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College football top games week 6

5. Texas @ Oklahoma, 12 p.m., ABC, (Texas -7)

Sandwiched in between the two weeks of the Texas State fair in Dallas is the Red River Showdown between Texas and Oklahoma. The game is almost guaranteed to be a good one as regardless of the quality of the teams, only one game since 2014 has been decided by over ten points. Oklahoma has had a rough past two weeks, losing to both Kansas State and TCU after rising as high as sixth in the rankings. Head coach Brent Venables, who is seen as a defensive whisperer, needs to work some magic to get this Sooners defense back to the level Oklahoma fans expected. Texas also could welcome back quarterback Quinn Ewers, who hasn’t played since getting injured versus Alabama in the second week of the season. The Longhorns fell victim to an upset bid from Texas Tech two weeks later, but rebounded with an 18 point win over West Virginia to get to 3-2. Both fan bases are some of the most devoted in college football, and whichever head coach loses this game will get a lot of heat. Can Oklahoma stop their slide? Or, will Texas reassert themselves as a contender in the Big 12? 

4. No. 8 Tennessee @ No. 25 LSU, 12 p.m., ESPN (Tennessee -2.5)

After losing to Florida State in heartbreaking fashion in week 1, head coach Brian Kelly and the LSU Tigers have won four straight games to sneak into the bottom of the Top 25. In their SEC victories, the Tigers have come back from 13 points against Mississippi State and a 17 point deficit against Auburn. Quarterback Jayden Daniels has carried LSU at times, leading them on pivotal drives to help regain leads. The defense has also made plays, forcing key turnovers. The next game is clearly the toughest on LSU’s schedule so far. Tennessee has earned a pair of big wins against Pitt and Florida, allowing them to skyrocket into the top 10. Quarterback Hendon Hooker has been a playmaker for the Volunteers, averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game. The Volunteers also have the benefit of coming off of a bye, allowing them to prepare for the mobility and improvisational skills of Daniels. Wide receiver Cedric Tillman, one of the best pieces for Tennessee, is questionable to play. Getting him on the field would be a huge boost for Tennessee as they go on the road to one of the toughest places to play in college football. 

3. No. 16 BYU @ Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC, (Notre Dame -4)

BYU has shown flashes of brilliance this season while also dealing with some inconsistent play. After winning their first game easily, they took Baylor down to the wire, winning in double overtime. They then got blown out by Oregon, but have responded with two wins over inferior competition in Wyoming and Utah State. Although the Cougars won, in each game they have failed to put together four quarters worth of quality football. If they want to beat Notre Dame and keep the goals they have for this season alive, they can’t sleepwalk at the start of this game. They do have the benefit of quarterback Jaren Hall, one of the most exciting players to watch in college football. Notre Dame’s back seven will have to step up to the challenge against another prolific passing offense. The Irish have largely looked good against the pass, allowing just 21 points to Ohio State and playing well enough versus North Carolina to put the game out of reach. There are still offensive questions, although some have been put to bed for the time being after a 45 point performance against North Carolina. Furthermore, the Irish are coming off of a bye week, allowing for more practice opportunities and a chance to get healthy. 

2. No. 11 UCLA @ No. 18 Utah, 3:30 p.m., FOX, (Utah -4)

UCLA, led by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, just knocked off a previously unbeaten Washington team last week. It was the Bruins’ first win over a top-15 team since 2014, and a statement win for head coach Chip Kelly. Thompson-Robinson’s skills as a mobile quarterback in addition to running back Zach Charbonnet has helped make the UCLA backfield dynamic and fun to watch. The offensive line has more than held its own through the first five games. Although UCLA only won by eight, Washington never threatened; their fourth quarter rally was only good enough to make the box score look better. After Utah’s three point loss at Florida to begin the year, the Utes have responded with four blowout wins, the most impressive being a 42-16 win over Oregon State last week. Quarterback Cameron Rising is also a skillful runner and passer with a lot of weapons surrounding him. Sophomore Clark Phillips III caught three Beaver passes for interceptions. Their defense has looked much improved and they will need all of it to stop UCLA. This is a game that could be a deciding factor in the quest for a conference championship berth. 

