As the season moves ever closer to bowl season, the heavy hitters have taken over their respective conferences. Clemson has dominated the ACC while Alabama smothered the SEC. Michigan has gotten better, watching Ohio State and Wisconsin self-destruct. Fast approaching championship week, the one conference still up in the air is the Big-12, making their games the most compelling down the stretch, as teams fall into place in the other power five conferences.
5 - Baylor Bears vs. (22) Iowa State Cyclones - Cyclones the 14 point favorite
The Brock Purdy-Hakeem Butler show has captivated many. Or it should. As the race to the Big-12 championship continues to escalate, Iowa State pulls into the rearview mirrors of Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
The Cyclones are powered by an efficient offense, running on Purdy’s 66.3 percent completion rate and 8.4 yards per passing attempt (25th best in the country).
Butler leads the country in yards per reception (24) and the passing attack has only yielded three interceptions this season. Careful, highly efficient offense through the air and chunk plays to their best receiver have guided the Cyclones to the company of the top 25. Their consistency will clash with the topsy-turvy Baylor squad that lacks such stability, particularly against ranked teams (0-3 against such opponents).
Prediction: Iowa State wins 30-24
4 - (19) Texas Longhorns vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders - Texas the two-point favorite
Alan Bowman was discharged from the hospital earlier this week, following a scare in the Oklahoma game, when his lung collapsed against the Sooners.
When someone plays a contact sport, then that someone collapses their lung, the question is not even will they play but should they return this year? No. No, they should not. Bowman reportedly was winded in drills leading up to the Saturday and seems highly unlikely to take the field against the Longhorns. Hopefully, he stays away until fully healed.
Texas will be looking to bounce back from a heart-wrenching loss at home to the West Virginia Mountaineers and now get to face quarterback Jeff Duffy instead of Bowman, a difference of 2,011 yards. Against a top 20 team, the Red Raiders will most likely go in without their best player.
Prediction: Texas wins 34-27
3 - (2) Clemson Tigers vs. (17) Boston College Eagles - Clemson the 20 point favorite
It seems like seasons ago that the Tigers found themselves entrenched in quarterback controversy and skepticism. A lifetime since they slipped past Syracuse 27-23 at home. Since then, Clemson has buried opponents, outscoring their unfortunate adversaries 240-36. In the past four weeks, Clemson has averaged 60 points per game and abused teams in every facet of the game.
The Tigers have collected 32 sacks and 16 turnovers this season, while posting a nation-leading 6.9 yards per attempt on the ground, controlling the line of scrimmage.
Boston College has found success on the shoulders of running back AJ Dillon, who has been good for 897 yards this season. Their defense has been impressive too; ranked 45th in the country in yards per game (366), while only relenting 24.1 points per game.
But they are outmatched against Clemson, a team that will take advantage of a weak secondary and victimize their backend coverage. The Tigers have tossed 25 touchdowns this season, ranking 25th in yards per attempt (8.3). Off their passing attack, the Tigers will be able to open up a ground game, unleashing the floodgates.
Prediction: Clemson wins 56-20
2 - (24) Auburn Tigers vs. (5) Georgia Bulldogs - Georgia the 14 point favorite
The Bulldogs’ ground game is hitting a new stride as they trudge through their SEC schedule, going for 331 last weekend against the Wildcats and their exceptional front seven.
Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift have turned into the perfect combination of power and outside speed for Georgia, filling the shoes left by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel perfectly. Heading into their game against Auburn, Georgia averages 5.8 yards per rushing attempt and 233.8 yards each outing.
At home, the Bulldogs have some revenge to deal out and will do it with a running game that is in elite form.
Prediction: Georgia wins 38-21
1 - (16) Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. (1) Alabama Crimson Tide - Alabama the 24 point favorite
One time, I played basketball with former NBA guard Jamal Crawford. Yes, the 3-point shooting specialist and sixth man of the year in 2010, ‘14 and ‘16 Jamal Crawford. In early June, just a few short months after the 2017-2018 season, I was at a gym in Minneapolis playing pickup basketball when he came in to play three games of 5-on-5 to 21.
In three games, he scored roughly 44 points out of the 63 possible.
The first game, he knocked down all 21 points for his team in about six minutes, putting guys on skates and launch triple after triple. The next game more of the same, adding a few feeds to teammates after drawing five defenders on his drives.
His final game, however, was when it got truly embarrassing. Apparently scoring was already dull, because he only knocked down two buckets, instead choosing to baffle opponents before passing up wide open looks for disgusting passes through traffic. The worst of it came when the 38-year-old dribbled through a triple team of 22-year-olds at center court in route to the basket, only to pass between another defenders legs and hit his teammate in the corner for a wide open three. Crawford gliding around the woefully unprepared and ill-equipped competition was equal parts entertaining, disrespectful and beautiful.
This is what Alabama football is doing to college football. They are taking to task opponents that never really had a chance, dancing and playing with their lessers, the only mercy coming when the contest (very generous use of the word contest there) concludes. The most talented, most disciplined and deepest brand in college football has, for the first time, the best quarterback in the country. They will do as they please.
Prediction: Alabama wins 35-6