Saturday is almost here which means it’s time for me to ramble a bit about this weekend’s docket. Could we have another top five team go down this week? Can UNC bounce back from the loss to Florida State? Will Louisville bring the Seminoles back down to earth and snap its own four-game skid? How bad will Alabama destroy Tennessee Saturday and who will start at Quarterback for the Big Orange? Is South Carolina on the brink of a winning streak with a trip to LSU Saturday night?
I don’t really have any of those answers but you can bet I’ll tell ya what I think will happen.
#14 North Carolina vs #23 North Carolina State
The Tar Heels took one on the chin last weekend in Doak Campbell and can’t afford to allow the Noles to beat them twice, as folks like to say. North Carolina State is down a QB after Devin Leary recovers from broken fibula. He’s expected to miss 4-8 weeks. State was quietly having a good year. At 4-1 the only loss was a bit of a head scratcher as Virginia Tech was down 23 players and four coaches including the presumed starting quarterback Quarterback Hendon Hooker and Defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton. Somehow, they still managed to defeat State rather easily, 45-24.
Tough, tough loss of Leary for the Wolfpack and even worse timing. As of Wednesday night, Vegas has UNC as 15.5 favorites over the Wolf Pack. Bailey Hockman is likely the new QB1 with Ben Finley, younger brother of former Pack QB Ryan Finley, as the new backup.
With that QB change noted, I have to side with the Tar Heels in this one. I never thought they were really the fifth best team in the nation but I do think they are legit squad that needs to be taken seriously. (Just ask Clemson and more recently, FSU)
Florida State vs Louisville
Can the Seminoles make it two straight wins? Can Louisville get back on track and snap a four-game losing skid?
The Cardinals haven’t tasted victory since week one against Western Kentucky. They hung tough with #4 Notre Dame last weekend before eventually falling short, 12-7. FSU of course is coming off a thrilling 31-28 victory over (at the time) 5th-ranked North Carolina. The Tar Heels rallied back but three straight drops on the final possession slammed the door shut on a comeback for the ages. Quite frankly had FSU blown that game, that might have put the Seminoles down on the mat for the season. But they pulled it out and have life.
The offense appears to be much improved with Jordan Travis under center and the offensive line play has also taken a step forward. Talent has never been an issue in Tallahassee and it’s only a matter of time before the Seminoles get back to being a common place in the top 15. I’ve gone back and forth on this one all week but give me the Cardinals pulling it off to get back into the win column. Big day for Louisville’s Malik Cunningham and Javian Hawkins.
Tennessee vs #2 Alabama
How do the Vols measure success here? A touchdown in the first quarter? Maybe a few stops here and there to force field goals? Who knows. Tennessee could finally be moving away from Jarrett Guarantano but clearly the reliable options are not flowing freely around Rocky Top these days.
“We’ve repped several guys, and we’ll continue to do that as the week goes,” Pruitt told the media. “As we get closer, we’ll probably narrow it down to who exactly will be healthy enough and who’s ready to play.”
It doesn’t really matter Saturday if its J.T. Shrout, Harrison Bailey or Brian Maurer. This is going to get ugly. I hope the Vols can keep it respectable through the first half but its just too much Najee Harris, too much Jaylen Waddle, too much Devonta Smith and too much Mac Jones. Alabama’s D has some issues but Tennessee is not equipped to expose them consistently enough to win this game. ROLL DAMN TIDE as Saban improves to 23-0 against his former assistants.
South Carolina vs LSU
The honeymoon is over in Baton Rouge and the defending champions now find themselves 1-2 overall heading into a must-win against South Carolina this weekend. LSU is most likely going to be without the services of Myles Brennan as he nurses a ‘significant lower body injury’.
Not the best time to roll the dice on a freshman quarterback against a capable South Carolina team that is on the up swing with wins over Vanderbilt and Auburn last week. South Carolina is finding ways to get points on the board and they could cause problems against an LSU squad that hasn’t been able to prove the naysayers wrong to this point.
Charge it to the craziness of 2020 but all of the sudden if SC can get past LSU, things become a little more interesting out in the SEC-East. If Brennan was playing I might be comfortable rolling with the Tigers but here’s my “upset” for the week. The Gamecocks crow in Tiger Stadium Saturday and help LSU become one step closer to spending the holidays in Shreveport
#11 Miami vs Virginia
The Canes got back on the right swing of things Saturday with a key ACC win over Pittsburgh, 31-19. Miami has some players on both sides of the ball and perhaps they get a second crack at Clemson in the ACC title game. We shall see.
Virginia is another team I’m still trying to figure out. I thought they did some things well against Clemson a few weeks ago but they’ve looked horrible ever since. They’ve now dropped to 1-3 overall with a 17-point loss to NC State and a much more surprising (IMHO) 40-23 defeat from Wake Forest.
If I know the ACC coastal like I know the ACC coastal, Miami should win this game…..which is exactly why I think Virginia goes on the road and Brennan Armstrong leads the Cavaliers to a top-15 road win. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall earns one of his biggest wins yet in Charlottesville and the folks down in South Beach realize this isn’t the year they make their comeback.
The Hall Pass Pick’ Em Selections
#1 Clemson over Syracuse
#3 Notre Dame over Pittsburgh *UPSET WATCH*
#5 Ohio State over Nebraska
#6 Oklahoma State over #17 Iowa State
Ole Miss over Auburn
Kentucky over Missouri
TCU over Oklahoma
Louisiana over UAB
Liberty over Southern Mississippi
Texas over Baylor