Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jonathan Mailhes/CSM/Shutterstock (13418040ay) LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) delivers a pass across the middle during NCAA football game action between the New Mexico Lobos and the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA NCAA Football New Mexico vs LSU, Baton Rouge, USA – 24 Sep 2022
Some interesting matchups on the horizon for this week. This week’s slate is filled with tight conference battles as well as meaningful games for teams that want to stay in the running for later in the season. Here, we preview the best matchups from outside the region.
Arkansas @ #23 Mississippi State
Game Time: 11:00AM CT
TV/Radio: SEC Network/SiriusXM 192 & 206
Arkansas is trying to avoid their third straight loss after dropping two in a row to Texas A&M and Alabama. They have dropped out of the rankings in just two weeks since they were 10th in the country and now the Razorbacks have another tough conference matchup in Mississippi State. Arkansas has a relatively balanced offense, but they have struggled on the defensive side of the football, which could be a problem in this game given that Mississippi State has one of the most explosive offenses in the country. However, Arkansas continues to run the football extremely well ranking in the top 25 in rushing yards per game. If Arkansas can control the pace of the game and KJ Jefferson can successfully threaten the pass, the Razorbacks could get off the cold streak and steal a win on the road.
An argument can be made that Mississippi State has yet to be tested this year. Despite the 4-1 record, they have yet to raise any serious eyebrows having only one solid win against Texas A&M at home. A loss to LSU earlier in the year proved this team can be vulnerable at times. However, this team is an offensive juggernaut. QB Will Rogers has played some of the best football in the country this season completing around 73% of his throws with 19 touchdowns and only three picks. He has been an incredible floor general this year and he does a great job at distributing the football throughout the offense. With that said, the Bulldogs do not run the ball well averaging less than 100 yards per game. Mississippi State needs to stay hot through the air and contain Arkansas’ run game in order to come out on top.
#8 Tennessee @ #25 LSU
Game Time: 11:00AM CT
TV/Radio: ESPN/SiriusXM 81 & 191
The Tennessee Volunteers have one of the most interesting and fun to watch offenses in the nation. Hendon Hooker has led this team to being second in total yards, fourth in passing yards, and tied for second in scoring offense. They are also well rested, as they have not played since September 24where they took a grinding win over Florida. Hooker is the key to this team. He will take them as far as they are willing to go. A win on the road in Death Valley would go a long way in getting people to buy in on a national scale. With Florida, being their best win, the Vols still have something to prove. That being said, this offense can compete with anybody. On defense, they stop the run at a real solid rate allowing only 98 rushing yards per game. However, they have been diced up through the air, and this is against mediocre competition early in their schedule. LSU runs a very balanced offense so Tennessee needs to be prepared to see many different looks offensively.
LSU has a serious home-field advantage with the game taking place in Baton Rouge. Death Valley is a tough place to play. However, this is not the same team we saw in 2019-2020 where Joe Burrow was leading quite possibly the greatest college football team of all time. What they are instead is a very balanced team on both sides of the ball who has won four straight since losing in Week 1 to Florida State. Arizona State transfer, Jayden Daniels, has added a much different element to the Tiger offense with his ability to create with his legs. Daniels finds himself as the team’s leading rusher, but this week, they need to ask him to do more with his arm. He has completed a career-best 68% of his throws, but we have not seen the big play arm that we have expected. Daniels can be one of the most dynamic players in college football and given Tennessee’s poor pass defense, maybe he will take some shots downfield and give LSU a shot to take down a top ten team in the nation.
#11 Utah @ #18 UCLA
Game Time: 2:30PM CT
TV/Radio: FOX/SiriusXM 197 & 198
This is the beginning of a fairly tough stretch for Utah as their next three games are against UCLA, USC, and Washington State. Last week’s win against Oregon State was encouraging for them as Oregon State went in as a solid matchup for the Utes. That game was never close. Utah blew them out. Now, the competition gets a little more serious with UCLA who has yet to lose a game this season. Utah likes to run this offense around their running game averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground. However, Cameron Rising has done very well protecting the football and throwing the ball at an efficient rate. He has completed 68% of his throws for 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Utah ranks as the 11th best scoring offense in the country.
UCLA has a very impressive run defense. They essentially take away that part of the game and makes offenses one-dimensional. On top of that, they run a very balanced offense with QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and star RB Zach Charbonnet. The Bruins score around 41 points per game which ranks 14th in the nation. They control the pace of the game on both sides of the ball and that is a tough matchup for anybody regardless of what your strengths are. UCLA’s toughest test this season came last week in their win against Washington, but outside of that, their schedule has been very favorable. This game should be a true test for both teams and prove who should be favored along with USC in the PAC-12.
Florida State @ #14 NC State
Game Time: 7:00PM CT
TV/Radio: ACC Network/SiriusXM 193 & 201
This matchup is between two teams that are coming off losses to ranked ACC opponents so this is a huge game for both programs. Florida State is fresh off a loss at home to Wake Forest where Wake QB Sam Hartman and FSU QB Jordan Travis dueled it out in a tough game. Most of the offense runs through Travis, but the Seminoles run a very balanced offensive attack. They average almost 500 yards of offense per game and can beat you in multiple ways on that side of the ball. Florida State just has to do better at stopping the run themselves. Last week is proof of that as Wake Forest, who has a very subpar running game, ran down the throats of the Seminoles last week. The good news is that NC State does not run the ball well either so Florida State gets a second chance to control the pace of the game and forcing NC State to commit to throwing the football.
NC State kept it close with Clemson last week, which is something to be proud of. The Wolfpack has one of the most formidable defenses in the country despite having a tough week against the run last week. That has been the team’s identity. However, the upside of this team on the offensive side is much higher than most have come to recognize so far. QB Devin Leary has underperformed so far this year, which has limited the expectations of NC State this season. Leary has completed just 63% of his passes for 10 touchdowns and three picks. Unless Leary comes out of his shell and shows the talent that most know that he has, NC State will have to rely on their defense to win this one.