Welcome to Four Down Territory, Omaha Sports Insider’s weekly college football round table. We will be joined by members of the Omaha Sports Insider staff to get their thoughts on what is going on in the world of college football. This week we are joined by special guest, Mike’l Severe of the Omaha World Herald’s ‘The Bottom Line’ as well as Kris Krug, contributing writer for omahasportsinsider.com.
2016 has not been the best season for the Big 12 conference. Though Baylor is undefeated, the perinial powers in the league (Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, etc.) are struggling. One team that is making some national noise is West Virginia. The Mountaineers took down TCU to improve to 6-0 and are now up to No. 9 in the AP poll. What are your thoughts on this Mountaineers team? Is this team capable of making the College football playoff or will they slip up before the end of the season?
MIKE’L: I wouldn't say they are a contender for the CFB playoffs, but I do like this team because of its defense. They stand out among the other teams in the conference because they can actually get stops. I think part of the reason for the record so far has been the schedule. The back-end is much tougher and I see a couple of losses including a tough one this week at Stillwater.
KRIS: It seems like Dana Holgerson has been on the hot seat since his first game as head coach. The expectations there are extremely high. One thing that stands out with this West Virginia team is their defense. It’s easily one of the best in the Big 12 but that really isn’t saying much. West Virginia is a great story this season but I think they fall from the ranks of the unbeaten teams when they travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State tomorrow.
Wisconsin picked up another road win on Saturday, taking down Iowa 17-9. The Badgers are now 5-2 this season. The only losses for Wisconsin are a seven-point loss to Michigan on the road and an overtime defeat to Ohio State at home. If Wisconsin can win out, they will play of those two teams again. Should the Playoff Committee look seriously at accepting Wisconsin if the badger run the table the rest of the season, even with two losses?
MIKE’L: If Wisconsin was to run the table the rest of the season and beat whomever makes it to Indy from the East there is no doubt they should be a contender for the CFB playoffs. That's a lot of “if’s” for a team so offensively challenged. Sure they only lost to Michigan by 7 but UM also missed three field goals and doubled the Badgers in offense, first downs and dominated the game overall. The Wisconsin defense is impressive especially with the injuries they have suffered but I don't see this team making it to the end of the season without a couple of more losses. Starting with this weekend vs. Nebraska.
KRIS: Absolutely! This team was faced with having one of the most difficult schedules in recent memory. If they can run the table, that means they will have beaten Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. Though they lost to both of those teams earlier, a win against won of them later on would essentially make this a 1-loss team. Their schedule gets easier in the second half of the season and has a real shot to be the first 2-loss team in the college football playoff.
Nebraska got everything it could handle in the win over Purdue on Saturday. Nebraska’s offense will now go up against on of the best defenses in the country on Saturday night when the Cornhuskers take on Wisconsin. With the offensive line a huge concern with so many injuries, how does Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf put points on the board against this Badger defense and can Nebraska come out of Madison with a win?
MIKE’L: Nebraska just did enough to beat Purdue in what anyone would call another ugly game. I see the Huskers playing with a different tempo and enthusiasm for this one in Madison. There are places to attack the Badgers defense and they included passes to the I-backs and others in the flat. The return of Jordan Westerkamp also brings an element on third down the team has been missing. I see Armstrong with a few big runs off bootleg and sweep plays and the Huskers gutting out a close win on the road.
KRIS: Watching that offensive line struggle the way it did against a Purdue team that ranks near the bottom of the list in stopping the run has me greatly concerned. I think you’re going to see a lot of shotgun sets from Nebraska, trying to give Armstrong just a little extra time to deliver the ball. Look for jet sweep as well. The running game is going to have to get to the corners against one of the best defenses in the county. In the end, I just don’t know that Nebraska will find the endzone here but Wisconsin isn’t going to put many points on the board either. I like Wisconsin 13-0.
No. 7 Nebraska vs No. 11 Wisconsin is the big matchup this weekend but there are a few others that will be great to watch. No. 4 Washington vs. No. 17 Utah, No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 12 Florida State and No. 2 Michigan vs. Michigan State are just a few of the bigger games this week. So, as we ask every week, what’s your biggest game on Saturday?
MIKE’L: The most intriguing one for me would be Washington at the toughest road environment I have ever seen in person, Rice-Eccles stadium. Washington is a complete team with a heisman trophy candidate quarterback in Browning, talented skill players and a defensive front that can beat any offensive line. But, no place in America forces more false starts and issues for an offensive than Utah's home stadium in Salt Lake City. I think this one will be an amazing night of football and could, just could, come down to the wire.
KRIS: Clemson heading to Florida State is going to be interesting. Clemson hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2006. A lot is on the line this year for a Tigers team that is undefeated but not nearly as good as we thought they would be. I think Florida State pulls out a win in a close one.