FOLKS. We’re officially in the latter half of the season, and each game carries more weight, more importance, and more consequences as the season marches towards November.
And this weekend has a little bit of everything: big time conference match-ups, trap games for the country’s top teams… and, coming off of South Carolina’s upset over Georgia a week ago, a feeling that anything can happen, now.
So, what will we be watching? Let’s dig in, folks…
Game of the Week:
(7)Penn State vs. (16)Michigan
Saturday, October 19 | 7:30PM
ESPN Spread: Penn State -9
If you had asked me before the season started which team I thought would have all the momentum - and which team desperately needed a win to keep their season afloat - heading into this B1G match-up, the roles would have no doubt been reversed.
Michigan, heralded as one of the most talented rosters Jim Harbaugh had coached in Ann Arbor heading into this season, has struggled to find their footing thus far in 2019. Even at 5-1, they’ve looked shaky against the likes of Middle Tennessee and Army, then lost big to Wisconsin in week three. And while they’ve looked good against Rutgers and Illinois in their previous two games… well… it’s Rutgers and Illinois - plus, their victory against Iowa was a hard-fought game at home. They’re in need of a big, statement win to insert themselves back into the national conversation, and their trip to State College will give them the perfect opportunity.
Meanwhile, Penn State - who lost QB Trace McSorley and star RB Miles Sanders coming into this season - has cruised to a 6-0 record on the backs of one of the country’s best defenses, and a surprisingly efficient offense under first year starting QB Sean Clifford. But the Nittany Lions have been dinged for not having to beat top teams thus far, a moniker they were able to shed a bit following their victory in Iowa City a week ago. Couple that with a victory over Michigan this weekend, and suddenly the country could have a new contender to start talking about.
Sneakily the Most Fun Game This Week
(12)Oregon vs. (25)Washington
Saturday, October 19 | 3:30PM EST
ESPN Spread: Oregon -3
Speaking of narratives we thought would be different, let's turn our attention to this game between Pac-12 powers, the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies.
This match-up has been circled on the nation’s calendar from the beginning, as the only Pac-12 teams to reach the College Football Playoff seemed to have the horses to take the west coast there once more in 2019. But both have stumbled along the way - with Washington picking up two losses already and Oregon blowing a game to Auburn. Suddenly, it feels as though the Pac-12 could once again be on the outside looking in.
But I’ve still got this game circled, because these border rivals have a conference championship race on the line… and both teams have the talent to make this one of the best match-ups of the weekend.
For Oregon, QB Justin Herbert may be getting overshadowed by the national conversation around Heisman candidates like Jalen Hurts, Jonathan Taylor, and Tua Tagovailoa - but behind one of the country’s best offensive lines, he’s still putting up massive numbers: 1,602 yards, 17 touchdowns and just a single interception on 69.1% passing. If the rushing attack can help improve the Ducks’ red zone offense, we could really see them come to life in the second half of the year.
But Washington will be ready for Herbert - as their incredibly aggressive defense seems to be finding its stride, and are coming off an absolutely suffocating performance against Arizona. On the flip side, their offense has waffled between exceptional and head-scratching - but if we see the former tomorrow against the Ducks… watch out, we could be in for a classic.
What Else to Watch For:
Trap Games for Some of the Country’s Best
Outside of the top games between ranked teams - plenty of the country’s top teams will face some dangerous trap games on the road this weekend.
Wisconsin, Auburn, Ohio State, Clemson, LSU, and Florida will all face conference competition away from home - with the Gators going to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks just one week after Georgia fell to South Carolina at home.
And while all of these teams should take care of business this weekend - it’s also one of those weeks where one of these teams might get caught looking ahead to higher profile match-ups around the corner. Most notably, the Badgers and Buckeyes are one week away from the B1G’s most highly anticipated games in Columbus, so maintaining focus tomorrow will be key for both squads on the road.
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