Misery Teams As Much Fun To Follow As Playoff Contenders
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com College Football Blogger
Welcome to the Pigskin Prognosticator!
As the college football season falls into November, it’s almost as much fun to focus on the misery teams as it is the successful ones.
Okay, it’s more fun!
The number of teams – and fans – having miserable, forgettable is-it-basketball-season-yet seasons – is as long as the bathroom line at the stadiums. There’s Arizona (a college football non-factor but losing 69-7 to Washington State qualifies as miserable even by Zonies standards), Georgia, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oregon, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, even Florida State. And borderline LSU, which could definitely quality if it falls victim to the “Alabama factor” and collapses the rest of the season.
On the reverse side, congratulations to Air Force for winning the Commander-In-Chiefs Trophy!
So with that to consider, it’s onto this week’s games. All times are in the Prognosticator’s West Coast time zone.
UTAH at ARIZONA STATE (6:30 p.m., FS1)
In some ways, it would be great to go to a school like Arizona State that considers a Top 20 finish a banner season and when the team stinks, as it does now, you still go the stadium and party because you’re less concerned about what’s happening on the field than what’s happening in the stands. Sometimes, that’s even the case for the players.
Into the Party House comes the team from Utah and the thing about a team like the Sun Devils is you never know when they suddenly will put it all together and give the fans a real reason to party. This just may be the week. Winner: Arizona State.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at ALABAMA (9 a.m., ESPN)
You would think the SEC would give its best team a break and let it play the late game rather than having it take the field at 11 in the morning Tuscaloosa time the week after that physical pounding at LSU. And the State Dogs are coming in on a high after upsetting Texas A&M. Alabama always gets teams at their best – it’s been this way for decades – and Mississippi State will come out barking like a pack of wild dogs.
A tired Tide will be slow to respond initally, but once the players wipe the sleepers out of their eyes, they will rise to the occasion and wipe out the Bulldogs. Winner: Alabama
PITTSBURGH at CLEMSON (12:30 p.m., ABC)
The Tigers have developed a bad habit of playing to the level of their competition, and this competition is pretty bad. The Panthers are almost like patsies this year but with a potentially potent running attack, possess enough of a punch to gut-punch the hosts.
It will take a few Deshaun Watson moments to make fans breathe a sigh of relief and provide TV viewers with another entertaining Dabo Swinney post-game interview. Winner: Clemson
GEORGIA TECH at VIRGINIA TECH (12:30 p.m., ESPNU)
The Hokies are like the average-looking girl at the back of the bar you don’t really notice at first because the room if full of prettier girls. But she just hangs around and hangs around and as the prettiest girls start to thin out – like college football contenders that start to lose – the average-looking gal is still there ready to grab your attention. That’s how this team is in position to win half of the ACC and face Clemson. Yikes!
The Yellow Jackets will sting the defense a few times but the Lunch Pails will prove to be too difficult to penetrate to do any real damage. Winner: Virginia Tech
OHIO STATE at MARYLAND (12:30 p.m., ESPN)
The Buckeyes went nuts last week against Nebraska and now get to crack open a beached turtle. The Terrapins are borderline terrible (would you believe Bear Bryant once coached at this school!?) and will lay another bunch of eggs like they did last week against Michigan. Winner: Ohio State
ILLINOIS at WISCONSIN (12:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Bucky Badger may find himself in a bit of a tussle until Illinois remembers it’s, well, Illinois. The Fighting Illini showed some fight in beating Michigan State last week but then again, beating Sparty this year can hardly be considered an accomplishment. Winner: Wisconsin
AUBURN at GEORGIA (12:30 p.m., CBS)
The wounded Tigers limp into Athens-town – hometown of the B52s – to challenge the Dawgs that are playing much of this season like a bunch of dogs. This is the South’s oldest rivalry and is usually as tight as a 20-seat Cadillac headed to the “Love Shack.” The team you think might win this game usually doesn’t and this year that would be the Dawgs. But they can’t run the ball and if they can’t run then they can’t let the Dawgs out to get to the “Love Shack.” Winner: Auburn
STANFORD at OREGON (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Prognosticator is including this game not because it’s going to determine anything on a national scale but because it’s not going to determine anything on a national scale. These two programs have gone downhill faster than an Olympic skier. The Ducks are in such a freefall they should play the Tom Petty sing “Free Falling” at their games.
