Oct 05, 2017

Big Ten & SEC Week 6 Preview: Michigan, Michigan State Meet Under the Lights as A&M Hopes to Deal ‘Bama First Loss

In the sixth week of the college football season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee are making visits throughout Big Ten and SEC country, meeting with fans across both conferences in advance of the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Here are a few of the games our representatives will be taking in this week:

No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0 SEC) – 7:15 p.m. on ESPN

The undefeated Crimson Tide head to College Station Saturday to take on Texas A&M at Kyle Field. Alabama remains No. 1 in the AP poll following its 66-3 blowout over Ole Miss last week, the most points scored by a Tide team since the 1979 national championship squad beat Vanderbilt by an identical 66-3 score. (Alabama hasn’t scored more than 66 points in a game since a 77-6 win over Virginia Tech in 1973; the school’s all-time scoring record was set in an 89-0 win over Delta State to open the 1951 season.)

Through two SEC games, the Tide are outscoring opponents 125-3, marking the first time Alabama has scored 50 or more points in consecutive SEC games since 1945. Overall, Alabama has won its first five games by an average margin of 37.6 points and will enter Saturday’s game as the only team in the country ranked in the top 15 in scoring defense (1st), scoring offense (8th), rushing defense (2nd), rushing offense (4th), total defense (6th) and total offense (14th). Alabama is also on its longest turnover-free streak since 1940, with its last giveaway coming in the second quarter of the Auburn game on Nov. 24, 2016.

As for ‘Bama’s opponent, the Aggies received votes in both the AP and coaches’ polls this week after grinding out a 24-17 win over South Carolina in Week 5. However, they have yet to break into the Top 25, thanks to a season-opening 45-44 loss to UCLA. A&M is no stranger to tight games this season, as all five of its contests have been in doubt in the second half — even its 45-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette saw the Ragin’ Cajuns take a 21-14 lead into the locker room — a run that includes three comeback wins.

True freshman quarterback Kellen Mond, the top freshman in the SEC in passing yards (808 yards) and total offense (1,060), completed 19 of 27 passes for 159 yards against the Gamecocks and led the Aggies in rushing yards with 95. Keith Ford also ran for 70 yards in the win and scored two touchdowns, vaulting him into the No. 2 spot in the SEC scoring ranks with seven total rushing touchdowns this season.

A Texas A&M upset Saturday would mark its first victory over Alabama at Kyle Field in the 10th overall meeting between the schools. The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series 7-2 and won last year’s game 33-14 in Tuscaloosa. The last Texas A&M win over the Tide came in 2012, the program’s first year in the SEC. That year, the Johnny Manziel and the 12th-ranked Aggies upset the No. 1 Crimson Tide 29-24. However, the loss wasn’t all bad for ‘Bama — the Tide still beat Georgia for the SEC championship and won the BCS title, anyway.

Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 7 Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) – 7:30 p.m. on ABC

The Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy returns to Ann Arbor as Michigan State heads to the Big House for a clash between Big Ten rivals this weekend.

Last week, Michigan State bounced back from a Week 4 loss to Notre Dame with a 17-10 victory over Iowa. The win saw wide receiver Felton Davis III earn Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after recording career highs in catches (9, including two touchdowns) and receiving yards (114). Quarterback Brian Lewerke is also in the midst of a solid season and ranks among Big Ten leaders in total offense (2nd), passing (4th), and passing efficiency (7th). He had his third 200-yard passing game of the season against the Hawkeyes, completing 18 of 28 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. The defense also forced two Iowa turnovers and held the visitors to just 19 rushing yards.

The winningest program in Big Ten history, Michigan, is looking for its 500th conference win Saturday. No. 499 came two weeks ago on the road against Purdue, a 28-10 victory that saw the Wolverines lose starting quarterback Wilton Speight to an injury late in the first quarter. Backup quarterback John O’Korn, a former starter at Houston, came on in relief and ended up completing 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown. O’Korn will also start Saturday’s game against the Spartans, as Speight is expected to miss “multiple weeks” with his undisclosed injury, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On the other side of the ball, the Michigan defense, led by defensive end and Big Ten sacks leader Chase Winovich, held Purdue to 30 rushing yards and had five sacks and a turnover. Overall, the Wolverines defense leads the nation in total defense (203.3 yards per game), rushing defense (69.3 yards per game) and sacks (4.5 per game).

Saturday marks the first night game in 110 meetings between the rivals. The two have met every year since 1910, with the exception of 1943 and 1944 when the series was suspended due to World War II. Michigan leads the series 69-35-5, but Michigan State has won seven of the past 10 games, including the last meeting in Ann Arbor — a 27-23 Spartans victory that saw Jalen Watts-Jackson score his first career touchdown on a 38-yard fumble return as time expired.

No. 9 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Nebraska (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) – 8:00 p.m. on BTN

Wisconsin hits this road this weekend as it travels to Nebraska for the 11th all-time meeting between the schools. The Badgers are coming off a 33-24 win against Northwestern last week — the first game all season to have Wisconsin’s stout defense allow a second-half score.

Overall, the Badgers rank eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 13.5 points per game, and fourth in total defense, allowing 247 yards per game. Running back Jonathan Taylor, who leads the Big Ten in rushing at 129.5 yards per game, ran for 80 yards against Northwestern and added two touchdowns, bringing his total to seven on the season.

The Huskers will come into the game with a 3-2 record following a 28-6 win against Illinois last Friday. Nebraska held Illinois to just two field goals and 199 total yards thanks to a season-high 10 tackles for loss and five sacks — the second week in a row Nebraska held its opponent under 200 yards. (Rutgers totaled 194 yards in Nebraska’s 27-17 win over the Scarlet Knights on Sept. 23.) On the other side of the ball, the Nebraska offense scored on its first three drives for the first time since 2009.

Since 2014, the two Big Ten West teams have competed for the Freedom Trophy. Wisconsin is 3-0 since the traveling trophy was added to the series and has won six of its past seven games against the Cornhuskers, including a 70-31 blowout in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Overall, Wisconsin leads the all-time series 7-4.

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst also shares a long history with Nebraska coach Mike Riley, as Chryst used to work for Riley on two different occasions in the 1990s — first, with the World League’s San Antonio Riders, and later with Oregon State.

Here are the rest of the Big Ten and SEC games our selection committee members will attend:

No. 5 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2 SEC) – 12:00 p.m. on ESPN
Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 12 Auburn (4-1, 2-0 SEC) – 12:00 p.m. on SEC Network
No. 4 Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) – 12:00 p.m. on ABC
LSU (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 21 Florida (3-1, 3-0 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. on CBS
Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at South Carolina (3-2, 1-2 SEC) – 4:00 p.m. on SEC Network
Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 10 Ohio State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) – 4:00 p.m. on FOX
Missouri (1-3, 0-2 SEC) at Kentucky (4-1, 1-1 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network

Other Big Ten and SEC games being played this week:

Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) at Iowa (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) – 12:00 p.m. on BTN
Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Purdue (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Charleston Southern (2-2, 0-0 Big South) at Indiana (2-2, 0-2 Big Ten) – at 3:30 p.m. on BTN


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