#5 Penn State at #13 Minnesota (12:00pm, ABC)
Minnesota is an impressive 8-0, but their best win... Georgia Southern? Illinois? Purdue? I don’t know if they’re for real. Penn State on the other hand has wins over Michigan and Iowa (not to mention Michigan State and Pittsburgh). They have the recruited talent to back it up. Still, we don’t know if they’re for real about being a playoff team. They probably need to win at Ohio State to get in, especially if there are two SEC teams with one-loss or fewer. Are they that good? I’m not sure anyone is, but we’ll learn a lot in this game. Maybe Penn State will jump Clemson with a win (I’m mostly kidding, but it actually can’t be totally ruled out at this point)!
#11 Baylor at TCU (12:00pm, FS1)
Your undefeated Baylor Bears squeaked out a 17-14 Thursday night home win over West Virginia last week. Now the meat of their incredibly backloaded schedule is here. This week it is a trip to TCU, then they host Oklahoma and Texas before going to the actually halfway decent Kansas Jayhawks (they would blowout NCSU). They could easily finish 8-4 or they could reach the Big 12 championship with one or no losses and being playing to determine if they go to the playoff or the Cotton Bowl. 11-2 with a trip to the Cotton Bowl feels most likely, but the gauntlet begins now.
#1 LSU at #2 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS)
The biggest regular season game of the season happens to fall on a weekend when Clemson is on the road and playing in a different time slot. What a blessing. Smile and settle in for a fantastic Saturday.
Joe Burrow and the almost likeable SEC West Tigers have lost eight straight against Alabama. They were shutout in three of those games and have averaged an embarrassing nine-points per game. Before that, LSU had won nine of 12 vs Alabama. Can they turn the tide of the rivalry back their way?
LSU’s offense torched Florida, but got held to 23 against Auburn. Are they as good as we think? Tua Tagovailoa is a gametime decision, and Alabama doesn’t run the ball or play defense like the championship Crimson Tide teams of the past. Will they still rely on Tua or Mac Jones to move the ball or can they adjust styles as needed? Is the loser of this game out, or do they still get in over a 1-loss Pac-12 or Big-12 champ? This game is huge for so many reasons and the intrigue couldn’t be higher.
As Clemson fans, we want to see a shootout. The ultimate winner isn’t really all that important as long as it is their offense that carries the day. We know both offenses are outstanding, but these defenses look somewhat suspect. Ohio State really seems to be the scariest potential playoff opponent - as odd as it may sound. Hopefully the winner of this game wins gives up 28+ points and we still feel good about facing them in a playoff game.
#18 Iowa at #16 Wisconsin (4:00pm, FOX)
Both of these teams enjoyed a bye week before their big bout. Wisconsin is reeling following their first two losses of the season. With both teams at 3-2 in Big 10 play, the loser will be on the outside looking in. Both teams still have to play Minnesota. Most likely, the winner of this game will be playing for the Big 10 West title when they face Minnesota. Obviously, you must watch Alabama vs. LSU, but keep an eye on this one too.
#4 Clemson at NC State (7:30pm, ABC)
Missouri at Georgia (blowout alert), App State at U of SC (sad!), and Iowa State at Oklahoma (ISU is a disappointing 5-3) are the other night games, so it is no wonder the Tigers got the ABC prime time slot for their trip to NC State.
The Tigers will be looking to set a Textile Bowl record by winning their 8th straight contest in this rivalry. They’ve won 14 of 15. Extending the streak and reaching 10-0 shouldn’t be overly difficult this week as the Tigers are playing well and NCSU is atrocious.
The Tigers have scored 45+ points in four straight weeks (every game since the scare at UNC). UNC is the only team to exceed 14 points on the Tigers this season. NCSU is worse than most of the nine teams Clemson has already beaten.
The Wolfpack have had back-to-back nine-win seasons and have been to five straight bowls. Those streaks may end this year. At 4-4, they need to find two wins with Clemson, Louisville, at Georgia Tech, and UNC remaining.
NC State switched QBs again (their third one) for their game against Wake Forest last weekend, but still lost by 34. They scored only 10 against a mediocre Wake Forest defense while the (admittedly good) Demon Deacon offense torched them for 44 points. The Deacons quickly built a 24-0 lead and cruised. New QB Devin Leary was an incredibly bad 17-45 with one TD and two INTs.
NCSU recently extended Head Coach Dave Doeren through 2023 at $3.25 million annually. Playing the ultimate ACC heel for Tiger fans, Doeren previously remarked that his team played well by hitting Tiger running back Wayne Gallman in the head and knocking him out of the game.
He also accused Clemson of cheating publicly to the media prior to having any info besides a picture he saw as he was walking to a presser:
“I’d like to know why there was a laptop on Clemson’s sideline that people were looking at, too. I’d like that to be investigated. Maybe they weren’t doing anything, but I was told it’s illegal to have technology on the sideline. So I’d like to know that, as well. No idea (who it was), I just saw a picture of it walking (into the press conference).”
The Tigers beat both of his nine-win teams. Last year it was 41-7. They’re a lot worse now. The Tigers could easily win by more, it’s just a matter of how much mercy Coach Swinney chooses to give.