CFB uk tv game previews: week 10
By Joshua Edwards
Josh Edwards is back with his quick-fire preview article of the 5 live CFB games this weekend for UK viewers on BT Sport. The slates starts with Navy @ UConn on Friday night and is highlighted by a cracking SEC showdown between Georgia and Florida.
Navy @ UConn
We kick off proceedings this week with the heavy road favourite Midshipmen taking on UConn in East Hartford under the Friday night lights. It’s been quite the turnaround in Annapolis, Navy improving from a 3-10 record in 2018 to 6-1 on the season. Their only loss thus far came against Memphis (23-35) in week 4 and they’ve garnered enough AP poll votes to reach 27. Beating a lacklustre UConn side would likely not be enough to propel Navy into ranked status, but another resounding win would set up a fun clash with rivals Notre Dame in the Rip Miller Trophy on November 14th.
The Midshipmen’s success this season has been predicated on quarterback Malcolm Kelly’s convincing command of the triple option offense. Kelly has 14 rushing touchdowns on the year and over 934 yards on the ground, as well as a complimentary 557 passing yards and 4 scores through the air. The ground attack is ranked the best in the country, averaging 350 yards per game. The defense, under first year co-ordinators Brian Newberry and Brian Norwood, has been stout, allowing fewer than 20 points per game, though they were a little more porous in last week’s tight, 41-38 thriller over Tulane. Looking forward, Navy might have a shot at the AAC title game if they can sneak past SMU, with whom they face off the week after Notre Dame.
UConn are looking for their first conference win of the season in their last year in the AAC before a switch to the Big East. It’s been a disappointing outing so far, the Huskies currently sitting at 2-6 with their only wins, Wagner on opening day and UMass last week, bookending 6 straight losses. Put simply, the UConn has been quite awful this year, ranking 112th in the country in offense and 127th in defense.
Any chance UConn has is heavily reliant on whether they can establish a running game and keep the ball out of Kelly’s hands. In both of their wins this season they’ve had more rushing yards than through the air, and the Huskies need junior Kevin Mensah to find a rhythm like last week, where he chalked up 164 yards and 5 touchdowns. It’s not likely against Navy’s defense.
Navy are big favourites for a reason and I’m confident they’ll dispatch the Huskies relatively comfortably on Friday night, so long as there’s no hangover from the Tulane blockbuster. Look for plenty of Kelly on the ground and a signature clock-chewing, pound into submission type performance. Navy ‘striker’ Jacob Springer is another one to watch – the junior leads the Midshipmen with 6 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss on the year.
Prediction: Navy 41-10 Uconn
Miami @ Florida State
A battle of two Florida schools on Saturday evening sees Florida State hosting Miami in a too close to call, Florida Cup, ACC tilt. The 4-4 Seminoles are 3 point favourites over the 4-4 Hurricanes, the usual 3 point home edge making this as close to a pick’em game as you can get in college football. The series is just as close, Miami holding a 31-30 overall advantage all time and looking for a third victory in a row over FSU.
Miami were impressive in beating then 20th ranked Virginia and again last week, taking on Pitt on the road and not allowing the Panthers into the end zone. A 9 play, 62 yard drive late in the fourth quarter was capped off by a 32 yard touchdown pass from Jaren Williams to WR K.J Osborn. It’s fair to say that the Canes started the year in disappointing fashion but have gradually improved, especially on defense – last week they forced 3 key turnovers and are now allowing just 3.1 yards per carry.
FSU were great on the ground last week against Syracuse (241 yards) and enjoyed a lot of success out of the wildcat formation, QB Cam Akers tying a school record with 4 rushing touchdowns. The Seminoles needed the win after a couple of tough losses to Clemson and Wake Forest. Second year head coach Willie Taggart is probably on the hot seat and this is the kind of game, at home, he will be desperate to win.
Too many cooks or an embarrassment of riches at QB for FSU? We’ll likely see Hornibrook, Akers and Blackman on Saturday and Miami will have to contend with multiple skillsets defensively. The Canes will do well to remember that whoever is throwing the ball, Tamorrion Terry is the guy to keep an eye on – the receiver has 606 yards and 6 touchdowns on the season so far. Miami, who were ranked #1 in pass defense efficiency last season, lost two starting safeties to the NFL, and the drop-off was to be expected to some extent, but I contend that they are still good enough to contain the Seminoles. I like the Canes to pull off the road ‘upset’ in a tight one.
Prediction: Miami 27-24 FSU
(6) Georgia @ (8) Florida
A cracking, marquee SEC matchup over on BT Sport ESPN, the 6-1 Bulldogs travelling to Jacksonville to battle the 7-1 Gators. Georgia hasn’t been as good as people expected despite their talent on both sides of the ball, and Florida have been resilient in the face of multiple key injuries, if not altogether awe-inspiring. Nevertheless, two top 10 ranked SEC teams with a CFB playoff berth still in the crosshairs? Sign me up.
