College Football Picks: Week 10 Predictions for Every Game
It's Week 10 of the 2020 college football season, which means the Pac-12 and Mid-American Conferences will finally play their first games of the season while UTSA and Texas State are both about to play for the ninth time.
Totally normal stuff.
More importantly, though, Week 10 means we're finally getting two of the most important games of the entire season: No. 1 Clemson at No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 8 Florida.
There has been at least one loss by a team in the AP Top Eight in each of the past six weeks, and we're guaranteed to have at least two such results this week. We may even get three, because No. 7 Texas A&M at South Carolina is no sure thing. (However, don't bank on Rutgers upsetting No. 3 Ohio State.)
Beyond those Top 10 slugfests, there is a full slate of action for the first time. Fifty-nine games (COVID-19 cancellations permitting) is quite the step up from last week's batch of 43, but at least we've all had plenty of time to limber up for the first Hawaii home game (11 p.m. ET kickoff) and the first #Pac12AfterDark action (Washington State at Oregon State) of the year.
B/R's predictions for each Week 10 game are broken into three sections: AP Top 25 teams, best games for unranked teams and the rest of the slate.
AP Nos. 25-21
No. 25 Liberty (6-0) at Virginia Tech (4-2), Noon ET
I don't know what the current record is, but this game may well set the all-time record for the largest gambling spread in which an AP Top 25 team is an underdog against an unranked team.
Credit to Liberty for jumping out to a 6-0 start and making its first-ever appearance in the AP poll, but it's hard to know what to make of the Flames when their six opponents have a combined W-L record of 4-28. The offense led by former Auburn QB Malik Willis is pretty solid and should be able to put up some touchdowns against a shaky Virginia Tech defense. But I expect the Hokies to run all over the Flames, likely scoring on at least 75 percent of their possessions.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 49, Liberty 28
No. 24 Auburn (4-2) IDLE
Next Game: at Mississippi State (Nov. 14)
No. 23 Michigan (1-1) at No. 13 Indiana (2-0), Noon ET
For prediction, see No. 13 Indiana
No. 22 Texas (4-2) vs. West Virginia (4-2), Noon ET
In Morgantown, West Virginia has been a freight train. The Mountaineers are 4-0 at home, and they come into this game fresh off a 37-10 blowout of then-ranked Kansas State.
This game isn't in Morgantown, though, and the 'Eers are 0-2 away from home. For whatever reason, their defense has not traveled well, and that's bad news for this road game against a Texas squad averaging 44.3 points per game. Texas QB Sam Ehlinger has accounted for four touchdowns in each of his last two games against West Virginia. He extends that streak in a Longhorns victory
Prediction: Texas 38, West Virginia 27
No. 21 Boise State (2-0) vs. No. 9 BYU (7-0), 9:45 p.m. ET (Friday)
For prediction, see No. 9 BYU
AP Nos. 20-16
No. 20 USC (0-0) vs. Arizona State (0-0), Noon ET
When Pac-12 teams were first allowed back onto AP ballots in late September, USC debuted in 29th place. In the five polls since then, the Trojans have steadily inched their way up to No. 20 and—with help from the Big 12's self destruction—will now open their season with tangible College Football Playoff aspirations.
They must run the table, though, and that dream could go up in smoke right away against an Arizona State team that went 3-1 against ranked foes in 2019. Kedon Slovis should be able to outduel Jayden Daniels, but don't be surprised if things get weird for this 9 a.m. PT kickoff.
Prediction: USC 31, Arizona State 27
No. 19 Oklahoma (4-2) vs. Kansas (0-6), 3:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma has won 15 consecutive games against Kansas by at least a 14-point margin. This past weekend, Oklahoma scored 62 points on Texas Tech while Kansas allowed 52 points to Iowa State. So. Yeah.
Prediction: Oklahoma 59, Kansas 13
No. 18 SMU (6-1) at Temple (1-3), Noon ET
Temple has allowed at least 31 points in each of its four games. That includes a 39-37 contest against South Florida, which has one of the worst offenses in the nation. It also includes the 38-3 Week 9 loss to Tulane. Now the Owls have the unenviable task of trying to slow down an SMU offense that is averaging 562 yards and 44.0 points per game against opponents not named Cincinnati. We wish them the best of luck in that endeavor.
