Ward’s Winners: Week 7

By James Ward

Week in Review:

USC & the other USC: Both USC’s lost their coaches this week. In South Carolina, the Ol’ Ball Coach announced that he was stepping down immediately as Gamecocks head coach. Steve Spurrier took the South Carolina football program to great heights, winning 11 games three seasons in a row and finishing in the top-10 all three times. Before Spurrier, the Gamecocks had never had a top-10 finish or an 11-win season. The challenge for South Carolina is finding a coach that can build on Spurrier’s success.

In Southern California, Steve Sarkisian’s tumultuous 22-month reign as head coach ended, when a weird 24-hour period culminated with Sark’s dismissal as head coach following rumors of erratic behavior. The Sarkisian tenure for the Trojans was supposed to bring USC back to the Pete Carroll days, where Sark served as an assistant coach. Instead, the Trojans put together a mediocre season and a half despite a roster littered with NFL talent. This time around USC needs to hire the best football coach in the country. Period. The recruits will always flock to Southern California, but the Trojans need a lasting coach who is capable of coming in, winning and stabilizing the program.

Epic Trolling: The Oregon Ducks have dominated the series against Washington State in recent years, with the Ducks winning the last eight meetings against the Cougars by an average score of 50.6 to 21.6. On Saturday night, Washington State upset the Oregon Ducks 45-38 in Eugene and the Cougars wasted no time trolling the Ducks on Twitter. The official Washington State athletic Twitter account (@WSUCougars) tweeted an Oregon Trail wagon graphic captioned: “You have died of dysentery.” If Oregon continues to struggle in conference play, expect this to happen often because the Ducks have been running up the score and beating down lesser Pac 12 opponents for years.

 Top Performers:

Devontae Booker (34 rushes for 222 yards & 2 TDs): The Utes strategy against Cal on Saturday night appeared to be ‘keep away,’ that is to keep the ball away from Cal quarterback Jared Goff. This strategy is only possible with a dynamic run game. To say that Booker won the game for Utah is not hyperbole. Booker is now tied for second in the FBS with 140 carries on the season.

Calvin Ridley (9 rec for 140 yds & 1 TD): Did Calvin Ridley have one of the best individual performances last week? Probably not, but he’s coming off back-to-back 100 yard receiving performances against SEC opponents in just his fifth and sixth college football games and he looks poised to be the next great Alabama wide receiver.

Jordan Canzeri (43 rushes for 256 yards & 1 TD): Iowa’s leading rusher was named the Big Ten Player of the Week following his dominant game against Illinois. Canzeri is a big reason why Iowa stands 6-0, as he hopes to become the first Hawkeye running back to exceed 1000 yards since 2011.

Games to Watch:

Michigan State @ Michigan: In just six games, Jim Harbaugh has turned Michigan into one of the top teams in college football. Seriously. The Wolverines defense hasn’t allowed a point in 12 quarters of football after dominating Northwestern on Saturday afternoon in the Big House. Michigan State remains unbeaten, but has struggled in recent weeks against Purdue and Rutgers – two of the lesser teams in the Big 10. When the Spartans played Oregon earlier this year, it appeared to be a matchup between two top teams, but that changed when Oregon’s season is now over in October. The Wolverines will be the Spartans toughest opponent this season. The winner of Saturday’s game will be labeled as the second best team in the Big 10.

Florida @ LSU: In a week that saw four FBS coaches become ex-coaches, the most game-changing news off the field happened in Gainesville, FL, when Will Grier, the starting quarterback for the No. 8 team in the country, was suspended for a PED violation. Treon Harris takes over at quarterback and the Gators’ season takes a drastic turn. Grier has been the most important player for the Gators this year and his suspension could be too much for the Gators to withstand, especially against a good LSU team led by Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette.

Ward’s Winners:

(-4) Alabama @ A&M: In last year’s matchup, the Crimson Tide annihilated the Aggies 59-0 in Tuscaloosa. This Texas A&M team is much better than last year’s squad behind sophomore sensations Myles Garrett and Kyle Allen, but who have the Aggies beat so far this season? The answer: Arkansas, Mississippi State and Arizona State – three teams having immensely disappointing seasons. Alabama has already lost this season and a loss to A&M would most likely eliminate the Tide from the College Football Playoffs. Give me Nick Saban in an elimination game every single time, especially against an overrated A&M team.

Ole Miss @ Memphis (+10.5): Memphis has won 12 straight games dating back to last year’s loss to Ole Miss in Oxford in September 2014. Last year, Memphis trailed 7-3 in the fourth quarter and the Rebels were on upset alert for most of the game. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is currently third in in the FBS in passer rating, with ten touchdowns and zero turnovers, and he might be the best quarterback in college football flying under the radar. There is already talk that Memphis head coach Justin Fuente will be in line for a new job in the offseason and a good performance against Ole Miss on Saturday will further that conversation. I think Ole Miss will still find a way to win the game, but Memphis will keep it close.

 (-20.5) TCU @ Iowa State: The Big 12’s second weakest team (Kansas, duh) against the Big 12’s best team. The line is huge, but when TCU plays up to their potential, and there is no one on the Cyclone’s roster that will get in the way of that, they can’t be stopped. Quarterback Trevone Boykin, running back Aaron Green and wide receiver Josh Doctson are all putting up prolific numbers on offense for the Horned Frogs. The Cyclones defense allowed 66 points last week to Texas Tech and TCU should put up similar numbers against the Iowa State defense.

 Last Week: 0-3-0

Season Record: 8-10-0

James Ward is the Associate Producer of the DA Show, as well as the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).

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