Let's look around the country and break down the best games of Week 10.
*How will Penn State bounce back from a demoralizing loss to Ohio State? (Penn State at Michigan State, Noon ET, FOX)
Man, that was a tough one for the Nittany Lions. And while Michigan State certainly isn’t Ohio State, PSU has no time to feel sorry for itself. The Spartans won’t beat themselves – especially at home.
The good news for Penn State: it can give the ball to Saquon Barkley as much as it wants, which is a low-variance strategy. There’s no such thing as “upset-proof,” but this is as close as it gets. Sure, the passing game is an integral part of the attack. But James Franklin’s most effective method is his simplest one: give it to Saquon early. Michigan State doesn’t inspire much confidence on offense. If the Nittany Lions do what they always do – score somewhere between 30 and 40 points – that should be plenty.
The Spartan defense has generally been stout this year, but it bled 39 points against a struggling Northwestern offense. If Michigan State was coming into this game with momentum, this would be a different story. But it’s not. The Nittany Lions should bounce back.
Score prediction: Penn State 31, Michigan State 21
*Which Kelly Bryant shows up for Clemson? (Clemson at N.C. State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The College Football Playoff rankings committee seems to have forgiven No. 4 Clemson for its slip-up at Syracuse. But lose at N.C. State, and the Tigers’ Playoff hopes are crushed. This is a huge game.Clemson has to like what it saw from Kelly Bryant against Georgia Tech. He was bruised and battered in the Syracuse game, but he looked like the dynamic dual threat he was earlier in the season against the Yellow Jackets, throwing for 207 yards and running for 67 more. Bryant’s legs are the key. He’s similar to Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush; he’s so-so as a pocket passer, but since he’s so fast and instinctive, he can create wide-open passing windows for himself. Bryant looked mobile against Tech, and that should carry over to N.C. State.
The Wolfpack secondary is vulnerable to big plays. It ranks 68th in the country in pass defense efficiency, surrendering 12 touchdowns and 2,113 yards through the air this season. That said, N.C. State was able to hold Wimbush in check last week. The same can’t be said for Josh Adams, who rumbled for more than 200 yards. If Bryant is the good version of himself, that will make life easy for Clemson running backs, who could be in for a monster day.
Score prediction: Clemson 28, N.C. State 21
*Can Oklahoma’s secondary hold up against Mason Rudolph and James Washington? (Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 4 p.m. ET, FS1)
The Oklahoma defense has struggled this season. It’s allowed at least 24 points in every Big 12 game it’s played, including 38 to Iowa State, 41 to Baylor and 35 to Kansas State.
With that said, the Sooners held up relatively well against high-flying Texas Tech, keeping the Red Raiders to 27 points. And they stifled J.T. Barrett earlier this season.
But Rudolph, Washington and the Cowboys present the toughest challenge yet, and the game is in Stillwater. Rudolph has 22 TD passes to five interceptions on the year and is throwing for a whopping 10.4 yards per attempt. Anything above eight is solid; Rudolph has been phenomenal. Washington might be the fastest man in America, and the Pokes are loaded at every skill positon.
The Sooners have a pretty good quarterback of their own in Baker Mayfield. OU doesn’t need to shut down Oklahoma State. But it can’t allow, like, 40 points. Keep the Cowboys in that 30 range, and Mayfield and the offense should be in good shape.
Oklahoma still needs to prove it can do that in conference play, though, especially against an offense this talented. Home-field advantage should play a role here, as well.
Score prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35
*Can LSU run on Alabama’s stout defensive line? (LSU at Alabama, 8 p.m. ET, CBS)
To be blunt, the answer is…. probably not. But LSU will have to give it a go anyway, because its passing game is not up to snuff. Derrius Guice is the best player on the team – he ran for 276 yards in his last game against Ole Miss. If there are holes in the Alabama defense, they will be tiny. But if anyone can squeeze through them and make guys miss, it’s Guice.The Crimson Tide have allowed under four yards per play this season and eight touchdowns in eight games. That sub-four yards per play number is absurd, by the way. For most offenses, averaging four yards per rush isn’t good enough. That stat includes passes, where you’re hoping to crack about eight yards per attempt.
The LSU-Alabama game is usually ugly, and the Crimson Tide usually prevail. That said, the Tigers want an ugly game. It’s their only shot to win. Guice will be the best running back on the field; they have that going for them.
But in the end, Alabama is likely too technically sound, hungry and mean for LSU to gain much traction.
Score prediction: Alabama 30, LSU 10
*How will the Hurricanes respond to their toughest test yet? (Virginia Tech at Miami (Fla.), 8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Much has been made about Miami’s underwhelming schedule to date. The committee is clearly paying attention to it; the Hurricanes were ranked 10th in the initial release.
They have a chance to notch what would easily be their best win yet, but Virginia Tech is for real. Justin Fuente has the ship going in the right direction; the Hokies have allowed just 10 points in their last two games and 20 in their last three. The Hurricanes could only manage 24 points against North Carolina. The Virginia Tech defense is leaps and bounds better than North Carolina’s.
Miami fans have to hope that their squad enjoys playing to its competition level. It’s possible. The Hurricanes aren’t some scrappy overachievers – they have serious talent. They just haven’t established consistency.
It’s funny how we talk about an undefeated team with such a dreary tone. That’s why this game is so important. The Hurricanes have a chance to validate what they’ve done all season on Saturday.
But sometimes, it just comes down to this: if you’ve watched both teams play all season, who do you think is better? Based on what we’ve seen thus far, the answer is clear.
Score prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Miami 27
Wisconsin 21, Indiana 14 (Noon ET, ABC)
Stanford 30, Washington State 27 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
TCU 24, Texas 18 (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Washington 42, Oregon 24 (10 p.m. ET, FS1)
USC 33, Stanford 26 (10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)