By College Football Analyst Marty Jenkins for TonySoftli.com
1. Alabama- The Tide had no issues in Lexington as they pummeled Kentucky 48-7. Alabama racked up 299 rushing yards and 668 total yards in the contest. T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake each ran for two scores. The Tide’s defense is allowing only 11 points a game, which is good for second in the country. The next three contests are in Tuscaloosa against Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU. They should have no issues with Arkansas and Tennessee before the big matchup vs. the Tigers. LSU is scary as usual. That should be quite the contest with national title hopes on the line in Tuscaloosa.
2. Oregon- This was a 31-24 game in the fourth before the Ducks pulled away for a 45-24 victory. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota bolstered his Heisman resume with 454 total yards and four scores. Byron Marshall had a big outing for the Ducks with two touchdowns and 106 yards on the ground. Ducks star running back De’Anthony Thomas missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. The Ducks are second in the land in points per game with 57 a contest, and they are third in the country in rushing yards per game with 324. The defense is also improved. Chip Kelly is probably an afterthought in Eugene at this point. Oregon should blow out Washington State at home on Saturday.
3. Ohio State- The Buckeyes had the week off as they prepare for a home contest against Iowa. They should have no issues against the 4-2 Hawkeyes. I’ve said this all year: The Buckeyes are likely going to run the table, but I don’t think they’ll play in the BCS Title game if Oregon also goes undefeated. I understand the name brand and all, but Oregon will definitely have the better resume…by far. The Buckeye faithful will be rooting hard for Stanford a few Thursday’s from now as the Ducks pay a visit to Palo Alto.
4. Clemson- It appears as if the Tigers were looking ahead to the big game against Florida State this weekend. Clemson was trailing 14-10 to Boston College in the fourth quarter before edging out a 24-14 win in Death Valley. The Tigers were a bit sloppy as they committed two turnovers in the game. Star receiver Sammy Watkins had 101 receiving yards with a score, while quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 334 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers had better not start off shaky against the Noles’ on Saturday. National title hopes will be on the line in what should be one of the best games of the season.
5. Florida State- FSU had the week off as they gear up for the monster matchup at Clemson. It will be interesting to see how star freshman quarterback Jameis Winston does in the first hostile environment he has seen in the college ranks. He was good at Pittsburgh and Boston College, but those venues are nothing compared to what he is going to walk into on Saturday. The Clemson defense will have to try to rattle him early and often. I don’t see that happening though. If anyone can walk in there and light it up on Saturday, it’s Winston. The guy is ridiculous…and, he’s only a freshman. I like FSU in a tight one.
6. Texas A&M- For a brief moment Saturday night, it looked as if Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel was done for the season. He crumpled to the ground holding his left knee in the first quarter and it did not look good at all. Fortunately, it was not as bad as it looked and he was back in the game soon after. He proceeded to rack up 470 yards and two scores as A&M won a thriller at Ole Miss 41-38 on a last second 33-yard field goal from Josh Lambo. Texas A&M now hosts a good Auburn squad on Saturday. The Aggies are still in good shape to make a run at the BCS title game. They should win their next four games before a huge game at LSU on November 23. That should be lots of fun.
7. LSU- The Tigers defense shut down Florida in a 17-6 win in Baton Rouge on Saturday. The defense will need to be even better as they head to Oxford this weekend to take on a potent Mississippi offense. LSU has a difficult enough schedule remaining where they can make a run at the SEC and BCS Title game. However, this is a scary matchup for them and they could easily stumble. I think for the second straight week there will be a thriller in Oxford. But, this time the Rebels come out victorious.
8. UCLA- This is a 5-0 bunch that is flying under the radar a bit. They aren’t talked about that much despite having road wins at Nebraska and at a Utah team that just knocked off Stanford. They are coming off a blowout win against Cal in which star quarterback Brett Hundley racked up 428 total yards and three scores. Now onto the bad news: They now have road games at Stanford followed by Oregon…ouch. They can make a huge statement if they win on the farm this weekend. That will be a difficult task considering Stanford is probably still steaming after a loss to Utah. UCLA has several playmakers on offense and a solid defense to go with it. They can hang around in Palo Alto. I can’t pick them to win though.
9. Miami (FL)- The Canes are another team that are flying under the radar a bit despite a nice win over Florida. They had the week off as they prepare for a tricky test at an underachieving North Carolina team. Miami has a balanced offense and they are ringing up 45 points a game. Duke Johnson is one of the best running backs in the country. The defense is also salty as they are allowing only 16 points a game. They will likely be 7-0 before a trip to Tallahassee. This team is good enough to win the ACC. Don’t sleep on them.
10.Louisville- The Cardinals had a good chance for some style points on Thursday against Rutgers. They failed to capitalize on that opportunity as they looked sluggish in a 24-10 win. Heisman hopeful quarterback had an off night with two touchdowns and a pick. This team is not going to play for it all if they run the table. They won’t jump some of the one loss teams in my opinion. What they really needed was a top 15 or 20 win in the first month of the year. They didn’t play anyone in their nonconference slate (Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky, and Florida International) Louisville has a tough matchup at home on Friday against a 4-1 Central Florida bunch. UCF won at Penn State and lost by only three to South Carolina. That should be a good game.
On the local scene:
Missouri rises to 14th in the rankings with a 41-26 win at Georgia. The Dawgs were dealing with several injuries, but Mizzou still got it done on the road at a top 10 team and that is a big deal. The Tigers forced four turnovers in the contest while committing none. Receiver L’Damian Washington had a huge game with 115 receiving yards and two scores. Quarterback James Franklin was 18-27 for 170 yards and a score. The win came at a price though as Franklin sprained his right shoulder and is expected to miss 3-5 weeks. It’s really a shame for the senior who was having a good campaign and has already battled through numerous injuries. It would have been interesting to see what they could have done with a healthy Franklin all year. Now they turn to redshirt freshman Maty Mauk. Mauk was a highly touted recruit with offers from Notre Dame and Michigan. Mauk was 3-3 for 23 yards in the game vs. Georgia. He is known as a good decision maker with a nice arm. It’s going to be tough for him though in his first year against SEC competition. On the plus side, he will have the benefit of a good group of backs and a nice offensive line. Mauk will also be tossing it to a very good group of receivers. I think he is going to have a nice career at Mizzou. However, I think it is going to be a bit rough for him this year and it starts with Florida this weekend. The Gators possess one of the best defenses in the land. They are giving up only 13 points a game which is fourth best in the nation. However, Florida has some offensive issues as they are scoring only 22 points a game. If Mauk can just manage the game and not turn it over, then Mizzou can hang around. It’s going to be a close one in Columbia. I’ll go with Florida 21-17. That Gators defense will be too much.
Illinois is coming off a bye week as they get ready to host Wisconsin. Illinois sits at 3-2 and it could be a while before they pick up that fourth win. Wisconsin comes in with the fifth best rushing attack in the land and a very good offensive line. It’s going to be very difficult for the Illini to slow down the deadly running duo of James White and Melvin Gordon. Some good news for Illinois is that Badgers receiver Jared Abbrederis may not play because of a head injury. That is a big weapon Wisconsin could potentially be without. However, I still don’t see Illinois stopping that Badgers rushing game. The Illini are going to have to force some turnovers and have a big day on the offensive side of the ball. I don’t see that happening. Wisconsin 34-17.