College Football Picks: Week 8 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2014

College Football Picks: Week 8 Predictions for Every Game

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    Can you believe we're already in Week 8 of the 2014 college football season? Seems like just yesterday we were clamoring for that first slate of games, and now after a few straight weekends of amazing action, it's like the year is going by too fast.

    We have to relish each week's slate of matchups, and this one is pretty darn good. There are five clashes of teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, including the toughest test yet for defending champion Florida State, while outside the rankings there are games pitting teams battling for division and conference titles.

    Check out our predictions for Week 8, as well as our experts' picks for the top games this weekend, and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

    Last week: 36-19 (.655)

    Season: 334-105 (.761)

Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh

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    When: Thursday, Oct. 16; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cody Journell kicked four field goals in Virginia Tech's 19-9 home win over Pittsburgh last October. 

    What to watch for

    Virginia Tech (4-2, 1-1 ACC) has won its games in bunches this season, with a pair of two-game win streaks bookending a two-game skid of home losses to East Carolina and Georgia Tech. The Hokies remain in the thick of the wide-open ACC Coastal Division race but need to win this road game to stay within reach of the top.

    Tech's mistakes on offense, namely those committed by quarterback Michael Brewer (11 interceptions, tied for second most nationally), have prevented it from getting much momentum this season. The usually strong defense is faring well, but defensive tackle Luther Maddy remains out with a knee injury, and his run-stopping ability could come in handy against Pitt rusher James Conner.

    Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-1) has the 20th-best rushing game, thanks to Conner's 874 yards and nine touchdowns, but its pass game averages only 161.5 yards. And with the strong possibility that Conner will line up on defense, according to Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he might get fewer touches and will require others on offense to step up. 

    Pitt has dropped three straight but heads into a critical stretch with four of five at home, including three straight against Coastal foes. The Panthers get back on track against the uneven Hokies.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Virginia Tech 21

    Final: Pittsburgh 21, Virginia Tech 16

No. 20 Utah at Oregon State

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    When: Thursday, Oct. 16; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brandin Cooks' third touchdown catch of the game gave Oregon State a 51-48 overtime win at Utah last September. 

    What to watch for

    Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) is coming off a big road win over UCLA two weeks ago, a game where it registered 10 sacks and dominated on the ground yet still needed a late field goal from Andy Phillips and UCLA to miss its own game-winning kick. The Utes are right in the mix for the South Division title, despite losing at home to Washington State in their conference opener.

    The Utes made a switch at quarterback last time out, with run-first Kendal Thompson replacing Travis Wilson. Both could play this week, though coach Kyle Whittingham doesn't plan to announce who his starter will be ahead of time so as not to "tip their hand" to Oregon State, according to Dirk Facer of the Deseret News

    The main focus of Utah's offense of late, though, has been running back Devontae Booker, who's run for 334 yards and two touchdowns the last two weeks.

    Oregon State (4-1, 1-1) has been far from as explosive an offense this season as in 2013, when Sean Mannion threw for 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns. He's thrown for 1,304 yards with only five touchdowns in five games, mostly due to a lack of a big-play receiver like he had in Biletnikoff Award winner Cooks last season.  

    The Beavers have done just enough to get by in most of their games, which might not be enough against a Utah team that's already won at UCLA and Michigan and may be the best team Whittingham has had since joining the Pac-12. 

    Prediction: Utah 30, Oregon State 27

    Final: Utah 29, Oregon State 23 (2 OT)

Fresno State at Boise State

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    When: Friday, Oct. 17; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Derek Carr threw for 460 yards and four touchdowns in Fresno State's 41-40 home win over Boise State last September. 

    What to watch for

    Fresno State (3-4, 2-1 Mountain West) lost in overtime at UNLV last Friday, ending a three-game win streak that also knocked it back into the pack in the West Division. The Bulldogs' offensive progress was stalled last time out because of turnovers, with quarterback Brian Burrell getting intercepted twice.

    Fresno's defense remains an issue, ranking 109th in yards allowed. 

    Boise State (4-2, 2-1) has turned the ball over 16 times, including 11 times in its two losses. Quarterback Grant Hedrick has thrown 10 interceptions yet completed 72.1 percent of his passes, though now he'll have to go at it without his top receiver. Matt Miller, the school's career leader in receptions who is just 15 yards short of the Boise State receiving yardage record, had ankle surgery Monday and is done for the year. 

    Boise still has dependable running back Jay Ajayi (709 yards, eight TDs), though, and that will be more than enough to win. 

    Prediction: Boise State 38, Fresno State 28

    Final: Boise State 37, Fresno State 27

Temple at Houston

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    When: Friday, Oct. 17; 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Deontay Greenberry had 14 catches for 165 yards in Houston's 22-13 win at Temple last September. 

    What to watch for

    Temple (4-1, 2-0 American) has won three straight to double its win total from a year ago, and the Owls' only loss was by a touchdown at home to Navy. They needed a late rally to win at home against Tulsa but otherwise have been in control for most of the season ever since blowing at Vanderbilt on the road in August.

    P.J. Walker has 1,099 passing yards and nine touchdowns, and he's found a No. 1 target in senior Jalen Fitzpatrick, who is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. 

    Houston (3-3, 1-1) scored a big road win at Memphis last week to avoid an 0-2 start in conference play, rallying behind Greg Ward Jr. at quarterback. The dual-threat passer had 283 yards of total offense, including a 64-yard scoring run and a 25-yard TD pass. 

    The Cougars defense has been the team's anchor, though, ranking 19th in yards allowed with 19 takeaways. Look for it to get its hands on a few more in the victory.

    Prediction: Houston 28, Temple 23

    Final: Houston 31, Temple 10

South Florida at Tulsa

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    South Florida (2-4, 1-1 American) couldn't hold on to a halftime lead against East Carolina last week, mostly because the Bulls don't have the kind of offense that eats up the clock. They are 121st in the country in yards gained, at 294.5 per game, and haven't topped 17 points since their season opener. 

    Tulsa (1-5, 1-1) has dropped five in a row since beginning with a double-overtime win against Tulane. Since then, the Golden Hurricane have been outscored 216-103, and last week they allowed two touchdowns in the final 11 minutes to fall to Temple. Keevan Lucas has 53 receptions, tied for sixth in FBS, but he's about all Tulsa has going for it.

    Someone has to win these AAC bottom-feeder games, of which there will be many this season. Home team gets the edge, but just barely.

    Prediction: Tulsa 27, South Florida 23

    Final: South Florida 38, Tulsa 30

Tulane at UCF

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: UCF jumped out to a 38-0 lead in a 61-14 win at Tulane in November 2010, when both teams were in Conference USA.

    What to watch for

    Tulane (2-4, 1-1 American) squeaked out a 12-3 home win over Connecticut last week to end a two-game skid, but in the Green Wave's past three contests, they have managed only 31 points and rank 114th overall in scoring. They've used three different quarterbacks in major roles, the latest being Nick Montana, who had 135 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-26 passing last week.

    UCF (3-2, 1-0) has won three straight since its slow start, edging out Houston on the road and then beating BYU in overtime the past two games. Justin Holman had a career game against BYU, with 326 passing yards and two touchdowns, making up for a run game that's been nonexistent.

    The Knights defense is 31st in the nation and won't have any problem keeping the Tulane offense off the field in what should be an easy victory. 

    Prediction: UCF 34, Tulane 10

    Final: UCF 20, Tulane 13

Syracuse at Wake Forest

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Syracuse held Wake Forest to 198 yards of offense in a 13-0 home win last November. 

    What to watch for

    Syracuse (2-4, 0-2 ACC) has four straight losses, including three at home, though the schedule has been daunting. The Orange's losses have come to Maryland, Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State, who are a combined 21-4. Losing Terrel Hunt, their dual-threat passer, until at least November to a broken leg has turned an already struggling offense into one without much movement.

