New Year’s Six Bowls on the Line for Michigan State, Baylor

New Year’s Six Bowls on the Line for Michigan State, Baylor Preston Pack 29 Oct 2021, 03:03 pm

SMU Mustangs RB Ulysses Bentley IV

With college football approaching the final month of the regular season, the critical plays for playoff and postseason endures are coming into focus. Some expected blockbusters have lost their luster–barring unlikely disturbs, College Football Playoff competitors Georgia and Ohio State should take care of business against striving competitives Florida and Penn State. Equally surprising are some of the games carrying high-pitched bets this weekend, such as the top-1 0 showdown between Michigan and Michigan State, who finished second-to-last and last in the Big Ten East last season.

As chaotic as the scramble for the playoff has become with teams from Cincinnati to Wake Forest in the mixture, the chase for the New Year’s Six is even wilder and promises slew of unfamiliar faces. The shaken-up endures in several discussions, specially the ACC and Pac-1 2, have set some surprising crews in position to claim automatic entreats to these prestigious bowls. The Wolverines and Spartans both have playoff hopes, for example, but a place in the Rose Bowl is potentially on the line as well. With Michigan having travel 24 years without a win in Pasadena( their longest such streak in the modern era ), a return to that venue would be a game merit watching.

There are plenty of other Big Ten teams hoping to take home a name, though, and any number of them could assure a Rose Bowl invite instead. Iowa, for instance, hasn’t won that game since 1958, and has only played in it once in the last 3 decades. Now 6-1 and tied for the produce of the West, the Hawkeyes have an opportunity to bolster their resume this weekend with a visit to Wisconsin. And, of course, let’s not forget undefeated Michigan State, which has only one Rose Bowl appearance this century–although it was a win, and one that came a relatively recent eight years ago. The story for the Spartan, should they claim the entreat, would be less about ending a drought and more about is moving forward from the divisive Mark Dantonio era.

Elsewhere, the Big 12 please open with Oklahoma’s close-game conflicts against a relatively light first half, rendering a potential opportunity for squads such as Iowa State or Oklahoma State to shape premier postseason appearances. This week could prove key to the final stands, with two championship wannabes facing off. With merely one loss in conference play–tied with the Cyclones and Cowboys for second–Baylor is in good position to make a run at the title game. But Texas, with two losings in the Big 12, is the highest-ranked team that has already faced undefeated Oklahoma, and they could still work their style into the chase. If they’re to do so, taking advantage of this difficult road test will be crucial.

Postseason drama of all shapes and sizes is unfolding in all regions of the country. Ole Miss will look to set itself apart from other SEC challengers such as Kentucky and Texas A& M in the final weeks; meanwhile, SMU and Houston will duke it out in a game that will likely determine who faces Cincinnati for the American Championship Game. Out west, San Diego State is chasing its first undefeated season since 1969 and the work of its fourth conference title in the last 30 years. With the playoff picture coming into view, crews across college football are chasing an opportunity to defy–and make–history.

All hours are listed as Eastern.

Michigan( -4) at Michigan State–Saturday, 12 p.m.( FOX)



Michigan State

2021 F+ 4 22

When Michigan Has the Ball



2021 F+ 10 14

2021 EPA/ pass 66 29

2021 EPA/ hasten 25 45

When Michigan State Has the Ball



2021 F+ 10 51

2021 EPA/ pass 28 24

2021 EPA/ hurry 6 64

After 78 games, six-and-a-half seasons, and no appearances in the Big Ten championship game, Jim Harbaugh’s polarizing tenure at Michigan is entering a decisive stretch. The Wolverines might not make a decision on their chief coach-and-four even if this season ends in disappointment, but the results of these final five games–plus whatever postseason play Michigan culminates up with–could define Harbaugh’s career with the team. Between now and the end of November, Harbaugh will take on three ranked squads: No. 8 Michigan State, No. 20 Penn State, and No. 5 Ohio State. For a tutor who has generally come under fire for his team’s shortcomings in big game, this final month might be the end of the line–or an opportunity for Michigan to finally reach their full potential.

