NCAA Football Predictions: Week 10 Opening Line Report and Picks
It's going to be an excellent Halloween night in the sports world. We've got Game 6 of the World Series back in Los Angeles, with the Astros able to win their first title in franchise history. In the NBA, a sweet matchup between reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook of the Thunder and the current favorite for that award in Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo. There's your typical NHL schedule, and now that we are already into Week 10 we have MACtion! That's Mid-American Conference weeknight football, with two games on Tuesday.
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But the most important thing on the schedule to many will be the release of the first College Football Playoff Top 25. Not only will those rankings decide which four teams play in the national semifinals but also which other schools fill out the New Year's Six bowls. Kudos to that committee waiting so deep into the season before releasing the poll - and kudos for essentially rendering the AP and USA Today Coaches polls irrelevant. The voters in both of those generally have agendas.
It's all but a lock that Alabama and Georgia will be ranked Nos. 1-2 CFP Top 25 just as they are in both polls - the Dawgs are as high as No. 2 for the first time since 2008. It's the 20th time in the past 30 seasons the SEC has held the top 2 spots in the AP Poll in the same week. All other FBS conferences have combined for nine weeks. It's the 99th week that Alabama is ranked No. 1, breaking a tie with Notre Dame for the third-most appearances in the top spot in AP Poll history, behind Ohio State (105 times) and Oklahoma (101 times).
The next two spots are where it should get interesting. Ohio State is third in both polls but already lost at home to Oklahoma (No. 8 in the AP poll). Wisconsin is fourth in both polls and unbeaten but has played a laughably easy schedule. There's not a single team currently ranked on UW's entire slate - Michigan might be when the Badgers host the Wolverines on Nov. 18. Wisconsin avoids Ohio State and Penn State from the Big Ten East but likely will face the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game after OSU's thrilling comeback win over the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
I plan to address Florida's firing of Jim McElwain in Friday's NCAA news update story. I'm presuming a site or two will be offering props on the next Gators coach by then.Week 10 is arguably the best of the regular season in terms of matchups. I can't possibly list them all here so will touch on some games Friday like Bedlam and Alabama-LSU. Here are a few opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted.
Northern Illinois at Toledo (-9.5): No Power 5 conference games on Thursday, but this one is intriguing on ESPNU. The winner most likely will represent the MAC West Division in the conference title game - and be favored to win that regardless of opponent. The Huskies and Rockets are the only two MAC teams without a conference loss. Northern Illinois perhaps was looking ahead to this one as it escaped a bad Eastern Michigan team 30-27 in overtime last Thursday night. NIU was down 24-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Toledo also played Thursday last week and stomped Ball State 58-17. The Rockets rushed for a season-high 335 yards. Quarterback Logan Woodside, probably the best in the conference, threw for 267 yards and three scores. The Rockets beat NIU last year, 31-24, in a game played at Guarantee Rate Field (home of the White Sox) in Chicago.The Pick: Toledo.
No. 3 Ohio State at Iowa (+16.5): The smells like a sandwich game for the Buckeyes off that incredible win 39-38 win over Penn State (frankly, probably the best thing that could have happened to the Big Ten, which could get both OSU and PSU into the playoff if they win out). J.T. Barrett catapulted himself back into the Heisman race by completing 33 of 39 for 328 yards and four scores while rushing for 95 yards. In the fourth quarter, he was 13-for-13 for 170 yards and three of those touchdowns. I still don't understand how pollsters can rank Ohio State over Oklahoma, but what do I know? Perhaps I should predict a 17-10 score here. Three of Iowa's games have ended that way, including the past two. The Hawkeyes beat visiting Minnesota by that score on Saturday. You might be able to beat the Gophers going 3-for-14 on third down and with two turnovers, but you won't beat the Buckeyes that way. Ohio State has won five straight in this series, but they haven't played since 2013. They last faced off in Iowa City in 2010. The Pick: Iowa.
No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 9 Miami (+2.5): This is the ABC Saturday night game, and the winner here probably takes the Coastal Division and plays Clemson in the ACC title game - which Miami has never reached. Virginia Tech warmed up with a 24-3 win over Duke, holding the Blue Devils to just 183 yards. I'm not sure if Miami is good or lucky or parts of both. The Hurricanes barely escaped an awful North Carolina team 24-19 on Saturday in Chapel Hill. Malik Rosier threw for a career-high 356 yards with three touchdowns but really wasn't all that sharp in completing 16 of 38. The Hokies routed the visiting Canes 37-16 last season behind two TD passes and a TD run from Jerod Evans - who stupidly declared for the NFL draft after the season and wasn't taken. Brad Kaaya threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns in a loss. Kaaya, who also should have stayed in school, was sacked eight times. The Canes would lose again the following week at Notre Dame and haven't tasted defeat since. The Pick: Virginia Tech.
No. 18 Stanford at No. 25 Washington State (-2): Big one in the Pac-12 North as the Cardinal and Washington each have one conference loss and the Cougars two. The Cardinal host the Huskies on Nov. 10, while Wazzu goes to Seattle in the annual regular-season finale Apple Cup. Stanford was without Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love last Thursday (ankle injury), and the nation's leading rusher was sorely missed in a 15-14 win. Keller Chryst threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside with 20 seconds left. The Cardinal were held to 222 yards and 81 on the ground. So in a way, that might have helped Love's Heisman case. I'd bet anything he's playing in this one. Washington State lost 58-37 at resurgent Arizona on Saturday. Mike Leach pulled struggling star QB Luke Falk late in the first half and his replacement, Tyler Hilinski, threw for 509 yards and two scores but was picked off four times. I'm sure it will be Falk starting here. Washington State crushed Stanford on the Farm last year, 42-16. Falk threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns. The Cougars completely shut down Christian McCaffrey. The Pick: Wazzu.
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