College Football Previews: Texas, Oregon, Oklahoma, LSU and More

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Oh, Texas Tech.  What do you think you're doing?  How can you beat Oklahoma in a primetime game in Norman and then turn around and lose a home game to Iowa State?  And not just "lose," either... you got completely and utterly worked like a speedbag by the Cyclones. 

Fair play to Iowa State: they played extremely well and are clearly a bit better than the doormat most people expected them to be this year, but still... how in the world do you go from upsetting Oklahoma on the road to getting thrashed by Iowa State at home?  Utter insanity. 

Texas, meanwhile, did exactly what they were supposed to do last week: eviscerate an utterly hopeless Kansas squad.  Mission accomplished, Horns.  Through four league games, Texas has so far done about what was expected of them: lost to the teams better than they are (the Oklahoma schools) and beat the teams clearly worse than them (Kansas, Iowa State).  This is their first crack at another member of the Big 12's middle class, so it should be a good measuring stick for just where they stand in the conference.  Two weeks ago, I might have favored Tech here to pull another road upset.  It's unlikely that they'll play as poorly as they did last week against Iowa State (even on the road against a better opponent), but that loss has shaken whatever fledgling confidence I had in them.  Also, if Iowa State could manhandle them in the trenches and rack up gobs and gobs of rushing yards, then a Texas team that's quietly developed its own solid run game should have little trouble getting things going on the ground.
THE PICK: Texas 38, Texas Tech 24 

Louisville (4-4, 2-1) at #23 West Virginia (6-2, 2-1) (12pm ET,
FUN FACT: Can you name the only two FBS teams who haven't allowed more than 25 points in a game this year?  One of them is (no surprise) Alabama.  Would you believe that the other one is... Louisville?  Yes, truly.  In fact, they've only allowed more than 20 points in two games this year - 24 in a loss to Florida International and 25 in a loss to Cincinnati.  West Virginia, by comparison, has only been held to 25 points or less twice -- 21 in a home loss to LSU and 23 in a road loss to Syracuse.  In every other game, they've scored at least 34 games.  But here's the thing: for as stout as Louisville's defense has been this year, their offense is utterly putrid -- they're averaging just 17.6 ppg, "good" for 113th in the country. 

Their only hope to win this game is via their defense; if this turns into a shootout, they're going to get smoked because they don't have anywhere near the horses to keep up with the 'eers.  Unfortunately, for as good as their defense has been, they haven't seen an offense like West Virginia yet this year.  They might have some early success against WVU, but eventually Dana Holgorsen will pick the lock that is Charlie Strong's defense... and that will be all she wrote for the Cardinals.
THE PICK: West Virginia 31, Louisville 14 

Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2) at #7 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) (3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Ah, Texas A&M.  If only football games were thirty minutes long.  Then you'd be undefeated and in the thick of the national title race.  Unfortunately, they're sixty minutes long and you have three losses because your closing abilities are highly suspect.  No coffee for you.  On the bright side, they have a decent puncher's chance in this game because they are well-suited to exploit the glaring weakness in Oklahoma that Texas Tech exposed a few weeks ago: a very porous pass defense. 

Ryan Tannehill may only make Honorable Mention All-Big 12, but that's more a reflection on the excellent quality of quarterbacks in the Big 12 this year (Landry Jones, Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden) than it is a dig on his abilities; he's a very capable passer and more than able to exploit a soft defense.  Oklahoma's offense could get even more one-dimensional with the season-ending injury to leading running back Dominique Whaley.  Even with all that said, though, can I really pick Texas A&M to play a full game on the road?  No.  Not a chance.  The Aggies will keep it close for a while, but Oklahoma will inevitably pull away in the fourth quarter.
THE PICK: Oklahoma 38, Texas A&M 24 

#12 South Carolina (7-1, 5-1) at #8 Arkansas (7-1, 3-1) (7:15pm ET, ESPN)
If two top-ten ranked SEC teams* play a game and no one talks about it, did it really happen?  With LSU-Alabama sucking up all the oxygen in college football this week, we're faced with that rarest of occurences: a top-ten tilt that's honestly, legitimately underrated.  Granted, South Carolina feels like a highly suspect top-ten team this late in the season; it's tough to find a game where they've looked genuinely impressive since their win over Georgia... in the second week of the season.  It doesn't help that two-thirds of their much-hyped trio of offensive stars is no longer with the team: Marcus Lattimore, officially the best SEC running back not named Trent Richardson, is lost for the year due to injury and Stephen Garcia finally ran out of chances with the Visored One, leaving Alshon Jeffery as the Gamecocks' only reliable offensive star. 

Arkansas has hung under the radar for most of the season, emerging only to get beat handily by Alabama before pulling off a stunning comeback over Texas A&M and cruising past Auburn.  With their offense imploding, the defense has been the star of the show for South Carolina and much like Louisville in the Louisville-West Virginia game, they may need to come up with a Herculean effort to give the 'Cocks a chance to win this game.  I don't have much faith that they can do that on the road; they'll put up a good fight and keep things close for a while, but ultimately the offense's inability to do much will wear them down and Tyler Wilson will help Arkansas pull away late.
THE PICK: Arkansas 27, South Carolina 13 

* Well, that would be top-ten ranked in other polls. The CFBZ Top 25 shares my skepticism in the Gamecocks. 

#1 LSU (8-0, 5-0) at #2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) (8pm ET, CBS)
What more can I add to the litany of analysis on this game that's been provided here and across the entire college football corner of the interwebs?  This game has received the sort of attention and hype normally reserved for the BCS National Championship Game -- and for good reason, since (a) the winner of this game will be the odds-on favorite to win that game in two months and (b) this game might be better than that game.  Choose your favorite hyperbolic metaphor for this game; they all fit: heavyweight title fight, clash of the titans, etc.  This is two of the best defenses in the country -- two defenses dripping with future NFL talent -- led by two of the most fascinating and successful coaches in the sport today. 

This is going to be "big boy footblal" writ large.  It will be violent and hard-hitting.  It will be an unbelievable spectacle.  And you will watch it because to do otherwise is unthinkable.  So... who wins?  I want to pick Les Miles.  I want to say that The Mad Hatter will pull some unbelievable tricks out of his hat to turn the tide (er, pardon the pun) in this one and guide LSU to a stirring upset win.  But I just can't shake the feeling that picking against this Bama team at home seems like a mistake.  Saban's defense is too good, his offensive line is too dominant, and Trent Richardon is too otherworldly.  I just don't see the Crimson Tide being denied on Saturday night.
THE PICK: Alabama 21, LSU 17 

#6 Oregon (7-1, 5-0) at Washington (6-2, 4-1) (10:30pm ET, FSN)
Ah, nothing like a good ol' border war to wrap up the day's football festivities.  If you get your fill of brutal defense in the LSU-Bama game and just want to see blazingly fast offense and the game played at warp speed, tune in to this game.  Oregon doesn't recognize any speeds slower than Mach 3 and in Keith Price and Chris Polk, Washington has the horses on offense to keep up -- for a while. 

Although unless Washington has dramatically improved their run defense after Stanford ground them into paste, it's hard to see how they'll have much success slowing down the Oregon offense in this game; Oregon doesn't run the ball in the same grinding fashion that Stanford does, but they're still an elite rushing offense and they have to be licking their chops at the prospect of facing a defense that's been gashed as much as Washington's defense has this year.  Unless Price and Polk have the best days of their career, I don't think Washington can keep up with the Ducks here.
THE PICK: Oregon 42, Washington 24