#16 SMU (-13) at Houston (7:30pm, ESPN)
SMU’s victory over Temple legitimizes their top 20 ranking. Normally, playing at Houston would be one of the tougher AAC matchups, but the Cougars are amid a rebuild in year one under Coach Dana Holgerson. After this week, they get Memphis, Navy, and Tulane as three of their final four opponents. It’ll be tough to run the table, but as it stands now, they’re in the lead to earn the G5’s major bowl bid (Boise State lost to BYU last week, Cincinnati has a loss to Ohio State, and App State is undefeated). SMU vs. Georgia in the Cotton Bowl would be pretty cool!
#13 Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State (-14.5) (12:00pm, FOX)
Ohio State obliterated Northwestern on Friday, 52-3. Northwestern’s offense is a total disaster. Meanwhile, against a equally bad Illinois, Wisconsin slipped up. With a one-point lead and the ball with under two minutes left, Wisconsin QB Jack Coan threw an interception. A few plays later, Illinois kicked a game winning field goal to pull off the upset of the year.
On the one hand, it now seems like Ohio State may roll. On the other hand, this game is a bit more interesting now. Previously, it didn’t really matter. A one-loss Big 10 champ is essentially a playoff lock. These two teams will rematch if they win out after this game. Now, a Wisconsin loss would be their second, meaning this is an elimination game for them.
If Ohio State dominates, it may be time to admit they’re a little scary - even though they’ve never beaten Clemson.
#9 Auburn at #2 LSU (-11) (3:30pm, CBS)
These teams rolled last week and while everyone has forgotten about Auburn since their loss to Florida, they have an opportunity to get right back into the playoff discussion with a win at LSU. Can they stop Joe Burrow & co.? Probably not. Would they manage to get past Georgia, Alabama, and the SEC East champ if they did? Probably not. Either way, they’re still alive and at the very least will provide yet another solid test for LSU.
Boston College at #4 Clemson (-34.5) (7:30pm, ACCN)
After Boston College started the season with a win over Virginia Tech, it seemed like they might exceed expectations. A few weeks later they lost at home to Kansas. BC has rebounded though (and Kansas has looked halfway decent under Coach Miles). They had close losses to Wake Forest and Louisville, but beat Rutgers and NC State handily. They’re 4-3 (2-2) and have the best rushing attack in the ACC. They trail only Ohio State and Oklahoma State among P5 teams in rushing yards per game. Their RBs ran for 413 yards against NC State last week!
Unfortunately, Boston College lost QB Anthony Brown to a leg injury against Louisville so he’ll be out. Dennis Grosel will presumably start again. He didn’t have to do much against NCSU as they easily ran through their hapless defense. They may be pretty one dimensional against Clemson. The Tigers will get a chance to prove they can stop it.
STS writer Alex Craft previously said Georgia was the scariest matchup for Clemson because of their rushing attack and persistence in using it. They turned out to be too vanilla, but Ohio State is similar only with a running threat at QB. They average approximately the same YPC as Clemson, but lean on the rush more. That’s looking more and more like a probable playoff opponent (a #2 v. #3 matchup in Arizona feels likely). Clemson hasn’t faced a legitimately scary rushing offense (Texas A&M in #95 in rush yards per game). BC may not have a passing attack or a defense, but they can give us a litmus test against a strong rushing attack!
The spread is right under five TDs. If you think BC can establish the run and eat clock, maybe this is a 31-10 type of game. If not, a 44-7 type win may be in order. I think Clemson proves they can still stop the run in this one.
#8 Notre Dame at Michigan (-1.5) (7:30pm, ABC)
A college football classic returns. Unfortunately, we’ll miss it as we watch one of the many ACC teams worse than Kansas get destroyed by Clemson. Since suffering a close loss in Athens, Notre Dame has won three straight, including quality wins over Virginia and USC. Michigan has fallen well short of the high expectations that fools like me placed on them (Big 10 championship!) at the start the season. That doesn’t mean they are bad. They’re just not a top 15 team so it figures they’d lose to Wisconsin and Penn State. They’re slight favorites at home, which indicates that Vegas agrees with me that Notre Dame is marginally better, but the home field advantage makes it a toss-up. I like Notre Dame, but this is a 50-50 type game.