    Wake Forest (2-4, 0-2) is the worst offensive team in FBS, averaging just 212.8 yards per game. The Demon Deacons have only 186 rushing yards for the season and have yet to top 24 points, scoring just 13 combined in their last two games. A solid defense has made it possible to earn two wins, but just barely. 

    This could be one of those first-team-to-score-wins games, though we'll likely see a little more scoring than that.

    Prediction: Wake Forest 17, Syracuse 13

    Final: Syracuse 30, Wake Forest 7

No. 4 Baylor at West Virginia

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Baylor racked up 872 yards of offense in a 73-42 home win over West Virginia last October. 

    What to watch for

    Fans of non-stop scoring, the Baylor-West Virginia series is for you. In their two meetings since West Virginia joined the Big 12, the average score has been 68-56, with the Mountaineers winning a 70-63 barnburner at home in 2012. And both teams have shown their ability to score at similar levels this season, so make sure you're strapped in for this one.

    Baylor (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) is coming off a wild 61-58 home win over TCU, a game it trailed by 21 points with 11 minutes left. The Bears offense was working all game but kicked into overdrive down the stretch as Bryce Petty threw for 510 yards and six touchdowns despite having just 28 completions.

    Petty has 1,534 yards and 15 touchdowns this year, despite missing one game due to injury and having a 111-yard performance two weeks ago against Texas. He's the focal point of an offense that leads the country in scoring (52.7 points per game) and yardage (622.5) and showed last week that it's never out of any game. 

    West Virginia (4-2, 2-1) hasn't been that explosive, but at 36.7 points and 552.2 yards per game, the Mountaineers are no slouch. And they've shown the ability to make a comeback, too, rallying from down 14 midway through the fourth quarter to win 37-34 at Texas Tech on a 55-yard Josh Lambert field goal at the buzzer. That's the second game Lambert has won this year with a long kick at the end, a great weapon to have in what could be a very tight game. 

    West Virginia was able to hang with Oklahoma at home for a half a few weeks back before getting worn down. Baylor isn't as much of a grinder, but it can still tire a team out and will manage to outscore the Mountaineers.

    Prediction: Baylor 47, West Virginia 42

    Final: West Virginia 41, Baylor 27

No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Brennan Clay ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns in Oklahoma's 41-31 win at Kansas State last November. 

    What to watch for

    Kansas State (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) had its near-miss game against Auburn in mid-September, and since then we've more or loss forgotten about the Wildcats. But they're still the same Jake Waters-led team, with the senior quarterback leading the team in rushing while also throwing for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns. 

    Waters is coming off his best game of the season last time out, completing 24 of 31 passes for 290 yards and four TDs against Texas Tech, adding 105 rushing yards and a score for good measure. He's among the most underrated dual-threat passers in the country, yet he'll be a big part of the reason K-State wins any of its games from here on out. 

    Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1) has been mired in a funk the past few weeks, losing at TCU and then surviving over Texas despite putting up some woeful offensive numbers. The Sooners were more than doubled by the Longhorns in yardage, getting by because of special teams and defensive scores, and Trevor Knight had his second straight lackluster outing.

    This matchup isn't a good one for Oklahoma, according to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, who wrote that "earlier this year, K-State's disciplined and sure-tackling defense shut down Auburn, which has a similar scheme to Oklahoma's." 

    K-State was able to win in Norman two years ago, but look for the Sooners to get back on track and play a more complete game to stay alive in the Big 12 race with the November clash against Baylor still coming up. 

    Prediction: Oklahoma 30, Kansas State 27

    Final: Kansas State 31, Oklahoma 30

Iowa at Maryland

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Iowa (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) woke up from its season-long offensive funk to score 45 points last week in a win over Indiana, 14 more than in any other game. The Hawkeyes had a few big plays to bolster an otherwise methodical attack, which for the year is averaging 381.3 yards per game to rank 92nd nationally

    The Hawkeyes are 26th in total defense, however, and have held four of six opponents to 20 or fewer points. Iowa games have been very plain, which tends to be a staple of most Kirk Ferentz teams, but aside from the slip-up against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes have made it work.  

    Maryland (4-2, 1-1) is a peculiar team in that it's 3-0 on the road but 1-2 in its home stadium, with those losses coming to West Virginia and Ohio State. The Terrapins made far too many mistakes last time out, against Ohio State, and switched quarterbacks midway through with C.J. Brown struggling.

    Brown is the team's leading rusher, which makes for a different dynamic when Caleb Rowe is in the game. Both have looked good, but each has also struggled. 

    With the bye week to iron out kinks, look for Maryland to get back on track and get closer to reaching bowl eligibility. 

    Prediction: Maryland 28, Iowa 20

    Final: Maryland 38, Iowa 31

Purdue at Minnesota

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Philip Nelson threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns in Minnesota's 44-28 home win over Purdue in October 2012. 

    What to watch for

    Purdue (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) has shown a lot of offensive spark this season, at least compared to a year ago. The Boilermakers scored 31 points against Michigan State in a loss last week and are averaging 26.9 per game after netting 14.9 per game in 2013. Akeem Hunt has rushed for 363 yards and four touchdowns the last three weeks after getting only 179 in the first four games.

    Minnesota (5-1, 2-0) is off to its best Big Ten start since 2004, winning at Michigan and then holding off Northwestern at home. It's been a lot of running for the Golden Gophers, who average 212 rushing yards (led by David Cobb's 819) but only 119.8 through the air. Mitch Leidner is a run-first quarterback, though, and the production has been enough in most games thanks to a defense that's ranked 18th in the country in yards allowed per play, at 4.64.

    The Gophers' schedule is very favorable right now, with Purdue and Illinois back-to-back. Momentum can be gained for a tough stretch run as they lead the West Division along with Iowa. 

    Prediction: Minnesota 30, Purdue 17

    Final: Minnesota 39, Purdue 38

Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Graham Wilbert had two passing touchdowns and also ran for a score in Florida Atlantic's 37-28 win at Kentucky in November 2012, when both teams were in the Sun Belt Conference. 

    What to watch for

    Western Kentucky (2-3, 0-2 Conference USA) has lost three games by a combined 14 points, losing shootouts where quarterback Brandon Doughty just can't put up enough yards to overcome a soft defense. Doughty is doing his best, with 2,165 yards and 16 touchdowns, but the Hilltoppers are allowing 516.8 yards per game.

    Florida Atlantic (2-4, 1-1) has averaged 45.5 points in its two wins and 9.0 in its four losses, an extreme case of Jekyll and Hyde. The Owls allow 476.3 yards per game, but take away the trips to Alabama and Nebraska, and that total plummets to 363.5.

    Western Kentucky has more talent, and even playing on the road, it should take this one—provided it doesn't make too many mistakes. 

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 37, Florida Atlantic 29

    Final: Florida Atlantic 45, Western Kentucky 38

UTSA at Louisiana Tech

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Eric Soza threw for 271 yards and a touchdown in UTSA's 30-10 home win over Louisiana Tech last November. 

    What to watch for

    UTSA (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) has been a major disappointment this season, unable to parlay a 37-player senior class into more wins despite opening with a 20-point win at Houston. The Roadrunners offense has been lethargic, averaging only 314.8 yards per game. 

    Louisiana Tech (3-3, 2-0) has won at Sun Belt champ Louisiana-Lafayette and C-USA foe North Texas but lost at home to an FCS team. The Bulldogs have a balanced attack paced by quarterback Cody Sokol and running back Kenneth Dixon, who has rushed for eight touchdowns this season and 39 for his career.

