#7 Michigan @ Army - Can the Black Knights take the Wolverines to the limit? -12 pm ET FOX
Army took the Oklahoma Sooners to overtime just last year and that was a playoff team. Though it’s not likely to happen, Army upsetting Michigan would be one hell of a shake up to the college football landscape. Michigan is really going to need to play disciplined football on both sides to eliminate the risk of letting this Army team hang around:
Defensive line’s big test
This ties into the Michigan defense as a whole, but is worthy of its own discussion point. We had heard going into the season that this was a defensive line that could rotate 9-10 guys up front, but depth was tested in the game against Middle Tennessee State and the front four had a difficult time generating pressure on its own in the game.
Things should get better this week with Donovan Jeter and Michael Dwumfour set to potentially return to the field, but the durability of this group will still be tested in a big way. Army’s offense calls for a lot of cut blocks to seal off defenders from particular gaps, so Michigan’s defensive line will have to watch their legs and knees.
The dive portion of the triple option is going to run right at the teeth of the defensive line and if those guys are able to hold strong and close off that first read, things might wind up in decent shape for the Wolverines. If there are breakdowns on the front level of the defense that puts pressure on the back seven, it might be a long afternoon.
Prediction: Wolverines by two scores over Army
#1 Clemson @ #12 Texas A&M - Will the Aggies bring the fight to Clemson and pick up where they left off in 2018? - 3:30 PM ABC
Clemson found themselves on the winning side of a very close call with the Aggies last season and College Station will be roaring for this rematch. Clemson has all the weapons on offense and defense to make this one a breeze and it’s going to take one gutsy performance from Kellen Mond to have a shot at the defending champions.
Last season, Kellen Mond played one of the best games of his life in a losing effort, managing 26 points against the 3rd ranked SP+ defense (the second most anybody would score on Clemson all season), and nearly forcing overtime. It seems likely he is going to have to play that well again to keep the Aggies upset chances alive. Last season, efficiency through the air with the occasional big play by a receiver was what kept the chains moving, as the Aggies struggled running the ball against an entirely NFL ready defensive line and an experienced linebacker group.
It might be slightly reversed this year, based on the talent loss in the front seven and the experience on the back end. Corbin may have more luck than Williams did in 2018 (12% Success Rate), and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mond rush for at least 50 yards in this game (He had 46 in 2018). Venable’s secondary remained largely intact and will likely be an improved version of what was a formidable group last year, with guys like Isaiah Simmons (responsible for 9.2% of the Clemson D Havoc in 2018) and A.J. Terrell (3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 2018) looking to make things more difficult for our receivers.
Prediction: Clemson Tigers win by 10 points over the Aggies
#6 LSU @ #9 Texas - Can the Longhorn hook another ‘W’ from the claws of the Tigers? - 7:30pm ET ABC
This is a big one folks, as the College Gameday crew rides into Austin for this anticipated matchup between two blue-blood football programs. Joe Burrow’s Tigers will be taking on Sam Ehlinger’s Longhorns. For Texas, this is about showing that they are ready to take the next step after exploding onto the college landscape last season. The Longhorns took down Georgia in the Sugar Bowl last year, can they now take down another SEC heavyweight? If so, they will need their defense to wreak havoc:
To put it frankly, the Longhorns were poor in those situations last season, especially against the run on third and short.
For Orlando, the hope is that improvements along his defensive line will make the difference this season.
“I think we’ve gotten so much better up there and [Keondre] Coburn is a guy I talked to you guys beforehand that’s given us some extra stuff in there and his ability it clog up,” Orlando told Burnt Orange Nation on Wednesday. “I thought Malcolm played really, really well, I did. Like we would expect a captain, a leader to play.
“So when those guys can penetrate gaps and make plays — I think Jeff [McCulloch] and Joe [Ossai] were really good inside — it alleviates a little of the calling from us, where it’s not, ‘Hey, those guys are getting seven, eight yards a run, so we’ve got to load up the box.’ We can actually play some coverage and try to help out the guys in the back end.”
In addition to some predictable calls from Orlando last season, then, there were some deficiencies in the defensive front that made things more difficult, forcing Orlando to commit more resources to stopping the run.
Prediction: LSU edges the Longhorns by three points in a barnburner of a game