Ohio State and Nebraska were two of the top one-loss teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings, and Saturday night’s matchup in Columbus will play a big role in how both programs can shape the rest of their 2016 season.
The Week 10 edition of college football’s picks against the spread features predictions for some of Saturday’s biggest games, including Nebraska-Ohio State, Arkansas-LSU, Alabama-LSU and Northwestern-Wisconsin.
Lon Kruger’s club is ready, finally, for a facelift. Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler started every game over the past three seasons as key cogs for a squad that progressed from simply an NCAA Tournament team into a national championship contender, advancing to the Final Four a year ago. Now, all three are gone. Hield — a National Player of the Year and the face of the program — and Cousins were NBA Draft picks, and Spangler snagged a free agent deal. So that’s significant talent.
Almost nothing went according to plan in Year 1 of the Shaka Smart era at Texas, from opening last season in China without the athletic director who scheduled the game (and who hired Smart) — Steve Patterson — because he’d been fired in September, right down to an upset loss to Northern Iowa on a buzzer-beating half-court heave in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Combine all that with the loss of six key players from last year — five seniors and junior point guard Isaiah Taylor — and Smart is almost starting over in Year 2.
Many might remember West Virginia’s face-plant vs. Stephen F. Austin in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. But what could be forgotten is the fact that the Mountaineers finished second both in the brutal Big 12 regular season and league tournament to Kansas. Their “Press Virginia” defensive style remains a strong national brand. And now WVU returns four players who started at least 16 games.