By: James Ward
John O’Korn: The Michigan offense got on track against Purdue when O’Korn took over for the injured Wilton Speight at quarterback. Speight is reportedly out multiple weeks, but don’t be surprised if the Michigan offense plays better with O’Korn under center. Underrated.
Ed Orgeron: Interim coach record: 11-4. Full-time coach record: 13-29. Is Coach O coaching himself into a one-and-done in Baton Rouge? Overrated.
Kirby Smart: Bob Stoops and Jim Tressel both won national championships in their second seasons at Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively, and Kirby Smart seems to have turned things around for the Bulldogs. Last weekend’s beatdown against Tennessee was impressive and almost Alabama-like. Nick Saban’s protégé has built one of the best defenses in college football in just his second year on the job. Underrated.
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:
1. Former Clemson offensive coordinator and current SMU head coach Chad Morris recruited Deshaun Watson to Clemson. In an interview this week on CBS Sports Radio’s Eye on College Football, Morris said it took him just three plays as a high school freshman to realize Watson was going to be special. (h/t @RichAckerman)
2. I mentioned Stanford running back Bryce Love last week in this section, but he is pushing the conversation after another massive game. Love now has 1088 rushing yards through five games, becoming the first Pac-12 player with over 1000 yards on the ground in the first five games since Marcus Allen in 1981.
3. Through two SEC games, Alabama has outscored their opponents 125-3. The Crimson Tide play Texas A&M this weekend in College Station, where they’re currently 26.5 point favorites.
Boise State (-8) at BYU: I am hesitant to pick this game as an official Ward’s Winners pick because I really don’t want to watch it, but the BYU offense is in a terrible place right now. BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said this week that their quarterback position is, ‘”All hands on deck,” after injuries to their top two quarterbacks. The third string quarterback Koy Detmer Jr. threw three interceptions last week after taking over and the other options have reportedly seen less practice time. The Cougars have also been limited to 13 points or less in four out of five games to start the season. Nothing is working offensively for BYU. In addition, BYU is 0-5 against the spread this season.
Boise State is looking for a bounce back game after getting obliterated at home against Virginia their last time out. The Broncos have wins against Troy and New Mexico, which actually look decent on their resume. If you combine those wins with an overtime loss to Washington State, it looks to me like the loss to Virginia was an aberration, not the norm. Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin has an extra week to prepare for BYU, so the offense should be equipped to face a stout Cougars defense. Eight points is a lot for a struggling team to cover, but the BYU offense might be the worst in the country. Pick: BSU (-8)
Penn State (-15) at Northwestern: So much talk this season surrounding the Nittany Lions all world running back Saquon Barkley, but last week, the Heisman favorite was held to just 56 yards on the ground. That’s a bad thing for Northwestern. The Wildcats are allowing 145 yards on the ground per game (albeit on just 3.8 yards per carry), and aside from Wisconsin last week, they’ve yet to play a top rushing team. Barkley will have a huge impact on this game early. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook struggled last week against the Northwestern defense, but I’d be shocked if Penn State gunslinger Trace McSorley faces the same challenges. The Nittany Lions will open it up and score frequently.
The Penn State defense has the best points per game average in the Big Ten, and they’re third in the country behind Alabama and Georgia. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson has been sacked 15 times in four games. Thorson has also thrown five interceptions through four games, and that includes games against Nevada and Bowling Green – schools not typically known for their defenses. Thorson will have to quarterback a perfect game and he’s done nothing so far this season to show he’s up to the task. Penn State will make it an unhappy Northwestern Homecoming. Pick: PSU (-15)
West Virginia (+13.5) at TCU: Two weeks ago TCU upset Oklahoma State, a team known for early season clunkers, and now the Horned Frogs are two touchdown favorites against West Virginia. Kenny Hill is still the TCU quarterback, right? Hill has shown a complete reemergence this season, but throughout his college career, he’s been known as a fast starter. West Virginia quarterback Will Grier is more than capable of matching up with Hill in a shootout. Behind Grier, the Mountaineers are averaging 595 yards per game, second to only Oklahoma for total offense.
West Virginia will put up points, the big question is how will their run defense fare against TCU’s ground attack that played keep away with Oklahoma State and dominated the time of possession. Honestly, I don’t know if the Mountaineers defense is up to the task, but I also don’t think TCU can keep them off the scoreboard. Since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, three of the five matchups in this series have been decided by a field goal or less. The Mountaineers are capable of scoring with anyone in the country and I expect them to keep this game close. Pick: WVU (+13.5)
Last Week: 2-2
Season Record: 9-7
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 67-54-0
James Ward is the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends and Sunday Morning Football. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).