ACC: Wake Forest at 3 Clemson
The Clemson Tigers made a jump back into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings this week after Penn State and Alabama losses. It is likely that they will stay there until the bowl games are decided in December, but a poor performance against Wake Forest could change that.
Clemson has been criticized for having a weak schedule this year, something they can’t really control when it comes to their conference opponents. The Demon Deacons are easily their toughest opponents all year, so Trevor Lawrence is going to have to play a near-perfect game if they are going to avoid the upset. He has so far, throwing for 2,303 yards and 23 touchdowns, while Travis Etienne has been boosting his NFL resume with another 1,000-plus yard season on the ground.
Wake Forest was poised to make a run at the Orange Bowl before a brutal loss to Virginia Tech last week, so they will have to work if they want a shot at the New Year’s Six bowl game. Wake Forest can’t make it to the conference title game as Clemson has already locked up the division, so they should go all out for this game. Jamie Newman is having an impressive junior season while Sage Surratt is slowly becoming one of the best receivers in the ACC. Despite this, Clemson should win this game the Demon Deacons could give them some trouble.
Prediction: Clemson 28, Wake Forest 21
American Athletic: 23 Navy at 16 Notre Dame
It is hard to believe that the biggest game in the American conference this week has absolutely no bearings on the conference championship game, but here we are. The Navy Midshipmen still have a good shot at making the AAC title game and will need a big win over rival Notre Dame to continue rising up the ranks for a possible New Year’s Six bowl game.
Malcolm Perry has been on fire for the Midshipmen all year, completing 55 percent of his passes for over 700 yards while leading the team with 1,042 yards on the ground. He is by far and away their star player and their upset bid will rely on him this week. They have a scary good defensive pairing with Diego Fagot, who leads the team with 59 tackles, and Jacob Springer, who leads the team with seven sacks.
Notre Dame expected to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff this year, but with a close loss to Georgia and a blowout loss to Michigan, the best they can hope for is a spot in the Orange or Cotton Bowl. Ian Book has played great all year, throwing for over 2,000 yards while rushing for almost 300 and 25 total touchdowns. He will be the impact player for the Fighting Irish.
Navy has not beaten Notre Dame in South Bend since 2009, a 23-21 stunner. This year, it will not be an upset when the Midshipmen come away with a big win.
Prediction: Navy 31, Notre Dame 18
Big 12: 10 Oklahoma at 13 Baylor
Baylor is the lowest-ranked undefeated team and actually dropped a spot thanks to Minnesota’s upset over Penn State and narrowly beating TCU in overtime. They can prove they belong in the top ten if they get a win over Oklahoma this week and secure a spot in the Big 12 championship game. This, however, will be no easy task.
Baylor had an awful game last week, not scoring a touchdown against TCU until overtime and barely escaping with a 29-23 three overtime win. That will not cut it against Oklahoma and the Bears will have to play much better. Charlie Brewer had a decent game, leading the team on the ground with just 41 yards (!), but it is needless to say Oklahoma is MUCH better than the Horned Frogs. The defense will have to be ready to stop the Sooners’ Heisman Trophy candidate if they want to stay perfect on the year.
Jalen Hurts has been VERY good this year and he will likely be a finalist for the most prestigious award in December. He is going to be the catalyst in the Sooners’ attempt to stay in the CFP race. He has over 2,700 yards passing and leads the team with 869 yards on the ground. CeeDee Lamb has been his biggest weapon all year so expect him to get going early and often.
While the Bears will be feisty and ready to pull off the upset, I just can’t see them getting a win, even with the Waco crowd backing them. Sooners win, but they will see Baylor again in December.
Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Baylor 24
Big Ten: 8 Minnesota at 20 Iowa
The Minnesota Golden Gophers pulled off possibly the biggest upset in the history of their team and are now in the top ten for the first time ever. The one thing they can’t let happen, though, is to let this hype become too much for them. They still have a job to do and that is winning the Big Ten. They can’t do that if they don’t beat Iowa this week.
