Despite several close calls, every top ten made it through the weekend unscathed. Oklahoma needed overtime to finish off Army and Stanford came back from a 17 point deficit to take down Oregon, but survive and advance is the mantra of college football. This upcoming weekend features a trio of top 25 clashes that will have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff.
#4 Ohio State at #9 Penn State. 6:30 CT in University Park, PA.
Penn State has overtaken Michigan as Ohio State’s primary rival in the Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions shocked the #2 Buckeyes in 2016 and almost prevented them from making the playoff. Last year, Ohio State needed a fourth quarter comeback to defeat the Nittany Lions. The winner of this year’s matchup will gain control of the Big Ten East as well as make a statement to the CFP committee.
Why Ohio State needs to win.
The Buckeyes’ win over TCU in Dallas looks a little less impressive after the Horned Frogs fell to Texas on Saturday and out of the top 25. Still, Ohio State is in the driver’s seat for yet another playoff berth. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins has looked phenomenal in his first four starts, throwing for 1200 yards and 16 touchdowns. These numbers have vaulted his name into the conversation for the Heisman trophy, especially impressive considering this is his first year as a starter. There was a question mark about how the team would respond to the controversy surrounding Urban Meyer. They flourished during his absence and now look to take the next step now that Meyer is back at the helm. However, more hardship has hit Columbus as star defensive end Nick Bosa is out with an abdominal injury. A Buckeye defense that has already struggled will be further tested with Bosa out. Playing a night game in Happy Valley is never easy, and the Nittany Lions have made this game their “white-out”, one of the most feared traditions in college football. Beaver Stadium will be rocking on Saturday. We will see if Haskins and co can step up and maintain their spot at the top of the Big Ten.
Why Penn State needs to win.
The beginning of Penn State’s season has been filled with inconsistency. The Nittany Lions narrowly escaped Appalachian State to kick off the season. They then bounced back with completely dominant wins against Pittsburgh and Kent State. However, Penn State struggled once again against a lowly Illinois team last Saturday. They rallied in the fourth quarter, scoring 35 unanswered points, but the inconsistency still showed. We know the offense is superb. Trace McSorley already has 14 total TDs and running back Miles Sanders has been a solid replacement for Saquon Barkley. The defense looked great against Kent State and Pitt but failed to impress in the other two games. Penn State is going to need a strong showing on both sides of the ball to take down the Buckeyes on Saturday. A loss would not knock the Nittany Lions out of the playoff race but it would leave no room for error and they would probably need some help later in the season.
#7 Stanford at #8 Notre Dame. 6:30 CT in South Bend, IN.
Both teams already boast an impressive early season win. Notre Dame opened the season with a victory over #14 Michigan and Stanford took down #20 Oregon last weekend. The game this weekend provides another opportunity for these teams to prove themselves to the playoff committee.
Why Stanford needs to win.
Stanford needed all 60 minutes — and then some — to take down Oregon last Saturday. The Cardinal found themselves down by 17 going into halftime and it appeared as if their playoff hopes were over. However, they stormed back, kicking a field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime, where they finished off the Ducks. It wasn’t pretty but survive and advance is the theme of college football. The win sets the stage for Stanford’s Nov. 3 matchup at Washington. The winner
of that game will most likely be the Pac-12 North champion and the Pac 12’s only chance at a playoff spot. Stanford has had the Irish’s number recently, winning the past three matchups. Continuing that trend with A win this weekend would be huge for both the Cardinal and the Pac-12.
Why Notre Dame needs to win.
Notre Dame needs to win this game. Despite the Irish’s impressive 4-0 start, the beginning of the college football season has been somewhat of a disappointment for Notre Dame. Games against Florida
State, USC, Virginia Tech and Northwestern that were supposed to be marquee matchups have turned into mediocre games as those teams suffered embarrassing early season losses. The Irish’s win against Michigan is still impressive, especially if the Wolverines co
ntinue to win, but that game was at home for Notre Dame. With the inability to win a conference championship and the lack of ranked opponents on the rest of their schedule, the Irish need to finish the season undefeated to be considered for the College Football Playoff.
#12 West Virginia at #25 Texas Tech. 11:00 CT in Lubbock, TX.
Are Will Grier and the Mountaineers the real deal? West Virginia has looked fantastic on both sides of the ball through their first three games. They now get their first test against a high-powered Texas Tech team that just whooped Oklahoma State on the road.
Why West Virginia needs to win.
Oklahoma has dominated the Big 12 of late, winning the league each of the past three years. Since West Virginia joined the conference in 2012, it has never been able to get past the Sooners. However, this year, the path to a Big 12 Championship runs through Morgantown. The Mountaineers host Oklahoma in the final game of the season on Nov. 23. Heisman contender Will Grier has played incredible to start the season, throwing for 1100 yards and 14 touchdowns. West Virginia has won each of their first three games by 26 or more points. They will try to continue their success when they travel to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. After the game against the Red Raiders, West Virginia has an easy three game stretch before traveling to Texas. If the Mountaineers can make it to the Texas game without a blunder, they will be in prime position to win the Big 12 and possibly make their first College Football Playoff.
Why Texas Tech needs to win.
We know the Red Raiders can score. They are averaging a whopping 52 points per game. However, the question is if their defense can provide enough stops to give the offense a chance to win football games. The answer was no in their season opener, falling to Ole Miss 47-27. After the loss, however, Texas Tech has bounced back with dominating wins, including one at #15 Oklahoma State last Saturday. After an Oklahoma State touchdown in the second quarter that gave them a 17-14 lead, Texas Tech took off, scoring 27 unanswered points en route to a 41-17 rout of the Cowboys. The Red Raider defense looked great in the second half against Oklahoma State but its inconsistency leaves a question mark on how good Texas Tech truly is. If they can shut down Will Grier and West Virginia’s high-powered offense, they will be looking at their second upset in two weeks.