Top 10 storylines for college football Week 10

There are a few massively important games on the schedule that will have serious postseason implications during college football Week 10.

Nebraska will learn a bit more about itself in a Big Ten battle against Ohio State in Columbus. LSU will host the undefeated king of college football. In addition to this, there are more than a few games that will shape conference rankings in a huge way.

We’ll take a deeper look at these big games and more top stories for college football Week 10.

1. Huge Big Ten clash between Nebraska and Ohio State

The game of the week takes place in prime time starting at 8 p.m. ET when No. 9 Nebraska takes on No. 6 Ohio State on ABC. It’s the only game of the week that includes two top-10 teams, and it carries some serious potential conference-wide implications.

For Nebraska, a loss here coupled with a Wisconsin win against Northwestern, would mean relinquishing first place in the Big Ten West.

For Ohio State, a loss against the Cornhuskers combined with a Michigan win over Maryland (as close to a gimme as any game on the schedule), would likely mean the Buckeyes have no chance to play in the Big Ten Championship Game at the end of the season.

Tommy ArmstrongNebraska came into last weekend undefeated and played better than we expected it would against the Badgers. Unfortunately, the accuracy and decision-making issues that have plagued quarterback Tommy Armstrong were prevalent in that game, costing the ‘Huskers a chance to win.

We’re expecting more of the same in Week 10 against the Buckeyes — a team that features a dynamic pass defense that has forced 16 turnovers this year already. And if J.T. Barrett plays a bit sharper than we’ve seen the past couple of weeks as a pure passer, the game could get out of hand in favor of the home team.

That said, we shouldn’t discount Nebraska out of hand. This team has also forced 16 turnovers this year and wreaked havoc on the Badgers’ offensive line last weekend. It’s going to be a blast to watch these two powerhouses clash in Columbus Saturday night.

2. Can LSU back up big talk against ‘Bama?

College football Week 10, Jalen Hurts

The one thing you really don’t want to do when going up against a big burley bear is poke it between the eyes. That’s exactly what LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas has done, giving No. 1 Alabama some serious bulletin board material heading into this critical game for both teams.

I really see us dominating this offense,” he said. “I really see us dominating this team.”

It’s worth pointing out that LSU hasn’t won against Alabama the last five times these schools squared off. It’s also worth pointing out that Nick Saban might have the best group of talent since he arrived at Alabama.

Dominating on both sides of the ball, the Crimson Tide head into Baton Rouge Saturday night with the No. 9-ranked offense and No. 4-ranked defense in the nation. Featuring the best defensive front seven in football, Alabama should manhandle LSU’s normally potent rushing attack. And while Leonard Fournette might break off a few big gains, he’s not going to go crazy.

Last year’s game against ‘Bama spelled the beginning of the end for Fournette’s Heisman bid. He rushed for just 31 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in that game. And the scary thing is LSU’s offensive line isn’t as good this year, while Alabama’s defensive front is even better.

The Tigers might have a shot if they can ramp up their defense to shut down freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts on the ground. Playing with discipline is key, because one screw-up here is bound to turn into six points for ‘Bama’s offense.

Based on everything we’ve seen from these two teams in 2016, a blowout isn’t out of the question for Alabama, even on the road at Tiger Stadium. If LSU finds a way to win this one, however, it would be a humongous feather in the cap of interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who’s definitely auditioning for a permanent position.

3. Can Cal spoil Washington’s title run?

So far, nobody’s been able to knock No. 4 Washington off its Pac 12 perch. After enduring a trying test in Utah, winning thanks to a couple of outstanding special teams plays, the Huskies are headed to the Bay Area for a battle against the Bears.

Featuring the No. 4 offense and No. 7 defense in the nation, the Huskies don’t have any real deficiencies. After watching them wipe the floor with most of the teams in the Pac 12, it seems highly unlikely that Cal will be able to hold off Jake Browning and Co.

Dante Pettis, Washington Huskies

One of the biggest keys in the game will be whether the Bears can possibly slow down the two-headed monster that consists of running backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. These two have combined to rush for 1,370 yards and nine touchdowns. As a team, the Huskies average 5.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Cal’s defense gives up six yards per carry.

Realistically, the only way Cal can pull off the epic upset on Saturday night is if Davis Webb and Chad Hansen (returning this week after missing last week with an ankle injury) prove unstoppable through the air. The Bears have already beaten two ranked teams at home in Texas and Utah. Webb has the temperament and physical skill to have a huge game against Washington.

It’s going to be interesting to see how things shake out. It could just as easily be a blowout in favor of Washington or it could be awfully close, depending on the heat index for Webb and Hansen.

4. Penn State seeking fifth win in a row

What James Franklin has accomplished this season at Penn State is pretty darn cool. Heading into Week 10 with a 6-2 record, the Nittany Lions have a legitimate chance to finish the season with double-digit wins for the first time since 2009.

The sanctions levied against the Penn State program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal significantly impacted the school’s ability to compete at the highest level. It’s now been a couple years since the NCAA lifted the scholarship sanctions and allowed the school back into the postseason. And the results speak for themselves.

James FranklinFranklin’s huge win a couple weeks ago against Ohio State signaled perhaps the beginning of a new era of Penn State football. His players have bought into what he’s selling and have now won four games in a row after dismantling Purdue to the tune of 62-24 last weekend.

On paper, Penn State’s next opponent is the biggest challenge the rest of the way in 2016. Iowa gave both Wisconsin and Northwestern a run for their money when they clashed. Featuring defense that allows less than 19 points per game, the Hawkeyes could potentially come out of Happy Valley winners if the Nittany Lions aren’t at their best.

No wonder Franklin wants another whiteout from the home crowd Saturday.

5. Florida with stiff test on the road against Arkansas

Flying under the radar right now as a potential Playoff contender, the one-loss Florida Gators (No. 10) must continue to chop away at their upcoming SEC-heavy schedule to remain relevant.

After taking care of business last weekend at home against Georgia, the Gators will now travel west to face Arkansas. The Razorbacks were at one point among the most formidable teams in the nation before Alabama and Auburn tag-teamed to destroy their standing among the best.

Arkansas can still be quite dangerous. Though the guys in the trenches were dominated against Auburn, they held up well against Alabama for the most part defensively but just couldn’t contain Jalen Hurts.

Florida’s offense isn’t a powerhouse. The Gators win by running ball and shutting down opposing offenses with a smothering defense.

With that in mind, the outcome of this SEC slugfest will likely hinge on the play of junior quarterback Austin Allen. If he can hang tough in the pocket, play smart, controlled football and take care of the football then Arkansas has a chance to send Florida back to the Swamp with its second loss.

6. Will Baylor rebound at home against TCU?

Seth Russell

Heading into Week 9 with a No. 8 ranking and an unblemished record, the Bears (Now No. 13) were met with stiffer resistance than expected against Texas. The Longhorns ultimately won by one point in a thrilling victory for Charlie Strong and Co.

Things don’t get any easier this weekend against TCU. Despite sporting a 4-4 record, the Horned Frogs are no pushover. Just like we saw in the game against Texas when young gunslinger Shane Buechele passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 completions, TCU’s Kenny Hill could seriously be a threat this Saturday.

Hill will be especially motivated to perform at his best in this one after being benched during the team’s overtime loss to Texas Tech last weekend. Head coach Gary Patterson is not saying whether Hill or Foster Sawyer will start but seems to be leaning towards his veteran.

Both offenses should tee off on the opposing defense, so this one will be all about which offense executes the best under pressure.

Seth Russell did a fantastic job of using his legs to make plays last weekend but wasn’t particularly sharp through the air. He’ll need to be sharp in this one to ensure the Bears don’t drop their second straight game.

Should that happen, the already razor-thin hope this program has of squeezing into the College Football Playoff will circle around and then down the drain.

7. Wisconsin clinging to Big Ten championship hopes, must take down Northwestern

After taking down Nebraska in overtime last weekend, No. 8 Wisconsin has another big test ahead of it to remain relevant as a potential Big Ten championship contender. Currently tied for second place in the Big Ten West with Minnesota, Iowa and Northwestern, the Badgers (3-2 in the conference) need to finish the season without any more losses to ensure they get a shot at the title game.

Obviously, beating the Wildcats at Ryan Field Saturday will help their cause.

Northwestern isn’t as weak as its 4-4 record might suggest. The Wildcats held their own last weekend in Columbus against the Buckeyes, losing by just four points. Another effort like that one could result in an upset at home against Wisconsin.

Clayton ThorsonWildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson is starting to develop into a star. He and unheralded receiver Austin Carr have developed excellent chemistry and could be the difference in what is sure to be a defensive struggle Saturday.

On the other side, freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook hasn’t exactly been sharp on the road in big games this year. It wouldn’t be surprising if he struggles again and gives way to Bart Houston for at least part of the game. He real key for Wisconsin will be running back Corey Clement. If he has a big game, it will likely spearhead a big win for the Badgers.

8. Can Lamar Jackson keep smoking Heisman competition against BC?

Through nine weeks of college football action, No. 5 Louisville has the best player in the nation by far. Lamar Jackson is well ahead of the pack for the Heisman Trophy at this point.

Washington’s Jake Browning, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers are all great players in their own right. But none of them come close to matching what Jackson has accomplished on the field this year.

So far.

Jackson’s game-winning touchdown pass last weekend to Jaylen Smith to beat Virginia not only saved Louisville’s outside chance to make it into the College Football playoff, but it also served as another signature Heisman moment (watch here).

His past two outings have resulted in eight touchdowns and 880 yards. On the road this weekend against a pretty good Boston College defense, Jackson has a chance to pretty much seal the deal with another huge game.

Of course, the Golden Eagles will do their best to keep Jackson from embarrassing them like he’s done to almost every opponent this year. But based on how Louisville’s offense has been finding ways to get the job all year long, we’re not expecting them to succeed.

9. Clemson and Michigan can’t let off the gas pedal against weak opponents

The No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the nation have it pretty easy in Week 10 with home games against teams that, on paper, have no business hanging with them through four quarters. This is a perfect trap-game scenario for both programs.

Michigan is hosting Maryland, while Clemson will hosts Syracuse.

The Terps have unfortunately been getting gashed all year defensively, allowing almost as many yards per game as they gain. That’s a recipe for disaster against the steamroller that is Michgan’s offense. Expect Jim Harbaugh to aggressively grind Maryland into the dust as he prepares his team for a more formidable challenge next week in Iowa.

It’s been a while since Clemson had an opponent on the schedule like Syracuse. After just getting by Louisville last month, they proceeded to destroy Boston College before engaging in two extremely tight battles — both victories for the Tigers — against NC State and Florida State.

The Orange have been giving up more than 31 points and 450 yards of offense per game. This is an opportunity for Clemson to work on crisply executing basic stuff for what will be tougher challenges late in the season.

The Tigers and Wolverines should win in blowout fashion at home. But will they?

10. Tennessee in turmoil?

Butch Jones

It wasn’t long ago that the Volunteers were among the top-10 teams in the nation. They won their first five games, developing a knack for coming back in the fourth quarter, and had taken down SEC foes Florida and Georgia heading into their big matchup against Texas A&M.

As we know, the Aggies finally stole Tennessee’s late-game magic, winning 45-38 in double-overtime.

Fast forward almost a month later and the Vols still haven’t won a game. Heading into Week 10 with a 5-3 record after having just lost to South Carolina, Butch Jones’ program is unraveling fast.

This is all the more evident in light of the team’s top running back, Jalen Hurd, making the decision to stop playing this year before he transfers and potentially changes positions (more on that here).

Nobody should expect Tennessee to lose at home this weekend against Tennessee Tech. But we also shouldn’t be surprised if the Vols lose this one, either, along with another one or two more games before the season ends.

The always-run-hot head coach might have lost his locker room at this point. It’s so hard to tell how this Hurd news will affect the team as a whole. That’s why we’ll be watching the Vols with some interest this weekend.