We’re almost ready to do some real deal hatin’ as rivalry weekend beckons with all the turkey we can eat. But it’s not quite here yet, so before we can get to the true ancient Grudge matches, Let’s eat our appetizer in the penultimate week of the regular season.
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Illinois at Michigan (-18)
There really is no way to sugarcoat it: Illinois doesn’t match up well with Michigan. The Wolverines have built their brand on essentially being a supercharged, Playoff-caliber, Big Ten West-style team. It worked last year when they broke through, and they’re certainly chugging along this year. Illinois had a brilliant season to date and it’s unfortunately coming down to earth, but can they find a way to ride their defense to a win here?
Matchups to watch: Blake Corum vs. the rest of the Heisman field. Nobody’s really emerged as a clear frontrunner, and Corum will need the stage next week against Ohio State to make a truly compelling case for the award. Still continuing his illustrative streak of 100-yard rushing games against the Illini would continue to add to his Heisman resume.
TCU (-2.5) at Baylor
Another week, another time to wonder if this is the week someone beats the Frogs in a tough Big 12. TCU won a different way last week — with gutsy defense — en route to beating Texas on the road. The question is if the Bears can trip them up in a road game that’s not too far from Fort Worth. TCU is favored this week, so they’re getting at least social media respect from the oddsmakers.
Matchups to watch: Kendre Miller vs. Baylor’s front. The Bears need to be ready for what TCU’s pounding running back can bring to the table. Texas found out last week that his Patience and burst can be an Absolute gamebreaker. Nose tackle Siaki Ika will be chiefly tasked with clogging up the middle to make sure he doesn’t have much daylight.
Texas (-9) at Kansas, 3:30 p.m
If Kansas wins this game it might be an upset, but it won’t be something seismic. The Jayhawks are Bowl eligible and legit this season and looking to put a capper on an impressive year with further wins.
Matchups to watch: Texas’ defense vs. defensive busts. Kansas uses rampant eye candy in the form of shifts and motions to try and throw defenses off. Texas can be susceptible to poor eye discipline, and it’s the only way TCU generated explosive plays in their 17-10 win over the Horns last week. They’ll have to make sure they’re keying on the right things in this game.
Iowa at Minnesota (-2.5), 4 p.m
Look, someone’s gotta win the Big Ten West — as surprising as that sounds given the absolute logjam in the standings. Iowa has left little doubt in their last three games, and it’s not just because they’ve played bad teams. Purdue and Wisconsin are fairly middle of the road. But the Gophers’ stout defense makes this a Tricky proposition for the Hawkeyes.
Matchup To watch: Iowa vs. field positioning. It’s no secret Iowa’s Offensive isn’t so great, but one of the things it truly benefits from is Deeply advantageous field Positioning thanks to its good defense and special teams. It allows their offense to start in advantageous positions, and they certainly do. However, if Minnesota can prevent that, largely due to winning the turnover battle, the Gophers should have a shot to be just fine.
Stanford (+4.5) at Cal, 5:30 p.m
Cal may be on a losing streak, but they’ve kept plenty of their games close over the last few weeks Meanwhile Stanford has gotten blown out in their last three games after some razor thin wins. Does this game have Pac-12 stakes? Well. But is it a big rivalry Tilt worth paying attention to? You bet it is. This game is the 40th anniversary of one of the most epic moments in college football and any chance to celebrate that is fine by us.
Matchups to watch: Cal’s offense vs. Stanford’s third down defense. The Golden Bears aren’t very efficient on third down and the one thing Stanford does fairly well is stop teams on third down.
Boise State (-14) at Wyoming, 7 p.m
You might have forgotten about Boise after their early season performance, but they’re in the driver’s seat right now for a conference title berth. In its way is Wyoming, which needs this game if it hopes to win the Mountain division.
Matchups to watch: Wyoming’s offense vs. Boise State’s defense. The Broncos are absolutely stout on defense and that’s not a good matchup for a Wyoming offense that has only scored more than 28 points in one FBS game this season.
Oklahoma State (+7) at Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m
These two rivals limp into this game with one team (Oklahoma) needing the game to put legitimate concerns about Bowl Eligibility to bed. The Cowboys broke a losing streak in this game last year, and we’d better Treasure Bedlam while we can as this is one of the last times we’ll see these two teams on the field together.
Matchups to watch: OU’s defensive backs vs. Spencer Sanders. A much maligned unit this year, Oklahoma’s backend must find a way to confuse Sanders. Sanders has been injured lately and didn’t even start the Iowa State game although he did finish it. How he plays in this game will be something to monitor.
USC (-2.5) at UCLA, 8 p.m
This is the big one in the Pac-12 and nationally this week. If USC can win it, it’ll be the first crown Jewel in their Playoff case with Notre Dame next week and a possible Pac-12 title tilt. But these Bruins won’t be easy to beat despite the fact that they tripped up last week against Arizona. Expect plenty of points in this Matchup with two defenses that can be susceptible to the big play and the possible return of the Jordan Addison/Mario Williams WR combo for USC.
Matchups to watch: UCLA’s passing game in a shootout. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has certainly turned a corner this season, but can this UCLA passing offense potentially play from behind where points will be required and generate explosive passing plays down the field. They may need them with a USC opponent that can put points up in a hurry.
Utah (-2) at Oregon, 10:30 p.m
Oregon’s playing for serious pride here after the Utes absolutely punked them and ruined any Playoff or conference Championship aspirations they had last season. Utah may be missing some key pieces on offense due to injury, but Oregon’s been a seemingly automatic 40-point scorer this season. Can they continue that? Against the Utes?
Matchups to watch: Oregon’s run game vs. Utah. A lot has been made about Bo Nix’s Resurgence at quarterback, but Oregon’s running game has an opportunity to establish itself here and if it can establish a physical tone in the process of righting the wrongs that occurred last season then that would certainly be a plus.