One if by air, Two if by sea? – Week 6 Preview

Week 6 of the college season is upon us with some big Top 25 match-ups and a fierce service academy rivalry leading the way. And yes I know that is not what Paul Revere said. Photo courtesy of Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Here in South Carolina, it will be a rather uneventful week as both Clemson and South Carolina both have bye weeks. Around the country, there are a number of FBS schools that are also using Week 6 as a chance to get some rest. There are still a number of big games around the nation this Saturday which are highlighted by a couple of Big 10 ranked match-ups, a Top 25 showdown in the SEC and a underrated service academy rivalry. No not Army-Navy, but Navy-Air Force. Several FCS schools here in South Carolina also have big games ahead as both Furman and Wofford hit the road to play really good SoCon opposition, and The Citadel takes on SoCon rival VMI in the “Battle for the Silver Shako” at home down in Charleston.

Everyone always looks forward to the Army-Navy game at the end of the year. That game has so much history and pageantry which makes that game so special, along with the fact that both institutions love to hate one another. But people seem to forget that there are two other service academy games that take place throughout the regular season. Army, Navy and Air Force all play each other in a three team round-robin tournament every year. The team with the best overall record in service academy showdowns wins the Commander in Chief’s Trophy at a special presentation at the White House at the end of the year. Well the first of the three game series starts on Saturday as the Naval Academy gets set to host the Air Force Academy in Annapolis. Like I said before, we all know and love the Army-Navy Game, but Navy-Air Force is just as good, if not better. Every year the Falcons and Midshipmen meet, the game always seems to be a close one. The teams have gone back and forth in wins the last six years with each team winning the last three games played on their home turf. The game is in Annapolis this year, a place Air Force hasn’t won since 2011, which was the only time they won there since the turn of the century. Navy is tough at home and the Midshipmen bring a dynamic offense mixed with a tenacious defense into this one. However, the Air Force guys are also really good on offense and their defense has played really well against tough opponents. The Falcons already have a good win over Colorado and gave Boise State every thing they could handle a few weeks ago. The key to the game will be which defense plays better and is able to stop the opposing offense. This might just be the best game on TV this Saturday.

In the Big 10, there are two Top-25 match-ups between conference foes. First up is #14 Iowa going into “The Big House” to take on the #19 ranked Michigan Wolverines. Michigan got a lot of pent up frustration out last week as they completely floored Rutgers 52-0. Iowa comes in unbeaten with a really good win on the road against rival Iowa State. QB Nate Stanley has been terrific thus far for the Hawkeyes and has play-makers all around him on offense. The Hawkeyes are very balanced on offense and are stout defensively, a constant staple for Kirk Ferentz’s team. Iowa is only giving up 8.5 ppg so far through four games. Michigan also has a good defense, but has had some issues with teams that like to run the ball, ie. Wisconsin and Army. The big concern for Michigan is their offense, who has been very inconsistent this season, especially at the quarterback position. Shea Patterson is going to have to have his best game of the season if Michigan hopes to walk away the victors.

On Saturday night, just 190 miles south of Ann Arbor, in Columbus, OH, the #4 ranked Buckeyes host #25 Michigan State. Ohio State has thoroughly dominated everyone they’ve played this season, and that includes a butt whooping that Nebraska fans will not soon forget. Justin Fields is electric and has been balling early on this season. The Buckeyes offense feasts at every opportunity and have been putting up crazy numbers. The defense there in Columbus is no joke either, as they’ve only given up a total of 22 points in the four games since giving up 21 to FAU in the opener. Michigan State is also really good on defense, but much like the Wolverines, the Spartans offense is inconsistent mainly at quarterback. Ohio State should actually get challenged in this game, but the big question is if Michigan State can move the ball and score enough to actually win. Easier said than done.

On Saturday afternoon, there is a massive SEC Top-10 showdown between #7 Auburn and #10 Florida in “The Swamp”. Auburn continues to roll through their schedule since beating Oregon in the opener. They did have a sluggish performance to a middle-of-the-road Tulane team, but wins over Texas A&M and Mississippi State have this Tigers team riding high. Florida also comes in undefeated. The offense for the Gators has looked better since Kyle Trask became the starting QB. Both defenses are extremely good, specifically up front with their defensive lines. Auburn’s offense is starting to find a good rhythm and Bo Nix continues to improve and look more comfortable behind center. Auburn probably wins this game, but I have a feeling the Gators aren’t going to make it easy for them. Should be a hard fought contest down in Gainesville.

