Rivalries and games with conference title implications abound in Week 10. Here are the game to watch.
ACC: No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1) at No. 10 Miami (7-0)
The unbeaten Miami Hurricanes have been partying like it’s 2001.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has just been looming on their schedule like…
The Clemson-NC State matchup is worth keeping an eye on, but this rivalry clash between Virginia Tech and Miami is the one to watch in the ACC this week, with the winner essentially locking up the ACC Coastal Division crown.
Miami may be feeling good about its unblemished record, but as the CFP Committee rightly concluded, it ain’t worth much at this point. Week after week, the ‘Canes have squeaked by against grossly inferior competition. But now the Hokies are coming to town and it’s time to put up or shut up.
This is a battle between two solid defenses. The difference maker is Miami’s offense has been trending down pretty significantly since the loss of RB Mark Walton, whereas VA Tech and offensive minded head coach Justin Fuente have a better track record of manufacturing points. It won’t be a walk in the park for the Hokies, who have freshman at plenty of key offensive positions – including QB Josh Jackson – playing in a rivalry game in a hostile environment, but they’ll be able to move the ball enough to take control. Miami, on the other hand, will likely have to rely on big plays to make anything happen offensively, unless they score on turnovers.
VA Tech’s only loss is to Clemson, with a solid win over West Virginia and a 59-7 demolition of North Carolina – Miami’s most recent escape act. The Hurricanes are good again, but they’re nowhere near classic Miami good – not enough to escape the next two weeks unscathed. Miami’s due a loss.
Clint’s call: Virginia Tech over Miami, 17-10
Big 10: No. 7 Penn State (7-1) at No. 24 Michigan State (6-2)
Once again, Penn State is involved in my Big 10 game of the week, this time in the game for the Land Grant Trophy. By the way, has anyone addressed how bizarre it is that practically every game in the Big 10 has a freaking trophy attached? I mean, I’m all for the lovable uniqueness of college football rivalry trophies – my Frogs and SMU play for a giant frying pan for Pete’s sake – but the Big 10 is like the YMCA youth soccer league of major college football with all the random trophies flying around. Not every great rivalry has to have a trophy attached. I’m sure they justify it because of their self-proclaimed “rich history.” Please… gag. As if Penn State and Michigan State for example have some unmatched history with each other; they’ve played 31 times. This all coming from the conference so pompous its divisions were briefly named the “Leaders” and “Legends,” give me a freaking break.
Anyway… this is a bounce back game for both squads coming off crushing defeats and looking to keep the glimmer of their Big 10 title hopes alive. Also, like Virginia Tech and Miami, this game features two solid defenses hungry for redemption.
Unfortunately for MSU – one of the few Big 10 schools I find myself rooting for with some consistency – the Spartans don’t have an offense that can keep up with Penn State. The Nittany Lions already found ways to score against Michigan and Ohio State and well, Northwestern didn’t have too much trouble with the Spartan defense last week. No matter how much you key on Saquon Barkley, the dude is going to find ways to make plays, and if for some reason he can’t, he’s far from PSU’s only weapon, albeit the best.
Great teams find a way to respond after a big loss. Look for Penn State to get back on track as they fervently root for Ohio State’s failure from here out.
Clint’s call: Penn State over Michigan State, 35-20
Big 12: No. 5 Oklahoma (7-1) at No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1)
It’s Bedlam time in the Sooner State and this year the stakes are as high as ever. With the Big 12 up for grabs and TCU, Iowa State and the Oklahomas in the driver’s seat, the winner of matchup between the Sooners and Cowboys will go a long ways toward punching their ticket to the title game.
With two outstanding QBs in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph and a load of weapons on each side – not to mention two solid RBs in OU’s Rodney Anderson and OSU’s Justice Hill – this game has all the makings of a classic Big 12 shootout. As such defensive stops will come at a premium and likely provide the difference. OU may have the historic pedigree in this area, but the Sooner defense has dramatically underperformed since starting the Big 12 schedule – OU is allowing 33 ppg in Big 12 play. The Pokes on the other hand have been more reliable. The litmus test, to me, is how each team fared against Baylor and Texas; OSU won 59-16 and 13-10, respectively, while OU won 49-41 and 29-24. Yes, Baylor scored 41 points on OU.
It’s really a coin flip game this year, as it is most years… it’s just most times the coin lands on Oklahoma’s side. But this year I truly think the edge belongs to OSU and Mike Gundy, with his sex offender haircut. Plus Stillwater is a tough place to play.
Clint’s call: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, 45-42
Pac 12: No. 22 Arizona (6-2) at No. 17 USC (7-2)
Another game between two teams in the driver’s seat for their division crown. ‘Zona is in this position because of their talented young star QB Khalil Tate, who returns home to Southern California to face a Trojan defense that features EIGHT of his former high school teammates. How’s that for a storyline?
Personally, it’s hard for me to get a grasp on how good USC actually is. Sometimes, like last week against Arizona State, they look solid on both sides of the ball and perform as they should. Other times, like against Texas and Utah, they’re a complete disaster. Sam Darnold has had turnover issues throughout the season, but he settled in last week and is about to face a pretty weak defense in the Wildcats – although they were good enough to slow Washington State. Conversely, SC’s defense has been consistently decent, and there is significant familiarity with Tate, but athleticism is just hard to stop, even if you know it’s coming.
The Trojans have been good enough to get the job done at home so far this year. The key for them will be if their offense can control the flow of the game, take advantage of Arizona’s porous defense and keep the ball out of Tate’s hands – so basically, classic SC football. I like their chances to make it out of this one, but ‘Zona is going to be an interesting team to look out for come bowl season.
Clint’s call: USC over Arizona, 31-28
SEC: No. 19 LSU (6-2) at No. 2 Alabama (8-0)
Oh boy, I would not want to be LSU this week. After being ranked No. 2 in the first, and couldn’t matter less, CFP poll – kudos to the committee by the way for actually being objective and taking a hard look at resumes and accomplishments of each team thus far this year – Bama is surely eager to prove a point. Mix in a little rivalry flair in front of a home crowd? Yeah, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me the Tigers have much of a chance in this one.
LSU’s offense isn’t exactly potent outside of Derrius Guice, and Nick Saban’s team has had two weeks to prepare. LSU’s defense should keep this one from being a total blowout, but won’t be able to do enough to keep the Tigers in the game late.
Clint’s call: Alabama over LSU, 28-10
Group of 5 Game of the Week
American: No. 18 UCF (7-0) at SMU (6-2)
UCF is decidedly the better team going into Dallas, with an outstanding offense and one of the nation’s hottest head coaching candidates in Scott Frost. But do the ‘Stangs have what it takes to pull the upset?
Chad Morris definitely has SMU finally headed in the right direction. The Mustangs are bowl eligible with QB Ben Hicks slinging the ball around a solid corps of receivers, including Courtland Sutton – the best receiver you’ve never heard of in the nation. The defense, however, is far from outstanding, so if SMU is going to win, it’s going to have to be in a shootout.
UCF’s defense is coming off a less-than-impressive performance against Austin Peay – yes, they play football – in which they allowed 33 points. Yikes. But the offense didn’t slow down and put up 73 for a comfortable win. The good news for UCF fans is that game was really an apparition. No one else has scored more than 23 points against the Knights this year and they’ve played some capable offenses.
It’s going to be a track meet and SMU might have the horses to make UCF sweat, but in a purely offensive matchup, it’s awful hard to bet against UCF, especially this season. The Golden Knights opened as two TD favorites on the road and I expect them to cover.
Clint’s call: UCF over SMU, 56-42