After more than a month of college football, lines have been drawn in the sand. The Big 12 is proving to be a deeper conference than originally projected. The battle for the Pac-12 title will be one of the most compelling storylines in the country. As top programs look to add resume-boosting wins, this week’s slate provides plenty of interesting matchups.
No. 23 West Virginia versus No. 8 TCU
Alex: After five weeks of play, TCU is starting to emerge as one of the nation’s biggest surprises. A shoddy West Virginia run defense will need to show marked improvement if it’s going to stand a chance against a Horned Frog team that averages almost as many yards per game rushing as it does passing. Former Texas A&M quarterback transfer Kenny Hill and running back Darius Anderson should dominate on offense for the Horned Frogs. As long as its defense turns in a respectable outing, TCU should get the easy win.
Josh: TCU’s front seven creates pressure on quarterbacks, and its secondary has proven it can cover a deep crew of receivers after shutting down Oklahoma State. West Virginia has a skilled quarterback in Will Grier but lacks playmakers at receiver. Virginia Tech has already proven it can slow down the Mountaineers, and TCU should continue that trend. The Horned Frogs get the win in a low-scoring affair.
No. 11 Washington State versus Oregon
Alex: Washington State’s Heisman candidate Luke Falk has been on fire, throwing for more than 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns through five games. If he can keep up that kind of play in the hostile Autzen Stadium, the Cougars will have a chance. However, Oregon is no slouch and has been looking for a chance to prove itself again after its recent decline. Eugene is an extremely tough place in which to play. While Washington State is coming in with a lot of momentum, so are the Ducks. Going on the road for the first time of the season, WSU gets handed its first loss, and Oregon gets the W.
Josh: Last week was Washington State’s coming-out party against highly touted USC. Mike Leach has built a program based on his Air Raid offense. For the first time in his tenure with the Cougars, he also has a legit defense. Pair that with experienced signal-caller Luke Falk, and you have the recipe for success. On the other hand, Oregon running back Royce Freeman is finally healthy and wrecking defenses. However, the Ducks took a crippling blow after quarterback Justin Herbert broke his collarbone. Leach, Falk and the Cougars add another impressive win to its resume in the Autzen Zoo.
Michigan State versus No. 7 Michigan
Alex: In a rematch of the game that saved the Spartans’ season in 2015, Michigan will be looking for revenge. This game is personal. Backup quarterback John O’Korn will get the start for the Wolverines in place of Wilton Speight, but not much should change as the fifth-year senior has proven he is more than capable of handling the job. Michigan State is known for its late-game heroics, and it may need a little magic to escape Ann Arbor with a win. The Spartan defense continues on its tear, and quarterback Brian Lewerke has a breakout game, leading Michigan State to an upset victory in Ann Arbor.
Josh: In a series that never lacks fireworks, this could be a closer game than expected. The Michigan Wolverines have a stout defense that suffocates all opposing offenses. The Wolverines need backup quarterback John O’Korn to step up and get this offense going. Their games have been close this year because the injured Wilton Speight was unable to command his offense. Defensive success continues to enable Michigan State to win games this year. Its only loss came against Notre Dame and was largely the result of defensive errors. In a game that will produce fewer than 40 points total, the Wolverines’ defense leads them to a victory in the Big House.
Stanford versus No. 20 Utah
Alex: A loss to USC and an unsettling defeat at the hands of San Diego State have left Stanford with a chance to prove its worth in Salt Lake City. The game will come down to the battle in the trenches. Will Stanford Heisman candidate Bryce Love continue his strong season? Or will Utah’s defense hold firm? We’ll have to wait and see. This is a make-or-break game for Stanford and its Pac-12 title hopes. The Cardinal reignites a belief in its season and emerges on top.
Josh: Stanford’s Bryce Love has torched defenses this year, already reaching 1,000 yards on the season. He has been the lone bright spot throughout this disappointing early stretch for Stanford. Kyle Whittingham is one of the longest-tenured head coaches in college football, and his Utes are playing at a high level. His defense has only allowed one team to score more than 20 points. His offense won’t garner too many headlines, but it is balanced. In a very close game, Utah comes out on top after a late field goal.