1. No. 17 TCU @ No. 19 Kansas, 12 p.m., FS1, (TCU -6)

If someone told me that I would be ranking TCU-Kansas as the number 1 game this week at the beginning of the season, I would have said that I have a better chance of being struck by lightning. Nevertheless, this game is an undefeated Top 25 showdown with College Gameday in town. Kansas has been the feel-good story of college football. The Jayhawks are 5-0 for the first time since 2009. Head coach Lance Leipold has been the architect of a masterful turnaround. Quarterback Jalon Daniels looked like a dominant player in the first four games of the season, although he was bottled up against Iowa State. Kansas still found a way to beat Iowa State thanks to one of their best defensive performances in years. TCU has been led by its overwhelming offensive attack on the way to averaging over 40 points in its first four games, all of them wins. They are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2019. Quarterback Max Duggan threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns in a romp over Oklahoma, leading to him being named the Walter Camp National Player of the Week. This is the first time Kansas has hosted College Gameday, but TCU is 6-1 during these high-level games.

Contact Joseph Tunney at jtunney@nd.edu.

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ZLO predictions week 3

College football was in rare form last weekend. With Texas being back (maybe), the Sun Belt Conference won three massive games (and got paid $4.5 million to do it) and there were countless overtimes. The weekend was a little more chaotic than usual, with FPI picking 67-15 (.817) and ZeLO going 62-20 (.757), but still good picking weekends all the same. 

Before getting to my picks, there is one crucial thing to note about this week’s column. Last week I said I would be running the first four weeks of the season off of my original projections. I lied. Well, sort of.

After last weekend, I decided to try and blend the stats I had projected with the actual stats that the teams have generated. The main reason for this was USC (though I suppose ND contributed to the change negatively, but let’s not talk about that). 

ZeLO had them as a mediocre team, but the Trojans are putting up some solid numbers, and deserve credit for them. So, from now until about Week 5, I will be operating with a mixed rating for each team, with the projections getting less weight as time goes on.  


Florida State @ Louisville

FSU is a -2.5 favorite as they head on the road to face Louisville, and I honestly really like that line. I think Louisville is a good team as they won a good game against UCF last week on Friday.

However, ZeLO has Florida State as the favorite, though Louisville is expected to cover.

Florida State gets the win (52%) in a nail-biter.

No. 13 Miami @ No. 24 Texas A&M

While this matchup was originally College Gameday’s game of the week, they are no longer following Texas A&M after they lost to Appalachian State. Suddenly, Miami is the higher-ranking team heading into College Station, but still the underdogs, though the line has shrunk by a few points down to 5.5. 

What was a game that ZeLO had been projecting Texas A&M to win comfortably is now a game that ZeLO has Miami winning by a razor-thin margin of .0073%. The spread ZeLO gave the game is -.5 Miami, so Miami should win the contest and, of course, beat the spread.

No. 12 BYU @ No. 25 Oregon

Last weekend BYU played one of the more exciting games against Baylor. A battle of top-25 teams that needed overtime to find a winner. BYU was able to get the narrow win at home but now faces what is arguably a tougher task, go on the road and beat another top-25 team. 

BYU’s new ranking is due primarily to their win over Baylor (not to mention Oregon’s thrashing at the hands of Georgia).

BYU is favored to win their third game of the season (60.3%). Oregon will be a 3.5 dog at home, which certainly feels crazy, but their poor performance against Georgia hurt their rating. It will be up to the Ducks to prove they deserve a better ranking. 

Toledo @ No. 3 Ohio State

This feels like a random add, but Toledo has been one of ZeLO’s favorite teams all preseason and off-season. Now, as the Rockets head to the horseshoe, 31.5 underdogs against the Ohio State juggernaut, all hope seems lost for Toledo.  Or does it?

