Conference play begins in earnest on week 4 of the College Football season. Our panel looks at key clashes in the SEC, PAC-12, and BIG 10 including Stanford vs Oregon, offering up their previews, with predictions.
#2 Georgia at Missouri (Saturday at 12:00 in Columbia, MO)
Line: Georgia by 14.5
Steen Kirby: A potentially difficult game for playoff contenders Georgia. Missouri is at home and they have an experienced gun slinging QB in Drew Lock. That said the Bulldogs have risen to the challenge thus far and I have to expect them to answer the bell in what could be a tight game. Georgia 35, Missouri 31
Mike Loveall: I am on record as saying Missouri can surprise people this season. While they haven’t lit the world on fire in the first three weeks, this offense has a ridiculous amount of talent and can score points. The concern? Offensive coordinator Derek Dooley. Georgia has looked every bit of their top three ranking this season, putting an old fashioned beat down on South Carolina in the second week. While this isn’t a trap game, there may be some looking ahead, or at least looking around, for the Dawgs. It’s in Columbia. It’s an early start. It’s got cover written all over it. Georgia 41, Missouri 31
John Bava: This figures to be a battle of strength against strength with Georgia’s run game 14th in FBS in rushing yards per game and Missouri currently leading the SEC in rush defense. The Bulldogs are getting it done with a committee backfield that includes De’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, the son of famous boxer Evander Holyfield. It looks like they’re in for their biggest challenge of the season running the ball.
Lukas Weese: Georgia is coming into this game with one of the best defences in the country. In three games they have averaged 45 points. That’s trouble for a Missouri team, that relies heavily on their quarterback Drew Lock. Lock has been the SEC’s best quarterback throwing 11 TDs and 354 yards in three games. I like the Bulldogs to utilize their run game and dominate the Tigers. Georgia 35, Missouri 10
#22 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama (Saturday at 3:30 in Tuscaloosa, AL) Line: Alabama by 26
John: Texas A&M played the 2016 national champions Clemson pretty well in Week Two. But that was in College Station. Their clash with last year’s CFP winners Alabama takes place in Tuscaloosa against an Alabama team with an average margin of victory of 47.3 points over their first three games. It included a 62-7 pasting in their conference opener last week at Ole Miss.
Bama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa comes into this one having thrown eight touchdowns to no interceptions and is currently the nation’s second most efficient passer. He could have a field day against an Aggies pass defense that ranks 11th in the SEC. That’s worrisome considering their two opponents other than Clemson thus far were Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide should roll once more. Alabama 49, Texas A&M 20
Yesh: Texas A&M got within two points of Clemson. The fact that the line against Alabama is so high either says that Alabama is just that much better than everyone else, or that Clemson is so much worse than other top teams. Clemson might not be Alabama-level this year, but the Tigers aren’t that much worse. This line is too high. Alabama 38, Texas A&M 17
Lukas: Alabama has dominated its first three opponents. This is the first quality team they face this season. I think this game will be closer than the spread. The Aggies have arguably the SEC’s best running back in Traveyon Williams, who is averaging 133 yards per game. It will be close-ish but the Tide pull it out using a high powered offence led by Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama 31, Texas A&M 17
#7 Stanford at #20 Oregon (Saturday at 8:00 in Eugene, OR)
Line: Stanford by 2
Steen: Oregon has plenty of talent on offense but Stanford is a tough team that can produce on both sides of the ball. Even on the road the Cardinal should get the win, and beat the spread. Stanford 38, Oregon 24
Mike: A lot of people will be enamored with the Ducks this weekend. An offense that’s clicking. A night game at Autzen. A talented team flying under the radar. I’m not buying. The offense has played terrible teams, and while talented, the lack of a running game will allow the Cardinal to focus on the pass rush. Only Alabama has a more workman-like attitude than Stanford, and they’ve looked like the epitome of consistency over the first three weeks. Stanford 34, Oregon 31
John: Stanford is looking to extend their winning streak in this series to three when they face Oregon at Autzen Stadium on Saturday night. It’s one of the toughest venues in the country for road teams but the raucous atmosphere didn’t phase the Cardinal two years ago as they blew out the Ducks 52-27. But this Oregon team is much more talented and could announce their return to college football relevance with an upset this weekend.
