Game of the Week: #3 Alabama (4-0) at #11 Ole Miss (4-0)
Ole Miss is a five-point home underdog in the biggest game on their campus in years. Alabama comes in ranked third in the nation (first in my power rankings), and has won ten in a row over the Rebels. Ole Miss comes in with, statistically, the best defense in the SEC, allowing just 8.3 points per game, although the Crimson Tide offense under coordinator Lane Kiffin has also been impressive. Rebel QB Bo Wallace, who is on pace to break many of Eli Manning’s school records, has struggled a bit, although the struggles have been subtle against lackluster competition. Some of the same could be said for Blake Sims, although he has been better than Wallace. The Oxford crowd will be hungry for an upset, giving the Rebels a home field advantage, and part of me thinks Ole Miss will win, but Alabama is slightly better in all facets of the game, and the program always seems to win games like this. Boise State is the toughest team Ole Miss has faced, and that will show.
Alabama 27, Ole Miss 20.
Big Game Guarantee: #6 Texas A&M (5-0) at #12 Mississippi State (4-0)
Last week, Texas A&M survived their first game against a decent opponent since their win over South Carolina in August, coming from behind to beat Arkansas in overtime. This week, however, they face their toughest test yet, and are two-point road underdogs against fellow undefeated Mississippi State. The Bulldogs defeated LSU, 31-26, two weeks ago, to earn arguably the most impressive win of the SEC season so far. Both quarterbacks in this game are incredibly good, with both Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott capable of putting up big numbers, even against the guantlet that is the SEC West. Therefore, expect this to be a high scoring game, as it was a year ago when Texas A&M won 51-41 in College Station. These teams are very similar, meaning home field advantage could be the difference in a game like this. The game could also come down to who has the ball last. While the spread favors Mississippi State, it would still be an upset
Mississippi State 45, Texas A&M 41.
Another Big Game Guarantee: #15 LSU (4-1) at #5 Auburn (4-0)
Last year, LSU defeated an upstart Auburn team, 35-21, in Baton Rouge. Well, that upstart Auburn team went on to play for the national championship, and hasn’t lost a regular season game since that defeat. As usual, Auburn has an offensive advantage over their opponent, and also has a home field advantage, and is therefore an eight-point favorite. These two teams are statistically very similar, but with one exception–LSU has a loss, and Auburn does not. LSU fell victim to Mississippi State, and while Auburn hasn’t played as tough an opponent as the Bulldogs, they found a way to win their toughest game despite not playing their best at Kansas State. This series has produced so many great games, and is always one of the pivotal games in determining the SEC West champion, and this year will be no different.
Auburn 38, LSU 28.
Another Big Game Guarantee: #19 Nebraska (5-0) at #10 Michigan State (3-1)
The Spartans are a seven-point home favorite in a Big Ten interdivision showdown against unbeaten Nebraska. While the Cornhuskers come in undefeated, the toughest team they have played is Miami. The Huskers do have an excellent run game, led by RB Ameer Abdullah. Michigan State, while known for their defense, has a sneaky good offense, led by QB Connor Cook. The Spartans only loss was on the road at Oregon, and they have rolled over the rest of their opponents. Nebraska has lost exactly four games each season under Bo Pelini, so many did not expect them to be a threat to potentially take an undefeated record to Wisconsin on November 15. But to do that they need a win against Big Ten favorite and defending Big Ten champion in East Lansing. Expect the Spartans, on both sides of the ball, to be a bit too much.
Michigan State 31, Nebraska 20.
Upset of the Week: #14 Stanford (3-1) at #9 Notre Dame (4-0)
Notre Dame is a two-point home underdog to Stanford, despite coming in with a better record and higher ranking, as well as home field advantage. That is understandable, as the teams the Irish have beaten so far have a combined record of 7-11, with none of those victories over a “Power Five” opponent. The Irish are led by QB Everett Golson, who led the team to the national title game in 2012 before sitting out last season with academic issues. This team reminds me of that 2012 team, not really blowing anyone out, but finding a way to win. Stanford’s loss was in a hard-fought, 13-10 game against USC, although they probably outplayed the Trojans. Stanford has defeated Notre Dame four of the last five meetings, with the exception being in 2012, when the Irish fit that year’s theme by finding a way to win, beating the Cardinal 20-13 in overtime with an incredible (and controversial) goal line stand. Five of the last seven games in the series have been decided by seven points, including the last two. This game should be no different. Expect a close, hard-fought game between the two teams, with the Irish finding a way to win in front of the home crowd.
Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13.
NFL Game of the Week: Arizona Cardinals (3-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)
The Broncos are an eight point home favorite in their first game since the overtime loss at Seattle, coming off a Week Four bye. They face the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, who defeated a trio of good teams (all currently at 2-2 or better) before also having a bye last week. Arizona has certainly looked stellar, particularly in wins over the Chargers and 49ers, but they will not have their quarterback, Carson Palmer, for this game. Instead they will play Drew Stanton, who played in Week Three, and has not committed a turnover, but has only completed 51.6% of his passes. On the other side, while the Denver offense isn’t quite on the record-setting pace they were a year ago, they have still been solid. While they have scored fewer points in each game so far, they have also played a tougher defense each week. They face the tough Arizona defense, who has allowed 17 points or less in every game. The Cardinals defense will keep them in the game, but in the end the talent gap in this game at quarterback (Peyton Manning vs. Stanton) will be too big a difference for the Cardinals to overcome.
Denver 24, Arizona 16.