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#24 INDIANA @ #9 PENN STATE - Still feeling the upset loss to Minnesota, the Nittany Lions must win vs. Hoosiers - 12 PM ET ABC
Last week’s upset at the hands of the Golden Gophers dropped Penn State out of the CFP, for now. The Nittany Lions don’t have time to dwell on last week with a freshly-ranked Indiana squad heading to Happy Valley. The Hoosiers have a very balanced offense that is averaging 34 points per game, 130+ plus on the ground, and over 300+ passing. This just might be a test for Penn State’s defense but the prognosticators see an angry Penn State ready to blowout Indiana:
A lot has been made about the last two years and Penn State’s response to losses. While losing is unpleasant, the coaches and team can’t get too in the weeds trying to figure out what happened last week, because the fact of the matter is better execution on just one or two plays was the margin between victory and defeat. Yes, the defense was largely disappointing and three turnovers makes it an uphill affair, but there was still a chance to win the game at the end. Everything this team wants is still achievable with focus, so the biggest threat this week is getting caught looking ahead to Columbus and letting Indiana capitalize on all the things Minnesota seized upon. Penn State 45, Indiana 17
Prediction: We’re going to take the home team by two scores but Indiana stays competitive
MICHIGAN STATE @ #14 MICHIGAN- A very personal in-state rivalry set between two teams headed in opposite directions - 12 PM ET FOX
The prospects of a potential blowout for the Wolverines is very high but we’ve seen the Spartans shock Jim Harbaugh before. Though it’s been hard in year’s past to trust Michigan, look at what they have done this season. They have two losses, one to Wisconsin, the other to Penn State. Either one of those games could have different outcomes if replayed today. In the last two weeks, Michigan beat then #8 Notre Dame 45-14 and trounced Maryland 38-7 last week. They are primed to destroy the Spartans:
This game is personal for the Wolverines now. It does not always feel like it has been this way, but the Spartans cannot weaponize their hatred as much anymore with Michigan matching it. Rivalry game or not, this is a Spartan team in a free-fall facing a team that is playing loose and inspired football. I see this being close for 2.5 quarters until Michigan takes over late.
A win for Michigan would make it two-straight in the series for the first time since 2006-07 and would be three of the last four in their favor. Taking care of business at home and taking the rivalry back is a must as this season continues to move toward its conclusion.
Prediction: Riding with Harbaugh’s khakis to win by two scores in the end, 34-20.
#21 NAVY @ #16 NOTRE DAME - Irish must perform in final test on the schedule 2:30 PM ET NBC
The Midshipmen have only managed to beat the Irish four times since 2007 but do have an opportunity to bring that to five this week. Notre Dame must win to stay relevant in the New Year’s Six and this is their final hurdle as Navy stands as the final ranked opponent on the schedule. The challenge for the Irish is not allowing Navy to control the pace of the game because they most certainly have the ability with their offense:
As is often the case with Ken Niumatalolo’s triple option team, the Midshipmen will be bringing the #1 overall rushing offense, and the #5 offense in terms of yards per carry, to South Bend this weekend.
That unit is led by QB Malcolm Perry, who has seemingly been tearing it up at QB for the Middies for forever, and is once again having a fantastic season running that offense. Perry has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season, picking up 1,042 yards in 8 games while running for 6.6 yards per carry and a mind-boggling 16 touchdowns. Add in 722 yards and 5 TD through the air, and Perry is obviously the most important and productive person in the Navy offense.
He’s not the only guy who can do damage in the triple option system, though, as the Midshipmen have numerous backs who know how to take advantage of the unique running lanes their scheme provides.
Prediction: The Irish hang on to win this one by a field goal.
#5 GEORGIA @ #13 AUBURN - SEC Showdown with all of War Eagle behind Bo Nix to upset Bulldogs 3:30 PM ET CBS
Since losing to the Gamecocks, you have to credit Georgia for not falling out of the picture. This is a must-win game for both squads but Georgia has CFP pressure riding high on this one. Auburn’s home crowd will be electric and that stadium is expecting an upset, can Bo Nix deliver it to War Eagle? Our pals at College & Magnolia sure believe he can:
This is it. The game of the season. This game will ultimately define Malzahn’s legacy. “Silly Josh, Auburn has played a ton of big games under Malzahn, why is this one so special?” This year especially, the Georgia game will define the narrative this offseason. We will spend months talking about this game in particular. Beat Georgia, good season. Lose to Georgia, bad season. Simple as that. Auburn can beat this team, I know they can. I KNOW it. Auburn’s defensive line is so much better than the unit they’ll be lining up against. Derrick Brown or Marlon Davidson will earn SEC weekly honors for their performance. Auburn needs sacks, tackles for loss, turnovers, even some luck. The defense will need to go above and beyond tomorrow afternoon.
The offense will be what wins or loses the game, though. But here’s the thing: they don’t have to get a lot better overnight. Marginal improvements will be enough to win. That’s just how good our defense is. If Auburn can put together one long, sustained drive in each half that results in a touchdown, Auburn will win. Georgia has been good against the run. Our freshman running back will have his work cut out for him. Auburn 21 Georgia 20 (Auburn covers, over)
Prediction: I’m feeling confident in Auburn as well, it’ll be super close but Bo Nix delivers the win.
#10 OKLAHOMA @ #12 BAYLOR - Battle for BIG-12 supremacy as the dazzling Bears meet toughest match 7:30 PM ET ABC
The undefeated Baylor Bears have had quite the run though they remain behind the other undefeated squads in the rankings. The Sooners will undoubtedly be ready for their trip to Waco but they need to bring an improved defensive effort after struggling in the last few games. On the flip side, Baylor’s defense has been outstanding and can certainly put a damper on Jalen Hurts’ plans. It will be up to the Bears’ offense to hold up their end of the bargain to get the ‘W’:
When Baylor Has the Ball
This is where the game is won or lost, most likely. I feel relatively confident in saying that Baylor’s defense is going to perform well, but nobody is holding Oklahoma scoreless—or even lower than 28 or so points, probably. Baylor has to score to win this game.
The good news is that while Baylor’s offense has struggled over the past two weeks, so has Oklahoma’s defense. This is a terrific opportunity for the Bears to right the ship. Just two weeks ago the Baylor offense was up to 14th in the country in SP+ which led me to write an article about how they just want to be legends. In just two weeks they have fallen all the way to 34th.
Oklahoma’s DL is pretty good which will probably give the Baylor OL some problems. Hopefully Connor Galvin is back in at least some capacity which would be a major boon for Baylor’s chances. Matt Rhule stated in his post game press conference that he thinks their OL is in a spot where they sort of have to wait for the opposing pass rushers to tire down a bit before taking some shots downfield. Baylor’s OL gave up a lot of pressure early against TCU but really performed well late in the game. Baylor has some serious skill talent, Brewer just needs enough time to be able to find them downfield.
Prediction: Another big conference game and I’m feeling this is another upset. Baylor Bears snag the win and change the conversation
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