After last week’s chaos at the top of the rankings, college football is entering the calm before the storm. Next week is rivalry week, home to many intriguing matchups. Most of the top teams are playing warm-up games this week with an eye toward getting healthy.
No. 24 Michigan versus No. 5 Wisconsin
Alex: The first true test for Wisconsin. Up to this point in the season, the Badgers have played virtually no one. A win against Michigan would help their case for the College Football Playoff but not nearly enough to push them in. I like Wisconsin to stay undefeated in a close game at home.
Josh: The clear-cut game of the week is a chance for Wisconsin to build its playoff resume. This team is good. Its defense matches up with any offense in the country. Jonathan Taylor is the most talented freshman in the country at running back. Troy Fumagalli is an impressive safety blanket for Alex Hornibrook. Wisconsin will hold Michigan to under 150 yards of offense. Badgers win big.
No. 12 TCU versus Texas Tech
Alex: This is a game that should not be close. TCU needs a game to get back on track following its defeat in Norman a week ago, and that is exactly what it’ll get against Texas Tech. TCU wins big.
Josh: This game features two of the most different styles in the country. Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury want to spread the ball out and outscore opponents. TCU and Gary Patterson want to dominate defensively, get a lead and run the ball. Red Raider quarterback Nic Shimonek can throw the ball as well as anyone in the country, and he has a deep arsenal of receivers. TCU has already stifled an Oklahoma State offense built the same as Texas Tech. TCU will cause turnovers and win.
UCLA versus No. 11 USC
Alex: UCLA could give the Trojans a bit of a problem and should keep the game close for a while. Josh Rosen puts up big numbers, and the offense will score, but Sam Darnold and company will lead a fourth-quarter charge to seize the game and stay among the top 11 teams in the country.
Josh: Both teams are similar. Each quarterback is a franchise-reviving talent. Depth at the skill positions, however, is depleted. Neither can dominate a game defensively. The difference in this game will be which quarterback can put his team on his back through the last 10 minutes. Josh Rosen is the best pure quarterback to come through college football since Andrew Luck, but he has zero help from the rest of his offense. USC and Sam Darnold benefit from having a running back of the caliber of Ronald Jones. USC wins a close one.
Navy versus No. 8 Notre Dame
Alex: After being embarrassed a week ago in Miami, the Fighting Irish need a strong bounce-back game. Navy is talented and will make for a more formidable opponent than Notre Dame may expect. The game is close until halftime, but the Irish will break away in the second half and win by double digits.
Josh: Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has developed a nationally successful program at a service academy. Not an easy task. His triple option offense is difficult for most teams to game plan against. His teams are disciplined. The experience of defending a run-dominant week to week will benefit them against Notre Dame. When Notre Dame is forced to throw the ball, Brandon Wimbush has struggled. Navy piles onto the Fighting Irish’s struggles.