It has been a long road to this point for the Wolverines, but the same can’t be said of their adversary. Michigan State expended most of the first half of the decade in the chase for a BCS or CFP appearance, though in six different 10 -win seasons under Mark Dantonio, the Spartan simply actually constructed it to a bowl game with name implications once, and that appearance culminated in a 38 -0 blowout at the hands of Alabama. From there, Michigan State entered a precipitous decline, starting 3-9 the following season and doing better than 7-6 only once for the rest of the decade. Before the 2020 season, Dantonio retired, Colorado coach Mel Tucker took the reins, and developments in the situation became dire; in the first play of the abbreviated season, the Spartans lost seven turnovers and were dealt a humiliating loss by Rutgers. They ultimately finished its first year 2-5, and a pair of disturbed wins over Michigan and Northwestern failed to lighten the mood much.

Both of these teams suffered harrowing 2020 seasons–Michigan went 2-4 and themselves virtually lost to Rutgers–which has attained their synchronized is increased to 7-0 starts among this season’s many unexpected stories. These in-state contenders are very similar on the field, too: both Harbaugh and Tucker have pieced together competitors by reclining on excellent hastening onslaughts. For the Wolverines, the one-two punch of Blake Corum( 729 yards, 6.3 gardens per carry, 10 TD) and Hassan Haskins( 602 yards, 4.9 gardens per carry, 10 TD) has been marvelous; for the Spartans, everything revolves around Kenneth Walker III( 997 yards, 6.6 gardens per carry, 9 TD ), who has four times as many carries as any other rusher for Michigan State. The ensue, in both cases, is a reliable run play, producing a success rate in the top 40 overall. Michigan hasn’t been quite as efficient( 34 th in success rate, 72 nd in rushing explosiveness ), but that’s largely a consequence of their high hasten rate( 65.8% of plays, seventh in FBS ).

As incredible because there is, nonetheless, these rushing corps are not constructed evenly. The Wolverines’ group relies on an upper-clas offensive pipeline, which has allowed the lowest front-seven havoc rate and second-lowest sack rate in the country. That division only grades 24 th in line gardens per carry, but that relative underperformance again has a lot to do with Michigan’s frequent operates. Indeed, this pipeline is a major reason the Wolverines can rush very often and still find plenty of success; they’re generally not gunning for big gains, but rather consistent yardage underneath, which these heavy-hitting position groups mix to create perfectly. That style of play-act is reinforced by Michigan’s rushing performance at different distances from the line of scrimmage: adequate at the second level( 48 th) and in the open field( 39 th ), but reigning at the line( 20 th ). Short, on-schedule gains are the Wolverines’ bread and butter.

Contrast Michigan State, which does better at the second level( 24 th) and in the open field( 25 th) than at the line( 42 nd ). Walker is a far more explosive running back–his 27 carries for 10 or more yards are tied for second-most in the Power 5–and it proves in the Spartans’ performance. The threat of a long run is a key asset for quarterback Payton Thorne, one of college football’s most explosive passers. With Thorne having throw all but eight of their moves, Michigan State ranks 10 th in gardens per completion and ninth in explosiveness on passing plays. All told, the Spartans grade 24 th nationally and third in the Big Ten in overall explosiveness, with Thorne and Walker producing the way.

While both teams possess excellent defenses, their rushing attempts are well-equipped to take advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses. Michigan’s direct rushing attempt will take over a Michigan State path that fights with permitting short gains( 58 th in hasten success rate allowed; 47 th in line gardens per carry allowed ). Meanwhile, the Spartans will attempt to break the game open with large-hearted play-acts against a Wolverines defense which currently facing problems stopping explosive play-acts( 55 th in overall explosiveness permitted; 53 rd in rushing explosiveness let ). In a duel that could decide the Big Ten East, both teams are talented across the board, but a shootout in East Lansing could be in the cards.

Watch for 😛 TAGEND

Michigan doesn’t pass often–they rank 125 th in passing play rate behind the middling Cade McNamara–but will that alteration against Michigan State, which has faced the highest passing rate in FBS?

Thorne has proven hotshot at avoiding dangerous plays, permitting simply a 6.6% defensive back havoc rate( 70 th ); can Michigan’s secondary keep up their production( 7.9% havoc rate, 12 th )?

Will Corum( 10 kicking returns, 26.6 yards per return) continue to provide excellent starting land outlook for the Wolverines against a stingy Michigan State special squads division?