Do not get me wrong; this is the perfect storm for all the model’s biases, its tendency to pick underdog covers, G5 teams being more potent than they should and the model just randomly liking Toledo. 

ZeLO currently has Ohio State as the favorite, with a 67.5% chance to win the game. Now Ohio State is still an 18.5-point favorite (the difference between the percentage and the spread is likely because I changed the spread formula). 

Ohio State should undoubtedly win, but Toledo has a solid chance to cover, and as we saw last weekend, all the little Group of 5 teams has to do to have a chance is play the game.

No. 11 Michigan State @ Washington

I picked this game not just because I am a Michigander and, by proxy, a Michigan sports fan but because MSU is the underdog in this game.  The Huskies are a 3.5 favorite against the Spartans, boasting two wins against Kent State and Portland State. I have no idea what these two wins tell us about Washington, but Vegas thinks they are significant enough to merit points on a highly ranked team.

Currently, ZeLO has MSU with a 50.8% favorite with a -.5 spread. I think that MSU should be able to take care of this game convincingly, but both ZeLO and Vegas are seeing something I am not, which might make the result worth keeping an eye on.

  
California @ Notre Dame

Last weekend I made a joke about ZeLO taking Notre Dame to lose against Marshall. Evidently, that joke aged about as well as an egg salad-tuna fish sandwich left out in the ND Stadium parking lot because, lo and behold, ND lost.


And yes, I made a joke about Notre Dame’s performance being so bad that it generated a change in the models operating procedure, but, jokes aside, that was a legitimate reason I made the change.
Originally Notre Dame was classified as a heavy favorite to beat California; it’s a home game for ND, they were a top-20 team and their opponent was a west coast team. Those are great reasons
for ND to easily win any game, especially California.


But given the uncertainty surrounding the team, acting like the team is living up expectations (which were already lower than average) was not an option. 


So now, ND is currently averaging a 6-6 record. Luckily, California is one of those wins; ND has a 65.4% chance of winning this weekend’s matchup. And while that victory might be good news, Cal is currently expected to cover the 10.5 spread, with an expected ND margin of victory at 4.

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Week 2: Top 5 college football games to watch

Last weekend was a great weekend for college football. Besides Georgia’s annihilation of Oregon, most of the games that received media attention answered the bell. Week 2 presents an interesting slate of games, as some teams begin conference play. Many other Power 5 teams have tune-up games against lesser programs. Without further ado, here are my top 5 games to watch for week 2 of college football. (Lines are as of opening.)

5. USC @ Stanford, 7:30 p.m., ABC (USC -9.5)

After the Irish get done with Marshall this weekend, Notre Dame fans should turn to this game. This game will provide the first real look of the new USC under head coach Lincoln Riley. Riley was a home-run hire for the Trojans, after going 55-10 at Oklahoma and making the College Football Playoff three times. Joining him at USC via the transfer portal is quarterback Caleb Williams, also from Oklahoma, and star wide receiver Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh. In their first game, the Trojans dispatched a hapless Rice squad to the tune of 66-14.

Stanford should pose a greater challenge. Head coach David Shaw has a 94-45 record with the Cardinal but has struggled in recent years. Stanford is just 12-19 since the start of 2019. Leading the charge for the Cardinal is running back E.J. Smith, son of NFL rushing yards leader Emmitt Smith. The younger Smith ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-10 rout of Colgate last week. A win for Stanford would put them back into a potential conference championship discussion. A win for USC keeps their hype train rolling as they pursue a return to greatness.

4. Iowa State @ Iowa, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network (Iowa -3.5)

The intrastate rivalry for the Cy-Hawk trophy kicks off for the 69th time this weekend in Kinnick Stadium. Head coach Matt Campbell has built the program from the ground up since his arrival in 2016, leading what was a perennial doormat in the Big 12 to five straight bowl games. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers threw four touchdowns in his debut as Iowa State’s starting QB, a 42-10 win against Southeast Missouri State last Saturday. Running back Jirehl Brock looks to continue to fill big shoes left for him by NFL second-round draft pick Breece Hall.

