ATLANTA - In the last weekend for college football in the month of October, things are beginning to take shape for potential bowl game matchups and College Football playoff implications. At this point, one has had the chance to witness top teams lose, top teams bounce back after an upset and surprise teams storm their way into the AP Top 25 poll.
It is an exciting time for college football. While all the other games up until this point have held substantial weight to shaping the very position that teams are in currently, the games ahead will be the actual difference maker in who lands a spot in a conference championship or who competes for a shot in the College Football Playoffs.
This time of the year is where the rubber meets the pavement. Which teams are for real, which teams cruised through the season up until this point and which teams have gotten hot as the regular season is drawing near its end.
The madness or the reality of which teams will continue to prove themselves will continue this week. Which Big 12 team --- Oklahoma State or West Virginia --- will fall out the race for chance to compete in the conference championship after Saturday afternoon’s game. Will Cowboys’ Mason Rudolph win his third straight against the Mountaineers? Can No. 2 Penn State keep up in what the Nittany Lions hope is an eventual Big Ten championship and national championship run when they take the field against No. 6 Ohio State in Columbus? Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley and the Penn State offense will be tested against the Buckeyes’ defense.
No. 3 Georgia has continued its roll of dominance but a tough match against Florida will test the Bulldogs this weekend. No. 4 TCU will try to keep its top spot in the Big 12 against No. 25 Iowa State, a team that cracked the top 25 for the first time in 12 years.
Meanwhile, No. 14 NC State must pass a major road test on South Bend against No. 9 Notre Dame to further solidify its place as one of the best teams in the country. The chances of UCLA giving No. 12 Washington trouble this weekend is possible while Georgia Tech looks to upset No. 7 Clemson on the road.
It does not get any better than this.
Week 9 kicked off Thursday as Northern Illinois rallied from a 14-point deficit to top Eastern Michigan in overtime, 30-27. Toledo destroyed Ball State, 58-17. Georgia State bounced back after its loss last week to Troy by defeating South Alabama, 21-13. No. 20 Stanford survived in Corvallis, Oregon against an 1-7 Oregon State team, winning 15-14 in Pac-12 action.
On Friday, Tulane gets the challenge of slowing down No. 24 Memphis, Florida State faces Boston College on the road and Tulsa meets SMU in Dallas.
WATCH Channel 2 for the big games this weekend. Plus, follow Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein as he brings you the latest college football coverage from the Georgia-Florida game and college football teams across the state playing in Week 9.
Top Games on Channel 2
(11) Oklahoma State at (22) West Virginia | 12 p.m. on Channel 2
If you want to watch what should be a high-offensive scoring match led by two great quarterbacks for their respective teams, tune in to the Oklahoma State-West Virginia game as the two teams sit in a four-way tie with Oklahoma and Iowa State for second place in the Big 12 Conference. TCU sits at the top of the conference with a 4-0 record.
Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph versus Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier.
Which team will have the upper hand Saturday afternoon in Morgantown, West Virginia?
For starters, Rudolph has always played exceptionally well against West Virginia, leading the Cowboys to two victories in his two starts at quarterback against the Mountaineers. In last year’s game, Rudolph threw for three touchdowns. This year, the senior quarterback --- who has thrown over 11,000 yards and a total of 74 touchdowns in his Cowboys’ career --- will look to earn his third victory against the Mountaineers. This season, he has thrown for 2,650 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Grier, meanwhile, quietly leads the nation in passing touchdowns with 26. He also ranks fourth in passing yards and fifth in passing efficiency.
Both teams are averaging more than 500 yards of total offense per game, with similar breakdowns in rush and pass offense. Oklahoma State has playmakers at the wideout position with James Washington, who has proven to be deadly to opposing secondary’s as he has tallied 914 yards and six touchdowns this season. West Virginia’s David Sills V has tallied 737 yards and 15 touchdowns, and by far one of Grier’s favorite targets.
The difference maker in the game: defense
The Mountaineers are giving up nearly a hundred more yards of offense to their opponents than the Cowboys. West Virginia is also giving up nearly seven more points to its opponents as well.
As everyone knows, the opportunity for the quarterback to take shots down field requires a solid or stable running game. The team who does this and does it the most effective will have the advantage. If Cowboys running back Justice Hill was looking for a game to really make some explosive plays, this would be the Saturday to do it as the Mountaineers are giving up almost 200 yards on the ground as opposed to the Cowboys giving up 134.
Defensively, however, the Mountaineers have been strong in third-down situations in stopping their opponents and forcing them to punt on fourth down. On Saturday, both defenses will be tested but the Mountaineers will most definitely be tested on third downs to see if they can get Rudolph and the Cowboys’ offense off the field.
In what will most likely be a very close game that goes down to the wire, Oklahoma State has the better advantage. To the team that loses, well, the hopes for competing for a Big 12 Championship will become very slim.
(4) TCU at (25) Iowa State | 3:30 p.m. on Channel 2
Other than TCU head coach Gary Patterson and maybe a few others, who would have thought that the Iowa State Cyclones (5-2) would be as good as they are right now coming off a 3-9 campaign last season?
Really? Iowa State. A team that is currently in the hunt for a shot to play in the Big 12 Championship.
Depending on Saturday’s outcome, however, will determine how much of a shot the Cyclones really have.
Will the Cyclones do what they did to Oklahoma to TCU or will the Cyclones be brought back to reality or at least the reality of the general public that the Cyclones being near the top of the conference is too good to be true?
That will be determined in Saturday’s matchup as the Cyclones will use the home field advantage in hopes of getting the upset against Big 12 conference leader, TCU. Don’t count Iowa State out, however, it will be one tall task for the Cyclones to get the upset.
TCU (7-0) has won its first four conference games by a three-touchdown margin. The Horned Frogs have excellent balance offense, averaging 466 yards of total offense per game with 268 through the air and 198 on the ground. Over half of the Horned Frogs offensive plays have been running plays while still managing to keep a balanced attack.
The Horned Frogs biggest offensive playmaker and one who has contributed to much of their success is dual threat quarterback Kenny Hill, who ranks fourth in the nation completion percentage at 70.2 and 15 touchdown passes this season alone, two less from his total number of touchdown passes last season.
If the Cyclones want to have any chance of winning this game, they must slow down Hill from making plays with his arm and his legs.
Meanwhile, Iowa State is averaging 400 yards of offense per game, with 279 coming through the air and 121 on the ground. This is not surprising. The biggest key, however, to the Cyclones’ success has been their ability to play balanced, limit their turnovers but also force their opponents in to committing turnovers.
Cyclones second-year head coach Matt Campbell said in an ESPN article that these three aspects have been the key to his team’s success.
“Our recipe for success is don’t make mistakes, don’t turn the ball over, force opponents to make some mistakes, and when they do, you got to do a great job of winning situational football,” Campbell said. “We can look back for the last three weeks, that’s what’s worked for us. When we’ve lost, we’ve been the ones that made the mistakes.”
Speaking of forcing turnovers, Iowa State is good at taking the ball away from its opponents. In the same sentence, the Cyclones have been prone to turn the ball over as well, like they did in their losses to Iowa and Texas. Not to mention, defensively, Iowa State is dead last in the conference in stopping teams on third down.
TCU converts 59 percent of its third-down situations, making it hard for opposing defenses to get off the field. On the flip side, it allows for the Horned Frogs to stay on the field and accumulate massive amounts of yardage each game.
Taking that into consideration, here is something else to think about. The Horned Frogs limited to Kansas to 21 yards of offense last week. Fairly enough, Kansas is last place in conference. However, TCU has the No. 1 pass rush in the conference and the Horned Frogs sit at the top of the conference in total defense.
Thus, it is highly likely that the Horned Frogs will get after Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt, who became the starting quarterback after the Oklahoma win.
Kempt will need to have a near perfect game for Iowa State, and the Cyclones’ defense playmakers like linebackers Marcel Spears and Willie Harvey must bring their “A” game and anchor the defense.
True enough, Iowa State has made major strides this season. If the Cyclones can pull off the upset and hand TCU its first conference loss of the year, it puts them in an entire new category of being elite in the Big 12.
The last time Iowa State defeated TCU was in 2012 when the Cyclones defeated the Horned Frogs, 37-23.
If Iowa State loses, it will not be the end of the world for the Cyclones being that they are just getting started in the process of tapping into their highest potential moving forward.
Georgia Tech at (7) Clemson | 8 p.m. on Channel 2
When Clemson (6-1) takes the the field against Georgia Tech (4-2) on Saturday, the Tigers will be tested in a big way as they look to repeat as Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champs this season.
Currently, Clemson is in second place behind North Carolina State in the ACC Atlantic division --- suffering a surprise loss to Syracuse on Oct. 13.
The Tigers cannot afford to lose back-to-back conference games, and if they plan to keep their chances alive for a possible selection into the College Football Playoff (CFP) scenarios, they must secure a victory.
However, Georgia Tech will not make the Tigers’ pursuit of a conference championship and a potential CFP bid any easier on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets two losses this season have come in very close games against Tennessee, 42-41, and Miami, 25-24. Essentially, a one-point loss to an SEC team and a one-point loss to the ACC Coastal division leader.
Currently, the Yellow Jackets are second behind the Hurricanes in the division. While this game is important for the Tigers, it is also important for head coach Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets. A win for Georgia Tech would keep the Yellow Jackets in contention for competing for a shot at a conference championship. A loss, however, would put a damper on their chances. Then, Georgia Tech would still need a loss from Miami to really make things interesting.
