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Mitch Light predicts the big games in Week 11
Florida State (-4) at Maryland
Maryland remained in the hunt for an ACC Atlantic Division title by beating Virginia, 42–23, in Charlottesville on Saturday. The Terps, who went 1–7 in the ACC last year, are 4–2 in league play, tied with NC State and Florida State (in the loss column) for first place. The Seminoles improved to 5–2 in the league when Dustin Hopkins drilled a 55-yard field as time expired to beat Clemson, 16–13. FSU is expected to have quarterback Christian Ponder back after missing last week with an elbow injury. The Noles will need a healthy and effective Ponder to beat the Terps in College Park. The Maryland defense is allowing only 20.7 points per game, down by almost 10 points per game from last year.
Florida State 28, Maryland 17
Fresno State (+30.5) at Boise State (Fri)
Boise State has cruised to a 5–0 start in the WAC, but the Broncos’ two biggest tests remain, beginning with this Friday’s date with Fresno State. The Bulldogs are 6–3 overall and 4–2 in league play, with losses to Ole Miss (non-conference), Hawaii and Nevada. Fresno led Nevada four separate times last Saturday night but couldn’t get a stop late in the fourth quarter and lost a heartbreaker, 35–34. Boise State has been on an absolute tear on the offensive end, scoring 42 points or more in six straight games. The Broncs might have to break a sweat, but this one won’t be close in the fourth quarter.
Boise State 44, Fresno State 21
Ohio State (-3) at Iowa
This was supposed to be the game of the year in the Big Ten … until Iowa lost at Northwestern last week. Now, the Hawkeyes are 4–2 in league play, one game behind Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. While Iowa is struggling, Ohio State appears to be playing its best football of the season. Since losing at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes are 3–0 with wins over Purdue, Minnesota and Penn State by a combined score of 139–24. This team is playing extremely well on both sides of the ball. It won’t be easy, but Jim Tressel’s club will keep its Rose Bowl hopes alive.
Ohio State 24, Iowa 17
Virginia Tech (-2.5) at Miami
Much to the delight of Boise State and its fans, Virginia Tech has all but wrapped up the ACC Coastal Division title. The Hokies have a two-game lead (in the loss column) over Miami with two games to play — at Miami, vs. Virginia. The Hurricanes have won two straight after their shocking loss at Virginia in late October. True freshman quarterback Stephen Morris (2–0 as a starter) has played well in relief of the injured Jacory Harris, but he has yet to face a defense as strong as Virginia Tech’s. The Hokies have held each of their last five opponents to 21 points or less.
Virginia Tech 21, Miami 14
Nebraska (-2.5) at Texas A&M
Texas A&M continued its late-season surge, rallying past Baylor, 42–30, for an impressive win in Waco. The Aggies, who lost three straight earlier this season, have won four in a row, all in league play. Junior Ryan Tannehill, who took over for Jerrod Johnson midway through the Kansas game, has thrown for at least 225 yards in each of his three starts (all wins). Nebraska is still in command of the Big 12 North, holding a one-game lead (and the tie-breaker) over Missouri. The Cornhuskers were a bit sluggish on offense in a 20–3 win over Kansas last week, but the defense was dominant. KU managed only 87 total yards of offense on 47 snaps.
Nebraska 28, Texas A&M 17
Wisconsin (-4) at Michigan
Wisconsin exploded for 83 points last week against Indiana, scoring 10 offensive touchdowns, one defensive TD and two field goals. This week, the Badgers face a defense as bad (statistically) as the IU unit they faced last Saturday. The Wolverines held Purdue to 16 points last week, but the Boilermakers have been decimated by injuries on offense, most notably at the quarterback position. Prior to Saturday’s game, Michigan had given up 34 points or more to each of its previous five opponents. Wisconsin is clearly the better team, but the Badgers are 1–17 in their last 18 trips to Ann Arbor. They’ll make it 2–17 in their last 19.
Wisconsin 38, Michigan 30
Stanford (-6.5) at California
Jim Harbaugh has done a tremendous job in his short tenure as the boss on the Farm, but he does have a losing record in the Big Game. The Cardinal beat Cal in 2007 but have since lost two straight to the Golden Bears. That trend is very likely to end, however. Yes, Cal plays very well at home, and the Bears are fresh off a near-upset of No. 1 Oregon. But Stanford is simply too good on both sides of the ball to stub its toe this late in the season. Harbaugh will have his team ready to play.
Stanford 28, Cal 17
Arkansas (-3) at Mississippi State
Mississippi State is having a very solid season, and Dan Mullen no doubt has done an outstanding job in his second year in Starkville. But Arkansas is the much better team. The Hogs fell off the national radar with two midseason losses, but those losses were to then-No. 1 Alabama and Auburn, currently ranked No. 2 in the BCS Standings. Since the Auburn loss (and don’t forget Ryan Mallett went down with an injury in that game), the Razorbacks have won four straight, by an average of 26.8 points. This team is very, very dangerous on offense (both passing and running), and the defense is just good enough.
Arkansas 30, Mississippi State 17
Pittsburgh (-2.5) at South Florida
Pittsburgh still sits atop the Big East standings at 3–1, but four teams, including South Florida, are only one game back in the loss column. The Bulls have recovered from an 0–2 start (in which they scored an average of 7.5 points) by winning three straight (scoring an average of 26.7 points). The key to the turnaround has been the improved play of quarterback B.J. Daniels. In the Bulls’ two Big East losses, Daniels threw no touchdowns with five interceptions; in the three recent wins, his ratio is five touchdowns to one interception. Pittsburgh has had a very Pittsburgh-like season — at times it looks as though the Panthers are ready to emerge as the best team in the league; other times they look very average.
South Florida 24, Pittsburgh 20
Connecticut (+4) at Syracuse
It’s a battle of two of the four Big East teams with two losses. Syracuse is 4–2, with all four wins coming on the road and both losses coming at home. Connecticut has been far more conventional; the Huskies are 5–4 overall with a 5–0 mark at home and 0–4 on the road. Connecticut’s defense has been solid — no team has scored more than 30 points against the Huskies (though all but one FBS team has scored at least 21). Meanwhile, Syracuse’s offense has struggled in league play, averaging only 280.7 yards per game, with a high of 307 vs. South Florida back in early October.
Connecticut 20, Syracuse 17
Last week: 7–3 overall (3–7 against the spread)
Season: 74–36 overall (53–51–4 against the spread)