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#9 Penn State @ #2 Ohio State - A BIG-10 battle for supremacy, can Nittany Lions wash away sting of Gophers loss by beating Buckeyes? 12 PM ET FOX
Penn State lost two weeks ago to Minnesota but the hangover carried over into last week’s seven-point win over Indiana. The Nittany Lions have a propensity for close games, having four of their nine wins come by one score. The Buckeyes are on a tear and are favored by 18 points in this game, with Chase Young returning after a two-game suspension. It’s going to take offense for Penn State to have a shot at this one and that’s going to be hard to do without KJ Hamler against a top defense like Ohio State.
The Buckeyes also continue its tradition of an outstanding secondary, following many first round NFL Draft picks in recent history. They are only giving up a measly 126 yards through the air per contest, and are one of just three teams to allow under 10 yards per completion (fellow playoff contenders Georgia and Oregon are the others). Jeffrey Okudah is a tall cornerback who is likely set to join the 1st round club, and leads the team with three interceptions. Senior Jordan Fuller is one of the best safeties around, and has loads of experience under his belt. He is second on the team with 45 tackles and two interceptions.
Penn State is hoping for the return of running back Noah Cain, who has missed the last two games after suffering an injury against Michigan State on Oct. 26. KJ Hamler, by far Penn State’s most explosive playmaker, is also questionable back after leaving the Indiana game in the first half last week. Even with Cain back in the line-up, expect the Nittany Lions to get things going on the ground early with Journey Brown, who has consecutive 100-yard games. The absence of Hamler will be much more difficult to overcome, as he must be accounted for at all times and opens things up throughout the offense.
Prediction: Penn State is too wounded for this trip and it’ll show, Buckeyes win 42-24.
Texas @ #13 Baylor - A roller-coaster season for Texas can get on-track with upset in Waco over Baylor Bears - 3:30 PM ET FS1
Baylor is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Sooners that the Bears controlled for most of the game. This is Baylor’s identity this season and it didn’t bite them until their toughest test of the season. Baylor’s defense is solid in all areas and will be the toughest defense the Longhorns have faced but they are not immovable by any means. Baylor plays opponents very close because the offense is not nearly as consistent as the defense. Baylor has only blown out two opponents this year and have only won two conference games by more than four points. Texas needs to avoid slow starts, they have been outscored 21-0 in first quarter in each of the last two games. Texas must also find balance and not put it all on Sam Ehlinger to win:
Baylor allows an average passer rating of 116.9, better than anyone Texas has faced this year, including LSU. In games where Sam Ehlinger’s rush attempts plus pass attempts are greater than 50, Texas is 1-4, with the only win coming against Kansas. In order to limit the wear and tear on their quarterback, and set him up for success in the passing game, the Longhorns are going to need to find a way to create room for their running backs and use them consistently.
Texas has had some success in 11 personnel while using an H-back as a lead blocker or blocking the backside end on the zone slice play. This formation was largely absent from the Iowa State game, but it could be something for Texas to get back to if it wants to revive their run game. Regardless, if Texas cannot find a way to move the ball on the ground against Baylor, it could be in for a long day.
Prediction: Call me crazy but I think the Longhorns end a good note here with a fourth-quarter victory of four points.
#24 Texas A&M @ #4 Georgia - Can Bulldogs claw out of offensive sluggishness or will Aggies get first win over ranked opponent? - 3:30 PM ET CBS
The Georgia Bulldogs are on a quest to get to the National Title game but have one really bad loss to the Gamecocks they wish to erase from memory. Those same Gamecocks were throttled by the Aggies weeks ago. The Bulldogs have overcome many slow starts offensively to stay in the hunt and hope to put their offensive sluggishness behind them in their home finale. They must get back on track now before they hit the CFP where all bets are off if you can’t keep score with high-powered offenses:
But, heading into the home finale against No. 24 Texas A&M on Saturday, there’s a bit of grumbling about an offense that has struggled to break games open.
“We just use it as motivation,” tight end Eli Wolf said. “We’ve got step up and do our part.”
Georgia (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) was held to 251 total yards by Auburn last week, but still managed a 21-14 victory. Over the last two weeks, Jake Fromm has completed less than half his throws (26 of 57). D’Andre Swift has gone over 1,000 yards but can’t seem to pop off a long run.
“We’re certainly looking, trying, reaching, trying to find ways to create those advantageous situations,” coach Kirby Smart said. “But I just know our conference is very defensive when it comes to rankings and statistics. There’s a lot of good teams in it.”
Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) will be making its first trip to Sanford Stadium since 1980, when the Aggies were members of the long-departed Southwest Conference. Georgia won 42-0 on the way to winning its only consensus national championship.
Prediction: Fromm completes 60% of his passes and Bulldogs win, putting up over 30 points for the first time in five weeks.
TCU @ #5 Oklahoma - Sooners must beware of Horned Frogs ability to stay in the fight, it won’t be easy sledding for Oklahoma vs. TCU Defense - 8 PM ET FOX
Oklahoma is coming off a heroic comeback to beat the Baylor Bears and remain the favorite in the BIG-12. However, they must beware of a dangerous TCU team coming in this weekend. They may be 5-5 but four of those five losses were by seven or fewer points. It’s not going to be easy to put the Horned Frogs away, not with a fantastic defense that keeps them in every fight:
The Horned Frogs have a typically tough defense under coach Gary Patterson. They lead the Big 12 in total defense, having surrendered just 328.8 yards per game. Linebacker Garret Wallow ranks second in the Big 12 and is tied for 15th nationally with 97 tackles, including 13 for loss.
“They are playing extremely good defensively, like they always do,” Riley said. “There are a lot of new faces on that defense, but they are playing like TCU does on defense. That’s no surprise. Coach Patterson, as I’ve always said, is the best at what he does.”
Oklahoma will test Patterson’s defense. The Sooners lead the nation in total offense, and quarterback Jalen Hurts leads the nation in passer efficiency rating and has nearly 1,000 yards rushing. The Sooners could be without star receiver CeeDee Lamb, who sat out the Baylor game with an undisclosed medical condition. Even without him, Hurts connected on 30 of 42 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns against Baylor.
Prediction: Sooners get the win on a late field goal in a defensive slugfest.