Welcome to the home stretch of the regular season. There are only three weeks left until the conference championship games and the announcement of the four participants in the college football playoffs. League races are starting to take shape as teams start to stall.
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Louisville at Clemson (-7), 3:30 p.m.
The Tigers were tamed at Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish physically whipped Clemson’s defensive front in a way that was – frankly – shocking if you’ve followed the Tigers’ program throughout their rise in recent times. years. DJ Uiagelele will start, but again the question is who will end up as QB for Clemson?
Game to watch: Clemson’s offensive line against Louisville’s pass. The Cardinals are getting after the quarterback at a high rate, and since Uiagelele and the Clemson offense have struggled enough when all is well in the pocket, the pressure would be a real death knell for the Clemson offense.
Wisconsin at Iowa (+1.5), 3:30 p.m.
We understand it’s probably a tough situation, but Iowa has had two pretty decent games on offense. Now the competition is up a notch with Wisconsin coming to town. The Badgers don’t have high expectations for Jim Leonhard for the rest of the season to keep his job permanently, and they’re one win away from bowl eligibility.
Game to watch: Wisconsin OL versus Iowa forward. The Badgers aren’t what they used to be on the offensive line, which is a much less dominant force than we’re used to. If there’s one thing Iowa is really good at, it’s effective defense that starts up front. This game has underwriting everywhere.
Alabama (-11.5) at Ole Miss, 3:30 p.m.
The Tide will fall short of their lofty national championship goals this season, and now they have very rare spoiler status. Ole Miss is fighting for their first-ever SEC West title, and it’s still within reach as long as they can keep winning. Questions abound about what went wrong for Alabama and how things got derailed, a loss here would really raise eyebrows about how close it is to a crossroads in Bama.
Game to watch: Alabama eyes against Ole Miss move. Rebels are built to play with eye discipline of defenses. They use a myriad of pre-snap moves to try and catch defenses that are looking the wrong thing and the post-snap of their counter run system includes firing linemen and endemic misdirection. The tide must be ready to be in the right place.
Washington at Oregon (-13), 7 p.m.
Technically, it’s a rivalry game, but it’s more like an annual meeting of Pacific Northwest teams that Oregon wins virtually every year. The Ducks have flown past the Huskies in every game since 2004 (plus 2006 and 2007). As Oregon looks to stay in playoff contention, they’ll need to maintain their explosive offense to beat the Huskies.
Game to watch: Either defend against or attack. These teams are essentially mirror images of each other with effective attacks and defenses that don’t just sufficient. This is a game where you are looking for a defense to break serve and get some saves in what should be a high scoring affair.
Kansas State at Baylor (-2.5), 7 p.m.
The Big 12 championship game is far from set, and no one knows who will make it happen. With two losing teams locked in the league, including these two, the most gender-balanced league in the country will fall to the wire.
Game to watch: Richard Reese and Sqwirl Williams against the Kansas State front. Baylor QB Blake Shapen starts against the team he debuted on last season, but the Bears could have a two-headed monster game if Williams has to spell Reese like he was last week.
UNC at Wake Forest (-3.5), 7:30 p.m.
Expect a lot of points in this one. UNC’s defense had been abysmal at the start of the season, but over the past few weeks they have kept their opponents in check. Don’t expect them to maintain the Demon Deacons as a unit that can basically score on anyone. Heels definitely have the offense to follow, so this one should be fun.
Game to watch: Tar Heels WR v Wake Forest DB. Josh Downs and Antoine Green are perhaps the best receiving tandem in the country. DB Deacons are in a great position here to face stiff competition. Wake’s defense in general hasn’t been half bad in the past few weeks since being roasted by Clemson.
TCU at Texas (-7), 7:30 p.m.
TCU continues to pull through. They didn’t even need impressive wide receiver Quientin Johnston last week, which is a big deal because they relied on the running game to win. But it’s not your normal Texas team that folds at the first sign of adversity, but consider that the Frogs have fought back in a lot of tough spots this season.
Game to watch: Texas defense against TCU. The Horns aren’t the soft front unit we’ve come to expect over the past few years, they’ve been salty in a lot of tough spots. But that defense has an X factor that can really come into play: longtime TCU coach Gary Patterson is Steve Sarkisian’s assistant. He knows this TCU team, he recruited and coached almost all of them before he was fired last season. If you don’t think he’ll offer helpful advice to Texas defensive personnel, and if you don’t think he’s feeling a little more juice this week, you don’t know Gary.
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