USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder, Paul Myerberg and FOX Sports host Joel Klatt preview some of the biggest games this weekend in college football.
USA TODAY Sports
It’s that time again. The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Paul Myerberg, Lindsay Schnell, George Schroeder, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with their expertise and offer up some bold predictions ahead of Week 8 of the college football season:
This will be Butch Jones’ final game at Tennessee. It’s no secret that he’s under intense pressure to turn this season around and save his job. Making it to the end of the regular season, let alone through the postseason, should require the Volunteers not get run off the field by Alabama. If the Tide win by 28 or more points, it may be time for the school to cut bait before the end of October.
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USC wins at Notre Dame. I mean, why not? Last week we got a full dose of college football chaos, and I like to think this week it will get even more complicated. As of right now, Notre Dame has one (very good loss), to Georgia. A loss to USC, which has looked inept most of the season, would not be good for the Irish … and that’s exactly why I think it will happen. Watch for Sam Darnold to finally play the way we’ve been waiting for him to play — like a Heisman candidate, who doesn’t throw the ball away.
Remember a couple of weeks ago, when Ed Orgeron was under fire — along with anybody else involved with LSU football — after that debacle of a homecoming loss to Troy? After consecutive victories against Florida and Auburn, they’re all excited about the Tigers down on the bayou. Coach O spent part of his week explaining how, even when he was in the midst of a disastrous stint as Ole Miss’s coach a decade ago, he was dreaming of one day holding the same position at LSU … and there wasn’t much talk about the disastrous part of that first head-coaching job.
Meanwhile, it has been a difficult season for Ole Miss, reeling from the summertime firing of Hugh Freeze and awaiting the NCAA hammer. But the Rebels (Landsharks? Whatever) catch LSU at the right time, flat after those two critical victories, and pull the upset.
Penn State has been waiting more than a year to pay back Michigan for its 49-10 loss that effectively ended their College Football Playoff hopes before its run to the Big Ten title. That group of Nittany Lions was very different than what will face the Wolverines in Happy Valley. Their offense is running smoothly with opponents have to pick their poison between Trace McSorley or Saquon Barkley.
You can’t say the same thing about Michigan. John O’Korn threw for just 58 yards in an overtime defeat of Indiana. Facing what should be an electric atmosphere of more than 100,000 fans, the Wolverines can’t rely on their defense to hold the dam all night. That dam eventually will break somewhere in the middle of the game, and Penn State will savor what will be a much-easier victory than expected. Maybe coming close to that 49-10 decision of last year.
The loser of the Florida State-Louisville game will not make it to a bowl.
That statement would have gotten one laughed out of the press box had it been made in early September. But as the season has unfolded, both teams are struggling as they prepare to square off Saturday.
A Florida State loss would be especially problematic, in part because of that earlier cancellation due to Hurricane Irma. The Seminoles would be 2-4 with five games left. They’d undoubtedly be favored in three of them, but they’d have to beat either Clemson or Florida on the road to get to six wins.
The outlook would be somewhat less dire for the Cardinals if they should lose. They’d be 4-4 needing at least a split of their remaining games. They host Syracuse and Virginia and travel to Wake Forest and Kentucky. But last week’s result against Boston College, a team that had scored just a total of 98 points all year put up 45 on Louisville, would seem to indicate that none of those would be easy ‘W’s for the Cards.
Baylor is going to get a win this season. And it’s going to come Saturday at the expense of West Virginia. Sorry, Mountaineers, but you’re playing one of the better 0-6 teams in recent memory (if there’s a way to quantify such a thing), one that was just a few plays away from beating both Oklahoma and Kansas State. So don’t be surprised when the Bears break through against a quality opponent, and it just happens to be you.
Matt Rhule’s team plays hard, although not particularly clean all the time. If Baylor can avoid a bunch of turnovers or penalties, the Bears will be in it going into the fourth quarter. And at some point, all the work they’ve done is going to pay off. If you’ve watched the Big 12 at all this year, you’ve seen Baylor improve week by week, which is the kind of thing that tends to get rewarded. A win is coming sooner rather than later.
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