FEI Outright Pick: Michigan by 8.2

Iowa at Wisconsin( -3. 5 )– Saturday, 12 p.m.( ESPN)


Iowa Wisconsin 2021 F+ 16 8

When Iowa Has the Ball



2021 F+ 78 2

2021 EPA/ pass 104 4

2021 EPA/ hurry 114 2

When Wisconsin Has the Ball



2021 F+ 3 72

2021 EPA/ pass 16 129

2021″ EPA/ haste 8 57

Iowa participates this play 6-1, still controlling their destiny to win the Big Ten West, and likely in position to induce the playoff if they win out. The Hawkeyes are in an excellent position even after their disheartening loss to Purdue, but the team that has put together that excellent record has rarely looked the same from one week to the next. At days, Iowa is dominant, vanquishing Indiana 34 -6 and Maryland 51 -1 4–but in other plays, they look like a disaster waiting to happen, as in a nailbiting 24 -1 4 win over Colorado State and that 24 -7 upset by the Boilermakers. Their winning formula is strange to say the least: an elite protection, a dreadful offense, and incredible special crews play.

Wisconsin makes an interesting comparison, as the Badgers have been very similar by most metrics, but are languishing in the middle of the conference with a 4-3 record. It’s hard to know what to shape of this crew, too, with relatively close losses to graded Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan squads. While they have bounced back from a rough 1-3 start, the shortcomings that those foes exploited are still apparent. Like Iowa, the Badgers rely on a rock-solid defense to overcome their offense’s weakness( particularly in the passing game ). Though these foes look similar at a glance, however, there are some key differences that will define this pivotal matchup.

While Iowa’s Spencer Petras( 6.7 gardens per endeavor, 9 TD, 6 INT) and Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz( 6.2 gardens per try, 2 TD, 7 INT) have both had downright miserable seasons still further, the causes of those concerts aren’t quite the same. Petras, when he has a clean pocket and can get a pass off, has actually been alright–but he hasn’t had that indulgence often. The Hawkeyes have allowed a 7.9% sack rate this year, 100 th in FBS, and the resulting problems can be seen in Petras’ troubled season. While Iowa renders well on successful plays, ranking 49 th in explosiveness, too many passes either fall incomplete or never get thrown at all.

By comparison, Mertz has more or less the opposite problem. The Wisconsin passer is reasonably accurate; 55.9% isn’t precisely a glowing completion rate, but it’s not catastrophic, and neither is the Badgers’ rank in passing success rate( 77 th ). But Mertz has captained the least explosive enact offense in all of college football, bar none. Without a significant deep threat through the breath, Wisconsin has stayed on schedule well( facing enact downs simply 27.1% of the time, the 15 th-lowest rate in FBS ), but they haven’t done much more. Due to their struggles on converting third downs( 28.1%, 125 th ), many of the Badgers’ drives sputter rapidly: 16.3% fail to gain yardage( 111 th) and 40.0% fail to gain a first down( 119 th ).

Neither of these defenses are likely to provide a pick-me-up game for their opposing quarterbacks, which seems likely to result in a low-scoring slugfest. Iowa will deploy a fundamentally fantastic division that does almost everything well, but particularly excels at developing havoc in the backfield (8. 3% defensive back havoc rate, fifth in FBS) and get opponents off rhythm( fifth in EPA, 10 th in success rate, third in explosiveness on standard downs ). Meanwhile, Wisconsin sends out a lineup that makes the nation in line gardens per carry permitted( 1.78) and limits successful plays at a top-three rate in both run( 29.7%) and pass( 31.9%) defense. These groups are the fundamental reason behind both teams’ success thus far, and they’re expected to prove key to this game as well.

Will either squad be able to find an perimeter on offense? In a defensive duel, any points will be precious, and the result will probably come down to whichever team makes and capitalise on scoring opportunities more. Iowa, while not exactly excellent in either characteristic, has generally taken more advantage than Wisconsin, in large-scale constituent due to avoiding turnovers and generally reconciling for degrees or punts on fourth down. Still, it’s hard to say for sure whether that will be enough for the Hawkeyes to come out on top in a classic Big Ten skirmish. Both defenses will be out in full force as these challengers duke it out with a separation title potentially on the line.

Watch for 😛 TAGEND

Wisconsin’s rushing attack has taken a significant step up since Braelon Allen( 428 gardens, 7.4 yards per carry) becomes a primary backfield option; can they break through Iowa’s solid lead defense?