Prediction: SMU 45, Temple 28
No. 17 Iowa State (4-2) vs. Baylor (1-3), 7 p.m. ET
After going 11-1 during the 2019 season, it has been tough sledding for Baylor, especially in the ground game. In their last three games (all losses), the Bears have rushed for a total of 184 yards and one touchdown while allowing 540 yards and seven scores. Up next is an Iowa State team which has held five of six opponents below 120 rushing yards and which has the nation's second-leading rusher in Breece Hall (150.2 yards per game). That's a lethal combination.
Prediction: Iowa State 38, Baylor 20
No. 16 Marshall (5-0) vs. Massachusetts (0-1), 2:30 p.m. ET
Marshall opened as a 44-point favorite. That is not nearly enough points. Massachusetts allowed 52.7 points per game last season and opened this year with a 41-0 loss to Georgia Southern. And while Marshall hasn't exactly been a juggernaut on offense, it did win a game 59-0 earlier this year. A repeat of that win over Eastern Kentucky would not be a surprise here.
Prediction: Marshall 56, Massachusetts 3
AP Nos. 15-11
No. 15 Coastal Carolina (6-0) vs. South Alabama (3-3), 8 p.m. ET
Coastal Carolina got a little bit of a scare two weeks ago while playing without starting quarterback Grayson McCall against Georgia Southern. With him back out there in Week 9 against Georgia State, though, the Chanticleers demolished the Panthers 51-0. And while South Alabama is 3-3, those three wins came against 1-5 Southern Miss, 1-7 Texas State and 0-7 Louisiana-Monroe. The Jaguars rush defense has been quite bad against respectable opponents.
As long as Coastal Carolina doesn't look past this one to upcoming games against Troy, Appalachian State and Liberty, this should be a blowout.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 42, South Alabama 17
No. 14 Oklahoma State (4-1) at Kansas State (4-2), 4 p.m. ET
This game is nowhere near as attractive following Week 9 losses by both squads—Oklahoma State in overtime to Texas and Kansas State in an embarrassing showing at West Virginia.
I must say, though, I was still impressed by Oklahoma State in defeat. The Cowboys had terrible fumble luck and allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown, but their defense held Texas below 300 total yards, which no one had been able to do since 2017. That defense should take care of business against an anemic Kansas State offense.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, Kansas State 14
No. 13 Indiana (2-0) vs. No. 23 Michigan (1-1), Noon ET
I'm still not buying Indiana as a true contender, but say this much for the Hoosiers: They capitalize on opportunities handed to them. They have scored 27 points off six forced turnovers, plus they got that late game-tying touchdown against Penn State after the Nittany Lions made the mistake of scoring and giving the ball back.
Michigan has not committed a turnover yet this season, though, and that should be the difference in this game. Without multiple huge swings in momentum in Indiana's favor, the Wolverines should eventually wear down the Hoosiers for what would be a 25th consecutive victory in this series.
Prediction: Michigan 35, Indiana 27
No. 12 Oregon (0-0) vs. Stanford (0-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
Before the pandemic, Oregon seemed like it could be one of the five best teams in the country. That might still hold true, but it's going to be a lot tougher with star offensive tackle Penei Sewell and defensive backs Brady Breeze, Thomas Graham Jr. and Jevon Holland all opting out of this season.
Those personnel losses shouldn't make much of a difference against a Stanford team that lost its top running back and star tight end from an offense that averaged a paltry 21.7 points per game last season, but let's see how crisp the Ducks actually look after 10 months off.
Prediction: Oregon 28, Stanford 17
No. 11 Miami (5-1) at North Carolina State (4-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday)
Two weeks ago, this would have felt like more of a threat for an upset. But after NC State lost starting quarterback Devin Leary to a broken leg, the Wolfpack immediately got smashed by North Carolina. In both of its losses, NC State allowed at least 300 rushing yards and at least 45 points. Miami is certainly capable of hitting those marks.
Prediction: Miami 45, NC State 24
AP Nos. 10-6
No. 10 Wisconsin (1-0) vs. Purdue (2-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
Wisconsin looked great in its season-opening win over Illinois with redshirt freshman Graham Mertz throwing for five touchdowns with just one incompletion—on a dropped pass, no less. Since then, however, the Badgers have been trying to contain a COVID-19 outbreak with little success. It forced them to cancel the game against Nebraska and may well force the cancellation of this one against Purdue.
