West Virginia at #12 Baylor (-17) (8:00pm, ESPN)
The deepest league in college football has a marquee matchup on Thursday night. The Baylor Bears, who currently hold the #1 spot in the Big 12 standings host West Virginia. The Mountaineers are just 1-3 in conference play, but are still a quality opponent, as NC State can attest to (WVU smacked them 44-27). Vegas believes in the Bears as they give them a generous 17-point spread.
After this game, the Bears close the season with a brutal stretch: at TCU, Oklahoma, Texas. If they go 2-1 they’ll be guaranteed a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. If they go 1-2 they still have a shot to make it.
NC State at #23 Wake Forest (-8) (12:00pm, ESPN)
Wake Forest trails the all-time series against NC State 40-66-6. They really have no business beating them with regularity given the massive disparity in enrollment and support, but they’ve been doing it. The Deacons have won two straight and are 9-7 over the past 16 games against the Wolfpack. They’ve won seven of the past eight in Winston-Salem and the 23rd ranked Demon Deacons will look to put NCSU in a spot where it will be very difficult to make a bowl game. If they can get by the Wolfpack and then Virginia Tech the following week in Blacksburg, the Deacons will be 8-1 when facing Clemson. Clemson fans should be pulling for Wake Forest.
Wofford at #4 Clemson (4:00pm, ACCN)
The Tigers continue their drop down the polls after squeezing out a 52-point win over Boston College (moving to #3 in the coach polls and remaining at #4 in the AP). Trevor Lawrence had a passer rating of 97.1, however he had one ill-advised throw that was almost intercepted. It wasn’t, but almost. Sad!
The Tigers look to not blow their short 23-game win streak as the FCS Wofford Terriers come to town. Wofford rides a 5-game win streak and holds a 5-2 record coming in. A week after AJ Dillon and the Boston College ground game came to Clemson, the triple-option comes to town. The Tigers will further refine their run stopping skills, though this time with the twist of pitches and misdirection (but inferior athletes). Wofford runs the option out of the pistol, which should make it is a little more interesting to watch.
This should be a smooth victory, and will be a great time in the Valley as Military Appreciation Day is always superbly done by Mike Money and the folks running the show at Clemson. It’s a purple out (don’t forget!) in honor of Purple Heart Recipients. Weather permitting, there should be a flyover, a 21 gun salute, and the playing of the Marine Corps Hymn (Semper Fi, Dad!) as well as the songs for the other branches. It shall be a beautiful time in Death Valley.
#8 Georgia (-4.5) vs. #6 Florida (3:30pm, CBS)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is a playoff elimination game and de facto SEC East championship game this year. I don’t know if these teams are good, shaky, or somewhere in between. Georgia lost to U of SC and Florida struggled with them. That U of SC team is #44 in the FEI advanced stats rankings (UGA: #7, UF: #26). UGA also beat Notre Dame, but is Notre Dame any good? Florida beat Auburn, which is impressive, but the Gators looked so bad against Miami, I just can’t get over it.
Las Vegas thinks UGA is better than Florida. The FEI thinks UGA is better. I do too, but these teams are hard to get a read on. The winner has a clear path to the SEC Championship game and if they reach it with one-loss, they essentially have a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.
#7 Oregon (-6.5) at USC (8:00pm, FOX)
USC eked out a road win at Colorado last Friday, after a late hit on Colorado QB Steven Montez went uncalled, causing him to miss a series. He didn’t look right the rest of the night. Colorado still had a chance to win, but punted in USC territory and then couldn’t get the defensive stop needed to close out the game.
It was USC’s first road win. They’re 1-3 on the road, but 4-0 at home. Those home wins include victories over Stanford and Utah. With the win over Utah, the Trojans control their own destiny in the Pac 12. A trip to the title game should be enough to keep their coach employed. Beating Oregon, even at home, will be a tough task though.
The Ducks look like the class of the conference. At #7 in the AP Poll, they’ve worked themselves back into contention after a last second neutral site loss to Auburn in the opener. With Oklahoma losing, a very interesting scenario is setting up where we could have the 4th spot in the playoff be between a 1-loss Pac-12 champ, a 1-loss Big 12 champ, a 1-loss Big 10 non-champ, and a 1-loss SEC non-champ. First Oregon needs to take down USC, the last real challenge on their regular season schedule.
#15 SMU at #24 Memphis (-3) (7:30pm, ABC)
This G5 game is one of the few that has made its way into this column in 2019. It deserves it though. SMU jumped Notre Dame to reach #15 in the AP Poll. Four of their wins are by a touchdown or less including a 34-31 win last week against a mediocre Houston team. Nevertheless, they have a quality win at TCU on the resume.
If they can go on the road and beat the 24th ranked Memphis Tigers, they’ll be looking much more legitimate in the rankings. Memphis is 7-1 with their only loss coming at Temple. These teams are jockeying (along with App State) for that G5 spot in the Major Bowls, which looks to be the Cotton Bowl this year. A Cotton Bowl appearance would be huge for any of these programs so this game has major implications.