With key defensive back Riley Moss( 4 interceptions, 3 pass breakups) still out due to injury, can the Hawkeyes secondary offset better than in their last game against Purdue?

Can Iowa continue to produce good starting field position behind punter Tory Taylor( 46.2 gardens per punt) and make short, successful drives as a result?

FEI Outright Pick: Iowa by 1.3

Texas at Baylor( -2. 5 )– Saturday, 12 p.m.( ABC)


Texas Baylor 2021 F+ 17 19

When Texas Has the Ball



2021 F+ 11 17

2021 EPA/ pass 54 42

2021 EPA/ rush 59 83

When Baylor Has the Ball



2021 F+ 45 37

2021 EPA/ pass 87 38

2021 EPA/ hasten 79 7

With Baylor soaring back to the top of the Big 12 after a near-complete collapse in 2020, it’s easy be concluded that these Bears are similar to the ones that established the conference championship game two years ago. But with the coaching transition from Matt Rhule to Dave Aranda, Baylor’s profile has shifted dramatically. Where the 2019 team was led by its passing–which made up 48.7% of the team’s play-acts and 60.5% of offensive yards–this year’s listing emphasizes rushing. Baylor has run on 59.2% of its plays this year, gaining 50.5% of their yardage on the soil. The Bears’ rushing performance ranks seventh in EPA per play and sixth in explosiveness, and in their most recent game, a 303 -yard, four-touchdown day from their running backs helped deliver a comfy win over BYU.

Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, hired from BYU over the offseason, the Bears have pushed physicality in the run play. Abram Smith( 785 gardens, 7.5 gardens per carry, 10 TD) is a former linebacker who has taken the heaviest workload for Baylor, contributing the team with 105 carries and rushing 27 days against the Cougars alone. Trestan Ebner( 496 yards, 6.4 gardens per carry) has been a staple in the Bears’ backfield for years, but 2021 has differentiated a huge step up in his rushing rate as well–after merely seven games, he has rushed a career-high 77 days. Both Smith and Ebner are NFL-sized running back, and quarterback Gerry Bohanon( 181 rushing yards, 10.6 yards per carry) is no lightweight either.

This philosophy extends to the rest of the offense, too. Every player on the offensive pipeline towers at least 6-foot-2 and weighs at least 305 pounds, again matching NFL medians better than college ones. This physical advantage has helped Baylor piece together one of college football’s best lines: the Carries grade 23 rd in line gardens per carry, 12 th in bag rate permitted, and fourth in opportunity rate. Thanks to that concert, the hasten corps has been more efficient( 5.5 yards per carry, Baylor’s best average since 2015) despite rushing more often.

This bruising lineup will look to lead a crucial victory against Texas, whose protection has struggled to stop opposing offenses this season. Through four Big 12 plays, the Longhorns have yet to hold an opponent under 27 degrees, and they have allowed three different foes to put up at least 470 gardens and 7.0 yards per play-act. The pas protection has come through at times, but their best-rushing adversaries( Arkansas and Oklahoma) combined for 672 gardens, 7.6 gardens per carry, and eight touchdowns when facing Texas.

When it comes to raw size, the Longhorns’ line is a bit of a mixed bag, too: nose tackle Keondre Coburn is one of the most imposing linemen in football, but periphery Alfred Collins and defensive tackle Moro Ojomo are par for the course at its own position, and it depicts in the line’s stats. Influence runs–third-and-short or fourth-and-short rushes–depend more on physical play at the line than any other play in the game, and Texas permits a 90.5% transition rate on such play-acts, fourth-worst in FBS. The defense does have some heavy hitters, such as linebackers Demarvion Overshown( 56 tackles, four tackles for loss) and Luke Brockermeyer( 54 tackles, five tackles for loss ), but most of them lurk further from the line of scrimmage.

What the Longhorns lack in defensive might, however, they make up for on the other side of the projectile. The Texas offensive line is among the best in the nation, averaging 3.01 cable yards per carry( 14 th) and converting 76.5% of strength moves( 34 th ). The hasten attempt has two or more unheralded stars, but the bulk of the carries and the praise rightfully go to Heisman contender Bijan Robinson, who has put up 1,131 total yards, 6.3 yards per carry, and 13 total touchdowns. Robinson’s heavy workload has been the only trouble for Texas on the soil, arguably leading to some second-half battles, but with the Longhorns seeking to prioritize secondary rushers such as Roschon Johnson( 234 gardens, 6.9 yards per carry) and Keilan Robinson( 176 yards, 7.3 gardens per carry ), they should be able to keep up a solid performance throughout this game. To pull off an upset in Waco, they’ll have to.

