Last week, only three FBS Independents were playing. I went 2-1. Once again, I predicted the Notre Dame game correctly, though I underestimated the differential again. I picked BYU again, and they proved that they have even the smallest amount of dignity, besting San Jose State by 21 points. I was wrong about UMass, who won a close game against App State in overtime on a field goal, capped off by an awesome celebration.
All four teams are playing this week. On top of that, all four teams are able to be watched on major networks, too.
UMass (2-6) v. #16 Mississippi State (6-2)
UMass has managed to win back-to-back games for the first time in three seasons, but they’ve got quite a test in another SEC road game. The Bulldogs have rolled off three straight wins against undefeated opponents after getting throttled by Georgia and Auburn in consecutive weeks.
Statistically, Mississippi State has looked really good this season – they average 34 points per game while only giving up 17. They average over 430 yards of offense while only allowing about 280. Their offense basically runs through junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who leads them in passing (1,320 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs) and rushing (666 yards 10 touchdowns). His turnovers are a bit inflated, as many of them came in those losses to Georgia and Auburn.
UMass will likely be without quarterback Andrew Ford, who was carted off the field last week after taking a vicious, blindsided block on a pick-6 against Appalachian State. Fortunately, the junior was alright, but I can’t imagine they’d put him in an environment like this just seven days after avoiding a major injury. Insert Ross Comis, who is not even closer to the passer Ford is. More of a runner, Comis’s longest pass last week went for 10 yards, as he went 11-for-20 on the day with 80 yards.
If Ford was playing, I would expect UMass to keep this one close. Remember – they only lost to Tennessee by 4 points on the road earlier this very season, but the offense stalled when Ford was knocked out of that game. Comis isn’t too good, and I think it’ll show on the field.
You can watch this game tomorrow at noon on WatchESPN or on the SEC Network. I’m picking Mississippi State by 20.
Wake Forest (5-3) v. #5 Notre Dame (7-1)
Undefeated since their Week 2 loss to Georgia, the Irish are rolling. Each of their six straight wins have been by 20 or more points, which is a testament to their offense and their defense. This matchup is a classic trap game, however, as they’re coming off back-to-back top-15 opponents with #9 Miami looming next week. That’s basically the biggest factor that’s making me nervous this week.
Wake certainly isn’t a pushover looking purely at their record, but aside from #6 Clemson, they haven’t played a ton of quality opponents. They beat Louisville, who has underperformed this season, and they lost to Florida State, who has also struggled mightily since losing Deondre Francois for the year.
Last week against the Cards, Wake gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense to Lamar Jackson himself. They managed to win due to Louisville’s pitiful defense, as John Wolford threw 5 touchdowns on over 460 yards passing and Matt Colburn rushed for over 130 yards. Needless to say, I don’t expect either of those things to happen against a ND defense that has shown that they’re going to stifle other teams’ best weapons.
Josh Adams alone is probably licking his chops at this Demon Deacon defense (say that three times fast), as they give up over 300 yards on the ground per game. Add in Brandon Wimbush, Tony Jones Jr. and Dexter Williams (featured), and it’s about to be a long day for Wake Forest. They have a good secondary and a good pass D, but to me, that just reiterates the importance of pounding it on the ground.
You can watch this game tomorrow at 3:30 pm on NBC. I like the Irish by 14.
Army (6-2) v. Air Force (4-4)
Army’s coming off of a bye week to face another service academy. Air Force has won three straight games, while the Black Knights have won four straight.
You’re obviously going to get a lot of ground game any time you see a service academy, but as their name suggests, Air Force is a little more apt to attack, well, through the air. They average over 112 passing yards per game, which is by far the most out of the three schools. It seems like most of the time they’ll use Arion Worthman (above) to pass is in either the red zone or when they’re looking for a big play. Worthman also leads the ground game, scoring 13 touchdowns.
The Falcons are at 6-point favorites due to their big play ability. That being said, they’ve got an Army defense this week that is well-rested an only gives up a little over 20 points per game. The Black Knights are pretty good against the pass – they give up roughly 200 yards per game against a lot of teams that do not employ the triple option offense. I think that suggests that they can handle whatever Air Force will throw at them.
This one kicks off tomorrow at 3:30 pm. It’ll be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network. I’m going with Army in the upset, solidifying a bowl appearance for the second straight year.
BYU (2-7) v. Fresno State (5-3)
BYU finally managed to do something offensively against a team that might as well not trot out a defense. Fresno State, meanwhile, gives up a bit over 300 yards per game. I truly think that’s all you need to know.
You can watch this game on ESPN2 tomorrow at 10:45 pm. I’m going with Fresno State by 22.
Cover photo from Notre Dame Insider.
Other media from MassLive, YouTube.