Two huge SEC showdowns highlight the weekend slate
College football's Week 6 action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC. Georgia and South Carolina meet in Columbia in a game that could decide the SEC East, and LSU travels to Florida in a key game for both programs.
10 Biggest Games of Week 6
Georgia (+1.5) at South Carolina
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top six in the national polls for the third time ever. The Gamecocks have been playing well on both sides of the ball in recent weeks. They have won their two SEC games by a combined score of 69–27 and rank among the nation’s leaders in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense. Georgia has been remarkably efficient on offense of late — the Dawgs averaged 8.8 yards per snap against Tennessee — but the defense is a bit of a concern after allowing 478 yards against UT. South Carolina isn’t the most explosive offensive team around, but the Gamecocks have a quarterback (Connor Shaw) who has completed 35 of his last 39 attempts and a running back (Marcus Lattimore) who is averaging more than 100 yards in three SEC games this season. South Carolina is playing very well, but Georgia is the better team.
Georgia 30, South Carolina 24
West Virginia (+6.5) at Texas
First the bad news: These two Big 12 powers gave up a combined 99 points last week. Now the good news: Both teams won, thanks to offenses that scored 70 points (West Virginia) and 41 points (Texas). Geno Smith’s prowess throwing the football has been well-documented. Meanwhile, his counterpart at Texas, sophomore David Ash, is emerging as a legitimate big-time quarterback. In Saturday’s win at Oklahoma State, Ash completed 30-of-37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. For the first time since Colt McCoy was hanging out in Austin, Texas has a quarterback capable of taking over a game. The key on Saturday will be red zone defense. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field; the team that has to settle for field goals will have a difficult time winning.
Texas 44, West Virginia 34
LSU (-3) at Florida
LSU is undefeated. LSU is ranked in the top 5 in the nation. LSU fans, however, aren’t happy. The Tigers have looked rather ordinary in recent weeks, beating Auburn 12–10 on the road and Towson 38–22 in Baton Rouge. This has not looked like a team that can win a national championship. Florida, on the other hand, has exceeded its fans’ expectations. The Gators are 4–0 and are showing signs of once again having an offense capable of scoring points with regularity. This new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
LSU 24, Florida 17
Miami (Fla.) (+13) at Notre Dame (at Chicago)
For the first time since 1990, Miami and Notre Dame meet in the regular season. The Fighting Irish are 4–0 with wins over three quality Big Ten teams — and yes, there are some quality Big Ten teams. The Notre Dame defense has been dominant, allowing an averaging of 291.3 yards and 9.0 points per game. The Irish will be challenged by a Miami team that has scored more than 40 points in each of its three ACC games (all wins). The Hurricanes were humbled in a 52–13 loss to Kansas State in Week 2 but have shown tremendous resolve in recent wins over Georgia Tech and NC State. This is far from the most talented Miami team, but the Canes do have some weapons on offense. Quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns the past two weeks, and true freshman tailback Duke Johnson has rushed for 359 yards despite averaging only 10 carries per game.
Notre Dame 24, Miami (Fla.) 21
Nebraska (+3.5) at Ohio State
Nebraska’s first road trip didn’t go well. Back in early September, the Cornhuskers were torched for 653 total yards in a 36–30 loss at UCLA. Ohio State isn’t likely to roll up 600-plus yards this weekend, but the Buckeyes do have one of the game’s elite offensive talents. Quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for 315 of Ohio State’s 387 yards from scrimmage in the Buckeyes’ 17–16 win at Michigan State last weekend. Nebraska rallied from a 27–10 deficit in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin 30–27 in Lincoln in its Big Ten opener. Taylor Martinez rushed for 100-plus yards for only the second time this season. When he is a threat both through the air and on the ground, this offense can be difficult to stop. Ohio State is only allowing 17.0 points per game, but the Buckeyes have yet to face an offense that can run the ball as well as Nebraska’s.
