2:30 PM ET - #12 Syracuse at #3 Notre Dame on NBC - Will the Fighting Irish remain perfect or will the Orange knock them off?
Notre Dame is 10-0 right now and Syracuse is practically the last chance anyone has at ruining their perfect season. If the Irish cruise past the Orange, then it sets up a “win and your in” the following week at USC. Syracuse is one of the more high-powered offenses in college football. The Irish are currently one of the best defenses in the country and that’s where this game will rest:
Notre Dame’s defense is #3 in the country in S&P+, #15 in defensive efficiency according to ESPN.com, #15 in scoring, #24 in total defense, #6 in pass efficiency defense, and #32 in red zone defense. Meanwhile, the Orange offense comes in at #14 in total offense, #7 in points per game, #27 in rushing, and #36 in passing.
The Orange have faced just two top-50 S&P+ defenses on the season (Clemson and Florida State), scoring roughly 18 points per game below their season average in those games (26.5 ppg). Hell, even if you look at games against top-80 defenses (add in Pittsburgh and NC State), the Orange still scored roughly 9 points below their season average of 44.4, averaging 35.3 ppg against those 4 opponents.
What to expect: The Irish have had people calling for upsets every week and they keep rolling on the “Win Train”. They remain perfect this week with a decisive 14-point victory.
3:30 PM ET - #9 West Virginia at Oklahoma State on ABC - OK State upset Texas & almost got the Sooners, do they have one more upset in them?
The BIG 12 is getting really interesting with four teams still in the title mix. The Cowboys aren’t one of them but they do have an opportunity to ruin the Mountaineers’ path to glory. Will Grier has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country but don’t count out the Cowboys offense that fell to the Sooners in a 48-47 shootout. In order to get this upset, Mike Gundy will need to keep taking risks because a man with nothing to lose is a dangerous man:
1. Coach Aggressive
This is actually something Mike Gundy and his staff did really well against OU. I know the post is titled “3 things to improve on, however, this is going to be the key to winning on Saturday. If Gundy coaches a mostly conservative football game, the Cowboys won’t be able to keep up with West Virginia. The coaching staff will have to throw the kitchen sink at this game.
What to expect: West Virginia just hasn’t kept it together away from home. The Mountaineers defense allows less than 14 points at home but cedes 30 on the road. The Cowboys will get this win in Stillwater and adding more fuel on the BIG 12 picture.
8 PM ET - #24 Cincinnati at #11 UCF on ABC - The Knights are playing in prime time, can their defense keep the Bearcats at bay?
The Knights are just built for dominance in their conference and that’s exactly what they have done this season. The only team that kept it close was Memphis but the Knights prevailed with a one-point victory. Last year, UCF destroyed Cincinnati 51-23 but these Bearcats are different and “revenge” is the only thing on their minds:
Cincinnati is a good team and much better than the one that lost 51-23 to UCF a year ago. The Bearcats can defend really well and actually have a vision on offense and the players to execute. Picking them to win this game wouldn’t be an entirely biased selection, just a predominantly biased one. The Knights have been winning and by a lot for nearly two-straight seasons. They’re also at home, where they haven’t lost since Nov. 19, 2016. The Knights are the safer pick. So the objective pick is UCF 38 Cincinnati 24
However, playing it safe will not win this game for the Bearcats. If I must lead by example, so be it. Cincinnati 35 UCF 34
What to expect: It’s taken a while for the spotlight to reach Central Florida and they’ll be ready for this one. The Knights are just so good on both sides of the ball, they win by two scores.
8 PM ET - #16 Iowa State at #15 Texas on ESPN- Just when you thought they were out, the BIG 12 pulled them back in!
We alluded to it earlier but it’s no longer a forgone conclusion that OU will face West Virginia in the conference title game. Not with Texas and Iowa State only one game back of the leaders. A month ago, the Cyclones rocked the Mountaineers 30-14 and a week prior to that game, the Longhorns outlasted OU in the Red River Rivalry. These two teams are eerily similar to each other on on both sides of the ball. Iowa State has won five straight games since Brock Purdy took over at quarterback. On the other side, Texas has a good gunslinger too, Sam Ehlinger has ignited Tom Herman’s offense into one with a bright future.
The good news for Texas is many more times than not, Sam Ehlinger has been the best quarterback on the field, and the much-improved offensive has afforded the sophomore the time to find his own crop of high-caliber receivers. Elite Iowa State defense or otherwise, Texas will quite likely find ways to put points up. Unlike in the losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia, though, can the defense come up with enough stops to slow another (suddenly) potent Iowa State offense?
After struggling so mightily as of late, the Texas secondary will finally be healthy, and that health, along with an efficient Ehlinger-led offense, lifts Texas to 8-3 on Senior Night.
What to expect: Nobody wants to play the Cyclones right now but let’s not act as if they are ‘Bama by any means. Though Iowa State’s defense is pretty good, Texas will find the will to win a close one Saturday night.
You can find the full slate of college football games right here.