If they play and are without Mertz, that would be enough for me to pick Purdue to pull off the upset. David Bell and Milton Wright have combined for 35 receptions, 428 yards and five touchdowns for the Boilermakers. That dynamic duo has another big day to beat a Wisconsin squad operating at significantly less than 100 percent health.
Prediction: Purdue 28, Wisconsin 23
No. 9 BYU (7-0) at No. 21 Boise State (2-0), 9:45 p.m. ET (Friday)
In five previous tries, BYU has never won a road game against Boise State. But this BYU team is a whole lot better than its predecessors, and Boise State's QB situation is a big unknown after starter Hank Bachmeier missed the Week 9 game against Air Force for an undisclosed reason.
In that game, the Broncos allowed Air Force to rush for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns, which is a sizable red flag in advance of this matchup with one of the most potent offenses in the nation. Boise State will be able to do more against BYU's defense than any other team has this season, but the Broncos probably won't be able to get many stops. Should be an excellent, high-scoring, Friday night battle.
Prediction: BYU 41, Boise State 38
No. 8 Florida (3-1) vs. No. 5 Georgia (4-1), 3:30 p.m. ET (in Jacksonville)
For prediction, see No. 5 Georgia
No. 7 Texas A&M (4-1) at South Carolina (2-3), 7 p.m. ET
With a loss to Alabama already on its ledger, there's no way Texas A&M will get a chance to play for the SEC championship. But the Aggies could go 9-1 to make a very interesting case for the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff. To help their case, they need to start winning games like these with some style points.
Hard to see the Aggies running away with this one, though. South Carolina has scored at least 24 points in each of its five games and should be able to move the ball against a Texas A&M secondary that ranks among the worst in the SEC. Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith will do enough to lead the Aggies to victory, but it's going to be a close one.
Prediction: Texas A&M 34, South Carolina 27
No. 6 Cincinnati (5-0) vs. Houston (2-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Speaking of teams with an interesting case for the No. 4 seed, Cincinnati has to be in that mix after back-to-back wins over SMU and Memphis by a combined score of 91-23. This Bearcats defense has been outstanding. The Desmond Ridder Show on offense has been a thing of beauty, too.
Up next for the Group of Five's best case for a CFP bid is a Houston team that just allowed nearly 700 yards in a 44-21 loss to UCF. The Cougars also lost by 17 to BYU earlier this season, so Cincinnati might be trying to win by at least that much for resume-comparison purposes. That shouldn't be a problem.
Prediction: Cincinnati 42, Houston 17
AP Nos. 5-1
No. 5 Georgia (4-1) vs. No. 8 Florida (3-1), 3:30 p.m. ET (in Jacksonville)
In some ways, this feels like a rematch of that Georgia-Alabama game from a few weeks ago, as Florida has one of the best passing attacks in the country and a defense that is allowing around 30 points per game.
But in two major ways, it will be different.
First, Georgia's defense will be without one of its best players, as Richard LeCounte was hospitalized after a traffic accident on Saturday night and is expected to miss several weeks. LeCounte had 13 tackles and three passes defended earlier in the day against Kentucky. Slowing down Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts will be even harder without him out there.
The bigger difference, though, is that Florida is nowhere near the rushing threat that Alabama was. Georgia had to constantly worry about Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. against the Crimson Tide. That won't be the case against the Gators, and even without LeCounte, that should put the Bulldogs in a better position to stifle Florida's offense.
Whether Georgia's offense will be able to do enough with Stetson Bennett running the show is the gigantic unknown variable. Bennett was a fine game-manager for Georgia's first three games, but he has two touchdowns and five interceptions over the past two contests. If that trend continues, Florida wins. If he can avoid those brutal mistakes against a more forgiving defense, though, Georgia wins.
Prediction: Georgia 30, Florida 27
No. 4 Notre Dame (6-0) vs. No. 1 Clemson (7-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
For prediction, see No. 1 Clemson
No. 3 Ohio State (2-0) vs. Rutgers (1-1), 7:30 p.m. ET
There are three games in this tier. Two of those three games should be sensational. And then there's this annual blowout in the Big Ten East.
