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Week 10 of College Football: Top five games

5. Air Force @ Army, 11:30 a.m., CBS, (Air Force -7)

Air Force and Army square off for the 56th time in an early start with the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy on the line. This trophy is given to the winner of a round robin between Army, Navy and Air Force. Since Air Force beat Navy 13-10 this year, they have a chance to win the trophy outright with a win Saturday. If the Falcons lose and Army beats Navy in their end of the season clash, Army would win the trophy. And, if Army beats Air Force but loses to Navy, the trophy will be shared. Both teams have a unique offensive style. Due to restrictions on the height and weight of those in the service academies, the offensive lines of each school are some of the smallest in college football. However, both schools are elite academically and prepare students to become future officers in the armed forces. This makes running the triple option (an offense based on discipline, quickness and deception) perfect for the service academies. Air Force carries a 5-3 record, led by workhorse running back Brad Roberts and dynamic quarterback Haaziq Daniels. Army is 3-4, but with 2 straight wins and a reputation for playing tough defense under head coach Jeff Monken. 

4. Texas @ No. 15 Kansas State, 7 p.m.,  FS1, (Texas -2.5)

Another week, another key Big 12 battle. This week sees the Texas Longhorns head up to Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas to face Kansas State in a battle for second in the Big 12. Texas is 5-3, falling victim in close losses to Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Alabama by a combined 11 points over the three games. The Longhorns are coming off of their bye week, which was needed in order to correct some issues after their loss to Oklahoma State. Texas squandered a 31-17 lead and didn’t take care of the ball; three Quinn Ewers interceptions (two in the fourth quarter) was what did them in. Kansas State is coming off of their best win in years, a 48-0 win over the very same Oklahoma State team. Even though dynamic starting quarterback Adrian Martinez was out, backup Will Howard threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns. Deuce Vaughn had 158 yards on the ground and another score. The defense also had a stellar performance, holding Oklahoma State to just 217 yards. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy stated his team’s performance bluntly, saying they “got their butts kicked.” The transitive property would seem to give the edge to Kansas State, but that rarely works in the tumultuous world of college football. 

3. No. 6 Alabama @ No. 15 LSU, 7 p.m., ESPN, (Alabama -13)

The Tide and the Tigers square off in a key battle between two teams with one loss in SEC play. Although LSU lost their opener in heartbreaking fashion to Florida State, the Brian Kelly-led Tigers have rebounded well. Their only other loss is a 40-13 drubbing by Tennessee, who is currently second in the nation. The Tigers have been led by their dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels. If the LSU receivers are covered downfield, Daniels is always a threat to scramble for a large gain. Daniels has also taken care of the football, throwing 12 touchdown passes to just one interception. In LSU’s last game, they roared back from a 17-3 deficit to dispatch Ole Miss 45-20. This team can put points on the board, and if they beat Alabama they would shockingly be in the drivers’ seat of the SEC West. The Tide have other plans. After their 49-52 loss to Tennessee, they rebounded with a dominating 30-6 win over Mississippi State. Quarterback Bryce Young continues to wow NFL franchises looking for a franchise centerpiece in the upcoming draft. Will Anderson continues to wreck teams’ gameplans from the defensive side of the ball. Head coach Nick Saban is still the best in the business, and he is 6-1 with the Tide in Tiger Stadium, a venue seen as one of the toughest to play in. 

2. No. 5 Clemson @ Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC, (Clemson -3.5)

If Notre Dame wants to redeem their season and give first year head coach Marcus Freeman some real momentum, this is the game to win. If Clemson wants to continue their ascent to the College Football playoff, they have to get a tough win in the cathedral of college football. It all shapes up for an epic showdown. The Irish have won 5 of their last 6, highlighted by their 41-24 domination of sixteenth ranked Syracuse. They’ve done it under a punishing run game, led by running backs Logan Diggs and Audric Estime. Further, the Irish hold a 26 game regular season winning streak against ACC opponents. The Irish have largely played up and down to their level of competition this year, which gives them a punching chance against Dabo Swinney’s Clemson team. Clemson’s offense is built around running back Will Shipley. If they are able to run the ball with success against the Irish, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will have a much easier time connecting with his wide receivers. It remains to be seen how much time Uiagalelei will have under center. In their last game, a 27-21 win over Syracuse, Uiagalelei was benched for freshman Cade Klubnik. Klubnik then successfully led a comeback attempt to preserve the win. 

1. No. 2 Tennessee @ No. 1 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., CBS, (Georgia -9)

One versus two is a rarity in college football, even more so in the regular season. Georgia has put together a convincing title defense in their first 8 games, highlighted by a season-opening drubbing of an Oregon team that hasn’t lost since. Last week, the Bulldogs took care of Florida after a brief scare. Florida scored 17 unanswered points after falling behind 28-3 to make it a one score game. Georgia responded with 2 touchdowns to ice the game. Tight end Brock Bowers is extremely athletic, and he just had 154 yards in his best game of the season. Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV is not the game-changing player that other top teams have at the position, but he knows how to win. The Bulldogs have much less margin for error against a Tennessee team that is having their best season since their national championship in 1998. The Volunteers haven’t let up since their win against Alabama. Last week, they demolished a ranked Kentucky team 44-6. Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt broke the school record for touchdown catches in a season in just eight games. The Volunteers intercepted NFL prospect Will Levis three times en route to the easy win. Tennessee seems to be playing their best football, but a win over Georgia would be unparalleled.

