This is a week where we will begin to truly identify the contenders and pretenders, in the conference races and on the national scale. Let’s take a look at the games that will be driving that narrative going forward:
#12 Ole Miss at #1 Alabama (-14.5) - October 2, 2:30 PM, CBS
To paraphrase a quote – It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of the Saban Dynasty. Seeing what is happening to Clemson in 2021, it continues to reinforce how incredible it is that Alabama has continued this dominance for such a long period of time. There was a lot of off-season commentary that the Tide would be included in the batch of elite teams that would regress back towards the pack. Bryce Young and company have thrown those ideas out the window. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has easily dispensed with its first three opponents and put itself in the position to walk into Bryant-Denny on Saturday and prove it can hang with the biggest dog on the block. Lane Kiffin certainly has his detractors, perhaps Saban was one even when Kiffin was his Offensive Coordinator at Bama, but his teams will put on a show and will not let you off easy.
My pick: Alabama wins (-625); Ole Miss covers (+14.5); Total Under 80.5
#8 Arkansas at #2 Georgia (-18) – October 2, 11:00 AM ESPN
I don’t like that the top feature games of the week are both SEC showcases that will actually very likely be uncompetitive blowouts. The Hogs were able to pull off a surprise over the Aggies last week, but going Between the Hedges against this insanely talented Georgia team is a whole different story. Razorback QB KJ Jefferson and superstar WR Treylon Burks are both hobbled coming off the hard-fought win – both are likely to play but may be at less than 100%. Arkansas would likely need those two to be at 300% to pull this big upset.
My pick: Georgia wins (-1100); Georgia covers (-18); Total Over 48
Maryland (+150) vs. #5 Iowa (-3.5) – October 1, 7:00 PM, FS1
So much of the Iowa hype is due to the perception of the teams they defeated, at the time they played, rather than perhaps the actual quality of those wins. Iowa has marquee wins over Indiana (which since lost to Cinci and barely escaped vs. WKU) and Iowa State (which has lost to Baylor and barely escaped FCS Northern Iowa), while the Hawkeyes also struggled against lowly Colorado State last week. It’s hard to believe that a top-5 team is such a short favorite vs. an unranked team, even on the road. Maryland on the other side has been a fun surprise, especially on offense behind Taulia Tagovailoa (perhaps the best Tagovailoa at the moment) and a pair of elite WRs. Can the elite Hawkeye defense slow the explosive Terrapin weapons? Will we again need to Talk to Our Children About an Undefeated Iowa? It is 2021 and offense wins the day
My pick: Maryland wins (+150); Maryland covers (+3.5); Total Over 47.5
#7 Cincinnati (-2) at #9 Notre Dame – October 2, 1:30 PM, NBC
Well, something’s gotta give. This should be a Playoff elimination game, though in this weird season, and with the Committee’s special coddled number one boy status for Notre Dame, anything is possible. With Notre Dame’s weak Independent schedule and no conference championship game, this is the biggest game of their season and a loss should be resume crushing, even if we know it won’t be. The Bearcats have everything to put up a fight and are better at most positions across the field, with a defense that is certainly capable of shutting down whichever QB Brian Kelly rolls out there. But as we enter October, Notre Dame continues to be College Football’s Michael Myers (not to be confused with their star TE Michael Mayer), unkillable despite being repeatedly left for dead. The Irish once again arise from near defeat to continue to bring terror.
My pick: Notre Dame wins (+105); Notre Dame covers (+2); Total Under 50.5
Others Receiving Votes
- #21 Baylor at #19 Oklahoma State – Look, I don’t like it any more than you do, but it’s entirely possible that Baylor is good. These teams both just won tough home contests against ranked conference opponents to jump into the AP Poll. Which squad will take the next step as Big 12 contender?
- UConn at Vanderbilt (-14.5) – Sicko Game of the Century. How bad is UConn? 2021 Vandy is perhaps the worst Power 5 team of all time and is a 2 TD favorite. The worst games can be as fun as the best games. Enjoy the hilarity and ineptitude.
- Arizona State at #20 UCLA (-6.5) – With USC already losing two conference games, the Pac 12 South is totally up for grabs, and the winner of this game will be on a fast track to the title game.
- #6 Oklahoma (-10.5) at Kansas State – Can the Sooners exorcise their Deuce Vaughn nightmares? Can Spencer Rattler win back the fanbase and look the part of a Heisman contending #1 overall draft pick? Or does Chris Kleiman continue his improbable streak of victories and ownership of Lincoln Riley?
- Louisville at #24 Wake Forest (-7) - Is Wake for real? This could be setting up for a dream season for the Demon Deacons, filling the void in the ACC with a down UNC & Clemson. They cannot look past Malik Cunningham and these frisky Cardinals.