Locally, there are some really big games this week in the Southern Conference. Some rivalry games and must win conference games for a lot of teams. Here in the Upstate, Furman and Wofford both hit the road. The Paladins will go up against a Samford team that is also unbeaten in SoCon play. Samford has the best scoring offense in the league, but the Paladins have the best scoring defense. Furman only allows 21 ppg whereas Samford is giving up almost 40. Furman’s offense is also in the top 3 for scoring and have shown they can put up points and compete in shootouts. QB Darren Grainger and the host of talent around him should feast and feast a lot against this porous Samford defense. Wofford also has a tough test this week as they play the East Tennessee State Buccaneers on the road in Johnson City. The Wofford offense is really good, but they are going to face arguably the second best defense in the league. ETSU doesn’t give up a lot of yards, especially not on the ground. How does Wofford handle having to throw the ball more than they are comfortable with? On the same hand, will ETSU’s offense be able to move the ball at all? ETSU has the second worst scoring offense in the Southern Conference only scoring 21.8 ppg. Expect a low scoring, nail-biter in Johnson City on Saturday.

Much like in the FBS, there is a really good military academy showdown this weekend in the Southern Conference. The Virginia Military Institute versus The Citadel. The Keydets versus the Bulldogs. “The Battle for the Silver Shako”. Both teams come into this game after losses last week. The Citadel lost a close 4OT shoot-out on the road against Samford last week while VMI lost by two scores at home to Wofford. Both programs have been giving up a lot of yards and points to opponents this year, however, statistically The Citadel’s numbers are a lot better than VMI’s. We’ve seen that both offenses can score and score a lot, which I’ll be honest in saying that I did not see that coming from The Citadel’s offense last week. They should have a field day against VMI, but the big question is can they stop the Keydets’ offense? Both schools might be involved in a shootout for the second week in a row.

Now on to my picks for this week. A 9-3 week overall for me in Week 5 last week and overall am 38-18 on the season. I hope to keep that success going this week.

#14 Iowa @ #19 Michigan (-3.5) – Noon – FOX

I’m honestly a little surprised that Michigan is the favorite coming into this game. I guess the guys in Vegas are giving the Wolverines the edge simply because they are at home. I just don’t trust the Michigan offense because they haven’t been great all year. Iowa has a very good defense and we’ve seen Shea Patterson struggle a lot this year against really good defenses. Nate Stanley is having a great year for the Hawkeyes and I think he and the Iowa defense are the difference in this game. Michigan’s defense probably keeps it close, but I’m taking Iowa on the road.

Iowa – 31, Michigan – 21

Air Force (-3.5) @ Navy – 3:30 – CBSSN

This game really could be a pick ’em. Both teams are good enough to win this game and it is a rivalry game, so that also gives both teams some added fire. Air Force isn’t just the typical option style offense that it has been in the past. While it still runs the triple option, they also throw some spread looks in there as well. The offense is dynamic, but so is Navy’s. Malcom Perry is having a fantastic year so far for the Midshipmen. He really is the difference maker for the Navy offensive attack. He can run and throw and seems poised to lead this Navy team to a win. Close game for sure, but I like Navy at home, a place Air Force has trouble winning.

Navy – 28, Air Force – 24

#7 Auburn (-2.5) @ #10 Florida – 3:30 – CBS

“The Swamp” is not an easy place to play for any visiting team. A raucous crowd and tough defense is the test Bo Nix and this Auburn offense face when they travel to Gainesville. Auburn’s offense is finally starting to find their groove and they are backed up by a ferocious defense of their own. In all honesty, Auburn’s defense, especially up front, might be the best in the country. Florida’s offense is much improved with Kyle Trask, but he’ll be getting his first taste of a what a real SEC defense looks like. I think Florida’s defense is good enough to keep to Florida in the game, but ultimately I think Auburn is able to pull away late and win big.