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Tunney: Top five games of CFB Week 9

Another week of college football brings another slate of games, each with unique stories, traditions and players. In the words of famous sportscaster Brad Nessler, “you can go to every stadium in the country, and never see the same thing twice.”

5. Michigan State @  No. 4 Michigan, 7:30 p.m., ABC, (Michigan -22.5)

This iconic battle is waged for the 115th time this Saturday, as two teams with divergent seasons clash in a rivalry matchup. Michigan is 7-0 and has looked the part of a team willing to challenge Ohio State again for Big Ten supremacy. The Wolverine offensive attack possesses a talented group of wide receivers and strong backfield led by running back Blake Corum. Corum has received some Heisman trophy hype, the prognosticators currently project him with the fourth-best odds to win the award. 

After a good deal of preseason fanfare, Michigan State has had a rocky season, going 3-4. Their offense hasn’t gotten over the loss of NFL running back Kenneth Walker III, although the team still has playmakers. Wide Receiver Jaylen Reed had a game-winning catch against Wisconsin last week. Defensive end Jacoby Windmon has won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice. The Wolverines may be the better team talent-wise, but to achieve their goals they’ll have to get past a team that has been their kryptonite. Jim Harbaugh is 0-2 against Spartan head coach Mel Tucker, and the Wolverines are 4-10 in the last 14 matchups. 

4. Notre Dame @ No. 16 Syracuse, Noon, ABC, (Syracuse -2.5)

After an up and down month, the Irish travel east to central New York to play a surprisingly good Syracuse team. The Irish had the benefit of a get-right game last weekend, beating an inferior UNLV squad 44-21. Throughout the year, tight end Michael Mayer has looked like the real deal; he’s the leading receiver on an Irish team that needs more playmakers to emerge. Running back Audric Estime has run well at times but has struggled with ball security, fumbling three times in his past four games. If the Irish want to upset Syracuse, they will need to take care of the ball. Syracuse is 6-1, coming off of a tight loss to fifth-ranked Clemson. Running back Sean Tucker has been the best player for the Orange this year, which makes head coach Dino Babers’ decision to largely exclude him from the game plan against Clemson all the more confusing. Tucker only carried the ball five times for 54 yards. Quarterback Garrett Shrader has had a good year for the Orange, and if they want to stay in contention for a New Year’s Six Bowl Game, they will need this win. 

3. No. 9 Oklahoma State @ No. 22 Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., FOX, (Kansas State -1)

The Big 12 plays host to another important battle, a dogfight that could potentially decide the second spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Both teams have lost to TCU, who has taken charge as the best team in the Big 12 thus far. Oklahoma State responded from their double overtime loss to TCU two weeks ago (their only loss of the season) with a huge win over Texas. Quarterback Spencer Sanders is dealing with undisclosed injuries, but he fought through to give the Cowboys an important win. Sanders threw for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns last week.

Kansas State has lost two games, to TCU and a ranked Tulane team, and have shown flashes of being a conference contender. The Wildcats were up 28-10 on TCU at one point before collapsing and allowing a comeback. Kansas State also barely avoided an upset against Iowa State. Quarterback Adrian Martinez also was injured against TCU, and although backup Will Howard filled in admirably, the starter’s health is a paramount concern. Both teams need the game to stay in the battle for the Big 12 Championship. 

2.  No. 19 Kentucky @ No. 3 Tennessee, 7:00 p.m., ESPN, (Tennessee -12.5)

This showdown between two ranked SEC teams has potential to be a classic. Quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and Will Levis are two of the most talented in the country for their respective teams, and their showdown on Saturday night is going to be fun. Hooker has been the man behind the reins of an insanely talented offensive attack, and his connection with wide receiver Jalin Hyatt might end up leading the Volunteers to the SEC Championship and beyond. The Volunteers are playing their first conference game since their biggest win in years, a 52-49 win over Alabama. Fans stormed the field, uprooting the goal posts and transporting them out of the stadium into the nearby river. Last weekend, the Volunteers put up 65 points on a hapless UT Martin squad. Kentucky is coming off of their bye week, which allowed their star quarterback to get healthy. Two weeks ago, they earned a key win against a ranked Mississippi State, stopping a losing streak of two games. Kentucky’s philosophy is built on running the football and playing strong defense. If they can somehow get defensive stops this Kentucky team could turn Tennessee’s championship dreams into a nightmare.

1. No. 2 Ohio State @ No. 13 Penn State, Noon, FOX, (Ohio State -15.5)

Ohio State is undefeated and has a claim as the best team in the country. Quarterback CJ Stroud has been scary good, with 28 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. Ohio State has made their living off of having the best wide receiver rooms in the country over the past few seasons and this year is no different. Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Julian Fleming have more than stepped up in the absence of the crown jewel, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Head coach Ryan Day is hopeful that Smith-Njigba can return for his first game since his injury against Notre Dame. 

Last week, the Buckeyes obliterated an Iowa defense that some called the best in the Big Ten, overcoming a flat start to put up 54 points. Penn State is coming off of a big win against Minnesota that keeps them in the Big Ten Championship race (for the time being). That contention is dependent on a win this weekend. If Penn State loses on Saturday, the Nittany Lions and head coach James Franklin will be effectively out of the running. Franklin’s team has talent, and have played the Buckeyes close in recent years. 

Contact Joseph Tunney at jtunney@nd.edu.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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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.