Ward’s Winners: Week 6

By James Ward

Overrated/Underrated: 

Mitch Trubisky: The Tar Heels quarterback was featured in last week’s edition of “Overrated/Underrated.” This week, Trubisky is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate after a near flawless game against Florida State. Through the last three games, Trubisky has thrown for 1290 yards on 81% completions with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Underrated. 

ACC: The ACC has six ranked teams in this week’s AP Top-25, matching the SEC for most teams ranked in the poll. What has usually been thought of as a ‘two team conference’ between Florida State and Clemson, the ACC is now one of the deepest conferences in college football. Clemson, Louisville and Miami are all in the top-10 and have College Football Playoff aspirations. Underrated.

SEC: The SEC also has six teams in this week’s AP Top-25, but does the conference have a true national title contender aside from Alabama? I don’t think so. The Tennessee hype train is rolling, but their wins against Florida and Georgia could easily have been losses. Texas A&M has played well and has unique defensive playmakers, but their offense should be more potent. The Volunteers and the Aggies face off this week and a dominant win for either side will help the SEC. Overrated.

Jamaal Williams: The BYU running back broke the single-game school rushing record with 286 yards in the Cougars win against Toledo on Friday. After missing last season for personal reasons, Williams is currently second in FBS in rushing yards. Underrated.

Texas Football: Reports came out this week from Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel that Charlie Strong is “very close” to losing his job at the end of the season. Texas is one of the most storied programs in all of college football, but it’s been a long time since the Darrell Royal led Texas teams dominated the SWC. Is it possible that expectations in Austin are too high in the current college football landscape? Overrated.

Notre Dame Defense: The Irish fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder after the Irish gave up 149 points through the first four games of the season. Without VanGorder against Syracuse last week, the Notre Dame defense offered limited resistance and allowed 489 yards of offense. Maybe the defense just isn’t very good? Overrated.

Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:

  1. Before last week, there were only five teams in the FBS that have yet to trail this season.   Memphis, San Diego State and Louisville all lost last week, leaving Miami and Boise State as the only two FBS teams that haven’t trailed at any point this season.
  1. The 1995 Cleveland Browns coach staff is often cited as one of the greatest coaching staffs every assembled. The 2005 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff under Bill Parcells was loaded too. Here are the notables: Sean Peyton (Assistant Head Coach & Quarterbacks), Mike Zimmer (Defensive Coordinator), Todd Bowles (Secondary), Todd Haley (Wide Receivers), Tony Sparano (Offensive Line), Anthony Lynn (Running Backs), Paul Pasqualoni (Tight Ends) and Mike MacIntyre (Defensive Backs). MacIntyre has the Colorado Buffaloes ranked for the first time since 2005 at No. 21 in this week’s AP Top-25. (h/t @RichAckerman)
  1. Miami and Florida State meet this weekend for the 61st time in history, assuming Hurricane Mathew doesn’t interfere with the game. New Miami head coach Mark Richt is 1-0 against Florida State as a head coach, with the one win coming against the Sugar Bowl on Jan 1, 2003. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is 6-0 lifetime against Miami as a head coach, beating Randy Shannon, Al Golden and last year’s interim Larry Scott.

Ward’s Winners:

Texas Tech (+8) at Kansas State: The Red Raiders have one of the most prolific offenses in college football behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, all indications are that he will play on Saturday. Bill Snyder’s Kansas State teams usually play good defense and this year is no exception. In two games against Stanford and West Virginia, the Wildcats have given up 21 points per game. Texas Tech hasn’t scored less than 24 points in a game since 2014. Last year against Kansas State, Texas Tech won 59-44 and Mahomes threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

Can the Kansas State defense limit Texas Tech? I think so, but I don’t think the Wildcats offense can score enough to put the Red Raiders away. This game will be close because of Tech’s unbelievable offense and Kansas State’s inability to do anything above average on offense. Quarterback Jesse Ertz was awful against West Virginia, throwing the ball 30 times with just 10 completions for 166 yards. The Red Raiders are susceptible on defense, but Kansas State doesn’t have to the firepower to take advantage of Texas Tech’s limitations.

Notre Dame (+2.5) at NC State: It’s been a bad season so far for the Fighting Irish, but Notre Dame isn’t really going to go Raleigh and lose to NC State, right? The Wolfpack opened a 1.5-point home underdog, but the line has now shifted to NC State as a 2.5-point favorite. Last year the Irish were underdogs three times and they covered or won the game outright all three times. In the last three years, NC State is 0-6 against Florida State and Clemson and 0-6 against ranked teams. The Wolfpack win 7 or 8 games per year largely because of their record against bottom tier ACC opponents. They have no business being favored against Notre Dame.

This line looks like an overreaction to the Notre Dame struggles and while there’s no defending their porous defense, the offense is still averaging 41.4 points per game.   The Irish offense behind DeShone Kizer is one of the best big-play offenses in the country.   With a minimum of 100 passes completed, Notre Dame averages the most passing yards per completion at 16.23 yards. Last season, Notre Dame had a school record of 15 touchdowns of at least 50 yards. Last week against Syracuse, the Irish had five touchdowns of 50-plus yards. Expect Notre Dame to put up a ton of points against the NC State and win the game outright. 

Washington (-9) at Oregon: A nine-point spread in a rivalry game seems like a lot, but when you look at the way both teams have played in recent weeks, it’s actually pretty low. After a beat down of Stanford last week, the Huskies will look to stop their 12-game losing streak to Oregon. The Huskies are doing it on both sides of the ball and through five games, they’ve yet to show a weakness.

On offense, sophomore quarterback Jake Browning looks like the best quarterback in the Pac-12 (yes, better than Josh Rosen) with pinpoint accuracy on both short and deep passes. Oregon has lost three in a row, including a loss last week to Washington State where the Cougars limited Ducks quarterback Dakota Prukop to 14-of-22 passing for 132 yards with an interception. If the Washington State defense can limit Prukop and the Ducks passing attack, the Huskies can eliminate the Ducks passing offense completely. The Ducks biggest offensive weapon is running back Royce Freeman, but the Huskies are no stranger to stopping the run. Last week, Washington held Heisman Trophy contender Christian McCaffrey to 49 yards rushing, his worst output since becoming a fulltime starter. The Huskies defense ranks No. 15 in the nation, allowing 299.2 yards per game. If Washington is ready to play, this game will be over quickly.

Last Week: 1-2

Season Record: 7-8

Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 37-28-0

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