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Top storylines ahead of pivotal college football Week 10

Jesse Reed
Scott Clause/The Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports

Last week 11 ranked teams fell by the wayside…

Scott Clause/The Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was crazy, as 11 ranked teams fell by the wayside to shake up the rankings in a major way heading into college football Week 10.

It’s not inconceivable that we’ll witness many more major upsets this weekend. The matchups on the Week 10 schedule are amazing, and lend themselves to big-time statement games.

These are the biggest storylines we’re looking at this weekend.


UCF tries to maintain perfection

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Instead of watching two of the NFL’s bottom feeders slug it out on “Thursday Night Football,” you might consider flipping the channel to ESPN. The UCF Knights will be hosting Temple in their bid to remain perfect and vie for a playoff berth.

UCF hasn’t lost in 20 straight games. This year, the Knights have only really been challenged once. Memphis gave them a scare, but in the end McKenzie Milton willed his team to the narrowest of victories.

Temple stands in the way of continued perfection Thursday night. The Owls feature a solid defense, a three-game winning streak and a perfect conference record. Will they be able to pull off the upset, or will UCF continue to roll?


Can Virginia continue to stay atop ACC Coastal?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

With roughly a month left in the season, Virginia has climbed to the top of the ACC Coastal division. The Cavaliers recently knocked off Miami in stunning fashion along the way and appear to be peaking at just the right time to make a late-season surge.

This Friday night they’ll be at home against Pittsburgh. The Panthers are a gritty squad that’s recently knocked off Syracuse and nearly pulled off an upset over Notre Dame.

If Virginia can shut down Qadree Ollison and get Jordan Ellis going on the ground against Pitt’s poor run defense, this game should be theirs for the taking.


Clemson’s favored to win by how much?

Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to understand why Clemson is favored to beat Lousville by multiple touchdowns on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. After all, The Tigers are destroying their competition of late — playing an outstanding brand of football on both sides of the ball — while the Cardinals seem to pretty much lay down and die every week.

However, the spread for this ACC matchup is still a sight to behold. Clemson is favored to win by a staggering 39 points — THIRTY NINE!

For what it’s worth for all of you out there who care about the spread, Clemson is 4-4 against it this year, while Louisville is 1-7.

It’s also worth wondering how long we’ll see Trevor Lawrence and the first-string offense on the field this Saturday. The Tigers have Boston College coming up next, and Dabo Swinney would be smart to treat this weekend as an opportunity to rest some of his key guys.


You almost want to feel bad for Nebraska

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the season with six straight losses, Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers are skipping into Week 10 with two straight victories under their belt. That’s awesome.

Unfortunately for Nebraska, the good vibes don’t figure to resonate past Saturday afternoon due to a date with Ohio State. The Buckeyes come into this game with revenge on their mind. They would love to take it out on Purdue, but they’ll just as happily vent their rage on Nebraska, which honestly has like a .0027 percent chance of pulling off an upset.

Ohio State lacked focus and was all finesse in its upset, blowout loss to the Boilermakers two weeks back. After a bye to let the wound to their pride fester to a head, a new level of aggression should be on the menu against the poor Huskers.


Aggies and Tigers fighting for relevance

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Texas A&M and Auburn enter college football Week 10 with similar records — both are 5-3, while the Aggies have a one-game edge in conference play. But in terms of optics and expectations, they are trending in opposite directions.

Both programs are fighting for relevance. But Jimbo Fisher has already brought a new fire to his program in his first year, while Gus Malzahn is fighting an uphill battle to keep his job, despite the gargantuan salary still owed to him in coming years.

It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens when these two teams meet at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday. Auburn’s offense has been really bad for much of the year, while Texas A&M has quite a stout defense. A betting man might conclude that the Tigers are going to get run out of their own stadium.


Statement time for Kentucky 

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The Wildcats’ run of gutty wins has been one of the feel-good stories of college football this year. To this point, Kentucky has lost just one game — an overtime heart breaker to Texas A&M.

Two nail-biting wins later, the Wildcats are set to face their toughest test of the season at home against Georgia. The Bulldogs are coming off a huge win in Jacksonville against Florida that saw them pull away with ruthless efficiency in the second half. They are dynamic on both sides of the ball and can put up points in bunches.

Kentucky’s top-ranked scoring defense, led by the dynamic Josh Allen, is going to need its best game of the season to come out ahead. A win here would vault Kentucky up the rankings in a big way. A loss would likely make it hard for the Wildcats to earn a New Year’s Six bid. It’s statement time.


Big 12 showdown extraordinaire in Austin

Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman

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There is a three-team pile-up atop the Big 12 right now. Two of those three teams are going to lock horns on one field Saturday, as Texas will host West Virginia in a game that should provide plenty of highlight moments.

The Longhorns are coming off a tough loss on the road against Oklahoma State, which was their second of the season. That loss sent them careening down the rankings, and another would be devastating to their national stature.

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West Virginia bounced back from its upset loss to Iowa State with a blowout win over Baylor last weekend and appears to have its offensive firepower back in a big way. If Texas’ defense opens up like the Red Sea this weekend, as it did last Saturday, then the Mountaineers will romp.


Purdue’s offense needs to wake up again against Iowa

Jeff Brohm

Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

One week after embarrassing Ohio State on national television, it was Purdue getting embarrassed by Michigan State last Saturday. The Boilermakers fell apart completely on offense, thanks largely to three interceptions by David Blough.

Iowa has one of the better defenses in the nation, too. So if Blough and Co. don’t snap out of their funk in a hurry the Boilermakers are going to fall at home on Saturday.

Thankfully, freshman phenom Rondale Moore gives this offense a chance to explode every single weekend. If Blough can feed him the ball in the right spots, then Purdue should hang on and knock Iowa out of the national rankings.


Penn State looks to derail juggernaut Michigan

MIchael Hill Ohio State Buckeyes

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For the sake of glorious chaos, it would be sweet to see Penn State knock off Michigan this Saturday in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are absolutely playoff contenders right now and have been plowing through their competition of late as they seem to be improving on a weekly basis.

On the other side, Penn State has explosive potential but really struggles to bring it to life against top competition. Michigan’s FBS-best defense could feast, especially when it comes to shutting Trace McSorley’s arm down.

It seems like a Penn State win is nothing more than a far-fetched dream. But maybe the football gods will smile upon us and bestow more chaos to throw a monkey wrench into the playoff picture.


Drew Lock and the Tigers looking for first conference win

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Missouri is a lot of fun to watch, mostly because Drew Lock is a gunslinger extraordinaire. He’s piled up 2,144 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air this year and has the ability to shred any defense if he’s on his game and his offensive line holds up.

Unfortunately, Lock has failed to lead the Tigers to a single SEC win so far this season. And his road gets no easier on Saturday as Missouri heads into The Swamp to face the Florida Gators. A Gators team that’s looking for some revenge after getting throttled by Georgia in the second half last Saturday.

Chances are, Florida is going to feast at home.


What will Houston’s D’Eriq King do for an encore?

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Last Saturday, Houston quarterback D’Eriq King treated then-undefeated South Florida like his own punching bag, going off for 551 yards and seven touchdowns. This jaw-dropping performance catapulted King into the Heisman discussion, as he now has 2,816 yards and 39 touchdowns on the season.

Houston is headed to University Park, Texas for a date with SMU this Saturday. This matchup lends itself to another monster performance by King. The Mustangs feature a defense that gives up 421 yards and nearly 36 points per game, and that really struggles to stop the run.

Fans should eagerly anticipate a feast of highlight-reel plays in this game.


Northwestern not just fighting for an upset over Notre Dame

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With its fourth win in a row, including two against ranked Big Ten opponents, Northwestern claimed a foothold atop the Big Ten West with a 5-1 conference record. The only conference loss suffered by the Wildcats was a three-point defeat at the hands of Michigan.

This is a formidable team that defies logic featuring an offense that barely scores more than its defense allows. Clayton Thorson is a big reason for this, as he is one of the most competitive gamers in college football today.

Obviously Saturday’s home game against Notre Dame is a huge deal. The Fighting Irish are one of only four remaining undefeated FBS teams and will be a shoo-in to make the College Football Playoff if they win out. But this is much more than a chance to upset Notre Dame for the Wildcats. They have a real chance to impose a stranglehold atop their division and set up a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game later this year.


Can Texas Tech hang with the Sooners?

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Featuring one of the most dynamic, explosive offenses in the nation, Oklahoma averages nearly 50 points per game. Kyler Murray is electric, and his rapport with CeeDee Lamb is something to behold. He is seriously giving Tua Tagovailoa a run for his money in the Heisman race as he averages four touchdowns per game.

Texas Tech has explosive potential as well on offense. The Red Raiders put up 42 points per game and have an exciting young quarterback in Alan Bowman who has put up some huge games this season.

Looking at this matchup, however, one gets the sense that the Sooners will run away with the game. Since firing defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Oklahoma has allowed just over 20 points per game, which is a significant improvement.


Cal looking to spoil the fun once again

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The Washington State Cougars are the Pac-12’s last remaining hope of potentially sneaking into the playoff this year. They’ve lost just one game — a heart-breaking three-point loss to USC that was highlighted by a blocked field goal at the end — and most recently beat two ranked teams in a row.

The California Golden Bears come into Saturday’s game having just taken out Washington with a remarkable display of defense. They held the Huskies to 250 total yards, forced two turnovers and allowed just 10 points.

Can they do the same to Gardner Minshew and Co. this Saturday night in Pullman? Given the way Minshew has been shredding defenses of late, that seems unlikely. But anything can happen when Pac-12 After Dark takes over the airwaves late on a Saturday night.


LSU goes crown hunting in biggest game of Week 10

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Now we come to it. The biggest game of an absolutely huge weekend of college football. Alabama heads into Death Valley for its biggest test of the year in a road game against SEC rival LSU.

Tua Tagovailoa says his sprained knee is now fully healthy, and he is pumped up for the opportunity to take on the challenge of silencing the masses at Tiger Stadium. Really, this game will boil down to whether the Tigers can somehow find a way to do what no other team has done this year — slow down Tua.

On the other side, it’s going to be fascinating to see if LSU’s ground-and-pound offense can gain any purchase against ‘Bama’s front seven. It’s going to be a battle of wills, and the team that can dominate up front physically will win.

For what it’s worth, that sounds like another Crimson Tide victory.