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Friday Football Thoughts: The weather may be coolin', but the season is heating up...

Friday Football Thoughts 9.27
Rent Like A Champion
Friday Football Thoughts 9.27

Well it feels pretty wild to say, but we’re almost halfway through the college football regular season. And as the weather turns a bit brisker, the conference season heats up - as narratives begin to collide amongst the country’s top teams.

So, which games should you be watching in college football’s first October slate of games? Here are our picks...

The Game Everyone Is Talking About:
(7)Auburn at (10)Florida

Saturday October 5 @ 3:30 PM EST
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
ESPN Spread: Auburn -3

Two storied SEC programs meet in the Swamp in one of the most anticipated conference games of the season.

Florida is led by backup-turned-starter Kyle Trask at quarterback. Trask led the Gators to a comeback win over Kentucky before winning his first two collegiate starts. He attacks the middle of the field and isn’t afraid to throw the ball downfield and let his talented wide receivers like Van Jefferson make a play on the ball.

Auburn’s signal caller will be true freshman Bo Nix. Nix has looked comfortable in the starting role, and he’s thrown just two interceptions to seven touchdowns this year. He’s more of a runner than Trask, and he averages 4.9 yards per rush.

The defenses are both at the top of their class. Florida has recorded 24 sacks in five games, good for second in the country. The Gators also lead the nation in interceptions with nine. And, to top it off, the Gators have the best red zone defense in the country, allowing opponents to score in just five of their 13 red zone attempts with only three touchdowns. The Tigers have a fierce trio up front with Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, and Nick Coe. Auburn’s defense isn’t to shabby in the red zone either, allowing opponents to score in 12 of 16 attempts.

The offensive line that can hold back the other team’s aggressive front seven and limit pressure on its quarterback is winning this game.

And I trust Florida to win this defensive slug-fest, 20-14.

- Betsy Goodfriend

The Game That Could Be A Turning Point
(19)Michigan vs. (14)Iowa

Saturday, October 5 | 12:00PM EST
Michigan Stadium
ESPN Spread: Michigan -3.5

The B1G is quickly turning into one of the country’s most intriguing conferences this season - and the narratives surrounding Michigan and Iowa heading into this match-up are among those that exemplify that feeling most.

For Michigan, an inconsistent start to the season has put coach Jim Harbaugh squarely on the hot seat - and even with a 52-0 victory over Rutgers a week ago… well… it’s Rutgers. Their match-up with Iowa tomorrow could be the truest barometer we have as to whether this could be a bounceback year for the Wolverines, or if Michigan fans will once again be waiting until next year to make their run at B1G title.

The opposite is true for Iowa, who - despite having tons of talent and arguably the country’s most stable program under Kirk Ferentz - are flying a bit under the radar when measured against the Michigans, the Wisconsins, and the Ohio States of the B1G conference. That’s a shame for those who have overlooked them, because behind star senior QB Nate Stanley, a tremendous rushing attack, and a defense that - despite a few injuries - is statistically one of the best in the country, something special might be brewing in Iowa this season.

You can bet the Hawkeyes have had this game circled on their calendar for a while, as it’s a chance to make a real statement about where they should be in the conference pecking order. I think they get it done, and walk away with a huge win on the road in a defensive chess game, 24-13.

- Hank Greene

That Other Big Ten Game:
(25)Michigan State at (4)Ohio State

Saturday, October 5 @ 7:30PM EST
Ohio Stadium
ESPN Spread: Ohio State -20

I know the Iowa-Michigan game has everyone excited for the Big Ten’s chance to prove that the conference is the second-strongest (or maybe even strongest) in the country, but there are not one, but two ranked Big Ten matchups this week.

Michigan State travels to Columbus to take on the high-powered Buckeyes on primetime television, a daunting task of which no one in the country is jealous.

One interesting matchup in this game will be each team’s running backs against the opposing defense. Michigan State is fourth in the country in rushing defense, allowing just 55.8 rushing yards per game. Ohio State isn’t too far behind the Spartans at No. 15 in the country. The Buckeyes allow just 85 yards on the ground per game.

On the opposite side of that matchup, Ohio State averages 281.6 yards per game on the ground. Running back J.K. Dobbins already has 654 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Justin Fields helps out in the run game as well, with seven of his 46 rushes going for touchdowns this year.

The Spartans are well behind the Buckeyes at 144.6 yards per game, but those rush yards account for almost 35% of their total yards. Unlike Fields, quarterback Brian Lewerke doesn’t run as much near the end zone, but he still averages a respectable four yards per carry over 37 carries.

Even though the Buckeyes have been blowing out all their opponents this year, I don’t think they cover the spread because the Spartans are by far the best defense Ohio State has faced this season. I’ll take the Buckeyes 49-31.

Betsy Goodfriend

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