JACKSON’S PICK: OHIO 31-17… EMU pulls the upset. Loss.
Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 30
JACKSON’S PICK: ARKANSAS 35-28… Arkansas in a close one. Win.
Stanford 17, Notre Dame 10
JACKSON’S PICK: STANFORD 27-17… Stanford pulls it out. That’s a win.
Baylor 49, Kansas 7
JACKSON’S PICK: BAYLOR 34-24… That did not go well. Loss.
Central Michigan (5-2) @ Toledo (5-1), 11:00AM CDT ESPN3
As promised, I’ve got your weekly dose of MACtion, and this one sure is a doozy. Both of these teams have already made their fair share of noise in the college football world. If you don’t remember, let me give you a refresher. Central Michigan is that one team that marched into Stillwater, Oklahoma and fought tooth and nail with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and ended up beating OSU, even though they technically shouldn’t have. Remember? It was on that crazy hail mary play at the end of the game that should have never happened due to the boneheaded intentional grounding by OSU. Yeah, that team. They’re pretty good. Toledo could very well be undefeated right now, and if they were, I think they would be breathing down the necks of Western Michigan, more so than they already are, I suppose. The only loss the Rockets have came on a last second field goal at BYU. So, you could make very strong cases that both of these two mid major conference schools are incredibly talented.
Central Michigan, all scrutiny aside, put on one heck of a show against Oklahoma State, and in my opinion, whether they should have gotten that final play or not, they deserved to win that game. For any non power five school to go into a power five team’s stadium and stick with them for the entire 60 minutes, that team deserves to win, although it very often does not work out that way. That game did, and though many college football fans, primarily those from Stillwater, Oklahoma, argue that game was a fluke, I am here to tell you that the team isn’t. Led by senior quarterback Cooper Rush, the Chippewas average over 32 points per game. Rush has thrown for over 2000 yards in seven contests so far this season and has distributed 18 touchdown passes to seven different receivers. The most heavily targeted receiver for the Chippewas is Corey Willis. The junior has caught 36 passes for 566 yards and a solid 8 scores so far this season. He has proven to be the favorite target of Rush, and the duo could be one to watch for in the coming weeks, but this week they will have all they can handle facing up with a Toledo defense that surrenders just 200 passing yards per game.
The Toledo Rockets have been at the top of the MAC for the past few years, but it seems there is always one team just slightly ahead of them. Last year, it was Bowling Green. This year, it’s Western Michigan. Currently, WMU is ranked #20 in the FBS, but I firmly believe if Toldeo had stuck it out and held on to win over BYU, they too would be in the top 25. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they were unable to hang on for that win. Since the lone loss on the year, the Rockets have posted two tough wins over conference opponents. Quarterback Logan Woodside has thrown for over 2000 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, with over 700 yards and 5 of those scores going to Cody Thompson. The Rockets take to the skies quite regularly, but use the ground game just as efficiently. Kareem Hunt has carried 132 times for 653 yards and five scores. Combine Hunt with the three other top running backs for Toledo, and you get 1297 yards and 9 touchdowns. The prolific Rockets offense has put up ridiculous numbers, averaging 43 points per game. However, they’ll be facing a stout defense in Central Michigan that allows under 350 yards a game. This one will be a matchup of great offenses, but I think Toledo has the upper hand in the defensive game, so their potential offensive struggles won’t hurt them as badly.
JACKSON’S PICK: TOLEDO 31-21
Colorado (5-2) @ Stanford (4-2), 2:00PM CDT PAC12
In my articles in the past, we’ve written about both Colorado and Stanford. They have similar records, but different attitudes surrounding the programs. Stanford has two losses, both drubbings that have completely dropped them out of the national stage after they came into the year with national chamionship hopes. Colorado has two losses, one to a top-5 team in Michigan, and a close loss at USC, but has five wins already this season. The Buffs are rebuilt and look to be back to familiar form after some very down years. This game could be one of the best this week. Stanford has all the weapons, but just hasn’t quite hit a rhythm. Colorado has the rhythm, but are trying to continue to build on their success. With this game being played at the Farm, Stanford will have all the momentum at the start, having been whipped around by Washington State their last time at home.
Aside from having my favorite name in college football, Sefo Liufau may become one of my favorite players overall. He’s dealt with an ankle injury for a few weeks now, but looked all healed up against Arizona State last time out, throwing for 265 yards in the Buffs’ 40-16 win. What I’ve seen from Liufau is that he is a very capable passer, with the legs to balance and keep defenses guessing. Taking some of the pressure off of Liufau is key,given that he is still not quite 100 percent, and the Buffs have the tools to do that. The biggest being running back Phillip Lindsay, who ran for 219 yards and three scores against ASU. The big time back for Colorado has rushed for over 600 yards this season, and over a third of that came last week when Colorado flexed their muscles on the ground. This week will be a much tougher test. Stanford’s stout defense allows just 125 yards per game on the ground, so Liufau may be forced to use his arm more if Lindsay and the rushing game can’t get going.
Christian McCaffrey. How much have you heard about this guy? He’s incredibly talented, and I will acknowledge that, but I think he has been very underwhelming this season. He started off the 2016 campaign with three games of over 125 rushing yards, but in his last two contests, he has collected just 84 yards combined on the ground. Christian McCaffrey hasn’t even seen the endzone since September 17th against USC. I don’t know whether it’s that opposing defenses have started keying in on McCaffrey after his breakout year in 2015, or if McCaffrey was just a one hit wonder, but all I know is the struggling Stanford offense is going to need their do it all stud big time this week. Stanford averages an abysmal 19 points a game this season, and just over 300 yards a game may prove to be a problem. Fortunately, the defense regularly keeps the Cardinal in the game. The true test in this game will be how Stanford’s offense can produce against the strong Colorado defense. I think this game will be close from wire to wire, but Colorado’s potent offense may just put up too much for Stanford.
