Rivalry week is still nearly two full months away, but there’s no shortage of bad blood in Week 6's schedule. After being postponed by a hurricane (and potentially impacted by the impending arrival of another) this year's edition of Miami–Florida State could represent a bit of a role reversal, as the Hurricanes find themselves squarely in the conference title hunt while the Seminoles try to pick up the pieces from a shaky September. Two and a half hours away in Gainesville, LSU and Florida tangle for an emotional renewal of their cross-division SEC rivalry as they continue to hash out their own hurricane rescheduling drama from a full calendar year ago, while in primetime Michigan and Michigan State return to the scene of 2015's wildest finish.
Which top teams will start off October with a win? Below, our experts pick the winners of the biggest matchups of Week 6, taking turns defending our selections.
Chris Johnson: 49–15 (76.6%)
Molly Geary: 45–19 (70.3%)
Andy Staples: 44–20 (68.7%)
Joan Niesen: 42–22 (65.6%)
Eric Single: 42–22 (65.6%)
Bruce Feldman: 38–20 (65.5%)
Scooby Axson: 32–18 (64%)
Louisville at NC State (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Molly Geary picks Louisville: The Wolfpack have a tenacious, experienced D-Line, but they’ll have to slow Lamar Jackson much more effectively than they did in last year’s 41–point loss to the Cardinals. Jackson should be well-rested for the Thursday turnaround after sitting for nearly half of Saturday's blowout of Murray State, and he will be the difference-maker here.
Duke at Virginia (Saturday, 12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
Eric Single picks Virginia: It’s a testament to both teams’ fast starts that this game makes this week’s picks list. Kurt Benkert has emerged as a capable conductor of the Cavaliers’ offense, and I’m still not sure how well Duke’s defense will travel against good teams.
West Virginia at TCU (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
Eric Single picks TCU: In Will Grier, West Virginia has the experienced quarterback needed to pull off an upset in Fort Worth, but the Mountaineers’ defense is off to a disconcerting start in Big 12 play after Kansas gashed it for 367 rushing yards a week ago. Horned Frogs sophomore running back Darius Anderson should feast.
Miami at Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Chris Johnson picks Miami: James Blackman seems to be settling in at quarterback for Florida State, but he’ll endure a rough day against Manny Diaz’s loaded defense. The Hurricanes are the ACC Coastal’s best team, and they’ll look like it in Tallahassee.
LSU at Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Andy Staples picks LSU: Yes, last week was a disaster for the Tigers. Yes, Florida’s offense seems to be coming around. But the absence of Gators WR Tyrie Cleveland (ankle) and the likely returns of Tigers RB Derrius Guice and DE Rashard Lawrence change the dynamics.
Minnesota at Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Joan Niesen picks Purdue: The Boilermakers are coming off a loss to Michigan followed by their bye week, so some may have forgotten about their 3–0 start. This will be a tight game, but Purdue’s offense has enough firepower to top P.J. Fleck’s team.
Maryland at Ohio State (4 p.m. ET, Fox)
Scooby Axson picks Ohio State: The Buckeyes have won each of the teams’ three meetings since Maryland moved to the Big Ten in 2014, and don’t expect anything to change. Ohio State’s offense has been on a roll since the Week 2 loss to Oklahoma, averaging 49 points and 626 yards per game.
Kansas State at Texas (7 p.m. ET, FS1)
Andy Staples picks Texas: The Longhorns have looked better on defense in recent weeks, and the Wildcats don’t seem to trust their passing game. Kansas State will keep possessions to a minimum, so a turnover or two could make all the difference.
Alabama at Texas A&M (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Joan Niesen picks Alabama: The Aggies could have beaten South Carolina 1,000–17 last week and I’d still be picking Alabama here, and that will be the case until the Crimson Tide lose. Sure, Kevin Sumlin’s team has looked better in recent weeks, but against Alabama, that’s almost irrelevant.
Michigan State at Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Molly Geary picks Michigan: The Wolverines will have backup John O'Korn under center, but he has had two weeks to prepare for the start. The big question here is, can the Spartans take care of the ball? In its loss to Notre Dame, Michigan State turned it over three times, and Michigan's formidable defense has scored three touchdowns through four games.
Washington State at Oregon (8 p.m. ET, Fox)
Bruce Feldman picks Washington State: I’d be more tempted to pick Oregon to beat Wazzu with the Cougars coming off a huge win over No. 5 USC last week, but the loss of standout sophomore QB Justin Herbert will be too much for the banged-up Ducks to overcome against Alex Grinch’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the much-improved Oregon defense gives Mike Leach’s offense some problems and keeps this one interesting into the fourth quarter.
Stanford at Utah (10:15 p.m. ET, FS1)
Chris Johnson picks Stanford: The Utes may be one of the few teams in the Pac-12 that can slow down Bryce Love, but he'll still go off for at least 150 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and sophomore quarterback K.J. Costello will do the rest.