Who'll win Week 10's biggest games?
One game on the Week 10 slate trumps them all, and that will occur in Tallahassee, Fla.
So that's where we'll begin this week's Fearless Predictions.
Check out CollegeFootballNews.com for more on this week's games.
No. 7 Miami at No. 3 Florida StateSaturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Miami-Florida State always matters. For the first time in a long time, it matters well beyond just the Sunshine State. The Canes and Noles are steeped in history and lore, but it’s been a long decade since the rivals faced off as top-10 occupants. Saturday night in Tallahassee will be a blast from the past and, the ACC hopes, a glimpse of the future. Both programs have exceeded expectations so far in 2013.
Miami began the year as a fringe top-25 squad, with the ominous clouds of a never-ending NCAA investigation hovering. Now, the Hurricanes are No. 7 in the BCS, and the off-field issues have been resolved. Yeah, the Cardiac Canes have lived dangerously, especially in recent close calls against North Carolina and Wake Forest, but they’ve found a way to remain among the shrinking fraternity of eight unbeaten schools.
No. 3 Florida State has stampeded through its first seven games, winning by an average score of 52-13. In a rout at Clemson two weeks ago, the Seminoles transitioned from ACC contender to national championship contender. They slipped behind Oregon in the latest BCS standings, but a win over Miami could vault the ‘Noles back into the two-hole behind Alabama. Rookie QB Jameis Winston gets another center stage opportunity to make his case to Heisman voters on Saturday night.
Why Miami Might Win: The Hurricanes have done one thing really well this year -- win. Led by head coach Al Golden, they possess a certain intangible that allows them to persevere through difficult situations. Maybe the protracted NCAA investigation equipped them with unusually thick skin. Miami has played in three games decided by five points or less, finding a way to win all three. The constants were an unheralded defense and a running game that’s gotten major contributions from both Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford.
The Canes are short on defensive stars, yet long on production. They’ve been clutch and instinctive, coming up with big stops and even bigger turnovers when needed most. Miami just might have the special unit needed to slow down Florida State, ranking in the top 20 nationally in takeaways, sacks, pass efficiency defense, total D and scoring D. While Winston & Co. have trafficked in explosive plays, the Canes are 10th nationally in fewest 20-yard plays allowed.
Why Florida State Might Win: Miami has yet to face a team as complete as the Noles, and it’ll do it at Doak Campbell Stadium. FSU isn’t perfect; it’s just looked that way through seven games. Save for a rocky first half versus Boston College a month ago, the Seminoles have been unstoppable on both sides of the ball. Heck, the offense ranks No. 3 nationally in scoring, while the defense is No. 4. Shredding then-unbeaten Clemson in Death Valley, 51-14, served noticed that Jimbo Fisher’s fourth team was ready to compete for a spot in Pasadena in January.
FSU had no problems corralling Tajh Boyd, which is bad news for wildly inconsistent Miami QB Stephen Morris. Sure, Mark D’Onofrio has done a great job transforming the Miami D, but FSU brings a level of speed and diversity that the Canes haven’t seen in 2013. The best attack Miami has witnessed this year, No. 47 Georgia Tech, scored 30 points on it. Winston’s remarkable season has been aided by one of the nation’s best supporting casts, a deep collection of playmakers that includes backs Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams, receivers Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin and TE Nick O’Leary.
What Will Happen: Miami is No. 7 and Florida State is No. 3, but in reality, the gap between these two long-time rivals is a little more than just four spots. with Golden in charge, Miami will bring it for 60 minutes, but stopping Winston and his teammates, though, is a very tall order. The redshirt freshman has already outplayed one senior quarterback with an NFL future. He’ll make it two versus Morris, who’ll get further exposed by a Florida State D that’s itching for more recognition.
Prediction: Florida State 40, Miami 23
No. 18 Oklahoma State at No. 15 Texas TechSaturday, 7 p.m. ET, FOX
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Do you want to try figuring out the Big 12 title chase? Texas Tech lost at Oklahoma and now has to get back on the horse in a hurry with Baylor and Texas still to deal with after Kansas State next week. The Red Raider defense has been solid – 38 Sooner points aside – and the offense has been creative and effective. Now it’s time to beat a real team. With a win, a top-four conference finish is likely and a good bowl game will come in a terrific first year under Kliff Kingsbury.
Oklahoma State is in the same boat. The Cowboys are coming off their most effective win of the conference season by blasting Iowa State last week. After a puzzling loss to West Virginia in the conference opener, OSU has put that in the rearview mirror to win three straight and now controls its own destiny. Win out, with Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma to close after the free space against Kansas next week, and the Cowboys go to the Fiesta Bowl.
Why Oklahoma State Might Win: The secondary. OSU has been known for its offense over the past several seasons, but the defense is getting it done in Big 12 play. If you can stop the pass, you can win in the Big 12, and the Cowboys rank seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense, with 13 interceptions and only nine scoring passes allowed. Texas Tech will get its yards and find ways to get the passing game moving, but don’t be shocked if the O goes silent for long stretches. The Cowboy secondary is outstanding at getting off the field on key downs.
Why Texas Tech Might Win: Don’t be fooled by the Iowa State win; Oklahoma State’s offense is trying to figure it all out. It’s almost November, and still the Cowboys don’t quite have the quarterback situation settled. Making things worse is an aggressive Texas Tech defensive front that gets behind the line on a regular basis. It’s not a coincidence the Red Raider defense struggled to make big things happen in the backfield in its two toughest games – TCU and Oklahoma – but Oklahoma State’s O-line gives up big plays. It’s phenomenal in pass protection, but it’s possible to get behind the line on this group.
What Will Happen: Expect a terrific game with lots of back-and-fourth swings and big days from both offenses. The two defenses will take over in the fourth quarter, and the lack of a steady OSU passing game will become a problem in the final minutes. It’ll come down to the final drive.
Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Oklahoma State 34
No. 21 Michigan at No. 22 Michigan StateSaturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Why You Should Give A Hoot: It’s game on in the Legends. Nebraska might have lost to Minnesota, and Michigan might have gagged away a loss to Penn State, but none of that matters now. With little due respect to Iowa and Minnesota, and blowing off a tired Northwestern squad, it’s between the Huskers, Spartans and Wolverines for the right to play – almost certainly – Ohio State for the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. And it all starts here.
Michigan State appears to be finding its stride at just the right time. The defense gives up points from time to time – it’s not the Alabama D – but it’s rocking and rolling over the last few weeks with a shutout over Purdue and a stomping on Illinois’ homecoming. With Nebraska and Northwestern on the road over the next few games, the defense will get tested, but Michigan is the biggest challenge so far.
Which Michigan will show up? The offense got over its case of the yips against Akron and Connecticut to score a combined 145 points against Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana, but Michigan State has allowed just 98 points total this season and could give Devin Gardner and company a very bad day.
Michigan has a tougher path, facing Iowa and Northwestern on the road along with home dates against Nebraska and Ohio State at home, and with the gaffe at Happy Valley, a loss to the Spartans could be devastating. MSU isn’t going to lose its final three games.
Why Michigan Might Win: How do you get by a smart, veteran defense that’s great at getting into the backfield and being disruptive? Get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in a hurry. Consider it a bad sign if Gardner has to be the main runner and all-around playmaker – MSU’s defensive front can close down one guy, even if he’s as good as No. 98.
Gardner has been effective down field as he’s gaining more confidence since the problems earlier this year. He needs to utilize quick-hitting passes and accept that a three-yard gain isn’t bad. He’s not going to average 17 yards per try like he did against Indiana, but that’s OK. Ball control will be a big deal.
Why Michigan State Might Win: There’s a problem for a Wolverine passing game that’s going to want to get things moving quickly and efficiently; MSU’s secondary is a rock, allowing just 161 yards per game. Michigan makes way too many big mistakes. The Wolverines have been saved at times by a defense that’s strong at taking the ball away, but Michigan State, for all its offensive flaws, doesn’t give it away on a regular basis.
The Wolverines have to be nearly flawless against a Spartan defense that won’t allow too many opportunities, but they’ve turned it over three or more times in four games this season. As long as the MSU offense can take advantage of the help the defense provides, there won’t be a problem.
What Will Happen: Michigan will get frustrated, quickly. However, the Wolverine defense will come up with some big moments of its own to keep the game within reach. The Sparty D will have to come through with a few big late stops, and it will.
Prediction: Michigan State 24, Michigan 17
Why You Should Give A Hoot: So the game has lost its luster because 1) you’ll get yelled at if you call it the Cocktail Party and 2) the rematch of the two best SEC East teams in 2012 is a shadow of its former self, but it still matters the SEC’s world. It might not seem like it, but both teams are still breathing in the SEC title chase thanks to South Carolina’s win over Missouri last week. There’s still lots of work to do for everyone in the SEC East, but if the Tigers start stumbling, this game will go a long way to determining who goes to Atlanta.
South Carolina could really use Florida winning since that could potentially force a three-way tie-breaker in the East if Missouri stumbles. Florida still gets its say against South Carolina and could have a shot by winning out and getting a few Tiger losses. No one has been hit harder by injuries than these two, and it has showed. As we saw against LSU and Missouri, there’s little margin for error in Florida’s game. The defense has been fine, but the offense has scored 13 points in the last two games.
