Week 10 in College Football will see multiple top teams putting their playoff hopes on the line in key matchups. Steen Kirby, John Bava, Yesh Ginsburg, Mike Loveall, and Brett Margolies will take you through Penn State looking to rebound against Michigan State, Bedlam in the BIG 12, LSU bidding to upset Alabama, Arizona looking to keep up the momentum against USC and Virginia Tech taking their 1 loss record up against undefeated Miami in the ACC.
#7 Penn State at #24 Michigan State (Saturday 12:00 P.M. in East Lansing, MI)
Line: Penn State by 8.5
Steen: Penn State was not at their best against Ohio State last weekend, but barring a massive letdown they are still better than Michigan State. Sparty is consistent and solid, but they simply aren’t in the top 15 best teams in CFB right now, Penn State is and should get a big road win. Penn State 24, Michigan State 17
Yesh: Michigan State is a solid, consistent team. They do the little things well and avoid mistakes, which is why they win games. This team isn’t as talented as Penn State, though, and that will show. The offense will struggle moving the ball, and Saquon Barkley will be held in check a little, but he’s still way too good to not make a real difference in this game. Penn State 34, Michigan State 17
John: This is a battle between two teams looking to rebound after tough losses on the road last week. Penn State enjoyed a 15-point lead over Ohio State midway through the fourth quarter but allowed the Buckeyes to claw back and come away with a 39-38 win. Meanwhile, Michigan State engineered a comeback themselves to force overtime against Northwestern but also gave up 39 points in defeat as the Wildcats intercepted a Brian Lewerke pass in the third extra period.
For the Nittany Lions, Saturday’s game represents the final leg of a three-game gauntlet after playing Michigan and OSU the past two weeks. They boast one of the nation’s most prolific running backs in Saquon Barkley. But he managed just 44 yards and 2.1 yards per carry against the Buckeyes and faces an MSU run defense ranked fourth nationally. Unless Penn State can continue to excel forcing turnovers, they may be in for a battle to avoid a hangover in East Lansing. Penn State 27, Michigan State 21
Mike: Can Penn State get back on track in East Lansing after last week’s disappointment. Michigan State fumbled some early season momentum. Penn State’s second half collapse last week aside, they are tested on the road (at Iowa and Ohio State this season) and have been one of the most consistent teams in the nation this season. While their path to the CFP is long and clouded now, they still have a shot. The Spartans don’t have the talent to stretch and challenge the Nittany Lions defense. Penn State 30, Michigan State 17
Brett: James Franklin seems like the type of coach that won’t let his team’s season fall apart after last week’s letdown in Colombus. Noon start on the road is always a little tricky, but I expect Penn State to bounce back led by Saquon Barkley again. He’s in the thick of things in the heisman race so a big game would help his case too. Penn State 30, Michigan State 20
#5 Oklahoma at #11 Oklahoma State (Saturday 4:00 P.M. in Stillwater, OK)
Line: Oklahoma State by 2.5
Steen: Oklahoma State could rack up points against Oklahoma’s defense, but the Sooners have just a bit more talent in this battle of the gunslinging quarterbacks. The winner has the inside track for the BIG 12 title, and Oklahoma should rise up. Oklahoma 45, Oklahoma State 38
Yesh: Bedlam has arrived, and it’s impossible to guess what to do with it. Oklahoma is more talented, but the defense has been porous since shutting down Ohio State. Oklahoma State has a superpowered offense, except for those random weeks (like against TCU) where it can’t seem to find any footing. The ‘Pokes are playing better recently, so I’ll give them the edge. Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 31
John: Heading into the earliest “Bedlam” game since 2003, Oklahoma finds itself ranked six spots ahead of Oklahoma State in the first CFP rankings but is also a road underdog. Perhaps it’s a function of the close calls they’ve had in recent weeks with Baylor, Texas and Kansas State, along with their shocking home loss to Iowa State. But it also proves that nobody’s sleeping on the Cowboys ability to defend home turf and win just their 20th game all-time against their fierce rivals from Norman.
Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield, ranked first and sixth respectively in FBS passing yards, will garner a great deal of the headlines heading into this game. But pay attention to these teams’ run games, both of which are fairly prolific themselves. Poke running back Justice Hill leads the Big XII in rushing yards, while the Sooners have three players ranked in the top 12 of that category. Oklahoma doesn’t turn the ball over as much, and that could be the difference in what promises to be a shootout. Oklahoma 45, Oklahoma State 38
Mike: In a game that looked like it would be even more important early in the season, this game is likely for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Oklahoma, at times this season, has looked like the best team in the nation. Baker Mayfield has been his steady self, but the ensemble isn’t quite holding up their end of the bargain. Oklahoma State isn’t perfect either, but they have more weapons to complement Heisman hopeful Mason Rudolph. A Sooner loss here would essentially waste a week two victory over Ohio State. It might happen. Look for this game to go down to the wire. Oklahoma State 42, Oklahoma 37
Brett: The rivalry known as “Bedlam” is very one sided with Oklahoma leading the series 86-18-7. Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield have been putting up huge numbers all year, so it should be interesting how they’ll fair against each other. I expect a shootout in Stillwater with Oklahoma State coming out on top. Oklahoma State 45, Oklahoma 41
#19 LSU at #2 Alabama (Saturday 8:00 P.M. in Tuscaloosa, AL)
Line: Alabama by 21.5
Steen: LSU has improved their standing after an awful start to the season, but I don’t see them matching up well with the Bama machine. The Crimson Tide will be feeling disrespected after opening at #2 in the CFB Playoff rankings and should make a statement at home. The Tide should strangle LSU’s one dimensional offense. Alabama 35, LSU 10
Yesh: This is always one of the biggest games of the year in the SEC, even though it has been extremely one-sided since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. The problem is that these teams are so similar in build and identity, but Alabama is just a tiny bit better almost across the board. It takes mistakes from the Tide and a great game for LSU for the Tigers to win. Matt Canada has had two weeks to prepare this LSU offense to do something special. He won’t win the game, but I think he does enough to cover this massive spread. Alabama 31, LSU 21
John: Nick Saban’s often comical tirades against the media come in various forms. Among them was a press conference rant in which he referred to praise being levied on his team as “rat poison,” probably fearing complacency out of his team. But the CFP committee might have done more than any sportswriter could’ve done in ranking Bama behind Georgia in their first poll of the season. A well-rested Crimson Tide squad coming off a bye with something to prove is a cause for concern if you’re the opponent.
This week, it’s an LSU team that’s dropped six straight against the Tide. Though the Tigers are riding a three-game winning streak after a shock defeat to Troy in week five, that run of form is in danger of coming to an end in Tuscaloosa. Despite ranking second in the SEC in rushing yards, Derrius Guice will be facing the nation’s leading run defense on Saturday. Couple that with a multifaceted Tide ground attack facing an LSU defense that’s given up 12 rushing touchdowns and conditions are ripe for a Bama romp. Alabama 48, LSU 17
Mike: LSU a three-touchdown underdog? Normally, that would be automatic money. But Alabama, strangely, has been playing with a chip on their shoulder all season. They’ve absolutely dismantled Florida State (24-7), Vanderbilt (59-0), Ole Miss (66-3), Arkansas (41-9), and Tennessee (45-7). The SEC might not be the best conference in football anymore, but to run through a quarter of the conference like that is impressive. No one motivates front-runners like Nick Saban. Jalen Hurts is the difference here. LSU has had trouble with dual-threat quarterbacks this season, including Troy and Syracuse. Look for Hurts to stress the Tigers defense. Meanwhile, Saban will have the Tide defense angry again – about what no one will probably know – but they’ll play that way. Call me crazy, but I think the Tide covers. They’re playing in their own league right now. Alabama 42, LSU 10
Brett: After the slow start LSU is playing much better, but they definitely have their work cut out for them on Saturday night. Alabama just looks to be on another level from everyone else once again. Alabama knows how one dimensional LSU’s offense is so look for them to stop Derrius Guice forcing Danny Etling to beat them. Alabama wins big again. Alabama 38, LSU 13
#13 Virginia Tech at #10 Miami (Saturday 8:00 P.M. in Miami, FL)
Line: Virginia Tech by 2.5
Steen: Virginia Tech is a good and underrated side, but at this point I’m a believer in Miami. They have played plenty of close games, but won them all and this team has a ton of fight and strong chemistry. Playing at home the Hurricanes should edge this. Miami 24, Virginia Tech 21
Yesh: This line is really close, because that’s how all Miami games seem to go. The Hurricanes are really talented, but they too often play down to the level of their competition. Still, this is their biggest game of the year, and I think Mark Richt has his team ready. They will be up and ready for Virginia Tech, and use being underdogs as motivation to show why the CFP committee underrated them tremendously. Miami 34, Virginia Tech 21
John: Miami is perhaps the biggest enigma in all of college football. Mark Richt’s team is one of just four remaining unbeatens among Power Five schools. But none of their last four wins were particularly convincing. Their average margin of victory in those games is 4.5 points, none of which came against a team with a winning record in ACC play. It’s no surprise then, that the CFP committee isn’t particularly impressed and has them tenth in the first rankings of the year.
They face arguably their biggest test of the year on Saturday night when they host Virginia Tech. The Hokies have had their number since both teams joined the ACC, winning eight of their 13 matchups with the Canes’ in that time. The two sides boast dynamic first-year quarterbacks this time around, with Miami’s Malik Rosier and VT’s Josh Jackson both second in the ACC with 17 passing touchdowns. Bud Foster’s top-15 pass defense might be up to the task at slowing down Rosier. Virginia Tech 23, Miami 17
Mike: Miami has lived on the edge the entire season. At some point, it’s got to bite the Hurricanes. That’s this week. These teams are similarly talented, but the Hokies are much more efficient on both offense and defense. And that’s because they are better coached. Expect Bud Foster’s defense to force someone other than Malik Rosier to beat them. Rosier’s shoulder could be the biggest variable in this game. The Hokies can put a stranglehold on a second straight division championship in Miami. Virginia Tech 32, Miami 20
Brett: Miami has a chance to prove they’re a serious contender against a good Virginia Tech team at home. I think they end up getting exposed. Their schedule has everything to do with the undefeated record right now and that will show sooner rather than later. It’ll be a tough test for freshman QB Josh Jackson, but Virginia Tech is a better team overall. Virginia Tech 27, Miami 21
#22 Arizona at #17 USC (Saturday 10:45 P.M. in Los Angeles, CA)
Line: USC by 7.5
Steen: Arizona is red hot right now, USC isn’t a bad team but they have again disappointed this season and Khalil Tate is an incredibly special player. Arizona should be favored in this one. Arizona 31, USC 24
Yesh: Two words: Khalil Tate. This guy is like Lamar Jackson 2.0. He has been unstoppable so far, and USC doesn’t have the discipline to be the first to do so. If the Trojans offense can play its best then this game can be close, but USC won’t be good enough on defense to win. Arizona 41, USC 35
John: A month ago, this game had all the makings of an easy win for USC. Then Khalil Tate burst onto the scene. Since he assumed the starting quarterback role, Arizona is 4-0 and averaging 48.75 points per game. Tate’s dual threat capabilities have been on full display in that time. He currently leads the nation with 13.42 yards per carry and already has more rushing yards than the Trojans’ Ronald Jones. It all makes for a compelling Pac-12 after dark matchup at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
This is a huge opportunity for Sam Darnold to redeem himself in the eyes of NFL Draft experts. He faces an Arizona defense ranked second nationally in interceptions with 14. Among FBS quarterbacks averaging at least 250 yards passing, he’s one of just four with double digit picks. If Darnold can build upon last week’s performance against Arizona State where he threw three touchdown passes to no interceptions, he may well be on his way to salvaging his draft stock. USC 38, Arizona 31
Mike: Arizona might be the hottest team in the nation. Khalil Tate and the Wildcats put 57 on Washington State last week – the same Cougars team that beat USC five weeks ago. Arizona is a team that looks like they are getting mor and more confident every week. Those teams are especially dangerous, even on the road. Much like Miami, the Coliseum isn’t much of a home field advantage. USC has been wildly inconsistent this season. They looked good last week, but had a dumpster fire performance in South Bend two weeks ago. Certainly too inconsistent for a touchdown-plus. Arizona 34, USC 27
Brett: Even though Arizona has won four straight there defense has given over 30 points each game. Khalil Tate has been putting up huge numbers putting himself in heisman contention after starting the season on the bench. USC offense is just too good for a defense that’s been struggling all year long. It’ll stay close, but I like USC. USC 42, Arizona 38