(CBS DFW) — The college football regular season is drawing to an end. But teams as still jockeying for conference titles, eventual bowl bids and, for the best of the best, a place in the College Football Playoff.
CBS and CBS Sports Network have another weekend worth of action coming your way. Second-ranked Alabama could end up as one of the select few teams playing for a national title, but first they’ll need to get by SEC rival #21 Arkansas. The #23 Aztecs of San Diego State, who lead the Mountain West, will face a UNLV team that’s finally figured out how to win. Wyoming looks to end Utah State’s five-game winning streak. CBS’s Norm Elrod talked to CBS Sports’ Kevin Carter about the matchups.READ MORE: Spurs Defeat Wizards, 116-99, For Season's First Win Streak
#21 Arkansas @ #2 Alabama, Saturday, November 20, 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Which Alabama team do you see showing up, the one that let LSU and Tennessee hang around, or the one that blew teams out of the water from the start?
I don’t really think it has that much to do with necessarily the Alabama team that we see. I think it’s more about what Alabama is facing. When you’re a team that is in that position, you have a bull’s eye on your back. You’re the number-one team in the SEC West. And everyone’s taking a shot at you, without fear, especially in your own conference, because those people have no fear of you and know you better than anyone else and play you harder than anyone else, year in and year out. So I don’t think it’s so much which version of Bama will we see. I think it’s just par for the course.
I think Bama is a great team, but I don’t think that the distance between them and everyone else is what it was. The evolution of football, recruiting, just people developing, people emulating. Coach Nick Saban has probably the best coaching rehab clinics in the country. And people have come in and see how things have been done and they’ve left and emulated. In the SEC, you have Kirby Smart, and there’s no secret where he got his trade secrets from. So I just think that it’s more about the competition we see and the landscape of college football being different. That being said, Arkansas has no fear of Alabama. They’ve put up more than 450 yards of offense against the last four or five SEC opponents they’ve faced, all being top teams. So I expect them to give Alabama all they want.
I don’t think that the Alabama we saw against LSU was a lackluster Alabama. I just think LSU is good, or can be good, not that they’re necessarily playing well. But LSU has dudes. You can’t line up physically and match up with the likes of five stars abounding at every position at Alabama, if you don’t have dudes. They lined up and physically played them to a stalemate. They’re not the only team that’s capable of doing that in this day and age. It’s the evolution of football. So I think that it’s going to be a good game. I think Alabama will get the win as it is able to pull away eventually in the fourth quarter. But for three quarters we’re going to have really, really good football.
What can Arkansas do to put themselves in the best position for the win?
They’re going to have to utilize the quarterback run. Having a healthy KJ Jefferson was really one of their biggest attributes. Alabama will probably try to put the game in terms of putting the emphasis on KJ Jefferson’s arm to beat them, which will mean Treylon Burks, they’ll try to go with one-on-one routes. It’s going to be about how innovative and how crafty and what kind of timing in the route the offensive coordinator can really have have. He’s really done an unbelievable job with KJ Jefferson in a very short time, evolving this offense and discovering his weapons and making it as explosive really as it has become.
You wouldn’t think that Arkansas would generate this much offense. They’ve really been more than most people would have expected coming into the season. They’re fifth in total offense in the conference. Typically, Arkansas hasn’t had that kind of firepower. They haven’t been able to generate that much offense, especially throwing the football. We’re gonna see a lot out of them in terms of throwing the kitchen sink at Alabama. I don’t think that it’s going to be as open and shut as most people think it will be. They’re going to really have to possess the football, keep the ball out of Bryce Young’s hands and that offense and really limit the possessions. If they can control the clock and the line of scrimmage, if they can move the ball and eat up chunk time…
And, on the other side, Alabama doesn’t need much time to score. They’ve become explosive in their own right. So, defensively they have to really try to not give up the big play. I know that’s easier said than done, when talking about Alabama. They have so many weapons, especially on the outside, John Metchie, Bolden, Jameson Williams and the tight end Cameron Latu. They have weapons everywhere, and they have got a solid run game. But you want to make them use their run game. You want to make them earn the drives all the way down the field and take time, so that they don’t chunk play you out of the stadium.
#23 San Diego State @ UNLV, Friday, November 19, 11:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
UNLV only has two wins this season, but they came in the last two weeks. And they had some close ones prior to that. Will they be any threat to the #23-ranked San Diego State, who leads the Mountain West?READ MORE: Ugly Or Not, Win Over Cleveland Put Ravens Atop AFC
This time of year I think it’s improper to say that no one poses a threat. Because year in and year out, we see teams that are in-conference play teams that are ranked and have success and do very well. So UNLV, just like I said about Arkansas has no fear of Alabama, UNLV has no fear to San Diego State. Just because they haven’t played well up until now doesn’t mean they can’t put it together.
