Two of the top four teams square off this Saturday…
The 2018 college football season is flying by, and Week 10 essentially presents the top of the final stretch.
This Tuesday saw the initial release of the College Football Playoff rankings, and with it came a clearer landscape of the NCAA gridiron’s postseason picture.
Two of the top four teams square off this Saturday to headline the most compelling matchups on the schedule.
Read on for more on that tilt and the other duels that’ll be most exciting to watch.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 3 LSU
The Crimson Tide are coming off a bye, which will make the road trip to Baton Rouge more manageable. However, this is indubitably the toughest test Alabama has faced all year.
Between linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams, LSU boasts two legitimate top-10 NFL Draft prospects. Unfortunately, White is out for the first half due to a targeting penalty, which could have a huge impact.
White can drop in coverage, blitz, help stifle the Tide’s rushing attack and also spy Heisman Trophy front-runner Tua Tagovailoa. White’s absence from the field could allow the visitors to get off to a hot start. Alabama has proven too strong and skilled for anyone this season, and the Tigers should be no exception despite the home-field edge.
No. 13 West Virginia at No. 17 Texas
After an upset loss at Iowa State, quarterback Will Grier and the Mountaineers let some hate out on Baylor last week in a 58-14 win. That gives West Virginia some hope it won’t drop two straight on the road.
Texas had a six-game winning streak before a stunning loss to unranked Oklahoma State last weekend. Nevertheless, sophomore Sam Ehlinger has taken a huge step forward, throwing 13 touchdowns to only two interceptions this year.
Ehlinger is dealing with a sprained right throwing shoulder, though. The ailing limb may have contributed to his completing only 22 of 42 passes in Week 9.
These teams are still tied with Oklahoma atop the Big 12, so this clash has huge implications for the conference championship picture.
No. 6 Georgia at No. 9 Kentucky
The Bulldogs’ bounce-back victory over Florida in Week 9 was massive. Now they’ll have to gear up for another physical battle against an upstart Wildcats program, who’s still on the fringe of the playoff conversation.
Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift are a formidable backfield duo for Georgia and provide plenty of balance to the offense led by quarterback Jake Fromm.
Kentucky can’t rely on a passing game as much, needing to feed workhorse tailback Benny Snell Jr. and unleash signal-caller Terry Wilson often as a ball-carrier against top-tier opponents.
It’s a make-or-break game for both teams. The Wildcats’ inability to pass well and the Bulldogs’ superior overall talent will travel well and in all likelihood result in a decisive triumph.
No. 7 Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Stumbles from other teams have the Sooners sitting pretty for a one-loss team in the initial CFP hierarchy. The Kyler Murray-led offense is incredible, averaging 53.5 points in the past four games. Murray may well give Tagovailoa a run for the Heisman after all.
The Red Raiders just got clipped by Iowa State 40-31 on the road, yet also have an explosive attack, particularly through the air. But in order for the hosts to have a shot at upsetting Oklahoma, signal-caller Alan Bowman must take care of the ball.
Bowman threw three interceptions last week and can’t give the Sooners any short fields. Texas Tech’s defense has tended to struggle versus quality opponents this year and this instance likely won’t be an exception.
No. 4 Notre Dame at Northwestern
With all the upsets that happen across college football, it’s time to put the Fighting Irish on alert.
Being on the road isn’t necessarily a problem for Notre Dame, considering four of its five home wins have been by eight points or fewer. With the exception of Michigan in Week 1, those opponents were unranked.
But Northwestern is a scrappy bunch of disciplined, hard-nosed players who are coming off a momentous victory over Wisconsin. The Wildcats’ defense lacks the NFL-caliber talent of the Irish, though, and quarterback Clayton Thorson continues to be turnover-prone.
Thorson threw three picks versus Wisconsin and has an even 10-to-10 ratio of touchdowns and interceptions in 2018. That should allow Notre Dame to escape with a win in a low-scoring, throwback clash.
Drew Lock vs. Florida secondary
Missouri’s quarterback has a lot to prove against a hungry Gators group. Lock has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions in four SEC starts, completing less than 50 percent of his passes in those contests.
Florida ranks No. 11 in the first CFP rankings after losing to Georgia. Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham loves to dial up pressure. That puts the onus on his precocious secondary to get the job done.
True freshman corner Trey Dean has the swagger-talent blend needed to be next big star in the Gators’ defensive backfield. Florida features starters at the top two cornerback and safety spots who are sophomores or younger. They allow only 160 yards per game through the air, so, so far, so good.
Devin Bush vs. Trace McSorley
The Michigan linebacker and Penn State quarterback are unquestioned leaders on their sides of the ball for the fifth-ranked Wolverines and No. 14 Nittany Lions respectively.
McSorley is a wily, gifted scrambler. He can extend plays with his feet and pick up huge chunks of yardage on the ground. However, he’s facing a beast in Bush who is among the fastest linebackers in the country. Bush can keep an eye on McSorley and even catch him off-guard with an explosive blitz.
There’s sure to be some strategy at the line of scrimmage, too. McSorley will be communicating with his players through tons of crowd noise, while Bush helps his men adjust.
The quicker mind in critical situations between these two will go a long way in deciding their Big Ten showdown.
Stanford defensive line vs. Washington defensive line
These preseason-ranked teams are outside the top 25, jockeying for position in the Pac-12 North division race. They both boast dynamic running backs: Stanford’s Bryce Love and Washington’s Myles Gaskin.
The latter was out last Saturday, which cost Washington in a 12-10 loss to California. How the men in the trenches trying to stop him and his counterpart will largely determine the outcome.
Football Outsiders’ defensive line data shows Washington ranks No. 106 in line yards per carry and No. 117 in stuff rate. Stanford is 92nd and 108th in those categories respectively.
This means both units consistently give up chunk plays on the ground and don’t have enough splash plays that stop runners before or at the line of scrimmage. Love and Gaskin should both run wild on Saturday at Husky Stadium.