It’s a big gut check weekend in college football as Washington hopes to avoid the upset against Stanford in the PAC-12, Notre Dame clashes with Miami in a rivalry game, TCU takes on fellow Big 12 leaders Oklahoma, Georgia faces Auburn in an SEC grudge match, and Michigan State and Ohio State look a crushing third defeat of their seasons. Steen Kirby, Mike Loveall, John Bava, Brett Margolies, and Yesh Ginsburg offer up their predictions.
#9 Washington at Stanford (Friday 10:30 P.M. in Stanford, CA)
Line: Washington by 6
Steen: Stanford lost to WSU last week and has its weaknesses. Washington has won every game they have scored 30+ in and that seems to be achievable this week. The Huskies have not played a tough schedule but I also feel they are a bit underrated and will show something on Friday night. Washington 38, Stanford 21
Mike: Bryce Love might be the story here, but the difference will be Stanford’s defense. The Cardinal are allowing a whopping 400 yards per game to opposing teams. And that counts the dominant opening game performance against Rice. Meanwhile, the inconsistency of the passing game has allowed teams to focus on Bryce Love. Whlie Jake Browning isn’t having the season he hoped for, the Huskies offense is much more balanced. Browning is joined in Husky offense by Miles Gaskin and Dante Pettis. And Washington has the special teams edge as well. That’s just too much for the Stanford defense and Bryce Love to overcome, even with home-field advantage. Washington 30, Stanford 21
John: Friday night “Pac-12 After Dark” features two teams boasting dynamic running backs in Washington’s Myles Gaskin and Stanford’s Bryce Love. The latter is raising the eyebrows of college football observers. Love currently leads the nation with 182 rushing yards and, barring any setbacks due to injury, may be in line for a Heisman invite at the very least.
This game is going to showcase strength against strength with Love’s exploits on the ground going up against a stingy U-Dub run defense. The Huskies are one of just six FBS schools allowing under 100 rushing yards per game. Even though the Cardinal are undefeated at home this year, their inability to stop the run themselves may be their undoing in this game. Washington 31, Stanford 24
Yesh: Stanford has struggled the past two weeks as Bryce Love nursed a sore ankle. The switch to Costello at quarterback hasn’t been great, but he’s been an improvement, at least in his first week. What can Stanford and Love do against the best defense in the country? I’m guessing just enough, as a stiff Stanford defense should stand up and keep this game low-scoring. Stanford 24, Washington 21
Brett: I think Stanford over Washington will probably be a pretty popular upset pick this week. Going on the road on a short week will hurt Washington, and Stanford’s running back isn’t too bad either. I don’t think there will be too much scoring in the game, but if Stanford takes care of the ball I like their chances to pull off the upset. Stanford 24, Washington 20
#12 Michigan State at #13 Ohio State (Saturday 12:00 P.M. in Columbus, OH)
Line: Ohio State by 15.5
Steen: Ohio State’s defense is in a bit of a crisis and Michigan State is again living up to its blue collar image. The big win over Penn State should motivate Sparty and I’m not confident at all that the Buckeyes have their heads in the right place. Michigan State 27, Ohio State 24
Mike: Ohio State has given up 93 points in their last two games. Sure, some of that is from poor decision-making at the quarterback position, but 93 points is still a lot of points to give up. Ohio State has all of the talent in the world, but for some reason cannot seem to find consistency. Michigan State continues to surprise. Mark D’Antonio is just one of those guys that gets more out of less. The Spartans defense should make J.T. Barrett decide the game. And in the end, I think he does enough to win. The blue-collar Spartans excel outside of primetime and in poor conditions. Saturday’s game is early and will be cold. L.J. Scott and the stout Spartan defense keeps it close. Ohio State 34, Michigan State 24
John: These two teams are a week removed from contrasting on-field results. The Spartans handed Penn State their second straight loss while Ohio State laid an egg in a 55-24 blowout defeat to Iowa. It might give you the impression that MSU is riding high while OSU may be licking their wounds. But the line is telling a greatly different story with the Buckeyes favored by more than two touchdowns.
Since Urban Meyer took over in Columbus, no Big Ten head coach has given him more headaches than Mark Dantonio. The Spartans stymied OSU’s CFP hopes in 2015 while ending their chances at a conference title two years earlier. This time around, it might come down to whether or not J.T. Barrett can rebound after one of his worst games in the Scarlet and Gray. If so, the Buckeyes can stay alive in the Big Ten title race. Ohio State 38, Michigan State 24
Yesh: Don’t let this line surprise you. The Buckeyes are insanely talented, and laying an egg one week doesn’t mean much for the season. This team is mistake-prone, but it’s still one of the most talented across the board in the country. I expect a blowout, as Urban Meyer reminds his team that they’re significantly better than Michigan State. And this defense won’t want to be embarrassed again. Ohio State 35, Michigan State 10
Brett: It’ll be interesting to see how Ohio State responds after last week’s shocking loss to Iowa. I think Urban Meyer and the buckeyes know that a win at home this weekend puts them in a good spot to play in the Big 10 Championship game and won’t come out flat. Ohio State is obviously much better then they showed last week, look for them to get back on track and win big. Ohio State 38, Michigan State 17
#1 Georgia at #10 Auburn (Saturday 3:30 in Auburn, AL)
Line: Georgia by 2.5
Steen: Auburn is a solid football team with a great ground game but Georgia has both the offense and defense working and have really earned their #1 ranking. This will be a tough SEC road test and Auburn faces a must-win game if they are going to have any chance to slip into the SEC title game. It will be close but Dawgs on top seems like the right pick. Georgia 28, Auburn 24
Mike: The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry renews yet again on the Plains this Saturday. Georgia gets a chance to prove the legitimacy of their position atop the CFP Rankings. Auburn, on the other hand, has a chance to start their CFP campaign as a two-loss entrant. The Tigers’ offense has been better in the second half of the season, but has struggled to be consistent. Georgia has a ton of talent, but struggled against Notre Dame’s rushing attack. While Auburn has a great running back in Kerryon Johnson, they don’t have the mobility at quarterback that the Irish do. What they do have is the ability for the big play. Look for Auburn to keep it close, but come up a little bit short. Georgia 27, Auburn 24
John: This year’s edition of the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” the 121st meeting between the two schools, is the first with both in the top ten since 2004. It’s currently as even as it gets, with Georgia owning a 57-55-8 edge in the all-time series. But the Bulldogs have dominated in recent years, winning nine of the last 11 meetings.
These two teams come into this game boasting defenses who don’t let the opposition consistently put points on the board. Both rank top ten among FBS teams in points allowed per game. On offense, expect the run game to figure prominently with UGA’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in addition to Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson among the SEC’s top running backs. Jarrett Stidham appears to have the edge at quarterback over true freshman Jake Fromm. This has all the makings of a physical battle at Jordan-Hare Stadium, with Georgia able to squeak by to remain at the forefront of the CFP race. Georgia 23, Auburn 16
Yesh: This line is really low. Auburn has had great weeks, but the Tigers haven’t been entirely consistent. This is the biggest game of Auburn’s season, and the defense should force Jake Fromm into some mistakes. Ultimately, though, Georgia is the better team, and that should come through. Georgia 24, Auburn 21
Brett: Will Jake Fromm be able to handle the pressure of winning a big SEC game on the road as a freshman? I don’t think he’s ready for the moment yet. Nothing we’ve seen so far from him would suggest that, but he hasn’t seen a defense like Auburn’s yet so far this year. Jarrett Stidham and the tigers offense has shown the ability to put up points, and I think we’ll see that against the bulldogs. Auburn 34, Georgia 28
#3 Notre Dame at #7 Miami (Saturday 8:00 P.M. in Miami, FL)
Line: Notre Dame by 3.5
Steen: I’m a believer in Miami and still doubt Notre Dame, that said, these are two great teams that are strong on both sides of the ball. Miami keeps surviving and last week against VA Tech they didn’t just survive, they thrived. The road team should lose narrowly in this one. Miami 35, Notre Dame 27
Mike: I was down on Miami last week and they proved me wrong. Well, they’ll have to do it two weeks in a row. Notre Dame brings in an offense that is rolling, and it’s a much more mature and refined version of what Virginia Tech brought into Hard Rock Stadium last week. As long as Brandon Wimbush and Josh Adams don’t turn the ball over four times like the Hokies did, expect the Irish to march up and down the field. Malik Rosier will have some success, but he’ll likely have to do it himself. If Miami wants the respect they think they deserve, they’ve got their chance to earn it this weekend. Notre Dame 30, Miami 24
John: Not since 1990 have these two teams met on the field with both ranked in the top ten. Back then, it was the fourth straight such game with the Irish and Canes winning a combined three national titles between 1987-1989. Notre Dame is the most improved team in college football this year, while second-year head coach Mark Richt has Miami on a 13-game winning streak dating back to last year’s loss against this same ND team.
