#10 Penn State vs #3 Michigan (-4.0) 11:00 a.m. CT Saturday, November 11 on Fox
Boom. The day before gameday, the Big 10 suspended Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh for the duration of the season due to the ongoing NCAA investigation into Michigan’s in-person sign-stealing ring. Although Harbaugh is now off the sideline, he can still partake in practices and the day-to-day operations of the football program. However, this will be the Wolverines' first game without Harbaugh on the sidelines since 2014. With Harbaugh at the helm, Michigan has dominated. He’s compiled an 80-25 record as the lead man. Behind Harbaugh’s leadership, the Wolverines have accumulated five 10-plus win seasons and are nearing a sixth.
Now, without Harbaugh on the sidelines, there will certainly be a different feel. He’s demonstrated, time and time again, that he’s a fantastic head coach. The Michigan defense is the best in all of college football. The Wolverines only allow 6.7 points per game. And while it can be argued that the Wolverines haven’t played many quality opponents, holding Division I teams to less than a touchdown is impressive. Michigan also allows the least amount of yards per game. Teams only average 231.4 yards per game against the Wolverines. And the pass defense is especially stout. The team in the maize and blue has yet to allow a 200-yard passer.
On offense, the Wolverines are good, yet unspectacular. Michigan averages 424.2 yards per game and is led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy and the running back duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. In front of these star players, the Michigan offensive line is rock-solid. And in this affair, the offensive line must play their A-game. The Nittany Lions boast a tremendous pass rush. The second-best defense in all of college football ranks second in yards allowed and perhaps most importantly, sacks. Led by Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson, this Penn State pass rush is daunting.
This game will likely come down to whoever can find a spark on offense, whether it be through the air or on the ground. In Penn State’s toughest battle of the year, against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions put up 240 yards of total offense. And 70 of those yards came on the final drive. The run game was non-existent and sophomore quarterback Drew Allar struggled. He only completed 42.9 percent of his passes and took three sacks. Against teams not named the Buckeyes, Penn State averages 188.8 yards on the ground. If Penn State can get the ground game going, then look out.
However, in these types of games, the ground game is usually difficult to get going. Especially against a phenomenal Michigan defense. Allar will have the opportunity to show what he’s made of after a rough outing against the Buckeyes. He’s played well in the previous two affairs, but this test will be his toughest yet. With such dominant defenses clashing, it’s only right to side with the better offense. And the better offense belongs to the Wolverines. Michigan has a strong cast of weapons and is led by an experienced signal-caller in McCarthy. While McCarthy and co. might not put up their usual 40.7 points per game, they should comfortably outgain the Nittany Lions.
My pick: Michigan wins 20-14
#14 Missouri vs #13 Tennessee (-2.5) 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday, November 11 on CBS
One could argue another SEC matchup should occupy this spot. #2 Georgia faces off against #9 Ole Miss in an intriguing matchup. Despite Ole Miss ranking within the top 10, the spread is -10.5. This matchup is much closer. Each team is 7-2 and they’re ranked one numeric value apart. Tennessee is only favored by two and a half points. This SEC East battle is slated to be a good one.
The Volunteers are a well-rounded squad. Tennessee boasts a fantastic run game and an above-average pass game. The Volunteer run game is in for a dogfight against the Missouri defense. The Tigers only allow 114.1 yards per game on the ground. Good for fifth in the SEC. As the most stout team against the run? That honor belongs to Tennessee. The Vols are the only SEC squad to allow less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, the Tigers will have a tough time on the ground.
However, Missouri doesn’t typically rely on the run. Behind star receiver Luther Burden III and ascending quarterback Brady Cook, the Mizzou offense doesn’t have a difficult time moving the ball if the run game is shut out. Burden III is top 10 in college football in receptions and yardage. He’s proved to be a difference-maker for the Tigers offense. Unfortunately for the Vols, one of their best defenders is out for the remainder of the season. Cornerback Kamal Hadden, who would likely get his shot at Burden III, will have to watch from the sideline after a shoulder injury against Alabama.
All in all, this contest is a coin flip. Both teams are good on both sides of the ball. And, each team is battle-tested. Missouri’s two losses have come at the hands of LSU and Georgia. While Tennessee has lost to Florida and Alabama. After a coin flip, I’ve decided to side with the Volunteers. But, all jokes aside, Tennessee has more firepower on offense and has a slightly better defense. Mizzou quarterback, Brady Cook, will likely be the x-factor as the Tigers take on the Vols.
My pick: Tennessee wins 34-32