I think it is safe to say that the Golden Gophers’ most relevant motto this week should be “Get it to Rashod.” Sophomore receiver Rashod Bateman had a career game against Penn State last week, going for over 200 yards and a touchdown in the upset win. If Tanner Morgan can keep getting it to him, then they should be just fine. Antoine Winfield Jr, who played a huge role last week by picking off two passes, has seven total interceptions and he should be their biggest playmaker on defense again this week.
Iowa’s chances of making the Big Ten championship game were dashed last week with a 24-22 loss to Wisconsin. Now they will look to play spoiler against Minnesota this week. They can do that by getting Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young more involved in the game. If they can establish a rushing attack, it will likely open up the passing game and give them more chances to take shots downfield. Iowa will give Minnesota a bit of a run, but I just can’t see them pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Minnesota 23, Iowa 14
Conference USA: Louisiana Tech at Marshall (FRIDAY)
If you want a big game with huge conference title implications, then look no further than this Friday night matchup. Marshall and Louisiana Tech sit atop their respective divisions and a win for either team likely means they will be playing for the conference title. For the Bulldogs, they could possibly sneak their way into the College Football Playoff rankings since a win would move them to 9-1.
The Bulldogs have had a great season so far, winning eight straight since their season-opening loss to Texas. J’Mar Smith has been impressive with over 2,400 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air. They will also need to rely on Justin Henderson, who has over 700 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. These two will be key in this game if they want to pull out the win.
Isaiah Green has been a constant for the Thundering Herd this year and he will need to continue his fantastic season if they are going to play for a conference championship. They will also try to get after the quarterback a little more this week with the team having 32 sacks, seven of which belong to Darius Hodge. This should be a great game, but the Bulldogs have been playing too well for them to lose now.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 42, Marshall 28
Mid-American: Central Michigan at Ball State
Fans likely missed a great game between Western Michigan and Ohio that went to overtime on Tuesday, but they will surely not want to miss this one between Central Michigan and Ball State. I wouldn’t expect this to be the biggest game of the week, obviously, but it is one to watch considering that both of these teams are fighting for a spot in their conference championship game.
The winner of this game will need Western Michigan to lose to Northern Illinois Thanksgiving week, but that still means this game is a big one in the MAC, especially for Ball State. The Cardinals need to win two of their last three games to get to bowl eligibility, something they have not done since going 10-3 in 2013. They will need to rely on quarterback Drew Plitt, who has had a great season up to this point. They will also benefit from getting running back Caleb Huntley having a good game. They will need to try and get pressure on the Chippewas as their defense leads the conference with 12 interceptions.
For Central Michigan, it is going to be imperative that Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis get going early in the game. They have over 1,600 of the team’s 1,900 rushing yards and 19 combined touchdowns. While the Cardinals have 12 interceptions on the year, the Chippewas will be looking to take over the top spot as they can add to their 11 picks. Both Central Michigan and Ball State have thrown eight and six interceptions respectively, so this could play a huge factor in the game. However, Ball State needs this win just a little more at this point.
Prediction: Ball State 30, Central Michigan 13
Mountain West: Wyoming at Utah State
While Boise State is likely going to win the Mountain division and playing for the conference title, this game is key for both of these teams making the bowl season. Wyoming has six wins, but that doesn’t always guarantee a bowl invite. Utah State is still looking for their sixth win of the year so this game should be a big one in the Mountain West.
I don’t care what anyone says, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is still a top NFL prospect at his position and he will be a difference maker in this game. He has struggled to not throw interceptions this year, but he has also played a pretty tough schedule up until this point. If he can get Siaosi Mariner the ball more often in this game, it should be a big win for the Aggies.