    This game will have a big impact on who wins the C-USA West Division, with Tech moving further out ahead of the pack.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 31, UTSA 17

    Final: Louisiana Tech 27, UTSA 20

Furman at South Carolina

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; noon ET

    Last meeting: Chris Garcia threw two touchdown passes, and Marcus Lattimore ran for a score in South Carolina's 38-19 home win over Furman in September 2010.

    What to watch for

    Furman (2-4) has dropped four straight games heading into its stop on South Carolina's annual rotation of FCS opponents to beat up on. The Paladins are 5-25-1 all-time against FBS opponents, last winning against North Carolina in 1999.

    South Carolina (3-3) is off to its worst start in SEC play since 2005, having lost its last two games by a combined eight points. The Gamecocks have wins over Vanderbilt and Georgia, but at 2-3 in conference play, they are pretty much eliminated from the East Division race. There's still a lot to play for, though, and this trip outside of the league should be used to build confidence before having to visit Auburn next week.

    Carolina hasn't lost to an FCS team since Citadel took it down in 1990. Look for a romp, with a lot of season-long frustration being taken out.

    Prediction: South Carolina 45, Furman 17

Virginia at Duke

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Duke rallied from a 22-0 deficit in the season quarter to win 35-22 at Virginia last October.

    What to watch for

    Virginia (4-2, 2-0 ACC) is in first place in the Coastal Division in mid-October, not something many people would have predicted at the beginning of the season. In fact, the Cavaliers were picked last in their division in the preseason media poll, the only team not to receive any first-place votes. 

    Yet after knocking off Louisville and Pittsburgh (both at home) in defense-driven games, Virginia is the only team in the Coastal without a loss. The four wins are double last year's total for the season, and the Cavs have done it despite shuffling two quarterbacks back and forth in Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert.

    Performance was the reason at first, but Lambert has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, and Johns has stepped in and more or less managed the position in Lambert's absence. Coach Mike London told Andrew Ramspacher of The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress that Lambert will start if he is healthy, but that's still to be determined.

    "He'll get some reps and we'll look at him, evaluate him like we've always done, see if he's ready to go," London said. "If he is, then he's ready to go. If not, we'll continue on."

    Duke (5-1, 1-1 ACC) had a quarterback shuffle of its own in last week's win at previously unbeaten Georgia Tech, as backup Thomas Sirk split time with Anthony Boone and had two touchdown runs. The Blue Devils rebounded from a loss at Miami the previous game and are one of four teams in the Coastal with one ACC loss. 

    Virginia ranks 27th in total defense, while Duke is seventh-best in scoring defense at 15.5 points per game. Duke's got the slight edge in offensive production, because of its run game, and will use that to control the ball and take this one. 

    Prediction: Duke 24, Virginia 20

    Final: Duke 20, Virginia 13

Akron at Ohio

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tyler Tettleton threw two touchdown passes in Ohio's 41-3 win at Akron last October. 

    What to watch for

    Akron (4-2, 2-0 Mid-American) has won three straight, including at Pittsburgh before MAC play began. The Zips are doing it without much offense, only averaging 23.7 points per game, but their defense has given up only 11.2 per game when the 48 yielded to unbeaten Marshall are removed. 

    Ohio (3-4, 1-2) has been equally dull on offense, managing no more than 17 points in five of seven games. The Bobcats only managed 13 points at home last week against a Bowling Green team that had been giving up 42 per game coming in. 

    Akron is making it work better with less right now and will get its first win over the Bobcats since 2007.

    Prediction: Akron 27, Ohio 20

    Final: Ohio 23, Akron 20

Western Michigan at Bowling Green

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Alex Carder threw three touchdown passes in Western Michigan's 45-21 home win over Bowling Green in October 2011. 

    What to watch for

    Western Michigan (3-3, 1-1 Mid-American) has tripled its wins from a year ago behind a young offense that's moving the ball. Quarterback Zach Terrell has 1,584 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, while running back Jarvion Franklin has rushed for 843 yards and an FBS-leading 15 TDs

    Bowling Green (5-2, 3-0) is coming off its best defensive effort of the season, allowing 13 points but 513 yards in a win at Ohio. The Falcons have gotten 1,819 passing yards and 10 TDs from James Knapke, part of an offense that's 28th in total offense.

    Neither team does much on the defensive side, so expect a lot of points and yardage. 

    Prediction: Bowling Green 44, Western Michigan 33

    Final: Western Michigan 26, Bowling Green 14

Eastern Michigan at Massachusetts

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Eastern Michigan (2-4, 1-1 Mid-American) won just its third conference game in its past 20 last week against Buffalo, a decision that may have led to Buffalo firing coach Jeff Quinn. The Eagles' 37 points were 14 more than they had in total during a four-game losing streak, with freshman Reginald Bell Jr. rushing for 202 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 144 and a score in his first career start. 

    Massachusetts (1-6, 1-2) ended a 12-game losing streak, winning just its third game in three seasons of FBS play. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel is averaging 306.6 yards per game with 18 touchdowns, with the Minutemen scoring more than 29 points per game but giving up 37.

    UMass reaches two wins in one season for the first time in FBS history.

    Prediction: Massachusetts 41, Eastern Michigan 24

    Final: Massachusetts 36, Eastern Michigan 14

Appalachian State at Troy

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Appalachian State beat Troy 33-30 in the first round of the 2000 FCS playoffs, Troy's last season before moving up to FBS.

    What to watch for

    Appalachian State (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) has had a rough go of it in its first season of FBS and bottomed out last week by losing in overtime at home to FCS Liberty. Tyler Lamb threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns, and two Mountaineers ran for 100-plus yards, but other than a 66-0 win over Campbell, the team has been outscored by 20 points per game.

    Troy (1-5, 1-1) ended its worst start in more than 30 years with a win over New Mexico State last week, the first game after 24-year coach Larry Blakeney said he'd retire after the season. The Trojans scored one-third of their points for the season against NMSU and for the year are allowing 455.7 yards per game. 

    The Trojans will get their 100th home win under Blakeney and second in a row. 

    Prediction: Troy 31, Appalachian State 21

    Final: Appalachian State 53, Troy 14

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 7 Alabama

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: AJ McCarron threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns as Alabama overcame 562 yards of total offense from Johnny Manziel to win 49-42 at Texas A&M last September. 

    What to watch for

    Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) has plummeted back to Earth after a 5-0 start, a beginning that doesn't look nearly as good anymore now that the Aggies have been run over in their past two games. First they were blown out at Mississippi State, then lost handily at home to Ole Miss, each time falling behind by a lot early and doing little to get back into the game until it was too late.

    Kenny Hill has gone from looking like an early Heisman candidate to someone who's struggling to avoid making mistakes. In the two losses he's been responsible for all six of A&M's turnovers (five interceptions and a fumble), and the last two turnovers resulted in touchdown returns for Ole Miss. 

    And A&M's defense, which was making great strides earlier in the season against inferior competition, has been getting torched the last three games and is looking more like the unit that failed to make stops in 2013.

    Alabama (5-1, 2-1) hasn't looked very pretty of late, either, but at least it's coming off a win. Sure, the 14-13 victory at Arkansas won't get much inclusion on the season-ending highlight video, but style points aren't what Nick Saban seems to be going for right now with his team mired in a funk as AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky wrote:

    No doubt Saban recognizes that this Alabama team isn't the same dominant machine he's commanded in the past. Couple that with the strongest division he's encountered since the AFC East, and it's understandable that each victory seems a little more precious when it's not so easily achieved. Even if it wasn't so pleasing to the eye.

    This looked like a much bigger game a few weeks ago, and it's still a very important one. But it's also now looking like an opportunity for Alabama to take out some frustration on a vulnerable opponent that's reeling.