Watch for 😛 TAGEND

Can Casey Thompson( 9.3 yards per strive, 15 TD, 5 INT) take over against a middling Bears pass defense( 63 rd in EPA per pass, 86 th in passing explosiveness )?

Will Baylor’s defensive have significant benefits of the excellent land position it has enjoyed this year( eighth-best in FBS) against dangerous kick returner D’Shawn Jamison( 24.1 yards per return )?

How will the Longhorns’ defense adjust to limit hasten yardage in the open field, where their 2.0 gardens permitted per carry grade 119 th in football?

FEI Outright Pick: Texas by 0.5

Ole Miss at Auburn( -3 )– Saturday, 7 p. m.( ESPN)


Ole Miss Auburn 2021 F+ 13 18

When Ole Miss Has the Ball



2021 F+ 3 19

2021 EPA/ pass 18 70

2021 EPA/ hurry-up 4 39

When Auburn Has the Ball



2021 F+ 55 32

2021 EPA/ pass 90 70

2021 EPA/ scoot 110 61

As Ole Miss reaches the end of a intimidating five-game stretch–which previously featured visits to Alabama and Tennessee and residence plays against Arkansas and LSU–their all-world offense prepares to tangle with a fascinating, hot-and-cold Auburn defense. The Tigers, unlike the Rebels, still control their destiny in the SEC West, but to win the divide, they’ll need to claim tough victories against both Ole Miss and Alabama. Handling those high-powered offenses is a tall task, and while Auburn has shown flashes of possibilities on protection, their stretch operated will necessitate that they display their betterment against two of college football’s finest.

Where the Tigers excel defensively, and where they can stack up against those superb offenses, is in preventing explosive play-acts, particularly explosive extends. Auburn has allowed merely 1.19 EPA per successful pass and 1.03 EPA per successful play, both sixth-lowest in FBS. Their harrowing defensive line, holding opponents to 2.29 path gardens per carry( 15 th) and producing a 7.8% sacking rate( 41 st ), has been key to this big-play prevention. The Tigers haven’t converted this shutdown concert into an all-around elite defense, nonetheless, because they bleed yardage when they get into favorable situations. Auburn permits a middling 42.0% success rate overall, 64 th in FBS, but that simply drops to 35.5% on occur downs( 101 st ), when the Tigers’ opponents are behind the sticks and need to gain more yardage. The protection creates opportunities to get off the field, but it strifes to capitalize, which is why Auburn faces an average rate of 5.8 plays per drive, 96 th in FBS.

While it has its flaws, though, this bend-don’t-break is largely effective, and it worked to perfection against Arkansas. The Razorbacks passed a staggering 89 plays against Auburn, the most faced by the Tigers’ defense this year and the second-most by Arkansas in a game( after their 93 in the 52 -5 1 showdown against Ole Miss ). But those play-acts started for only 486 yards, a far cry from their 706 gardens in that Rebels game. Auburn didn’t limit standard downs well( letting a 50% success rates ), but it didn’t truly matter, because they created those long-yardage situations frequently( on 34 of 89 plays) and didn’t allow many big play-acts at critical moments. Of the five Arkansas play-acts that produced the most EPA, only one started within Auburn territory, and only one other was concluded in it.

But what worked against the Razorbacks, whose 3.3 degrees per scoring opportunity grade 104 th in FBS, likely won’t against the Rebels, whose 4.8 degrees per scoring opportunity are a far better 12 th. And if there’s any crew that can find explosive plays against the impregnable Tigers protection, it’s Ole Miss, which grades third in the nation in EPA on successful play-acts. This matchup defines up well for the Rebels’ dynamic offense, but there is one point of concern: they’re merely good , not great, at converting standard downs and biding on schedule. The underlying cause is primarily through the air, where Matt Corral has led the extending offense to 0.45 EPA per play-act( 14 th) and 1.81 EPA per successful play-act( 10 th ), but lags a bit in reliably converting his extends for meaningful yardage, with a mere 45.4% success rates( 45 th ).

