Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns look to upset the Sooners again this year in the Red River Rivalry. Photo courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Nothing says college football like a physical, nasty and passionate rivalry game where both sides share in their disdain for one another. When we think of big college football rivalries, we tend to look toward the end of the year to games like Ohio State/Michigan, Alabama/Auburn and Florida/Florida State. But every year, right smack in the middle of the regular season, we as college football fans are gifted with some other historic rivalry games, none bigger right now than the Red River Rivalry.
The Red River is a 1,360 mile long body of water that separates the states of Oklahoma and Texas. Every year, right around this time, the two institutions with their state’s namesake meet in the heart of Dallas, exactly half way in between Austin and Norman. The two schools first met in 1900 down in Austin and have hated each others guts ever since. The Longhorns dominated the series early on, but its been the Sooners who have had the most recent success winning 13 of the last 20 meetings. In 2018, we saw something that has only ever happened once before (in 1903), when both teams met twice in the same season. Texas won the annual match-up in October 48-45 in a game that saw QB Sam Ehlinger burst on the scene. Because of how the Big 12 is set up, at the end of the year the two teams with the best conference records meet in the conference championship game. Well in 2018 the two best teams were #5 Oklahoma and, you guessed it, #14 Texas. It was a rematch, but this time, with more than just bragging rights at stake. Oklahoma got just what they wanted, revenge, as they came out on top 39-27 over the hated Horns. The two schools get ready to meet again tomorrow in a highly anticipated match-up, and we should be expecting plenty of fireworks as both teams have great offenses, but rather lack luster defenses. A truly amazing rivalry game to start our football Saturday.
Back here in the “Palmetto State”, both Clemson and South Carolina prepare for big in-conference rivalry games, but are playing different roles coming into these games. South Carolina and Georgia meet for the 72nd time on Saturday. The Bulldogs have owned the Gamecocks over the series history, winning 51 of the first 71 match-ups including the last four straight. South Carolina had some success against Georgia in the 90’s and from 2007-2014, but its been tough sledding for most of the rivalry’s history. This year’s contest features a really, really good Georgia team, looking to finally get over the hump and win a championship. QB Jake Fromm and the Georgia offense should have no trouble against a rather porous and depleted Gamecock defense. Ryan Hilinski and the SC offense will be in for a long day as the Georgia defense will be flying all over the field, making Hilinski run for his life. However, you just never know how close this game could actually be, as South Carolina, even in losses, typically plays the Bulldogs fairly tough. The Gamecocks will have to play their best if they want to knock off the Dawgs this week.
On the flip side, Clemson comes into their match-up with Florida State as the #2 ranked team in the country and the overwhelming favorite to win. A rather young rivalry comparatively, the Tigers and Noles have met just 32 times. The Noles were dominate in the rivalry very early on, winning 15 of the first 18 against the Tigers including a stretch of 11 straight from 1992 to 2002. In the early 2000’s this game was referred to as “The Bowden Bowl” as Clemson’s head coach Tommy Bowden was the son of FSU head coach and legend Bobby Bowden. Recent history as been on the Tigers side though as they have started to close the gap on Florida State’s series lead. Clemson has now won four straight against the hated Noles and look to keep that streak going on Saturday. The Seminoles are down right now, but they are improving. They still have a lot of talent and once they get it going, they will be a tough team to beat. However, they are still pretty young and very inefficient on defense. After having the week off last week, the Tiger’s offense will look to finally find their rhythm against this Noles defense that is giving up close to 450 yards and 30 points per game. This game isn’t the marquee match-up of the past, but is still a very intense rivalry game and one to keep an eye on this Saturday.
As I mentioned in the opening, nothing says college football like a heated and historic rivalry game. Well there is no game as historic and unique as the game between USC and Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish and the Trojans. Two giants in the world of college football battling it out. Names like Rockne and Jones. Unforgettable moments like the “Trojan Horse” and the “Bush Push”. The trophy, as iconic as any, the Jeweled Shillelagh. The passion, the intensity and the hatred are real. Notre Dame has a firm grasp on the series record and have won the past two meetings against the “Men of Troy”. Unlike other rivalries, this game changes its spot in the season schedule depending on where the game is played. Games in South Bend are played in early October, while games in L.A. are played late November. This year, the game returns to South Bend, a place the Trojans have not won since 2011. USC also has the tough test of starting their third string quarterback in this game against a very good Irish defense. Notre Dame also features a very explosive offense, but USC’s defense has played well this season. It will be up to them to keep the Trojans in the game. I don’t know that the game will be a runaway, but Notre Dame just looks and feels like the better team. The match-up isn’t as sexy as it has been in years past, but this is still one of the greatest rivalry games in all of college football and anything can happen when these two step on the field together.
