There’s three particularly good games, each at a different time of day: morning, afternoon and evening. We’ll kick off the analysis with our usual section here at the “CFWP” and then get to the other two contests…
Where College GameDay Is At
ESPN’s pre-game show will originate from the Myers Quad of Georgia’s campus when they host LSU at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday on CBS.
One of the biggest surprises of this still-young season has been the play of LSU. Despite being selected third in the SEC West preseason media poll, the Tigers are off to a 4-0 start with the slimmest margin of victory being 14 points coming last week in a rain-soaked win over West rival Auburn.
The biggest concern entering the year was, how would LSU re-load after having 10 underclassmen declare for the NFL draft this past April?
Well, LSU appears to be re-loading just fine, thanks in large part from NFL-caliber play from quarterback Zach Mettenberger, as we noted in last week’s column.
It doesn’t hurt that Mettenberger has a pair of NFL-caliber receivers that have upped their game this season in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, both of whom SiriusXM analyst Gino Toretta this week compared to former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, a lofty compliment.
Georgia, meanwhile, continues its upward trend after starting the season with a three-point loss to Clemson but have since won back-to-back games, including a key SEC East battle with South Carolina.
The Bulldogs are led by a balanced offense featuring one of the best running backs in the nation in Todd Gurley, who’s complimented the efficient passing of Aaron Murray rather nicely. Georgia is averaging 574 yards per game, ranking second in the conference, and should be a stiff test for the LSU defense.
Prediction: With the home-field advantage of being “between the hedges,” Georgia’s offense will do just enough to get past a solid LSU team, 32-28.
South Carolina at Central Florida
In one of the sneaky-good games of the weekend, the Gamecocks travel to Central Florida to face the undefeated Golden Knights at 11:00 a.m. in a nationally-televised contest on ABC, not exactly a regular occurrence for a team like UCF.
Not only does UCF have a solid defense (ranking 14th nationally in scoring defense, 12.7 ppg), they boast junior quarterback Blake Bortles, who currently has the fifth-best quarterback rating in the country at 199.5. His 12.7 yard per pass attempt rank second behind only Baylor’s Bryce Petty.
It’ll be up to Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina defense to stop Bortles, and they had better do a better job than they did against Aaron Murray in a loss to Georgia when the Bulldogs quarterback threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Prediction: UCF comes back to earth after a promising start to the season, but they make it a competitive game. Gamecocks win, 31-25.
Mississippi at Alabama
For some reason, this game has the feeling of the Ole Miss upset when the Rebels went into Gainesville and came away with the victory over a Tim Tebow-led Gators team ranked fourth in the nation in 2008. You remember, right? The game that Tebow profusely apologized to Florida fans after the loss?
The difference between then and now is that Mississippi is even better equipped to pull out the victory, despite facing the No. 1 team in the nation at Alabama. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.
No doubt about it, though, it’s not going to be easy for the Rebels to pull off a shocker against an Alabama team that has perhaps statistically underachieved this season. Ole Miss is bolstered by some talented freshmen, including star linebacker Robert Nkemdiche.
Prediction: It’s nice to root for the underdog, but the brain wins out over the heart in this one. 33-21, Roll Tide.
The Wisconsin Connection
Welcome to arguably the best game on the entire Big Ten conference schedule as Wisconsin goes to the Horseshoe to square off against Ohio State. The Badgers and Buckeyes get the ABC primetime broadcast at 7:00 p.m. CT with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit calling the action.
It would have been an even better match-up had Wisconsin been able to pull off the victory against Arizona State on the road two weeks ago, because you can’t buy momentum. But at least the Badgers got back on the winning track with a convincing Big Ten opener against Purdue last weekend.
All the talk this week, however, is about the quarterback controversy brewing in Columbus, and the university has only added to the speculation listing quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton as co-starters atop its depth chart.
Miller is the better runner and Guiton is the better passer, coming off a school-record performance with six touchdown passes in one half during last weekend’s pasting of Florida A&M.
The Badgers might be better equipped to face Guiton than Miller. The strength of the Wisconsin defense is up the middle, the three best players on the unit being inside linebacker Chris Borland, nose tackle Beau Allen and safety Dezman Southward.
Where the Badgers are weakest are their speed to the edges of the defense, particularly its outside linebackers and defensive ends. Miller and running back Jordan Hall could expose the UW defense running to the perimeter of the field.
That’s not to say the Badgers cornerbacks wouldn’t have a difficult time trying to defend against a gun-slinging Kenny Guiton.
Prediction: No matter if it’s Miller or Guiton or both, the Buckeyes get the best of the Badgers, 29-28.
The Annual College Football Road Trip
Every year during the Packers bye week, my wife an I go on a college football road trip. This will be our seventh consecutive year.
If you’re a college football fan, I can’t recommend doing this enough. There’s a lot of great college towns in this country, and many make a fantastic vacation destination.
Some might think it strange, but we always wear our Wisconsin Badgers gear, and it’s always a great idea. It’s a conversation starter, and the hometown fans are always impressed we willingly choose to come visit their city as neutral and unbiased observers.
Over the years, we’ve been invited to some terrific tailgate parties and met some very friendly people.
This weekend, I’ll be in Morgantown, West Virginia to watch the Mountaineers take on undefeated Oklahoma State. Below is a brief pictorial gallery of our journeys. I regret we didn’t take a picture together when it all started at Alabama in 2007.
Saturday’s West Virginia game is at 11:00 a.m. CT on ESPN if you want to look for a couple red shirts in a sea of gold. I’m excited to hear John Denver’s “Country Roads,” see the Mountaineer fire his musket and drink some Moonshine. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t see a couch-burning, but I’ll give an update next week.
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 email@example.com.