Here is the premier of The Pigskin Preview, the best rundown of the upcoming weekend in college football that you will find on the internet or anywhere else. Here I breakdown ten college football interests and give you my picks for the top games of the week. The ten topics include the game of the week, three other key matchups, the underdog of the week, an overrated team, an underrated team, and then three players you may enjoy watching even if you haven’t heard of them yet. If you aren’t interested in one of the topics then simply move on to another one; there is plenty to read for any fan!
Game of the Week: Alabama (13) at Georgia (8)
By far the biggest game of the week, as Alabama is facing almost certain elimination from the playoffs if they lose. Georgia is playing for SEC dominance, as it is a very likely situation that the Bulldogs win out the rest of the regular season after playing Bama. Both teams are battling for superiority in the south and a playoff spot later on down the road.
Georgia is coming into this game with a lot of things to brag about. Nick Chubb has ran for 12 straight 100+ yard games, tying Herschel Walker’s record, and has the chance to break the record against a strong Alabama defense. Even though all eyes are on Chubb, the real key to the offense lies in quarterback Greyson Lambert.
Lambert has thrown just two incompletions on 35 attempts the past two games combined; however now going up against an Alabama defense that has the potential to stop the run, however they are much more vulnerable playing the pass. Lambert will need to get the ball out quickly and make smart decisions; this is how Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was able to defeat the Tide two weeks ago.
Other key pieces for the Bulldogs’ offense include Malcolm Mitchell and Sony Michel. Malcolm Mitchell will be the key for Lambert, much like Laquon Treadwell was for Kelly in the Rebel’s victory. In a 6’1 frame, Mitchell has a height advantage over Bama’s top corner in Cyrus Jones (5’10), so don’t be surprised if we see several throws that are just jump balls for Mitchell. In addition to Mitchell and Chubb, Sony Michel plays another huge role in the Bulldogs’ offense.
Michel is the second leading rusher and receiver for Georgia this season, and has a combined seven touchdowns on the season. Georgia runs a lot of half back screens to Michel out of the back field, and with his playmaking ability he can typically gain big yards after the catch (he averages 18.5 yards per reception). He also gives the Bulldogs diversity in the running game, which means Georgia always has a rested Michel or Chubb in the game every single down.
On the defensive side Georgia’s star outside line backers are the key to stopping Alabama’s offense. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins make up one of the best linebacker tandems in the country, as they have combined for 10 tackles for loss and five sacks so far this season. Both line backers bring a strong pass rushing presence, but can also quickly seal off the sidelines which will play a huge role in stopping Alabama’s short screens to Kenyan Drake that they love to run. Floyd and Jenkins both can match Derrick Henry’s size, which is a much different sight than what Henry saw against Ole Miss and their much smaller personnel behind the defensive line. If Georgia wants to win this game then they have got to wrap up on Henry; too many missed tackles on Henry almost lost the game for Ole Miss several weeks ago when they took out the southern powerhouse. Floyd and Jenkins will be the key for this task.
In the secondary a key player for the Bulldogs will be Dominik Sanders. Sanders has two interceptions on the season so far, and once he has the ball he is hard to bring down (he has 121 yards off interceptions this season). One of the biggest things that this defense needs to focus on is defending the deep ball from Bama; Ole Miss did this to perfection against Bama, and that was arguably the largest factor in their victory. Sanders will need to execute this for the Bulldogs secondary, and then they will have a much better chance to beat the former SEC Goliath in Alabama.
Georgia has many weapons to utilize in this game and Bama does too, however Alabama’s chance to win lies in Jake Coker and the passing game.
We know what to expect from Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake in the running game, but it will come down to Coker’s decision making against a defense that allows just 166 passing yards per game. Derrick Henry is obviously a force for Alabama, but they won’t be able to beat Georgia with the run alone, they will need to use Coker to keep the Bulldogs’ on their toes (or is it paws?) but if Coker can’t get anything going offensively then that will allow Georgia to just stack the box in order to shut down Bama’s run game. Coker doesn’t have one elite receiver like Alabama had last year in Amari Cooper, however he has been blessed with a very deep receiving core and a very diverse one as well.
Alabama has six receivers all with over 100 yards so far, showing how their passing offense can burn you in so many different ways. In college football it is typically the tall or the fast receivers that are the most elite, however with Alabama it is their athletic freak of a tight end in O.J. Howard.
