Game of the Week: #5 Notre Dame (6-0) at #2 Florida State (6-0)
Florida State is a nine-point home favorite as they face their toughest test yet, a top five opponent in Notre Dame. A dark cloud hangs over Seminoles QB Jameis Winston, both for the upcoming student code of conduct hearing regarding the 2012 sexual assault case, and a potential scandal brewing over autographs. On the field, however, Winston still has not lost as Florida State’s starter, winning 20 straight. His Notre Dame counterpart, Everett Golson, is 16-1, with the only loss coming to Alabama in the 2012 BCS Championship Game. Notre Dame has only beaten one team with a winning record, with their 17-14 win over Stanford. Florida State hasn’t played an exceptionally tough schedule either, but they are one of four teams in the nation with multiple wins over the current top 25. Since 1999, Notre Dame is 1-16 against top five teams, and have lost seven in a row by 13 or more. While they should keep this game within that 13-point window, their history and their easy schedule, in addition to the fact this is their first road game, doesn’t suggest they find a way to pull the upset.
Florida State 24, Notre Dame 17.
Big Game Guarantee: #14 Kansas State (4-1) at #11 Oklahoma (5-1)
Oklahoma is a seven-point home favorite as they host Kansas State, coming off of their 31-26 win in the Red River Rivalry over Texas. The Sooners only loss was a 37-33 defeat at TCU, and they were able to beat West Virginia on the road, although this is their first conference home game, and their first since their win over Tennessee. Kansas State’s only loss was a 20-14 home loss to Auburn, meaning both of these teams are undefeated against teams not in the top 12, but the Wildcats haven’t been tested otherwise, although they were impressive last week in a 45-13 win over Texas Tech. K-State was able to beat Oklahoma the last time these two teams played in Norman, but the Sooners should have the home field advantage here, and they are the better team as well, as evidenced by being ranked three spots higher in the AP Poll and six spots higher in my power rankings.
Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 27.
Another Big Game Guarantee: #15 Oklahoma State (5-1) at #12 TCU (4-1)
A week after blowing a 58-37 fourth quarter lead in a loss at Baylor, TCU returns home to face a top 15 opponent in Oklahoma State, and the Horned Frogs are favored by 10. TCU’s defense certainly has question marks, after allowing 61 to Baylor, but the team will surely play like they have something to prove after the blown lead, even with the impressive win over Oklahoma the week before. Oklahoma State’s only loss all season was to Florida State in the season opener, and they were fairly impressive in a 37-31 loss to the then-top ranked Seminoles, and while they have won all their games since, they haven’t played an overwhelming schedule, with their best win over Texas Tech. TCU has played the tougher schedule, and has looked better doing it, and has the home field advantage as well. This is both a “revenge game”, after Oklahoma State won a year ago, as well as the game after a heartbreaking loss, so TCU is going to be very tough to beat.
TCU 41 ,Oklahoma State 31.
Another Big Game Guarantee: #23 Stanford (4-2) at #17 Arizona State (4-1)
Arizona State is coming off a bye week after an improbable, last second win over USC on a hail mary pass, and is ranked higher than their opponent, the Stanford Cardinal, but the Sun Devils are four-point home underdogs. Stanford is coming off of a 34-17 win over a solid Washington State team, and their only losses this year are to ranked opponents Notre Dame and USC. The Cardinal have only allowed 10.0 points per game, which leads the nation, and while their offense isn’t their strength, as they rank 89th in points scored, they have scored enough points to win in their victories and stay competitive in their defeats. The Sun Devils’ win over USC came off a blowout loss to UCLA the week before, and the games against the Bruins and Trojans are the only tough games they’ve had so far. Last year, Stanford beat Arizona State twice, including a 38-14 win in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Expect the trend to continue.
Stanford 24, Arizona State 20.
Closer Than the Experts Think: #21 Texas A&M (5-2) at #7 Alabama (5-1)
The Crimson Tide are 13-point home favorites against Texas A&M in a rematch of a series that, despite only seven all-time meetings, has become one of the more underrated rivalries in college football. In 2012, Johnny Manziel had his “Heisman moment” in a 29-24 A&M win in Tuscaloosa, and in the rematch last year in College Station, billed in the weeks before as the “Game of the Century”, Alabama won 49-42. The home team has lost the last three meetings, with Alabama’s 1985 win being the last by a home team, and some believe that trend will continue, as the Tide are coming off of a closer than expected, 14-13 win against Arkansas, the week after a 23-17 loss to Ole Miss. However, Texas A&M has lost back-to-back games to Mississippi State and Ole Miss, with both teams seeming to have figured out the Aggies high-powered offensive attack. While some (including me) have questioned Alabama’s defense, the defense was fine in last week’s game, with the offense struggling to put points on the board. Alabama’s defense will stop the Aggies just enough, stopping A&M similar to how the Bulldogs and Rebels have done it, and Blake Sims and Amari Cooper will make just enough plays to survive.
Alabama 31, Texas A&M 28.
NFL Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Denver Broncos (4-1)
The Broncos are a seven-point home favorite in a game that could have been played in last year’s Super Bowl, had the Seahawks not held on to win the NFC Championship over San Francisco. The big storyline of this game is the possibility of history, as Broncos QB Peyton Manning can break the all-time NFL record for passing touchdowns in a career. Manning needs two scores to tie and three to beat the Brett Favre record, and while that would be a near guarantee for a game’s work against some defenses in the league, it is not certain the record will come against a defense as good as the 49ers. The two QBs in this game have very differing styles, with Manning being the prototypical pocket passer, and Kaepernick making his living as a dual-threat playmaker who can throw on the move or run for a big gain when necessary. At the end of the day, all Manning is really focused on is beating the 49ers and not the Favre record, and while I think the Broncos will win, the record chase will have to wait one more week, as Manning will throw two touchdowns to tie the mark.
Broncos 24, 49ers 20.