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College Football Preview Week 14: It’s rivalry weekend with a few high-stakes matchups

Here is what’s on deck for rivalry weekend in college football.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

This is an open thread for college game chat.

#2 Ohio State @ #10 Michigan - Will Woverines revenge last year’s rout or will the Buckeyes be too hard to handle? 12 PM ET FOX

Last year, the Wolverines came into this game the higher ranked team but were demolished 62-39. Michigan hasn’t been on the winning side of this rivalry since 2011 and it won’t be easy with an undefeated Ohio State coming to Ann Arbor. It’s going to take an unprecedented effort by Jim Harbaugh’s squad to get it done but they need continued aggression from the offense.

Stay aggressive on offense

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson has been on a roll the past two games, throwing for 750 yards (11.5 YPA) with 9 touchdowns and just 1 interception. Patterson’s success has been a complete team effort, though. The offensive line has given him ample time to throw, and play-makers such as Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Ronnie Bell have all been versatile and reliable targets in the passing game.

The aggressiveness has been mental, as well as physical. For Patterson, his seeing the field clearly and making decisive decisions, not hesitating to throw the ball deep when the window is there to do so. For the offensive line, they’re getting off the ball quickly and protecting Patterson at a high clip (although Jon Runyan noted they need to do better in run blocking), and for the wideouts, they’re truly showcasing what #SpeedInSpace is all about.

The formula has been working of late for Patterson and the Michigan offense, and they shouldn’t deviate from what’s been working recently. Keep the foot on the gas.

Prediction: Another year, another painful loss for the Wolverines, OSU by 14.

#13 Wisconsin @ #9 Minnesota - Win & you’re in as the Badgers travel to take on the Gophers for the BIG Ten West Title - 3:30 PM ET ABC

Minnesota got it done on rivalry weekend last season and if they put the Badgers to bed for a consecutive year, we may see a turn in the rivalry. The Golden Gophers have CFP hopes to play for and the motivation to win this game is tremendous. Minnesota has had quite the season, hosting a BIG-10 West title match of this magnitude is not lost on this squad. In order to get the win though, Minnesota’s offense has got to find a way to soften the Badger defense.

Even with Hicks and Wilder on the field, defending the pass has been a bit of a struggle for the Badgers in recent weeks. Purdue’s David Bell (12 receptions, 108 yards, 1 touchdown), Nebraska’s J.D. Spielman (4 receptions, 71 yards, 1 touchdown), and even Iowa’s Tyrone Tracy Jr. (5 receptions, 130 yards, 1 touchdown) have all made minced meat of Wisconsin’s defensive backs in the month of November already. Compounding the Badgers’ struggles in the secondary has been an inconsistent pass rush. Wisconsin relies heavily on linebackers Chris Orr (11 sacks) and Zack Baun (9.5 sacks) to dial up pressure on opposing quarterbacks. When they aren’t able to get home, big plays in the passing game are bound to happen.

Against the run, expect to see those same linebackers, plus sophomore Jack Sanborn, active. Wisconsin is generally strong against the run, allowing an average of 98.5 rushing yards per game. But they’ve been beset by poor tackling in recent weeks, allowing a team like Nebraska to rack up 273 yards on the ground. The Cornhuskers’ Dedrick Mills, who had only previously surpassed 100 rushing yards in one game all season, finished with 188 against the Badgers.

Prediction: It’s a close call but I see Minnesota pulling it off and winning by four points.

#5 Alabama @ #16 Auburn - A tough year for the Tide still has hope for the college football playoffs - 3:30 PM ET CBS

Nobody likes to see a team lose their star quarterback but that’s where Alabama finds themselves heading into this Iron Bowl without Tua Tagovailoa. All is not lost for Alabama as they still have an outside shot at the college football playoff. However, they must get it done here and also need some chaos to unfold elsewhere. This is a big test for Alabama’s young quarterback Mac Jones, who will need his offensive line to win the battle against one of the nation’s best defensive lines:

For this Alabama team, with Mac Jones at quarterback, Auburn will be the toughest matchup so far. I do not think that Mac Jones will be the one that wins or loses the game for Alabama though; I think the game will be decided in the matchup between Alabama’s offensive line and the Auburn defensive line. If Alabama can protect Mac Jones and keep the Auburn defensive linemen out of the backfield, it will be a good day for the Tide. Auburn has a great defensive line and is good at rushing the passer and stopping the run. If Mac Jones has time to get rid of the football, the Alabama receivers will torch the Auburn secondary. If Alabama can screen Auburn to death and hit them with an occasional deep ball, the run game will open up and Najee Harris will have a good day. What Alabama has to do to win this game is get a good push up front and if they do so, it will be a good day.

It’s a lot of ifs, but keeping pressure off of the green Mac Jones really is the simple key to this win. The whole country is trying to write-off the Tide and I think that Alabama will show up and prove that they are one of the top four teams in the country.

Prediction: Alabama is up for this challenge and they pull off a seven-point win to stay alive in the CFP

#7 Oklahoma @ #21 Oklahoma State - The Cowboys will ride with Chuba Hubbard in this Battle of Bedlam - 7 PM ET FOX

While OU has escaped a few close calls, Oklahoma State has won their last four in a row setting up this year’s Bedlam contest. The Sooners are in excellent hands with Jalen Hurts and CeeDee Lamb making plays for their offense. The Cowboys lost starting quarterback Spencer Sanders to injury but this is where they have to ride with their best player and that’s RB Chuba Hubbard. The Cowboys’ running game has been their strength and Hubbard is their star-studded equalizer. OSU has been here before and have successfully dethroned the Sooners. Oklahoma is going to throw everything they can at stopping OSU’s lethal rushing attack:

In reality, even when Sanders and Wallace were healthy, Hubbard was always OSU’s showstopper. He is fast and powerful, and Gundy has leveraged his durability to load Hubbard up with carries. The nation’s leading rusher has toted the rock at least 25 times in seven of OSU’s 11 games.

Hubbard will almost certainly surpass the 25-carry mark in this contest. Keep an eye, though, on how Gleeson draws up ways to get the ball to his workhorse. The Princeton transplant has layered on new schemes to the OSU running game throughout the season. Even a week ago, the Cowboys were showing new wrinkles in their ground attack.

Unfortunately, the Pokes have lost a big weapon in Sanders’ legs. Sanders was capable of exploding for big gains on the ground, which forced defenses to account for an additional runner at all times when the Pokes had the ball. In turn, that opened up running lanes for Hubbard. No one will mistake Brown for that kind of threat. Removing sacks, he ran for nine yards on four carries versus WVU. The Cowboys may use Brown as a constraint player with a couple carries to keep the Sooners honest. OU will also defend anything resembling a read call to keep the ball in the hands of the QB – which suggests that part of the playbook will be closed off to the Cowboys on Saturday night.

Whether Grinch goes with a spot deployment of a 4-3 alignment or sticks with five defensive backs as OU’s base defense, expect the Sooners to key on Hubbard and challenge OSU’s depleted receiving corps to make them pay.

Prediction: Though Hubbard is the real deal, the Sooners are going to find a path to victory by a late field goal.

The rest of the TV schedule.

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