The Rebels’ offense has worked to address that shortcoming, though, and Corral’s 56% success rate against LSU last week celebrated a noticeable improvement. Ideally, the Rebels would like to run a successful passing offense that still renders big plays–Corral merely had one against the Tigers–but it’s nice to have more smorgasbord in the playbook if Ole Miss needs to avoid falling behind. Auburn is a different level of tournament in that department, but not by a huge margin, and the Rebels should be able to create some consistency on offense.

So what made this stylistic switch, nonetheless temporary it ultimately aims up being? In his first three SEC games this season, Corral spread the love to numerous receivers, accomplishing multiple passes to seven, five, and seven musicians, respectively. Against LSU, though, Dontario Drummond wholly stole the testify, catching eight pass for 93 gardens. The Rebels didn’t exclusively ignore their other options, as the rest of the receiving corps added 16 more receptions, but the increased emphasis on their more reliable and productive pass-catcher was a marked change from the rest of the season. All eyes will be on Corral and Drummond this week, as the way Ole Miss uses their key offensive musicians will define the tone for a battle between two of the conference’s best units.

Watch for 😛 TAGEND

Can Auburn’s excellent extended protection restriction the breakout potential of the Rebels’ deep hasten room, led by Henry Parrish Jr.( 405 yards, 5.5 yards per carry) and Snoop Conner( 388 gardens, 5.8 yards per carry )?

Will a dangerous Ole Miss front seven( 37 th in havoc rate) be able to pressure Bo Nix behind Auburn’s solid offensive pipeline?

After his 18 carries against Arkansas( an important rise from his 9 against LSU and 10 against Georgia ), will Tank Bigsby continue to feature in the Auburn run game?

FEI Outright Pick: Auburn by 3.6

SMU at Houston( -1 )– Saturday, 7 p. m.( ESPN2)


SMU Houston 2021 F+ 50 59

When SMU Has the Ball



2021 F+ 24 27

2021 EPA/ pass 5 2

2021 EPA/ hasten 80 7

When Houston Has the Ball



2021 F+ 77 82

2021 EPA/ pass 113 68

2021 EPA/ scoot 54 72

With Cincinnati likely to sail to the American Championship Game, the duel to face them for the title will probably come down to SMU and Houston, which would make this game decisive. Both squads have yet to take a loss in conference play, and Houston’s season-opening defeat against Texas Tech is the only overall loss on their records. Both was generally impressed thus far, but have encountered some snags–a narrow win over Navy for the Mustangs, an overtime escape from East Carolina for the Puma. While these squads are in similar points, nonetheless, the ways they have stirred it to this point haven’t appeared the same.

SMU is riding with the marvelous concert of Tanner Mordecai, who carried in from Oklahoma and immediately proved to be one of football’s most prolific passers. Through seven games, the junior has completed 71.1% of his pass for 8.8 yards per strive and an FBS-leading 29 touchdowns. The Mustangs are averaging 42.7 points per game( sixth overall) and rank among the top 10 in EPA per play, success rate, and explosiveness. The offense is burning on all cylinders, which has made up for an unremarkable protection( 92 nd in EPA let per play-act, 127 th in antagonist explosiveness ).

Houston, meanwhile, is all about defense. They create a high rate of extending downs( 33.4%, 44 th-highest) and rarely let the oppose offense off the hook, holding them to 0.05 EPA per play-act( fourth) and a 17.8% success rates( first) when their opposing is behind schedule. In their current six-game winning streak, the Cougars haven’t permitted more than 24 levels in video games, and adversaries are averaging merely 262.7 gardens per game, which would rank fourth in FBS. Behind key playmakers such as Logan Hall and David Anenih( both having rendered eight tackles for loss and four bags ), the Cougars’ defense has helped compensate for a middling offense( 61 st in EPA per play-act, 43 rd in explosiveness ).

What happens when SMU’s unstoppable power encounters Houston’s immovable object? The key question is whether Mordecai can continue to produce at nobility degrees across the board against a Houston defense that doesn’t often lost touch through the air( grading third in EPA permitted per pass and eight in passing success rate let ). The Cougars’ dominant defensive line will seek to produce pressure often; their 4.2 sackings per game are third in FBS, and their 14.6% bag rate is second. But the Mustangs conduct college football in sack prevention, letting merely 0.3 per play( 0.8% of play-acts ). Houston has a deep group of dangerous linemen to hurl at SMU, with five different musicians who have produced at least 3.5 bags this year, but few have gotten past the line protecting Mordecai this season.

