Welcome to Week Seven of The Lowe Down.
It usually happens when everyone least expects it. And what I’m talking about is a major upset.
Now will that happen in Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend? Or in Madison, Wisconsin? Um, doubt it. But it could.
Both Tennessee and Wisconsin are capable of doing the deed against two of the best teams in America in Alabama and Ohio State, but the home dogs will have to play flawless, which is possible on any given Saturday from good football programs.
It’s been nine years since Tennessee has beaten Alabama. And if the Vols want to complete the streak-ending trifecta — Florida, 11 years, done! Georgia, four years, done! Alabama, nine years, don’t count your chickens… — that’s put them in position to represent the SEC East Division in the league title game, then the 2016 version of UT will have to play out of its mind, especially on defense, to beat Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.
Conversely, the Badgers will need a solid performance from their offense to upend the high-powered Buckeyes, who, like their upcoming opponent, and like the Crimson Tide, are one of the best offensive and defensive teams, statistically, in America.
Last week’s record was 14-7, bringing the yearly record to 89-35. To the games we go…
Friday, October 14
Duke (3-3, 2-2 ACC) at No. 7 Louisville (4-1, 2-1 ACC) 6:00 p.m. CT
Duke has been a player in the ACC Coastal Division race over the last few years, but the Blue Devils don’t have the athletes, or speed, to hang with a Louisville team that’s coming off a bye — and a tough loss to Clemson. Look for Lamar Jackson and company to come out fast and never look back as the Cardinals get back in the win column.
The Lowe Down: Duke 14, Louisville 52
In other Friday games:
Memphis 30 at Tulane 24
Mississippi State 20 at BYU 34
Saturday, October 15
NC State (4-1, 1-0 ACC) at No. 3 Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) 11:00 a.m. CT
It was only a matter of time before Clemson’s offense started rolling, and that definitely appears to be the case after scoring 98 points in wins over Louisville and Boston College the last two weeks. One major improvement for the Tigers has been big plays. Through the first five games, Clemson had only one play over 40 yards. In the win over the Eagles last week, Dabo Swinney’s team had three plays over 40 in the first quarter. Oh, and Deshaun Watson has thrown nine TD passes in his last two games. NC State scored 41 on Clemson when the two hooked up in Raleigh last year, so expect a high-scoring game. Also, keep an eye on Wolfpack tailback Matt Dayes. He’s a player.
The Lowe Down: NC State 28, Clemson 52
No. 20 West Virginia (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) at Texas Tech (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) 11:00 a.m. CT
I haven’t been able to watch West Virginia play yet, but I know the Mountaineers have a reliable quarterback in Skyler Howard, a solid running game, led by Justin Crawford, and a veteran offensive line. And considering Texas Tech doesn’t play defense, that could be the difference here. Dynamic dual-threat quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the fast-paced Red Raider offense will score points, but it’s just not a sound philosophy for a team to think it can win by outscoring everyone it plays — especially with a D that gives up nearly 40 points a game.
The Lowe Down: West Virginia 45, Texas Tech 38
No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at No. 9 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC) 2:30 p.m. CT
We all know Tennessee can move the football and score points. Heck, the Vols rolled up 684 yards of total offense and 38 points last week despite an eye-popping seven turnovers. But if Butch Jones’ team wants to beat Alabama, it will need an inspiring performance from a banged up defense. Not only will the Vols be without star DB Cam Sutton, one of the nation’s top cover corners, but they’ll also be without middle linebacker and inspirational leader Jalen Reeves-Maybin and defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, who was kicked off the team (violation of team rules) earlier in the week after being carted off the field in a neck brace in College Station. That’s some serious star power. I think Joshua Dobbs and Tennessee’s offense will score some points, and Dobbs will likely hurt the Crimson Tide with his legs, but I just think Alabama is healthier and playing better on offense and defense for an upset to occur here. And keep an eye on outstanding Bama QB Jalen Hurts. If he continues to play at the level he’s playing at, he could move into the Heisman Trophy race. As a true freshman!
