Cal QB Ross Bowers vs. Oregon State -- It’s been a hit-and-miss season for Bowers. A combined seven touchdown passes against North Carolina and Oregon here, a four-pick show against USC there. Head coach Justin Wilcox and OC Beau Baldwin aren’t afraid to let him fling it around, though, even if there’s sometimes a question of where he’s flinging it. Five times this season, Bowers has attempted at least 40 passes, including each of the past two weekends. Cal lost to both Arizona and Colorado in those recent contests, but Bowers threw for 301 yards and 359 yards in the respective match-ups, with five touchdown passes in that space. He should very much be able to keep rolling against the Beavers. Oregon State has surrendered at least three touchdown passes to Nick Stevens, Luke Falk and Sam Darnold this year. Bowers is more prone to implosion than that trio, but against OSU, it probably won’t matter.
Iowa State QB Kyle Kempt vs. West Virginia -- Kempt is your classic case of “Sports, whoda thunk it?” Flash back to the preseason and people were optimistic for the prospects of Jacob Park. Kempt was not in the picture, at all. With Park struggling and then temporarily leaving the team due to a personal matter, Kempt has stepped in and performed shockingly well. He’s thrown at least two touchdown passes in three of his four starts this year while helping to lead upsets of Oklahoma and TCU in the process. You can’t trust him for big yardage -- since throwing for 343 yards on the Sooners, his best day came in Saturday’s 202-yard affair against the Horned Frogs -- but West Virginia is plenty pliable and we see Kempt putting up in the neighborhood of 300 yards and two or three scores. The Mountaineers have surrendered at least 35 points in three consecutive games.
Kentucky RB Benjamin Snell Jr. vs. Ole Miss -- A nice confluence of surging runner and sagging run defense. Tackling the first part of the equation, Snell went off on Tennessee for 180 yards and three scores on Saturday, his second 100-yard game in the last three contests and his fourth overall of the species. As to the second part of the equation, Ole Miss has proven to be downright terrible against the run. Vandy’s Ralph Webb had been in the midst of a miserable season before he danced to the tune of 163 yards versus the Rebels on October 14, which Derrius Guice followed up with a samba of his own on October 21 with 276 yards. Not quite as much dancing by Arkansas on Saturday (T.J. Hammonds led the way with 84 yards), but Snell had best be putting on his slickest duds, because he’ll have ample opportunity to salsa in this one.
Houston RB Mulbah Car vs. East Carolina -- Just how much stock to put into Car’s 137-yard, one touchdown performance in Saturday’s unseating of USF? While he had managed just 127 yards prior to besting that by season-total by 10 this weekend, at least some of that might be due to a simple lack of touches. Car had carried just 21 times in that space. He received a healthy 18 on Saturday, 10 more than ostensible starter Duke Catalon. We suspect Cougars HC Major Applewhite will stick with the hot hand next weekend. ECU and their 121st-ranked S&P+ rushing defense (per SB Nation’s Bill Connelly) should help his continued blossoming.
Oklahoma State WR James Washington vs. Oklahoma -- Washington caught a pair of touchdown passes against West Virginia on Saturday and should destroy the Sooners, who allowed three Texas Tech wideouts -- T.J. Vasher, Keke Coutee, Dylan Cantrell -- at least 75 yards receiving just hours after the Cowboys emerged victorious over the Mountaineers. The Sooners’ inability to stop the pass is nothing new. They ranked just 93rd in S&P+ passing defense entering the weekend. The only potential red flag when it comes to Washington is that following Saturday’s win, Cowboys HC Mike Gundy said that QB Mason Rudolph was dealing with an injury which kept him out of practice for the week. Rudolph did start and play for the entirety of Saturday’s game, but we’ll have to keep a hawk’s eye on him over the next six days.
Kansas WR Steven Sims vs. Baylor -- Feeling lucky? Then Steven Sims is your man. He’s inherently held down by the offense that he plays in, but when he hits, oh boy, look out. Kansas State HC Bill Snyder can testify to that first-hand after Sims went in on his Wildcats for a 9-233-1 receiving line on Saturday. This was Sims’ third 100-yard receiving game of the season. Two of those three have come in October. Baylor offers up a defense which has caved for at least 35 points in five of eight games this season.
Syracuse WRs Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael vs. Florida State -- A two-for deal on Syracuse wideouts! You have to wonder just how much FSU has to give this season. Other than 35 points to Boston College. Thanks, we’ll be here all weekend. The Seminoles still boast one of the better secondaries in the country, but a complete lack of offense is putting them on the field. A lot. That doesn’t bode well against a Syracuse team which plays at a breakneck speed. Of Philips and Ishmael, Ish has been the more consistent, with four 100-yard games to Philips’ one. It would surprise us none if both players eclipsed the mark in what has the potential to be the blow that finally breaks the Seminoles for good next weekend.