JACKSON’S PICK: COLORADO 31-17
Memphis (5-1) @ 24 Navy (4-1), 2:30PM CDT CBSSN
This matchup is another intriguing one for me. Meemphis has played above expectations this year under their first year head coach Mike Norvell. For Navy, they’ve just been quietly wining, as per usual. The Midshipmen are fresh off of a big time win over Houston, and they’ll be riding that momentum into this game. This is a game between two teams that move the ball well, but in different ways. Memphis passes well, and Navy strategically runs the ball right through their opponents. Defensively, these squads are very similar. Both allow under 400 yards per game, but are hit the most through the air with them both giving up just under 250 yards. This one will be a chess match for sure.
I’ve only watched Memphis play once, and that was their blow out win over Kansas, so there wasn’t a whole lot to learn from the Tigers. It’s hard to learn much about a team that just rolls over an inferior opponent, but the Tigers have clearly shown they’re a capable team. Granted, they haven’t play a very daunting schedule, but they have five wins in six games, so something has to be going right, but what is it? For starters, Riley Ferguson has thrown for nearly 1600 yards and 12 scores. The junior just keeps on producing for Memphis. But along with him, Doroland Dorceus has proven to be a force as well. Dorceus has put up 427 yards and five more scores to add to the Memphis success. Along with Dorceus, Memphis has even more production on the ground, where generally they’re thought of as a passing team. Patrick Taylor Jr. and Darrell Henderson have combined for over 430 yards and three scores. Let’s not forget the passing game though, as Memphis has 7 players with over 100 yards receiving. The top two targets for the Tigers, Anthony Miller and Phil Mayhue, have combined for nearly 800 yards and four scores. These guys can move, and they can score. Navy’s defense will have their hands full in this one.
The Navy Midshipmen have rushed for a combined 1312 yards and 16 scores. They run the triple option ground game to near perfection. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, aside from his awesome name, has built Navy into a power within the American Conference. The prolific numbers they put up running the ball is something that we don’t often see from teams in this day and age. What’s even more rare is how Navy doesn’t have one true workhorse, but instead balance their rushing attack through a variety of weapons. Fourteen different Navy players have carried the ball this season, and five of those rushers have tallied over 97 yards. The Midshipmen almost stubbornly run the ball. We know they’re going to run it. Their opponents know they’re going to run it. The trouble is that no one can stop them. It will be incredibly interesting to see how the Midshipmen match up with Memphis’ front line on defense. The Tigers allow just 140 yards on the ground per game, which is 100 less than Navy’s season average on the ground. I like how it lines up for Navy. They just seem to have it all figured out, and I’m a sucker for a solid rushing game.
JACKSON’S PICK: NAVY 24-17
Washington State (4-2) @ Arizona State (5-2), 9:00PM CDT PAC12
If you like offense, this is the game for you, as both of these teams average over 36 points per game. Washington State opened the year off with two losses, the first to FCS Eastern Washington, and the second to now 14th ranked Boise State. Since those two losses, WSU has racked up four straight wins, with most of them coming in convincing fashion. The Cougars whooped up on Oregon and Stanford, but will have a much different challenge ahead of them in Arizona State. Arizona State will be the most powerful offense the Cougars have seen thus far. The Sun Devils can score, and score a lot, but over the last few weeks, they have been slowed down a bit, scoring just under 20 points per in those three games. Prior to that collection of games, ASU opened up the season with big numbers (44, 68, 32, and 51) in the first four games of the year. The scorekeepers better be ready for this one.
Washington State will run a spread, air raid offense. Surprise, surprise for a Mike Leach team. They like to throw the ball, and consistent quarterback play is vital for the success of that style of offense. Luke Falk provides that crucial stability for the Cougars. The junior quarterback has already thrown 295 passes this season, and has completed a solid 211. Those 211 completions have gone for over 2100 yards and 16 scores. The completions have to go to someone, but to whom? Well, the Cougars have three receivers with over 330 receiving yards. Six others have over 100 yards. Gabe Marks may not be the yardage leader for Washington State, but he has hauled in six touchdowns. Marks averages over 8 yards per catch, but his primary targets seem to come in the red zone for the Cougs. River Cracraft and Tavaris Martin Jr. have combined for nearly 750 yards and four more scores. This trio is dangerous. Cracraft is a solid target who averages over 12 yards a catch. He’s the most consistent target but is just as commonly targeted as Martin Jr.. One thing is for sure, Washington State is determined to air out the ball, and they will have success.
Arizona State started out the year with blistering pace, putting up ridiculous numbers. But for the last few weeks, the powerful Sun Devil offense has been faltered. Arizona State has balanced numbers that lean slightly towards the passing side, but the Devils capitalize with the rushing game as well, tallying 18 scores on the ground, compared to just 8 through the air. Kalen Ballage had a record game, scoring 7 touchdowns against Texas Tech, but has totalled just 9 on the year. Ballage had a breakout game, but still averages just under 5 yards per carry. Outside of Ballage, Tim White has proven to be one of the biggest assets at the Sun Devil’s disposal. White has caught 44 passes for 525 yards, but has yet to taste the sweet nectar of the end zone. White looks to be the most reliable target to move ASU down the field, but hasn’t seen the targets in the red zone to catch his first touchdown of the year. A key for ASU to get a win this week will be finishing drives. Arizona State has sputtered far too many times but has been bailed out by their strong kicking game. Zane Gonzalez is a stellar 19 of 20 on field goals this season, connecting on a season long 59 yarder earlier this year. With the strength of Washington State’s offense, Arizona State will have to finish drives in the end zone if they have any hopes of hanging with the Cougars.