Florida lost QB Feleipe Franks to a season ending, dislocated ankle injury in week 3 against Kentucky but haven’t looked back since, Kyle Trask stepping in and playing way beyond what anyone expected of him – the redshirt junior has thrown for 1391 yards and 14 scores with a 67.5 completion percentage. He’s been particularly hot the past 5 weeks, throwing for more than 200 yards in 4 of those 5 games including for 310 in the Gators only loss of the season (at LSU). On defense the Gators are excellent, leading the SEC in sacks (32) and interceptions (12). They missed Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard against South Carolina but will have them both back for the game on Saturday which bodes well for stopping Jake Fromm in his tracks and quietening Bulldogs running back DeAndre Swift.
Georgia’s single loss on the season does not look as good as Florida’s defeat in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs fell at home (as 21 point favourites) to South Carolina in double overtime in a messy game laden with kicking errors and highlighted by Gamecocks cornerback Israel Mukuamu, who picked off Fromm 3 times. Aside from this they’ve been consistently good but not great, beating just one ranked team in Notre Dame (23-17). Fromm hasn’t thrown a pick other than those 3 against South Carolina and is probably suffering from playing in the same conference as Tua and Joe Burrow. He’s still completing 71% of passes and leading the team methodically down the field with ease against most defenses. The offensive line sure helps, it’s one of the best in the country and if Florida are to get to Fromm they’ll need to show ingenuity defensively.
Florida’s pass rush against Georgia’s offensive line will be a joy to watch on Saturday and that battle will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the game. Expect stalled drives and field goals as both teams defenses take over in the red zone, and don’t expect a slew of points. It’s an incredibly hard one to pick but I’m siding with Georgia, perhaps late on or even in overtime.
Prediction: Georgia 24-20 Florida
(25) SMU @ (24) Memphis
Two more ranked teams face off in the late game slot on BT Sport 3 on Saturday night, SMU travelling to Memphis to take on the Tigers. The Mustangs are rolling at 8-0 (their first such start since 1982) and might fancy their chances at upsetting the 7-1 Tigers at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
SMU have hopes and dreams of partaking in the college football playoff but, realistically, it’s not likely to happen. Even if they go undefeated, their best wins will have been against TCU (who have lost 3 times now) and this week’s game against Memphis. The win against a decent Temple team was at home and the Owls have since lost to UCF. To beat Memphis they will need more of the same on offense – the Mustangs average a remarkable 504 yards per game (9th nationally) and 43 points per game (6th nationally). Their offense is led by running back Xavier Jones, who averages 5.4 yards per carry and has 884 yards and 14 scores on the ground already this season. Quarterback Shane Buechele has played well too, completing 63.2% of passes and scoring 20 TDs to 7 picks.
The sole loss on Memphis’s schedule came at Temple (28-30). Otherwise, the Tigers have been perfect, averaging 39.5 points offensively. However their opponents have been nothing to write home about. They beat an SEC team in Ole Miss but the Rebels have been particularly poor this season. Quarterback Brady White has played well, throwing for over 2100 yards with 20 scores and 4 picks, and Kenneth Gainwell (what a name for a RB) has 971 yards and 11 scores on the ground. Defensively the Tigers haven’t been great, highlighted by allowing Tulsa to rack up 584 yards of offense against them (Tulsa have won just 2 games on the year).
Despite both team’s defensive struggles and weak-ish schedules, this will be a great watch and it’s my low key pick of the week. The Tigers are 5.5 points favourites at home and have won 5 straight against SMU and so, obviously, I fancy the Mustangs to pull off the upset. Look for the over on the points spread.
Prediction: SMU 45-38 Memphis
Ole Miss @ (11) Auburn
If the SEC is your thing, Ole Miss travel to 11th ranked Auburn at the same time as SMU-Memphis, over on BT SPORT ESPN. The 3-5 Rebels are, unsurprisingly, 18.5 point underdogs and face a heck of an uphill battle to be competitive in this one.
Auburn are a disappointing 6-2 having lost their two games against top 10 ranked opponents (13-24 at Florida and 20-23 at LSU last week). The Tigers squeezed past Oregon in week one and beat Texas A&M in College Station later on but their shot at a CFB playoff berth is long gone after their 10th consecutive loss in Baton Rouge (dating back to 1999). Since Bo Nix’s fairy-tale win in week one, the true freshman has been middling at best, completing just 53.9% of his passes with a 12 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio. It’s been all defense for the Tigers, who feature on of the better pass rushes in the nation including
Ole Miss’s hopes probably rest on their strong pass rush, led by Sam Williams and Benito Jones, who’ve combined for 8 sacks between them. If they can shake up Bo Nix, they might force a turnover or two. The Rebels might adept at getting into the opponents backfield but they aren’t good on the back end, allowing 300+ passing yards in 5 of its last 7 games. On offense Ole Miss will be quarterbacked by dual threat signal caller John Rhys Plumlee, who this week said he hoped to be back to full speed after a knee operation.
Auburn have pride to play for and will want to stamp their authority on an altogether uninspiring Ole Miss side, especially at home. The defense hasn’t given up over 200 on the ground yet, remarkably, and I like them to win and cover and remind everyone that they are one of the premier defensive teams in the country, regardless of record.
Prediction: Ole Miss 7-30 Auburn
JOSH IS A CFB SPECIALIST, LONG SUFFERING RESKINS FAN AND BUDDING HISTORIAN OF THE GAME BASED IN LONDON. CHECK OUT HIS ARTICLES HERE AND FOLLOW HIM @JOSHWA_1990 ON TWITTER.