Friday, September 20
#10 Utah (-3.5) at USC (9pm, FS1)
It looks like the Utah Utes and the No.24 Arizona State Sun Devils are the two best teams in the Pac-12 South – and the only two undefeated playoff hopefuls in the beleaguered conference. Utah will look to remain undefeated against a talented and desperate USC Trojan squad. The Utes will be favored when they travel to Los Angeles. A victory over USC could set up a huge showdown on October 19th with the Sun Devils. The Utes host Washington State before a bye week and a trip to Corvalis, OR. Win this one, and they could be 5-0 playing the Sun Devils for the Pac-12 South title. For USC, this could be the game that determines the future of the program with Clay Helton on the hot seat. It’s a late start, but it’s a Friday!
Saturday, September 21
#11 Michigan at #13 Wisconsin (-3.5) (Noon, FOX)
The Wolverines came into this season with all sorts of hype. With Ohio State breaking in a new quaterback and head coach, the thought was “if not now, when?” After an undefeated but shaky start that included a 24-21 overtime win over Army, it seems everyone has concluded Ohio State indeed remains the team to beat. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 110-0. They haven’t been tested yet, but with Nebraska and Northwestern looking just above mediocre, the West appears to be theirs for the taking. A win over Michigan would loudly proclaims that they’re back after last season’s dip and that not only do they play to win the West, but the conference!
#8 Auburn at #17 Texas A&M (-4) (3:30, CBS)
Auburn deserves their high-ranking based on their win over Oregon, but the fact that they’re slight underdog underscores the fact that there’s still skepticism. Auburn rolled against Kent State last week. Texas A&M put up 62 points on Lamar after getting shutdown for most of the Clemson game. These teams are viewed very similarly in that tier behind Alabama and LSU, but ahead of Arkansas and the Mississippi schools; as such, these matchups hold a lot of weight in determining the pecking order.
Charlotte at #1 Clemson (-41) (7:30, ACCN)
The Tigers return to Death Valley and the ACC Network in a rare night game against a Conference USA opponent. The Charlotte 49ers FBS football program had their inaugural season in 2013 and they’ve been bad ever since. They were 25-52 coming into the year and had not posted a winning season in that time. Things seem better this season. New Head Coach Will Healy is in his first year. Expectations were pretty low coming into the season, but their offense looks, at least on paper, far more potent. They have scored 40+ points in all three games, including a 56-41 loss at Appalachian State. They only scored 40+ points once all of last season.
We won’t spend too much time analyzing a 41-point underdog, but suffice it to say they should provide at least a bit of a challenge for our defense. That should give our defense a chance to continue fine-tuning its progress after dominant performances in the previous weeks. The 49ers weak defense should also open the door for a jaw dropping offensive performance by Trevor & co. that will quickly halt all griping and hand wringing.
#7 Notre Dame at #3 Georgia (-13.5) (8:00, CBS)
It’s cool to get a night game against Charlotte, but it’s a shame it will result in us missing this one. Notre Dame lost to Georgia by one point when they hosted the Bulldogs in 2017. The two teams have only played twice in their entire history, with the Dawgs capturing both victories. This time it’s in Athens, where the Bulldogs are nearly two-touchdown favorites. A big win by the Dawgs will likely lead to some revisionist history about how they deserved to make the playoff over the Irish last season despite having two more losses and one fewer win.
There are big playoff implications in this one. With a loss, Notre Dame won’t control their own destiny. Without a conference to win, a 12-0 season may be necessary to make the playoff yet again depending on how the field plays out. For Georgia, a loss puts them in a position where they have to win their conference, meaning they’d have to beat the SEC West champion (likely Alabama or LSU). Georgia has a five-game losing streak to Alabama and lost to LSU by 20 last season. They’d feel a lot more comfortable going into a conference title game at 12-0, knowing they’re likely playing for seeding.
Clemson fans should probably pull for Notre Dame, as it only will reflect more positively on the 2018 “Best Ever” team if the Irish win. Furthermore, with Notre Dame’s financial ties with the ACC, there’s some other incentive there as well. Lastly, the Tigers play Notre Dame in three of the next four seasons so the bigger those games can appear, the better.