    Prediction: Alabama 44, Texas A&M 24

    Final: Alabama 59, Texas A&M 0

UCLA at California

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brett Hundley threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns in UCLA's 37-10 home win over California last October. 

    What to watch for

    UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) has dropped two straight after a hot start for the second year in a row. Unlike last season, when the Bruins dropped games on the road to unbeaten teams, this time they've been at home to opponents coming off losses. 

    Their 42-30 loss to Oregon wasn't really that close, and the Bruins' previously strong defense has disappeared the last few games. Even more troubling, the line can't block for Brett Hundley, and he's forced to freelance too much.

    California (4-2, 2-2) was held to a lone touchdown by Washington last week, after averaging 50-plus in its previous three games. The Golden Bears have been paced by Jared Goff's prolific passing, but their defense has prevented them from being able to do more than just outscore teams.

    Cal has the firepower to win this game, but UCLA is just too good to lose three in a row. The Bruins were blown out in Berkeley by a bad team two years ago, but don't expect a repeat performance.

    Prediction: UCLA 40, California 23

    Final: UCLA 34, California 34

New Mexico at Air Force

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cole Gautsche ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns in New Mexico's 45-37 home win over Air Force last November.

    What to watch for

    New Mexico (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) is amazingly 2-0 on the road and 0-4 at home, yet wherever it's played the formula has been the same: an unbalanced offense without much passing and a defense short on stops. The Lobos are ninth in rushing, at 294 yards per game, but 118th in total defense and second-worst overall in rushing defense.

    Air Force (4-2, 1-2) has doubled last year's win total thanks to an offense that's been very productive, behind a No. 13 rushing attack and a plus-three turnover margin. The Falcons are giving up 23.3 points per game, down from 40 a year ago.

    Air Force moves one step closer to bowl eligibility with an easy victory.

    Prediction: Air Force 46, New Mexico 17

    Final: Air Force 35, New Mexico 31

Army at Kent State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Dri Archer ran for 222 yards and a touchdown in Kent State's 31-17 win at Army in October 2012.

    What to watch for

    Army (2-4) is fourth in the country in rushing at 323.5 yards per game, but that's only enabled the Black Knights to beat a pair of bottom-half Mid-American teams at home. One of those, Buffalo, just fired its coach. They're 0-3 on the road and overall are allowing 35.3 points per game.

    Kent State (0-6) is off to its worst start since going winless in 1998, though three of its losses have been by 10 points or less. The Golden Flashes played for the MAC title two seasons ago but since November 2012 have lost 16 of 20, and this season they've yet to top 17 points.

    Kent is 109th in rushing defense, which doesn't bode well against such a prolific rushing opponent. Home or not, this looks like another loss.

    Prediction: Army 27, Kent State 21

    Final: Kent State 39, Army 17

Ball State at Central Michigan

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Keith Wenning threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns in Ball State's 44-24 home win over Central Michigan last November.

    What to watch for

    Ball State (1-5, 0-2 Mid-American) has lost five straight, though none by more than 11 points. The Cardinals have increased their scoring in every game during that streak, but so too have they allowed more points. After winning 10 games a year ago, the Cardinals look to be headed for their first losing season since 2010.

    Central Michigan (4-3, 2-1) is coming off one of the most impressive performances for any team outside of the power conferences this season, winning 34-17 at perennial MAC power Northern Illinois. The Chippewas were the first team to beat NIU at home since 2009, and senior Thomas Rawls ran for 270 yards. Despite missing two games this season, Rawls has 840 yards and nine touchdowns.

    Expect a third straight 200-yard rushing game from Rawls and a big win for Central Michigan.

    Prediction: Central Michigan 37, Ball State 20

    Final: Ball State 32, Central Michigan 29

Rutgers at No. 13 Ohio State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Rutgers (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) continues its opening slate of conference games against the league's blue bloods, having already faced Penn State and Michigan. But now the Scarlet Knights play their first road game in the Big Ten and head to Ohio Stadium to face an environment they've never seen before.

    "I'm excited to see how the guys are going to respond," Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova told Steve Edelson of the Asbury Park Press, adding, "It's a great challenge."

    Nova has been everything good about Rutgers this year, as well as what's gone wrong with the Knights. The senior is having a career year, with 1,601 passing yards and 13 touchdowns (including seven in the past two games), but in Rutgers' lone loss, Penn State picked him off five times. He's had to ramp it up since Rutgers lost leading rusher Paul James to a season-ending knee injury, and for the most part, he's been on point.

    Ohio State (4-1, 1-0) has looked like one of the best teams in the country since suffering its surprise home loss to Virginia Tech in September. Since then, the Buckeyes have averaged 56 points per game. Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has been phenomenal and is putting up far better passing numbers than Braxton Miller, the man he replaced.

    OSU's run game is slowly coming around, now up to 18th nationally at 247 yards per game after averaging 311 yards with eight touchdowns over the past three contests. Balance was the Buckeyes' offensive issue early but not of late.

    The Buckeyes are also 13th in passing defense, which will make Nova's day a difficult one in Columbus. 

    Prediction: Ohio State 37, Rutgers 20

    Final: Ohio State 56, Rutgers 17

UAB at Middle Tennessee

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cody Clark hit an 18-yard field goal with three seconds left to give Middle Tennessee a 24-21 win at UAB last November.

    What to watch for

    UAB (4-2, 2-1 Conference USA) is averaging 40.2 points per game under first-year coach Bill Clark, and its 241 points scored this season is nearly as many (315) as the Blazers had in 12 games last year while going 2-10. UAB is averaging more than 280 passing yards and more than 200 rushing yards each game.

    Middle Tennessee (4-3, 3-1) has played a bunch of shootouts this year, and as a result, it's only outscoring teams 36-33. Quarterback Austin Grammer has thrown for 1,752 yards and nine touchdowns, while Grammer is one of four Blue Raiders with at least 200 rushing yards.

    Both teams like to be balanced and explosive, and neither does much on the defensive end. Those can be some of the most fun games to watch, and the home crowd should be pleased following this high-scoring clash.

    Prediction: Middle Tennessee 45, UAB 41

    Final: Middle Tennessee 34, UAB 22

North Carolina State at Louisville

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Mike Glennon threw three touchdown passes to lead North Carolina State to a 31-24 win over Louisville to win the 2011 Belk Bowl in Charlotte.

    What to watch for

    North Carolina State (4-3, 0-3 ACC) has fallen apart over the past three weeks, specifically since jumping out to a 24-7 lead after one quarter against Florida State. Since then, the Wolfpack have been outscored 120-31, and quarterback Jacoby Brissett has gone from being unstoppable to risking losing his starting job.

    He's only thrown two interceptions but in the last two games is just 18-of-48 for 209 yards and one touchdown after throwing 13 in the first five games. NC State as a whole has dropped off since the 4-0 start and is giving up 478.3 yards per game in the ACC.

    Louisville (5-2, 3-2) has lost 12 fumbles this season, which has contributed to its two losses. The Cardinals have been a ball hawk on defense themselves, though, with 14 interceptions led by Gerod Holliman's seven picks. The offense hasn't been consistent all season, with coach Bobby Petrino going back to Will Gardner last week in place of Reggie Bonnafon at quarterback.

    Louisville has played much better at home than on the road, and with Florida State coming into town soon, this will be the last chance to get things worked out before that big showdown on Oct. 30.

    Prediction: Louisville 30, North Carolina State 17

    Final: Louisville 30, North Carolina State 18

Cincinnati at SMU

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    David Kohl/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brendon Kay threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in Cincinnati's 28-25 home win over SMU last November.

