College Football Week 9 Preview – Can Temple’s Cinderella Season Continue Against Notre Dame?
Can Notre Dame Avoid Temple’s upset tricks? Will Florida be treated to an SEC East title? Those are just some of Halloween weekend’s big questions in college football.
Will Halloween Be Good to the Owls?
There may not be any bigger surprises this year than the words, "College Gameday, coming to you live from Temple." But this football season has been anything but normal.
For No. 21 Temple, this week's matchup against No. 9 Notre Dame (the only game between ranked opponents this week) is uncharted territory. It is just the ninth time in history the Owls come into a game ranked and the first time ever to be in matchup between ranked opponents. They are 7-0 for the first time in school history and are in a position to win their first ever conference title in football. Although the Owls aren't in a Power 5 conference, this is not a team getting by on smoke and mirrors. Temple's defense has forced 15 turnovers this year and is eighth nationally in scoring defense. The Owls are particularly strong against the run, giving up under 92 yards per game (sixth nationally).
But that defense will be put to the test by a Notre Dame team that is still playing with a chance at making the national playoff. Running back C.J. Prosise, a converted wide receiver, has rushed for 100+ yards five times this year and is on pace to break the school record for yards per game (130.6 YPG, set in 1979).
Notre Dame has been in this situation before. But with the bright lights of a primetime ABC broadcast, it will be worth watching to see how Temple responds to the pressure.
Who Grabs Control of the SEC East?
While this year’s edition of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party isn’t officially a play-in game for the SEC title game, it’s not far off as the winner will control its own destiny and have a sizeable lead over the rest of the SEC East.
After consecutive losses to Alabama and Tennessee, the Bulldogs are reeling. They are probably the team with the most to gain this weekend--win and they are still alive for their first SEC title game since 2012; lose and they are spiraling into the final month of the season already with three conference losses after holding national title hopes early in the year.
No. 11 Florida, with a win, would hold a two-game lead over anyone else in the division with just two conference games to go. The Gators rushed for 418 yards in a win last year that snapped a three-game losing streak to Georgia.
Unfortunately, both teams will be without their top stars in this game. Georgia running back Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Bulldogs' loss to Tennessee. Florida, meanwhile, has lost quarterback Will Grier to a year-long NCAA suspension after testing positive for an unspecified banned substance.
Should Stanford Be on Upset Alert?
Since a season-opening loss to Northwestern, Stanford has been a roll, beating six consecutive opponents by double-digits (average score 43-21). With four unranked conference opponents coming up (followed by a season-ending matchup with No. 9 Notre Dame), the Cardinal can coast on into the Pac-12 title game, right?
That's exactly what Washington State wants them to believe. The Cardinal's opponent this week is coming in with a boatload of confidence of its own. The Cougars are riding a three-game winning streak and Mike Leach's Air Raid offense is finally clicking, averaging 597 yards and 47 points per game in that stretch. Sophomore quarterback Luke Falk has been playing out of his mind, throwing for 1,526 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last three starts. But he'll face his toughest test to date against the Pac-12's best defense.
With a late-night kickoff and national ESPN broadcast, expect WSU fans to turn this into a hornet's nest for the Cardinal.
Is Iowa for Real?
In the preseason and up until now, most of the talk about the Big Ten and playoff contention deservedly centered on Ohio State and Michigan State. But the conference's biggest surprise team could slowly be creeping its way into the discussion. At 7-0, Iowa has cracked the Top Ten for the first time since 2010. The Hawkeyes hold a two-game lead over Wisconsin for the West Division title and their remaining opponents are a combined 2-15 in conference play. Iowa is one of just two undefeated teams (Toledo being the other) that will not play another ranked team the rest of this regular season.
While Iowa has certainly flown under the radar, they are very much a title contender. The Hawkeyes will likely be solid favorites the rest of the way and should be 12-0 going into the Big Ten title game just one upset away from a potential playoff spot. Yes, Iowa's strength of schedule won't help. But given that most of the other undefeated teams will knock one another off in upcoming conference play, it's difficult to imagine the playoff committee keeping an undefeated Big Ten champion, fresh off an upset of either Ohio State or Michigan State, out. In other words, don't sleep on the Hawkeyes--Iowa is suddenly a national title contender.
Who Will Be the Next Coach Out?
A college coach getting fired is nothing new—it just comes with the territory in any cutthroat profession. But it is a little unusual to have so many opening this early. We’re not even to Halloween and already eight jobs are open. Even more odd are the reasons for which some of these firings have happened. I mean, Al Golden was already on the hot seat, so no one was really surprised when Miami let him go after the worst loss in school history. But you don’t often see a coach up and “retire” in mid-season a la Steve Spurrier at South Carolina or George O’Leary at Central Florida. And Steve Sarkisian (USC) and Tim Beckman (Illinois) were ousted for off-field behavior. In one of the saddest developments of the season, Minnesota’s Jerry Kill—by all accounts one of the nicest guys in the game—announced he was stepping down for medical reasons after a series of seizures.
With so many openings already out there and more sure to come, there are a lot of young up-and-coming coaches out there polishing up their resumes.