TCU QB Kenny Hill vs. Texas -- We’ll try our best not to pile on Hill for his terrifying second half collapse against Iowa State on Saturday, but just to refresh, he turned it over twice in the red zone (once on a pick, once on a fumble) and finished matters off by throwing his second interception of the game on his final chance for a redemptive drive. Texas doesn’t boast a perfect defense -- they surrender too many big plays -- but they’ve played solidly as a Top-30 unit even for their cracks, particularly of late. Texas has not surrendered more than 30 points in any of their last three games, two of which came against high-powered offenses in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Hill has three showings of at least four touchdown passes this season, but has thrown for one or none in the other five games.
NC State QB Ryan Finley vs. Clemson -- The Wolfpack had themselves a nice week of chatter leading up to their game against Notre Dame on Saturday. It even lasted up through the first half, when the Irish had just a 21-14 lead. Halftime adjustments are a cruel mistress, though, and NC State would be blanked after the break. Now they have to deal with Clemson. The Tigers turned in one of their typically masterful performances in almost completely shutting down Georgia Tech’s triple-option on Saturday (respect to KirVonte Benson). Finley has been as consistent as clockwork this season, with at least one touchdown pass in all eight of NC State’s games. Consistent and noteworthy are different things, though, and Finley has not thrown for more than one score in four consecutive games and five of his last six. It’s just tough to see the Pack moving the ball against Brent Venables’ crew.
LSU RB Derrius Guice vs. Alabama -- Oh the cruel twists of fate. Just when Guice finally looked like he had shaken the early aches of the season with his 276-yard crushing of Ole Miss, the Tigers must now travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Nick Saban’s boa constrictor of a defense. We’ve learned better than to trust backs, even the best of them, against Saban. LSU does have the benefit of coming off a bye week, but predictably, Alabama is coming off one of their own. So that washes out. If Guice can crack the Tide’s code, it will be one of the shining achievements of the campaign. We’re not betting on it.
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley vs. Ohio State -- There’s some upset potential, here, with the Buckeyes coming off an emotionally compelling come-from-behind win over Penn State on Saturday. We’re not particularly concerned by that. Urban Meyer has his gang clicking, not just on offense, but also on defense. And granted, they surrendered 38 points to the Nittany Lions. That’s not good. Better, only 10 of those points came after halftime. Even better than that, OSU essentially erased Saquon Barkley from the game, limiting him to just 44 yards rushing, 36 of which came on a first-half touchdown run. Expect a similar suffocating shut down of Wadley, who has managed just one 100-yard game in his last six. James Butler, finally back from an elbow injury, will likely steal a few carries from Wadley, too.
Oregon WR Charles Nelson vs. Washington -- Ducks QB Justin Herbert could potentially make his return from a fractured collarbone depending on how the practice week plays out. A completed comeback by Herbert would be a breath of fresh air for this receiving corp. Unfortunately, they have to play Washington, S&P+’s 22nd ranked passing defense, now. Nelson and fellow WR Dillon Mitchell could wrap up with nice games against Arizona and Oregon State to close out the season -- particularly if Herbert is ready to roll, here -- but there are dark clouds around next weekend’s game. And if freshman QB Braxton Burmeister is forced to start against versus the Huskies, it could get ugly fast.
Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk vs. Auburn -- We saw the return of Aggies QB Nick Starkel from a fractured ankle on Saturday, as he stepped in for Kellen Mond in the fourth quarter of their loss to Mississippi State. Starkel, Mond, it really doesn’t matter who starts versus the Tigers. Auburn is surrendering just over 178 yards passing on average and neither Mond nor Starkel is polished to begin with on that front. Poor, poor Christian Kirk remains solidly mired in the void thanks to the lack of an established signal-caller, having now been evaporated for 60 or fewer receiving yards in seven of eight games.
Ohio State WR K.J. Hill vs. Iowa -- Hill turned in a star performance against Penn State on Saturday, catching 12 passes for 102 yards. It’s possible he’s heating up -- over the last two contests, he’s brought in 19 passes for 182 yards and two scores -- but we’re not sold on any one player coming out of the Buckeyes wide receiving corps as a true No. 1. They play a lot of bodies, and even in the victory over Penn State, it was Johnnie Dixon, and not Hill, whom J.T. Barrett found twice in the end zone for scores. If Hill comes up large once more next weekend against the Hawkeyes, we’ll probably change our tune.