On Saturday, look for the Yellow Jackets to be in full force in their rushing attack out of the triple-option offense, one that has proven to be very difficult to slow down. Georgia Tech ranks second in the nation in rushing with nearly 373 yards on the ground per game. The rushing attack, led by junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall and sophomore KirVonte Benson, averages nearly six yards per carry, ranked 12th in nation.
Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney is definitely taking the Yellow Jackets rushing attack seriously.
“You have to defend it with such discipline and great technique,” Swinney said in an ESPN article. “They stress you from all angles.”
Like Georgia Tech’s high-powered rushing attack, the Tigers’ defense is no joke, especially when it comes to rush defense. Clemson enters Saturday’s game giving up only 108 yards on the ground, 12th best in the nation to its opponents and less than three yards per carry.
Not to mention, the Tigers have won the last four matchups against the Yellow Jackets.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, in the past two meetings, Clemson held Georgia Tech to a combined 166 yards on 80 carries and an average of barely two yard per carry. Meaning, the Yellow Jackets could be in trouble.
The Tigers’ defense, however, will only get them so far. The offense, led by quarterback Kelly Bryant, must be efficient on Saturday as well. Bryant, who has dealt with an injury and some tough hits this season, has thrown for 1,375 yards and rushed for 393 yards.
In a game that will already be stressful for Clemson, the Tigers’ offense must be efficient in the passing game and in the run game behind the play of running back Travis Etienne. Thus, it will take some of the pressure off of Kelly.
This game could come down to the wire, something the Yellow Jackets are all to familiar with. If it helps Clemson fans, the Tigers have gone 78 consecutive games without losing two games in a row. If this stat truly holds weight, watch out Yellow Jackets as you all could be on the brink of losing your second conference game of the year on Saturday night.
Top Local Games
(3) Georgia at Florida | 3:30 p.m.
Whether one refers to it as the "World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail" or the "River City Showdown," the Florida-Georgia rivalry is one that runs deep, dating back to 1915.
But, for those who really love and embrace the culture of the rivalry each year, they probably will not refer to it as the "River City Showdown" like it was named last year.
I ❤️ UGA/UF week!— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) October 24, 2017
Gators WR Josh Hammond:
“Georgia isn’t a team we lose to...they can’t beat Florida” pic.twitter.com/dNdKs63g5Y
Beyond the changing names to this bitter rivalry between two heavyweights in the SEC East, this game has been the site of some hard hits, trash talk, dramatic finishes and serious implications for who could potentially win the division in past years.
More Gators trash talk on UGA:— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) October 25, 2017
DB Chauncey Gardner on Bulldogs QB Jake Fromm:
“He’s throwing simple passes...anybody can throw a slant” pic.twitter.com/SgH7MbOkRY
And on Saturday, things will not be much different.
Another chapter of physical football and the chance for another down-to-the-wire finish along the St. Johns River will take place as No. 3 Georgia (7-0, 4-0) puts its undefeated season on the line against the Florida Gators (3-2, 3-3) Saturday afternoon at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Through eight weeks of college football, the Bulldogs have led and served as the frontrunner to win the SEC East and land a spot in the SEC Championship game against a team that is more than likely named Alabama.
However, with the two of its final four games being SEC East opponents, plus Auburn and Georgia Tech in its season finale, Georgia’s tests for the second half of the season begin Saturday against Florida.
Georgia enters Saturday’s game as the better team with the better record on paper, the previous matchups have favored Florida, even when the Bulldogs were in a similar position to the one they are in currently.
Georgia has not won against Florida since 2013, when the Bulldogs defeated the Gators, 23-20.
For the last three years, Florida has had Georgia’s number, beating the Bulldogs 38-20 in 2014, 27-3 in 2015 and 24-10 a year ago.
When looking at the last three matchups, in 2014, the Bulldogs were ranked No.11 and were expected to beat the Gators. Then, in 2015, Florida was ranked No. 11 and defeated an unranked Georgia team.
Considering the past --- not that it will determine what happens on the field on Saturday --- the Bulldogs know they must be ready to play in all areas.
Bulldogs tight end Jeb Blazevich said in a DawgNation article that head coach Kirby Smart is reminding his players what matters the most for Saturday’s game.
“Coach Smart says it doesn’t matter who’s the better team or the favored team,” Blazevich said. “It just matters who plays the best on that day. We need to make sure that’s us.”
If Georgia wants to stay on pace for a shot at a conference championship, the Bulldogs must pass a “midterm” exam against the Gators.
That starts with the offense running efficiently with the solid contribution from quarterback Jake Fromm and the rushing attack of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Fromm has thrown for 1,162 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. Chubb leads the team in rushing with 688 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yard per carry. Michel has rushed for 492 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
Like the offense, the defense will need to be clicking on all cylinders as well.