Nebraska 24, Ohio State 21
Michigan (-3) at Purdue
Purdue might be the most undervalued team in the nation through the first one-third of the season. The Boilermakers are 3–1 with their only loss coming by three points at Notre Dame. They did have some trouble with Marshall last weekend, but the final score (51–41) was a bit deceiving. Purdue led 42–14 at the half and 51–35 midway through the fourth quarter. We still don’t know too much about Michigan; the Wolverines are 2–2 with wins over Air Force and UMass and losses to Alabama and Notre Dame. Denard Robinson is doing his thing — he’s averaging over 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing — but the rest of the offense is lacking playmakers. In its two losses, Michigan averaged only 284 yards and scored a total of two touchdowns.
Purdue 34, Michigan 20
Georgia Tech (-10) at Clemson
Georgia Tech has dominated this series of late, with a 7–2 record vs. Clemson over the last eight years (the teams met twice in 2009). But things aren’t going so well for the Yellow Jackets in 2012. They dropped to 2–3 overall with a shocking 49–28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee — a team that lost to McNeese State in Week 1. The Blue Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.6 yards per snap. Clemson, too, has had some issues on defense in recent weeks, but the Tigers are better equipped to win high-scoring games. When everyone is healthy (Sammy Watkins missed the win vs. Boston College due to a stomach virus), Clemson features a cast of skill-position players that rivals any team in the nation. The same cannot be said about Georgia Tech.
Clemson 37, Georgia Tech 24
Arizona (+10) at Stanford
Two weeks after mauling USC at the line of scrimmage with 202 yards rushing in a 21–14 win over the Trojans, Stanford managed only 65 yards on the ground in a troublesome 17–13 loss at Washington. The rushing numbers looked bad — and they are — but the biggest problem with the Stanford offense is at quarterback. Josh Nunes, Andrew Luck’s replacement, completed only 18-of-37 for 170 yards vs. UW and currently ranks 12th in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Meanwhile, the good times at Arizona didn’t last long. The Wildcats, once 3–0 under new coach Rich Rodriguez, are now 3–2 after losing at Oregon 49–0 and at home to Oregon State 38–35. Quarterback Matt Scott has thrown five interceptions in the two losses after throwing only one in the first three games. He also hasn’t been as much of a threat with his legs; he averaged 63.3 yards rushing in his first three games but only 19.0 in the last two. This is a huge swing game for both programs.
Stanford 30, Arizona 27
Oklahoma (-5) at Texas Tech
Texas Tech quietly picked up a really nice road win last week, beating Iowa State 24–13 in Ames. The Red Raiders had feasted on inferior opponents in their first three games, but made a statement that things might be different in Year 3 of the Tommy Tuberville era. Iowa State isn’t the most gifted offensive team, but it’s impressive any time you can hold a conference opponent to 189 total yards — especially on the road. This is an important game for Oklahoma in so many ways. After losing two weeks ago at home to Kansas State, the Sooners simply to need to win a game. But they also need to play well, something they have yet to do in two games vs. FBS opponents. Landry Jones’ numbers look okay on the surface — he’s completing 63.6 percent and averaging 257.3 yards per game — but he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency in large part because he’s only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. Maybe I have too much (blind) faith in Oklahoma, but I can’t envision this team going 0–2 in the league.
Oklahoma 28, Texas Tech 21
Texas A&M (-11) at Ole Miss
It’s safe to say that Kevin Sumlin made the right call when he tabbed Johnny Manziel as the starting quarterback at Texas A&M prior to the season. The redshirt freshman, who was once committed to play at Oregon, threw for a school-record 453 yards and added 104 yards rushing in the Aggies’ 58–10 win over Arkansas. In the last three games — wins over SMU, South Carolina State and Arkansas by a combined 176–27 — Manziel has accounted for 15 touchdowns. Ole Miss took a step in the right direction last weekend — even in a 19-point defeat. The Rebels, who were torched by Texas for 676 yards and 66 points in Oxford in Week 3, held No. 1 Alabama to season lows in both yards (304) and points (33). Ole Miss only gained 215 yards, though the Rebels did have two touchdown drives that went for 75 yards or longer. Hugh Freeze is clearly doing a solid job in his first season in Oxford.
Texas A&M 37, Ole Miss 23
Last week: 8–2 overall (9–1 against the spread)
Season: 35–15 overall (30–20 against the spread)