7 ARIZONA vs 2 OREGON
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me three times shame on both of us.
The first time Zona beat Oregon it was chalked up to a road surprise against an Arizona team on the rise combined with the lingering disappointment of losing to Stanford.
The second time, Mariota’s performance was chalked up to wooziness from getting sacked seven times against Washington State less than a week before as well as the injuries along Mariota’s offensive line putting him under constant pressure. However, few saw the end result coming beforehand.
The yardage totals and points produced by Oregon remain season lows. What’s Arizona’s secret?
Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez is the indirect progenitor of the no-huddle, spread offense run by Oregon in the same way that Vince Vaughn’s character in Delivery Man is indirectly the father of 533 kids through in vitro fertilization. He may not have personally implemented the offense, but most of the ideas for Chip Kelly’s baby were picked from Rodriguez’s brain.
Thus, Jeff Casteel’s Arizona defense knows how to counter an offense they see daily.
Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon doesn’t have Mariota’s perfect measurements, but he looks more and more like Russell Wilson in style, poise and productivity every day.
Linebacker Scooby Wright III treated Marcus Mariota like a crash test dummy for most of their last meeting and was given a red carpet for shot after shot. Oregon center Hroniss Grasu will either be less than 100 percent or sit out if he isn't capable of handling his duties.
The difference is that this time, offensive tackle Jake Fisher will be back on Mariota’s blindside like Kevin Costner protecting Whitney. That’s how important he he’s been to Mariota this season.
Like he has for most of his career, Wright’s impact on Wright has been overlooked.
Wright is the expert quarterback hitman, Mariota needs a protection detail for. Wright is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 139 tackles. The Pac-12’s Player of the Year is the perfect antithesis to Mariota. He leads the nation in tackles for loss with 27, recorded 139 tackles, proving the talent evaluators that didn't believe he could play in space wrong, 14 sacks from the inside linebacker position and has forced six fumbles.
Last November, Wright ended Marcus Mariota’s streak of 353 passes thrown without an interception by partnering with teammate Shaquille Richardson for one of the most absurd interceptions of the year.
The two passes picked off by Arizona were the first he’d thrown in over a year.
The former two-star prospect with David and Goliath tattooed on his left arm, defeated the ultimate Goliath by stripping Mariota on Oregon’s final possession back in October.
Mariota finally beat Stanford, but so did Utah, Arizona State, Notre Dame and USC. His next obstacle is to avoid becoming a Scooby S(n)ack.
4 FLORIDA STATE vs 11 GEORGIA TECH
The College Football Playoff committee is trying to give Jameis Winston the Bill Cosby treatment. There are no re-runs to remove from syndication or new pilots to cancel as there are for Cosby, but it’s proving harder to get rid of the resilient Seminoles. The selection committee has wheeled them to the edge of a bluff overlooking jagged sea rocks below and this is the last chance for a slip-up.
Winston’s preparation for Georgia Tech has been interrupted by his disciplinary hearings on campus and the Yellow Jackets are buzzing after upending UGA in Athens.
Facing Georgia Tech’s triple option is more confounding than running into Tupac alive and well at a ski lodge in Schälpmattgasse, Switzerland. The deception, fake handoffs to B-backs and movement stuns opponents just the same.
Tech ranks third in time of possession nationally and first in third down conversions giving Tech the means to gobble up the clock and shrink the margin of error for Winston. We know all about the triple option's offensive credentials, but Tech's defense is also fourth in points off of turnovers and tied for second nationally in defensive touchdowns.
Jameis Winston’s lawyer has a better Heisman candidacy than does the quarterback himself who’s now thrown 17 interceptions this season. Tech may be the worst foe at the wrong time.
Georgia Tech wins.
13 WISCONSIN vs 5 OHIO STATE
Melvin Gordon is nice, but he’s often the lone live body in a haunted Wisconsin backfield. Ohio State’s third-string quarterback is makes Wisconsin’s starters look like the salad on a Texas Steakhouse menu.
Joel Stave has thrown only four interceptions, but he's also connected on just eight touchdowns, threw for more than 200 yards just twice and passed for fewer than 100 yards three times.
