As the first three quarters of the season come to a close, there are some very interesting matchups this weekend that will impact postseason play. Is Notre Dame for real? Can Georgia avoid a hiccup against a decimated Florida team? And can Penn State cement itself atop the Big Ten with a victory on the road in the Horseshoe? It all remains to be seen, but we have an idea or two.
No. 14 NC State versus No. 9 Notre Dame
Alex: Notre Dame silenced any doubters, dominating the Trojans 49-14. With the exception of a one-point loss to Georgia, Notre Dame has been all but perfect. I like it to keep the momentum rolling against a quality Wolfpack team. The Irish narrowly win a game that will be closer than the experts predict.
Josh: Notre Dame has bounced back from its early-season loss to Georgia, and last week’s win against USC has the Fighting Irish on track for a possible playoff selection. With games remaining against Miami and Stanford, a matchup with the Wolfpack would usually be an afterthought. However, NC State is a legit contender. NC State will shut down Notre Dame’s running attack, and Ryan Finley will make a big play to his do-it-all fullback Jaylen Samuels. Wolfpack wins.
No. 11 Oklahoma State versus No. 22 West Virginia
Alex: In a win that almost wasn’t, the Cowboys got lucky on a Texas interception in overtime that sealed the game last week. The offense was held in check against an average Longhorn defense that was expected to allow many more points than it did. This week, the hometown Mountaineer crowd will be rocking and will disrupt quarterback Mason Rudolph. The Cowboys’ offense continues to sputter, and West Virginia gets an enormous win.
Josh: Oklahoma State has not looked like the top offense in the country lately. After scoring only 13 points in an overtime game in Austin, the Cowboys have a bad taste in their mouth. This will not be a repeat of a week ago. Quarterback Will Grier and the West Virginia offense will make this a shootout, but Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill, Marcell Ateman and James Washington will be too much to handle for the Mountaineers. Oklahoma State rights the ship with a road win.
No. 2 Penn State versus No. 6 Ohio State
Alex: Ohio State already lost one top 10 matchup at home this year and will do everything in its power to prevent it from happening again. However, Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley will make it extremely difficult. After dismantling Michigan a week ago, Penn State has never been hotter. It’s going to take the Buckeyes hitting on all cylinders and a couple mishaps from the Nittany Lions to pull this one out. This game is close, but Penn State pulls away at the end to stay undefeated.
Josh: For all the credit Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan defense gets, Ohio State’s is better. Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Sam Hubbard and Jerome Baker will all start on the next level. The OSU front seven will not let Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley beat it, the Horseshoe will be rocking and the Buckeyes will take control of the Big Ten Eastern division with a win.
No. 4 TCU versus No. 25 Iowa State
Alex: Iowa State has been playing well lately and has another chance to demonstrate just how good it can be against TCU. The Cyclones have already beaten the former No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners and will look to notch another top five win. Not so fast. TCU has yet to receive the national recognition it deserves, but it might after Saturday. Remaining undefeated after a rout of Iowa State, the Horned Frogs should start to show up on everyone’s radar as a serious national title contender. TCU wins big.
Josh: Miracles are happening in Ames, Iowa. The Cyclones are the Cinderella of the season, and being ranked this late in the season was on nobody’s mind in August. The Cyclones start a tough schedule stretch when the Horned Frogs come to town. This will be an atypical Big 12 game, with both teams scoring fewer than 35 points. Cyclone quarterback-turned-middle-linebacker Joel Lanning will be key to slowing down Kenny Hill and the TCU running backs, but the Horned Frogs’ athletes will be enough to win a close game on the road.