to watch. Conference play is beginning to heat up, so there are a lot of matchups that could play huge roles in determining the rest of the college football season. In my opinion, it’s the best top five any weekend has had all year. With that being said, let’s get into the games. 

5. No. 4 Michigan @ Iowa, Noon, FOX, (Michigan -10.5)

Michigan is 4-0 and a Big Ten and College Football playoff contender. They are extremely deep at receiver and running back, with multiple key playmakers. Running back Donovan Edwards did not play against Maryland last week, but thankfully the other star in the Wolverine’s backfield, Blake Corum, picked up the slack with 243 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. After playing three of the worst teams in Division 1 to open the year, Michigan is coming off of a 34-27 win over Maryland that offered areas to improve upon.

Michigan fans will be looking for an improved pass rush and more accurate throws from quarterback J.J. McCarthy. However, offense may be tough to come by against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes have the best scoring defense in the country, but if they want to compete with the likes of Michigan they will need more from their offense. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras has been derided by Hawkeye fans as he passed for just 524 yards and one touchdown over four games. Iowa has the benefit of home-field advantage and Michigan hasn’t won at Iowa since 2005. Can the Wolverines exorcise their past demons? Do the Hawkeyes have another upset in them?

4. No. 2 Alabama @ No. 20 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m., CBS, (Alabama -16.5)

After being taken to the brink against Texas in the second week of the season, Alabama has reasserted itself in blowout wins over UL Monroe and Vanderbilt. However, questions still remain about how the Tide will look against another quality opponent. Quarterback Bryce Young looked on point versus Vanderbilt with 385 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs transitioned into a receiving role last week, ceding running back duties to Jase McClellan. Both McClellan and Gibbs ended up scoring a touchdown, so the versatility of these players will provide another headache to the Arkansas defense. Arkansas is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M last week, where a fumble and a missed field goal doomed them. They are also feeling the loss of all SEC safety Jalen Catalon being out for the season. However, Arkansas still has a lot of offensive talent that should make Nick Saban sweat, and they have the benefit of the game being played on their turf. 

3. No. 7 Kentucky @ No. 14 Ole Miss, Noon, ESPN (Ole Miss -6.5)

Kentucky is 4-0 and seventh in the country, their highest ranking since 1977. Quarterback Will Levis and head coach Mark Stoops have helped turn what has always been considered a “basketball school” into a dark horse SEC contender. Levis has passed for nearly 1200 yards and 10 touchdowns through just four games, showing that he could reach historic marks for a program that is usually an SEC bottom-dweller.

Kentucky welcomes the return of running back Chris Rodriguez, as they hope that he will spark a running game that has been struggling. They head down to Oxford, Miss for the first time since 2001. After airing it out with quarterback Matt Corral last season, the Rebels seem content to have a more balanced attack this season. Quarterback Jaxson Dart has managed games well, but hasn’t been a transcendent piece. Ole Miss will look to control the line of scrimmage against Kentucky, aiming to dominate a porous Wildcat o-line (allowing four sacks a game). Both teams have struggled with consistency, with Ole Miss sleepwalking to a win over Tulsa last week while Kentucky faced early struggles with Northern Illinois. Both teams need this win badly to prove that they are a legit SEC contender. 

2. No. 9 Oklahoma State @ No. 16 Baylor, 3:30 p.m., FOX, (Baylor -2.5)

A rematch of last year’s Big 12 Championship game could end up being one of the biggest regular-season games in the following season. Baylor has been great ever since the start of last season, getting back on track after a double-overtime loss to BYU with a tough win on the road against Iowa State. The Bears may possess the best rushing defense in college football, allowing a paltry 79.5 yards per contest. Quarterback Blake Shapen had a much better day than he did against BYU, committing no turnovers in a game that probably served as a confidence builder. Dominating the line of scrimmage without committing turnovers usually results in success, so it’s no surprise that this Baylor team is a tough-out.

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has looked like an offensive juggernaut through three games. In their first three games, quarterback Spencer Sanders has thrown for over 300 yards per game and 10 touchdowns, compared to just one pick. Head coach Mike Gundy seems to have another team that will contend for the Big 12 crown. Last year, the game went down to the final play with Oklahoma State coming up a yard short. Could we see a similar legendary finish on Saturday?

1. No. 10 NC State @ No. 5 Clemson, 7:30 PM, ABC, (Clemson -6.5)

The only matchup between two top-10 schools is a clash between two ACC heavyweights. Clemson hung on in a double-overtime shootout over ranked Wake Forest last weekend that saw an amazing performance from quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei and the Clemson offense were able to keep pace and outlast Sam Hartman and the Demon Deacons, with the former throwing for 375 yards and five touchdowns. Seeing the offense produce like that is a welcome sign for Clemson fans, but the defense has to lock it back down against another quality opponent in NC State. Hyped as a dark horse ACC contender to start the season, the Wolfpack have largely looked up to the task. After going on the road to Eastern Carolina and escaping with a one-point win, NC State won their next three games rather comfortably, including a 27-14 win over Texas Tech. Clemson will undoubtedly serve as NC State’s biggest test. College Gameday is on-site for the game, which may serve as an omen for a Clemson victory: the Tigers are 6-1 when hosting the show. Can NC State show they’re a legitimate contender? Can Clemson continue its journey back to the College Football Playoff?