The College Football Playoff picture is starting to get some clarity, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.
The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:
Washington at Stanford
Stanford is averaging 48.5 points per game in Pac-12 play, including more than 50 points at home the last two weeks. The Cardinal’s 16-6 loss to Northwestern in the opener appears to be an aberration as Stanford has the look of a national title contender. Washington is getting better, particularly on defense where the Huskies are averaging 10 tackles for a loss per game in Pac-12 play. The Huskies, though, don’t have the offense to hang with Stanford.
Fox’s prediction: Stanford 42-20
Washington State at Arizona
Time to start taking Wazzu a little more seriously. The Cougars lost to Portland State in the opener, but they swept the Oregon schools the last two weeks and had a third-quarter lead against Cal on the road three weeks ago. Arizona is still without linebacker Scooby Wright, and running back Nick Wilson didn’t play in a close call with Colorado. With Washington State’s passing game behind Luke Falk and Arizona’s offense, this should be a wild one.
Fox’s prediction: Washington State 49-41
Utah at USC
Utah is undefeated, but we’re skeptical about the Utes. Utah ranks 70th in total offense and 50th in total defense. The Utes dodged Cal by six points and beat Arizona State in a 34-18 victory that was closer than the final score indicates. Despite the turmoil in Los Angeles, USC held its own for a time against Notre Dame, but ultimately the Trojans’ inability to stop the run caught up with them. Utah will use the same strategy with Devontae Booker.
Fox’s prediction: USC 31-28
Tennessee at Alabama
Tennessee saved its season two weeks ago with a win over Georgia, but Alabama is quickly rounding into form as the class of the SEC. The Volunteers have allowed more than five yards per carry in each of the last two games, which isn’t a great trend ahead of a matchup with Derrick Henry. The Tide have a stifling run defense this season, meaning Josh Dobbs may need to hit some plays downfield for Tennessee to stay competitive.
Fox’s prediction: Alabama 41-28
Kentucky at Mississippi State
Every Kentucky game has been decided by one score, and the margin of error for Mississippi State is pretty slim. In other words, expect another close one. The Bulldogs, though, have Dak Prescott. He’s arguably the SEC’s MVP as Mississippi State is likely going to make a bowl game despite not having anything in the way of offense beyond Prescott.
Fox’s prediction: Mississippi State 31-28
Clemson at Miami
A case could be made that Clemson is the top team in the country right now. The Tigers’ 34-17 win over Boston College shouldn’t be overlooked — Clemson averaged 6.8 yards per play against an Eagles team that hadn’t allowed more than 3.8 in a game all season. Meanwhile, only one team, Notre Dame, has topped 300 total yards against the Tigers.
Fox’s prediction: Clemson 38-21
Iowa State at Baylor
Iowa State has faced Texas Tech and TCU the last two weeks, allowing 959 combined passing yards and 10 touchdowns. The Cyclones might not have much left for Baylor, which isn’t an ideal situation.
Fox’s prediction: Baylor 66-21
Missouri at Vanderbilt
It’s probably best to just avoid this game. Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary has thrown five interceptions the last two weeks, and Missouri has failed to score a touchdown each of the last two weeks. Both teams have good defenses … so take the under.
Fox’s prediction: Missouri 10-7
Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Pitt is quietly getting into the ACC race thanks to three straight one-score wins over underachieving Virginia Tech, Virginia and Georgia Tech. Pitt, which ranks seventh in the ACC in offensive and defensive yards per play, is doing just enough get by. That should be enough to beat a Syracuse team that’s lost three in a row.
Fox’s prediction: Pittsburgh 28-17
Kansas State at Texas
Who knows what we’re going to get out of either team. The same Texas team that lost 50-7 to TCU ran all over Oklahoma in a 24-17 win. And the same Kansas State team that put a scare into TCU lost 55-0 to Oklahoma. Kansas State has Texas’ number (6-1 vs. the Longhorns since 2006), but Charlie Strong is on the verge of turning the Longhorns around while Kansas State is still patching things together at quarterback.
Fox’s prediction: Texas 28-21
Indiana at Michigan State
Everyone has seen Michigan State’s unlikely win over Michigan, but few probably watched Indiana’s collapse against Rutgers as the Scarlet Knights scored the final 28 points in a 55-52 win. The Spartans already have a talent edge, and they’re the ones riding the momentum of a wild win. That said, Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld should be able to test a Michigan State secondary thinned by injuries.
Fox’s prediction: Michigan State 49-31
Western Kentucky at LSU
LSU’s run of good fortune in facing backup quarterbacks comes to an end in a big way. The Tigers haven’t faced a team’s No. 1 quarterback since Week 2 against Auburn, and even that comes with a caveat since Auburn soon benched then-starter Jeremy Johnson. That means LSU has truly faced just one No. 1 quarterback this season, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty is one of the nation’s most productive QBs, leading the Hilltoppers to at least 500 yards in all but one game this season. LSU has to be on guard.
Fox’s prediction: LSU 35-28
Texas A&M at Ole Miss
Both teams need a win, badly. Texas A&M hardly looked like a playoff contender in the loss to Alabama, and Ole Miss’ win over Alabama now seems like a distant memory. The Rebels will get a big leg up when offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil returns, just in time for a matchup with Myles Garrett. The focus, though, needs to be on the quarterbacks. Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly has thrown six interceptions in four games since the win over Bama while Kyle Allen threw three interceptions against the Tide. The difference is that Texas A&M has a plan B in Kyler Murray.
Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 42-35
Auburn at Arkansas
Auburn’s quarterback change from Jeremy Johnson to Sean White stopped the bleeding from a turnover standpoint, but Tigers still can’t stop the run. That’s not a good trend ahead of facing Arkansas. The Hogs managed just 44 rushing yards against Alabama, but that’s more a reflection of the Tide than Arkansas.
Fox’s prediction: Arkansas 35-24
Duke at Virginia Tech
This has been a season to forget for the Hokies, but things may be turning for Virginia Tech this week. Michael Brewer will return at quarterback after missing the last six games with a broken collarbone. Virginia Tech needs a spark in a big way, and that may be it.
Fox’s prediction: Virginia Tech 21-13
Northwestern at Nebraska
The Wildcats are close to closing the door on their dream season. Northwestern’s offense has been nothing short of inept the last two weeks, and even the Wildcats’ stout defense is starting to fail them. Michigan and Iowa rushed for a combined 495 yards and eight touchdowns against Northwestern. Nebraska has had its issues this season, but the Cornhuskers have a solid run game. As long as Tommy Armstrong avoids major mistakes, Nebraska should have the upper hand.
Fox’s prediction: Nebraska 35-10
Florida State at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech’s run game got back on track against Pittsburgh with 376 yards and 9.4 per carry, but the Yellow Jackets still lost. Florida State isn’t dominating, but the Seminoles are the most turnover-averse team in the country.
Fox’s prediction: Florida State 31-21
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Psst. Texas Tech is better than you think. The Red Raiders are plus-six in turnover margin and second in the Big 12 in takeaways. The Red Raiders still can’t stop the run, but Oklahoma — despite having Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon — prefers to air it out. This game has high shootout potential with former Red Raiders quarterback Baker Mayfield having the advantage for OU.
Fox’s prediction: Oklahoma 49-35
Wisconsin at Illinois
Wisconsin is patching together a successful season despite below average production from its offensive line and run game. Credit the passing attack and a stingy defense.
Fox’s prediction: Wisconsin 28-14
Ohio State at Rutgers
The return of Leonte Carroo has jumpstarted the Rutgers offense, but the Scarlet Knights are still lacking in so many other areas. All signs point to J.T. Barrett taking the first snaps for Ohio State, and if the Buckeyes are approaching their potential, this won’t be a contest.
Fox’s prediction: Ohio State 49-21
Last week: 12-8
Season to date: 104-36