College Football Forecast: 11/14

The college football world continues to suffer from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as 15 Division 1 FBS games have been postponed or canceled for this weekend.

Five of those games feature top 25 teams: #1 Alabama vs. LSU, #3 Ohio State vs. Maryland, #5 Texas A&M vs. Tennessee, #12 Georgia vs. Missouri, and #24 Auburn vs. Mississippi State.

As COVID-19 has taken away from the list of big-time matchups this weekend, a newly revised list for the top five matchups has been created.

5.) #13 Wisconsin vs. Michigan

After a two week hiatus, Wisconsin jumps back into their season slate to take on the 1-2 Michigan Wolverines.

In Wisconsin’s opening game, they throttled Illinois 45-7 and saw quarterback Graham Mertz shine before he tested positive for the virus. Mertz was nearly perfect, completing 20 out of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns. Mertz earned the starting job after projected starter Jack Coan underwent foot surgery just a few weeks ago.

Mertz distributed the ball well as he hit six different receivers, including Jake Ferguson who accumulated seven receptions for 72 yards and three scores.

Wisconsin’s defense showed up as well against the Fighting Illini as they held Brandon Peters and Isaiah Williams to only eight completions for 87 yards. The defense forced two turnovers that led to prime field position for Mertz and the offense to work.

After a promising start, winning a top 25 matchup to start the season, Michigan has fallen out of the rankings after losing to rival Michigan State and number 13 Indiana.

Joe Milton has thrown for at least 300 yards in both their losses, however, the rushing attack has not supported the passing game. The Wolverines only managed to rush for 13 yards against Indiana, which cannot happen against Wisconsin this weekend.

Depending on if Mertz plays, Michigan’s defense will have another tough test. Michigan has shown signs of inconsistency early this season, which has once again pulled their name out of the top tier discussion in college football.

Prediction: Wisconsin wins 27-20

4.) #11 Oregon vs. Washington State

With one week under both teams’ belts, Oregon and Washington State will battle it out in an intense Pac-12 matchup that could have early implications for the Pac-12 championship.

Oregon was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 championship, making every game that much more important as the season rolls along.

The Ducks never looked back after taking a 14-7 lead in the second quarter against Stanford to start the season. The rushing attack’s 269 yards and four touchdowns powered the Ducks to a 35-14 win over the Cardinal.

Oregon’s defense kept Stanford’s passing game in check as Jack West and Tanner McKee were held without a passing touchdown. Cornerback Mykael Wright led the defense with five tackles along with lockdown coverage, including two passes defended.

After Mike Leach’s departure earlier this year, it was unknown which direction Washington State would take with Nick Rolovich taking over.

In Rolovich’s debut, the Cougars pulled away late thanks to a 44-yard rushing touchdown by Travell Harris to give them a 38-28, which eventually became the final.

Washington State’s typical quick-strike offense went to work against the Beavers as quarterback Jayden de Laura connected with Travell Harris for two air strikes of 28 and 29 yards, respectively.

As both teams look to improve to 2-0, it will be a significant matchup as both teams possess great quarterback play, especially with Oregon’s Tyler Shough and his versatility to throw downfield as well as gain yardage with his feet.

Prediction: Oregon wins 34-30

3.) #9 Miami vs. Virginia Tech

With Miami’s ACC championship aspirations still at large, their matchup with Virginia Tech this week is extremely pivotal.

Miami rolls into this week 6-1 with their only loss coming to at the time number one Clemson, who has fallen to number four in the recent polls.

The Hurricanes have impressed on offense this season as in five out of six of their wins they have put up at least 31 points. D’Eriq King has been a gem so far this season as he has thrown for 1,831 yards and 16 touchdown passes while adding 406 yards on the ground.

In the past, Miami has prided itself on their stout defense, however, this season they have fallen to the middle of the pack. The defense has let up an average of 245.9 pass yards and has only forced 10 turnovers so far this season, which is seven fewer than the most in the FBS.