Saturday night’s marquee match-up features a pair of Top 10 SEC teams as #7 Florida heads to Baton Rouge to face #5 LSU. A heated cross division rivalry in the SEC, the Gators and Tigers have squared off every year since 1971 and have met 65 times in total. The Gators have the all time lead, but not by much. Both teams come into this game in the Top 10 and both undefeated thus far, but this Florida team is going to run into a different monster in LSU this year. When we think of LSU we think smashmouth football and outstanding defense. Well not this year. The Tigers of 2019 have been slinging the ball all over the place, averaging 416 yards passing and 54.6 points per game. The defense for LSU, which is typically very stingy, has been a little suspect at times early this season. On the other side, Florida may just have the first or second best defense in the nation. They are fast, very physical and love to blitz, a staple of a Todd Grantham defense. How do they handle the up-tempo, high powered attack of Joe Burrow and the LSU offense? Honestly, I think that right there is the match-up to watch. Florida’s defense versus LSU’s offense. Another historic rivalry game, and one with major implications. A fantastic way to finish off our college football Saturday.
With all of that being said, here are my picks for this week!
Florida State @ #2 Clemson (-27) – 3:30 – ABC
Both teams come into the game after having the week off last week. For Clemson, all they have heard for the last two weeks is how disappointing they have been and that they really aren’t that good after nearly losing to North Carolina. Florida State might be in some trouble against a team that will come out trying to prove the doubters wrong. The Tigers offense hasn’t been clicking early on this year, but this might just be the week, against a pretty bad Florida State defense, where they finally get into rhythm. Clemson won 59-10 a year ago in Tallahassee. Being back home in the Valley is a big plus for the Tigers and I expect them to come out firing. Four scores seems like a lot, but honestly, I don’t think Clemson should have any problem covering.
Clemson – 42, Florida State – 10
#1 Alabama (-17) @ #24 Texas A&M – 3:30 -CBS
No surprise that the Tide is this big of a favorite. This should be Alabama’s first test this season, but I have a feeling that the Alabama offense will have no problems going on the road to College Station. The question is, can Texas A&M, mainly Kellen Mond, exploit this weak Alabama secondary. If they can, and can score some points, Texas A&M might just have a chance. I don’t think the Aggies will win, but I do think they make this a close game. If for no reason other than Kyle Field is a really tough place to play.
Alabama – 35, Texas A&M – 28
USC @ #9 Notre Dame (-11) – 7:30 – NBC
Wake up the echoes Old Notre Dame for the “Men of Troy” are coming to town! This may not be the same exhilarating match-up we had back in 2005 in the “Bush Push” game, but this is still an awesome rivalry game where anything can happen. The Trojans have had issues with the injury bug, especially at quarterback, and will have their third stringer staring against the Irish on the road. Matt Fink played great against Utah, but really struggled in his last road start at Washington. It’s not easy to win in South Bend, especially when Notre Dame has a fierce defense like they’ve got. They gave Georgia all they could handle a few weeks ago and look to dominate their rival and make a statement that they are still a playoff caliber team. The Trojans will throw a few punches early, but I have a feeling the Irish will be too overpowering.
Notre Dame – 35, USC – 17
#10 Penn State (-3) @ #17 Iowa – 7:30 – ABC
There’s nothing like Big 10 football, especially smashmouth Big 10 football. We won’t see that on Saturday as both of these schools like to throw the ball, something we aren’t used to seeing from Iowa. The Hawkeyes played a very tough, very physical game against Michigan last week and lost. They will be looking to rebound with a big win at home. The Nittany Lions have been rolling so far this season, with lone exception of the near loss to Pitt. Penn State better be careful, because Kinnick Stadium is a tough environment. Probably the most underrated home field advantage in all of college football. I really like this Iowa team and think they can compete for a Big 10 West title, but I think Penn State is just a little better of a team. First big test for the Nittany Lions, but I think they are able to escape with a close win.
Penn State – 21, Iowa – 17
#6 Oklahoma (-10.5) vs. #11 Texas – Dallas, TX – Noon – FOX
All of these games on Saturday are going to be a lot of fun to watch, but the one I’m most excited about takes place right in the heart of Dallas. It’s the Red River Rivalry. Texas pulled the stunner in this game last year beating Kyler Murray and the Sooners. However, it was Oklahoma getting its revenge in the Big 12 Championship game. Neither team needs a whole lot of incentive to get ready for this game, but you better believe Texas will be ready to play. The Oklahoma offense has been putting up video game numbers with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, but this Texas team will be the best team the Sooners have faced this season. Both teams have great offenses, but they are lacking on defense. I don’t know a lot about Oklahoma’s defense simply because they’ve not played anyone good. Texas might just exploit them and turn this into a full on Texas style shoot-out. My heart tells me to pick Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns, but my head says to roll with Boomer Sooner. I’m going to find myself rooting against myself on Saturday for sure.
