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IOWA AT MICHIGAN

MICHIGAN AT
MARYLAND

These two teams are heading in polar-opposite directions as they meet on the gridiron. Michigan is coming off its biggest win of the season, while Maryland has dropped three straight games.

The Terrapins (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) have felt some of the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows in the Big Ten this season. Maryland started the year with a pair of dominating victories over Howard (79-0) and then-No. 21 Syracuse (63-20) but has since lost five of their last six games. Quarterback injuries continue to plague the Terrapins, who have been forced to play four different signal callers this season. Junior transfer Josh Jackson, who injured his ankle late in a win over Rutgers, is expected to start this weekend. Regardless of who is passing the ball, the Maryland offense is predicated on the run game. Sophomore Anthony McFarland Jr. and junior Javon Leake are two of the most explosive running backs in the Big Ten. Both McFarland Jr. and Leake have scored seven touchdowns this season and Leake averages an astonishing 8.2 yards per carry.

The Maryland defense has been better against the run than the pass, but surrendered a season-worst 321 yards on the ground at Minnesota last week. The Terrapins have allowed more than 400 passing yards on two occasions this year, against Penn State on September 27 and at Purdue October 12. Where Maryland has found success on defense is in forcing turnovers. The Terps have forced a turnover in 20 straight games dating back to last season, the longest active streak in the country. This year, Maryland has forced 12 turnovers through eight games this season, with seven interceptions and five fumbles.

Michigan (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) has won four of their last five games, including a dominating 45-14 win over Notre Dame last weekend. The Wolverine’s recent success has been concurrent with the rise of the their rushing attack, which has accumulated 295 or more yards in two of the last three games. Freshman Zach Charbonnet and sophomore Hassan Haskins have taken over games on the ground. Charbonnet has accounted for six touchdowns in the last four games, while Haskins surpassed 100 yards in two of the last three. Charbonnet has tied the school record with nine touchdowns as a freshman.

On defense, Michigan has started to regain its form from 2017 and 2018 when the Wolverines were a top-three defensive unit. UM ranks in the top-25 nationally in 10 defensive categories, including total defense (eighth) and pass defense (sixth). Since Michigan lost to Wisconsin in week four, the Wolverines haven’t allowed a team to gain more then 300 yards of total offense and have held two of the last three opponents under 200 yards. Michigan is particularly good against the pass, led by senior defensive backs Josh Metellus and Lavert Hill. Hill was a First Team All-Big Ten performer a year ago, while Metellus was a second team choice.

The Wolverines have won seven of the eight matchups between these two schools and the last four meetings. But this may be one of the best Maryland squads in recent years and they has proven to be an explosive offense. The Terrapins must shut down the Michigan rushing attack and break several long runs to win this game. The Wolverines need to establish the run early and often, while containing the explosive Maryland running backs.

CAL AT OREGON

OREGON
AT USC

The Ducks and Trojans are meeting in a clash of Pac-12 division leaders in Los Angeles. The Ducks have won four of the last six meetings between these two, including a pair of victories in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Oregon (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) has been among the best in the nation over the last seven games. The Ducks have won seven straight and are off to their first 5-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013. Oregon is one of the most balanced offenses in the country, led by senior quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the country and is one of just two QBs with 20 or more touchdowns and just one or fewer interceptions this season. But the Ducks don’t rely on Herbert alone. Fifteen different Oregon players have scored a touchdown this season, led by junior receiver Jaylon Redd with eight. The Ducks rushing attack is also near the top of the Pac-12, led by sophomore CJ Verdell, who leads the conference with 753 rushing yards.

On defense, Oregon has similar balance. The Ducks lead the nation with 14 interceptions by nine different players. Sophomore defensive back Jevon Holland has four interceptions this season and is one of just three players in the country that have four or more passes picked off in each of the last two years. Oregon also spreads the love when it comes to sacking opposing quarterbacks. The Ducks are fourth nationally with 15 different players that have at least half a sack. These exotic defensive looks have resulted in an all-around strong defense, which ranks first or second in the Pac-12 in nine different categories, including second in scoring and total defense.