Rutgers had a fun little start to the season, forcing seven turnovers in a road win over Michigan State. But the Scarlet Knights are going to get sliced and diced in the Horseshoe. In all six meetings since Rutgers joined the Big Ten, Ohio State has won by at least 35 points. This one might be a little bit closer than usual, but don't expect to be frantically flipping back and forth between the fourth quarters of this game and Clemson-Notre Dame.
Prediction: Ohio State 52, Rutgers 19
No. 2 Alabama IDLE
Next Game: at LSU (Nov. 14)
No. 1 Clemson (7-0) at No. 4 Notre Dame (6-0), 7:30 p.m. ET
With Trevor Lawrence out, there's no denying this game just feels different. It's very likely a preview of the ACC championship, but then again it isn't, because it gives us little indication of what the best player in the country will be able to do against the Notre Dame defense on Dec. 19.
D.J. Uiagalelei was quite impressive against Boston College in his first time on the field with anything on the line. And with the possible exception of Louisville's Malik Cunningham, there's no question Uiagalelei is more talented than any quarterback Notre Dame has faced this season.
Still, he's not Lawrence. Not yet, at least. And Travis Etienne is going to have a more-difficult-than-usual time finding daylight against a Fighting Irish defense allowing just 3.1 yards per carry.
Which Clemson defense shows up, though? The one that immediately put Miami's offense in a body bag and that completely shut down Boston College in the second half, or the one that allowed Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College to hang around well into the third quarter of those games? If it's the latter, Notre Dame has more than enough offensive prowess—particularly in the ground game—to put a serious dent in Clemson's CFP resume.
Keep an eye on the weather, too. This will be Clemson's first game of the season played north of Winston-Salem. The forecast in South Bend currently calls for no precipitation and a high of 70 on Saturday, which would be more than fine with the Tigers. If things change and they're playing in poor conditions—it was 36 degrees and snowing on Sunday—that could be a huge advantage for Notre Dame.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Clemson 24
Best Unranked Clashes
Tulsa (3-1) at Navy (3-4), Noon ET
It's slim pickens for the unranked vs. unranked tier this week. The only game in which both teams received at least one AP vote is a forthcoming clash between Pac-12 squads making their 2020 season debuts.
Tulsa did receive votes. Seventy-three of them, to be exact. And only because the Golden Hurricane got a gift from the referees in their Friday night victory over East Carolina. What would have been a game-sealing fumble was incorrectly overturned, according to an official statement from the AAC. That gave Tulsa a chance to improve to 3-1.
This is a good team, though, that just needed some help to overcome an off night. Tulsa battled Oklahoma State well early in the year before winning a game at UCF a few weeks later. This game is going to get completely lost in the early-afternoon shuffle, but the final score should be a reminder that this is one of the best teams in the AAC.
Prediction: Tulsa 35, Navy 20
Nebraska (0-1) at Northwestern (2-0), Noon ET
What a frustrating start for Nebraska: drilled by Ohio State and then the game against Wisconsin was canceled. Now the Cornhuskers have to deal with a road game against a Northwestern team that looks better than anyone was expecting. The Wildcats have been stout on defense, and while saying they're good on offense might be a bit premature, they're clearly more capable of moving the ball than they were last year.
Four of the past five games in this series were decided by one score, three of which were won by Northwestern.
Prediction: Northwestern 24, Nebraska 23
Tennessee (2-3) at Arkansas (2-3), 7:30 p.m. ET
Tennessee looked really good in its first 2.5 games and really awful in its last 2.5 games. Granted, Georgia and Kentucky have two of the best defenses in the SEC and Alabama just has a knack for sucking the life out of its inferior opponents, but we were expecting more from the Volunteers this year.
Arkansas, on the other hand, has been consistently respectable—which still feels weird after three years of playing far from respectable. Even in the losses to Georgia, Auburn and Texas A&M, the Razorbacks put up valiant fights.
The difference in this game will be the number of passes Jarrett Guarantano throws to the wrong team. Tennessee has committed eight turnovers in its last 2.5 games and Arkansas has forced 13 on the season.
Prediction: Arkansas 31, Tennessee 23
Washington (0-0) at California (0-0), 10:30 p.m. ET
Washington has a new head coach and has to replace its starting quarterback, top running back and top two receivers from last season. California has none of those concerns, and it won at Washington last season—albeit in a weird game that ended in the middle of the night because of a weather delay.
The Golden Bears went 7-0 last season in games where Chase Garbers attempted the majority of the team's passes. He should lead them to a 1-0 start this year, too.
