Oklahoma, Texas A&M Look To Keep away from Upsets in Playoff Race

NCAA Week 11 – With just some quick weeks till the choice of the 4 playoff groups, the School Soccer Playoff rankings have change into essential as contenders jostle for place. 9 of the ten groups within the Energy 5 with zero or one losses are within the prime 10, with undefeated Cincinnati additionally becoming a member of the fray. Whereas there’s an outdoor likelihood {that a} crew might soar from outdoors that group to the playoff—maybe if No. 11 Texas A&M wins out and upsets Georgia for an SEC title, or if No. 12 Wake Forest wins out in convincing style—the principle postseason frontrunners are lined up neatly on the prime.

The SEC leads the best way behind an unusually dominant No. 1 Georgia and an unusually troubled No. 2 Alabama, however the Large Ten sends the biggest contingent, with No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan, and No. 7 Michigan State all in play if they’ll keep one-loss information. Rivals No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State have mirror-image schedules, with the Sooners now dealing with down their hardest stretch whereas the Cowboys cruise in the direction of Bedlam. No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Cincinnati are their convention’s sole representatives within the prime 20, and unbiased No. 9 Notre Dame fills out the lineup. It is a remarkably crowded assortment of groups: notably, that is the primary Week 11 rating with only one undefeated within the prime 4 since 2016. Which means there’s loads of room for brand spanking new names to pop up as excessive as No. 2, with each crew besides the Bulldogs wanting prone to defeat.

The sector is certain to slim, although, and a number of other video games this week ought to assist make clear who has a shot. Michigan will search for a key win over Penn State to ascertain themselves as a transparent risk within the Large Ten East, whereas Ohio State hopes to keep away from an upset by a harmful Purdue crew. Oklahoma enters their harrowing stretch run with a go to to 7-2 Baylor as Oklahoma State appears to close down an opponent that has derailed their seasons up to now in TCU. Texas A&M will try and bolster their résumé and hold the stress on Alabama with a showdown in opposition to Ole Miss, and Wake Forest makes an attempt to maintain the ACC’s unlikely playoff probabilities alive of their return to convention play. Some contenders are heavy favorites and others are preventing for his or her lives, however in all chance, one or two will fall this Saturday.

Because the drama of the playoff chase rises additional, we’ll verify in with 5 of the highest contenders as they attempt to maintain off upset bids, then throw in a go to to the Mountain West for a decisive division duel. From the coasting Bulldogs to the long-shot Aggies and Demon Deacons, loads of the playoff hopefuls are dealing with down crucial assessments within the remaining month of the season.

All occasions are listed as Jap.

Michigan (-1.5) at Penn State—Saturday, 12 p.m. (ABC)

Total Michigan Penn State
2021 F+ 4 10
When Michigan has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 10 5
2021 EPA/move 55 6
2021 EPA/rush 44 51
When Penn State has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 11 51
2021 EPA/move 25 69
2021 EPA/rush 21 128

9 weeks into the season, we nonetheless do not know fairly what Michigan is. The Wolverines dazzled in opposition to an out-of-conference slate whose power has confirmed robust to nail down (Western Michigan, Washington, and NIU), however they’ve struggled with inconsistency in opposition to Large Ten foes. The offense fell asleep on the wheel throughout a second-half shutout by the hands of Rutgers, however the protection was in a position to pull a 20-13 win out of the hearth. A reasonably decisive 38-17 win over Wisconsin, which has since climbed its approach into the rankings, righted the undefeated Wolverines’ course, however the protection fell off the map in opposition to Nebraska lengthy sufficient to necessitate a late turnover for the victory. Nonetheless but to play a crew with a rating on the time of the sport, Michigan seemed set to ship a press release win over rival Michigan State, however a 16-point lead evaporated within the remaining 20 minutes, and it was the Spartans who emerged from the fray with their good document intact (although just for another week).