Ohio State hasn’t done enough to deserve this over Baylor, but the selection committee appears to be distracted by brand names. Baylor is the cheap knockoff apparel in their eyes. Ohio State is Adidas.
Gordon may have to rush for 408 to account for Stave's impotency through the air against Ohio State’s fifth-ranked scoring offense.
Cardale Jones’ previous claim to fame was a tweet stating how he didn’t come there to play no school. Well, this is his chance to show us what he did come to Ohio State for. Conversely, with Barrett out of the Heisman picture, this could be Gordon’s chance to steal some Midwestern Heisman votes.
Ohio State takes Wisconsin to school.
1 ALABAMA vs 16 MISSOURI
Alabama’s defensive ends don’t pancake quarterbacks like a homemade waffle maker.
That distinction belongs to Missouri pass rushers Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Golden is 26th in the nation with a collection of 8.5 sacks. Ray accumulated 12 sacks, sixth in the nation.
Blake Sims has some horsepower in his cleats, but even he may not want to test Ray’s turbo button.
Missouri and Alabama have switched roles this season. Gary Pinkel traditionally plants his stake in the ground with a mobile quarterback and a potent offense. However, Les Steckel’s unheralded defenses have been the impetus for Mizzou’s SEC East title during a regression year for quarterback Maty Mauk and their juggernaut offense.
Their pass defense has improved from 35th after fishing outside the top 100 and their scoring defense has improved from 34th to 13th.
Don’t be fooled by the Iron Bowl numbers though. Alabama is still capable of neutering opposing offenses. However, pressuring quarterbacks has never been a strong suit of the unit.
The one area where Missouri remains consistent is in lassoing quarterbacks. Sims has remained disciplined in the pocket and only bolts when options are exhausted or the opportunity presents itself behind their five-star offensive line, which is why the Crimson Tide are tied for ninth in sacks allowed.
The Tigers are renowned for their speed rushes, but they’re also sturdy enough in the middle to be a yellow light on the tracks for Alabama’s freight train rushing attack.
However, Missouri’s offense is too anemic to trust against a defense of Alabama’s caliber.
9 KANSAS STATE at 6 BAYLOR
The Big 12 title is walking on a blurred line.
The lack of a championship game means that this game isn’t guaranteed to bolster Baylor into the top four because the Big 12 has retroactively shunned their bylaws and declared that they will declare TCU and Baylor co-champions if they win out this weekend.
But for all intent and purposes this is the adopted Big 12 championship game. However, if Baylor wins, this is their title to split in the same way that Blurred Lines is Robin Thicke’s hit song, not Marvin Gaye’s.
Art Briles’ transformation of Baylor is the most remarkable Big 12 turnaround story since Bill Snyder’s Midas Touch graced Kansas State’s moribund program. Before Briles and his on-field emissary RGIII got cooked alive in the 2010 Texas Bowl, it had been 16 years since Baylor's last bowl game appearance. That was Briles' third season at the helm. Four years later, the Bears are on the precipice of college football playoff history.
The committee currently rates TCU ahead of Baylor, but how they handle their business on the road against Kansas State could convince the committee to
Baylor’s offense is predicated on getting to the line of scrimmage quickly and tiring out the defense. Kansas State limits possessions with an offensive tempo that you’d imagine a 75-year old like Snyder would stereotypically coach.
Don’t sleep on Baylor. However, this one’s at home. If Bryce Petty is cleared after suffering a concussion in the third quarter against Texas Tech, the Bears need a mauling to jump TCU and Ohio State.
…Or the committee could decide Kansas State isn’t a top 25 team retroactively and completely nullify this victory.
IOWA STATE at 3 TCU
Four years ago, an undefeated campaign by TCU wasn’t enough to get the Horned Frogs into the national championship discussion. In 2014, a victory over 2-9 Iowa State to cap off a one-loss season could earn them a higher seed than 12-0 defending national champion Florida State.
Iowa State gave Oklahoma State a shiner in 2011, ejecting them from the BCS national championship game driver’s seat. At the tail end of a torturous season that has resuled in whispers around the job security of Paul Rhoads, T-boning TCU would be more valuable than the vote of approval from the athletic director.
TCU has Iowa State hit the Rhoads.