By James Ward
Washington: The Huskies are legitimate national championship contenders after beating Stanford and Oregon by a combined score of 114-27. The Huskies explosive offense combined with their tenacious defense gives Washington one of the most balanced teams in all of college football. In Chris Petersen’s third year on the job, the Huskies look ready to compete for the Pac-12 title ad infinitum. Underrated.
Texas: Three years into Chris Petersen’s reign and Washington has seemingly found their head coach for the next decade. On the other side of the coin, the Longhorns are no better off than they were three years ago. Charlie Strong is fighting to keep his job and the Longhorns, after losing to Oklahoma, are in danger of a third straight losing season. Overrated.
Football in the Northeast: High school football in the Northeast is often overlooked, but in the biggest game of the weekend, two players from the Northeast figure to make a huge impact. Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel from Brooklyn, N.Y. and Wisconsin’s Corey Clement from Glassboro, N.J. are the two most dynamic offensive players on their respective teams. Michigan also has a former New Jersey high school star excelling in the Big Ten. His name is Jabrill Peppers and he might be the best player in all of college football. Underrated.
Oregon Quarterbacks: The ducks are free falling: Where did it go wrong? The quarterback position. Mark Helfrich and Oregon attempted to replace Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota with FCS graduate transfers in consecutive seasons. While Vernon Adams Jr. played well last year (when he wasn’t injured), Dakota Prukop has been a disappointment this season and was benched last week against Washington. Overrated.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights took a beating last week at home against Michigan. The Wolverines beat Rutgers 78-0 and through three Big Ten Conference games this season, the Scarlet Knights have lost by a combined 150-7. Oof. Rutgers is now 4-15 since joining the Big Ten. The Big Ten is in the New York market, but the conference is also stuck with a bad football team. Overrated.
Heisman Favorites: In Ward’s Winners: Week 1 and PGP #108, I referenced an article from The Ringer that offered great statistical analysis on previous Heisman Trophy winners, and how the odds-on favorite rarely wins the coveted award. Through six weeks, the numbers seem to hold up. Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, J.T. Barrett, Dalvin Cook, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Chad Kelly and Josh Rosen all had 20-1 or better odds at winning this year’s trophy. Aside from Watson and Barrett, the other seven candidates listed have no chance to win the award. Overrated.
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:
- Brad Kaaya is shining this season for the Miami Hurricanes, but he isn’t the first member of his family to be in the spotlight. Kaaya’s mother, actress Angela Means, appeared in the movie “Friday” as Felicia. Kaaya has a chance to be the first Miami quarterback taken in the in first round of the NFL Draft since Vinny Testaverde. Kaaya to the rest of the ACC: “Bye, Felicia.”
- Navy upset No. 6 Houston last week, all but eliminating the Cougars from the College Football Playoff. For Navy, it was their first victory against a top-10 team since 1984. College Football Hall of Famer Napoleon McCallum was on the Navy roster in ‘84, but he missed most of the season with an ankle injury.
- The South Florida Bulls are having a great season behind fourth-year head coach Willie Taggart, but interestingly enough, Taggart owes his coaching career to one of college football’s most recognizable faces. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh recruited Taggart to play at Western Kentucky when Jack Harbaugh was the head coach of the Hilltoppers. Check out USF head coach Willie Taggart on CBS Sports Radio’s Eye on College Football on Saturday afternoon. (h/t @RichAckerman)
Pittsburgh (-3) at Virginia: Virginia is improving each week under first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall, but Pittsburgh is taking giant steps towards competing for the ACC Coastal under second-year head coach Pat Narduzzi. Virginia looked a lot better in their last game against Duke, but this is still a Cavaliers team that lost to Richmond, Oregon and UCONN to start of the season. Pittsburgh has two losses on the road already, but they were against strong opponents in Oklahoma State and North Carolina.
On offense, Pittsburgh’s balanced rushing attack led by James Conner ranks second in the ACC behind Louisville. The Panthers are averaging 244.2 yards per game on the ground, which will present problems for the Cavaliers on defense. Virginia has been unable to stop the run all season and their rushing defense ranks No. 71 in the FBS. The last time the Cavaliers faced a top running back, their defense allowed 207 yards to Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Pittsburgh senior quarterback Nathan Peterman is experienced and will not make many mistakes in this game. Pittsburgh and Virginia are at different stages in their rebuilding, and that will show in this game. The Panthers will win by at least a touchdown.
Alabama (-12) at Tennessee: Last week, Alabama blew out Arkansas in Fayetteville, a team that was thought to be in the second tier of SEC teams. Tennessee is another one of the second tier SEC teams (sorry Volunteers fans, I’m still not buying into your squad). The Volunteers have had exceptional luck to this point and despite seven turnovers last week against Texas A&M, the Volunteers still had a chance to win the game. If the Volunteers turn the ball over seven times against Alabama, they will lose this game and it won’t be close. The Alabama defense has scored seven touchdowns and will make the Volunteers pay for their sloppiness with the football. Advantage: Alabama (by a lot).
On offense, the Crimson Tide is playing extremely well behind freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Alabama offense totaled 517 yards of total offense last week against Arkansas, a defense that is comparable to Tennessee’s defense. Tennessee will be without three of their defensive standouts for Saturday’s game. Cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin will miss Saturday’s game because of injuries, and starting defensive tackle Danny O’Brien was dismissed from the team earlier in the week because of rules violations. Tennessee will fall behind in this game and they won’t come back. The number is big, but Alabama will cover it easily.
Ohio State (-10) at Wisconsin: I know Badgers fans, I’m picking against Wisconsin again, but I am still not a believer in this Wisconsin team. The Badgers demolished Michigan State, but the Spartans have since lost to Indiana and BYU. Wisconsin kept it close with Michigan, but the Ohio State offense is much more potent than the Wolverines’ offense, at this point. The Buckeyes smallest margin of victory so far this season has been 21 points and while I don’t expect them to score in 40s, they can easily score 24 points and win this game by two touchdowns.
The Buckeyes are 19-0 in true road games under Urban Meyer. Ohio State has lost only two regular season games in Urban Meyer’s tenure and the defense this year under new defensive coordinator Greg Schiano might be the best defense yet. Wisconsin under quarterback Alex Hornibrook will have a hard time scoring in this game and while the Badgers defense will limit Ohio State, the lack of offense for the Badgers will cost them this game. It’s not going to be the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game, but Ohio State will win this game without much suspense.
Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 9-9
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 39-29-0