    What to watch for

    Cincinnati (2-3, 0-1 American) has allowed 146 points during its three-game losing streak, including 55 last week at Miami (Florida). The Bearcats' wide-open passing game hasn't been as effective of late, though Gunner Kiel has still managed to throw for 1,612 yards and 18 touchdowns. No defense is worse than Cincinnati's, as it has allowed 573.6 yards per game.

    SMU (0-5, 0-1) has the third-worst defense in the country, allowing 557 yards per game, but the Mustangs haven't had the offense to back that up. They've gained only 243.4 yards and 7.2 points per game, figures that got a huge boost by scoring 24 points and amassing 390 yards at East Carolina last time out.

    This might be where SMU's offense comes alive, considering Cincinnati's inability to defend, but not enough to expect a win.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 48, SMU 30

    Final: Cincinnati 41, SMU 3

No. 24 Clemson at Boston College

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Clemson needed a Tajh Boyd touchdown run and a fumble return for a score by Vic Beasley in the fourth quarter to hold off visiting Boston College 24-14 last October.

    What to watch for

    Clemson (4-2, 3-1 ACC) heads into an important road contest with another change at quarterback, as senior Cole Stoudt is back in charge following freshman Deshaun Watson's surgery Monday to repair a broken bone in his throwing hand. Stoudt started the Tigers' first three games, going 1-2, while Watson won all three of his starts but went down early last week against Louisville.

    With the offense likely taking a step back under Stoudt, Clemson's defense will be counted on to make big plays. Those have started to come around more of late, with last week's game featuring a goal-line stand in the final minute to preserve the victory as well as a defensive touchdown for the second straight contest.

    Boston College (4-2, 1-1) continues to be a mostly one-person show on offense, with quarterback Tyler Murphy accounting for more than 55 percent of the Eagles offense via the pass and run. He leads the team in rushing with 711 yards and eight touchdowns, but overall BC is fifth nationally in rushing at 315.7 yards per game.

    Clemson is 11th against the run and last week slowed down Louisville's power rushing game. BC has lost twice at home, falling to Pittsburgh and Colorado State, and will drop a third decision in Chestnut Hill.

    Prediction: Clemson 26, Boston College 20

    Final: Clemson 17, Boston College 13

No. 8 Michigan State at Indiana

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jeremy Langford ran for three touchdowns in Michigan State's 42-28 home win over Indiana last October.

    What to watch for

    Michigan State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) has found conference play to be nothing short of exciting so far, as it nearly blew a big lead at home to Nebraska and then played a surprisingly high-scoring game at Purdue last week. The Spartans offense took a step forward in that last game, with 294 rushing yards as a team, and has moved up to 17th nationally in total yards per game.

    The inability to hold on to big leads remains an issue, though, as Purdue rallied to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter before Darien Harris sealed the game with an interception return TD. MSU has been outscored 47-7 in the fourth by power-conference opponents this season.

    Indiana (3-3, 0-2) heads into the second half of the season with a major hole at quarterback, as Nate Sudfeld had shoulder surgery and is done for the year. His replacement is Chris Covington, a freshman who moved from linebacker to quarterback during the preseason.

    The Hoosiers still have a lights-out running back in Tevin Coleman, who leads FBS with 1,060 rushing yards and has scored 11 touchdowns, but without the balance of an experienced passer, he won't be able to do it alone.

    Prediction: Michigan State 40, Indiana 21

    Final: Michigan State 56, Indiana 17

Kansas at Texas Tech

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Baker Mayfield threw for 356 yards in Texas Tech's 54-16 win at Kansas last October.

    What to watch for

    Kansas (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) has dropped both games since firing coach Charlie Weis but last week had Oklahoma State tied in the fourth quarter before giving up a game-winning kickoff return touchdown. The Jayhawks have scored 61 points in their last five games, though the switch to Michael Cummings at quarterback produced better results and could be a move in the right direction.

    Texas Tech (2-4, 0-3) is off to its worst Big 12 start since 1990, and overall it has lost four in a row. The Red Raiders have allowed 44 points per game during their skid, and even though Davis Webb has thrown for 1,951 yards and 19 touchdowns, he's also been intercepted 11 times.

    Tech blew a late lead at home to West Virginia last week but at least was competitive for most of the game. It will get this one to avoid an 0-4 conference start.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 40, Kansas 21

    Final: Texas Tech 34, Kansas 21

No. 15 Oklahoma State at No. 12 TCU

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Josh Stewart's 95-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter paced a 24-10 home win for Oklahoma State over TCU last October. 

    What to watch for

    Oklahoma State (5-1, 3-0 Big 12) has won five straight since its season-opening loss to Florida State, and the Cowboys have feasted on the lower half of the conference to get off to their first 3-0 start since 2011. None of the victories in league play has been particularly convincing, though, as OK State occasionally looks like a team that's still getting a slew of new starters into comfortable roles.

    One of the most consistent players has been quarterback Daxx Garman, who, despite only throwing for 161 yards last week at Kansas, has filled in well since J.W. Walsh got injured in the second game of the season. Desmond Roland has run the ball well, and Tyreek Hill has shown off his speed as a rusher, receiver and kick returner. His kickoff return TD in the fourth quarter won the game for the Cowboys last week.

    TCU (4-1, 1-1) has to bounce back from allowing 24 points in the final 11 minutes of its 61-58 loss at Baylor last week. In less than a quarter, the Horned Frogs went from looking like the class of the Big 12 to falling into the pack, and with a third straight game against a ranked opponent, there's no time to casually regroup.

    Trevone Boykin has seen his accuracy issues pop up again, completing just 41 of 85 passes the last two weeks. And the Frogs defense, after allowing just 21 points in TCU's first three games, has been lit up for 94 the last two outings.

    For TCU to come out of the Oklahoma-Baylor two-step with a split is still huge, but for it to really be considered a contender, it will need to handle all challenges. OK State has gone under the radar and will be a challenge, but the Frogs come out by a few scores.

    Prediction: TCU 33, Oklahoma State 21

    Final: TCU 42, Oklahoma State 9

No. 10 Georgia vs. Arkansas (in Little Rock, Arkansas)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ryan Mallett threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns in Arkansas' 31-24 win at Georgia in September 2010.

    What to watch for

    Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC) had one of the most surprising results of last week in shutting out Missouri on the road despite not having its best player available. With Todd Gurley indefinitely suspended amid profit-by-autograph allegations, the Bulldogs turned to true freshman Nick Chubb to be the rushing workhorse. He responded with 143 yards on 38 carries.

    The Bulldogs will need to be more balanced to keep winning, though, and not just in terms of run-pass. Getting Nick Marshall and Sony Michel back from injuries will help keep Chubb and Brendan Douglas from having to take on the brunt of the carries, but they probably won't be available at Arkansas.

    Georgia's defense has been showing improvement, with two shutouts now this year, but now it will face an Arkansas offensive line that is massive and opens holes for the No. 11 run game in the country.

    Arkansas (3-3, 0-3) didn't get its usual kind of rushing effort in the loss to Alabama last week, only gaining 89 yards. Overall, though, the duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams has run for 1,203 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    The Razorbacks keep getting close to that signature win but instead have lost 15 straight SEC games dating back to 2012. Each time out, it seems like they'll get over the hump, and this is another opportunity for them to make their mark.

    Finally, Arkansas ends its skid.

    Prediction: Arkansas 30, Georgia 28

    Final: Georgia 45, Arkansas 32

San Jose State at Wyoming

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: David Fales threw for 482 yards and five touchdowns in San Jose State's 51-44 home win over Wyoming last October.

    What to watch for

    San Jose (2-3, 1-1 Mountain West) has averaged 37.5 points per game in its wins, including a 33-10 victory over UNLV last time out, and scored a total of 30 points in its three losses. The Spartans have struggled to find a replacement for prolific passer David Fales, using two different passers this season to equally middling returns.

