Florida State travels to Miami in a key conference showdown.
Florida State (+6.5) at Miami
Someday soon, this might once again be one the marquee games of the season in college football. But for now, it’s just another matchup of two solid teams hoping to pick up a key win in conference play. Miami, which has won at Pitt and Clemson in consecutive weeks, is probably a bit closer to returning to elite status, but Florida State has played well over the past three weeks. After getting torched by Oklahoma for 47 points, the FSU defense has given up a total of 24 points in wins over BYU, Wake Forest and Virginia. The challenge, however, will be far more difficult this weekend.
Miami 30, Florida State 21
Michigan State (+4.5) at Michigan
For the first time since 1999 — when Nick Saban and Lloyd Carr were roaming the sidelines — both Michigan State and Michigan are undefeated heading into the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Michigan continues to be led by the brilliant play of sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, who leads the nation in rushing (181.0 ypg) and ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency. Michigan State has been rock-solid on offense this season, both in the passing game (240.4 ypg) and running attack (220.2 ypg). That type of balance should give the suspect Wolverines defense a lot of trouble, but Robinson and the Michigan offense will score enough to win.
Michigan 40, Michigan State 34
Alabama (-6.5) at South Carolina
Alabama completed an impressive two-game run by winning at Arkansas, 24–20, and dominating Florida in Tuscaloosa, 31–6. Now, the Crimson Tide must get it revved up for a third straight week as they head to South Carolina in what is shaping up to be the Gamecocks’ biggest home game in several years. This is Steve Spurrier’s best team at South Carolina, but the Gamecocks will need to pay flawlessly on offense to hang with the nation’s No. 1 team. Alabama makes very few mistakes — in all three phases — and has been especially strong on defense this season. Consider the following: They have allowed a total of 29 points against Penn State, Arkansas and Florida.
Alabama 28, South Carolina 14
LSU (+6.5) at Florida
Les Miles has to be the most embattled 5–0 coach in the history of college football. Last Saturday, the Tigers survived an historic clock management debacle to beat Tennessee 16–14 thanks in part to an even bigger blunder (if possible) by the UT coaches. Miles and his staff used the weapon of mass confusion to out-confuse the opponent — and it worked. There was nothing confusing about Florida’s loss at Alabama; the Gators simply got beat. Florida did outgain the Tide, 281 to 273, but committed four turnovers and scored only three points on four trips into the red zone. That, obviously, won’t get it done against the No. 1 team in the nation.
Florida 20, LSU 10
USC (+10) at Stanford
Stanford’s magical run ended Saturday night in Eugene with a 52–31 loss at Oregon. The Cardinal jumped out to a 21–3 lead but had no answer for the powerful Quack Attack over the final three quarters. This is still a very good team that should remain in the hunt for a Pac-10 title all season. USC is also coming off its first defeat of the year, but the Trojans, unlike the Cardinal, suffered a bad loss, at home against Washington. USC had no answer for Huskies quarterback Jake Locker, who threw for 310 yards and rushed for 110 more in UW’s 32–31 win. If the Trojans’ defense had trouble with Washington, how can we expect them to slow down Stanford?
Stanford 37, USC 24
Oregon State (+7) at Arizona
It’s the month of October, so we know Oregon State must be playing well. Dating back to 2004, the Beavers are 17–6 in October and 38–14 in October, November and December. Last Saturday, they outlasted Arizona State 31–28 in Corvallis on the strength of a 145-yard, two-touchdown performance by Jacquizz Rodgers. Undefeated and nationally ranked Arizona, also 1–0 in the Pac-10, is coming off a bye week. With a very difficult late-season schedule — Stanford, USC and Oregon await in November — the Wildcats need to take care of business at home if they want to remain a factor in the league race.
Arizona 21, Oregon State 17
Tennessee (+11) at Georgia
This has typically been one of the must-see games in the SEC over the past decade. This year, however, it’s a battle of two struggling programs that, amazingly, are a combined 0–5 in league play. Among Georgia’s many problems is an inability to run the ball with consistency. The Dawgs feature three solid tailbacks and a veteran offensive line yet rank 76th in the nation in rushing, averaging only 137.0 yards per game. Tennessee has its issues on offense, but at least the Vols have balance — they rank 78th in both rushing and passing. A key to this game will be Tennessee’s mental makeup. Can the Vols rebound emotionally after the devastating loss in Baton Rouge last week?
Georgia 24, Tennessee 14
Utah (+6) at Iowa State
The Cyclones are playing with a ton of confidence after rolling past Texas Tech, 52–38, with surprising ease last weekend. When Austen Arnaud doesn’t turn the ball over — he hasn’t thrown a pick in the last two games — good things usually happen for the Iowa State offense. Utah, however, will present a stiff challenge. The level of competition hasn’t been great — Pitt, UNLV, New Mexico and San Jose State — but the Utes rank seventh in the nation in both total defense and scoring defense. This is purely a hunch.
Iowa State 27, Utah 20
Pittsburgh (+6) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame won for the first time since opening day, beating Boston College, 31–13, in Chestnut Hill last weekend. Surprisingly, the Irish won this game on defense, limiting BC’s Montel Harris to only 28 yards on 15 attempts. With true freshman Chase Rettig starting at quarterback for the Eagles, the Irish were able to load up to stop the run and force BC to beat them through the air. Didn’t happen. Now, ND faces another run-oriented team. Expect the gameplan to be very similar — stop Dion Lewis and/or Ray Graham and make Tino Sunseri throw the ball down the field.
Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 13
Auburn (-6) at Kentucky
Kentucky’s bubble has burst a bit since the Wildcats entered SEC play. The Cats beat Louisville, Western Kentucky and Akron, winning their first three games by an average score of 44–18. In two league games, however, Kentucky has allowed 48 points (at Florida) and 42 points (at Ole Miss). This week, high-powered Auburn visits Lexington. The Tigers are a run-first team, but Cameron Newton has proven — against quality competition — that he can beat you with the pass. In fact, the junior college transfer ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency, thanks to his 10.6 yards-per-attempt average and his 12-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio.
Auburn 30, Kentucky 21
Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 39–11 overall (28–19–3 against the spread)