Notre Dame’s convincing win over 19th-ranked North Carolina keeps the Irish in control of their own destiny. Win out and Notre Dame is in the College Football Playoff.
Should the Irish drop a game the number of schools in contention for the fourth spot has grown increasingly smaller. With Notre Dame playing on Friday I’ll be able to watch a lot more football this Saturday, and most of my focus will be on games that feature those teams that could push the Irish out should they drop a game.
Here are the games I’ll be watching today.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (0-5) at MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (2-3)
Time: 12:00 PM (eastern)
Okay, so this one is more about my pyromania tendencies from a football point of view. I see two programs on fire, and they go head to head this weekend. The winner gets a slight breath of air while the other is in big, big trouble.
I’m really, really curious to see how Penn State fans and leadership respond should the Nittany Lions drop this game and fall to 0-6. Even more interesting could be the reaction of Michigan fans and leadership should the Wolverines drop a home game against a winless Penn State team.
#22 AUBURN TIGERS (5-2) at #1 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (7-0)
Time: 3:30 PM (eastern)
Spread: Alabama -24.5
The Iron Bowl is one of my favorite rivalry games to watch, and the Tigers are actually 2-1 against Alabama in the last three games. I don’t see that happening again this year, but an upset by the Tigers would certainly shake up the CFP rankings.
Auburn has been playing better football recently, but the Tide are playing on another level right right. Alabama is clearly the best team in the country, and while the offense has been elite all season, the defense has been on fire lately as well.
Alabama should dominate this matchup and the on paper matchup isn’t even close, but one of the great things about rivalry games is you can’t always go by what story is being told on paper.
PITT PANTHERS (5-4) at #3 CLEMSON TIGERS (7-1)
Time: 3:30 PM (eastern)
Spread: Clemson -23.5
Clemson is in a must-win situation when it comes to playing in the ACC Title game against Notre Dame. They haven’t played since the Nov. 7 loss to the Fighting Irish, and I’m curious to see how they play against an ascending Pitt program. Will Clemson be rusty after the long lay off, or will they come out ticked off and ready to smash whatever opponent is between them and a rematch against Notre Dame.
Pitt is a much better team with Kenny Pickett is at quarterback. The Panthers are 5-2 in games he starts, and the two losses were by one point each. Pitt has a defensive line that can play with, and beat, the Clemson front four, but can that unit play well enough to keep the secondary from being exposed by the Clemson pass catchers? That will be a key to this game.
Notre Dame fans are likely torn about who to root for in this game. If Clemson loses there’s a chance they don’t get their desired rematch against Notre Dame, which certainly makes the CFP path for the Irish much smoother. But for fans who obsess over what is said in the media or by other fan bases, not getting a rematch against a Trevor Lawrence-led Clemson squad will reignite the “but Trevor didn’t play” arguments that followed the Irish victory three weeks ago.
LSU TIGERS (3-3) at #5 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (5-1)
Time: 7:00 PM (eastern)
Spread: Texas A&M -15.0
Texas A&M was ranked fifth in the first CFP rankings, which means they are right on the heels of the four teams that are currently at the top of the rankings. This is a game that TAMU dominates on paper, but LSU still has talent, albeit young talent.
I’m curious to see how LSU handles this game, and I’m curious to see if Texas A&M has any rust after it missed the previous two weeks due to postponements due to Covid-19. If they do the Tigers could make this a game, but if the TAMU offense plays like it was before the layoff this one could get ugly.
I’ll be watching just in case by some miracle the Tigers can pull off the upset.
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