An Inside The Helmets Look At Alabama-Texas A&M, U-Dub & Ohio State-Penn State
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com College Football Blogger
Welcome to The Pigskin Prognosticator for Week 7,key college football games of Oct. 20-22.
It’s late October, the time of the year when the early excitement of the season is starting to be replaced by reality, and some of the teams are who we thought they were while others have turned out to be strangers we do not recognize.
Stanford, Notre Dame and Michigan State all seem to be wearing Halloween masks and Oregon has fallen faster than rain during a thunderstorm in Eugene.
The frenzy of the huge number of weekly big games of September has given way to just a few major matchups in October.
But this is college football, and each week it produces some incredible finishes – witness N.C. State’s missed field goal on the last play of the game last week that would have upset Clemson – which keeps us watching and interested every single week.
So let’s get onto this week’s games, which starts Thursday with a potential doozy. All times are in the Prognosticator’s West Coast time zone.
BYU at BOISE STATE (7:15 p.m., ESPN)
You want a prediction here? The game will be within three points and BYU will be setting up to throw a Hail Mary from the Boise 45-yard line as time expires. That’s the way the Cougars seem to be playing their toughest games the past couple of years. The Blue Turfs may have been a bit nervous last week while a past class of players watched, and they nearly turned the color of Eastern Washington’s field (red!) with embarrassment.
But they got the “W” and need this one to stay unbeaten and make a run at a New Year’s Day bowl. Winner: Boise State
OREGON at CAL (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Oregon is bringing a new meaning to the football term “wounded ducks,” as the once high-flying Waddlers are now just a bunch of flying feathers. The Papa Bears have been the model of inconsistency this year, having not won (or lost) two games in a row.
They lost to Oregon State in their last game but that was two weeks ago and considering they score about 40 points a game and the Waddlers’ “defense” can’t stop the water boy, the home fans will quickly be burying their faces in their Widmer Brothers craft beers. But hey, that’s not a bad alternative! Winner: Cal
NC STATE at LOUISVILLE (9 a.m., ABC)
Are these Wolfpack for real? They stopped Notre Dame cold in a hurricane and followed that up by grabbing the Tigers by the tail – only to let go at the end – at Clemson. Now they must pick themselves up off the hunting trail and challenge a bunch of angry birds. But what about the Cards?
They nearly folded against Duke last week – a bad roughing-the-kicker call on a missed FG may well have saved the season – and they may be feeling the pressure of all this national attention. Perhaps they will be okay as long as their coach doesn’t go off on any motorcycle rides with a female staffer.
Then again, the Prognosticator is starting to believe in the Wolfpack. Winner: NC State
TEXAS A&M at ALABAMA (12:30 p.m., CBS)
The Pachyderms went stomping through Rocky Top last week and squeezed the life out of the Big Orange. The Cadets march in hoping to be the mouse that scares these Red Elephants but Vegas thinks this will be a stampede, making Bama an incredible 17-point favorite. So, too, does the Prognosticator.
The Aggies’ only realistic chance to win this game is if Trevor Knight somehow turns into the second coming of Johnny Manziel and the visitors pull off some fluke plays.
The Cadets have been surviving on borrowed time, and their poor tackling and the fact that Knight can’t throw under pressure will have the Tide fans singing “Rammer Jammer” at the end of this one. Winner: Alabama
UTAH at UCLA (1 p.m., Fox)
The Baby Bears announced this week that they are “hopeful” Wonder Boy QB is ready for this game. Of course they are hopeful because without him, they practically have no chance! Without him, the offense is as unsteady as a partying Parrothead after all day in the Irvine Meadows parking lot.
The Utes play good D with just enough O to beat you, which means they seldom blow out teams, so if you can keep it close you’ve got a chance. And that will provide just enough of a bounce for the Trampolines to bounce back up this week Winner: UCLA
OREGON STATE at WASHINGTON (3:30 p.m., Pac-12)
The thing that will hurt U-Dub’s chances of making the College Football Playoff are things like, well, playing teams like Oregon State. The Beavers are up a creek without a paddle, having lost their starting QB and their backup on consecutive plays last week. They can’t build a dam strong enough to hold back the tidal wave the Huskies will unleash on them. Winner: Washington
OHIO STATE at PENN STATE (5 p.m., ABC)
The Buckeyes nearly took it on the chin last week and would have were a Wisconsin touchdown not called back with a somewhat questionable holding call. Now they go to a place called Happy Valley, which hasn’t exactly been too happy of late.
But it may be again on Saturday, for the Lions tend to roar when Ohio State comes to town. This one will be closer than many expect, plus it’s October, which is the the time of year chestnuts (or nuts, which is what a Buckeye is) fall from the trees. Winner: Penn State
MISSISSIPPI at LSU (6 p.m., ESPN)
This is the first big qualifying test for the “Coach O” Bowl, games that will determine whether or not Ed Orgeron will be named permanent coach of the once-roaring Tigers. Of course, he was once at Ole Miss. Colonel Rebel comes into a place called Death Valley as a wounded warrior, having been hog-tied last week in Fayetteville.
This is a old, bitter Southern rivalry, one that’s heated up recently as Old Miss has become a contender. Interim coaches usually start fast then fade and it’s hard to see a team as talented as the Rebels drop to 3-4. Winner: Ole Miss.