Every week here at the “CFWP” we try to kick off the column with one of the biggest headlines in the world of college football, and there’s currently no shortage of scandals rocking the college football world.
We could discuss the five-part series on Oklahoma State detailing numerous alleged discretions within the Oklahoma State football program from Sports Illustrated. Or we could discuss the impermissible benefits doled out to five SEC players per Yahoo Sports.
Those issues are so complex and so in-depth, however, we couldn’t even to begin to scratch the surface. Or give them the depth and breadth they deserve.
But those pieces of investigative journalism are worth your time. We’ll just leave the analysis to outlets better equipped to provide commentary.
Instead we’ll keep our focus on the football field, and there’s no better way to start off with the latest “Game of the Century”…
Where College Gameday Is At
If this wasn’t a team that won the past two national championships and three out of the past four, Texas A&M might win in a landslide.
But this is Alabama. This is a team that’s more than capable of going into hostile territory and bringing an opponent to its knees and quieting a rabid home crowd.
This is a Nick Saban coached team that doesn’t lose to teams twice in a row. Case in point, in 2011 the Crimson Tide lost at home to LSU in a game pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation only to get payback in the national championship game.
This is a team that stockpiles NFL-caliber talent like Cold War Russia stockpiles nuclear missiles. Just look at the last four starting running backs at ‘Bama, each one arguably the best player at their position in their respective draft class. The Tide went from Mark Ingram to Trent Richardson to Eddie Lacy to now T.J. Yeldon.
Sure, there are questions marks at Alabama, particularly along the offensive line that lost three starters to the professional ranks this past offseason. But one of the two returning starters is Cyrus Kouandijo, maybe the top left tackle in all of college football.
A&M is able counter with an elite left tackle of their own in Jake Matthews, cousin to Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. And, of course, there’s that Johnny Manziel guy, obviously a talented player in his own right.
If it weren’t for the Aggies beating the Tide last season, there would be no Heisman Trophy for Manziel, that game alone practically propelling him to college football’s most-prestigious award.
That performance and that game has reportedly been playing on repeat inside the Alabama weight room all offseason long. There will be shortage of motivation for ‘Bama at the site of ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday.
The stat of the week: Texas A&M currently ranks 95th in the nation in total defense, giving up an average of 449.5 yards per game despite facing Rice and Sam Houston State to open the season.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Texas A&M 24. Roll Tide. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.
The Wisconsin Connection
Fans who stay up late enough will be treated to a match-up of the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses in the nation when Wisconsin travels out to Arizona State on Saturday night.
Critics will point to the cupcake schedules played thus far by Wisconsin, who pasted UMass and Tennessee Tech, and Arizona State, who crushed Sacramento State in its only game of the season.
No doubt about it, nobody knows much about either of these teams yet based upon the inferior competition they’ve played, but we’re about to find out plenty in a terrific intersectional contest out in the desert.
Wisconsin is currently ranked No. 20 in the Associate Press poll and Arizona State probably should be ranked. Before it’s done and over the Sun Devils will have plenty to say about who comes out on top in the Pac-12 South division.
Not only have the Badgers pitched shutouts to two straight opponents, perhaps most impressive is that they’ve had three 100-plus yard rushers in both games to open the season with James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Make that three out of the last four games if you go back to last season and substitute Montee Ball for Clement.
In Arizona State, Wisconsin will face one player on each side of the football that’s among the best in their nation at their respective positions.
The Sun Devils feature very likely the best defensive tackle in the nation in Will Sutton, who’s a probable first round draft choice next spring. Meanwhile, on the other side of the football, Arizona State has arguably one of the top five senior running backs in the country in Marion Grice.
Not to be overlooked is the Sun Devil passing game, led by quarterback Taylor Kelly.
The Badgers will have their hands full in trying to stop an Arizona State attack equally adept at both passing and running the football. And they’ll have a tough task trying to run the football against a defensive front seven that has talent beyond just Sutton.
Here’s how many tackles for a loss returning players on Sun Devils defense had last season: Chris Young 14, Sutton 23.5, Carl Bradford 20.5, Davon Coleman 11, Steffon Martin 6.5, Junior Onyeall 8, Jaxon Hood 4.
Prediction: The quarterback that performs better, wins the game. Taylor edges Joel Stave. Arizona State 28, Wisconsin 27. This will be a fun, fun game. Kickoff is at 9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.
What Happened Before Saturday
What could have been a very promising season for TCU was likely derailed by a broken arm to quarterback Casey Pachall prior to Thursday night’s game versus Texas Tech.
That’s not to say TCU can’t have a successful season or qualify for a bowl, but they’re going to have a difficult time beating top-tier teams with Trevone Boykin at quarterback.
To be fair, Texas Tech isn’t likely to compete for the conference crown this season either. But behind a pumped-up home crowd in a nationally televised game, the Red Raiders did enough to get past the Horned Frogs, 20-1o on Thursday evening.
Boykin is a quarterback who can be effective running the football, but he’s merely an average passer, and his two interceptions to the Red Raider defense didn’t help his cause.
It will be interesting to see where Texas Tech goes from here at the quarterback position after true freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield left the game in the fourth quarter due to injury and Davis Webb stepped in to direct the game-winning drive.
One last note. In homage to Carl Brutananadilewski, UCLA over Nebraska is my “Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week.” The Bruins getting 4.5 points is criminal. The Black Shirts are bordering on poor.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.