The weekend is loaded with top 25 clashes and games that could take an early toll on the college football playoff landscape. Plenty of teams have the opportunity to take control of a conference and determine their own destiny by week four.
It is the perfect weekend to remind the wife and kids how much attention you gave them in week two before telling them to leave you alone, giving your undivided attention to 12 hours of captivating football. These are the cream of the crop.
My Record: 14-6
5 - (19) Oregon Ducks vs. (24) California Golden Bears - Cal the three-point favorite
Justin Herbert and the Ducks need to bounce back, following a fumbling and stumbling into overtime loss at home, now hitting the road against one of the surprise teams in the PAC-12. The 3-0 Cal team has been impressive defensively, allowing just 19.3 points per game on average and ranking 6th in the country with 907 total yards allowed in 2018.
The Cal defense will look to ground Herbert and the Ducks offense, giving up an average of 5.2 yards per passing attempt headed into Saturday. They will likely look at the trouble the Ducks have against press coverage on the outside, playing their corners up tight to the line of scrimmage and filling the middle of the field, daring Herbert to throw to tight windows on plays that take time to develop.
A low scoring affair is the best case scenario for Cal, giving them control of the pace. Cal cornerbacks Camryn Bynum and Elijah Hicks need to win their man to man battles on the outside.
Prediction: Cal wins 21-16
4 - Ole’ Miss Rebels vs. (5) LSU Tigers - LSU the 11.5 point favorite
This is a huge opportunity Rebels quarterback Jordan Ta’amu to bounce back against a significant opponent after getting smoked by Alabama. The Rebels offense boasts an exciting core of receivers, led by A.J. Brown and D. K. Metcalf, both already topping 300 receiving yards through four weeks. Ta’amu and the Rebels have a chance to flip the narrative of this team by playing with the Tigers.
Unfortunately for Ole’ Miss, this will be the first time this season LSU’s vaunted defense will play a power-five team at home, and Death Valley will be looking for blood. Corner Andraez “Greedy” Williams will pester receivers and lull Ta’amu into some misguided throws. Linebacker Devin White has 38 tackles and will blow up the Rebels line, a group that has allowed nine sacks.
This defense has chewed up teams all season; it will not stop here. The same problems Ole’ Miss had against Alabama (protecting the passer, running the ball, finding a rhythm) will be their problems here.
Prediction: LSU wins 31-16
3 - (12) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (25) Texas Tech Red Raiders - West Virginia the 3.5 point favorite
In a game that features two high powered offenses, it all comes down to which defense can make one play. Texas Tech averages 52 points every outing while West Virginia puts up 42. So which team has a player (or players) on defense who can change the game? In a high scoring affair, it will take only one or two to make all the difference.
The Red Raiders cornerback Adrian Frye has recorded three picks and five pass breakups (leads both categories on the team), already proving he can make the game-changing play. In the front seven, linebacker Dakota Allen leads the team with 25 tackles and is a fearsome against opposing running backs. Behind Allen, the Red Raiders can make Will Grier and West Virginia’s offense one-dimensional.
Prediction: Texas Tech wins 41-37
2 - (7) Stanford Cardinal vs. (8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Notre Dame the 5.5 point favorite
The Cardinal showed a lot of grit on both sides of the ball, completing the biggest comeback in head coach David Shaw’s tenure, surpassing a 24-7 deficit to beat the Oregon Ducks on the road.
On the road against another ranked opponent, the Cardinal will look to force mistakes out of quarterback Ian Book. Book started for the first time this season last weekend against Wake Forest, leading to the team to 56 points and their smoothest offensive outing.
Facing his first real defense, Book and the Notre Dame offense will likely try to get him quick, easy completions on simple routes like slants or short outs. Stanford needs to get the Fighting Irish behind the sticks, forcing Book to throw deep, a place he is shaky at best.
The veteran-laden secondary is what gives K.J. Costello and company plenty of extra chances on offense.
Prediction: Stanford wins 33-24
1 - (4) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (9) Penn State Nittany Lions - Ohio State the 3.5 point favorite
The whiteout game Penn State holds when the Buckeyes come to town has been host to some thrillers; most recently when the Nittany Lions knocked off the Buckeyes 24-21 in 2016.
Now the stakes are higher, as Ohio State tries to keep their spot in the top four, while Penn State tries to push into the playoff field. A loss here would also go a long way in deciding which of these teams represents the East in the Big Ten title game.
It boils down to quarterback Trace McSorley duking it out with the Buckeyes intimidating front (which has 10 sacks without Nick Bosa). But Penn State can get the ball out of McSorley’s hands quickly, thanks to a loaded receiving corps with four pass catches who have already topped 100 yards.
Plenty of options to pass to and running back Miles Sanders playing lights out make this offense the most menacing in the Big Ten. This will be the most complete offense to attack the Ohio State defense, kicking them back on their heels. Expect the whiteout crowd to get precisely what they want.
Prediction: Penn State wins 27-21