Game of the Week: #5 Florida State (5-0) at #3 Clemson (6-0). This is the game of the year in the ACC, and may be the game of the year (so far) period, as it is the year’s first meeting of top-5 teams. Florida State won last year’s meeting at home 49-37, but this year have to travel to Death Valley to one of the most hostile environments in the country. For some unknown reason, although Clemson is ranked higher, has played a tougher schedule so far, and has the game at home, Florida State is somehow a 3-point favorite in this game. By the way, this is the ACC’s first matchup of top-5 opponents since 5th-ranked Miami beat 3rd-ranked Virginia Tech in 2005. These teams are pretty even, so instead of focusing on overall stats, I’ll look at some trends. Florida State hasn’t won at Clemson since 2001, back when this matchup was known as the “Bowden Bowl”, when Bobby Bowden coached Florida State and Tommy Bowden coached Clemson (I feel safe saying the existing coaching matchup is the only one all year between guys named Jimbo and Dabo). In fact, the home team has won the last 6 meetings. Also, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd has been there before, while Florida State QB Jameis Winston is a redshirt-freshman who has never played a game like this, although he has played 2 road games so far. Winston has impressed everyone, including Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who said, “He doesn’t look like any redshirt freshman I’ve ever seen,” but there’s still that unknown of how he will perform in a hostile environment (although I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he plays really well). Although, Clemson did really struggle to get over Boston College last week, BC also led FSU by 14 in the first half, so it’s not as big of a deal as people think. One friend said today the game will won and lost for both sides on 4th quarter mistakes. I agree. Clemson 52, Florida State 49.
Big Game Guarantee: #22 Florida (4-2) at #14 Missouri (6-0). This is a big game for a couple of teams who are still trying to win the SEC East. Even though Missouri has the game at home, is unbeaten, and is coming off a big road upset against Georgia, they are still a 3-point underdog is this game. The Gators have lost twice, but both are to current top-10 teams, Miami and LSU, and both were on the road. Missouri’s win over Georgia came at a big cost, as QB James Franklin will be out 3-5 weeks with a shoulder injury, meaning that Maty Mauk will make his first career start (yes, that’s the younger brother of former Wake Forest/Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk) in this big contest. In addition, the Florida secondary has allowed the 2nd least passing yards in the nation. That, in addition to Missouri being stuck in a very difficult three-week stretch including last week’s game and next week’s game against South Carolina, will help Florida here. Florida 20, Missouri 17.
BONUS: Another Big Game Guarantee: #9 UCLA (5-0) at #13 Stanford (5-1). The Cardinal of Stanford come home after a tough loss on the road against Utah last week, 27-21, to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. Stanford has won 5 straight in this series, dating back to their last loss to the Bruins in the 2007 season opener. The Cardinal have a 12-game home winning streak, dating back to a loss to Oregon in 2011. That is their only home loss since 2009. That 2009 season also marks the last time Stanford lost back-to-back games; that was during Andrew Luck’s freshman season. Those trends seem to point to a Stanford win, but UCLA is ranked 9th and hasn’t lost yet this year, and have an overall solid team. While UCLA hasn’t necessarily played the toughest schedule, they do have a road win over that Utah team that beat Stanford, as well as one at Nebraska in a game that they were down 21-3 before winning 41-21. This is also a good matchup of underrated quarterbacks between UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. Should UCLA win, they will make a statement and throw themselves into the national championship picture. However, I think Stanford is such a good team all-around that them losing two weeks in a row would be unlikely, even if they’re playing a top-10 opponent. Stanford 38, UCLA 34.
Upset of the Week: #6 LSU (6-1) at Ole Miss (3-3). Both of these teams come off of big games last week, after LSU beat Florida 17-6 and Ole Miss almost upset Texas A&M with a 41-38 defeat on a field goal as time expired. Ole Miss played very well in that game, and has overall been starting to trend upward, despite three straight losses, as they were blown out by Alabama, and lost by 8 to Auburn, both on the road, before the near miss against Texas A&M. LSU lost on the road at Georgia three weeks ago, before beating Mississippi State on the road and the Gators last week at home. Even though the LSU-Alabama game won’t be until November 9, will the Tigers be looking ahead already? The Rebels should learn from the mistakes they made in their close losses to Auburn and A&M, and will keep this game close at home. LSU’s only close game was against Georgia, another road test, and they lost when Georgia had the ball last. In the end, a very close game will go the way of the Rebels. Ole Miss 38, LSU 37.
Closer Than The Experts Think: Iowa State (1-4) at #12 Baylor (5-0). While Baylor has possibly the nation’s best offense, and Iowa State has a struggling defense, this game will be closer than people think. There is a reason Baylor is a 33-point favorite at home, but I think this game will be a little bit closer than that. Iowa State’s 1-4 record is not an indication of how good or bad they are, as all four losses have been in close games, including one last week at undefeated Texas Tech, and another at home against Texas in a game that the Longhorns were benefitted by a very controversial call. Also, while this game is on the road, so is their only win. The Cyclones also have a knack for big upsets in Big 12 play. Iowa State also held the potent Baylor offense to their lowest point total last year, when they defeated the Bears 35-21. Baylor is averaging 714 yards per game and 63.4 points per game (which leads the nation), so I do believe the offense will be too much for Iowa State to handle, but they will keep the game closer than everyone thinks. Baylor 42, Iowa State 30.
BONUS: NFL Pick: Peyton Returns to Indy: Denver Broncos (6-0) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2). Peyton Manning has an 82-32 career record in games played in Indianapolis. In each of those wins, however, he put on the home uniform. Sunday, for the first time, Manning will be in the visitor’s locker room in Indy. His Denver Broncos visit Indianapolis with a 17-game regular season winning streak, one win away from tying the New England Patriots in 2003-04 for 3rd all-time. Manning’s replacement on the Colts, Andrew Luck, is showing no signs of a sophomore slump. His career numbers through 22 games are much better than Manning’s at the beginning of his career. That being said, Luck is still a long way away from Manning’s status, as Manning has proven himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. At the age of 37 he has shown no signs of slowing down, and may in fact be having his best season ever. The Broncos are favored by 7 on the road, and will cover the spread and then some. Broncos 38, Colts 24.