By Erich Hilkert
No. 13 Northwestern at No. 18 Michigan
Northwestern started the season high with a 16-6 upset win over Stanford. Michigan, on the other hand has shown more of a season progression.
The Wolverines started the season with a decent effort, a 24-17 loss to Utah (currently ranked No. 5). However, the team clearly hadn’t quite gelled at that point. Last week, the team showed its greatest cohesion of the season in a 28-0 blowout road win against Maryland.
Both teams have looked especially impressive on defense throughout the season. In fact, both teams are coming off shutout conference victories.
Let the record show: on paper, the numbers indicate Northwestern has a slight edge. The Wildcats are allowing 7 points per game to the Wolverines’ 7.6. The Wildcats are putting up better rushing numbers and passing the ball more efficiently. Still, statistics can be misleading, especially when in a sport like football where in-season comparisons include a small sample size and, in this specific case, different competition.
Michigan is playing as good as anyone in the country right now and they will be playing before the home crowd in Ann Arbor. Expect a good game, but my best guess rests with the Wolverines.
Michigan 16, Northwestern 13
No. 11 Florida at Missouri
Florida is coming off a huge upset of previously third-ranked Ole Miss. Florida displayed a physical, nasty edge on defense in both the game against Ole Miss and against Tennessee. The offense began to really come together last week against Ole Miss.
The overall result wasn’t shocking; it was more the fashion in which it occurred. Many were surprised in how the Florida completely shut down the Ole Miss offense, especially in light of the fact that Ole Miss lit up the scoreboard against Alabama two weeks prior.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain has smartly downplayed the hype following the win and consequent huge leap in the polls. He knows the game at Missouri and later this month against Georgia all loom large.
Somehow, Missouri has captured the SEC East the past two years, so I wouldn’t put it past them to pull off a huge upset against the Gators, especially with freshman quarterback Drew Lock looking impressive last week in a 24-10 win against South Carolina.
While Missouri has the ability pull off the upset, my pick is Florida. Against Tennessee, the Florida defense demonstrated why they are one of the better teams in the SEC East. Last week, the offense took a step forward and showed the team as a whole has a legitimate shot at the SEC East crown.
Florida 31, Missouri 17