With Miami’s defense having a mediocre year, Virginia Tech’s offense looks to expose their weaknesses, including their run defense. Khalil Herbert has emerged as a star running back this season as he is currently averaging 8.4 yards per carry, which is the most amongst running backs with at least 90 carries.

Virginia Tech will look to bounce back after falling in heartbreaking fashion to non-conference opponent Liberty, 38-35. On the final play, the Hokies returned a blocked field goal attempt to make it 41-35, however, head coach Justin Fuente called a timeout prior to the snap, therefore washing out the potential scoring play. Instead, Liberty hit the game-winning field goal to knock off the Hokies.

Virginia Tech still remains 4-2 in the conference and has hopes of potentially reaching the ACC championship game, but if they fall to Miami their season is done. Both these teams have explosive players, but it comes down to who can strike early and often. With Miami barely edging out Virginia and N.C. State in the past two weeks, Virginia Tech will bounce-back to defeat the Hurricanes.

Prediction: Virginia Tech wins 41-31

2.) #6 Florida vs. Arkansas

Saturday’s matchup between Florida and Arkansas will feature former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks and the man who replaced him, Kyle Trask.

Arkansas has arguably been college football’s most surprising team this season. The Razorbacks sit 3-3 in the conference as they have won three games in the SEC for the first time since 2016. Arkansas only won a singular conference game over the past three seasons. Their three losses this season have all come against teams ranked 13th or higher.

Part of the reason the team has found new success comes from Franks, who has thrown 14 touchdown passes and has only had the ball picked off one time since the opening game of the season.

Trask and the Florida offense have had a monster year so far as they are averaging 42.4 points per game and coming off of a massive win over the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, 44-28. Trask threw for 474 yards bringing his season total to 1,815 yards. He connected with four different receivers for a score, including his trustee tight end Kyle Pitts, who now has eight touchdowns on only 24 receptions.

Florida’s defense has been quite forgettable so far this season as they are allowing nearly 30 points a ball game. The Gators have been susceptible to the quick-strike ability of opposing offenses. Georgia scored all three of their offensive touchdowns on plays of more than 25 yards.

This game will come down to which quarterback can connect more with their receivers as it will be an air-raid game. Trask and the Gators have the advantage in that department.

Prediction: Florida wins 42-38

1.) #2 Notre Dame vs. Boston College

Notre Dame comes into this week after winning arguably their biggest game in over a quarter of a century with their upset victory at home against the number one team in the nation, the Clemson Tigers.

Both squads battled it out until the end as they forced overtime with Kyren Williams scoring the go-ahead touchdown. The Fighting Irish’s defense would come up big on the ensuing possession as they sacked freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei on the first two snaps of the drive and then stopped the Tigers on fourth down. Mayhem would proceed the game’s exciting finish as the fans stormed the field to celebrate the 47-40 victory.

Coming into this game, a lot of people were skeptical about Ian Book and whether or not he could win the games that mattered. Book came up bigger than ever as he looked poised in the pocket all night as he would throw for 310 yards and a touchdown as well as adding 67 yards on the ground.

With Boston College awaiting, their defense will be tested with Kyren Williams continuing his dominance this season after he ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday. Boston College has been so-so against the run this year as they are allowing 143.8 yards per game.

The Eagles’ calling card has been their passing game with former Notre Dame quarterback, Phil Jurkovec leading the charge. Jurkovec surpassed the 2,000 passing yard mark against Syracuse last week. Zay Flowers continues to be his favorite target as he hauled in six receptions for 64 yards and the only touchdown for the Eagles.

Boston College kept pace with Clemson just a few weeks ago as the Tigers erased an 18 point deficit to beat the Eagles 34-28. Boston College’s three loses also came against top 25 opponents. Jurkovec and this offense have a chance to go toe-to-toe with Notre Dame, especially if the defense can play relatively sound.

Expect this game to be close once again for both of these teams, however, Book’s experience and the talented run-stop defense for the Fighting Irish will prevail in this matchup.

Prediction: Notre Dame wins 28-23