Freshman Sean Chambers has been very good for the Cowboys this year and, with a few more years experience, you could be looking at the next Josh Allen. He has 915 yards through the air, 567 on the ground and 17 total touchdowns. Look for him to be the reason they get to 7-3 on the season against the Aggies.
Prediction: Wyoming 30, Utah State 21
Pac-12: Arizona at 6 Oregon
The Oregon Ducks need this win more than ever before if they want to get into the College Football Playoff. Alabama can’t help themselves at all as they no longer control their own destiny, so if the Ducks can finish 11-1 and win the Pac-12, they could easily get into the final four. They will need to get past a tough Arizona team in order to win their ninth straight game.
It is hard to look past how great Justin Herbert has been this year. He continues to play like a first round NFL prospect and he rarely makes big mistakes. Herbert has been a big reason for the offense’s success, but the secondary has slowly made its claim for being DBU this year. The team leads the country with 17 interceptions with Jevon Holland and Brady Breeze each having four.
Just a few years ago, I believed that Khalil Tate was the next great Heisman Trophy quarterback. While that hasn’t come to fruition, he is still a great quarterback and could have a future similar to Lamar Jackson’s in the NFL. Tate has totaled nearly 2,000 yards with 17 touchdowns this year. He has some talented weapons to throw to in Jamarye Jordan, Brian Casteele, Tayvian Cunningham, and Cedric Peterson, who all have over 300 yards receiving this year.
The Wildcats could pull the upset this week, but with them having lost their last four games, I just can’t see them putting a stop to the Ducks.
Prediction: Oregon 41, Arizona 13
SEC: 4 Georgia at 12 Auburn
The Georgia Bulldogs had a great defensive showing against the Missouri Tigers last week and that helped them jump into the top four of the newest College Football Playoff rankings. They have possibly their biggest game of the season this week as they travel to the Plains to face off against the Auburn Tigers.
The Bulldogs must continue to win if they want any shot of making the CFP and with this game being the one with which they can clinch the SEC East, it is paramount that they are on their P’s and Q’s. They cannot rely on just the legs of D’Andre Swift this week. Offensive coordinator James Coley will need to open up the playbook a little more and let Jake Fromm take more shots down the field. If their offensive line is not completely healthy, it could be a long day for the Bulldogs.
Auburn is going to do what they have done all year: terrorize quarterbacks on defense and do just enough to win on offense. The defensive line has 14 of the team’s 23 sacks, so they might have a chance to get after Fromm this week. The more Bo Nix and the Tiger offense has the ball, the better the chances will be for them to pull the upset.
Prediction: Auburn 27, Georgia 21
Sun Belt: 25 Appalachian State at Georgia State
In 2018, the Appalachian State Mountaineers got into the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history and just four days later, they lost to Georgia Southern on a Thursday night. Fast forward a year later and the Mountaineers are in a very similar situation. The team is 8-1 and coming off a huge win over South Carolina, their first win over an SEC school. They play at Georgia State in a game that could decide the Sun Belt East division.
The Mountaineers got a huge bounceback win last week when they defeated the Gamecocks, albeit a team that is likely going to miss the bowl season. Zac Thomas has continued to impress this season with Darrynton Evans providing some much needed relief on the ground. Akeem Davis-Gaither will need to be their rock this week on defense, as he has been most of the year.
The Georgia State Panthers suffered a shocking loss to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks last week and now they must win out if they are going to get to the Sun Belt championship game for the first time in team history. That will be a much tougher task than they expected after they lost quarterback Dan Ellington to knee injury in the loss last week. Cornelius “Quad” Brown takes over at quarterback and he was a mediocre 8-18 with 80 yards and no touchdowns in relief of Ellington last week.
It is hard to imagine that the Panthers will get a win this week, but it may be tough for the Mountaineers to prepare for a quarterback they have seen in only two quarters of play all season. Tra Barnett will have to step up for Georgia State as he has all year, but I just can’t see them winning without their star quarterback.
Prediction: Appalachian State 33, Georgia State 16