College Football Picks: Big games, but not must-wins for 'Bama, OSU
Big games for sure. But must-wins? Far from it.
If No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State are going to lose this season, this would be an excellent week to do so.
During the brief history of the College Football Playoff, only two teams — one each season — have entered the semifinals unbeaten. So chances are, all the teams that look primed to make a playoff run, like the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes, will take a loss at some point.
But here's the key for those contenders: Don't lose to a division rival, which could cost a chance to win the conference.
That's why this week is not a terrible to time for Alabama and Ohio State to stumble. Both are playing cross-division rivals on the road. The Tide go to No. 9 Tennessee and the Buckeyes are at No. 8 Wisconsin. Neither favorite would relinquish control of their division if they lost.
The Tide could still roll through the SEC West and to Atlanta for the conference championship game. The Buckeyes could still go through Michigan to win the Big Ten East and move on to Indianapolis to play for a title.
Last season, Ohio State's only loss — to East Division rival Michigan State — kept the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten championship and the playoff. Alabama almost got itself into the same position by losing to Mississippi early in the season, but Florida and Arkansas gave the Tide the help it needed to win the conference by defeating the Rebels.
So, Tide and Buckeyes fans, don't sweat Saturday.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Duke (plus 35½) at No. 7 Louisville
Another Friday night of Lamar "Action" Jackson and the Cardinals ... LOUISVILLE 48-20.
No. 1 Alabama (minus 13) at No. 9 Tennessee
The last time the Volunteers beat the Tide was 2006, the year before Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa ... ALABAMA 35-17.
No. 2 Ohio State (minus 10) at No. 8 Wisconsin
The Buckeyes have won seven of the last eight meetings, and the Badgers are going to try to pull an upset with one of the least productive offenses in the Big Ten ... OHIO STATE 28-16.
No. 12 Mississippi (minus 8) at No. 22 Arkansas
Two of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in Chad Kelly and Austin Allen and two suspect defenses. Expect another wild one between the Rebels and Razorbacks ... MISSISSIPPI 42-38.
North Carolina State (plus 17½) at No. 3 Clemson
The Wolfpack defense could use another rain storm ... CLEMSON 45-17, BEST BET.
No. 10 Nebraska (minus 3½) at Indiana
First meeting since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. Last time they played was 1978, the final game of a four-year series that Nebraska swept by an average score of 47-10. This should be closer ... NEBRASKA 27-24.
Kansas (plus 34) at No. 11 Baylor
The Jayhawks are getting better. Still a long way to go ... BAYLOR 55-17.
Tulsa (plus 21½) at No. 13 Houston
Greg Ward Jr. and the Cougars bounce back at home ... HOUSTON 48-24.
Wake Forest (plus 21) at No. 14 Florida State
At 5-1, the Demon Deacons are already one of the biggest surprise teams in the country. Beating the 'Noles would push it to another level ... FLORIDA STATE 38-13.
Colorado State (plus 31½) at No. 15 Boise State
The Broncos have won all five meetings by an average of 45-18 ... BOISE STATE 45-18.
North Carolina (plus 9) at No. 16 Miami
The ACC Coastal could shake out in the next few weeks with Miami facing the Tar Heels and then Virginia Tech ... MIAMI 35-31.
No. 17 Virginia Tech (minus 19½) at Syracuse
Hokies QB Jerod Evans has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just one interception ... VIRGINIA TECH 38-21.
Missouri (plus 14) at No. 18 Florida
The Gators will have QB Luke Del Rio back from injury ... FLORIDA 31-13.
Kansas State (plus 10½) at No. 19 Oklahoma
Sooners WR Dede Westbrook has 390 yards receiving and five touchdowns in his last two games ... OKLAHOMA 42-17.
No. 20 West Virginia (minus 1) at Texas Tech
The Mountaineers are maybe the most overlooked unbeaten team in the country ... TEXAS TECH 45-41.
No. 21 Utah (minus 9) at Oregon State
Injuries could leave the Utes leaning on a walk-on tailback this week ... UTAH 27-20.
No. 24 Western Michigan (minus 11) at Akron
The Broncos have zero turnovers, which almost seems impossible through six games ... WESTERN MICHIGAN 35-28.
Mississippi State (plus 7) at BYU, Friday — @brianhadad
The Bulldogs' string of six straight winning seasons, the most since the 1940s, is in jeopardy ... BYU 30-24.
Stanford (plus 3) at Notre Dame — @dvolpi88
Two preseason top 10 teams trying to salvage what are quickly becoming lost seasons; possibly no Christian McCaffrey for Stanford ... NOTRE DAME 33-28.
UCLA (plus 4½) at Washington State — @dansjensen
Bruins QB Josh Rosen (wrist) is uncertain to play ... WASHINGTON STATE 28-24.
Arizona State (plus 13) at Colorado @EvanMillstein
A pivotal game in the Pac-12 South, but aren't they all in this muddled division? ... ARIZONA STATE 42-38, UPSET SPECIAL.
Illinois (minus 6) at Rutgers — @HodgeUMah
The loser gets the Big Ten basement all to itself ... RUTGERS 21-17.
RECORD: Last week 14-4 straight; 9-8-1 vs. points.
Season: 89-29; 56-58-2.
Upset specials: 2-4.
Best bets: 1-5.