This is a very strange week in college football.
Nine of the top 25 teams in the AP poll are not playing this week and that means we have only a few marquee games on the schedule. However, after a profitable Week 9, I feel good about this card even without a bunch of big games to breakdown.
The teams that are playing this week have an opportunity to get some attention from the voters. Specifically, the SEC East has a chance to see who is most likely going to be its representative in the SEC Championship. Also, the American has a monster game in the West division as SMU tries to stay undefeated on the road at Memphis.
While not all the big boys are playing, that doesn’t mean we are going to sit on our hands. Let’s make some picks for Week 10 in college football.
No. 6 Florida vs. No. 8 Georgia
On a weekend where four of the top five teams in the country are not playing, these two get together on a neutral field in the game of the weekend. This annual game between these two rivals always has major implications for the SEC East, and this year is no different.
Florida has lost only one game this season and it came two weeks ago on the road at now-No. 1 LSU. The Gators just couldn’t stop Joe Burrow and Co. and gave up a season-high 42 points. In fact, no team has scored more than 27 points against this Gator defense outside of that LSU loss, and Florida will need their defense to play well if it wants to upset the ‘Dawgs. UF is giving up just 15.8 points per game, good for 12th best in all of FBS college football.
Georgia has only lost one game as well, but it was a shocker. UGA kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a field goal in overtime against South Carolina to put a huge dent in Georgia’s title chances. Before that loss, UGA had been rolling over opponents and had their eyes fixed on a return to the college football playoffs. The defense is still a strength of this team, ranking fifth in the country in points per game allowed (10.6 pts) and seventh in the country in yards per game allowed (266.7 yds).
These offenses are both content with handing the ball off for most plays and then go for an occasional deep ball off play-action. Georgia’s QB Jake Fromm came into the season with the hopes of being in the Heisman race but he has only thrown for nine touchdowns compared to three interceptions. Florida’s signal caller Kyle Trask wasn’t expected to play much this season but he has done well since coming in for the injured Feleipe Franks.
More than likely, this is a low scoring game, so I don’t hate a play on the under. I think Georgia is the better team and will win, but 6.5 feels too heavy.
PICK: Florida +6.5
No. 15 SMU at No. 24 Memphis
Even if SMU doesn’t win another game this season, 2019 has been a massive success. The undefeated Mustangs are ranked in the Top 15 for the first time since the NCAA gave their program the death penalty following the 1985 season. Now, SMU gets to play a game against another ranked team with ESPN’s College Gameday on site. A few years ago, this type of season would have seemed unthinkable, but now SMU has a real chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Memphis features an offense that is averaging over 470 yards per game and a defense that has played well enough this season for a 7-1 record. The Tigers are behind SMU in the race for the AAC West division after they lost to Temple on the road a few weeks ago. While Memphis has scored nearly 40 points per game this season, its defense has given up 30 or more points three times this season. With the Mustangs averaging 43 points per game, the Tigers will have their hands full on Saturday night.
Former Texas QB Shane Buechele has been awesome for the high-tempo Mustang offense this season. Buechele has thrown for 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions and his 2,325 yards is ninth best in the country. Memphis gave up 309 yards passing to Tulsa QB Zach Smith last week and the Tigers were lucky to escape with a 42-41 victory.
The Mustangs have lost five straight games to Memphis but I think this is the season for SMU to break through. I don’t hate a money line play but I’ll take the points.
PICK: SMU +6
No. 14 Michigan at Maryland
Michigan crushed Notre Dame last week. Now Michigan has to keep the good momentum going. That’s the question for the Wolverines as they take on a Maryland team that has completely fallen apart. Can UM string together back-to-back dominating performances?
The Terps were ranked at one point this season but have lost five of six since and just gave up 52 to Minnesota last week. The Wolverines offense really is starting to come together and QB Shea Patterson is playing well enough to allow the running game to take over. Hassan Haskins ran for 149 yards against the Irish after only being able to record 28 yards against Penn State. Expect him to have a big game against a defense that gave up 321 yards on the ground to Minnesota last week.
Maryland’s offense has been just as bad as its defense. The Terps have only scored more than 17 points twice over the last six weeks since scoring 63 on Syracuse in Week 2. Maryland has been trying to find a hot hand and all three quarterbacks on the roster might play in this one. Michigan’s defense is only giving up 18.4 points per game, so most likely this isn’t the week that Maryland gets their offense back on track.
I am going to lay the big number here and expect the Wolverines to keep the good vibes going by blowing out the Terps.
PICK: Michigan -21
No. 9 Utah at Washington
I have to say that I really like Utah. In fact, I might like Utah more than I like Oregon and I am in love with the Ducks. The Utes defense is putting up numbers that make you wonder if this team could do damage if they were able to sneak into the playoffs. Utah is ranked fourth in points per game given up, third in yards per game given up, and is No. 1 in the nation in rushing yards given up per game, yielding only 56.4 per contest.
This Utah team held Washington State’s offense to a season-low of 13 points. The Cougars average 41.8 points per game; that’s sixth-best in the country. The Utes shut out Cal 35-0 last week which was their second shutout of the season and fourth game of the year where they yielded one or less touchdowns. The Utes are for real on D.
The good news for the Huskies is that Washington has owned this series. Utah has lost 12 of their last 13 trips to Seattle and lost twice last year to Washington. The first was a 21-7 loss in Salt Lake City and the second was 10-3 in the Pac-12 title game. Washington has also had extra time to prepare for this game coming off its second open week of the season.
Zack Moss is the best running back in the Pac-12, in my opinion. The senior has run for 10 touchdowns this season and the team’s only loss came at USC where he didn’t play. With Moss, QB Tyler Huntley’s play-action is devastating and he has thrown 10 touchdowns to just one interception and allows Utah to lean on their defense.
Utah is too good for Washington. It’s a tough place to play for Utah but I think they win and cover against the Huskies.
PICK: Utah -3.5
No. 7 Oregon at USC
This game could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game later this fall as Oregon has all but locked up the North Division and USC is trying to keep pace with Utah for the South crown. With that backdrop, this game takes on massive significance for the conference race but also for the College Football Playoffs. Oregon can make the playoffs if they are a 12-1 Pac-12 champ with their only loss being to Auburn on a neutral field.
The Trojans have a real home field advantage and this game is at night. The environment will really be rocking and the Ducks have only played 2 true road games so far this season. Now, Oregon has run the table since losing to Auburn in the opener in Dallas but this USC team has a defensive front that is going to give the Ducks problems all night. USC beat Utah already this season and beat Colorado on the road last week.
Oregon came from behind to beat Washington State 37-35 on a last-second field goal last time out and the week prior, the Ducks barely beat Washington 35-31 by stopping the Huskies on a 4th and 3 with less than a minute to play. A win is a win but teams are getting closer and closer to stopping this seven-game winning streak for Oregon.
This is a play on the number as much as anything. I think the line is a little too big. I like the Trojans to cover as I think this is a field goal game either way.
PICK: USC +4.5