Rice (2-3) at Army (2-3) Oct. 11, 12:00, CBS Sports Network
Here’s The Deal: Standing at 2-3, both Rice and Army are hungry to reach the .500 mark at the halfway point in the season. Doing so will make bowl-eligibility a more realistic possibility. The Black Knights rebounded from a gut-wrenching loss to Yale with a much-needed win over Ball State. The Owls will arrive in West Point with momentum as well, courtesy of back-to-back wins over Southern Miss and Hawaii.
Why Rice Might Win: Army has blown fourth-quarter leads this fall, while generally struggling in the second half, because of the play of the defense. The Knights are too often overmatched against the run and the pass. The Owls have generated close to 40 points a game over the last three weeks, riding the dual-threat skills of QB Driphus Jackson, the running of Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard and the return to health of WR Jordan Taylor.
Why Army Might Win: While Rice has improved against the run since the Notre Dame and Texas A&M games, the Cadets present a very different challenge. They’re relentless in their approach, hammering away with FB Larry Dixon, QB Angel Santiago and a cadre of veteran backs. Army will wear down an Owl front that really misses the presence of Stuart Mouchantaf next to Christian Covington on the inside.
Who To Watch Out For: Teams with talented passers have hurt the Rice D this fall, but that won’t be a worry on Saturday. Santiago is just 18-of-23, with no touchdowns. The Owls will flood the box with safeties and linebackers, like Alex Lyons and James Radcliffe, to create congestion near the line of scrimmage.
What’s Going To Happen: Rice is gradually turning things around, which will continue with an important road win Saturday. The Owl D is gelling, and the offense is surrounding Jackson with more weapons than he had in September. Army will get its usual rushing yards, but not enough points for the victory.
Prediction: Rice 31 … Army 27
Line: Rice -1 o/u: 59
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 1.5
North Carolina (2-3) at Notre Dame (5-0) Oct. 11, 3:30, NBC
Here’s The Deal: Carolina is currently in a tailspin that’s seen the once-ranked program suffer three straight one-sided losses. But might the Tar Heels be a trap game for Notre Dame? The Irish are coming off an emotional come-from-behind win over Stanford. And looming a week from now is the monumental clash with Florida State in Tallahassee. As ND’s place in the playoff discussion becomes more prominent with each victory, the program must resist the temptation this week to look past an opponent that’s given up 154 points over the last three games.
Why North Carolina Might Win: The staff will preach and say the right things. But for Notre Dame, this is the encore to Stanford and the lead-up to Florida State week. The Irish have already allowed Purdue and Syracuse to hang around in games, so it’s entirely possible that a school with the Tar Heels’ talent can mount a challenge. The offense remains dangerous with Marquise Williams under center and Mack Hollins, Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer catching passes.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: The Heels haven’t made a key stop in a month. Good news for an Irish offense looking to generate more help from the running game. QB Everett Golson, a revelation so far this season in South Bend, will get plenty of clean looks at WR Will Fuller and TE Ben Koyack. And the Notre Dame front seven, which has played so well for first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder, will dominate a young Carolina O-line at the point of attack.
Who To Watch Out For: No, the Irish have yet to face a dynamic offense, but yielding just 12 points a game is still impressive in this era. The unit is evolving in all areas, yet the secondary isn’t getting as much credit as it deserves. The team has more than twice as many picks as touchdowns allowed, and CB Cole Luke has become an asset alongside veteran Florida transfer Cody Riggs.
What’s Going To Happen: Might Notre Dame be vulnerable? Sure. But Brian Kelly is too good of a coach, and Carolina is in too bad of shape, for the upset to happen. Oh, this one could be close until halftime. However, the Irish’s edge at the line of scrimmage, particularly on defense, will eventually take over, snuffing out the Heels’ upset bid.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 … North Carolina 17
Line: Notre Dame -17 o/u: 62.5
Must Watch Factor: 5: Last Week Tonight – 1: Bad Judge … 3
VMI (1-5) at Navy (2-4) Oct. 11, 3:30, CBS Sports Network
Here’s The Deal: After losing to one service academy, Air Force, a visit from a far less daunting service academy, VMI, could not come at a better time for the Midshipmen. Navy’s disappointing first half of 2014 reached a low-point in last week’s loss to the Falcons, which ends any hope for an outright Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. The Keydets are taking their lumps this fall, already getting pounded by one FBS school, Bowling Green in Week 2, 48-7. Their lone win of the year came at home versus lowly Davidson.
What’s Going To Happen: Week 7 represents an opportunity for Navy QB Keenan Reynolds to turned around his season, while helping the Mids inch closer to bowl-eligibility. The junior has already fumbled five times, and hasn’t been able to approach last year’s success. He and his teammates won’t get much resistance this week, riding more than 400 yards rushing to a rare comfortable win.
Prediction: Navy 63 … VMI 10
Line: No Line
Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 1