Are you ready for potentially the best week in college football? After a week where upsets and thrilling contests were enticingly common, week 10 promises to supersede those moments as there are a plethora of ranked vs. ranked contests to enjoy. As pundits attempt to predict how the College Football Playoff will turn out, top-tier college football programs will battle fiercely against formidable conference rivals for supremacy. While there are some initial favorites that could very well clinch a playoff spot, several programs that are on the rise will look to make a serious push for a chance to compete for a national title. Will the likes of Alabama and Georgie remain at the top or will those on the outside looking in get a chance at a coveted playoff spot?
Auburn Tigers (16) vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Aside from Alabama and Georgia, there has been a ton of movement in the SEC in terms of early competitors becoming pretenders and vice versa. While the Tigers have looked fantastic on both sides of the ball more often than not, a recent loss to LSU on the road suggests that the Tigers still have issues on offense and lack the killer instinct to close out big games. The Aggies are a young team that is still trying to find an identity on both offense and defense, especially with freshman quarterback Kellen Mond still going through growing pains. Although the Aggies have some nice wins on their resume and are the only team that was able to compete with Alabama earlier in the season, the Tigers have too much firepower on both offense and defense for this scrappy Aggies program to overcome.
Final Score: Tigers 36 Aggies 20 Spread: Auburn -15.0
Penn State Nittany Lions (7) vs. Michigan State Spartans (24)
With both teams coming off brutal losses last week, it goes without saying that each program is going to come into this game with a fiery attitude. After being considered the best defense in college football in terms of points allowed, the Lions were gashed on back to back drives as Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett looked every bit like the quarterback the Buckeyes need to go the distance. Similarly, the once stout defense of the Spartans gave up 39 points to Northwestern on the road, something that the Spartans had not allowed since losing to Notre Dame earlier in the season where they relinquished 38 points. Certainly, this contest could be fairly close early on as each team tries to shake off their respective losses from last week. However, the Nittany Lions have the offensive power to overwhelm a Spartans squad that is overly-reliant on their defense to bail them out.
Final Score: Nittany Lions 31 Spartans 19 Spread: Penn State -8.0
Stanford Cardinal (18) vs. Washington State Cougars (25)
Without Bryce Love, the Cardinal are completely inept on offense. While their defense is fundamentally sound, it’s not quite elite enough to suppress an opportunistic team. Although the Cougars are that and more, their once disciplined and underrated defense has looked dreadful recently, especially against the run. The only thing that has kept the Cougars afloat in the majority of their victories is the confident quarterback play of Luke Falk, who thrown a combined seven touchdowns when his completion percentage was under 50% (three games). Even though Luke Falk and the Cougars have been far better at home than on the road, the Cardinal have one of the best rushing games in the country and also have an exceptional defense, which should be enough to take down the Cougars.
Final Score: Cardinal 38 Cougars 33 Spread: Washington State -2.0
Clemson Tigers (6) vs. NC State Wolfpack (20)
Despite losing 35-14 to Notre Dame last week, the Wolfpack still possess one of the most defensively sound front seven in college football while having an intelligent quarterback in Ryan Finley. With that being said, if we learned anything from Saturday it is that talented teams that have depth will usually overcome a feisty underdog that makes few albeit crucial mistakes in big moments. Comparatively speaking, Clemson is the far more talented program on both sides of the ball and now have a healthy Kelly Bryant who can make big plays both through the air and on the ground. While the Wolfpack are certainly going in the right direction and could feasibly be a conference contender down the road, the lack of elite talent will do them in against Clemson.
Final Score: Tigers 29 Wolfpack 20 Spread: Clemson -7.5
Oklahoma Sooners (8) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (11)
Regardless of respective records, both of these teams undeniably play with a different edge when they face each other every year. Considering both teams are both exceptional offensively and have veteran quarterbacks, it’s hard to imagine this game being anything other than a highly-competitive shootout. The difference in this game will ultimately be which inconsistent defense breaks first. While both defenses have looked spectacular in certain moments, they have almost always succumbed to solid opposing offenses and are overly reliant on their prolific passing attacks to bail them out. Although this is clearly a toss-up affair, I’m giving a very slight edge to the Cowboys as they have a star wideout in James Washington and the better featured running back in Justice Hill.
Final Score: Sooners 38 Cowboys 41 Spread: Oklahoma State -3.0
UCF Knights (15) vs. SMU Mustangs
While the American Athletic Conference has been shunned by pundits as being uninteresting due to a lack of competitive teams, the Knights and the Mustangs are actually two of the best offensive teams in the country. Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton has quietly put up eye-popping numbers (72.9 CMP %, 19 touchdowns, three interceptions, 11.28 yards per pass attempt) while the Mustangs have a great receiving corps led by wideout Courtland Sutton (nine touchdowns). The most notable and obvious difference between these two programs is that Knights are defensively sound and the Mustangs are particularly poor in that regard. While this has not affected the Mustangs negatively for the most part, against a program like UCF, the Mustangs will have their work cut for them trying to keep up with the Knights on both defense and offense. For this reason, the Knights will win a fairly close contest and remain undefeated on the season.
Final Score: Knights 37 Mustangs 29 Spread: UCF -13.5
LSU Tigers (19) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)
Finally, a contest where Alabama will actually be tested. While this statement does not suggest that the Crimson Tide are overrated, it does emphatically put pressure on a highly talented albeit largely untested SEC program. Ever since losing to Troy, the Tigers have been ferocious on defense and have persevered on offense with quarterback Danny Etling playing just well enough to allow running back Derrius Guice to do his thing. However, against a stout Alabama run defense, the Tigers are overmatched and will be forced to be reliant on Etling way too often. Combine that with the fact that the Tide have a dominant rushing attack themselves and you have a matchup that is interesting but ultimately favors Alabama for obvious reasons.
Final Score: Tigers 23 Crimson Tide 37 Spread: Alabama -21.5
Virginia Tech Hokies (13) vs. Miami Hurricanes (9)
The Hokies, in their wins, have looked fairly dominant thanks to an elite defense and a well-balanced offense led by future college football superstar Josh Jackson. While the Hurricanes are still undefeated, their last four wins have been anything but convincing, especially their most recent victory over a woeful Tar Heels program. The lack of continuity in the rushing game for the Hurricanes has put all the pressure on quarterback Malik Rosier. While Rosier can make impressive plays with both his arms and legs, he’s not quite confident enough to single-handedly lead this team to wins over well-balanced ranked opponents. Although the Hurricanes have a physical defense that can endure a lot of punishment, it simply will not be enough to allow the Hurricanes to sneak past the big play Hokies.
Final Score: Hokies 30 Hurricanes 21 Spread: Virginia Tech -2.5
Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies (12)
Despite being completely reliant on their elite running game led by running back Royce Freeman, the Ducks have a winning record and took care of business against a formidable Utes defense last week. However, the Ducks have not faced a defense as stingy as that of the Huskies. Giving up 20+ points only once this season, the Huskies have had their way in all of their wins with a typical margin of victory being three scores or more. On top of that, the Huskies have a highly efficient passer in Jake Browning who has completed nearly 69% of his passes this season while throwing just four interceptions. While the prolific rushing game of the Ducks could frustrate the Huskies initially, their defense is just too elite to be fooled by that type of predictability for long.
Final Score: Ducks 28 Huskies 37 Spread: Washington -25.0
Arizona Wildcats (23) vs. USC Trojans (17)
With two contrasting offensive styles in this contest, it will be compelling to see which team perseveres in what should be a high scoring affair. For the Wildcats to succeed, they will need quarterback Khalil Tate to continue to work his magic as a rusher, something that has not been a problem during the Wildcats four-game winning streak. While the Trojans have had their issues with protecting the ball in the passing game, all of that goes out the window when Sam Darnold is feeling confident. With both teams having weak defenses, this game should come down to who has the ball last. Considering how consistent and dominant the Wildcats have looked offensively, I’m giving the edge to an Arizona rushing attack that no one has been able to stop recently.
Final Score: Wildcats 42 Trojans 38 Spread: USC -7.5