Howard leads the team in receiving and his 6’6’’, 242 lbs. makes him virtually impossible to guard. And the best thing for Bama is that he isn’t just a big body, he has great hands and is crazy fast for his size as well; he ran a 4.49, 40 yard dash time, and just to put that in perspective that is only .07 seconds slower than Amari Cooper from last season. It will be interesting to see how Georgia plans to guard Howard, as no other team has seemed to figure it out yet.
On the defensive side Alabama’s strength is in their front seven, specifically Dillon Lee and A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson is massive and an athletic freak along the line in Nick Saban’s defense. Robinson can play anywhere along the defensive line, although he is listed as a defensive end. Robinson’s massive size allows him to bowl over offensive lineman and draw double teams to assist Bama’s linebackers. Dillon Lee on the other hand is simply everywhere at once. Lee can play pretty much wherever Kirby Smart wants to play him; although typically utilized as an outside linebacker, Lee also plays inside and used in coverage as well. If the Tide want to stop Georgia’s record breaking rusher in Nick Chubb, then Robinson and Lee will be the key pieces.
The secondary for Alabama is their weakest point on defense. Cyrus Jones is one of the top corners in the nation, however one player cannot carry an entire secondary. If Alabama’s defense is going to get beat then it will be against the deep ball; this Crimson Tide team does not have the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Landon Collins or Mark Barron that they have had at safety in the past, making them vulnerable to long passes.
In conclusion, both Alabama and Georgia are two of the best teams in the nation, and very evenly talented when you look at the personnel, however Georgia will come out on top in this one. The Bulldogs are playing at home against Alabama, one of the teams that everyone dreams of beating. Also Alabama is in a rebuilding phase as weird as it seems; they are still one of the most talented teams in the nation, but they lost their leading passer, receiver, rusher, and several other very talented players from last season whom were crucial to their playoff run. Coker has looked very good at times this season but he has been inconsistent, and just a few bad passes against Georgia could cost them the game like it did against Ole Miss. Whereas Greyson Lambert has been one of the most consistent (if not the most) quarterbacks in the nation, throwing for a combined 33-35 the past two games. These are the difference makers in the game, and ultimately what will almost certainly eliminate Bama from playoff contention and give Georgia a pretty good argument to get in.
Alabama and Georgia are both heavy weights in opposite sides of the SEC, and no matter how this game plays out it will surely have a large impact on not only the SEC but also the playoffs down the road.
Best of the Rest:
Notre Dame (6) at Clemson (12)
Clemson will be facing off against the Fighting Irish this Saturday, where Deshaun Watson could get the opportunity to prove that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Notre Dame is walking into Memorial Stadium, the hardest place to play in all of college football. I believe Notre Dame is the more talented team of the two; however a combination of lack of depth, experience, and the atmosphere of playing at Clemson will lead to their downfall. Dabo Swinney is one of the most creative coaches in the nation, and playing a team as highly touted as the Fighting Irish he will surely have several tricks up his sleeve, especially considering that Clemson had a week off last week so he has had over two weeks to prep for this game. If Notre Dame wants to leave Memorial Stadium with a win then they will need to run the football. Star receiver Will Fuller will most likely be shut down most of the game by star corner Mackensie Alexander for Clemson; therefor Notre Dame needs to utilize the nation’s top offensive line, led by Ronnie Stanley, and just run the football. Expect big games from CJ Prosise and Sheldon Day for Notre Dame, and Deshaun Watson and the Clemson secondary. I predict Notre Dame will jump out to a quick start, but then Clemson will end up on top by the end of the game.
Ole Miss (3) at Florida (25)
Ole Miss is facing their second real challenge of the season as they travel to The Swamp to take on the undefeated Florida Gators. Ole Miss is trying to maintain their spot in the polls, while Florida is trying to prove that they are a different football team than what the past two seasons has shown. The most enticing thing about this matchup in my opinion is the matchup of Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell against Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves, both players who I believe to be the best at their position in the nation. Chad Kelly will certainly have a difficult time against this Florida defense, but I think the Ole Miss defense is the difference maker in this game as Robert Nkemdiche should lead a star studded defense to dominate a Gator offense that in all honesty is not that good. This should be a good game but the Ole Miss Rebels shall prevail as the victors.