In the same vein, Houston will need to target SMU’s solid rushing group in order to be allowed to to keep them restriction offensively. Tre Siggers( 474 gardens, 4.7 yards per carry) has been a workhorse back for the Mustangs, comfortably conducting the team with 101 carries, while the elusive Ulysses Bentley IV( 405 gardens, 7.4 gardens per carry) has provided a change of pace. All told, it’s a solid enough position group, producing a 47.6% success rates( 42 nd) and 5.2 yards per carry( 23 rd ), but it’s not as unstoppable as the SMU passing offense, and Houston is capable of holding down the castle against the operate. While their line has stopped opposing rushers up front, though( 17 th in line yards per carry, seventh in second-level yards per carry ), the protection get considerably more porous in the backfield. The Cougars have allowed 1.05 open-field yards per carry( 51 st ), and they rank only 87 th in preventing rushing explosiveness.

To get the offensive periphery, SMU will need to win that matchup and break off big-hearted moves, which happens to be the only offensive area where they’re not especially adept–they only grow 1.14 EPA per successful haste, ranking 105 th. The Mustangs have a talented hastening onslaught, but they haven’t produced as many game-changing plays as they’re capable of, particularly given the wealth of opportunities that their offensive cable has generated. To come away with a key win in the American chase, both Houston and SMU will look to win a pivotal combat in the trenches.

Watch for 😛 TAGEND

Can improving Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune( 7.4 gardens per try, 12 TD, 6 INT) scaped turnovers and retain Houston’s offense seethe along?

How heavily will Houston feature running back Alton McCaskill( 463 gardens, 4.7 yards per carry, 9 TD) against an SMU defense which is better against the control than the pass?

Will Houston’s excellent third-down defense( stopping 72.2% of tries, fifth in FBS) win out against SMU’s solid third-down offense( converting 46.3% of tries, 21 st in FBS )?

FEI Outright Pick: Houston by 4.9

Fresno State at San Diego State( pick’em )– Saturday, 10:30 p.m.( CBSSN)


Fresno State San Diego State 2021 F+ 57 52

When Fresno State Has the Ball



2021 F+ 60 5

2021 EPA/ pass 36 3

2021 EPA/ hurry-up 123 4

When San Diego State Has the Ball



2021 F+ 53 118

2021″ EPA/ pass 17 128

2021″ EPA/ move 40 43

Good defense is more or less a given at San Diego State, but this year’s group is one of the best they have ever fielded, and it’s the main reason they have shaped it to 7-0 and have a serious shot at going undefeated. The Aztecs rank second in EPA allowed per play, fourth in opposing success rate, and first in explosiveness let. They grade 12 th or better in each of those stats on both rushing and passing plays; generate the 16 th-highest havoc rate in the front seven and seventh-highest among defensive backs; allow the 10 th-fewest levels per opportunity; and relinquish the second-fewest EPA per drive. It’s hard to find anything this protection does inadequately, or even simply adequately.

The group has come up big-hearted across San Diego State’s last-place two plays, as they have overcame San Jose State and Us air force by low ratings of 19 -1 3( 6-6 in regulation) and 20 -1 4. The Aztecs’ offense isn’t bearing quite as much of the burden, to put it gently. Jordan Brookshire( 6.6 gardens per attempt, 2 TD, 1 INT) and Lucas Johnson( 4.9 gardens per strive, 4 TD, 1 INT) have both contributed to the passing offense’s dismal statistical profile( 128 th in EPA per play, 123 rd in success rates, 117 th in explosiveness ). The lead game has been better, mainly thanks to super-senior Greg Bell( 603 gardens, 4.9 gardens per carry, 5 TD ), but it hasn’t been enough to heighten the overall offense too much. Overall, the Aztecs’ 4.5 plays per drive grade dead-last in FBS, and they have yet to run more than 65 offensive plays in a game.

