Wisconsin continues to prove that they deserve to be in the college football playoff after an impressive showing against Maryland. Michigan State proves once more that last year’s performance isn’t going to define them this season. Meanwhile teams like Northwestern and Minnesota continue their campaign towards post-season play.
I’m going to stick with last week’s prediction that Penn State makes it to the CFP. I LIKE this team. Saquon Barkley continues to dominate B1G defenses, if you were tuned in you watched him make a stout Michigan defense look like a Pop Warner team. Barkley averaged 7.2 yards per carry and hit pay dirt twice. Not to mention his quarterback ran for 6.9 yards per carry last week, looking at you Greg Mattison. Last week I had TCU in the Fiesta Bowl but they are looking better and better every week. I mean, they held Kansas to 21 yards of total offense on Saturday, this defense is scary good. Nothing against my previous week’s pick Georgia, it’s just that TCU continues to surprise me.
The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (Jan 1st)- Wisconsin Badgers vs. Miami Hurricanes
It’s all about the U! Wow, Miami has been nothing but impressive this season, i’m getting serious flashbacks to the early 2000’s Hurricanes teams. Ok, that may be hyperbole, but on the shoulders of their deadly WR combo of Ahmmon Richards and Christopher Herndon IV they picked up a solid win against Dino Babers and Syracuse. There isn’t much more to say about this Badgers squad that hasn’t already been said, Jonathan Taylor continues to have one of the all-time great seasons for a B1G freshman running back. The only reason I don’t have Wisconsin in the college football playoff is their quarterback Alex Hornibrook limits their offensive potential. This is not to say he’s a bad quarterback but he fits the old cliche that he doesn’t lose you games, but he also won’t win you any.
I don’t have much movement in my projections for the top three teams in the Big Ten. Their progression this past week has all gone pretty much according to plan. Urban Meyer’s group had a bye week this week giving them ample time to prep for the Nittany Lions. Virginia Tech continues to impress, they held a bad North Carolina team to only seven points. Which is what you’re supposed to do against a team like that. The more telling stat from that match-up was the yard differential. The Hokies posted a +211 yard differential which says a lot about how they dominated this North Carolina team.
We are going to keep this match-up from last week. I like the idea of these two teams facing off. The ball control, defensive minded Michigan State group against the prolific passing offense at OK State is an intriguing one. Both of these teams continue to run on parallel tracks this year and would make for a fantastic contest if they ran into each other this bowl season.
Michigan continues to struggle versus top tier Big Ten competition this season. After watching them against Florida in the Non-Conference I thought the sky was the limit for this team. John O’Korn is just not cut out to be the man that leads Michigan to a major bowl game. Will Grier is an impressive college QB and the Mountaineers avoided disaster last week after beating an 0-7 Baylor team 38-36. Look for WVU to continue to play well, but their remaining schedule is incredibly tough. In that light these teams seem to mirror each other, good teams just under that “elite” status in incredibly tough conferences. One side note for this game, can Michigan fans stop calling for Jim Harbaugh’s job? I mean really, if it makes you happy you can take Rich Rodriguez back.
Iowa lost a tough game against Northwestern this week in a comtest that ended in well, lets say strange fashion. Questionable coaching decisions aside the Hawkeyes had a chance to respond late when TE Noah Fant dropped a sure first down to turn the ball over and secure the win for the Wildcats. The Sun Devils had a good showing against Utah winning by twenty.
Northwestern picked up a solid win against Iowa. The Wildcats have a pretty easy road for the remainder or the season. After next weeks game with MSU the last four contests they have are relatively winnable games. NU’s offense still looks less than stellar but their defensive unit continues to keep them in ball games and will likely put them in a good position for the post season. Duke has been a bit disappointing after some good seasons the past few years but they are solid enough to make a middle tier bowl appearance.
PJ Fleck is hard to watch, his team last week, was almost just as hard to watch against Illinois. The only issue is, the Illini were even worse, giving the Gophers their fourth win of the season. I had them on the outside looking in last week, but their remaining schedule is looking less and less intimidating every week. A change at quarterback could be just what the doctor ordered and could inject some life into this Minnesota team as they push on towards the end of the Big Ten season. Texas Tech has a similar road ahead as their remaining schedule bodes well for them going forward.
Indiana Hoosiers (4-8)
Indiana continues to struggle, their decision to switch to Patrick Ramsey at QB hasn’t gone as well as they thought. Last week he posted a QBR of 29.6, may I say yikes. Indiana does have a fair draw for the rest of the conference season but I wouldn’t pick them to beat anyone at this point. Aside from the Illini that is.
Maryland Terrapins (5-7)
Maryland continues to be the team that is just outside the bowl picture for this season. D.J. Moore is a fantastic WR with legitimate pro-potential. The Terrapins defense is just unreliable and they are having trouble stopping anyone right now. This is still the team I see most likely to jump into the ranks of bowl teams this season, but they need to show me a little more before I project them into a bowl game.
Purdue Boilermakers (5-7)
Purdue drops out of the mix for me this week. I think that anytime you lose to Rutgers, that line of thinking is justified. Jeff Brohm has gotten this team to a much better place, but it was easy to get too high on this team and forget what they really are this year. It may be just a little longer until Purdue is a legitimate bowl contender but they aren’t far away.