Getting Down to the Wire in College Football
Another week, another set of rankings and it’s getting down to the wire with only a few games left until the final rankings. After so many top-25 teams lost to other teams in the Top 25, the College Football Playoff Rankings look a little different than they did last week.
No. 15 Arizona at No. 17 Utah
Favoring the pass over the run, the Arizona Wildcats (8-2) have depended largely on the arm of freshman quarterback Anu Solomon. He’s thrown for 3,058 yards this season with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions while being sacked 22 times. On the defensive side, Scooby Wright III, a sophomore linebacker, has 13 sacks this season with his six-game sack streak snapped against the Washington Huskies. With the Wildcats averaging 35.6 points per game, expect Arizona to put points on the board early and often.
The Utah Utes (7-3) were on a two-game losing skid until defeating Stanford 20-17 in double overtime last weekend. While the Utes don’t favor running the ball over passing and vice versa, junior running back Devontae Booker is third in the Pac-12 for rushing with eight rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. Nate Orchard, a senior defensive end, is tied for most sacks in the Pac-12 (16.5), and the rest of the defense has snatched 10 interceptions and seven recovered fumbles for two touchdowns. If the Utes can get their offense going and stay strong on defense, they’ll come out with a win.
No. 19 USC at No. 9 UCLA
USC (7-3) returns to the Top 25 as they face off against division rival UCLA. Behind underrated junior quarterback Cody Kessler, they look like the Trojan team they were expected to be all season. Kessler has the eighth highest QBR in the entire FBS with a 70.2 completion percentage and 29 touchdowns. Junior running back Javorius Allen is first in the Pac-12 for rushing with 1,184 yards, eight rush touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. The Trojan defense is nothing to frown at either (recently). With 11 interceptions, seven recovered fumbles and 24 sacks, their defense should light up Brett Hundley.
Speaking of Brett Hundley and the Bruins (8-2), the junior quarterback has been sacked 29 times this season while still being ranked 15th overall in QBR. He’s thrown 17 touchdowns, has maintained a 72.1 completion percentage and is one of the nation’s most efficient passers. The rest of the offense has performed well too, with sophomore running back Paul Perkins posting six rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and is second in the Pac-12 for rush yards with 1,169. The Bruins are coming off a bye week and hope that with the rest, they can continue to move up in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
No. 25 Minnesota at No. 23 Nebraska
After almost coming back and defeating Ohio State, the Golden Gophers (7-3) head on the road where they’ve only won once this season: at Michigan’s Big House. However, they have David Cobb, a senior running back, who is third in the Big Ten in rushing with 11 touchdowns and 1,350 yards. Junior defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun leads the team with four interceptions, and the rest of Minnesota’s defense has recovered 12 fumbles with 19 sacks. If the defense can hold it down against the Cornhuskers, the Gophers have a good chance at coming home with a win.
On the other hand, the Cornhuskers (8-2) just suffered a crushing loss against the Wisconsin Badgers and now hold the same conference record as the Gophers (4-2). Sophomore defensive back Nate Gerry had his three-game interception streak snapped against the Badgers, but is still tied for third in the Big Ten with four interceptions this season. The Cornhuskers depend more on the run than the pass, averaging 460 yards per game with 4595 yards this season. They can put up points, but they need help defensively.
Last week I went 2-2, and this week I picked all the home teams. There won’t be as much movement in the rankings next week as most of the matchups are between Top 25 and unranked teams. However, expect the unexpected. Stay tuned to see who will rise to the occasion and who will fold under pressure.
You can reach Zuriel on Twitter or by email email@example.com.