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College Football Thursday: A Wild Ride
By Matt Horkman

The 2013 college football season is over a month old and already it’s been among the most entertaining in recent memory.

We’re not even halfway through October, but we’ve seen three incredible games featuring top 10 teams. Often times a team’s preseason ranking will inflate their actual standing, but this is not one of those cases. Each game featured legitimate national title contenders.

The first matchup was an opening Saturday bout between Georgia and Clemson. This was a major test for Clemson. They were playing at home and coming off a bowl win over LSU last New Year’s Eve. The Tigers got outstanding production from quarterback Tajh Boyd and outlasted the Bulldogs 38-35.

Two weeks later, Johnny Manziel silenced his critics by reminding them he backs up cocky persona with his play on the field. The reigning Heisman trophy winner nearly single handily defeating Alabama in one of the most anticipated non-championship games in this century. The Aggies racked up 628 yards of offense with Manziel accounting for over 562 yards, but it wasn’t enough because their defense surrendered 334 passing yards and 234 rushing yards in a 49-42 defeat.
Aaron Murray
Finally, two weeks ago, quarterbacks Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray put on a show in a battle of elite SEC programs. The game also featured a receiving clinic from LSU receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Murray led Georgia to a game-winning score with 1:47 remaining, giving the Bulldogs a 44-41 victory. The win has kept them relevant in the national title picture.

As entertaining as these games were, the best is yet to come. In two weeks, Florida State travels to Death Valley to play Clemson. The winner will likely represent the ACC Atlantic Division in the conference’s championship game on December 7. Not only does the game have national title implications, but it’ll also have Heisman ramifications. Boyd established himself as a Heisman contender after accounting for 312 yards and five touchdowns (two rushing) against Georgia. Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, meanwhile, has passed for 793 yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games. The winning quarterback elevates his team in the BCS championship race and puts himself in the midst of a wide-open Heisman race.

In early November, Stanford hosts Oregon in matchup of Pac-12 powerhouses. The two teams have contrasting styles with the Cardinal priding itself on smashed-mouth football and Oregon’s offense playing a tempo few teams can match. 

This list wouldn’t be complete without a matchup between SEC titans. In a game that could determine the SEC West, LSU plays Alabama in Tuscaloosa on November 9. As seen against the Aggies, Alabama’s defense looks vulnerable against the pass, which is something LSU’s done well all year. 

Wait! There’s more. LSU hosts Texas A&M two weeks after playing Alabama. In fact, the SEC championship could feature Georgia facing Alabama, LSU, or Texas A&M. Any combination would provide a thrilling game. All this jostling for position between top 10 teams has many overlooking the resurgence from Miami (FL). The Hurricanes face in-state rival Florida State on November 2.

This just touches the surface of what’s in store during the reminder of 2013. If you’re a casual fan of college fan that doesn’t tune in until bowl season, well, maybe you should rethink your viewing habits.

Because this season’s wild ride isn’t slowing down. 

Draft Watch
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
Outlook: Because certain teams value height in their defensive backs, Joyner will deal with critique of his 5-8 stature leading into the NFL Draft. Nonetheless, he’s a scrapper. He plays bigger than his size, which is evident with his physicality at the line of scrimmage. Last week, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs was shutdown by his physical play. This off-season, he converted to corner from safety. The latter is possibly his destination as a pro (think former Indianapolis Colt Bob Sanders), but his versatility and willingness to change positions is definitely a plus in the eyes of NFL teams. 

Stock: Up

Couch Potato Lineup
Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 11-4

Rutgers at No. 8 Louisville
Time/TV: 7:30 PM EST, ESPN (Thursday)
Outlook: While this rivalry isn’t as serious as Oklahoma and Texas or Florida State and Miami (FL), it does have a certain charm to it. The games always seem to fall on a Thursday or Friday night and they’re usually competitive. For the Cardinals, this is a pivotal moment in their season. They’re receiving rightful criticism for an easy-going schedule. As a result, many favor a one-loss team from a major conference playing in the BCS championship game, though it’s worth noting the Cardinals beat the SEC’s Florida Gators in last season’s Sugar Bowl. Regardless, this game isn’t just about a rivalry. It’s about Louisville showing a primetime audience they belong in the national title conversation. They’ll need a big margin of victory in order to pickup much-needed momentum.

Louisville 37 Rutgers 17

No. 17 Florida at No. 10 LSU
Time/TV: 3:30 PM EST, CBS
Outlook: This is a matchup of a heavyweight defense going against a heavyweight offense. LSU arguably has the top offense in the SEC with their passing game operating at a high-level. In addition, despite having 593 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, running back Jeremy Hill is somewhat forgotten, yet he can’t be left out of the equation. Florida brings to Baton Rouge the conference’s top ranked defense. They’re lone defeat on the year was on the road against Miami (FL) in a game plagued by turnovers. The Gators have gotten good play from quarterback Tyler Murphy, who’s filling in for the injured Jeff Driskel, but they’re inability to handle Miami (FL) on the road leaves them vulnerable for a beating in LSU. Their defense is legit, but it won’t be able to overcompensate their issues on offense.

LSU 27 Florida 14

No. 2 Oregon at No. 16 Washington
Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST, FOX Sports 1
Outlook: Washington fans are sick of Oregon. The Ducks have run roughshod in this border rivalry for years now, but it’s been awhile since they’ve faced a Washington team as good as this one. Marcus Mariota will put a ton of points on the scoreboard, but Washington’s combination of quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey, makes them one of the few teams capable of keeping pace with Oregon. Sankey ran for 125 yards against a Stanford front that‘s more physical than the one he‘ll face this Saturday. Price also played very well under road circumstances. The consensus is with Oregon, but Chip Kelly’s absence has to bite them eventually. In addition, running back De’Anthony Thomas may not play, taking away arguably Oregon’s best playmaker. In the end, Washington outlasts the Ducks in one of the year’s biggest upsets.

Washington 48 Oregon 42

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