NCAA football top games important for national contenders
October 10, 2017 3:04 AM
by Tony Mejia
The second Saturday in October delivered a pair of upsets no one saw coming.
Iowa State took down Oklahoma despite starting a quarterback that has been a backup all season out of necessity. Michigan falling to Michigan State wasn’t as big a shocker given the rivalry factor, but the Wolverines saw their national title hopes go up in smoke against a young Spartans team nowhere near as polished as other teams Mark Dantonio has assembled in East Lansing.
This week’s top matchups feature dangerous games for national contenders, the best of which features the team that prevailed in last weekend’s most exciting finish.
Georgia Tech at Miami (Fla.): Malik Rosier found fellow junior Darrell Langham on the final pass he was going to throw in regulation against Florida State in Tallahassee. If it was incomplete, the plan was to send one of the nation’s most effective kickers out for the game-tying field goal. Instead, Rosier caught it, reached for the goal line and was ruled to have crossed it before his knee hit. It was simply too close to call, so the ruling on the field rightfully prevailed and the touchdown was deemed good. Miami won and covered as a road favorite, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the rivalry as FSU’s disastrous season continued.
This matchup was originally expected to be played on Thursday night, but the ACC moved it back to Saturday because the ‘Canes would’ve been put at too great a disadvantage playing just a few days after what was originally scheduled to be a day off but instead wound up being the date for the matchup with the Seminoles to be rescheduled for following the original Sept. 16 cancellation due to Hurricane Irma.
The Yellow Jackets will still be the more rested team since they haven’t played since dominating North Carolina on Sept. 30, but at least Miami won’t have to turn around and play a mid-week game. Considering UM has to replace top rusher Mark Walton, who is now out for the season after ankle surgery, this is going to be a huge challenge given the lack of preparation time for the fairly unique offense Georgia Tech runs.
Both teams top the ACC’s Coastal Division at 2-0, so the winner here moves into the driver’s seat to secure a spot opposite Clemson or N.C. State in December’s conference championship game. Miami has won seven of eight meetings in the series, losing in Atlanta in 2014. This will be Georgia Tech’s first true road game and are 1-6 in these over the last two seasons.
Auburn at LSU: One of the projected games of the year isn’t quite what it was expected to be due to the early losses LSU has suffered and the fact Auburn was so soundly beaten soundly at Clemson, but both come off victories and feature talented defenses filled with players who are going to proceed to the next level.
This battle of Tigers also features at least one national title contender since Auburn will get to host Georgia and Alabama in November, which means it essentially will control its own destiny if it can avoid a second loss. After an uninspiring start that included a 24-10 home win against FCS lightweight Mercer, Gus Malzahn’s team has beaten Mizzou, Mississippi State and Ole Miss by a combined margin of 144-47.
Ed Orgeron’s seat in Baton Rouge grew scalding hot following a Homecoming loss to Troy, but his Tigers went on the road last week and pulled out a victory over Florida. This is definitely a crossroads game for his staff and young roster, who will now put their goods on display against the most talented opponent theyve seen to date. The home team has won 15 of 17 in the series, so Auburn is going to have to overcome a rough history at Tiger Stadium to keep its championship dreams alive.
Oklahoma vs. Texas: This year’s installment of the Red River Rivalry would’ve topped this list if not for what transpired in Norman last Saturday. Iowa State had lost 18 consecutive games against the Sooners and was a 30-point underdog considering its starting QB had walked away from the team abruptly, citing medical reasons, before what promised to be their toughest road game of the season. There’s no way to deny that Oklahoma was caught looking ahead to this annual showdown in Dallas, which is where they’ve grown most accustomed to blowing undefeated seasons, having dropped games to the unranked Longhorns in two of the last four years.
The Longhorns have dropped games to Maryland and USC already and narrowly avoided coming into this one under .500 by rallying to hold off Kansas State in double-OT on Saturday night. This matchup will feature coaches tasting this rivalry game for the first time in the head seat with Tom Herman and Lincoln Riley squaring off. Oklahoma dropped from third to No. 12 in the AP poll and has its work cut out for it to try and get back in the college football playoff mix.
Former Heisman favorite Baker Mayfield had a rough second half against the Cyclones, contributing to OU’s demise by leading only one drive that ended in a touchdown over the game’s final 30 minutes. Texas true freshman QB Sam Ehlinger passed for over 300 yards and ran for over 100 to spark the comeback win over K-State, continuing to separate himself in the race for snaps given how many talented recruits Texas has at the position. A head-to-head matchup against Mayfield offers him an opportunity to remove all doubt, not to mention moving to 3-0 in Big 12 play before Oklahoma State arrives in Austin for another showdown.
Utah at USC: Both of these schools suffered their first loss last week, which means the Pac-12’s only undefeated teams reside in the state of Washington and play in the North Division. These two remain the favorites to claim the South and ultimately get back to a conference championship game, and potentially, a spot in the four-team playoff.
Sam Darnold had another rough outing in a Friday night loss to Washington State last week, while the Utes squandered opportunities to really capture national attention by taking down Stanford and coming into this one undefeated. Although Utah’s defense did a nice job against Heisman hopeful Bryce Love, its offense couldn’t answer the bell and will have to respond in the Los Angelses Coliseum as the team plays its first game of the season outside its home state.
Kyle Whittingham has defeated the Trojans in two of the last three season and will definitely have a great game plan in store for Darnold, who is under pressure to demonstrate he can continue to put up prolific numbers while taking better care of the football.
Others: TCU at Kansas State, Boise State at San Diego State, Oregon at Stanford, Ohio State at Nebraska, Washington at Arizona State, Navy at Memphis, Texas Tech at West Virginia, Washington State at California, NC State at Pittsburgh, Purdue at Wisconsin, Texas A&M at Florida, UCLA at Arizona.