Georgia is also coming off two straight losses in games against Missouri and Vanderbilt that almost certainly would’ve gone the other way with a full complement of skill players and safeties. But that’s life in the SEC, and now the Bulldogs have a shot closing strong with Appalachian State and Kentucky still to face along with winnable but tough road games at Auburn and Georgia Tech.
Why Georgia Might Win: That whole Backup QB Is The Most Popular Player thing is fun in theory, but it’s ugly when it has to actually be put to the test. Florida’s Tyler Murphy isn’t playing well in place of Jeff Driskel, and the offense isn’t going anywhere. LSU held the Gators to just 129 passing yards, and Mizzou allowed Murphy to hit on just 15-of-29 passes for 92 yards with a pick two weeks ago. Worse yet for a mobile quarterback who’s supposed to make things happen with his feet, he’s indecisive and taking way too many sacks. Georgia can pin its ears back and pressure him with no fear of getting hit with any big plays – that’s not how the Gators roll.
Why Florida Might Win: Georgia can be slugged in the mouth. Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee all pounded away and occasionally took the ball out of the quarterback’s hands during key stretches, and the Gators have to do that, too. They’ll have something quirky to pull out of the bag – this game always comes up with something memorably weird – but overall, the tone must be set by an offensive line that got away from the ground game against Missouri, running just 31 times for 59 yards. There’s no threat of the downfield passing game, so Georgia is going to line up and dare Murphy to take the top off the D, but so what? Florida, when it’s working, runs the ball well no matter what.
What Will Happen: Todd Gurley. Florida’s defense will be outstanding, and it’ll come up with a heroic effort, but Georgia has the offensive talent in the backfield; the Gators don’t. Expect a few trick plays, a couple of early momentum swings and a big win for Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Georgia 23, Florida 17
No. 24 Wisconsin at IowaSaturday, Noon ET, ABC/ESPN2
Why You Should Give A Hoot: This game really matters … next year. Starting in 2014, these two will be West division rivals and this game will have different implications. This year, it’s all about the bowl pecking order.
Wisconsin is stuck in a strange no-man’s land. It has to keep pushing while hoping Ohio State gets tripped up twice in Big Ten play, and it has to be impressive over the last five games, while also hoping for Fresno State and Northern Illinois to trip up, to have a shot at an at-large BCS game. The Badgers might have been totally jobbed at Arizona State, but it’s still a loss. Wisconsin at 6-1 would be deep in the hunt for a BCS bid, but at 5-2 it still doesn’t have a big-time win considering Northwestern suddenly decided to be Northwestern again.
Like Wisconsin, Iowa also lost to Ohio State in a tough battle in Columbus, but the big problem is a 26-14 home loss to Michigan State that killed any reasonable Big Ten title dreams. Even so this has turned out to be a surprisingly nice season for Kirk Ferentz’s team, with a bowl game all but certain and a chance to do some giant-killing down the stretch. Last week’s win over Northwestern righted the ship, but with Michigan and Nebraska still to go, it would be nice to get the sixth win out of the way now so the pressure isn’t on at Purdue next week.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: That fearsome Iowa run defense has taken a hit over the last few weeks. After doing a nice job of bottling up NIU in the opening-weekend loss, Iowa didn’t allow 100 yards on the ground for a four-game stretch. Michigan State was kept in check, and then Ohio State got on a roll, blasting the Iowa front four on the way to a dominant second half and a 10-point win. Without Venric Mark, Northwestern was able to still crank out 225 yards on the ground. Yes, Iowa has allowed only two rushing scores all year – both to Ohio State – but it hasn’t faced Wisconsin yet. The Badgers have ripped off 280 rushing yards or more in five of their seven games, but …
Why Iowa Might Win: The two games Wisconsin didn’t rush for more than 231 yards, it lost. Iowa might have just the right blend to handle the Badgers at home. The passing game is effective enough to balance out an attack that should be able to beat the shaky UW corners when Mark Weisman and the ground game aren’t rumbling. Lost in Wisconsin’s easy win over Illinois was how Nathan Scheelhaase threw at will, hitting 77 percent of his passes. This might not be a high-octane Iowa passing team, but keep on pushing the ball deep and the Badgers will crack. If it doesn’t work on this secondary three times, it will on the fourth.
What Will Happen: Iowa will move the ball and come up with a nice start, but the Badger power game will become more effective as the game goes on. Wisconsin will have to fight, and the defense will have to come up with a few late stops, but the offense will be more explosive in key moments.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Iowa 24