Prediction: California 24, Washington 21
The Rest of the Slate (1/2)
Eastern Michigan (0-0) at Kent State (0-0), 6 p.m. ET Wednesday
Prediction: Kent State 27, Eastern Michigan 23
Western Michigan (0-0) at Akron (0-0), 6 p.m. ET Wednesday
Prediction: Western Michigan 35, Akron 10
Ball State (0-0) at Miami-Ohio (0-0), 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
Prediction: Miami-Ohio 28, Ball State 21
Buffalo (0-0) at Northern Illinois (0-0), 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
Prediction: Buffalo 34, Northern Illinois 20
Ohio (0-0) at Central Michigan (0-0), 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
Prediction: Central Michigan 27, Ohio 25
Bowling Green (0-0) at Toledo (0-0), 8 p.m. ET Wednesday
Prediction: Toledo 45, Bowling Green 17
Utah State (0-2) at Nevada (2-0), 7 p.m. ET Thursday
Prediction: Nevada 41, Utah State 23
Wyoming (1-1) at Colorado State (0-1), 9 p.m. ET Thursday
Prediction: Wyoming 24, Colorado State 20
San Jose State (2-0) at San Diego State (2-0), 9 p.m. ET Friday
Prediction: San Diego State 27, San Jose State 13
Air Force (1-2) at Army (6-1), 11:30 a.m. ET
Prediction: Army 28, Air Force 20
Arkansas State (3-4) at Louisiana (5-1), Noon ET
Prediction: Louisiana 42, Arkansas State 30
Michigan State (1-1) at Iowa (0-2), Noon ET
Prediction: Iowa 21, Michigan State 17
North Carolina (4-2) at Duke (2-5), Noon ET
Prediction: North Carolina 37, Duke 23
South Florida (1-5) at Memphis (3-2), Noon ET
Prediction: Memphis 42, South Florida 14
Tulane (3-4) at East Carolina (1-4), Noon ET
Prediction: Tulane 26, East Carolina 23
Louisiana-Monroe (0-7) at Georgia State (2-3), Noon ET
Prediction: Georgia State 48, Louisiana-Monroe 17
Troy (4-2) at Georgia Southern (4-2), 1 p.m. ET
Prediction: Troy 29, Georgia Southern 24
Boston College (4-3) at Syracuse (1-6), 2 p.m. ET
Prediction: Boston College 27, Syracuse 16
The Rest of the Slate (2/2)
Appalachian State (4-1) at Texas State (1-7), 3 p.m. ET
Prediction: Appalachian State 42, Texas State 17
North Alabama (0-2) at Southern Miss (1-5), 3 p.m. ET
Prediction: Southern Miss 20, North Alabama 16
Charlotte (2-3) at Middle Tennessee (2-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Middle Tennessee 21, Charlotte 20
Fresno State (1-1) at UNLV (0-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Fresno State 29, UNLV 17
Maryland (1-1) at Penn State (0-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Penn State 45, Maryland 19
Minnesota (0-2) at Illinois (0-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Minnesota 35, Illinois 24
Texas Tech (2-4) at TCU (2-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: TCU 31, Texas Tech 24
UTSA (4-4) at Rice (1-1), 3:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: UTSA 27, Rice 23
Arizona (0-0) at Utah (0-0), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Utah 30, Arizona 13
FIU (0-3) at UTEP (3-3), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: UTEP 28, FIU 20
Pittsburgh (3-4) at Florida State (2-4), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Florida State 27, Pitt 24
Vanderbilt (0-4) at Mississippi State (1-4), 4 p.m. ET
Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Vanderbilt 14
Western Kentucky (2-5) at Florida Atlantic (2-1), 6 p.m. ET
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 23, Western Kentucky 6
Louisiana Tech (4-3) at North Texas (2-3), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: Louisiana Tech 31, North Texas 21
UCLA (0-0) at Colorado (0-0), 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: UCLA 35, Colorado 30
Louisville (2-5) at Virginia (2-4), 8 p.m. ET
Prediction: Virginia 31, Louisville 27
Washington State (0-0) at Oregon State (0-0), 10:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: Oregon State 26, Washington State 22
New Mexico (0-1) at Hawaii (1-1), 11 p.m. ET
Prediction: Hawaii 38, New Mexico 17