The Lowe Down: Alabama 42, Tennessee 35
No. 10 Nebraska (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Indiana (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) 2:30 p.m. CT
Nebraska enters this game banged up and semi-unproven. Sure the Cornhuskers are unbeaten, but I’m not sure if they are as good as their ranking. And with tailback Devine Ozigbo (ankle), who leads the team with 76 carries, tight end Cethan Carter and wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp listed as doubtful, this might be a tough spot for Nebraska. Tommy Armstrong, who just got out of a walking boot (hey, this helps healing so don’t overthink it), is one of the nation’s most dynamic players, and head coach Mike Riley’s team can run the rock, but this Indiana squad just stood toe to toe with one of the nation’s best (Ohio State) and that will help Kevin Wilson’s team here. Like the ‘Huskers, the Hoosiers are also dealing with their share of critical injuries (All-American G Dan Freeney hasn’t played in the last three games and talented wideout Simmie Cobbs is out for the year), but the difference in this game will be Indiana’s air attack. Quarterback Richard Lagow leads a passing offense that tops the Big Ten in yards, and he has the talent to lead the Hoosiers to a big Homecoming win.
The Lowe Down: Nebraska 27, Indiana 30
No. 24 Western Michigan (6-0, 2-0 MAC) at Akron (4-2, 2-0 MAC) 2:30 p.m. CT
Western Michigan is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in school history, but P.J. Fleck’s team needs to keep its focus when it takes on a capable Akron squad. The Zips only two losses this season were to No. 10 Wisconsin and a solid Appalachian State team. If you haven’t seen the Broncos play yet, then it’ doubtful you’re aware of three of the most underrated skill guys in the country in quarterback Zach Terrell (1,390 passing yards and 15 TDs; zero picks), bruising tailback Jarvion Franklin (514 rushing yards and five scores) and rangy wideout Corey Davis (36 receptions for 589 yards and eight touchdowns). All three, especially Davis, could have a shot at playing on Sundays. The Broncos’ O-line is also much improved, which always helps any offense’s production.
The Lowe Down: Western Michigan 38, Akron 23
North Carolina (4-2, 2-1 ACC) at No. 16 Miami (4-1, 1-1 ACC) 2:30 p.m. CT
This is a “character” game for both teams. North Carolina got blown out by Virginia Tech last week, and Miami lost a heartbreaker to rival Florida State on a blocked extra point (ouch!). When it comes down to it, quarterback play, as usual, will be important in this matchup, but I’m interested to see the cat and mouse game that transpires between Miami head coach Mark Richt, who doubles as the ‘Canes play-caller, and North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The two are very familiar with each other from their days in the SEC which should keep this game tight.
The Lowe Down: North Carolina 24, Miami 27
No. 12 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC) at No. 22 Arkansas (4-2, 0-2 SEC) 6:00 p.m. CT
If it weren’t for the heroic play of quarterback Austin Allen, Arkansas may only have two wins. Not only is he a good passer, but the dude is tough as nails — and he proved that by taking an absolute beating (six sacks, countless hits) at the hands of Alabama despite throwing for 400 yards and three scores. But outside of Allen and a talented set of skill players on offense, the Razorbacks have a lot of holes. The offensive line isn’t very good and neither is the defense. And both of those deficiencies will spell trouble facing an Ole Miss team that possesses a talented defensive line and an offense, led by quarterback Chad Kelly and arguably the best receiving corps in the country, that’s can score anyone.
The Lowe Down: Ole Miss 45, Arkansas 24
No. 2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at No. 8 Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) 7:00 p.m. CT
Alright. If Wisconsin can somehow win this game, the Badgers have a good opportunity to win out and play in the Big Ten Championship Game against either Ohio State or Michigan … again. But if that’s going to happen, quarterback Alex Hornibrook will have to make some plays down-field in the passing game to open up tailback Corey Clement and the Wisconsin running game. If the Badgers, who are coming off a bye week, want to pull the upset, they will need to find the end zone a couple of times to beat an Ohio State team that’s playing well, but can be beat. And the way the Buckeyes can be beat is by shutting down quarterback J.T. Barrett and dynamic tailback Mike Weber in the zone-read game, which is easier said than done but possible with a smart, tough defense, which is what Wisconsin has. Also, keep an eye on Ohio State middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan. He’s one of the nation’s best.
The Lowe Down: Ohio State 23, Wisconsin 16
In other Saturday games:
Vanderbilt 17 at Georgia 34
Minnesota 16 at Maryland 23
Kansas State 24 at No. 19 Oklahoma 38
Kansas 17 at No. 11 Baylor 52
Wake Forest 16 at No. 14 Florida State 38
Missouri 13 at No. 18 Florida 38
No. 21 Utah 27 at Oregon State 23
Tulsa 17 at No. 13 Houston 42
Iowa State 38 at Texas 45
Stanford 20 at Notre Dame 27
Southern Miss 24 at LSU 45
Colorado State 20 at No. 15 Boise State 40
UCLA 22 at Washington State 34