Something the Bulldogs will need to be alert with at all times is Florida’s knack for explosive plays, especially in the passing game.
Last week against Missouri, the Bulldogs gave up two 63-yard touchdown passes to Tigers wider receiver Emmanuel Hall, mainly due to miscommunication in defensive coverage.
Against the Gators, a team that likes to gain momentum and score points using the big plays, the Bulldogs cannot give up these opportunities.
Despite Gators’ offense ranking 11th in pass offense (averaging 182 per game) and last in passing touchdowns (five), Gators quarterback Felipe Franks has a strong arm and will be looking to make big plays for his team if Florida stands a chance in winning the game.
Franks will look to make big plays through the air, the Gators rushing attack has helped them when the last three games. Thus, the Bulldogs will need to keep an eye on freshman running back Malik Davis, who leads the team in rushing with 506 yards.
The Bulldogs’ defense, however, has been very strong against the run this season, giving up only 82 yards per game to their opponents.
To help slow down Franks and Davis, defensive linemen Trenton Thompson and David Marshall will be ready to play on Saturday as the two are coming back from injuries.
Thompson missed two games with a right knee sprain that he suffered in the team’s Sept. 30 win against Tennessee. In five games, he has recorded 17 tackles with three for a loss. Marshall did not play in the game against Missouri due to an undisclosed injury. Right now, Marshall has recorded seven tackles in six games.
While Florida can kiss its chances for a shot at a conference championship good bye, Gators head coach Jim McElwain knows what is at stake for Georgia and the Bulldogs magical season thus far.
What better way for the Gators to throw a wrench in the Bulldogs’ season in giving them a loss as they try to continue on their hot streak for a spot in the SEC Championship and remain a College Football playoff contender.
For Smart’s Bulldogs, they must come ready to play on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
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Kennesaw State at Presbyterian | 2:30 p.m.
It is homecoming this weekend for Presbyterian, and the Blue Hose will have their hands full slowing down Big South conference leader, Kennesaw State Saturday at Bailey Memorial Stadium.
Kennesaw State (6-1) is riding a six-game winning streak and is not showing signs of slowing down this weekend. The key to the Owls’ winning success has been their rushing attack, which ranks first in the nation with 333 yards per game. They also lead the conference with nearly 453 yards of total offense per game.
Despite the Owls 17-3 victory against Gardner Webb last week, head coach Brian Bohannon stressed the importance of the offense being much more efficient on Saturday than last week’s performance that featured some miscues and missed opportunities.
Presbyterian (3-4) is looking to get a win this week after the Blue Hose lost 7-0 against Charleston Southern last week. Despite the loss, Presbyterian’s defense played extremely well, limiting the Charles Southern 195 yards of total offense.
Considering Presbyterian’s defensive performance last week, if the Owls struggle to run the ball and get the offense moving, the Blue Hose might be on the brink of snapping Kennesaw State’s winning streak.
The Owls’ offense must keep an eye on the Blue House playmakers on defense that include linebacker Grant Bidel and defensive back Rock Ya-Sin. Bidel has recorded 70 tackles this season, 17th most in the FCS this season and second in the conference. Ya-Sin has recorded a team-high three interceptions, the most by a PC player in single season since 2015. He is also tied for third in the conference for interceptions this season.
While Presbyterian has defensive playmakers, the Blue Hose offense has been solid as well behind the play of redshirt junior quarterback Ben Cheek and freshman running back Torrance Marable. Cheek ranks second in the conference in completion percentage, completions per game passing efficiency, passing yards, passing yards per game and passing attempts. He has thrown for 763 yards in seven games and recorded a 122.7 passer rating.
Marable ranks second in rushing yards in the conference with 592 and averages nearly 85 per game, third-best in the conference. He also leads the team in touchdowns, with three rushing and two receiving.
If the Blue Hose can put together solid drives that combine a mix of the run and pass, and continue it stellar play on defense, Presbyterian could earn its second win in three seasons against the Owls.
The Blue Hose defense have allowed only 21 points over the last two games and kept their opponents scoreless in the opening half for the last two games as well.
Kennesaw State is favored to win but if the Owls struggle like they did last week, the Blue House could potentially earn their first conference win of the season.
Other ACC Action
(8) Miami at North Carolina | 12 p.m.
Louisville at Wake Forest | 12:20 p.m.
Virginia at Pittsburgh | 12:30 p.m.
(14) NC State at (9) Notre Dame | 3:30 p.m.
Duke at (13) Virginia Tech | 7:20 p.m.
Georgia Tech at (7) Clemson | 8 p.m.
Other SEC Action
Arkansas at Ole Miss | 12 p.m.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina | 4 p.m.
Missouri at Connecticut | 6:30 p.m.
Mississippi State at Texas A&M | 7:15 p.m.
Tennessee at Kentucky | 7:30 p.m.
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