Their last two ball games — a win at New Mexico and a win over Hawaii. They aren’t landmark wins, but they’re basically finding a measure of consistency that they didn’t have earlier in the season. If you look at a lot of the scores, Eastern Washington, the first game out of the gate, Fresno State, Utah State, San Jose State, those games were lost by a touchdown or less. And so there’s a lot of games on the schedule, especially in-conference that they’re looking at saying, ‘man, we’re not that bad.’ They lost a UTSA who’s undefeated and the number-15 team in the country by touchdown. So the way they’re looking at themselves is they’re not that far away.
And that’s the way it is for a lot of teams, because the recruiting and talent and schemes have really balanced out through the evolution of football. The teams are more evenly matched or can be, if they figure things out or put it together. And UNLV just haven’t been able to figure it out more often than not. They have the last couple of weeks.
They have a young quarterback, who has had an outstanding year, but just hasn’t been able to work it out in terms of throwing interceptions. But that’s to be expected from Cameron Friel, as a freshman. Processing and trying to lead a team is a hard job, and obviously he’s young, and he’s thrust into this role. They’ve had injuries at the quarterback position. They had injuries on their offense. And the consistency that they’ve had has come from the run game and Charles Williams. That is something that you can hang your hat on. He’s got over 1,000 yards, he’s got 13 touchdowns. He’s an amazing running back.
They’re going to do their best to control the clock and try to not let San Diego State do what they do. San Diego State wins its games playing defense and running the ball with Chance Bell and Greg Bell. So they’re going to be ready for everything that the UNLV has to throw at them. But it’s not going to be an easy game, as none of these games are.
Wyoming @ Utah State, Saturday, November 20, 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network
Wyoming has lost four of their last five games, while Utah State has a five-game winning streak and could be on their way to a bowl. Does Wyoming have any chance of stealing one from Utah State?
They definitely have a chance, when you look at the matchup specifically. The one thing when you live at Utah State is they’ve righted the ship. Being 8-2 on the season is good. But when you look at how they won their games, the last five weeks they’ve been on a winning streak. Really just put it on San Jose State last week. They’re playing their best football from a timing standpoint right now, which is which is what you want.
So obviously looking at this matchup, you wouldn’t think that Wyoming would have much of a chance, having lost five out of their last six. They’re only win in the last six weeks coming against Colorado State a couple of weeks ago. That’s a real thing, not having success and not getting it together, not evolutionarily making the jump at this time of year. We tend to see teams trend up or down, and they’ve definitely been trending down as of late, especially in the Mountain West Conference play.
But, like I said, it doesn’t excuse them from having a chance. I think Xazavian Valladay is a tremendous running back. Titus Swen is a good running back. They’ve got a decent run game. You know, Sean Chambers at quarterback has over 1,100 yards. His touchdown-interception ratio leaves a lot to be desired. He’s only completed about 50 percent of his passes. From an offensive standpoint, they have issues. Levi Williams came in and gave him a boost a couple of games ago against Colorado State running the ball. But still the games come down to match-ups and game-day execution.
So Wyoming they’re going to give it all they’ve got. They have nothing to lose. They’re going to throw the kitchen sink. I expect them to try to play their best football obviously, because this is how you win your season. We talk about bowl games we talked about rankings. We talk about making it to the college football playoff or seeding or postseason play. But for a lot of these kids, for the majority of kids, it’s all about going to class, midterms, finals, the enjoyment, the camaraderie, the everyday life and reality of being a college athlete and a student athlete.MORE NEWS: 'Every Week Is A Different Week': Harbaugh Doesn't Dwell On Jacksons 4 INTs In Cleveland Win
And so every time you go out and compete, it’s just that. You’re going out to compete. These kids have pride. And that’s why you can’t ever count people out of these games, especially in November, because they’re going to come with nothing to lose. This is the end of their season. How do they leave the 2021 year? What kind of taste does it leave in their mouth? They’d like nothing more than to steal a win at the end of the season. Winning his fun. Getting your brains beat in and losing every weekend is not. So these kids want to make themselves have a good time, and they want to enjoy it. So I expect nothing less from whoever the quarterback is, whether it’s Sean Chambers or Levi Williams, their run game and their defense. They’re going to throw the kitchen sink at Utah State. Why wouldn’t they?