    Wyoming (3-3, 1-1) blew a lead at Hawaii late last Saturday, as its defense wore down in the second half to drop the team to 0-3 on the road this season. The Cowboys are perfect at home, though, holding opponents to 14.7 points per game in Laramie.

    Wyoming will control the tempo and try to keep the score low, which has worked well in its victories.

    Prediction: Wyoming 24, San Jose State 13

    Final: San Jose State 27, Wyoming 20 (OT)

New Mexico State at Idaho

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    Todd Bennett/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 5 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Andrew McDonald threw two touchdown passes in New Mexico State's 24-16 home win over Idaho last November.

    What to watch for

    New Mexico State (2-5, 1-2 Sun Belt) has dropped five straight since opening 2-0, and last week the Aggies lost by 17 at previously winless Troy. Quarterback Tyler Rogers has thrown 13 interceptions, the most in the FBS, which has not gone well with a defense that is allowing 332.1 rushing yards per game.

    Idaho (0-6, 0-4) has lost 13 in a row, and as a team that was already ineligible for the postseason because of low academic progress rates, the Vandals have had little to play for. Quarterback Matt Linehan has done his best to try to keep his team in games, with 1,874 passing yards and nine touchdowns, but Idaho allows 494.7 yards per game.

    Idaho hasn't been competitive in its previous two home games, but it has a real chance to win here and will end its long skid.

    Prediction: Idaho 33, New Mexico State 27

    Final: Idaho 29, New Mexico State 17

Miami (Ohio) at Northern Illinois

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 5 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Thomas Merriweather ran for two touchdowns in Miami's 26-21 win over Northern Illinois in the 2010 Mid-American Conference title game.

    What to watch for

    Miami (1-6, 1-2 Mid-American) ended its long losing streak earlier this season, but the RedHawks still haven't won on the road since September 2012. Quarterback Andrew Hendrix has thrown for 2,131 yards and 17 touchdowns, which is 640 yards and nine TDs more than Miami passers tallied all of last season.

    Northern Illinois (4-2, 1-1) suffered its first home loss since 2009 and first in regular-season MAC play since October 2011 last week, falling to Central Michigan. The Huskies have backslid since a 3-0 start and have averaged just 16 points in their past three contests, with quarterback play being the biggest issue.

    Look for NIU to rebound but not in a walkover as might be expected. Miami is far more competitive this season.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 33, Miami 21

    Final: Northern Illinois 51, Miami 41

No. 25 Marshall at Florida International

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Rakeem Cato threw four touchdown passes in a 48-10 win at Florida International last November.

    What to watch for

    Marshall (6-0, 2-0 Conference USA) has been as close to an unstoppable team as any in FBS this season. The Thundering Herd have scored at least 42 points in every game, are winning by more than 30 points per contest and are incredibly balanced on offense in ranking second in yards per game at 594.5.

    Senior quarterback Rakeem Cato has thrown for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns and shares the FBS record with former North Carolina State and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson with TD passes in 38 straight games, while running back Devon Johnson has 814 yards and 11 TD runs. Cato, with 11,874 career passing yards, needs 30 yards to pass Byron Leftwich for second all-time at Marshall.

    Florida International (3-4, 2-1) has managed to triple its win total from a year ago despite having an offense that ranks 122nd with 280.3 yards per game. The Golden Panthers have compensated by being a ball-hawking team on defense, with an FBS-leading 24 takeaways including 16 fumble recoveries, and they've scored four defensive touchdowns.

    Marshall is relatively careful with the ball and has the firepower to overcome such mistakes.

    Prediction: Marshall 44, Florida International 20

    Final: Marshall 45, Florida International 13

Colorado at No. 22 USC

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Javorius Allen ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns in USC's 47-29 win at Colorado last November.

    What to watch for

    Colorado (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) is the only winless team in the conference, yet the Buffaloes suffered those losses by a combined 22 points that includes a double-overtime defeat at California. They've got a promising young quarterback in Sefo Liufau (1,887 yards, 19 touchdowns) and a stellar receiver in Nelson Spruce (62 receptions, 732 yards, 10 TDs) but haven't been able to put up enough points to help a weak defense.

    USC (4-2, 3-1) survived at Arizona last week, watching the Wildcats miss a short game-winning field goal in the final minute after the Trojans entered the fourth quarter up 15 points. Javorius Allen was a beast, running for 205 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, he has 781 yards and seven TDs to go along with 278 receiving yards.

    Cody Kessler finally threw an interception, but when he's got time to throw, he's very effective and has 1,565 yards and 11 TDs. The Trojans defense hasn't been up to snuff of late, however, and figures to be defending a lot of passing in this one.

    USC has hopefully learned not to let teams stick around, which has been an issue the last two games. Look for the Trojans to jump ahead early and then keep the foot on the gas.

    Prediction: USC 45, Colorado 27

    Final: USC 56, Colorado 28

Tennessee at No. 3 Ole Miss

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tyler Bray threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in Tennessee's 52-14 home win over Ole Miss in November 2010.

    What to watch for

    Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC) has come oh-so-close in its first two league games, losing by three at Georgia and by one at home to Florida. The Volunteers appear on the cusp of turning that corner, but with such a young team, they've yet to find a way to close out a tight game.

    Senior quarterback Justin Worley has provided great leadership and consistency, with 1,388 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, but Tennessee has no run game to back him up. The Vols rank 112th in rushing offense, and their 2.96 yards-per-carry average is worse than only three other power-conference teams.

    Ole Miss (6-0, 3-0) has done just enough on offense but hasn't needed to worry too much about putting up big numbers thanks to the program's best defense in years. The Rebels allow 11.8 points per game and have given up only six offensive touchdowns, including two in garbage time by Texas A&M last week.

    The Rebels have intercepted 12 passes this season, five by Senquez Golson, and three different players have returned picks for touchdowns.

    Ole Miss has only one win over the Vols in the past 30 years, winning in 2009. But the Rebels are a new team and will continue to ride their defense as long as they can.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 30, Tennessee 13

    Final: Ole Miss 34, Tennessee 3

Missouri at Florida

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Maty Mauk threw for 295 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's 36-17 home win over Florida last October.

    What to watch for

    Missouri (4-2, 1-1 SEC) just got shut out at home by Georgia, managing only 147 yards and committing five turnovers. The Tigers offense has gone into a tailspin of late, losing two of three and getting shoddy play from quarterback Maty Mauk (21-of-55, 229 yards, four interceptions) over the past two games.

    Mizzou was looking like a strong candidate to win the East Division again after rallying to win at South Carolina, but the Georgia loss puts it back in the pack with everyone else and in need of some consistency.

    Florida (3-2, 2-2) had another lackluster passing game from Jeff Driskel, and his late mistakes fueled LSU's comeback win. Coach Will Muschamp has said both Driskel and freshman Treon Harris will play, but the Gators' problem goes deeper than quarterback play.

    The Gators haven't gotten consistent rushing either, with Matt Jones putting up two 100-yard performances and two games with less than 50.

    Florida needs this win more than Missouri, for its coach's sake.

    Prediction: Florida 27, Missouri 23

    Final: Missouri 42, Florida 13

Southern Mississippi at North Texas

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Derek Thompson had 300 passing yards and two touchdowns in North Texas' 55-14 win at Southern Mississippi last October.

    What to watch for

    Southern Mississippi (2-4, 0-2 Conference USA) has made progress from a year ago but is still not good enough to beat most teams in its conference. The Golden Eagles' wins have been by a combined seven points, and in C-USA play they're allowing 39 points per game.

    North Texas (2-4, 0-2) has two wins by an average of 55.5 points and four losses by an average of 28 per game. The Mean Green's defense has been a big disappointment this season, allowing 32.3 points per game despite only giving up 378.3 yards per game.

