Greetings, Sixer participants (and readers)!
One thing you’ll learn about this weekly space is that there are some weeks where games you don’t expect make the cut. It may be that there is a dearth of top-notch P5 action, or it may be that I throw in a “whammy week” (those who have been playing along since the radio days remember those), or — as is the case this week — I just want to punish myself for being an idiot. This week is one of those weeks, as my alma mater makes the list.
I also get to welcome one of the country’s up-and-coming young coaches to the contest for the first time. Toledo’s Matt Campbell is a rising star in the coaching business, and he seems aligned to end up at a P5 job sooner than later. For now, though, we salute what he’s managed to do as the leader of the Rockets.
Rest well, citizens, for if you fear the lack of all-P5, all-the-time, I’m sure that will return in no time.
For now, though, the standings!
Remember, any weeks in which games are not selected are counted as losses. If you’re already part of our totally non-sanctioned-by-FBSchedules contest, you can access your weekly selections here. To join the fun, select this link.
It’s now trivia time!
The Sixer Trivia, Week 6 (answer at the end of the column): Illinois is 4-2 over their last six Big Ten games. What was their record over the 25 prior conference games?
Middle Tennessee (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) at Western Kentucky (4-1, 2-0 C-USA) (100 Miles of Hate)
Noon | FSN
- A rivalry renewed: As the name suggests, this is a rivalry based on proximity and general dislike of each other. The schools went 16 years (1991-2007) without playing, but resumed “pleasantries” (such as they are) when both joined the Sun Belt. Both schools then moved to Conference USA. Middle Tennessee has won five of the seven contests since 2007, and owns a 34-29-1 series advantage.
- Flying footballs: For those who love to watch the passing game, this is the game to see. The contest features the numbers two and sixteen passers among FBS teams. Western senior Brandon Doughty ranks second, averaging exactly 400 yards per game (143-for-193, 2000 yards, 15 TD, 2 INT), while MTSU redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill — head coach Rick’s son — ranks 16th (130-for-192, 1507 yards, 13 TD, 2 INT). Doughty is the new national leader in completion percentage, connecting on 74.1 percent of his throws.
- Fabulous freshmen: Stockstill’s success as a first-year player has been chronicled, but a number of young players on both sides are enjoying early success. WKU running back D’Andre Ferby has carried 78 times for 284 yards and five scores, lodging 14 or greater carries in each of the last four games. Middle receiver Richie James leads freshman receivers with 42 grabs for 447 yards and a score. Those 42 receptions also lead Conference USA.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: MTSU has been poised to defeat two P5s, but conservative play calling has arguably cost them. They’ll need all they can muster to win here.
Illinois (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at #22 Iowa (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Noon | ESPNU
- Defense wins championships — or games, at least: Much was made before the season of the Illini’s decision to replace coach Tim Beckman with Bill Cubit just days prior to the first game. The Illinois defense has been the real story, though. The unit has allowed over 165 fewer yards per game through this point in the season than last, and is allowing half the points per game they surrendered at this stage in 2014. Illinois (21st) has now pulled nearly even with Iowa (19th) in total defense among FBS clubs.
- 6 years for 6 wins: Iowa last started a season undefeated in six games six years ago. That Hawkeye team went 11-2 (6-2 Big Ten) and defeated Georgia Tech 24-14 in the Orange Bowl. No other Kirk Ferentz-led Iowa club has achieved this feat in his 16-plus seasons in Iowa City.
- This is convenient: One school has allowed zero rushing touchdowns this season: Iowa. The Hawkeyes allow just 2.62 yards per carry (84.4 yards per game), good for 11th in the land. Conversely, the Illini rank 13th in the Big Ten in rushing, carrying for just 155.8 yards per game. Illinois has seven touchdowns on the ground, but their 4.06 yards per carry is second-lowest (behind Minnesota) in the league.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This battle of great quarterbacks (Iowa’s C.J. Beathard and Illinois’ Wes Lunt) will be a close one. Iowa gets the home-field advantage.
Kent State (2-3, 1-0 MAC) at #24 Toledo (4-0, 1-0 MAC)
3:00pm | ESPN3
- No Flash in the pan: Kent State sports what is arguably their most stout defense in years. The Golden Flashes rank sixth nationally in total defense (252 yards per game) and tenth in rushing defense (83.4 yards). Opponents have rushed for 134 yards or fewer against Kent State in every game this season. Kent State also ranks 22nd in pass defense (168.6 yards per game).