The missed alternatives and squandered playoff paths from the Michigan State recreation are emblematic of the Jim Harbaugh period, however the season is not over but. The Wolverines are nonetheless 8-1, ranked No. 6 within the newest CFP prime 25, and have at the least two extra probabilities to show themselves in opposition to high quality competitors. For a crew which has come thus far, nonetheless, their résumé continues to be remarkably skinny, which makes this assembly with Penn State significantly necessary. Whereas the committee spurned the Nittany Lions on this week’s prime 25, they famous that beating them continues to be an indication of high quality, and for a crew whose present greatest wins are Wisconsin and NIU, they are a win price taking.

Michigan does every little thing fairly properly—producing offensive explosiveness apart—however their swarming second-level protection is the star of the present. Linebackers Josh Ross and Nikhai Hill-Inexperienced and nickelback Daxton Hill are the crew’s main tacklers, and their reliability makes the Wolverines’ protection among the best in FBS. Along with the plain defensive numbers, Michigan additionally beneficial properties a major edge by shortening opponents’ drives: their offense averages 5.97 performs per drive (twenty ninth), whereas their protection permits solely 5.06 (twenty second). And while you throw in a particular groups unit that ranks third in FEI, Michigan will get an enormous head begin in subject place, averaging an offensive begin at their very own 32 (ninth) and a defensive begin at their opponent’s 26 (eleventh). That distinction raises anticipated landing price by over 10%, and on the entire, it is good for a lift of about 0.2 factors per drive—over two factors per recreation from subject place alone. Michigan’s quick defensive sequence are a present that retains on giving.

Penn State extends drives properly, averaging 5.95 performs apiece (thirty third) and, critically, begins extra of them than virtually anyone else. The Nittany Lion’s 110 complete drives rank eleventh within the nation, which places them within the firm of some offenses that … frankly, aren’t excellent. Oklahoma State (116), Illinois (113), Iowa (111), New Mexico State (109), and Arizona (108) are among the many worst offenders, and as a gaggle, groups with at the least 108 drives common 0.19 EPA per play, under the FBS common of 0.22. There are any variety of explanations for these offensive woes, however in Penn State’s case, the first drawback is pretty apparent: their dashing assault has fallen off the face of the earth. Since their fateful loss to Iowa in early October, the Lions have performed three video games and have but to prime 100 dashing yards or 3.0 yards per carry. In opposition to Ohio State, they averaged simply 1.1 yards per carry, their lowest such mark in a recreation since 2017, and ran for simply 33 yards, their worst efficiency since 2014.

Whereas the dashing corps wasn’t precisely world-beating earlier than its latest stretch, Penn State’s latest outcomes—losses to Illinois and Ohio State, an escape from Maryland by which the Terrapins managed a fourth-quarter tie—reveal how a lot the offense has struggled with no reliable run recreation. Noah Cain, who was tabbed because the crew’s main working again in his return from harm this season, has underwhelmed, having rushed for over 50 yards simply as soon as this 12 months. Whereas secondary choices corresponding to Keyvone Lee and John Lovett have flashed potential, they have not appeared or produced constantly sufficient. Going through an opponent whose solely loss got here to a crew with a 197-yard, five-touchdown rusher, Penn State will want extra to topple the Wolverines. On the upside, the passing recreation is clicking underneath veteran quarterback Sean Clifford like by no means earlier than, and as his well being continues to enhance, his dual-threat skill ought to come to the fore. If the Lions can efficiently make use of their stable passing assault, they could discover a spark to encourage their run recreation in pursuit of an unlikely upset.

Look ahead to:

  • Can Cade McNamara proceed a stable run (8.9 yards per try, 4 TD, 1 INT in his final two video games) in opposition to Penn State’s top-tier move protection (third in EPA)?
  • Will Blake Corum (778 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 10 TD) be wholesome sufficient to play and fill out the Michigan dashing tandem alongside Hassan Haskins (829 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 11 TD)?
  • Can Penn State disrupt a stout Michigan line of defense (1.8% sack price, first in FBS) behind star defensive finish Arnold Ebiketie (46 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks)?

FEI Outright Choose: Michigan by 5.3

Oklahoma (-6) at Baylor—Saturday, 12 p.m. (FOX)

Total Oklahoma Baylor
2021 F+ 9 18
When Oklahoma has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 3 14
2021 EPA/move 9 82
2021 EPA/rush 6 46
When Baylor has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 61 29
2021 EPA/move 129 19
2021 EPA/rush 9 14

On a floor degree, Oklahoma’s offense appears simply pretty much as good as ever. The Sooners are averaging 42.9 factors per recreation, rating fifth within the nation—proper according to their final two seasons (42.1 and sixth in 2019, 43.0 and sixth in 2020). However the highway to Oklahoma’s offensive success has been bumpy, that includes their first video games with 23 or fewer factors since 2016, a exceptional quarterback swap, and a scoreless first half in opposition to 1-8 Kansas. Whereas the Sooners have scored at the least 35 factors in 5 straight video games, inconsistency has marked their efficiency this season. In opposition to Texas, they sputtered behind Spencer Rattler, scoring simply seven factors with a decide and two punts within the first quarter. However with Rattler benched for backup Caleb Williams, the identical offense got here alive within the second half, flipping a 41-33 deficit right into a 48-41 lead in simply 15 seconds. A convincing 52-point displaying adopted in opposition to TCU, and the issue appeared solved … till the Sooners took over 40 minutes to attain on the Jayhawks. The offense once more rallied to attain 28 factors within the final quarter-hour and alter, however the considerations had been clear to see.

Baylor’s glorious protection would be the greatest Oklahoma has confronted by a large margin. Not like Texas, which permits 7.8 extra factors per recreation within the second half than the primary (128th), the Bears’ protection holds up properly, permitting 0.5 fewer factors (seventieth). And in contrast to Kansas, which permits an FBS-worst 46.4 factors per recreation, Baylor is stable on the entire, surrendering solely 22.2 factors (thirty second). It would not be not possible for the Sooners to claw their approach again after a sluggish begin, however it will actually be tougher. Placing in a full 4 quarters might be crucial.

Establishing early offensive success should not be tough for the Sooners—they rank ninth in dashing success price and tenth in passing success price. Their 67 scoring alternatives are tied for fourth in FBS and first within the Energy 5, and their 5.21 factors per alternative lead the nation. Oklahoma places in methodical drives like no person else, however they wrestle to ship large performs to present their offense an additional gear. The Sooners rank seventy fifth in general explosiveness and 88th in passing explosiveness, simply essentially the most obvious distinction between this 12 months’s offense and people of latest seasons. Unsurprisingly, this weak spot was on full show in opposition to Nebraska and West Virginia; in these low-scoring debacles, Oklahoma totaled simply 4 explosive performs on 132 performs from scrimmage (a price of simply over 3%). However this a part of the Sooners’ assault has taken a major step ahead underneath Williams, as they’ve put up 23 explosive performs of their final three video games (14%).

Baylor’s protection, whereas typically excellent, has did not restrict explosiveness this season, permitting 1.29 EPA per profitable play (122nd). However the Bears even have one thing that Williams’ latest opponents have not: a sound run protection. Texas ranks 92nd, TCU 117th, Kansas a hundred and thirtieth, and Texas Tech 79th in dashing success price allowed, however Baylor is all the best way up at eleventh. Explosiveness continues to be an issue within the run recreation—the Bears rank solely 82nd in that stat—however on the entire, they’ll maintain down the trenches pretty properly, and a restricted run recreation is not one thing Williams has actually contended with but. Kennedy Brooks (802 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 9 TD) has been among the best working backs within the nation and has created ridiculous quantities of additional yardage—dashing for 177 yards after contact in opposition to Texas alone, for instance. He does not get shut down usually, however when he does, it has usually opened the door to certainly one of Oklahoma’s nail-biting escapes. Brooks’ lowest dashing complete on the season (17 yards) got here in that slugfest with West Virginia, and Nebraska (75 yards) and Kansas (79 yards) additionally prevented him from dominating on the bottom.

Nonetheless, that is simpler mentioned than executed. Brooks can severely punish a protection that struggles to comprise him up entrance, and Oklahoma’s line is just getting higher. To stifle the Sooners’ offense, the Bears might want to shut off explosiveness from a pair of stars who can put an opponent on their again foot with only one play. Each Oklahoma’s offense and Baylor’s protection, whereas imperfect, are among the many greatest in soccer, they usually’re each set to tackle their hardest matchup but with Large 12 title hopes at stake.

Look ahead to:

  • Can Baylor working backs Abram Smith (1055 yards, 7.3 yards per carry, 11 TD) and Trestan Ebner (601 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 1 TD) beat a stable Oklahoma run protection?
  • Will the Bears’ offensive line be capable to maintain off the move rush of Nik Bonitto, Isaiah Thomas, and Perrion Winfrey (mixed: 74 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks)?
  • What can the Baylor secondary do about big-play risk Marvin Mims (605 yards, 23.3 yards per catch, 4 TD) with out loosening protection general?

FEI Outright Choose: Baylor by 0.9

Georgia (-20) at Tennessee—Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Total Georgia Tennessee
2021 F+ 1 25
When Georgia has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 4 36
2021 EPA/move 3 73
2021 EPA/rush 94 90
When Tennessee has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 1 25
2021 EPA/move 1 60
2021 EPA/rush 10 25

By some metrics, Tennessee offers essentially the most spectacular check Georgia’s protection has confronted this season. The Volunteers are averaging 38.2 factors per recreation, making them certainly one of solely two groups to rise from under 25 factors per recreation final 12 months to over 35 this 12 months. By comparability, Georgia hasn’t confronted a scoring offense ranked increased than thirty sixth—however these numbers are deceiving, on account of how ridiculously good the Bulldogs’ protection has been. With out their dismal efforts in opposition to that unit, Arkansas would rise from thirty sixth to seventeenth in scoring offense, Missouri from forty fourth to twenty sixth, Auburn from forty seventh to twenty seventh, and Florida from 56th to thirty eighth. Whereas Tennessee’s offense has impressed, they would not the primary to have their wings clipped by the Bulldogs.

Whereas the Volunteers’ benefit of pure power is one thing of a mirage, they do pose a problem Georgia hasn’t confronted but. Every of the Bulldogs’ final 5 opponents sits close to or above the FBS common in time of possession: Arkansas 67th, Auburn 81st, Kentucky fifteenth, Florida forty first, Missouri 68th. However Tennessee ranks dead-last in that stat, holding the ball for slightly below 24 minutes per recreation. That is a product of a number of issues—together with a protection that enables the fourth-most performs per drive and an offense that has discovered a groove within the passing recreation—however the obvious trigger is John Heupel’s tempo offense, just like the one he employed at UCF. The Volunteers’ hurry-up skill was on full show final week as they held the ball for a staggeringly low 13:52, but scored 45 factors in a slim victory over Kentucky.

It stays to be seen if Georgia’s protection may be genuinely challenged—they’ve solely allowed 5 touchdowns and 59 factors throughout 9 video games. (That is fewer factors than their offense scored in opposition to simply Vanderbilt, for reference.) But when one of many best models of all time may be mentioned to have a weak spot, it will be in explosive performs. The Bulldogs’ protection ranks first in general EPA, ninth in dashing EPA, and first in passing EPA, in addition to first in success price, second in dashing success price, and first in passing success price. However explosiveness is a distinct matter: Georgia permits 1.14 EPA per profitable play (52nd), 0.91 per profitable rush (thirtieth), and 1.35 per profitable move (63rd). A few of that has to do with pattern dimension, contemplating the Bulldogs have solely confronted 104 profitable performs outdoors rubbish time, nevertheless it’s the closest factor to an issue they’ve.

Whether or not the Volunteers could make that matter will largely relaxation on the passing recreation. Virginia Tech switch Hendon Hooker has been a large enchancment over authentic starter Joe Milton, nevertheless it stays to be seen if his glorious efficiency in opposition to Kentucky was an outlier or an indication of extra large performs to return. The place Tennessee has generated essentially the most dependable highlights, nonetheless, is on the bottom. Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans have swapped the beginning position backwards and forwards as a result of accidents and efficiency, however each had been knocked out of the sport in opposition to the Wildcats, which can have led to Hooker’s showstopping night time. Heupel has mentioned their potential returns with cautious optimism, nevertheless it’s unsure how a lot the Volunteers can lean on a generally-solid run recreation.

That would put the burden of the sport on Hooker’s shoulders in opposition to the Georgia secondary, hardly an enviable place. As talked about earlier than, the Bulldogs lead the nation in opponent EPA per move (-0.13) and passing success price allowed (26.0%) behind a legion of fantastic defensive backs, from Lewis Cine (40 tackles, six move breakups) to Christopher Smith (17 tackles, two interceptions). There is not any doubt on this case: this group might be Hooker’s strongest opponent up to now. With Georgia dealing with the final risk to its hopes of an undefeated common season, the Volunteers will hope to beat a historic protection and provides their rival a run for his or her cash.

Look ahead to:

  • If Tennessee’s offense is ready to hold Georgia at arm’s size, can Stetson Bennett (11.8 yards per try, 14 TD, 4 INT) proceed to impress?
  • How a lot will the Bulldogs lean on their prodigious dashing room, with 5 completely different gamers having taken at the least 30 carries this season?
  • Can the Volunteers win the road of scrimmage for a potentially-lacking dashing assault in opposition to a towering Georgia line of defense?

FEI Outright Choose: Georgia by 20.2

Texas A&M (-2.5) at Ole Miss—Saturday, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Total Texas A&M Ole Miss
2021 F+ 7 19
When Texas A&M has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 37 62
2021 EPA/move 80 64
2021 EPA/rush 58 119
When Ole Miss has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 9 5
2021 EPA/move 4 23
2021 EPA/rush 34 8

About 800 miles southwest of Athens, the second-best scoring protection within the nation is hitting its stride within the remaining stretch of a tricky SEC slate. Texas A&M might have struggled early within the convention schedule—permitting 20 factors to Arkansas, then 26 to Mississippi State, and at last 38 in a landmark win over Alabama—however Mike Elko’s unit retooled in opposition to middling Missouri and South Carolina groups, and it produced one of many most interesting defensive efforts of the season in opposition to Auburn, holding the Tigers to a season-low three factors. That crucial win lifted the Aggies to 4-2 within the convention, and in the event that they win out and there is an upset within the Iron Bowl, it would be sufficient to punch their ticket to Atlanta for the convention title recreation.

Texas A&M is not home-free but, although. Other than that decisive rivalry showdown between Alabama and Auburn, the Aggies may also need to dispatch a pair of adverse SEC West foes. A resurgent LSU awaits on the finish of the common season, however the largest impediment to Texas A&M’s postseason aspirations is true earlier than them. Ole Miss can also be 7-2 and 4-2 within the SEC, and whereas earlier losses have successfully doomed their title shot, they nonetheless have a lot to play for. Their acclaimed offense has scored at the least 20 factors in each recreation, rating fourth in EPA per play and fifth in explosiveness, they usually might be in place to make a New 12 months’s Six bowl for the primary time for the reason that tenure of Hugh Freeze (whose Liberty Flames simply misplaced to Texas A&M 27-14).

Pretty much as good because the Rebels’ offense has been, although, it has gone concerningly quiet as their latest video games have progressed. Ole Miss managed only a subject objective apiece in opposition to Auburn and Liberty within the second half, which let the Tigers draw back to win by 11 and will have let the Flames come again to drag an upset. The Rebels have not scored over 10 factors in a second half since a back-and-forth 52-51 win over Arkansas greater than a month in the past. Matt Corral hasn’t been unhealthy, however he averaged solely 7.9 yards per try with a landing and an interception in opposition to LSU and Auburn, and a return to kind in opposition to Liberty (12 yards per try, one landing) was accompanied by a season-low six rushes as a result of a lingering harm from the Auburn loss. The dashing assault, in the meantime, has been merely glorious relatively than transcendent, averaging 211 yards per recreation within the final month in comparison with 260 earlier than (305 outdoors of the Alabama recreation). Jerrion Ealy delivered a highlight-reel 70-yard landing run within the first minute in opposition to the Flames, however throughout the remainder of the sport, Ole Miss gained simply 72 yards and 4 first downs on the bottom.

Ole Miss evidently has the expertise to achieve higher offensive heights, however the person items simply aren’t clicking constantly. But when there is a mismatch when the Rebels have the ball, maybe they’ll create one other when the Aggies take over. The Ole Miss protection has been tough to pin down this season, however their latest video games do appear to point out enchancment. Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, and Liberty averaged solely 22 factors on the Rebels, much better than their debacles in opposition to Alabama (42 factors) and Arkansas (51). On the coronary heart of this stunning rise have been a pair of pass-rushing stars: lineman Sam Williams (42 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, a school-record 10.5 sacks) and linebacker Probability Campbell (74 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks). The season numbers for the protection nonetheless aren’t fairly, however issues are trending in the best course, and this group has adeptly saved Ole Miss from catastrophe throughout a few of their latest offensive droughts. The crew’s 9 sacks (the Rebels’ most since 2008) and three interceptions (their most in an FBS recreation since 2016) led the win over Liberty, and the protection might star once more if it may well get to Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada.

Texas A&M has subsisted on its robust dashing assault over the past three video games, totaling 283, 290, and 219 yards on the bottom in comparison with simply 148, 187, and 192 via the air. Calzada hasn’t been disastrous—6.8 yards per try with 4 touchdowns and two interceptions in that span, which is suitable sufficient—however until he has one other miracle recreation just like the one in opposition to Alabama, the offense is up in opposition to a reasonably low ceiling. The Aggies have a possible path to an SEC West title, a convention championship recreation, and possibly even a spot within the playoff, however they will want an offense firing on all cylinders to make it that far, and this assembly with a swiftly bettering Ole Miss protection ought to set a benchmark for his or her remaining video games.

Look ahead to:

  • With Isaiah Spiller (873 yards) and Devon Achane (706 yards) taking 59 and 46 carries throughout their final three video games, respectively, will the Aggies be capable to use them continuously?
  • How a lot weight will Ole Miss placed on their prime dashing trio after a reasonably gentle recreation in opposition to Liberty (three carries for Henry Parrish, seven for Snoop Conner, 10 for Ealy)?
  • Can the Rebels end drives in opposition to a tenacious Texas A&M purple zone protection (fifteenth in scoring price allowed)?

FEI Outright Choose: Ole Miss by 1.5

North Carolina State at Wake Forest (-2)—Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ACCN)

Total North Carolina State Wake Forest
2021 F+ 28 16
When North Carolina State has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 49 57
2021 EPA/move 61 99
2021 EPA/rush 101 96
When Wake Forest has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 19 7
2021 EPA/move 31 6
2021 EPA/rush 11 34

Wake Forest’s exceptional rise to the highest of the ACC—considerably diminished after a shootout loss to North Carolina final week—has sadly led to underappreciation of another unlikely leaders within the convention. With preseason favorites Clemson (6-3), North Carolina (5-5), and Miami (5-4) all behind the eight ball, an unlikely quartet have taken the highest spots in every division. Over within the Coastal, Pitt and Virginia have a few of the greatest offenses in soccer, which is able to face off in a must-watch duel subsequent week. The Demon Deacons have been one other high-scoring shock, however their competitors within the Atlantic is an exception. North Carolina State is quietly 7-2 and has received six of its final seven, all behind a protection permitting simply 16 factors per recreation (sixth in FBS).

It is unsure how lengthy the Tigers will keep down, although, which provides one other layer of stakes onto this pivotal in-state showdown. It has been over a decade since a crew except for Clemson and Florida State managed to win the division, and there is not any telling how lengthy the title might be out of attain if Dabo Swinney’s squad recovers after this season. For 2 groups with championship droughts courting to 2006 (Wake Forest) and 1979 (North Carolina State), this might be a once-in-a-generation alternative for glory. That is not one thing to be taken calmly at packages which have traditionally struggled to achieve the highlight.

The Wolfpack have made it up to now by using a incredible shutdown protection. Already beginning the typical drive with 77 yards to go (one of the best subject place of any protection in FBS), North Carolina State forces quick drives by permitting a mere 30.4% success price, third-lowest within the nation. The Wolfpack permit opponents to transform simply 27.3% of third downs (third) and achieve simply 35.7% of accessible yards (ninth). When the sport plan works, it really works to perfection, because it did in a 27-21 win over Clemson earlier this 12 months. In that recreation, North Carolina State allowed the Tigers to create first downs on simply 5 of their 37 early downs, and on 25 passing downs, they allowed simply seven profitable performs. The Wolfpack constantly put their opponent behind the sticks and capitalized, and the consequence was a low-scoring victory that now carries immense weight, with North Carolina State sitting at 4-1 within the ACC—simply between 5-0 Wake Forest and 5-2 Clemson.

However few groups thrive when delayed just like the Demon Deacons. When dealing with passing downs, as they do on 28% of performs, Wake Forest averages 0.59 EPA per play (eighth) and a 36.4% success price (fifth). With the rock-solid Sam Hartman (9.5 yards per try, 27 TD, 5 INT, 4.6 yards per carry) on the helm, the Deacons convert 51.6% of third downs (fifth) and achieve 66.4% of accessible yards (second). And as soon as once more, when that offense works, it delivers. In a busy 70-56 win over Military, Wake Forest managed a 70% success price on 10 passing downs, gained a preposterous 94% of accessible yards, and allowed a tiny 8% cease price. In fact, the Black Knights put up numbers that had been almost as ridiculous, however the Deacons’ tough protection did not meet up with them—till final week, when it allowed 24 fourth-quarter factors in that loss to North Carolina.

One thing has to present when these elite-under-pressure models conflict, however what? If North Carolina State is to win this explicit battle, they will must stress Hartman, whose collective passing is the cornerstone of Wake Forest’s dynamic offense. The Deacons’ offensive line has solely allowed entrance seven havoc on 6% of performs, the third-lowest in FBS, however the Wolfpack have among the best defensive fronts in school soccer. Run-blocking (fourth in line yards per carry, second in energy success price) has been extra of a power than pass-rushing (86th in sack price, thirtieth in havoc price), however North Carolina State has a stable line that might give Wake Forest hassle, particularly with their slow-moving offensive scheme that continuously places Hartman in potential hurt’s approach.

As for Wake Forest, they will search for a mismatch in large performs. North Carolina State’s imposing protection is stable in all aspects, however explosiveness is one thing of a weak spot—they rank sixtieth general and seventieth in passing—and Hartman is proficient sufficient to take benefit, although he hasn’t gunned for large beneficial properties fairly often. If the Deacons can hold shifting the ball downfield on his excellent third-down play, nonetheless, they will be set as much as take larger dangers on early downs and probably break the sport open with some large passes. Getting one over on both the Wake Forest offense or the North Carolina State protection is a tall activity, however certainly one of these groups will pull it off simply sufficient to place themselves within the lead of the topsy-turvy ACC Atlantic chase.

Look ahead to:

  • Can Wake Forest (2.1 takeaways per recreation, tied for sixth in FBS) get takeaways from the stalwart Wolfpack (0.6 turnovers misplaced per recreation, second in FBS)?
  • Will the Deacons be capable to neutralize North Carolina State’s subject place behind punter Ivan Mora (43.4 yards per punt) and kick returner Ja’Sir Taylor (30.0 yards per return)?
  • How usually will Hartman go to prime targets Jaquarii Roberson (848 yards, 17.0 yards per catch, 8 TD) and A.T. Perry (845 yards, 20.1 yards per catch, 10 TD)?

FEI Outright Choose: Wake Forest by 6.7

Nevada at San Diego State (-3)—Saturday, 10:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Total Nevada San Diego State
2021 F+ 62 52
When Nevada has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 53 8
2021 EPA/move 34 3
2021 EPA/rush 102 8
When San Diego State has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 65 106
2021 EPA/move 41 125
2021 EPA/rush 120 46

Few divisions have produced as tangled an online because the West within the Mountain West, the place Nevada and San Diego State are presently tied in first with 4-1 information. Each took their sole convention loss in opposition to Fresno State, however the Bulldogs’ losses to Hawaiʻi and Boise State have opened the door for both the Wolf Pack or the Aztecs to go on and win the division. The chase will not be fairly over after this week—if Nevada wins, they will must navigate Air Pressure and Colorado State, whereas San Diego State would want to beat UNLV and Boise State—however this assembly ought to go away one crew within the driver’s seat both approach.

