It will be a good Saturday to sit, relax and enjoy some college football games played on the field after a week of controversy off the field that has entrenched the sport.
Michigan State vs Iowa (Saturday, 12 ET)
After a hard-fought win against lowly Minnesota last weekend, the Michigan State Spartans look to get back on track versus the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road in Iowa City.
Michigan State looked all but assured of a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game through their first seven games of the season, but have since taken a step back in the Big Ten race after a loss to Nebraska and a too-close-for-comfort (according to Michigan State fans, at least) victory over Minnesota last weekend. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins looked completely lost in the loss to Nebraska two weeks ago and must get back to the consistent form which he has displayed for much of this season.
The Iowa Hawkeyes should be thankful that they are playing this all-important conference matchup at their home of Kinnick Stadium this week rather than on the road. The Hawkeyes hold a 6-0 record at home this season and are 0-3 in road games. This bodes well for their chances against the Spartans, who have one of the best defenses in the country allowing just 249 yards of offense per contest (second in the country to only Alabama).
The Hawkeyes will have some firepower of their own to counter with, however, as they have one of the nation's top running backs in tailback Marcus Coker. The sophomore back is averaging over 122 rushing yards per game and has12 touchdowns, good enough for sixth in the country in rushing.
Prediction: Michigan State – 22 Iowa – 17
Auburn vs Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 ET)
If you live in the state of Georgia or Alabama this is actually somewhat of a heated rivalry. Games between the Tigers and the Bulldogs tend to be very competitive and usually hold much significance in the race for the SEC Championship annually. Georgia has won three of the past four meetings, but Auburn got their revenge last year on their way to the National Championship.
The Auburn Tigers have struggled on the road this season against legitimate competition. All three of their losses have come on the road against teams who are all currently in the top 10 (Clemson, Arkansas and LSU). This does not bode well for the Tigers as they are going "between the hedges" in Athens against a Georgia Bulldogs team that has been steadily improving all season and currently sit at #15 in the standings and first in the SEC's East division. The Tigers do, however, have something to play for as they sit at fourth in the SEC West and are looking to gain some ground on Arkansas.
For the Georgia Bulldogs, it will be the first time they have faced a ranked opponent since Week 2 when then #5 South Carolina strolled into Athens. Georgia has legitimate offensive young guns in quarterback Aaron Murray, receiver Malcolm Mitchell and running back Isaiah Crowell. The question is whether the Georgia rush defense can play as well as they have all season against potent Tiger running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb. Georgia currently ranks #8 in rush defense in the country, allowing just over 91 yards-per-game on the ground. It will be strength against strength.
Prediction: Auburn – 24 Georgia – 28
West Virginia vs Cincinnati (Saturday, 12 ET)
There will be fireworks in Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon….this we know for sure.
The West Virginia and Cincinnati scoring offenses rank 12th and 13th in the country, respectively making way for what is sure to be an exciting shootout in the Queen City on Saturday afternoon. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has transformed a Mountaineer offense from rush-heavy to pass-heavy with just a single snap of his finger, seemingly and quarterback Geno Smith is averaging over 347 passing yards per game.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones has continued the Brian Kelly philosophy of a spread offense and it is paying dividends, resulting in over 425 yards per game of offense and 39 points-per-game. Defenses will be scarce in this battle of Big East heavyweights as Cincinnati looks to retain their stranglehold on the top of the conference standings and West Virginia looks to scramble the outlook once again. Turnovers will bey crucial in this game as Cincinnati is third in the country in turnover margin having forced 25 turnovers on the season thus far.
Prediction: West Virginia – 37 Cincinnati – 31
TCU vs Boise State (Saturday, 3:30 ET)
TCU comes into Boise, Idaho in their biggest game of the season so far and in a position that they are not accustomed to in recent years….as a major underdog. The Boise State Broncos are a 15-point favorite over the visiting TCU Horned Frogs in a game that is sure to decide the Mountain West champion.
TCU has won this year with a stout defense and a potent ground game….not surprising for a Gary Patterson-coached football team. The three-headed tailback monster of Waymon James, Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley has combined for 1,712 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns this season on the ground. Meanwhile, the ever-nasty TCU defense has forced 12 fumbles on the year, good for a tie for fourth-most in the country overall.
The TCU defense will be faced with their toughest challenge of the season in facing Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Kellen Moore has now passed Texas alum Colt McCoy for the most wins all-time as a Division I college quarterback with 46 career victories. Moore's 29 touchdown passes this season and 74% completion percentage will be facing the 39th-ranked total defense of the Horned Frogs and it is sure to be an intriguing showdown no matter how you view it. There is a lot on the line here.
Prediction: TCU – 21 Boise State – 27
GAME OF THE WEEK – Oregon vs Stanford (Saturday, 8 ET)
The Oregon Ducks come into Palo Alto and Stanford Stadium having won eight consecutive games since their heartbreaking opening week loss against the LSU Tigers. Meanwhile, the home team Stanford Cardinal have won all nine of their games this season and are undefeated going into this, their biggest game of the year by far as a 3-point favorite.
Both teams are undefeated in the Pac-12 conference, but that will change once this one is over. The winner will get a chance to play for the Pac-12 title and will have a legitimate opportunity to play in the BCS title game as well. Even the loser will have a great shot at playing for the Rose Bowl….not too shabby a prize if you ask me.
On paper, the Ducks should win this game fairly easily, but as Lee Corso would say; "not so fast, my friends!" Stanford's defense has been playing extraordinarily well this season, ranking 11th in the country in scoring defense, allowing just under 17 points-per-game. Despite losing junior linebacker Shayne Skov early in the season to injury, senior linebacker Chase Thomas and the rest of the defensive unit has stepped up big-time in his absence. Thomas leads the team and is among the leaders in the whole country in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (6.5) and fumbles forced (4) on the year. And let's not forget their stud quarterback and Heisman-hopeful, Andrew Luck who is also playing like a man possessed as of late.
The Stanford defense must face one of the most potent and explosive offenses in the entire country in the Oregon Ducks. Not one team in the nation runs a more complex and unique version of the spread offense than head coach Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks run. As always, the Ducks are very near the top in the country in scoring offense (5th), rushing offense (5th) and total offense (7th) behind skill players like LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas. All three of those players average over 100 all-purpose running yards per game for the season. Quarterback Darron Thomas also returned from injury last week for the Ducks which is a huge plus for the offense. The Ducks are 19-2 overall when Thomas starts and he has thrown for a touchdown in 21 straight appearances, good for the second-longest streak in the country behind Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.
The Ducks have also won 18 consecutive Pac-12 games which is the longest current streak in the conference and second longest streak nationally behind TCU (21 straight). Oregon's last conference loss came to Stanford in 2009, Andrew Luck's first year as the starting quarterback. It is Oregon's only Pac-12 loss under current head coach Chip Kelly.
Prediction: Oregon – 39 Stanford – 21
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS