BLITZING SEVEN: Happy Valley Blizzard, South Bend Playoff Game, Cowboys and Longhorns, Jefferson Liv
1. White Out Conditions: Penn State’s White Out returns as #19 Michigan travels to #2 Penn State. Both teams have serious question marks. Penn State's offensive line has struggled to open holes and protect the quarterback and faces the strength of Michigan’s defensive front. Michigan’s passing game needs to be a factor and they face a veteran Penn State secondary. Led by RB Karan Higdon the Wolverines may have found an identity running the ball in gaining 271 yards against an Indiana defense that held Penn State to 39 yards. Because Penn State will pick up yards on each possession exchange if the two outstanding defenses turn this into a Big Ten Puntfest, Michigan will need turnovers to win this game.
2. Playoff Elimination Game: USC at Notre Dame is an elimination game for the College Football Playoff. Both teams enter with one loss and both would likely make the playoff by winning out. For Notre Dame this is the first of five games in the next six weeks against ranked opponents and one loss knocks them out. For USC a second loss does not eliminate them from the Pac 12 Title chase, but it does knock them out of the college football chase. Every conference commissioner is rooting for the Trojans to take the Irish out of contention for a scarce and lucrative playoff spot.
3. Cowboys Wrangling Longhorns: Do not be surprised if Texas wins this game against #10 Oklahoma State. Texas certainly started slowly with a loss to Maryland but has gone 3-2 since with the two losses being in OT at #10 USC and a close loss in Dallas against #9 Oklahoma. Texas seems to have found their quarterback in Freshman Sam Ehlinger who gave Oklahoma fits last Saturday but he can only shoulder so much of the burden. To win Texas will have to get more production from their running backs in the run game to keep Oklahoma State’s explosive offense off the field.
4. The Third Saturday in October: Alabama’s current 10-game series win streak against Tennessee would lead you to believe this series has always been dominated by the Tide. But prior to the current streak Tennessee won 10 of the previous 12 games. Tennessee’s offense is ailing and Alabama’s defense is not the cure. If Tennessee is unable to move the ball it exposes their defense to the physical onslaught of Alabama’s 7th-ranked running game. Expect the Tide to Roll to their 22nd straight SEC win and the 11th-straight win over Tennessee tying the longest streak in the series.
5. Jefferson Lives: On July 4, 1826, fity years after the Signing of the Declaration of Independence both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Adams stated “Jefferson lives.” This Saturday Boston College, a team from Adams’ home state, travels to Virginia and the school Jefferson founded 200 years ago. Under Coach George Welsh UVA had its best run in football. After several lean post-Welsh years UVA has been reborn with a 5-1 record. BC is coming off a big win against Louisville, but given their permissive defense, don’t expect them to leave Mr. Jefferson’s university with a win.
6. How The Mighty Have Fallen: When preseason analysts looked at big games, the game between preseason #16 Louisville and preseason #3 Florida State loomed large. FSU was an ACC favorite and Louisville had reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Now both teams are unranked. Florida State lost their starting quarterback in week one, dealt with multiple Hurricanes (including Miami) and are 2-3. Louisville is having serious tackling issues on defense and is giving up big point totals in their losses. To win Florida State will have to step up offensively.
7. Big East Rivalry Revival: When Syracuse and #8 Miami were both members of the Big East this was one of the big conference games. Now in separate ACC divisions this is no longer an annual meeting. Any chance for Syracuse to sneak up on the Canes went out the window when Syracuse dumped #2 Clemson. Miami is thriving late in games and much of that has to do with Head Coach Mark Richt’s clock management. In consecutive wins against Florida State and Georgia Tech he's used the clock to perfection overseeing game-winning fourth quarter drives. While Syracuse poses a very real threat to Miami do not expect Miami to need the last second heroics this week.