    With a schedule that could still enable it to get to six wins and bowl eligibility, North Texas can't squander any opportunities for victory. Give the Mean Green the nod.

    Prediction: North Texas 34, Southern Mississippi 24

    Final: Southern Mississippi 30, North Texas 20

Utah State at Colorado State

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Joey DeMartino ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in Utah State's 13-0 home win over Colorado State last November.

    What to watch for

    Utah State (4-2, 1-0 Mountain West) has looked great in its two games since officially ruling quarterback Chuckie Keeton out for the season. Darell Garretson has run the Aggies offense with efficiency, averaging 295.7 yards per game with eight touchdowns in his three starts.

    USU's roster is full of unheralded stars, like brothers Zach Vigil (22 tackles versus Air Force) and Nick Vigil, who has started on both sides of the ball.

    Colorado State (5-1, 1-1) has flown under the radar as well, despite wins over Colorado and at Boston College. The Rams have a potent three-headed monster on offense in the form of quarterback Garrett Grayson (1,823 yards, 16 touchdowns), running back Dee Hart (543 yards, five TDs) and receiver Rashard Higgins (776 yards, 10 TDs).

    The Rams are a 13-point loss at Boise State from being unbeaten but with this win will keep themselves in the running for the Mountain Division title.

    Prediction: Colorado State 31, Utah State 27

    Final: Colorado State 16, Utah State 13

Georgia Tech at North Carolina

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    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: David Sims had two touchdown runs in Georgia Tech's 28-20 home win over North Carolina last September.

    What to watch for

    Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1 ACC) lost at home to Duke last week and now has to avoid falling into a similar slide as it did last year after losing for the first time. The Yellow Jackets got their first bad performance from quarterback Justin Thomas, who Duke intercepted twice after he threw only one pick in 72 attempts in the first five games.

    Tech's bread and butter is the run game, though, and that's averaged 294.7 yards per game. A heavy load of that should happen against a North Carolina defense that is 96th against the run.

    North Carolina (2-4, 0-2) is bad in all areas of defense, having allowed 51 points per game during its four-game losing streak. The Tar Heels had a few leads at Notre Dame last week, thanks to Marquise Williams' 303 passing yards and 132 rushing yards, but that defense never made a stop.

    The Heels rank 120th in total defense and will be hard-pressed to slow down an option team. But with coach Larry Fedora's job starting to become unsafe, look for UNC to rise up and knock off the suddenly vulnerable Yellow Jackets.

    Prediction: North Carolina 37, Georgia Tech 31

    Final: North Carolina 48, Georgia Tech 43

No. 19 Nebraska at Northwestern

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jordan Westerkamp caught a 49-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired to give Nebraska a 27-24 home win over Northwestern last November.

    What to watch for

    Nebraska (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) had last week off after suffering its first loss, a 27-22 defeat at Michigan State that saw the Cornhuskers score 19 fourth-quarter points and have a chance to win in the end. That game saw both Ameer Abdullah struggle with the run and Tommy Armstrong Jr. have difficulties throwing the ball, the first time Nebraska has faced real strife this season.

    Abdullah has had two off games rushing but has also been dominant in four others. He's run for 878 yards and 10 touchdowns, and that's enabled Armstrong to come along with 1,752 yards of total offense and 12 total scores.

    Northwestern (3-3, 2-1) has already shown it can win in spite of having a running back go off, as two weeks ago the Wildcats beat visiting Wisconsin even with Melvin Gordon putting up huge numbers. Last week, they slowed down Minnesota's run game but lost on a late kickoff return.

    The Wildcats have looked much better since Big Ten play began and will be a thorn in the side of every conference opponent they face. They've got a slowly developing offense and a defensive unit that's going to keep the score down, and it will result in another home upset this week.

    Prediction: Northwestern 27, Nebraska 24

    Final: Nebraska 38, Northwestern 17

Georgia State at South Alabama

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Shavarez Smith had 10 catches for 194 yards in South Alabama's 38-21 win at Georgia State last November.

    What to watch for

    Georgia State (1-5, 0-3 Sun Belt) is still looking for its first win against an FBS team in two years at this level. After nearly winning at defending conference champ Louisiana-Lafayette two weeks ago, the Panthers were crushed by Arkansas State at home last time out. Nick Arbuckle is averaging 292.2 passing yards per game, but he hasn't thrown a touchdown in his last two outings.

    South Alabama (3-2, 2-1) is coming off back-to-back road wins in league play, albeit against bad teams in Idaho and Appalachian State, but if the Jaguars are going to earn their first bowl invitation, they have to knock off those opponents. Senior quarterback Brandon Bridge is coming off his best game, throwing for 339 yards and three touchdowns, and he needs to remain consistent to stay in the race for the Sun Belt title.

    The Jaguars have momentum and will roll.

    Prediction: South Alabama 39, Georgia State 21

    Final: South Alabama 30, Georgia State 27

Kentucky at LSU

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: LSU held Kentucky to 155 yards in a 35-7 home win in October 2011.

    What to watch for

    What kind of a team, really, is Kentucky? The Wildcats (5-1, 2-1 SEC) are a questionable delay of game call in overtime against Florida away from being unbeaten yet are still off to their best start since 2007.

    "We're not satisfied with five [wins]," quarterback Patrick Towles told Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader. "We're not going to be satisfied with six or seven, either. We want to win out. We think we can do it."

    Look closer, though, and Kentucky doesn't have a true quality win. The victory over South Carolina is the best of the lot, but the remaining schedule is by far the tougher side, starting with a visit to LSU. The Wildcats haven't won in Baton Rouge since 1998. 

    LSU (5-2, 1-2) saved its season by pulling out a win at Florida last week, avoiding its first 0-3 start in the conference in 15 years. It wasn't a pretty game, with the passing game still a mess, but it showed a lot of promise for a turnaround thanks to the effort of freshman running back Leonard Fournette (career-high 140 yards, two touchdowns) and a defense that came up big in the end.

    The Tigers may be out of the running for the West Division title, but they'll play a role in who wins it with games remaining against Ole Miss and Alabama. Don't count them out from still getting to nine wins, starting with a solid victory here.

    Prediction: LSU 35, Kentucky 21

    Final: LSU 41, Kentucky 3

Washington at No. 9 Oregon

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Marcus Mariota threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon's 45-24 win at Washington last October.

    What to watch for

    It's been nearly 11 years since Washington beat Oregon, taking some shine off what used to be a very competitive Northwest rivalry. Last year was when that streak was supposed to end, with ESPN's College GameDay in Seattle, but Oregon ran away in the second half.

    Washington (5-1, 1-1 Pac-12) was impressive in shutting down California's high-powered offense, holding the Golden Bears to just a touchdown after they'd averaged 55 points in their previous three games. That defense has paced the Huskies all season, particularly linebacker Shaq Thompson and his amazing four defensive touchdowns (to go with a rushing TD) and sack specialists Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton (combined 17 sacks).

    Oregon (5-1, 2-1) has been susceptible to giving up sacks this year with its offensive line in injury-affected flux, but last week the return of left tackle Jake Fisher kept Marcus Mariota from getting taken down once. When Mariota doesn't have that to worry about, he's unstoppable. For the year, he has thrown for 1,621 yards and 17 touchdowns, run for five scores and even caught a TD pass.

    The Ducks defense has been up and down and gave up a lot of yards to UCLA last week despite the comfortable victory. Washington's offense has been sluggish for most of the year and doesn't have the firepower to keep up.

    Prediction: Oregon 38, Washington 20

    Final: Oregon 45, Washington 20

Iowa State at Texas

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Case McCoy's one-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left gave Texas a 31-30 win at Iowa State last October.

    What to watch for

    Iowa State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) outlasted Toledo last week to get back into the win column, finally having some things go its way in another season of near misses. The Cyclones rank 113th in total offense, and their defense hasn't been able to pick up the slack by allowing 33.2 points per game.

    Texas (2-4, 1-2) dominated the stat sheets and most of the game itself against rival Oklahoma last week but still lost by five points because of a few big plays. The Longhorns look like they're turning a corner under Charlie Strong, but that offense (ranked 110th nationally) has yet to show any consistency.

    Texas' defense is the far superior unit in this game, and it will dictate the tone and lead the Longhorns to victory.

    Prediction: Texas 27, Iowa State 14

    Final: Texas 48, Iowa State 45

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Florida State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: EJ Manuel's two fourth-quarter touchdowns gave Florida State an 18-14 win over Notre Dame in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.

    What to watch for

    Notre Dame (6-0) has yet to play in a hostile environment, having had four home games as well as neutral clashes with Purdue (in Indianapolis) and Syracuse (in New Jersey). There have been a few challenges, but nothing compared to what the Fighting Irish are faced with in traveling to the defending national champions.

    But it's exactly what coach Brian Kelly believes his team needs in order to get into the first College Football Playoff.

    "We want to be challenged nationally against the very, very best," Kelly told Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune. "We want to be relevant, playing the very best at this time of the season."

    For Notre Dame to win in Tallahassee, though, its star is going to need to stop being so careless with the ball. Everett Golson has thrown for 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns, adding four more rushing TDs, but in his past three games, he's turned the ball over nine times. For the season, the Irish have a plus-three turnover margin but only because they've managed to force 14 takeaways to offset Golson's sloppiness.

    Florida State (6-0) has had the same problem with giving the ball away, losing it 12 times this season, but it hasn't been focused on just one person. Quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown five interceptions, but they haven't come at the same critical points as Golson.

    Yet the Seminoles' problems have run much deeper than ball security. Despite winning 22 straight games, this year's team isn't nearly as good as the one that dominated for much of 2013. The last two games have shown a turn in that direction, but that's come against Wake Forest and Syracuse, and they've trailed in three games this year.

    Assuming Winston plays in this game—and with the mounting off-field issues, that's never a given—this will be his chance to reclaim his spot atop the college football world. He's completing 70 percent of his passes, and his 321 yards per game is above his Heisman-winning rate, but to this point, his on-field performance has flown under the radar.

    The big spotlight will be his, and Florida State wins comfortably.

    Prediction: Florida State 34, Notre Dame 24

    Final: Florida State 31, Notre Dame 27

Nevada at BYU

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 10:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jamaal Williams ran for 219 yards and a touchdown in BYU's 28-23 win at Nevada last November.

    What to watch for

    Nevada (3-3) has a very good player in senior quarterback Cody Fajardo, but no one else is coming along with him to keep the Wolf Pack's offense balanced. Fajardo has 1,806 yards of total offense, which represents 73 percent of Nevada's yardage, and when he makes mistakes, there's no one else to turn to.

    BYU (4-2) hasn't looked good at all since Taysom Hill went down for the year with a broken ankle. Backup quarterback Christian Stewart has completed only 48.5 percent of his passes and has just 325 yards in two games, and his running ability can't replicate what Hill did.

    The Cougars have a solid running back in Jamaal Williams, who needs to become the focal point of the offense, but he suffered an ankle injury against UCF last week and is a question mark for this one.

    Expect the home team to have enough to get this one in the win column, but some offensive tinkering has to happen from here on out to ensure the Cougars finish strong.

    Prediction: BYU 30, Nevada 23

    Final: Nevada 42, BYU 35

Hawaii at San Diego State

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    Eugene Tanner/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Adam Muema had 163 rushing yards and scored a touchdown in overtime in San Diego State's 28-21 win at Hawaii last November.

    What to watch for

    Hawaii (2-4, 1-0 Mountain West) technically leads its division after opening conference play with a 38-28 comeback home win over Wyoming last week. That's misleading, though, because the Warriors have lost 15 straight road games and play far worse on the mainland. Injuries continue to be an issue, as quarterback Taylor Graham broke his foot last week.

    San Diego State (3-3, 2-1) won an ugly game at New Mexico last week, as its offense has come to a halt with freshman Nick Bawden at the helm. The Aztecs rank 113th in passing offense, with only three touchdown passes all season.

    Quinn Kaehler is expected back from a shoulder injury, according to Tod Leonard of U-T San Diego, which should help things, but Hawaii's defense is solid, and this won't be an easy win.

    Prediction: San Diego State 27, Hawaii 24

    Final: San Diego State 20, Hawaii 10

No. 23 Stanford at No. 17 Arizona State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Oct. 18; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tyler Gaffney ran for 133 yards and three touchdowns in Stanford's 38-14 win at Arizona State last December in the Pac-12 championship game.

    What to watch for

    Arizona State and Stanford meet for the third time in a little over a year, with Stanford sweeping both the regular-season game (at home) and the Pac-12 final in Tempe in 2013.

    Stanford (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) remains one of the most offensively challenged teams in the country, despite being ranked for much of the season. The Cardinal have scored 20 or fewer points three times, losing two of those outings, because of a red-zone offense that is 119th in the country with a 67.9 percent conversion rate.

    They might have found a new weapon close to the goal line in Greg Taboada, who caught two short TD passes last week against Washington State, but in that game, the Cardinal also had their eighth and ninth red-zone trips that didn't produce points.

    Without consistent production on offense, it's put pressure on Stanford's powerful defense to do all the work. It's been able to, for the most part, ranking second nationally at 238 yards per game and first in scoring at 10 points per contest.

    Arizona State (4-1, 2-1) is on the complete other end of the spectrum, playing shootouts instead of defensive struggles. Even with a midseason quarterback change, necessitated by injury, the Sun Devils are still averaging 41.2 points per game and are seventh in total offense.

    Mike Bercovici has thrown for 998 yards and eight touchdowns in his two starts in place of Taylor Kelly, who injured his foot in mid-September, and it's still "up in the air" whether Kelly can play Saturday, according to The Associated Press.

    ASU won its last game on a Hail Mary, at USC, a week after getting blown out at home by UCLA, which has since lost two straight. The Pac-12 South remains wide open, and being able to knock off Stanford will keep the Sun Devils in the running for another division title.

    "Every week it's a single-elimination tournament," ASU coach Todd Graham told the AP. "We're in control of our own destiny. I'm real confident in my guys and where we're at as they continue to improve."

    Prediction: Arizona State 30, Stanford 23

    Final: Arizona State 26, Stanford 10

Arkansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When: Tuesday, Oct. 21; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Alonzo Harris ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns in Louisiana-Lafayette's 23-7 win at Arkansas State last October.

    What to watch for

    A Tuesday night game in mid-October may determine the Sun Belt Conference champ, as it pits the winners of the last three years' champs.

    Arkansas State (4-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) has won three straight and is hitting its stride, allowing only 12.7 points per game during that run. Fredi Knighten is coming along at quarterback, and he's also the Red Wolves' second-leading rusher with 333 yards and six touchdowns.

    Louisiana-Lafayette (3-3, 2-0) just played Tuesday night and looked great, particularly on defense in holding Texas State to 270 yards. The Ragin' Cajuns are finally healthy on both sides of the ball, and with Terrance Broadway cutting down on turnovers (he had 326 yards of total offense and only one giveaway), they're starting to resemble the team that's won at least nine games for three straight seasons.

    This is a toss-up, but ULL is coming into its own and will nip Arkansas State in a great game.

    Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 27, Arkansas State 24

    Final: Louisiana-Lafayette 55, Arkansas State 40

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.