Remember when it was the popular sports thing three or four years ago to talk about how the Big Ten was taking over the SEC’s spot as the top conference? Boy does that seem like a very long time ago.
The conference has flexed this year, with some of the best games this week featuring SEC on SEC violence as teams jostle to take first in a group that contains six teams in the top 25 and four in the top 10.
This week also kicks off conference play, when rivalries that have remained dormant over the summer months return as bitter as the fall air, giving back the satisfyingly ruthless Saturdays we missed so dearly. Here are your top games of the weekend.
My Record: 11-4
5 - (17) TCU Horned Frogs vs. Texas Longhorns - TCU the three-point favorite
Last weekend was about the lost battle in the trenches for TCU, a problem they will not have against a Longhorns defense with just four sacks. This week is about slowing down Texas’ big receivers.
Collin Johnson stands 6-foot-6, while Joshua Moore is 6-foot-1 and tight end Andrew Beck is 6-foot-3. The towering group will try to stretch TCU’s secondary like they spread USC’s last week.
But if Texas cannot find the pass rush it has been looking for all season, it may be a moot point. TCU’s offense averages 41.7 points per game and should get back on track in week four against a soft front seven.
Worse still for Texas, shootout games have proven a problem for quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who is 2-5 when his opponent scores over 25 points. In a high scoring affair, TCU can weather the storm and come out victorious.
Prediction: TCU wins 44-28
4 - Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (15) Oklahoma State Cowboys - Oklahoma State the 14 point favorite
The Red Raiders have been gripping to watch because of a dynamic offense, which averages 624 yards per game. They also are quite entertaining because their porous defense allows an average of 454 yards per game.
After escaping with a win over Houston, outshooting them 63-49, Texas Tech must turn around and try to keep up with a Cowboys offense, a group that averages 52.3 points per game.
The advantage is Oklahoma State’s defense, which leads the country with 16 sacks. Oklahoma State will be able to get to the quarterback and create stops against Texas Tech, who in turn, have stopped no one.
Prediction: Oklahoma State wins 48-33
3 - (14) Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats - Mississippi State the 9.5 point favorite
The last time that the Wildcats beat both the Bulldogs and the Florida Gators in the same season was 1977. In week two, Kentucky glided past the Gators on a 20-point second half to beat Florida for the first time in 31 years.
Yes, on paper the Bulldogs are a better team. Yes, the ranked opponent should be dangerous, even on the road. Or you could believe in the magic of a moment waiting 41 years to reoccur.
Prediction: Kentucky wins 21-16
2 - (22) Texas A&M Aggies vs. (1) Alabama Crimson Tide - Alabama the 26 point favorite
Texas A&M looked phenomenal against the Clemson Tigers, proving quarterback Kellen Mond could handle the spotlight against a big-time defense.
They have a great receiving corps, a solid running attack led by Trayveon Williams and a stout secondary guided by the Charles Oliver/Derrick Tucker duo. But I was excited to see Louisville against the Tide. And then I was hyped for Ole’ Miss to test the defending champs.
Alabama slaughtered both. Alabama crushes hopes, takes names and dashes dreams. A team that always came back with one of the best defenses and some of the most elite running backs now might have the best quarterback. Watch out college football.
Prediction: Alabama wins 56-21
1 - (7) Stanford Cardinal vs. (20) Oregon Ducks - Stanford the 2.5 point favorite
The Ducks will try to throw things like a revamped defense that has allowed only 77 rushing yards per game or quarterback Justin Herbert’s growth this season or home field advantage at you to distract from the defining part of this game: Bryce Love’s return to the backfield.
Love has averaged 10.41 yards per carry through his career against the Ducks, torching this team’s front consistently for two years.
Now, returning from injury, after a slow start to a season in which he opened the Heisman favorite, Love feels primed for a statement game.
Prediction: Stanford wins 44-31