#4 Ohio State at Northwestern (8:30pm, FS1)
Possibly my worst pre-season prediction was how the Big 10 West would shake out. It looks like it’ll be a battle between Wisconsin and Minnesota, but I figured it would come down to Nebraska and Northwestern. I liked Nebraska’s schedule and the momentum they had under Head Coach Scott Frost. I was excited for Hunter Johnson to take the helm at Northwestern where they had just won the division. It seemed fair to predict them to do it again. He reached 100 passing yards just once in four games and threw just 1 TD to 4 INTs. Hunter Johnson left the Wisconsin game with a knee injury and did not play in a loss to Nebraska. It is unclear at the time of this writing if he’ll start against Ohio State. Either way, this shouldn’t be a competitive game, but it’ll be fun to see Justin Fields against a quality defense.
#3 Clemson at Louisville (12:00pm, ABC)
The Tigers are coming off their best performance of the season. Didn’t you know that would be the case? Here’s what we said going into the FSU game:
I sense this being a “leave no doubt” situation for Clemson. All the negativity from the media and the juicy UNC film to build from during a bye week should have Clemson refocused.
Despite the win, Clemson dropped from #2 to #3 in the AP Poll. The AP Poll doesn’t matter and LSU has a far better resume (wins over Texas and Florida). What’s vexing is they didn’t jump Alabama on the same reasoning (LSU only got 12 first place votes, while Alabama got 30). This only helps Clemson as the R.O.Y. bus gets rolling. There are no plausible situations where a 13-0 Clemson doesn’t make the playoff so I’ll take the disrespect and the free motivation.
The Louisville Cardinals, for their part, are coming off their best performance of the season too... Well, their competitive loss to Notre Dame may actually be their best performance, but a road win at ranked Wake Forest is certainly their best win in a while. They’re playing much harder for Coach Satterfield than they did last year and they’re much more talented than they appeared last year. According to 247 Sports, they have 12 four-star players on their roster and are the 6th most talented team in the conference (1. Clemson, 2. Miami, 3. UNC, 4. VT, 5. NCSU). They had no business being as bad as they were last year, and with better effort and a good coaching staff, they won’t be a free win again. That said, nobody in the ACC will be competitive with Clemson when the Tigers are playing their A-game.
#9 Florida at South Carolina (12:00, ESPN)
The Cocks knocked off Georgia. It was cute. In fact, it wasn’t the worst thing to see a top SEC go down. I do take exception to the Clemson fans at the adjacent tailgate cheering so blatantly for them. I’m ok with you silently pulling against Georgia, but to outwardly root for U of SC feels dirty. Regardless, we shouldn’t see any of that this week. This is just a score to look for on the bottom line during the Clemson game. We don’t want the Cocks to get carried away and win again. Nice win last week, real happy for you, but that’s all you’re allowed.
Oregon at Washington (3:30, ABC)
This game would have been the best game on the PAC-12 schedule, but Washington’s losses to California and Stanford took the air out of this one. Oregon outplayed Auburn, but blew the game. Since then they’ve been forgotten about, but they’ve been interesting. Their offense, even with all the returning players and QB Justin Herbert, has been mediocre. Meanwhile they have an elite defense. If they can figure out the offense they won’t lose again. Until they do, they’re just good, but nothing special.
#18 Baylor at Oklahoma State (4:00pm, FOX)
This is the game to watch, weird as it sounds, in the afternoon slot. Baylor has reached 6-0, but a road trip to Stillwater will be tough. I doubted them against Iowa State and they proved me wrong. I doubted them against Texas Tech and they proved me wrong. Now they’re on the road so I’m going to doubt them again. Prove me wrong Bears!
#16 Michigan at #7 Penn State (7:30pm, ABC)
This is undoubtedly the game of the week. With a win, Penn State will break into the pack of perceived “serious playoff contenders.” Florida and Auburn almost broke the pack, but never really got the respect before they eventually lost a game.
Michigan has looked mediocre offensively, despite all the hype during the offseason about opening the offense up under new OC Josh Gattis. If they don’t figure it out by Saturday, they’ll likely lose, but if they do and they pull off the road upset, they immediately jump back into the fray.
Florida State at Wake Forest (7:30, ACCN)
Neither of these teams are great, but it’ll be very interesting to see how they stack up. I think Clemson fans were collectively pulling for Wake Forest on the hopes of a undefeated vs. undefeated November matchup - even if we knew they were a paper tiger. After their loss to Louisville, a strengthening FSU is probably more important and would speak volumes after Clemson dispatched of them with ease. This is a great barometer game in the ACC.