Iowa is coming off of a game that would be atypical for any other program but is relatively par for the course for them. The Hawkeyes won an absolute slugfest with South Dakota State by a score of 7-3 last week. However, they did not score a touchdown. That’s right, the Hawkeyes scored a field goal and two safeties. Big Ten football. Linebacker Jack Campbell recorded 11 tackles and a safety to lead the Hawkeye defense. Punter Tory Taylor had seven punts downed inside of the 20-yard line. Can Iowa’s offense wake up and get the job done? Or will Matt Campbell record his first win in the rivalry? 

3. Kentucky @ Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN (Florida -4.5)

After a phenomenal upset win over then No. 7 Utah in Week 1, the Gators welcome another ranked foe into the Swamp. QB Anthony Richardson proved to everyone that he was not only capable of starting last weekend but that he could be a potential star in the making. Richardson rushed for three touchdowns and 106 yards in addition to completing 17 passes for 168 more. WR Ricky Pearsall, transferring in from Arizona State, made a great first impression by hauling in four catches for 67 yards. The Gator defense came up with crucial stops in their win over Utah last week, capped by Amari Burney’s game-sealing pick in the end zone.

They’ll have to keep the momentum going against Kentucky this week. The Wildcats are coming off of a 10-win season, tied for the second-best win total in school history. Last weekend, they trounced Miami (Ohio) by a score of 37-13. Quarterback Will Levis has been receiving NFL attention. Wide Receiver Tayvion Robinson impressed in his first game since transferring from Virginia Tech, catching six passes for 136 yards. Both teams desperately need the win in order to keep chase with Georgia for status as the top dog in the SEC East.

2. Baylor @ BYU, 10:15 p.m., ESPN (BYU -3.5)

A top-25 matchup in the late-night Saturday viewing window. What’s not to love? Baylor is coming off of a highly successful season, going 12-2, winning the Big 12, and finishing fifth in the country last year. Quarterback Blake Shapen has been on point ever since taking over the job in the conference championship game last year. The Bears opened their season with a 69-10 shellacking of Albany, extending their winning streak to six games since last season. Last year, Baylor beat BYU by a score of 38-24, but the Cougars are back with a vengeance this season.

BYU returns 97 percent of its offensive production from last season. Quarterback Jaren Hall looked great in a 50-21 win against South Florida, going 25/32 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. The offense looks explosive, and the defense can get it done. The Cougars are looking for a New Year’s Six bowl this year, loading up their schedule with the likes of Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Stanford to appeal to the pollsters. This is the last year of independence for the Cougars, who are slated to join the Big 12 next season. Could this be a preview of future battles for Big 12 supremacy?

1. Alabama @ Texas, noon, FOX, (Alabama -20)

A giant clash in the heart of the Lone Star State. The Longhorns are coming off of a 52-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe in week 1 as quarterback Quinn Ewers gets used to the college game. Highly recruited out of high school, Ewers transferred to Texas after one year as a backup at Ohio State. He has the help of running back Bijan Robinson, who is one of the best running backs in college football this season. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian is looking to overcome the odds to bring home a massive win against his former boss, Nick Saban. 

Alabama is the class of college football. Quarterback Bryce Young is coming off of a Heisman-winning season. Linebacker Will Anderson is coming for blood this season after a ridiculous 17.5 sacks in 2021. The Crimson Tide destroyed their sacrificial lamb (Utah State) in a 55-0 game that might’ve been somehow more lopsided than the score indicated. There is no doubt that Saban, who is arguably the greatest coach in college football history, will have his team ready. The game is a noon kickoff, and weather forecasts predict a temperature of 95 degrees, which could feel even hotter on the field. College Gameday and Fox are bringing their pregame shows. Everything is bigger in Texas, and this game is no different.

Joseph Tunney

Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu