June 22, 2021

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Seventh Day Adventure: Week 5

20 min read
Seventh Day Adventure: Week 5

Week 4 in college football had a lot of early shocks with a few outcomes that will drastically alter expectations for the coming season. One of the most spectacular events was Mike Leach’s Air Raid program at Mississippi State finding astounding initial success in a 44-34 victory over the defending national champions, Ed Orgeron’s retooling LSU Tigers. Stanford transfer quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 623 yards and five touchdowns and Leach demonstrated the capacity to successfully translate star running back Kylin Hill into a passing game weapon. The power runner had seven carries for 34 yards but eight catches for 158 more yards and a touchdown.

Elsewhere in college football, a Kansas State team coming off a loss to Arkansas State and with multiple players held out for COVID reasons upset Oklahoma 38-35. They erased a 35-21 deficit that Oklahoma held very late in the third quarter by throwing to their running backs for over 200 yards, and also by forcing a fumble from Sooners freshman running back Seth McGowan and blocking a punt.

It appeared that Texas would be another “conference opening week” victim when they got down 56-41 on the road at Texas Tech. Instead senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger led a quick touchdown drive, the Longhorns recovered an onside kick, and then the Longhorns got into the end zone again and converted a two-point play with a slant to erase the 15-point deficit and force an overtime, where the Red Raiders folded.

It may be hard for Week 5 to match all that excitement, but several big teams are facing tests that should provide a clearer picture of which programs are in the best shape to get through this unique season.

All times are listed as Eastern.

TCU at Texas (-12) — Saturday 12 p.m. (FOX)

Overall TCU (0-1) Texas (2-0)
Proj. F/+ 28 16
Proj. FEI 25 21
When TCU has the ball Offense Defense
Proj. FEI 61 30
2019 FEI 82 54
SP+ 72 42
IsoPPP+ 32 54
Rushing success rate 36 18
Passing success rate 33 27
When Texas has the ball Defense Offense
Proj. FEI 15 24
2019 FEI 29 13
SP+ 31 5
IsoPPP+ 70 17
Rushing success rate 24 33
Passing success rate 60 3

TCU and Texas both got their Big 12 seasons off to inauspicious starts. The Horned Frogs dropped their season opener against Iowa State while playing a walk-on quarterback in the first half before turning to star sophomore Max Duggan in the second half and making a better game of it. Texas needed senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger and an onside kick to erase a 15-point deficit with just over three minutes left in the game and force an overtime where they prevailed. It’s reasonable to assume that both will rebound some in their second week of Big 12 play.

The Horned Frogs have done very well against Texas since joining the Big 12 back in 2012 due to Gary Patterson’s defenses, which have feasted on weak Longhorns offenses over the course of the decade. Since Ehlinger took charge in 2018, the Longhorns are 1-1 against Patterson with a 31-16 win in 2018 and a 37-27 defeat in 2019 in which Ehlinger threw four interceptions. The teams have swapped roles in playing turnover-prone football as Horned Frogs quarterback Shawn Robinson had three costly turnovers in 2018.

For Texas, the major concern in this game will be getting their inconsistent run game going against Patterson’s patented 4-2-5 defense, which will use movement up front and speed on the back end to zero in on the Longhorns’ zone schemes and force passing downs. On passing downs, the Horned Frogs’ speed can then be put to use executing tight, pattern-matching coverages in which all the players are familiar with the offenses’ favorite route combinations. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has introduced more RPOs to the Longhorns playbook, and Texas will need to mix those in effectively and find a reliable target at the X receiver position to force the Horned Frogs safeties to practice social distancing when they see run blocking.

Ehlinger has thrown 10 touchdown passes through two games to seven different Longhorns. Their top performer in fall camp, sophomore slot receiver Jake Smith, will be playing his first game on Saturday. On the outside, burner Josh Moore seems entrenched as a primary option with 11 catches for 200 yards and four touchdowns, but Ehlinger still needs a big, chains-moving target to emerge at the X to execute vertical RPOs and get boundary safeties to back off the run game.

If the Longhorns are willing to risk it before the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma the following week, they could use Ehlinger to attack some troubles the Horned Frogs have had in the run game against zone-option schemes.

For the Horned Frogs, the biggest concern is at offensive tackle. Their tackles were the main reason they yielded six sacks last Saturday to the Iowa State defense. Redshirt senior Austin Myers was routinely beaten off the edge at left tackle and his counterpart, redshirt freshman Andrew Coker, didn’t fare much better. The Longhorns only have two sacks thus far on the season, but outside linebacker Joseph Ossai troubled Texas Tech off the edge throughout the game and could be an absolute menace to the TCU offense.

TCU brought back their old offensive coordinator Doug Meacham to improve their tactics and game-planning and saw immediate dividends with the coach using tempo and spread formations to scheme up free-running receivers on multiple occasions against Iowa State. Against Texas, the challenge will likely come from the Longhorns’ preference for man coverage. If Texas mans up the TCU skill players with an athletic secondary, can the Horned Frogs receivers get open before the Longhorns defensive line gets home to Duggan?

Thus far into the college season, the already disaster-prone special teams units for all teams have had major lapses as well. Texas’ special teams fumbled a punt, gave up a successful onside kick to Texas Tech, and had a punt blocked. They also blocked a punt for a touchdown and successfully converted an onside kick. Clean play here will be essential.

Watch for:

  • Texas defensive end Joseph Ossai matched against the spotty TCU offensive tackles.
  • Can Sam Ehlinger beat the Horned Frogs outside in the passing game and open up the Texas run game?
  • Special teams miscues or playmaking by either team. That has been a recurring theme across college football this season.

FEI Outright Pick: Texas by 4.7

Texas A&M at Alabama (-17) — 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Overall Texas A&M (1-0) Alabama (1-0)
Proj. F/+ 14 1
Proj. FEI 17 1
When Texas A&M has the ball Offense Defense
Proj. FEI 30 3
2019 FEI 42 10
2019 SP+ 28 24
IsoPPP+ 12 1
Rushing success rate 55 19
Passing success rate 26 26
When Alabama has the ball Defense Offense
Proj. FEI 21 1
2019 FEI 31 2
SP+ 23 1
IsoPPP+ 9 15
Rushing success rate 5 19
Passing success rate 39 12

It wasn’t really surprising that Alabama opened the season with redshirt junior Mac Jones at quarterback. The former three-star recruit from Florida took over in 2019 when Tua Tagovailoa was injured and offered solid play. The strength of this team was clearly going to be their offensive line, running back Najee Harris, and then speed outside with wide receivers Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The prescription was clearly for a smashmouth spread approach mixing the run game with RPOs and play-action shots to those speedy wideouts, and the elder quarterback was going to be a safer fit within that formula than five-star freshman Bryce Young.

But Alabama showed another gear in their opener against Missouri, executing some dropback passing plays with real precision as Mac Jones went 18-of-24 for 249 yards at 10.4 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Waddle had eight catches that resulted in 134 yards and two touchdowns. This is yet another terrifying Alabama offensive unit, perhaps a little more closely akin to some of their units from the past that had simple, reliable quarterback play from the pocket rather than Jalen Hurts’ ground-game playmaking or Tagovailoa’s varied approach.

The Alabama defense appeared more vulnerable at first blush. The 2019 Crimson Tide had some issues stemming from their turnover and depth issues up the middle of their defense. Alabama started a freshman nose tackle and two freshman inside linebackers in 2019, while the Nick Saban era had previously been characterized by having All-American upperclassmen in those roles. For 2020 they have junior Dylan Moses healthy and back, nose tackle D.J. Dale is now a sophomore, and senior Daniel Wright steps in at strong safety. But the Missouri Tigers were able to move the ball some and overall the Crimson Tide secondary has only one returning starter across the five-man unit.

Texas A&M is probably not the right team to challenge whatever vulnerabilities the Crimson Tide have in 2020. They eked out a 17-12 win over Vanderbilt in their own opener in an ugly back-and-forth. The Aggies ran the ball well with star running back Isaiah Spiller, who had 117 yards on just eight carries, but quarterback Kellen Mond managed only 189 passing yards at 6.8 yards per attempt and lost two of his three fumbles. The Aggies’ want to be a pro-style, run-centric team using 12 personnel to hammer at opponents, but injuries at tight end and Mond’s skill set don’t really make that their best path. Where they can be effective is in running shotgun spread schemes with zone-option plays in which tight end Jalen Wydermyer is either blocking at the second level or running a route and Mond is making decisions with a spread field or in the run game. If they look to hammer and pound at the Crimson Tide defense they’ll come up empty.

The Aggies’ defense has been pretty stout since Jimbo Fisher was hired and he brought in Mike Elko from Notre Dame. This year’s unit has a strong defensive line featuring DeMarvin Leal (two tackles for loss against Vanderbilt) and big defensive end Michael Clemson. They lost starting linebacker Anthony Hines to an opt-out but the safeties in the middle of the field are big run-stuffers: Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal. The weak spot is in the secondary, where the opt-out of cornerback Elijah Blades pushed freshman Jaylon Jones into the starting lineup and nickel is manned by first-year starter Erick Young. It’ll be a tall order for this unit to get consistent pressure against the Alabama offensive line and hold up in space against their speed at wideout.

Watch for:

  • Have quarterback Mac Jones and the Alabama wide receivers made a leap in the passing game that will overwhelm the Aggies?
  • NFL matchups between Alabama’s massive, talented offensive line and a similarly big and athletic Aggies defensive line.
  • The Aggies have to spread out the Crimson Tide and run the ball with quarterback Kellen Mond to keep up in this contest.

FEI Outright Pick: Alabama by 21.6

North Carolina (-14) at Boston College — 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Overall North Carolina (1-0) Boston College (2-0)
Proj. F/+ 24 69
Proj. FEI 37 66
When North Carolina has the ball Offense Defense
Proj. FEI 32 60
2019 FEI 30 103
SP+ 6 76
IsoPPP+ 21 32
Rushing success rate 44 28
Passing success rate 12 32
When Boston College has the ball Defense Offense
Proj. FEI 58 62
2019 FEI 58 45
SP+ 35 41
IsoPPP+ 11 50
Rushing success rate 4 58
Passing success rate 5 10

Boston College has been surprisingly solid thus far into the season, starting out 2-0 albeit with wins against Duke and Texas State. New head coach Jeff Hafley has been able to get their defense into solid shape very quickly while the offense has been able to rely on a few big-time players. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec has thrown for 510 yards through two games at 8.4 yards per attempt with three touchdowns to two interceptions (and two rushing touchdowns) and the passing game has relied on tight end Hunter Long (16 catches, 174 yards, two touchdowns). Jurkovec has already taken seven sacks on the year but at 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds he has been able to hang in and make plays for the Eagles.

Long is the bigger factor though; 6-foot-5, 253-pound athletes that can run routes and create matchup problems are no less troubling for college defenses than they are in the NFL. If the quarterback can make the most of it — and thus far Jurkovec has been solid — they can allow the team to set the table for the other receivers, convert big third downs in the passing game, and help translate red zone possessions into touchdowns.

But even with those positive developments, Hafley’s overhaul of the Eagles defense is the biggest reason for their undefeated record. They shut down Duke 26-6 and held up against Jake Spavital’s Texas State Air Raid 24-21. The move to a 4-3 defense has gone quite well and made stars of inside linebackers Isaiah McDuffie and Max Richardson, who lead the team in tackles.

Their secondary will be tested more this week against North Carolina, whose brand of Air Raid involves a lot of RPOs and vertical shots from quarterback Sam Howell. The Tar Heels had a rough opener against Syracuse with Howell throwing for 295 yards at 8.7 yards per attempt but only finishing one drive with a touchdown pass while throwing two interceptions. He has NFL size and measurables and tried to force a couple of throws past coverage against Syracuse; it’s likely that he’ll be more cautious after a few weeks to reflect on those errors. North Carolina has also put together a stronger run game this season, their backs ran for three scores on the Orangemen and their offensive line has improved since a year ago.

It’ll be a tough challenge for Hafley’s Eagles to match up against the size and athleticism of the North Carolina offense, which is far beyond what they faced against Duke or Texas State. Scoring on the North Carolina defense is more doable but also difficult for a Boston College offensive line that has already given up so many sacks. The North Carolina defense is better in their new zone-blitzing scheme in Year 2 under defensive coordinator Jay Bateman. Inside linebacker Chaz Surratt had two sacks in the opener against Syracuse while edge rusher Tomari Fox added two more. They’ll bring a lot of simulated pressures, showing one pressure to force a protection check that is vulnerable against the real blitz, and make Jurkovec consistently find Hunter Long and his receivers while worrying about free rushers.

Watch for:

  • Quarterbacks Sam Howell and Phil Jurkovec are big, strong-armed passers that will be put under pressure.
  • Can Boston College protect Jurkovec against North Carolina’s disguised blitzes?
  • How will North Carolina match up against Boston College’s star tight end Hunter Long?

FEI Outright Pick: North Carolina by 2.8

Memphis (-3) at SMU — 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Overall Memphis (1-0) SMU (3-0)
Proj. F/+ 21 57
Proj. FEI 18 61
When Memphis has the ball Offense Defense
Proj. FEI 7 82
2019 FEI 8 65
SP+ 19 64
IsoPPP+ 51 12
Rushing success rate 25 30
Passing success rate 5 14
When SMU has the ball Defense Offense
Proj. FEI 55 33
2019 FEI 56 18
SP+ 53 20
IsoPPP+ 4 20
Rushing success rate 67 11
Passing success rate 59 9

Confronted by the need to replace head coach Mike Norvell after he left for the Florida State job, the Memphis Tigers chose to try and defend their second AAC conference championship by promoting offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield. The Tigers’ 12-2 season in 2019 was built around their spread run game and setting up quarterback Brady White, who returned in 2020, to hit receivers on play-action in big chunks when teams tried to stop the run.

They’ve been able to keep up the formula one game into the 2020 season, beating Arkansas State 37-24 with White throwing for 280 yards at 7.6 yards per attempt with four touchdowns and a single interception. The Red Wolves slowed down their run game and new running backs Rodrigues Clark and Kylan Watkins had a combined 34 carries for 157 yards and a single touchdown — strong, but not as explosive as they’d regularly achieved in 2019 or 2018 with Kenny Gainwell, Patrick Taylor, or Darrell Henderson. Their 2019 game against SMU was instrumental in securing the AAC West division; the Tigers won a 54-48 shootout despite the Mustangs slowing up their run game because White punished them for it with 350 passing yards and three touchdowns.

SMU is the favorite this time around thanks to the return of senior quarterback Shane Buechele, who threw for 456 yards and three touchdowns in the Mustangs’ narrow defeat a year ago. SMU has retooled the offense some around Buechele, playing more 11 personnel and throwing the ball around even more than they did in 2019. The Mustangs skill talent this season is very good despite losing wide receiver James Proche and running back Xavier Jones. Running backs T.J. McDaniel and Ulysses Bentley IV have run wild and receivers Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson each have over 200 receiving yards through three games, with JUCO transfer Danny Gray close behind at 156 and tight end Kylen Granson with a pair of touchdown catches.

The Mustangs under head coach Sonny Dykes and new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley (Oklahoma head man Lincoln’s younger brother) have the offense humming along and they are clear favorites in the AAC West if they can overcome the Tigers and the Houston Cougars, who have yet to play a game.

Memphis’ defense got stronger in 2019 and while they had to replace coordinator Adam Fuller, who followed Norvell to Florida State, they were able to hire former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre to replace him. MacIntyre has long had a knack for finding and developing defensive backs. His charges have already managed Arkansas State better than Kansas State did in the Wildcats’ opener and will need to take quickly to his instruction to avoid getting torched by the SMU passing game.

SMU’s defense is a transfer-heavy unit. They plugged in UCLA running back Brandon Stephens at safety and Auburn transfer linebacker Richard McBryde to man the middle of their defense while Arkansas transfer Chevin Calloway joined returning starter Ar’mani Johnson out wide at cornerback. The Mustangs will aim to attack Memphis’ run game and make them beat man coverage with their passing game rather than allowing their secondary to get picked at with run/pass conflicts in space. if it works that formula should hold well across AAC play and put SMU in the driver’s seat.

Watch for:

  • Former Texas quarterback Shane Buechele in a talent-rich, aggressive SMU passing game.
  • Can new Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield keep their offense going to compete in a shootout with the upstart Mustangs?
  • Can Memphis’ defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre find and develop some defensive backs to counter SMU’s skill talent?

FEI Outright Pick: Memphis by 6.8

Auburn at Georgia (-6.5) — 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Overall Auburn (1-0) Georgia (1-0)
Proj. F/+ 9 5
Proj. FEI 7 6
When Auburn has the ball Offense Defense
Proj. FEI 22 4
2019 FEI 46 3
SP+ 14 1
IsoPPP+ 38 65
Rushing success rate 39 2
Passing success rate 12 7
When Georgia has the ball Defense Offense
Proj. FEI 5 9
2019 FEI 4 28
SP+ 2 50
IsoPPP+ 20 69
Rushing success rate 30 41
Passing success rate 15 34

This will be college football’s biggest game of the season to date. While it’s not clear yet if either Auburn or Georgia can make good on their preseason expectations and contend for the playoff, those are existing expectations for both programs. Both teams were a bit sloppy out of the gate but managed to win comfortably against Kentucky (Auburn) and Arkansas (Georgia).

The Bulldogs had a new-look spread offense under new coordinator Todd Monken that had to be ironed out in their opener. They started with freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis, but after he completed eight of 17 pass attempts for 55 yards and an interception, they turned to Stetson Bennett to get them the victory. Bennett was 20-of-29 for 211 yards at 7.3 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The big intrigue for this game is whether Bennett will get the start or if they’ll play the recently cleared J.T. Daniels, a former five-star recruit and freshman starter for USC who was injured and lost that job to Kedon Slovis. It sounds as though Daniels will play, but gamesmanship by head coach Kirby Smart has left the picture pretty fuzzy.

Georgia clearly wants to be this year’s version of 2019 LSU, embracing tempo and spread passing in order to outscore SEC teams rather than their normal custom of trying to bludgeon them with a power run game while playing great defense. The defensive component should remain consistent. Former Florida starter Felieipe Franks started for Arkansas and averaged 5.6 yards per attempt with two interceptions; the Bulldogs’ first score of the 2020 season was a safety on a Razorback reverse gone awry.

Auburn wasn’t particularly sharp out of the gate either. Normally these teams all get a nice build-up to conference play against weak non-conference opponents. It was apparent from scheduling that the SEC aimed to give their best teams openers against the weaker teams across the league in order to help them ease into the season and avoid playoff-disqualifying losses before they got their feet under them. Auburn had a tougher opener than most of the other SEC heavyweights in Kentucky and their rebuilt defense had several miscues early but overcame most all of their issues with a goal-line pick-six that gave them their first lead and a 14-point swing they built their win around.

Their other saving grace in this game was quarterback Bo Nix creating gains with his legs on the scramble or quarterback option and finding big receiver Seth Williams on six catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Nix was a freshman starter for the Tigers a year ago and is now joined to new offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who helped jump-start this offensive system at Clemson and SMU in the past before struggling at Arkansas and getting fired. The Auburn offensive line was also relatively solid for a unit replacing all five starters. They gave up one sack and four tackles for loss to Kentucky’s active defensive front, but were unable to get their run game going unless it was Nix on the scramble.

Georgia’s defensive front under Smart has been consistently excellent every season and stuffed the Razorbacks run game last Saturday. They also have an exceptionally deep, talented, and experienced secondary with four returning starters in the nickel lineup and another former starter relegated to the bench by all of the talent. Watch for the Bulldogs to lean into playing coverage in this game and daring Auburn’s rebuilt offensive line to beat them running the ball into pass-stopping defensive looks.

Watch for:

  • Who starts at quarterback for Georgia? Is star transfer J.T. Daniels ready to play?
  • How will Auburn’s rebuilt offensive line and new scheme hold up against Kirby Smart’s Georgia defense?
  • A defensive struggle with neither team yet crisp enough on offense to handle the other’s athletic defense.

FEI Outright Pick: Georgia by 3.5

Oklahoma (-7) at Iowa State — 7:30 p.m. (ABC)

Overall Oklahoma (1-1) Iowa State (1-1)
Proj. F/+ 8 26
Proj. FEI rating 8 24
When Oklahoma has the ball Offense Defense
Proj. FEI 2 39
2019 FEI 4 43
SP+ 3 33
IsoPPP+ 11 39
Rushing success rate 4 44
Passing success rate 12 29
When Iowa State has the ball Defense Offense
Proj. FEI 52 23
2019 FEI 69 22
SP+ 45 54
IsoPPP+ 72 40
Rushing success rate 11 16
Passing success rate 2 54

This is a very concerning game now for the Oklahoma Sooners. Lincoln Riley’s squad was in phenomenal shape in their Big 12 conference opener against Kansas State, up 35-14 with only 2:46 left in the third quarter. Then Kansas State scored in three plays, Oklahoma quickly fumbled the ball back to them, the Wildcats scored again, and then Oklahoma started to feel the pressure on offense and had a punt blocked. Before they knew what was happening, Kansas State was on top 38-35 and Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was having to navigate his first Big 12 shootout playing behind an offensive line that was still shuffling players around to find the right lineup and facing a nasty Kansas State defensive line utilizing multiple defensive ends.

A road trip to Iowa State is next, and the Cyclones have been a persistent thorn in the side of the Sooners for the last three years since developing their three-down, three-deep safety “flyover defense.” It’s a scheme that’s designed to force offenses to execute all the way down the field without the benefit of big plays in the passing game, which Oklahoma tends to generate and execute at a higher level than anyone else in the country. The Cyclones used it to beat Baker Mayfield and the Sooners 38-31 in 2017, then in 2018 “held” Kyler Murray’s Oklahoma to 37 points in a 37-27 Iowa State defeat. Last year the Sooners had more success attacking the defense but were torched down the stretch by Cyclones quarterback Brock “Pump Fake” Purdy. Iowa State lost 42-41 after missing a two-point conversion by inches that would have stolen the game.

The 2020 Cyclones defense has the potential to be their best yet. Down the stretch in 2019 they discovered something special in sophomore pass-rusher Will McDonald, who has now had at least one sack in his last five Big 12 games. They also welcomed back their old edge rusher JaQuan Bailey, who missed 2019 with injury, and he had three sacks against TCU last week. This unit has a greater ability than any previous Cyclones defense to get consistent pressure with a three-man rush while dropping eight defenders into coverage, which is more or less the essential formula to stopping Big 12 offenses. Their secondary had several miscues against TCU that allowed the Horned Frogs to put up 34 points, and cleaning up those assignments is the main obstacle between them and the league’s top defense. The other obstacle is continuing to improve in run defense; they’re a little less stout up the middle after graduating nose tackle Ray Lima and plugging in new “star” safety Isheem Young (a redshirt freshman) in the middle of the defense.

Oklahoma has a big, talented interior offensive line with three returning starters and then Adrian Ealy returning at right tackle for them. They need to establish the run effectively against the Cyclones’ 3-3 fronts and then hope to find more Cyclones miscues in the secondary while mixing in play-action. If this game comes down to young, scramble-prone Rattler trying to play hero ball against drop-eight coverages and these defensive ends, then the Sooners offensive machine could fall apart.

On the other side of things, Iowa State made major gains on offense against TCU after a weak initial effort against the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns two weeks prior. They welcomed back dual-threat tight end Charlie Kolar, who occupied a ton of TCU attention in the middle of the field and helped them establish their speedier skill players such as running back Breece Hall, who had 18 carries for 155 yards at 8.6 yards per carry and three touchdowns.

Purdy started to land some shots in the dropback and play-action game, including a 44-yard strike to young Joe Scates and a long underneath rub route to Landen Akers for 49 yards. A big piece of Kansas State’s comeback against Oklahoma came from borrowing the LSU approach in the 2019 playoff. The Wildcats hit the Sooners with spread sets that put the big Sooners linebackers into position to cover in space and move backwards and hit their running backs in the passing game for over 200 yards. Iowa State will throw to Hall and their tight ends as well; if they can force the Sooners out of their comfort zone on defense with spread sets that will greatly aid their efforts. In particular, Oklahoma’s three-man rush isn’t as potent as it was a year ago when they had Ronnie Perkins, Jalen Redmond, and Neville Gallimore up front along their defensive line. Now their best pass-rusher is outside linebacker Nik Bonitto, whose involvement on the blitz leaves the Sooners having to play their linebackers in seven-man coverages where they can be attacked in space.

It’s hard to bet on Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma losing back-to-back Big 12 games, particularly with their Red River Shootout against Texas looming on the horizon next Saturday. On the other hand, they’ll be on the road and Iowa State is a dangerous team that has always given them trouble. This one will probably come down to the wire, in which case it’s not just Riley you have to bet for or against, but new starter Rattler against battle-tested Purdy.

Watch for:

  • Can Oklahoma’s offense get back on track against Iowa State’s combination of conservative coverages and edge rushing?
  • Will Oklahoma’s linebackers and defense rebound if Iowa State spreads them out and attacks them in space like Kansas State did?
  • Redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler against veteran Brock “Pump Fake” Purdy. Is the Sooners quarterback ready to make plays down the stretch in a shootout?

FEI Outright Pick: Oklahoma by 6.2


Favorite Spread Underdog FEI Pick FEI Pick
Against the Spread
Ian’s Pick
Against the Spread
at Texas 12 TCU Texas TCU Texas
at Alabama 17 Texas A&M Alabama Alabama Alabama
North Carolina 14 at Boston College North Carolina Boston College Boston College
Memphis 3 at SMU Memphis Memphis SMU
at Georgia 6.5 Auburn Georgia Auburn Auburn
Oklahoma 7 at Iowa State Oklahoma Iowa State Iowa State

FEI picks against the spread in Week 4: 2-3-1

FEI picks against the spread this year: 9-7-1

Ian’s picks against the spread in Week 4: 2-3-1

Ian’s Picks against the spread this year: 8-8-1


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