Week 10 of the college football season provides a good excuse for raking leaves. Nine ranked teams are off, including five unbeatens, which sets up a pretty cool doubleheader next week involving four of them: Penn State at Minnesota and Louisiana State at Alabama.
Two games Saturday match up ranked teams. With the College Football Playoff committee gathering this weekend in advance of its first 2019 ranking on Tuesday night, those teams and others that have the playoff in their sights want to look good.
Lots at stake here in the 98th edition (88th in Jacksonville) of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” The winner gains an advantage in the battle to be the East representative in the SEC championship game and takes its place in the CFP hunt. The loser is pretty much out of playoff consideration.
An interesting twist is that the Gators are ranked higher than the Bulldogs and have played better than their opponent in recent weeks, yet Georgia is favored by 6 ½ points. The main advantage for the Bulldogs is their SEC-leading rushing attack, and the fact that the team with more rushing yards in the game has won 13 straight.
So look out for Georgia junior D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s Prep), who rushed for 179 yards last week against Kentucky and leads the conference with 752 yards and a 6.8-yard-per-carry average. The Gators have limited opponents to 124 yards rushing per game, but the Bulldogs defense has been elite in that department, allowing 85.7 on average.
One more note: Florida has come back six times in the fourth quarter to win in Dan Mullen’s two years as head coach.
The AAC finally gets some love with a prime-time matchup of two teams scrambling for position to gain that coveted New Year’s Six bowl bid awarded to the top Group of Five squad at the end of the season.
An entertaining contest is anticipated. Both teams rank in the top 10 in FBS in scoring, with the undefeated Mustangs sixth at 43.0 points per game and the Tigers 10th at 39.5. The quarterbacks, SMU’s Shane Buechele and Memphis’ Brady White, each have thrown 20 touchdown passes.
The X-factor in the game could be dynamic Tigers freshman Kenny Gainwell, a dual threat as a rusher and receiver who is seventh in the nation with 979 rushing yards and second in all-purpose yards.
The Fighting Irish said goodbye last week to their chance of making the playoff for the second straight year after getting drubbed, 45-14, at Michigan. Now they have to keep winning to stay alive for a New Year’s Six bid, but the Hokies figure to be a pesky opponent.
Virginia Tech, seeking its 27th straight bowl berth, tops in FBS, has won three straight behind redshirt sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker. Notre Dame needs to get its rushing game going again after managing just 47 yards on 31 carries last week, and must protect quarterback Ian Book from a defense that has 15 sacks in its last three contests.
The Ducks are in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North while the Trojans are tied for first in the Pac-12 South with Utah. Oregon appears to have the best shot of any Pac-12 team for a CFP spot, but would look better in the committee’s eyes if it could face and defeat a one-loss Utah team in the conference championship game as opposed to a USC team that currently has three losses. The Trojans defeated the Utes on Sept. 20 and thus have the tiebreaker.
Watch out for Oregon sophomore CJ Verdell, who rushed for 257 yards and three TDs last week.
Speaking of the Utes, they just have to keep winning to get into a championship-game matchup with Oregon. But they can’t look past the Huskies, although Washington quarterback Jacob Eason needs to find a way to move the ball against one of the nation’s best defenses.
All appears well in the land of “Go Blue” after the Wolverines’ rout of Notre Dame. Now they must make sure they take care of business before the big Nov. 30 showdown at home against Ohio State. The Terrapins have lost their top two quarterbacks to injuries and were drubbed, 52-10, last week by Minnesota.
- Everybody talked about No. 22 Kansas State’s upset of Oklahoma last week, but how about Kansas? After seeing a game-winning field goal get blocked, the Jayhawks got a second chance when a Texas Tech player fumbled the return, and kicked the field goal for a 37-34 win. The Sunflower State showdown resumes in Lawrence with Kansas seeking to break a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
- The Miami-Florida State rivalry used to be special. In 13 games between 1985 and 2005, both teams were ranked in the top 10 when they met. In 14 games since then, four have been played with neither team in the top 25. Both the Hurricanes and the Seminoles enter this year’s game at 4-4 seeking to claw their way to a minor bowl.
- Stuck in a four-game losing streak, Army will begin defense of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, which it has won each of the last two years, at Air Force. The Black Knights were down to their third-string quarterback last week after starter Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and backup Jabari Laws suffered injuries. Navy, which already has defeated Air Force, will get a chance to regain the trophy from Army on Dec. 14 at the Linc.
North Carolina State tight end Cary Angeline, a Downingtown East High School graduate, is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three, one of which came last week against Boston College.