Nevada has been stable on each side of the ball, however their offense could have one of the best competitors, which makes quarterback Carson Robust and working again Tao Taua a key duo. Robust is not essentially the most environment friendly quarterback—he is solely averaging 7.8 yards per try this 12 months, and has surpassed 10.0 in a recreation simply as soon as—however you may’t argue with outcomes, and with some 355 passing yards per recreation (plus 25 touchdowns to seven interceptions), he actually has these. In opposition to Fresno State, he set career-high marks in passing yards (476) and completion proportion (80.3%), and he is simply able to breaking off large performs, even in opposition to the Aztecs’ daunting protection. Solely two groups in FBS have handed greater than Nevada, and there is not any cause for them to cease now.

One of many advantages of that excessive Robust-centric model is the decreased workload on the run recreation, which has been awfully skinny this 12 months. Taua (527 yards, 5.2 yards per carry) has been stable, however secondary rusher Devonte Lee has slipped from 5.2 yards per carry final season to 2.8, and third-stringer Avery Morrow has barely seen any motion in any respect. The Wolf Pack have not pressed this group into service usually because of Robust’s excessive passing price, which has saved the shortage of depth from being as a lot of an issue as it would in the event that they could not move a lot. The offense is much from good, nevertheless it’s stable sufficient for a gaggle leaning so closely on one participant.

However, that truth additionally makes it exceedingly clear what San Diego State will search to do on protection. The Aztecs’ protection will look to disrupt Robust and almost certainly put ahead a heavy move rush in opposition to a reasonably motionless quarterback and a weak offensive line. To take down Nevada, they will must get the offense off script as usually as doable, and like every little thing else, that begins with Robust. Cameron Thomas (47 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks), among the best defensive gamers within the convention, might be on the coronary heart of the entrance seven in that assault.

Relying how efficient the Aztecs may be, Robust is likely to be known as upon to scramble out of the pocket, one thing the pro-style quarterback usually does not try. Whereas he excels at making performs underneath stress, he nonetheless clearly prefers the steadiness that Nevada’s offensive line can afford. However there’s solely a lot the Wolf Pack can do, and Robust will on the very least must keep away from sacks, which have been a continual drawback this season—Nevada permits three per recreation, 106th in FBS. When the offense can transfer downfield reliably, the Wolf Pack have discovered success, however adverse performs should be averted in any respect prices. They doomed Nevada in opposition to Fresno State, when the Bulldogs racked up 5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, they usually might be the important thing for San Diego State as properly.

A few of the greatest gamers in school soccer will face off in a momentous match, and whether or not the dynamic Aztecs or the explosive Wolf Pack come out on prime, there are certain to be fireworks as two of one of the best groups within the Mountain West duke it out. With Nevada looking for their first-ever title within the MWC and San Diego State hoping to open Brady Hoke’s second stint on a excessive observe, each should end the season robust to assert their convention championship.

Look ahead to:

  • After 24 carries for simply 3.2 yards apiece in opposition to Hawaiʻi, will San Diego State give Greg Bell a much less intense workload with out many different dashing choices?
  • Can the Nevada secondary (1.4 interceptions per recreation, tied for third) rating picks off of Lucas Johnson (5 TD, 3 INT) or Jordon Brookshire (2 TD, 1 INT)
  • With Matt Araiza (51.9 yards per punt) in scorching pursuit of the single-season document for yards per punt, how conservative will San Diego State be on fourth-down calls?

FEI Outright Choose: San Diego State by 2.6

FEI Picks: Week 11

Favourite Unfold Underdog FEI Choose FEI Choose ATS Preston’s Choose ATS
Michigan -1.5 at Penn State Michigan Michigan Michigan
Oklahoma -6 Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor
Georgia -20 at Tennessee Georgia Georgia Tennessee
Texas A&M -2.5 at Ole Miss Ole Miss Ole Miss Texas A&M
at Wake Forest -2 North Carolina State Wake Forest Wake Forest Wake Forest
at San Diego State -3 Nevada San Diego State Nevada San Diego State

FEI’s picks ATS in Week 9: 1-5

FEI’s picks ATS in 2021: 27-33

Preston’s picks ATS in Week 9: 1-5

Preston’s picks ATS in 2021: 30-30

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