The Cardinal still have Christian McCaffrey – remember him!? – and he’ll likely have the kind of day that will make some people say “Heisman.” To show how far this game has fallen, it’s hidden on the Pac 12 Network rather than being the featured night game on ABC or ESPN. Winner: Stanford
LSU AT ARKANSAS (4 p.m., ESPN)
The real test for Coach O remaining the coach down on the bayou is this game, not the one against Alabama. If LSU suffers a case of the “Alabama affect” that’s plagued it – and so many other teams – in the past, then the season is officially a wipeout and the gravel-voiced Les Miles replacement had better get used to being a career assistant.
On the other sideline, Coach Hog has his pigs rolling in the mud after feasting on a bunch of Gators last week and can’t wait to get at the Tiger bait. Winner: LSU
USC at WASHINGTON (4:30 p.m., Fox)
Troy rides into U-Dub territory on its high horse, having won four in a row led by the Conquests of QB San Darnold. The Huskies are a mad dog, out to prove they belong, and they took some of it out on defenseless Cal last week. But they’ve got a lot of bite left in them and their keys to reaching the playoffs comes down to two factors: can they be consistent enough to do it and can they handle the pressure?
USC may get a break with the weather as Saturday is looking to be partly sunny squeezed between two rainy days. But the team is still leaking in key areas and this is when the ship sinks. Winner: Washington
OLE MISS at TEXAS A&M (4:30 p.m., SEC Network)
The biggest worry about the Cadets marching out of Starkville last week was not that they lost to Mississippi State – the team had been getting too much credit for accomplishing so little all year long – but that the College Football Playoff committee could not see through the smokescreen. Does that really give you confidence they can pick the four best teams if there’s any important decisions to be made at the end of the season?
As for Ole Miss, well, that “Alabama affect” has apparently lasted the entire season, for Colonel Rebel has lost his desire to fight. Both teams will have backup quarterbacks and this once-promising match-up is simply a go-through-the-motions game. And the Prognosticator figures that the implosion that’s been building all off-season in College Station is about to erupt. Winner: Ole Miss
MINNESOTA at NEBRASKA (4:30 p.m., Big 10 Network)
Big Red got a reality slap-in-the-face at the Horseshoe last week and as QB Tommy Armstrong recovers from a concussion, it’s got to get out of the hole against a bunch of Gophers. The Shuckers are battling offensive line injuries and face a team that’s 7-2. But four of those Minn-e-suit-a wins are against record-padders Maryland, Purdue, Illinois and Rutgers. So unless there’s a meltdown after the meltdown, the Huskers should be husky again this week. Winner: Nebraska
MICHIGAN at IOWA (5 p.m., ABC)
After several “staycations” in the Big House, the Wolverines’ fall holiday tour continues this week in Iowa City against another snoozing Big 10 team. The Wolverines will do like they’ve done all year, quietly step over the sleeping dog of an opponent on the porch and then go in and ransack the house. Winner: Michigan
OREGON STATE at UCLA (6 p.m., Pac 12 Network)
The Baby Bears are getting just what they need – a game against a team worse than them. Only true-blue Bruins are likely to trek to the Rose Bowl to see this one and they may want to cover their eyes for much of it. UCLA is 24-19 in conference play under Jim Mora, which is worse than it was under Karl Dorrell. In the past year, the Bruins are just 4-9. But that’s what Oregon State if for, to forget about such things for a week. Winner: UCLA