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College Football Week 8 Preview: LSU, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Northwestern, TCU and More
I'm filling in for Ross this week. Yesterday, I posted my SEC predictions and I'm carrying over two of those games as they are easily two of the six most interesting this week. There is some obvious connection between the name of this article (six pack) and alcoholic beverages so my recommendation for your college football viewing this weekend is to go out and pick up some Easy Rider from Terrapin as it's one of my favorite beers. I picked up some Bitter American from the 21st Amendment Brewery so I will be partaking in that on Saturday as you enjoy your Terrapin. Now onto the games....
Line: LSU by 3
LSU's defense versus Texas A&M's offense will be the main drawing card for this one. LSU's defense gives up 14 point per game and the Aggies are scoring 47. When you look at games versus ranked teams LSU's defense is only giving up 3.5 more points than their overall season average. This is a tough defense and I'm not sure Johnny Manziel is quite ready to handle these guys. I like A&M to stay in this game and keep it close, as LSU's offense hasn't exactly been lighting it up, but in the end I think you have to lean towards LSU.
The Pick: LSU 27 Texas A&M 20
Line: Nebraska by 7
This is a critical week for the Legends division as Michigan plays Michigan State, Iowa takes on Penn State and Nebraska travels to Northwestern. The Big Ten hasn't been the home to the best football this year but it is developing some interesting storylines for down the stretch as there is no clear cut favorite to win the conference (since Ohio State is on probation). So far this season Nebraska has scored at least 30 points in every game and that includes games against UCLA, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The problem for Nebraska is that they are also giving up big points this season (63 to Ohio State, 36 to UCLA and 27 to Wisconsin). Northwestern is undefeated at home this year with their lone loss coming against the best team they've played (Penn State on 10/6). My head tells me to take Nebraska in this game but I think the Wildcats might just have too many play-makers for the Cornhuskers defense to handle. Last year, Northwestern went to Nebraska and won by three points. I expect similar results this week.
The Pick: Northwestern 35 Nebraska 31
Line: Texas Tech by 1.5
The Red Raiders feasted on their usual suspect of patsies to open the season but since then they've gone 2-1 with impressive victories on the road against Iowa State and at home against a top five team in West Virginia.
Last year, Tuberville's team started out 4-0 before losing seven of their last eight games. Are they in for a similar fate this season? The one thing that feels different is the defense. I don't think their defense is as good as it's stats but I do think it's taken a good step forward under Art Kaufman. It's important to note that they also possess senior leadership on offense in QB Seth Doege (1891 yds, 21 TD), RB Eric Stephens (5.5 ypc) and WR Darrin Moore (7 TDs). TCU has done a good job of weathering the storm of losing Casey Pachall, Ed Wesley and Wayman James. But it doesn't end there.
As of October 5th, TCU had lost 20 players for the season due to injury, academic issue or arrests and that number doesn't include their QB Casey Pachall. Numbers like that catch up to you and despite being at home this week I think they fall victim to a surging Texas Tech ball club. For more Big 12 talk, make sure you catch the podcast I did with Allen Kenney from Blatant Homerism this week.
The Pick: Texas Tech 31 TCU 27
Line: Florida by 3.5
South Carolina went from world beaters at home versus Georgia to also-rans on the road against LSU. How good are they? Probably somewhere in between but I'm concerned about their ability to win a big game in the Swamp after playing two big-time games in a row and I'm also concerned about the availability of Marcus Lattimore and the fact that Kelcy Quarles will not be playing. The Gamecocks struggled to stop the run against LSU and that's Florida's bread and butter under Will Muschamp. Look for Florida to take the reigns of the SEC East with a victory.
The Pick: Florida 24 South Carolina 20
Line: West Virginia by 2.5
Kansas State comes into this game flying high and on a six game win streak and West Virginia is coming off of an embarrassing loss to Texas Tech. Is it that easy? Will Kansas State and Collin Klein roll over West Virginia?
The one reason to believe that is that the Wildcats have looked like a mentally tougher team than just about anybody else in college football. They have two wins this year by one score or less and last year they won eight games by one score or less. They know how to win close football games. West Virginia does have a couple of close victories this year over Maryland and Texas but Texas was exposed last week.
The question comes down to if West Virginia is going to be able to bounce back from last week and if they can contain the heart and soul of Kansas State (Collin Klein). For Kansas State, the question is if they can stop the Mountaineers offense from getting on track and if not, can they keep up on the scoreboard. I've been saying since the pre-season that the Big 12 was going to beat itself up this year with no one coming out of conference play unblemished. That's why I believe that the Mountaineers bounce back this week and get a big win at home.
The Pick: West Virginia 38 Kansas State 34
Line: Iowa by 2.5
I know what you are thinking. Penn State vs Iowa? Two Big Ten games in the six pack? It's almost as if Ross isn't taking the week off. I know, I know...but I just think this (and Northwestern/Nebraska) is going to be a closer game than FSU/Miami or Clemson/Virginia Tech. This game is also very important because both of these teams are undefeated in conference play.
Under Bill O'Brien, Penn State has gotten better as the season has progressed and they are on a four game winning streak. Iowa is in the same boat as they have been very shaky this season but somehow managed to pull off a double OT win at Michigan State last week. Offensively, Iowa has struggled mightily this year and second year starter at QB James Vandenberg has thrown just two TDs this year. Sophomore RB Mark Weisman has come on strong over the last four weeks and has four straight 100 yard rushing games and is averaging two TDs per game since being inserted into the line-up.
The Hawkeyes hope for this game lies on the shoulders of Weisman. For Penn State, Matt McGloin is blossoming under the tutelage of O'Brien. McGloin is completing 7% more of his passes this season and has 12 TDs vs 2 INTs compared with last years 8 TDs vs 5 INTs. With the loss of Silas Redd, the Nittany Lions aren't as balanced as last year but based on how last years offense looked that's a good thing. All signs point to Penn State being the better team but this will be their toughest road game so far this season.
The Pick: Penn State 25 Iowa 18
Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.