With the initial College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday and the regular season nearing the end, every game matters just a little bit more. College GameDay will be in Stillwater for No. 11 Oklahoma State against No. 5 Oklahoma, but there is a plethora of other season-defining games this weekend.
No. 4 Clemson at No. 20 North Carolina State (2:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC)
Despite losing to Syracuse a few weeks ago, Clemson is looked at as a College Football Playoff contender because its several impressive wins, including against Auburn and Virginia Tech. Quarterback Kelly Bryant is back and its defense continues to play extremely well. North Carolina State might be one of the Tigers’ biggest remain challenges. Notre Dame blew out the Wolfpack last weekend, but quarterback Ryan Finley will look for a bounce-back performance.
Prediction – Clemson 27, N.C. State 23.
No. 15 Iowa State at West Virginia (2:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2)
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier had probably his worst performance of the season last weekend against Oklahoma State, throwing four interceptions, while Iowa State is having arguably its best season in program history. In October, the Cyclones upset Oklahoma in Norman and TCU in Ames, Iowa. Former quarterback, turned linebacker, Joel Lanning leads the defense and Kyle Kempt has been magical at quarterback, throwing to Allen Lazard and handing off to David Montgomery. Iowa State controls its destiny in the Big 12, so stopping the Mountaineers would be another resume-boosting win.
Prediction – Iowa State 27, West Virginia 21.
No. 19 Louisiana State at No. 2 Alabama (7 p.m., Saturday, CBS)
Alabama has been dominant this season, but it hasn’t really been tested. To the surprise of many, Georgia jumped over the Crimson Tide in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Coach Nick Saban doesn’t care about the rankings, though. He said most of this stuff is rat poison. However, the players will probably see the rankings and be increasingly motivated heading into to play against LSU. The Tigers, who lost to Troy, might be in trouble, but a win would change their season and the landscape of college football.
Prediction – Alabama 37, LSU 9.
No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 10 Miami (FL) (7 p.m., Saturday, ABC)
Miami (FL) hasn’t played impressively in a majority of its games, but it is undefeated. The Hurricanes didn’t get much love from the College Football Playoff committee, but they have an opportunity to boost their resume with their upcoming games. Playing against Virginia Tech is tough, but with Notre Dame waiting for Miami (FL) the next weekend might cause it to look past the Hokies. Virginia Tech has only lost to Clemson and its defense has played well; things might get interesting in South Beach.
Prediction – Virginia Tech 30, Miami (FL) 26.
No. 22 Arizona at No. 17 Southern California (9:45 p.m., Saturday, ESPN)
Southern California has Sam Darnold, who everyone talks about. However, Arizona might have the best quarterback no one has really talked about, Khalil Tate. Starting the season 2-2, Tate didn’t play much. He took over the starting role after a loss to Utah, and the Wildcats have won four consecutive games, including a 58-37 win against Washington State last weekend. Tate not only has 743 passing yards and six touchdowns through the air since the Utah game, but he also has 840 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Despite only really playing four games, Tate is a Heisman contender for many. In his first game as a starter, he broke the rushing record for a quarterback on the road against Colorado; he had 327 rushing yards and ran in four touchdowns. Southern California has played better since losing to Washington State, but will have to try to stop Tate. The winner will be move to first in the Pac 12 South division.
Prediction – Arizona 41, Southern California 33.