Oklahoma – 45, Texas – 38
#7 Florida @ #5 LSU (-13.5) – 8:00 – ESPN
The real match-up to watch is the Gators defense against the LSU offense. The new look Tigers have been crazy to watch so far this year as they are putting up huge numbers on offense. The issue to me is with LSU’s defense, who has looked shoddy at times. The Gators defense is one of the best in the nation and they are going to have to be the difference maker in the game if they want to leave Baton Rogue still unbeaten. Kyle Trask and the Florida offense are going to have to continue to play well. If they get behind early, I fear that the Gators don’t have the firepower to overcome a big hole. Two touchdowns doesn’t seem like that far off, but I think Florida’s defense can keep it a little closer.
LSU – 31, Florida – 21
There are only two games this week in the SoCon, as most of the league has the week off. The two games, though, are very important conference games for everyone involved. Western Carolina at The Citadel might be a very interesting match-up, but I think the one to watch is VMI and Samford
Samford @ VMI – 1:30 – ESPN+
This game has all the looks to be a wild shoot-out. The Keydets have been very surprising this year with good SoCon wins over The Citadel and ETSU. VMI is 2-1 in SoCon play, something no one saw coming into this year. They have a very high powered offense and can score a lot of points, however their Achilles heel has been on defense. Same can be said for Samford. Really good offense with a not so great defense. Stops by either team will be big, but both defenses are going to have to try to force turnovers. The team with the fewest mistakes will win, but this one probably comes down to who has the ball last. I’m extremely happy to see VMI having some success this year. Wins have been hard to come by the last couple of years in Lexington. VMI has the hot hand right now though, and for that reason, I’m taking the Keydets to win at home.
VMI – 52, Samford – 49
Let me know what you think about my picks and what your thoughts are on this week’s slate of games.
Carolina and Tampa Bay take the field at 9:30 local time on Sunday morning as they square off in London for the NFL’s yearly game in the UK. Tampa Bay has already beaten the Panthers this season, back in week 2, 20-14 in Charlotte. The Panthers will be looking to win their fourth straight since that loss to the Bucs. Cam Newton is still out for this game, so it will be up to Kyle Allen, Christian McCaffrey and company in this one. The Panthers offensively have looked and played a lot better with Allen in the lineup over Newton. Tampa Bay has a number of guys out along the offensive line, which could pose a problem for them. I’m going to roll with the Panthers to get a big NFC South win this week.
The New England Patriots continued to roll last night with a huge win over the Giants. The Patriots, now 6-0, forced four New York turnovers including three interceptions off rookie Daniel Jones. Tom Brady score two touchdowns with his feet in this game as New England finished off New York 35-14.
Other good games to watch around the league on Sunday:
Houston @ Kansas City
Philadelphia @ Minnesota
New Orleans @ Jacksonville
San Francisco @ Los Angeles Rams
Upstate High School
Another good week for some Friday Night action here in the Upstate of South Carolina. Over half way through the regular season now, a lot of teams still in the hunt for a play-off spot. Here are some of the match-ups here in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson area.
Palmetto (3-2) @ Belton-Honea Path (4-1)
Landrum (4-2) @ St. Joseph’s (5-1)
Wade Hampton (0-6) @ Greenwood (3-3)
Gaffney (4-2) @ Dorman (6-0)
Southside Christian (5-1) @ Christ Church (3-4)
Laurens (4-1) @ Woodmont (5-1)
Byrnes (6-0) @ Mauldin (4-2)
Walhalla (5-1) @ Pickens (2-3)
Chapman (7-0) @ Carolina Academy (6-1)
Daniel (5-0) @ Wren (5-1)
Berea (1-5) @ Eastside (5-1)
Travelers Rest (5-1) @ Greer (1-5) – Go Dogs! We are TR!
Easley (3-3) @ T.L. Hanna (4-1)
Blue Ridge (3-3) @ Greenville (4-2)
Woodruff (4-2) @ Union County (3-3)
Chesnee (3-4) @ Broome (2-5)
Go to Soundcloud.com or visit our podcast page and check out the Week 7 preview show. Another great conversation between SoCon John and I as we dive into all of these great match-ups this week. Also, check us out on Facebook and Twitter @ The Spread Football.