Can LSU beat Alabama? More CFB matchups to track today
Welcome to the home stretch of the regular season. Only three weeks remain before the conference championship games and the announcement of the four entrants to the College Football Playoff. League races are starting to take shape as teams begin to clinch.
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Oklahoma (-7.5) at WVU
Oklahoma’s rocky up-and-down season continues after last week’s three-point loss to Baylor. This game should get to the Sooners because they probably won’t face a worse defense in league play all season … but this OU team isn’t one you can ignore on a given Saturday because you think they are. should to do
Matchups to watch: Neil Brown v. Job Security. This game could go a long way in determining Brown’s fate at the end of the season. The athletic department administration is in his corner, but that could change if the fanbase continues to hold on to him, a problem that could worsen if the Sooners take a beating.
Purdue at Illinois (-6.5)
This is not necessary to win the game Illinois, but if they do, it makes their lives a lot easier, as their hopes for a Big Ten championship remain in play. With a win here they would own the tiebreaker over many of their division foes and could go 1-1 in their remaining two games and still punch a ticket to Indianapolis. For a team that plays fine margin ball like they do, that cushion will be important.
Matchups to watch: Purdue WR Charlie Jones vs. Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon. Do you want to talk about energy on energy? Jones accounted for nearly one-third of Purdue’s targets with 119 by himself. Illinois plays a physical brand of coverage, and the long, powerful Witherspoon is able to take Jones away.
LSU at Arkansas (-3.5)
Suddenly everyone’s favorite darling After beating Alabama, it’s clear that LSU isn’t the hapless unit that struggled through its opener against FSU or got smoked by Tennessee at home. But in comes Arkansas, a physical opponent that wants to drag this game into the muck and make the Tigers work for it with a run game.
Matchups to watch: LB Harold Perkins vs QB KJ Jefferson. Perkins has come on in a serious way this season and is one of the bright spots for the LSU defense as one of its best young players. The way defensive coordinator Matt House sickened him on Alabama’s Bryce Young last week was interesting, and now he gets another chance to shine.
Clemson (-7) at Louisville 3:30 p.m
The Tigers were Ruled at Notre Dame When the Fighting Irish physically whipped the Clemson defensive front in a way that was—frankly—amazing if you’ve followed the Tigers’ rise to the program over the past few years. DJ Viagele will start, but again the question Who will end up at the QB position for Clemson?
Matchups to watch: Clemson’s offensive line vs. Louisville’s pass rush. The Cardinals get after the quarterback at a high rate, and since Wagell and the Clemson offense have struggled enough when everything is right in the pocket, pressure will be a real death knell for the Clemson offense.
Wisconsin (+1.5) at Iowa, 3:30 p.m
We realize this is probably a jinxing situation, but Iowa put together two fairly decent games on offense. Now with Wisconsin coming to town the competition has gone up a notch. The Badgers don’t have high expectations for Jim Leonhardt for the balance of the season to hold down the job permanently, and they’re one win away from bowl eligibility.
Matchups to watch: Before Wisconsin OL vs. Iowa. The Badgers aren’t what they used to be on the offensive line, which is a far less dominant force than we’re used to. If there’s one thing Iowa excels at, it’s efficient defense that starts up front. This game has the following written all over it.
Alabama (-11.5) at Ole Miss, 3:30 p.m
tide Will not meet their lofty national championship goals This season, and now they have the very rare status of spoilers. Ole Miss is fighting for their first SEC West title, and as long as they can win it’s still within reach. While there are questions about what went wrong for Alabama and how things went off the rails, a loss here would really raise some eyebrows about just how close Bama is to a crossroads.
Matchups to watch: Alabama’s eyes vs. Ole Miss’ speed. Rebels are built to mess with a defensive eye discipline. They use countless speed presnaps to try to catch defenses looking at the wrong thing, and their counter run scheme features linemen pulling and misdirecting wildly. Be prepared to be in the right place for the tide.
Oregon (-13), Washington at 7 p.m
Technically it’s a rivalry game, but it’s more like an annual meeting of Pacific Northwest teams that Oregon basically wins every year. The Ducks have swept the Huskies in every matchup since 2004 (except 2006 and 2007). As Oregon looks to stay in the playoff race, their explosive offense will need to keep rolling to get past the Huskies.
Matchups to watch: Either defense versus offense. These teams are basically mirror images of each other with efficient offense and defense only enough. This is a game where you are looking for a defense to break serve and get a few stops in a high scoring affair.
Kansas State at Baylor (-2.5), 7 p.m
The Big 12 championship game is far from set, and who’s going to make it is anyone’s guess. With a logjam of two losing teams in the league, including these two, the most balanced league in the country is about to go down to the wire.
Matchups to watch: Richard Reese and Squirrel Williams vs. Kansas State. Baylor QB Blake Chapin is starting against the team where he debuted last season, but the Bears could have a two-headed monster run game if Williams needs to spell the ridge like he did last week.
UNC (-3.5) at Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m
Expect plenty of points in this one. UNC’s defense has been awful at the start of the season, but over the last few weeks they have put a lid on opponents. Don’t expect them to hold the Demon Deacons though as a unit that can basically score on anyone. The heels definitely have offense to keep, so it should be a fun one.
Matchups to watch: Tar Heels WRs vs. Wake Forest DBs. Josh Downs and Antoine Green are probably the best receiver tandem in the country. Deacon DBs are here in a big place to stand up against stiff competition. Wake’s defense in general hasn’t been half bad the past few weeks since getting roasted by Clemson.
TCU at Texas (-7), 7:30 p.m
TCU gets away with it. They didn’t need impressive wide receiver Quentin Johnston last week, which is a big deal, as they leaned on the run game to win. But these aren’t your usual Texas teams that fold at the first sign of adversity, but consider that the Frogs have struggled in plenty of tough spots this season.
Matchups to watch: Texas Defense vs. TCU. The horns aren’t the softened up front units we’ve come to expect over the past few years, they’re salted in a lot of hard places. But this defense has one X-factor that could be really effective: longtime TCU coach Gary Patterson is an assistant under Steve Sarkisian. He knows this TCU team, having recruited and coached almost all of them before being fired last season. If you don’t think he’ll give the Texas defensive staff some helpful tips, and if you don’t think he’s feeling some extra juice this week, you don’t know Gary.
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