- Toledo trending: The Rockets have not started a season 4-0 in 14 years. That season saw Toledo defeat Minnesota, Temple, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Ohio to begin what would be a 10-2 season. Toledo won the West Division, defeated Marshall 41-36 in the MAC title game and beat Cincinnati 23-16 in the Motor City Bowl. The Rockets are also ranked in the AP poll for the first time in nearly three years, when a loss to Ball State knocked them out of the rankings after one week.
- Unfamiliar foes: Despite being just 140 miles apart — and in the same conference — these schools have faced off just once since 2010 (a 30-20 Toledo win at Kent State last year). Kent State is in the MAC’s East Division, while Toledo is in the West. Toledo has won 24 of the 45 meetings between the institutions, with eight of those wins coming in the last ten games in the series. The Golden Flashes last defeated Toledo in the Glass Bowl 38 years ago, a span of ten games.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Only three other teams started MAC play 1-0, so this game is huge for both teams. Kent State has just one MAC title and three bowl bids.
#13 Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at #18 Michigan (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
3:30pm | BTN
- Battle of the defenses: It’s not often that we see a matchup of top-five defenses, but this game offers that matchup. Michigan is ranked second in the FBS in total defense, allowing 184 yards per game. Northwestern is fifth, surrendering 247.4 yards per contest. The Wolverines allowed Utah to rack up 337 yards in a 24-17, season-opening loss to Utah, but have not allowed greater than 235 since. Michigan has held BYU and Maryland to back-to-back 105-yard performances. Northwestern allowed greater than 300 yards in wins against Duke and Ball State, but has allowed 235 or fewer yards in their other three outings.
- Battle of the run games: Four teams in the Big Ten have cracked the thousand-yard mark on the ground, and two of those teams — Ohio State and Indiana are the others — will take the field in the Big House on Saturday. Northwestern leads the league, rushing for 248.4 yards per game. Michigan averages 201.4 yards per game, reaching the end zone 12 times to Northwestern’s seven. The Wildcats have galloped for 184 or more yards in each game, while Michigan followed up their 76-yard total against Utah with 198 yards or greater in each successive contest.
- I can still hear you saying / you would never break the chain: Northwestern has won just four of the last 35 meetings (1995, 1996, 2000, 2008) between these two institutions, with just 15 wins in the 73 games the two have played. If Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats can score a win at Michigan, though, another impressive milestone would be reached. The last Northwestern team to start a year 6-0 was the 1962 Wildcat squad, led by legendary coach Ara Parseghian. Parseghian’s club would finish that season 7-2, and he would leave two years later for a storied run at Notre Dame, in which he would win 95 of the 116 games he coached.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Northwestern has won twice in Ann Arbor in almost 50 years. They’ll have a tough road to a third win against a surging Wolverine club.
Miami (3-1, 0-0 ACC) at #12 Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
8:00pm | ABC
Details on this game are available in this week’s ACC edition of Clear Your Schedule.
#23 California (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at #5 Utah (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
10:00pm | ESPN
- First in several generations: Cal looks to go 6-0 for the first time in 65 years. That 1950 season featured a Golden Bear squad that tied Stanford 7-7 after starting the year 9-0. The tie did not hamper Cal that year, as the Golden Bears claimed the Pacific Coast Conference title. Pappy Waldorf’s squad — how great is that name, by the way? — went on to fall 14-6 to Michigan in the Rose Bowl. That loss was the third of three consecutive Cal losses in the Rose Bowl.
- Senior leadership: A huge part of Utah’s success this season rests in the arms of their senior backfield. Quarterbacks Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson have combined to guide the Utes through the air, completing a combined 79-of-101 passes on the year for 733 yards and five scores. Running back Devontae Booker — who has a 25-yard touchdown pass himself — averages nearly 111 rushing yards per game and has found the end zone four times. Booker is also the owner of an odd stat. He has two games this year in which he has carried 22 times apiece (Michigan and Oregon), and he failed to reach 100 rushing yards in either game. In the Utes’ other two games (Utah State and Fresno State), he carried exactly 31 times in both, surpassing the 100-yard mark both times.
- Going unanswered: California has recorded streaks of unanswered points in each of their five contests this season, with a total of 166 consecutive points recorded across those five games. Utah had a run of their own last week, scoring 42 straight points against Oregon in a 62-20 win. Cal ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring offense, lighting the scoreboard for 43.4 points per game. Utah ranks fifth, coming in at 38.8 per contest.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: A win for either of these schools plants them squarely in position for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Expect a fantastic finish.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Illinois is 4-2 over their last six Big Ten games. What was their record over the 25 prior conference games?
Illinois was 1-24 over those 25 games. The Illini started the conference schedule 0-3 last year, before winning against Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern to finish the slate 3-5. Their lone conference win during that 25-game stretch was a 20-16 victory over Purdue on November 23, 2013.