San Diego State has one of the most extreme separates between offensive and defensive concert in college football, which makes a fascinating contrast to the balanced Fresno State. The Bulldogs have areas of weakness on both offense( 123 rd in EPA per scoot, 119 th in line yards per carry) and defense( 106 in foe extending explosiveness ), but both units have been fundamentally sound, and both sit around the middle or upper half of FBS in most metrics. Offensively, Fresno State is led by rising star Jake Haener ( 8.5 gardens per try, 22 TD, 6 INT ), an extensive casting of receivers( five with at least 15 catches ), and the hasten duo of Ronnie Rivers( 573 gardens, 5.0 yards per carry) and Jordan Mims( 318 gardens, 5.9 gardens per carry ). Defensively, the Bulldogs have key aces up front, such as Kevin Atkins( 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) and Arron Mosby( 10 tackles for loss, four sacks ), and in the secondary, such as Elijah Gates( 27 tackles, five pass breakups) and Evan Williams( 56 tackles, two pass breakups, two interceptions ).

As deep as Fresno State’s lineup is, however, it’s not unassailable. Rivers and Mims have good surface-level numbers, but the advanced stats are more skeptical, placing the Bulldogs merely 80 th in hasten success rates and 90 th in rushing explosiveness. Constituent of the problem is their troubled offensive path, which is averaging only 2.43 cable yards per carry( 101 st) and a 56.5% power success rates( 110 th ). It also doesn’t help that Fresno State has no convincing rushers beyond the top two, with only Haener( 31 yards, 0.7 gardens per carry) having run the ball more than 12 occasions. There’s evident top-level talent, though, and it could be the key to vanquishing the undefeated Aztecs.

San Diego State’s running protection has been awe-inspiring, maintaining opponents to -0. 11 EPA per run( fourth) and a 29.8% hastening success rates( fifth ), but if you’re looking for something to exploit about this defense, you could do worse. The concern for the Aztecs is that, until very recently, they hadn’t faced any adversaries who leaned on the run for their offensive success; only 41.6% of the plays against this protection ought to have leads, the sixth-lowest rate in FBS. San Jose State and Air force were the first two teams to run more than 40 times against San Diego State, and while they didn’t induce floundering offensive numbers( 117 yards and 2.8 gardens per carry for the Spartans; 192 gardens and 4.0 gardens per carry for the Falcons ), it did supply a new challenge that the Aztecs may not be quite as equipped to handle. With their pass defense gazing better with every game, the best chance at taking down San Diego State is on the soil, and Fresno State has a lineup that could pull off the upset.

Watch for 😛 TAGEND

Haener is capable of putting up gaudy amounts no matter the foe, but will he have a career concert or an off period in a difficult matchup against the Aztecs?

Can a strong Fresno State defensive path establish havoc up front and swaying the turnover perimeter in their kindnes?

Will the Bulldogs be able to use their edge in total plays and period of possession to wear down San Diego State’s formidable protection?

FEI Outright Pick: San Diego State by 2.6

FEI Picks: Week 9












Michigan -4 at Michigan State Michigan Michigan Michigan at Wisconsin -3.5 Iowa Iowa Iowa Wisconsin at Baylor -2.5 Texas Texas Texas Baylor at Auburn -3 Ole Miss Auburn Auburn Ole Miss at Houston -1 SMU Houston Houston SMU at San Diego State Pick’em Fresno State San Diego State San Diego State San Diego State

FEI’s picks ATS in Week 8: 1-5

FEI’s selects ATS in 2021: 24 -2 4

Preston’s pickings ATS in Week 8: 4-2

Preston’s picks ATS in 2021: 27 -2 1


Ohio State-Penn State

No preview for Ohio State vs. Penn State? BTW, Ohio State followers do not consider Penn State to be a rival. Ohio State will beat its real competitor, the Wolverines, in a few weeks and win the Big Ten again.


Ohio State-Penn State

In reply to by Solomon

Honestly, I don’t expect Penn State to play too close after last week. I could be wrong, but I consider Ohio State’s more interesting games are still to come.


Divisive ?

That’s a really odd choice to describe Dantonio’s tenure. Sure, things fell off at the end, but I would barely describe the tenure of most successful head coach at MSU since the 60 ‘s “divisive.”



In reply to by Flounder

I went back and forth on that description–I don’t think it’s fair, but I’ve gathered from some MSU devotees that the last few years of the program still sting. There are a lot who’d disagree with that, though, and he’ll certainly go down as one of very good tutors they’ve had.

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