Ward’s Winners: Week 8

By: James Ward

Overrated/Underrated:

Gus Malzahn: There are rumblings in Auburn that Gus Malzahn is on the hot seat after the Tigers’ collapse last week against LSU – the other Tigers. For a school always competing against in-state rival Alabama, the loss wasn’t a good look for Malzahn. As Yahoo’s Pete Thamel said succinctly on Sunday Morning Football, “Yesterday’s loss was realization that they can’t beat Ed Oregeron, let alone Saban.” Overrated.

Dino Babers: Syracuse beat Clemson last Friday night at the Carrier Dome, in case you hadn’t heard, and Babers is the toast of the college football world. Cuse is Babers’ third stop as a head coach and in each season at his previous coaching stops, Babers won double-digit games in year 2. Underrated.

College Football Upsets: In the past two weeks, six top-10 teams lost, including potential college football playoff teams Oklahoma, Clemson and Washington. No sport has as much chaos week-to-week as college football. Underrated.

Washington: One week after openly complaining about kick-off times, Chris Petersen’s Huskies team lost to a mediocre Arizona State team. While I tend to side with Petersen, it’s unfortunate that his team was put in the spotlight for the first time all season after a brutal loss on the road. Overrated.

Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:

1. The Bryce Love Heisman Watch is officially on and Tom Fornelli from CBSSports.com did a lot of math in an attempt to determine if Love can actually break Barry Sanders’ single season rushing record. The short answer: he has a chance, but check out Tom’s article for the full details.

2. Kansas plays TCU this weekend at 8 pm ET; in one of the most mismatched national TV night games I can remember. As if the matchup wasn’t bad enough on paper, the Jayhawks head to Fort Worth with a 43-game losing streak on the road.

3. Right now, UCF looks like the best team in the Group of Five and their head coach Scott Frost is excelling in his second season in Orlando. It’s no wonder Frost is having so much coaching success as he was coached as a player by Bill Walsh, Tom Osborne, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, while also serving as an assistant under Chip Kelly. (h/t @RichAckerman)

Ward’s Winners:

Louisville at Florida State (-6.5): The Seminoles have struggled offensively all season, but the Cardinals defense might just be the fix their offense needs to get back into shape. Last week, Louisville allowed 45 points to Boston College at home – the highest output for the Eagles in an ACC game since 2009. The Louisville run defense got destroyed last week, as Boston College running back A.J. Dillon rushed for 272 yards against the Cardinals defense. Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick are set up to have huge games for the Seminoles on the ground. Akers has gone over the 100-yard mark in each of the last two games.

Last year, Louisville smoked Florida State 63-20, effectively ending the Seminoles national championship hopes in September, so revenge is also a big factor in this game. All-world safety Derwin James missed last year’s game, and he could be a huge factor in stopping Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. While true freshman James Blackman is a work in progress, he has improved each week. While it is dicey taking a 2-3 Florida State to win, laying almost a touchdown, this Seminoles team behind a stout defense is a good value pick against Lamar Jackson’s one man show. Pick: FSU (-6.5)

Kentucky (+12) at Mississippi State: The Wildcats are 5-1 this season, with their only loss coming in the final seconds against Florida. Kentucky is a Georgia collapse away from being on top of the SEC East title conversation. On the other side, Mississippi State is 1-2 in SEC play with blowout losses against Georgia and Auburn. The Bulldogs have no business as a double-digit favorite in this game. To me, this is a 2014 Kentucky point spread.

Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson is one of the most underrated single callers in the SEC. In addition to a 9-2 touchdown to interception ratio, he is also 12-5 in games where he was the primary quarterback. Simply put, he wins. Conversely, Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is an explosive college football player coming off his best game of the season, but it came against BYU, one of the worst teams in the FBS this year. The Kentucky defense should do enough to keep this game within one possession. Pick: UK (+12)

Arizona (-3) at Cal: Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez finally has a quarterback who can run (yes, run) his system. Through his first two games of extended playing time this season, Khalil Tate has 557 yards on the ground, bringing up memories of Pat White at West Virginia and Denard Robinson at Michigan. Tate is every bit as explosive and elusive as the aforementioned quarterbacks, and he’s immediately made the Wildcats exponentially more interesting. In addition, Tate is also 26 for 35 for 343 yards, completing passes at a 74.6% clip.

Cal is coming off their massive upset win against Washington State, but the final score isn’t a good indicator to the closeness of the game. The Bears won the turnover margin 7 to 0, as Wazzu did everything in their power to lose the game. Cal will be riding high off the upset, but the loss to linebacker Devante Downs will be felt immediately. Downs currently leads the Bears in tackles, sacks and is tied for interceptions and forced fumbles. His injury is a huge loss to a rejuvenated defense, but losing your best linebacker against a run-first offense is killer. Earlier in the week, Cal was actually favored in this game, but the number moved quickly to favor Arizona. The Wildcats should dominate this game. Pick: Arizona (-3)

Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 14-8
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 72-55-0

James Ward is the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends and ‪Sunday Morning Football. 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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