BLITZING SEVEN: Southern Home Cooking Week, Cupcakes, Rivalries & Big Ten Playoff Hopes
1. Southern Home Cookin’ Week: For a number of years this has been SEC cupcake home game week. Lately the ACC has also gotten in on the Southern Home Cooking the week before a number of In-State ACC-SEC rivalry games (more on that next week). The ACC games this week include Delaware State at Florida State and The Citadel at #2 Clemson. In the SEC the Home Cooking means UAB at Florida (upset alert), Wofford at South Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe at #6 Auburn and Mercer at #1 Alabama. Mercer, you ask? Mercer is an FCS school from Macon, Georgia with a 5-5 record. If Alabama Coach Nick Saban has trouble getting his players’ attention, he can show them Auburn’s 24-10 win over Mercer. Auburn needed a late TD with 4:50 to go to make it a 2-score game and overcome their 5 turnovers. With so much on the line don’t expect an Alabama letdown.
2. Pass The Cupcakes: Are Big Ten Playoff Hopes Hurt By 9 Conference Games?: In 2016 the Big 10 went to a 9-game conference schedule from 8. That means a conference game replaces the SEC-style cupcake Big 10 teams could schedule. With the Big 10 facing the possibility that their conference champion could be shut out of the College Football Playoff for the second straight year one wonders if the extra conference game makes it harder. Two inter-divisional upsets have made a difference this year. Ohio State lost at Iowa and Michigan State lost at Northwestern. If undefeated Wisconsin loses this week against Michigan in an inter-division game one wonders how the season could have played out if Wisconsin was playing Mercer this week.
3. Big Ten Game of The Week: Undefeated #5 Wisconsin hosts #24 Michigan who has found new life with their quarterback switch. College Football is a game of match-ups and with all the different offensive and defensive systems some teams work better against others. Michigan’s defense sets up to give the Wisconsin offense problems. The Achilles heel for Michigan is the mobile quarterback as evidenced by losses to Penn State and Michigan State (and foreshadows a tough day versus Ohio State). Wisconsin does not present that problem. This is a battle of strength versus strength. By game’s end we will know how good Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor is against a team that is all in to stop the run.
4. Pro Scouts Sure to be On Hand: UCLA at #11 USC features a showdown of two elite quarterback prospects in UCLA's Josh Rosen and USC's Sam Darnold. If Darnold and Rosen were a law firm this would be a case they’re arguing in the Supreme Court. Given the quarterback needs of a number of NFL teams and anticipating that one or both may enter the draft expect to see a large number of Pro Scouts on hand in the LA Coliseum. Given the number of injuries to key personnel that UCLA has had, and given that USC is getting healthy again the Bruins face a tall order.
5. The Service Academies: (8-2) Army travels to take on (7-3) North Texas and Navy travels to take on #8 Notre Dame in South Bend. While Army has won 6-straight this road game will present the toughest test in this recent stretch. Navy is hoping to get Notre Dame on a hangover from their big loss at Miami. Expect the Irish to get their running game going again to counter the Navy attack. This will be a true land war featuring two of the top running teams on the country.
6. The Game and The Ax: On the West Coast “The Game” that is played for “The Ax” is Stanford against Cal. The Bruins will cross the water in the Bay area rivalry that has seen some wild games. This one should come down to Stanford's ball-control running game setting the tone for a Cardinal win. .
7. Stat Padding: Heisman Candidate Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) plays (1-9) Kansas, Bryce Love (Stanford) plays Cal and a defense yielding 29.4 points per game and Saquon Barkley (Penn State) plays Nebraska and the nation’s 105th-ranked run defense. Emerging candidate Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson plays Louisiana-Monroe. Could be some big numbers posted on the stat sheets. These games are like winning Presidential primaries in Guam or Wyoming. They are wins, they get you points but they don't move the needle on the overall Campaign.