Thursday, September 26, 2013

Week 5 Non-Conference Games to Watch

Last year we crossed a bridge that as a fan you can’t uncross: The Bridge of Belief. Since then, we’ve had some good times, and some not so good times. We’ve had laughs and we’ve had tears. We’re Julia Roberts in Oceans’ Eleven. We tried to be with someone who doesn’t make us cry, but we don’t laugh. And we need to laugh and enjoy ourselves, because football season is too short not to.

As we cast out the spell of “Clemsoning” we’re hoping it finds a home in others. Specifically these teams (shown in order of likelihood):

LSU at Georgia, 3:30pm CBS
Of all the games this weekend, this one will hit closest to home for Clemson fans. Currently, only Clemson and Alabama have a Top 10 win on the season. For Clemson’s sake, we need to pull for Georgia to continue winning. Foremost, it continues to add value to Clemson’s season opening win, which could go a long way with voters and the BCS computers should there be multiple teams vying for a spot.

Of next importance, it knocks a serious title contender from the ranks of the unbeaten, and drops them behind a team Clemson has defeated. This LSU team could do further damage when they play Alabama & aTm.

Lastly, a Georgia win will suppress hopes of the USC faithful of returning to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. USC’s schedule continues to underwhelm, and they could easily run the table in the SEC. Doing so only allows Georgia one stumble, and they would hate to use it up now with games against Alabama & Florida on the horizon.

Chance of Georgia winning: 50/50

Wisconsin at Ohio State, 8:00pm ABC
Let’s be honest, Ohio State’s schedule is MACtastic. They face no one, either in conference or out. Right now, their highest ranked team on the schedule is Northwestern at #17. This game against Wisconsin could seriously be Ohio State’s biggest test remaining on their schedule, and even though their schedule is terrible, the voters and computers will have a difficult time leaving an undefeated Ohio State out of the title game.

The good news for Clemson fans is Wisconsin typically plays Ohio State tough, with the occasional win sprinkled in. The bad news is Ohio State has Urban Meyer and Jen Bielema and her karma are no longer at Wisconsin to distract the Buckeyes.

Chance of Wisconsin winning: 30%

Stanford vs Washington State, 10:00pm ESPN
Stanford slept walked through two opening games against San Jose St and Army, then laid the gauntlet on Arizona State. Can Wazzou’s intellectual pirate pull off the upset? Clemson fans sure hope so as this is their toughest road game remaining (unless you count a lame duck Lane Kiffin in an empty Coliseum).

Wazzou has the defense, but this Stanford offense will pound it into the ground. Can their offense muster enough success to find a few points to keep their defense off the field? My head says no, but the heart is All In – and it’s not willing to give up hope just yet.

Chance of Washington State winning: 20%

Ole Miss at Alabama, 6:30pm ESPN
All credit to Hugh Freeze for going full Christopher Columbus in navigating the recruiting waters. He has followed that with a quick start and some key road wins. But before we pay top dollar for Ole Miss (much like they are suspected of doing), let’s take a closer look at who they’ve played – and how they performed:

They needed a miracle to grab a late lead over Vandy, and then a gift INT to keep it. At one point they were down 11 to this Vandy squad in the 2nd half. Two weeks later they traveled to Texas where they jumped up to a quick 14-0 lead. They followed that quick 14 point spurt by allowing a bad Texas team to score 23 of the next 26 points. Ole Miss finally righted the ship and scored the final 27 points.

Those opportunities won’t be there this week. If they fall behind by double digits, it will be lights out for the Rebels. Ole Miss has a chance, but it needs to start fast, stay the course, then finish strong.

For Clemson fans, Alabama is 1A, Oregon 1B, while everyone else fights for a piece of being #2. If Alabama falls off their perch, it would be best to have it happen to a lesser tier team. Alabama would most certainly fall outside of the Top 5 while Oregon assumes the top spot. Clemson, Ohio State, et al are all now fighting for 1B, which looks a whole lot better than #2 – or worse…

Chance of Ole Miss winning: 15%

Bonus:

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, Thursday, 7:30pm ESPN

Georgia Tech, along with Maryland, have been the surprise of the ACC. Right now they are on the cusp of cracking the Top 25, and win over Va Tech would certainly do the trick. Additionally, Va Tech is facing the Jackets triple-option offense on short rest (those Thursday night games are awesome, right?).

A GT win increases Clemson’s strength of schedule, and depending on how the season unfolds, could give them an additional Top 25 win.

Chance of GT winning: 65%

South Carolina at UCF, 12:00pm ABC
Most football people will tell you to pull for South Carolina to increase your profile. Not this guy. I hope USC loses, and loses big.

Now, with that said, a USC win would be best for Clemson as it continues to validate their win over Georgia and helps their overall strength of schedule. I still can’t do it, and I think Clemson will play a strong enough schedule as is that a USC loss to UCF won’t make the difference.

Chance of UCF winning: 25%

Oklahoma at Notre Dame, 3:30pm NBC
See USC above and you’ll know my feelings on Notre Dame. However, this is not me requesting a ND loss for the sake of losing. This is me requesting a ND win for the sake of knocking Oklahoma out of the national championship picture. Much like Ohio State, Oklahoma’s schedule (Texas is bad and TT/Baylor won’t remain ranked) won’t allow them to reenter the BCS title race once they’ve left the party.

Chance of ND winning: 40%

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