USC (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) has won two straight games, including a come-from-behind victory at Colorado last week, 35-31. The Trojans were without their top three running backs in the last few games, but freshman speedster Kenan Christon stepped up. Against Arizona on October 19, Christon ran eight times for 103 yards and a pair of scores. Last week at Colorado, Christon came through again with 14 carries for 76 yards. But USC’s new Air Raid offense is built on exactly what you would expect, the passing attack. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis has played like a Freshman All-American candidate this season and ranks in the top-10 nationally in completion percentage and passing efficiency. Slovis has been aided by perhaps the best trio of receivers in the country, senior Michael Pittman Jr., junior Tyler Vaughns and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown. Together, the receiver trinity has compiled 140 catches for 1,825 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Trojan defense has battled inexperience and injuries all season long, but USC is slowly getting healthier. Freshman cornerback Chris Steele and senior defensive end Christian Rector should return to the field against Oregon, which will give the Trojans a boost. Rector is the most experienced player on the Trojan defensive line and has shown the ability to get after opposing quarterbacks. The Trojans have had trouble containing quarterbacks who can run, and while the Duck’s Herbert isn’t a traditional running quarterback, he has the ability to escape the rush and pick up yardage. USC was able to keep Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate from getting loose, so a similar game plan should be used to keep Herbert in check.

The keys to this game for USC are to protect the football and establish a rushing attack, which will open up the passing lanes. On the other hand, Oregon will need to contain the Trojans passing attack, while also controlling the clock by running the football efficiently.

AUBURN AT FLORIDA

GEORGIA
VS FLORIDA

Nicknamed “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, Georgia and Florida meet in a top-10 SEC clash in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) suffered one of the most surprising losses in all of college football on October 12 when Georgia lost to South Carolina, 20-17, in double overtime. The Dawgs responded with a dominating victory over Kentucky the following week, 21-0, in wet-and-sloppy conditions. Georgia has one of the best quarterbacks in the country directing its offense in junior Jake Fromm, who is 29-6 as a starter in his career. Statistically, Fromm comes across as a “game manager”, but that is due to the fact that the Bulldogs have one of the best rushing attacks in the country. Junior running back D’Andre Swift won SEC Offensive Player of the Week in the victory over Kentucky and has 760 yards on 110 carries this season.

The Georgia defense leads the SEC in points against, surrendering just 10.6 points per game. The Dawgs also lead the conference in rushing defense and total defense and are the only major college football team to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. Georgia ranks near the bottom half in sacks this season, but the Dawgs tallied 15 quarterback hurries in their win over Kentucky. The strength of the Bulldog defense is the secondary, where safeties J.R. Reed (senior) and Richard LeCounte (junior) have been staples for the last few seasons. Reed is a 2019 Bednarik Award semifinalist, which is the award given to the best defensive player in the country.

Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC) had its lone loss of the season on October 12 against LSU, but bounced back with a victory over South Carolina, 38-27. The Gators are off to its third 7-1 start since 2010 and have its highest AP ranking (No. 6) since 2012. Florida has relied heavily on their passing attack this season despite losing starting quarterback Feleipe Franks to an ankle injury. Junior Kyle Trask has taken over under center and the offense has only gotten stronger. Trask has spread the ball evenly to a variety of playmakers in throughout the Florida offense. The Gators are one of just three teams in major college football to have at least four players with 20 catches, 275 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The leader of that receiving corps is sophomore tight end Kyle Pitts, who has established himself as one of the best tight ends in the country.

The backbone of the Gators’ this year, and seemingly the last few seasons, has been its defense. Florida has forced 18 turnovers this season, including 12 interceptions, which is tied for third nationally. The Gators have ramped up their takeaways in the last few weeks by forcing four turnovers in three of the last six games. A major contributing factor to forcing opposing quarterbacks into interceptions has been the pressure applied by the Gators front seven. Florida has already racked up 29 sacks this season and is the only SEC team with six players who have at least two sacks. Senior linebacker Jonathan Greenard leads the Gators with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, while junior linebacker Jeremiah Moon has three sacks.

This game is shaping up to be a defensive clash, which typically means whichever team wins the turnover battle will ultimately win the game.