After a couple weeks with all of the marquee matchups involving the SEC, the ACC, the Big 12 and independent Notre Dame step into the forefront. Here are our predictions for the biggest games of the upcoming Saturday in college football.
#5 Notre Dame (6-0) at #2 Florida State (6-0)
The biggest matchup of the week pits two top-5 programs both looking to shed their “overrated” label. The Fighting Irish, despite holding an undefeated record up to this point, have their success in question after a 50-43 win against North Carolina. Meanwhile, this game is treated as a must-win for the Seminoles, as this would be the only top-5 team and just the second ranked team the Seminoles have played this season. They defeated then No. 22 ranked Clemson 23-17 in overtime on September 20 without Jameis Winston. The Irish, meanwhile, have one ranked win to their name (17-14 against Stanford), and still have Arizona State and USC to bolster their strength of schedule.
The key to this game for each time will be their quarterbacks: Notre Dame’s Everett Golson (1892 total yards, 20 total TDs) and Florida State’s Jameis Winston (1605 passing yards, 11 TDs). Whichever one is more capable of making big plays, as well as avoiding mental errors, will be the one that comes out on top. Notre Dame, is 8th in the nation in points allowed per game at 17.2, but their last performance gives the impression that Winston and the Seminoles should be able to put up enough points to try and win back the No. 1 ranking.
Prediction: Florida State 38, Notre Dame 35
#21 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) at #7 Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
The Aggies have fallen on hard times the past couple weeks, as they’ve lost to Mississippi State and Ole Miss by a a combined 32 points after starting 5-0. Quarterback Kenny Hill is 2nd in the FBS with 2,511 passing yards and 23 touchdown passes, but costly turnovers (5 interceptions in the last 2 games), and a porous defense have caused the Aggies to fall from the top 10.
Luckily for A&M, Alabama in a similar situation, having scored a combined 31 points in their last two games in a 23-17 loss to Ole Miss and a 14-13 win against an Arkansas squad still without a win in the SEC. Going in the Tide’s favor is an improving quarterback in Blake Sims, a two-headed monster at running back with T.J. Yeldon (550 total yards, 3 TDs) and Derrick Henry (541 total yards, 4 total TDs), and the best wide receiver in the country in Amari Cooper (768 receiving yards, 5 TDs). They also have the advantage on defense, which should be able to force Kenny Hill into mistakes. The offense should be able to bounce back and put up some points in Tuscaloosa, forcing Hill to overcome his recent struggles and lead his team out of the slump.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Texas A&M 28
#14 Kansas State (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) at #11 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12)
The last time the Wildcats traveled to Norman in 2012, they upset the then No.6 ranked Sooners 24-19. The Wildcats have proven this season that they can handle tough competition, keeping it close against Auburn en route to a 20-14 loss. This time around, the two teams are very evenly matched, with almost identical points per game numbers (40.8 for Kansas State, 40.5 for Oklahoma) and points allowed (21.0 for Kansas State, 21.5 for Oklahoma.)
In order for the Wildcats to leave Norman with another win, they’ll need their defense to play like it did against Auburn and shut down Sooner running back Samaje Perine (568 rushing yards, 9 TDs). If the Wildcats can force Trevor Knight (1503 passing yards, 6 TDs, 5 INTs) to beat them with his arm, while getting plenty of production from quarterback Jake Waters (1526 total yards, 13 total TDs), the Wildcats can pull it off again.
Prediction: Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 27
#15 Oklahoma State (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) at #12 TCU (4-1, 1-1 Big 12)
The Cowboys are coming into this contest on a roll, having won their last five games by an average of just over 16 points per game after losing their opener 36-31 against then No. 1 Florida State. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs will be eager to get back on the field after blowing a 21-point lead in the final 11 minutes against Baylor and losing 61-58. TCU, led by emerging quarterback Trevone Boykin (1768 total yards, 13 total TDs), has an offense that is ranked third in the nation in points per game at 45.8 and a passing attack ranked 12th with 325.2 yards per game. The big question for TCU is whether or not their defense can get back to their early-season dominance, or remain the defense that gave up 61 to the Bears. Personally, I’d expect them to get back on the right track, while Boykin provides the offense necessary to earn the bounce-back win at home.
Prediction: TCU 45, Oklahoma State 30
#23 Stanford (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) at #17 Arizona State (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12)
The most notable matchup in the Pac-12 this week pits two teams with opposing mindsets, matching a tough and physical Stanford team with the more explosive Sun Devils. Both sides are dealing with injury woes, as the Cardinal will be without their second-leading receiver in Devon Cajuste (243 yards, 3 TDs), while the Sun Devils are unsure of the status of quarterbacl Taylor Kelly (793 total yards, 11 total TDs), as well as running back D.J. Foster (833 total yards, 7 total TDs). Mike Bercovici (1077 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs) has done a good job filling in for Kelly, but Stanford comes in with the nation’s top scoring defense, only allowing 10.0 points per game, and the lack of a running threat at quarterback could work against the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils will keep it interesting, but Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (1325 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs) should lead his offense to put up enough points to pick up the win.
Prediction: Stanford 24, Arizona State 20
Colorado (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) at #22 USC (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
The Trojans have had a week to celebrate their victory over a then-Top 10 Arizona team last week. They’ve also had some time to look back at the past couple weeks, where the Trojans have been outscored 33-14 in the fourth quarter. They’ll look to get on track against a Colorado team that is 109th in the nation in points against per game at 35.7, and who is still looking for their first conference win of the season. The Buffaloes’ passing attack, which ranks 14th in passing yards with 320.3 yards per game, is headlined by quarterback Sefo Liufau (1887 passing yards, 19 TDs, 7 INTs) and wide receiver Nelson Spruce (732 receiving yards, 10 TDs).
On defense, the Trojans will hope their secondary is healthy enough to stop this dangerous duo, and hope for explosive plays from Su’a Cravens and Leonard Williams. On offense, USC will need to feed the ball to running back Javorius “Buck” Allen (1059 total yards, 8 total TDs) to wear down the Colorado defense and prevent Colorado from making this too close.
Even though it has a familiar feel to the upset loss against Boston College, with USC coming off a win against a top-15 Pac-12 team on the road, facing a weaker team than the Eagles at the Coliseum, rather than flying cross-country, should keep USC from experiencing too much déjà vu.
Prediction: USC 38, Colorado 17