Auburn – 35, Florida – 20

#25 Michigan State @ #4 Ohio State (-20) – 7:30 – ABC

The Spartans have always been a thorn in the Buckeyes side, especially here in recent history. Michigan State, year in and year out, has an excellent defense that is very physical and makes teams work for every yard. They’ve been great again this year, but are going to go up against a talented and explosive Ohio State offense. This should be the first real test for the Buckeyes this year and may find themselves in an unfamiliar spot late in this game. Michigan State’s defense will keep them in it, but I have the same reservation’s about their offense that I do with Michigan’s. They are just so inconsistent, but I do think they will do more than Nebraska could do last week. Ohio State wins, but I don’t think its by three scores.

Ohio State – 31, Michigan State – 20

And this week’s SoCon picks:

VMI @ The Citadel – 2:00

“The Battle for the Silver Shako”. Both teams coming in after losing last week and both teams have shown to have powerful offenses. The problem is their defenses haven’t been great. The Citadel does have the better defense between the two and that will probably be the difference here in this one. I’m expecting a high-scoring, close match-up between these two distinguished military institutes.

The Citadel – 45, VMI – 38

Wofford @ East Tennessee State – 3:30

Wofford is in the top half of the league in every statistical category on both offense and defense. They have been the only team, thus far, to stop Samford outside of Youngstown State. The problem was that in that game, their offense couldn’t score. They’ve been good offensively since then, so it will be interesting to see which Wofford offense show up on Saturday against probably the second best defense in the SoCon. ETSU though, will probably lose a close one because of sluggish offensive production. They just don’t score a lot of points and for that reason will probably lose again this week.

Wofford -24, ETSU – 14

Furman @ Samford – 3:00

If I am a Furman fan, I’m a little nervous for this one. The past few weeks, we’ve seen Samford just shred everyone with their passing attack and have completely turned their season around. The good news for Paladins fans, you have a great defense and an excellent offense. Darren Grainger, Devin Wynn, Thomas Gordan and company will put up some good numbers this week against, arguably, the worst defense in the league. Samford can’t stop anyone and they won’t be able to stop Furman on Saturday. I’m predicting a shootout in Birmingham, but Furman manages to get one or two stops on defense and get out of there with the win.

Furman – 52, Samford – 41

NFL

Seattle got a big win last night at home as they watched the Rams miss a potential game winning field goal at the end of regulation. Four Russell Wilson touchdown passes and two L.A. turnover were the difference in this one. Seattle moves to 4-1 and is eyeing that top spot in the NFC West, while L.A. now drops to 3-2 with their second straight loss. Seattle – 30, L.A. – 29.

The Carolina Panthers look to keep their momentum going with a win this week at home against Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been playing pretty well coming into this one, but have some injury question marks for this game Sunday. Garnder Minshew is also questionable and may just be a game time decision. It could spell bad news for Jacksonville if he isn’t ready to go. Carolina’s defense has looked really good so far and will need to have another big game this week. I’m going with Carolina to get their first win at home this season and move to 3-2.

Other good games around the league this Sunday to keep an eye on:

Chicago at Oakland

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

Minnesota at New York Giants

Green Bay at Dallas

Upstate SC High School

Friday Night lights again tonight here in “The Palmetto State”. My Travelers Rest Devildogs have huge game tonight in region play as they take on a really good Eastside team. The Devildogs are coming off a bye, so hopefully they don’t have any sort of hangover and can continue building on their terrific season.

Here are some other games going on tonight around the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson metro area.

Belton-Honea Path (3-1) @ Walhalla (5-0)

Chesnee (2-4) @ Southside (4-1)

Wren (4-1) @ Pickens (2-3)

Gaffney (3-2) @ Hillcrest (3-2)

St. Joseph’s Catholic (5-0) @ Southside Christian (4-1)

Blue Ridge (2-3) @ Berea (2-4)

Travelers Rest (5-0) @ Eastside (4-1)

Greenville (3-2) @ Greer (1-4)

Dorman (5-0) @ Spartanburg (2-3)

Greenwood (2-3) @ T.L. Hanna (4-0)

Palmetto (5-1) @ Daniel (4-0)

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on some of this weekends college and NFL action. Let me know if you agree with my picks or not. Also, follow me on Twitter and Facebook at The Spread. SoCon John and I did our Thursday night preview show which you can listen to now on Soundcloud.com or by going to The Spread Podcast page up at the top.

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