Both defenses appear vulnerable to the strengths of their opponent on the other side of the ball. Notre Dame is fifth nationally in rushing offense while Miami is 66th defending the run. Meanwhile, the Canes’ rank 23rd throwing the football and face an Irish squad ranked 90th in pass defense. Irish running back Josh Adams and Miami quarterback Malik Rosier are players to watch in a game certain to captivate college football fans. Notre Dame 34, Miami 28
Yesh: Miami played its best and most complete game of the season last week against Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to play your best game two weeks in a row, especially against a team as good as Notre Dame. I expect the Irish to roll in this one, with or without star running back Josh Adams. Notre Dame 45, Miami 17
Brett: Every week I keep saying this is the week the Hurricanes finally go down, but to there credit they still remain undefeated. Mark Richt obviously has them playing well, but I still can’t buy in to the notion that The U is back. It’ll be an electric atmosphere at Hard Rock Stadium, but I think Notre Dame ends the Canes winning streak proving they belong in the CFB playoff conversation. Notre Dame 27, Miami 24
#6 TCU at #5 Oklahoma (Saturday 8:00 in Norman, OK)
Line: Oklahoma by 6.5
Steen: Oklahoma has been shaky at times this season but they have a true standout player in Baker Mayfield. The winner of this game has the inside track to make the CFP playoff, and the Oklahoma offense should be a difference maker. Oklahoma 42, TCU 35
Mike: Probably the most intriguing match-up of the weekend. TCU brings the only real defense in the Big 12 into Norman for what will likely be the first leg of the Big 12 Championship. The Horned Frogs have a great front four, but Baker Mayfield is both elusive and the best downfield passer in Power 5 football. The TCU offense has been sluggish over the last two weeks, scoring only 31 points total against Iowa State and Texas. Must watch T.V. as Mayfield solidifies his Heisman candidacy. As much as I believe in the Sooner offense, I don’t trust the Oklahoma defense one bit. Home field makes the difference for the Sooners. Oklahoma 31, TCU 30
John: Nine of ten teams in the slate of games our panel’s breaking down this week are currently in the CFP Top 15. It includes both TCU and Oklahoma, who face off for the second time in three seasons when both have featured that highly in the rankings. Since TCU joined the Big 12, these sides have played each other close. Though Oklahoma’s won four of five in that span, the average margin of victory in those games is 4.5 points.
This one clearly has both Big 12 and CFP implications. Both teams currently stand as the last two out in the most recent selection committee rankings. Baker Mayfield appears to have emerged as the Heisman frontrunner after the ridiculous numbers (598 yards, five touchdowns) he put up last week against Oklahoma State. But he faces a challenge against the Horned Frogs who lead the Big 12 in pass defense and have forced eight interceptions. Oklahoma 48, TCU 34
Yesh: Oklahoma has the best offense in the country, but one of the absolute worst defenses. TCU will be able to score in this game, a lot, and will get enough spots to take care of Oklahoma. TCU 38, Oklahoma 28
Brett: This is such a good opportunity for one of these two teams to take control of the Big 12, with a potential rematch taking place in a few weeks. It’s tough to go against Baker Mayfield at home especially since they put up 62 points last week in Stillwater. I think it might come down to the last couple possessions, and Mayfield making plays once again. Oklahoma 38, TCU 35