Notre Dame is off this weekend, but the college football action will still be jam packed. There are plenty of intriguing games I’ll have my eye on, including several that could have a major impact on Notre Dame making it to the College Football Playoff.
Barring Notre Dame winning the ACC with one or no losses, the next best scenario is for the Fighting Irish to put themselves in the worst-case scenario position of being the second ACC to earn a playoff berth.
The best way for that to happen is for teams from the SEC, Big 12 and eventually the Big Ten to beat each other up. That is where many of my “games to watch” will come from. Of course, there will also be games that will just be fun to watch.
Here are the games I’ll have my eyes on today.
TCU Horned Frogs (0-1) at #9 Texas Longhorns (2-0)
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Line: Texas -10
I put the Texas/Texas Tech game into this article a week ago, and the question was is the Longhorn defense improved at all. It certainly didn’t look any better last week, as the Red Raiders hung 56 points on Texas. There was a fumble return for a score and a 10-yard scoring drive that followed an interception from its offense, but the Longhorns gave up a lot of points.
TCU lost its season opener to Iowa State last week, falling 37-34 at home. This is a game that Texas should win, but once again, how will the Longhorn defense play. If they don’t show any improvement against the Horned Frogs it will be a bad sign, and the odds are the defense will once again not be good enough to allow Texas to be a playoff contender.
Another reason to watch this game is because Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a lot of fun to watch.
#13 Texas A&M Aggies (1-0) at #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0)
Time: 3:30 PM ET
Line: Alabama -18.0
Alabama is my preseason pick to win the SEC, and I think the Tide are legitimate title contenders. There are really only four games I think they have any chance of losing, and this is one of them, although a week ago I would have felt much better about it than I do now after watching Texas A&M struggle to beat Vanderbilt.
Aggie defensive coordinator Mike Elko has developed a quality unit in College Station, and he has recruited quite well. Now going into year three this should be the best Aggie defense yet. It will need to be if it wants to beat Alabama. I think Texas A&M is capable of slowing down the Alabama run game, but can it do that while also keeping Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith and the pass game from gashing it. We’ll find out today.
Even if Elko’s unit plays well, the Texas A&M offense might not be good enough to get it done. Texas A&M ran the ball relatively well against Vanderbilt, but head coach Jimbo Fisher still seems hell bent on turning Kellen Mond into a pocket quarterback, which limits him and the offense. Will they make necessary changes against Bama? I’m skeptical, but we’ll get a chance to see that today.
#25 Memphis Tigers (1-0) at SMU Mustangs (3-0)
Time: 3:30 PM ET
Neither of these teams are playoff contenders, but I do expect this to be a highly entertaining game. SMU is 3-0 and averaging almost 50 points per game, and the Mustangs are coming off a 10-3 season in which it finished a game behind Memphis and Navy in the West. Could we be seeing a bit of a changing of the guard in the ACC, with SMU surpassing the Tigers? I think it’s possible, and winning this game will be further proof of that.
The quarterback battle between Memphis standout Brady White and SMU star Shane Buechele should also be a lot of fun to watch.
#7 Auburn Tigers (1-0) at #4 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0)
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Line: Georgia -7.5
The SEC and Big Ten are the two conferences that have a shot at getting a second team in the CFP, so Notre Dame doesn’t want there to be more than one team in the league with one loss or less. Georgia will be especially dangerous as the second SEC team to get in if they end with one loss. The reason is they would likely have to play Alabama twice, once in the regular season (Oct. 17) and once in the SEC title game. Seeing the Bulldogs drop a game against someone not named Bama would be ideal for the Irish.
Irish Breakdown’s staff made predictions for this game, and you can read them HERE.
#18 Oklahoma Sooners (1-1) at Iowa State Cyclones (1-1)
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Line: Oklahoma -7.5
This is a very interesting game. How will Oklahoma bounce back from blowing a 35-14 game at home against a Kansas State team that dropped its opener to Arkansas State? How will young quarterback Spencer Rattler bounce back from it? Is the Sooner defense really this bad … again? I want to see all of those questions get answered one way or the other this weekend.
For Iowa State, this game could deliver an early stake into the heart of the Sooners for 2020, and it could be a program changing win for the Cyclones. I realize Iowa State beat Oklahoma back in 2017, but doing it a second time would be huge. It would also help ease the sting that exists from the season-opening loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Iowa State looked good on offense last week in its 37-34 win over TCU, but the defense was unimpressive. They will need to be better against the Sooners.
NC State Wolfpack (1-1) at #24 Pittsburgh Panthers (3-0)
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Network: ACC Network
Line: Pitt -14.0
I want to see how Pittsburgh handles success. It earned an impressive victory over Louisville last weekend, and the Panther defense has been brilliant through three games. Pitt ranks second nationally in yards allowed at just 177.0 per game. They will be tested against a NC State offense that is averaging 424.5 yards per game.
Pitt should dominate this matchup, but will they be feeling good about themselves after the win over Louisville? Will the offense continue to struggle scoring, or will they pick it up against a porous NC State defense?
We’ll learn a lot about the Panthers this weekend.
#12 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-0) at Boston College Eagles (2-0)
Time: 3:30 PM ET
Line: UNC -14.5
This is the biggest ACC matchup of the weekend, and I cannot wait to watch the quarterback battle. To read the Irish Breakdown preview and predictions for this matchup click HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
BECOME A MEMBER
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Follow me on Parler: @BryanDriskell
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook
Sign up for the FREE Irish Breakdown daily newsletter