From an on field and wagering perspective, we are starting to see what each team’s strengths and weaknesses are. Unfortunately, so does the line makers so expect the lines to be much tighter to the end result.
This weekend we have four juicy games the pit ranked opponents against each other. So in this week’s column, we are going to take a look at all four and tell you where to go with them.
(7) Stanford at (10) Washington (-3) (Friday night)
Chris Peterson has Washington looking like their old glory years under Don James. The 10th ranked Huskies didn’t have the most challenging out of conference schedule (Rutgers, Idaho, & Portland St.) but they did get a quality road conference win in overtime last week at Arizona. That was their first road game of the season and it was a conference game to boot so playing a close one shouldn’t scare people who are on the Husky bandwagon.
Stanford’s schedule has been polar opposite. In the non-conference, Stanford scored a win versus Kansas St. and then followed it up with two conference wins, one versus USC and the other at UCLA. For the second week in a road the Cardinal will face a tough Pac 12 opponent on the road.
This game will come down to two main factors:
Can Stanford run the ball against a soft Washington run defense? Can the Huskies turn Stanford over?
Washington’s defense isn’t stout and has lived off turning its opponents over. That should play into the hands of David Shaw and the Stanford offense. You will see Heisman candidate, Christian McCaffrey, get loose and have a big game.
(8) Wisconsin at (4) Michigan (-10.5)
Pretty big spread for a game that has two top ten opponents but it shouldn’t shock anyone. There was National Championship talk in Ann Arbor before the season started. At one time, Michigan to win the National Championship was one of the most popular bets in Vegas.
Wisconsin might feel disrespected but, like Texas, one of their major wins (LSU) doesn’t look so great anymore. But, unlike Texas, the Badgers could point to last week’s dominate road win at Michigan St. as a sign of a good team if you believe that the Spartans are a top tier team this season.
Wisconsin brings in a stingy run defense that only allows 80.5 yards per game. They also rank 7th in the country in scoring defense and 12th in total defense.
Michigan has been living at home and living well. They have scored 63, 51, 45 and 49 points in their first four games. Last week, the Wolverines blistered Penn St. 49-10. Michigan’s stud running back, De’Veon Smith had his first 100 game (107) but to be fair that’s misleading considering he hasn’t had more than 12 carries in any of the first four games.
Michigan covering 10.5 will come down to how well their defense can play against Wisconsin’s offense. If you believe the Wolverine defense can be effective then you give the 10.5. But if you believe that Wisconsin offense will be able to move the ball on the ground 10.5 becomes even bigger.
(11) Tennessee at (25) Georgia (+3)
Tennessee will face their first true road game when they travel to Athens. The Volunteers are hard to figure out. They struggled with App St., played a poor half against Virginia Tech before dominating them, and then played a blah game against Ohio followed by another slow start before beating Florida. Talk about a rollercoaster.
The Volunteers offense will go as their star quarterback, Josh Dobbs, goes. In his last two games, he’s thrown for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Wide receiver Josh Malone has been the beneficiary of Dobbs’ development. He leads the team with 13 receptions and 5 touchdowns.
Tennessee would also benefit from getting running back Jalen Hurd uncorked. Hurd is only averaging 4 yards a carry and hasn’t had a 100 yard game since their opener against App St.
Georgia will be coming home licking their wounds after being taken behind the woodshed by Ole Miss. In their 45-14 loss in Oxford, Georgia was down 45-0 before they scored in the third quarter. Coach Kirby Smart didn’t have to worry about this type of beating when he was in Tuscaloosa.
This was the second week in a row where Georgia fell down in a game. Against Missouri, the Dawgs were able to get back up and win a see-saw game. They weren’t as fortunate versus Ole Miss and that’s why they are home dogs.
After two conference road games, one would think that Georgia would get a big lift coming back home but there is something oddly special about this Tennessee game. Head says go with Georgia +3.5 at home, gut says take Tennessee.
(3) Louisville at (5) Clemson (+2)
This has been a wild line. In some books, Clemson started out as a 2.5 point favorite and now they find themselves as 2 point dogs. How did this happen? It’s the power of Louisville quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Fans have watched Louisville punish team after team with a high powered offense. This was on full exhibit when their nationally televised game versus Florida State became a full-fledged butt kicking.
Against the Noles, Jackson threw 216 and ran for 146. He had 5 touchdowns total in the 63-20 beat down. He followed that up by throwing for 417 yards and 5 touchdowns at Marshall. He along with a few others are squarely in the Heisman race. The 59 points against Marshall was the lowest point total of the season.
Clemson has to feel disrespected. Last year’s runner-up are playing at home yet find themselves as underdogs. Part of the reason why this has happened it because the Tigers haven’t looked dominant in their wins. The public expected for the Clemson offense to put up the numbers that Louisville is putting up and it hasn’t happened.
Clemson struggled against both Auburn and Troy before destroying South Carolina St. and beating a below average Georgia Tech team on the road.
What Clemson fans should be thrilled about is a defense that lost eight starters hasn’t missed a beat. They are 3rd in the country in total defense and 5th in scoring defense. They will need every big of stinginess on that side of the ball if they want to slow down the Cardinals.
Having Louisville come to town could be what the doctor ordered for Coach Dabo Sweeney. Clemson has been sleep walking through the early part of the schedule but there should be no shortage of enthusiasm and attention to detail this week. Like the Notre Dame game last year, a prime time game against a big time opponent put Clemson in a position to make a statement.
Unlike last year, they won’t make it out of Death Valley with a victory.
Last Week: 2-2
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook