Barring an apocalyptic upset, Notre Dame will improve to 6-0 this weekend, and it puts the Irish one step closer to a berth in the ACC title game. The Fighting Irish also still have a shot at a College Football Playoff berth.
Of course, if Notre Dame goes undefeated that’s a no-brainer. Should the Irish drop a game, even the ACC championship bout, it will need some help. That’s how my scoreboard watching goes each week, what games are most interesting, but also what games have the biggest impact on Notre Dame’s championship hopes.
Here are the games I’ll be watching.
Boston College Eagles (4-2) at #1 Clemson Tigers (6-0)
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Line: Clemson -24.5
I’m not interested in this game because there’s a chance the Tigers get upset … I just don’t see that happening. Yes, losing Trevor Lawrence is a huge, huge loss, but Clemson is still a loaded football team that has more talent than Boston College at every position but one. So maybe they aren’t the No. 1 team in the country without Lawrence, but they are still Top 3.
My intrigue in this game is more about the next two matchups for Notre Dame, and how the two teams will look heading into those contests.
For Clemson, how will they look without Lawrence? Will his absence be the spark Clemson needs to get its ground game going? Does it result in the scuffling outside receivers finally stepping up? How will former five-star quarterback recruit D.J. Uiagalelei look in his first start?
For Boston College, was the improved run game against Georgia Tech a mirage, or have the Eagles finally found a way to take some of the burden off the shoulders of quarterback Phil Jurkovec? Is the offensive line finally finding its groove? Can the Eagle defense stop a good offense?
We should learn a lot about both teams this weekend.
#5 Georgia Bulldogs (3-1) at Kentucky Wildcats (2-3)
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Line: Georgia -17.0
If you like defense than this is absolutely a game you’ll want to watch this weekend.
Neither Georgia nor Kentucky blow me away on offense, but this is a matchup of the two best defenses in the SEC. Kentucky held Mississippi State and Tennessee to a combined nine points, and both went for under 300 yards. It also kept the Missouri offense relatively in check. Georgia has held every opponent not named Alabama to less than 300 yards of offense.
Georgia has had an extra week to get over the loss to Alabama, but the Florida game lingers and is next on the schedule. Will the Bulldogs overlook the Wildcats as they look ahead to the matchup against the Gators, or will they be laser focused on getting back on track after dropping the Alabama game?
Georgia has won 10 straight against Kentucky, and only three of those games have been competitive. If Kentucky had a better offense I’d give them a better chance to win this game, but they have forced 10 turnovers in four games. Can they make enough big plays on defense to give the offense short fields?
#16 Kansas State Wildcats (4-1) at West Virginia Mountaineers (3-2)
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Line: WVU -5.5
I have a hard time seeing the Pac 12 getting a playoff spot, and if the Big 12 eats itself it opens up an opportunity for Notre Dame to get into the playoff even if it doesn’t win the ACC.
At this point there are really only two teams with a shot at making the playoff, and both play interesting games this weekend. What I find interesting, is that both of those teams (Kansas State, Oklahoma State) are both playing very good defense so far in the season.
Kansas State is an extremely well coached football team, and they play hard. If quarterback Skylar Thompson was still healthy I’d expect the Wildcats to roll, but West Virginia plays quality defense and will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Texas Tech.
If the Wildcats lose it’s down to just Oklahoma State, and Kansas State hosts the Cowboys in two weeks. The tough part about this game is its good for Notre Dame for Kansas State to lose, but it’s also very hard to root against K-State coach Chris Kleiman.
Texas Longhorns (3-2) at #6 Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-0)
Time: 4:00 PM ET
Line: OSU -3.5
The best team in the Big 12 plays great defense. Stop laughing, right now, I’m being serious! I’m not sure if this will continue, but through four games Oklahoma State has played outstanding defense. The Cowboys are giving up just 12 points per game, it has held two opponents to single digits and only one opponent (Iowa State) has topped 20 points.
Oklahoma State has held each of its first four opponents to under 400 yards and only Iowa State has topped 5.0 yards per play. Now, will that continue this weekend against Texas? We’ll see. The Longhorns aren’t a very good football team, but they sure can score. Texas is averaging 45 points per game so far, and if Oklahoma State can shut them down then I’ll start becoming a believer in the Cowboy defense.
Getting quarterback Spencer Sanders back should provide the Oklahoma State with a boost.
#3 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) at #18 Penn State Nittany Lions (0-1)
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Line: OSU -10.5
After just one week the chance of a Big Ten team getting a playoff berth has essentially been narrowed down to two team, unless you believe Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana or Rutgers will run the table. Penn State’s loss at Indiana in the season opener all but knocked them out, and that will be complete if they drop this weekend’s game to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes could still have a shot with an 8-1 record, but it will be tough. If Ohio State beats Penn State the schedule between now and a season-ending game against Michigan is Rutgers, at Maryland, Indiana, at Illinois and at Michigan State. Ohio State will absolutely destroy all of those teams.
An Ohio State road win over Penn State puts the Buckeyes in great position to run the table and gobble up one of the four playoff spots.
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
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