Both teams have a high-profile offensive player attracting the eye of scouts at the next level. For Stanford, it’s running back Bryce Love who had a slow start to the season but did rush for 136 yards and a touchdown in a 17-3 win over USC two weeks ago. Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert has the prototypical frame NFL teams look for and can certainly boot his draft stock with a standout performance against a Stanford defense with another NFL-caliber player in cornerback Alijah Holder. He doesn’t have an interception yet but Stanford as a whole ranks top 20 nationally in the category, so he may be due. Stanford 24, Oregon 17
Yesh: Anyone who watched Oregon against San Jose State last week (and it wasn’t many people) would know that the Ducks just aren’t in the same league as Stanford right now. Stanford 35, Oregon 21
Lukas: Oregon comes into the game undefeated and with one of the best defences in the country. Stanford has one of the best offences led by running back Bryce Love, who has 40 carries and 165 yards in three games. It will be close but I like the Cardinal to pull this out. I just don’t know what to make of the Ducks under adversity and playing a weak out of conference schedule. Stanford 20, Oregon 17
#18 Wisconsin at Iowa (Saturday at 8:30 in Iowa City, IA)
Line: Wisconsin by 3
Steen: This is a trap game for Wisconsin. Coming off of a bad loss against BYU, they face an Iowa team that is in good form and playing at home. Look for Kirk Ferentz to steal another primetime win against a “better” BIG 10 team. Iowa 24, Wisconsin 17
Mike: Simply put, I think Wisconsin bounces back this week. Iowa is a tough place to play on the road, and they’ve looked good early this season. Jonathan Taylor needs to get back on track for his Heisman campaign, and Wisconsin knows they have no more room for error if they want to get to their first College Football Playoff. Nate Stanley and company can’t keep up with the Badgers. Wisconsin 24, Iowa 20
John: Last week, Wisconsin suffered one of the more surprising losses of the young season when BYU came into Camp Randall and walked out with a W. They have to regroup quickly given their Big Ten opener takes place on the road against an undefeated Iowa squad. The Hawkeyes come into this game confident they can slow down Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor. Two weeks ago, they held Iowa State’s David Montgomery, himself a talented running back, to a mere 44 rushing yards and no touchdowns.
The Badgers have won five of the last six in this series and haven’t lost to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City since 2008. Expect a cagey affair with both defenses ranking top three in the conference. But given the fact Iowa is one of just four teams nationally giving up fewer than 50 rush yards per game, they may have the personnel to contain Taylor. If they can do so, they may yet pull off the upset and knock Wisconsin out of the CFP hunt. Iowa 20, Wisconsin 17
Yesh: Wisconsin did not look great last week. Iowa looks much better than expected this year. Kirk Ferentz does this every few years, bringing a top team out of almost nowhere. It’s happening again now. Iowa 27, Wisconsin 21
Lukas: Wisconsin comes into this game being upset by BYU 24-21. This game against Iowa will most likely determine who will go to the Big Ten Championship. The Badgers have one of the best offensive lines in the country and a Heisman candidate in running back Jonathan Taylor, who has 77 carries, 515 yards and five touchdowns in three games. The Badger defence will have to deal with a pass happy Iowa offence, demonstrated with Nate Stanley’s performance last week throwing 23 of 28 passes for 309 yards and one touchdown. It will be close but I like Wisconsin to bounce back this week and get the much-needed win. Wisconsin 24, Iowa 20
Arizona State at #10 Washington (Saturday at 10:30 in Seattle, WA) Line: Washington by 17
Steen: Home field advantage should give the Huskies an edge here. Arizona State is talented but they surprisingly dropped a game to San Diego State last week. Washington hasn’t been amazing to start the season but simply put I trust them more, especially at home. Washington 20, Arizona State 10
Mike: What to think of these two teams? Washington has largely disappointed early in the season. They’ve got talent on the defensive front and in the offensive backfield, but they haven’t really put things together against Auburn or Utah. Arizona State upset Michigan State, at home, and then dropped one against San Diego State. The Huskies will win, but this is a big line for a team that hasn’t scored more than 21 against a Power 5 team yet this season. Washington 31, Arizona State 17
John: These two teams had completely different results last week. The Huskies turned in their best performance of the year, a dominant 21-7 win over Utah that saw running back Myles Gaskin impress for the first time in 2018. Meanwhile, a week after an upset of Michigan State, the Sun Devils laid an egg in a 28-21 loss to San Diego State. U-Dub is out for revenge after Arizona State knocked them off in Tempe last year, dealing a blow to their CFP hopes in the process.
The big thing to watch in this one is the play of Huskie quarterback Jake Browning. He’s dealt with inconsistency issues in all three games thus far, throwing an interception in each of them. If he can stay mistake-free while his defense puts together a solid effort for the second week in a row, the Huskies should prevail against first-year head coach Herm Edwards’ team fairly easily. Washington 38, Arizona State 20
Yesh: This feels like a huge trap game. Arizona State has a ton of talent and is coming off a bad game. Washington’s offense just isn’t playing well right now. This will depend on how many mistakes the Washington defense can force. I don’t think it will be enough. Arizona State 20, Washington 17
Lukas: Two 2-1 teams will go toe to toe in a critical Pac-12 matchup. The Huskies will rely on their running game of Myles Gaskin, who went off last week with a breakout performance, generating 143 yards on 30 carries. Washington will look to slow down the Arizona State run game, which has hindered them the last two games, only totalling 44 and 36 yards respectively. I like the Huskies to take this game and stay alive in the Pac-12 conversation. Washington 24, Arizona State 13