Texas A&M (14) vs Mississippi State (21)
Remember when Mississippi State was number one last season? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only person who forgot. Mississippi State is still a very talented team however they lost Josh Robinson to the NFL, and Robinson was a key part to their streak last season. Texas A&M however only got better. Kyle Allen is exceeding preseason expectations in the offense, but the biggest surprise on offense for the Aggies has been freshman receiver Christian Kirk. Kirk is 11th in the nation in receiving yardage, and will most likely completely burn the Bulldogs’ defense. Mississippi State has Dak Prescott still, however he is really their only source of offense. The Aggie defense is one that is going to have Prescott running like a chicken with his head cut off, mainly due to one of the top defensive ends in the nation in Myles Garrett. Garrett is second in the nation in sacks, and although the defense as a whole hasn’t quite clicked yet, their pass rush is set and ready to go. Mississippi State, although losing several key pieces to their defense from last season, has got a defense to brag about. So despite two great quarterbacks getting the attention for this game, expect it to be a defensive battle with the Aggies on top at Kyle Field.
Underdog Alert: Texas Tech at Baylor (5)
Texas Tech should have taken down TCU last week, however lost on a heartbreaking last minute touchdown by the Horned Frogs; this weekend the Red Raiders have another shot to take down a football power house in the Baylor Bears. Don’t expect much defense in this game, as these teams have combined for an average of just under 1,400 yards and 130 points a game. The game will come down to Patrick Mahomes (TTU) and Seth Russell (BU), both quarterbacks who are top 10 in passing yards per game this season. These two teams are so similar that it could come down to just one or two plays, and with what happened last week against TCU, Texas Tech won’t tolerate another last second loss.
Most Underrated Team: Michigan (22)
Michigan has one loss on the season, and it was by one point to a team that defeated Oregon by almost 40. Michigan has gotten exponentially better this season so far and is looking like one of the hottest teams out there right now after shutting out BYU last weekend. Jim Harbaugh was arguably the best collegiate coach in his time at Stanford, and now he is showing that he can really turn around this Michigan team after suffering through several disappointing seasons. With both Michigan State and Ohio State at home this season, Michigan could take advantage of this opportunity and then who knows where they could end up by the end of the year.
Most Overrated Team: TCU (4)
Barely surviving against Minnesota, SMU, and Texas Tech was not what people thought would happen when TCU started out the season as the number three team in the nation. Sure Trevone Boykin is arguably the best quarterback in the country, and the Horned Frogs’ offense is just like it has been in prior seasons, but they are allowing some teams that aren’t that great compete with them for all four quarters. SMU, a team whose only win is against North Texas, was able to put up 37 points against TCU’s defense and was only down by five points with just seven minutes left. What will happen when they play a team like Oklahoma or Baylor? I just don’t think that TCU deserves a spot in the top five, nor do I think that they will hold onto this spot for much longer.
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
If you asked most college football fans who the leading rusher in the NCAA is they would most likely answer with Leonard Fournette, and they would be wrong. Howard is leading the NCAA in rushing currently, and he will be going up against the number one team in the country this week in Ohio State. Presented with his first true challenge of the season, it will be interesting to see how Howard performs against a stout Ohio State defense.
Jared Goff, QB, California
In my opinion Goff is the best pocket passer in college football. Despite being such a talent and a top NFL prospect, not many people have heard of him. California is going up against Washington State this week, look for Goff to have a big game as he faces another very good pocket passer in Luke Falk. Really be on the lookout for him after this game, as Cal’s remaining schedule may be the hardest in the nation with Utah (10), UCLA (7), USC (17), Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford (18), and Arizona State, all back to back.
Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
West Virginia always seems to have a playmaker at receiver, and this year it is Shelton Gibson. You may think, oh he is just another speedy receiver, what makes him so special? How does 27.4 yards per reception sound? That’s right; this sophomore receiver has 12 catches for well over 300 yards this season. He could be the difference maker this week for West Virginia against Oklahoma by just catching three or four passes.
Ohio State (1) vs Indiana: Ohio State
Michigan State (2) vs Purdue: Michigan State
Ole Miss (3) at Florida (25): Ole Miss
TCU (4) vs Texas: TCU
Baylor (5) vs Texas Tech: Texas Tech
Notre Dame (6) at Clemson (12): Clemson
UCLA (7) vs Arizona State: UCLA
Georgia (8) vs Alabama (13): Georgia
LSU (9) vs Eastern Michigan: LSU
Florida State (11) vs Wake Forest: Florida State
Texas A&M (14) vs Mississippi State (21): Texas A&M
Oklahoma (15) vs West Virginia (23): West Virginia
Northwestern (16) vs Minnesota: Northwestern
Stanford (18) vs Arizona: Arizona
Wisconsin (19) vs Iowa: Iowa
Oklahoma State (20) vs Kansas State: Oklahoma State
Michigan (22) vs Maryland: Michigan
California (24) vs Washington State: California
*Notable byes- Utah (10)