#7 Washington vs #8 Oregon (+3.0) 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday, October 14 on ABC
This game has major College Football Playoff implications. Both Washington and Oregon are aiming to reach the CFP for the second time. Oregon made the inaugural playoff in 2014 and reached the championship game before falling to the Ohio State Buckeyes. As for the Huskies, they made the playoff in 2016 but lost in the first round against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Like the mid-2010s, the college football landscape is once again enduring drastic changes. Ten years after the inaugural four-team playoff, the field is expanding. Starting in the 2024 season, twelve teams will battle it out for college football supremacy. And, further increasing the turmoil, the Pac 12 will disband following the 2023 season. Powerhouses Oregon, USC, UCLA, and Washington are all moving to the Big Ten. While other squads are bolting the Big 12.
The battle between the Ducks and Huskies will surely be high-scoring. Washington averages the most yards per game in all the NCAA. Oregon ranks second, averaging just twelve yards less per game than the Huskies. The difference between these powerhouse offenses is how they accumulate yards. Washington averages a remarkable 446.4 yards per game through the air. Almost 100 more yards per game than the second-ranked squad.
Washington star quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., is off to a blazing start. He’s already accumulated 1,999 yards through the air. Additionally, Penix Jr. has tossed twelve touchdowns against two interceptions. The Huskies have three receivers with more than 300 yards; Rome Odunze leads the way with 608 yards and four touchdowns. Despite such a prolific offense, the Huskies only average 123 yards per game on the ground. The Huskies have run the ball the least amount of times in the FBS. Pennix Jr. and co. have only handed the ball off 130 times.
The Ducks offense is far more balanced. Oregon averages 330.6 yards through the air and 227.2 yards on the ground. Oregon’s passing attack ranks tenth in the nation, while their rushing attack ranks eighth. The Ducks offense is led by dynamic quarter Bo Nix. Nix has already tossed fifteen touchdowns this season and has thrown for more than 1400 yards. The Oregon ground game is a dominant unit, however, no one running back dominates the snap share. The Ducks roster multiple excellent backs. Bucky Irving has rushed for 393 yards and four touchdowns, while Jordan James has run for 297 yards and an impressive seven touchdowns.
Both squads are extremely explosive on offense but still sport solid defenses. Washington’s defense is closer to an average unit, but Oregon’s ranks near the top. The Ducks only allow 255.6 yards of offense per game and are especially tough when it comes to the pass. Oregon is one of five teams to allow less than 155 passing yards per game. This contest between these premier squads might just be the most entertaining battle of the season. The over/under is set at 67 points and could easily be broken.
Whoever wins this affair will likely receive a slight bump in the rankings, while the loser may drop a spot or two. Since 2000, Oregon has won 16 of 21 battles between the two schools. But, Washington did win the most recent contest, by a score of 37-34. This year, the result may be similar. Nevertheless, an unstoppable force takes on an immovable object. Pennix Jr. and the Huskies' offense against the Oregon defense is the biggest storyline here. Washington will put up points, but I foresee Oregon putting up more.
My pick: Oregon wins 45-42
#21 Notre Dame vs #10 USC (+2.5) 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday, October 14 on NBC
Despite the Trojans ranking in the top 10, this game might be coming at just the right time for the Fighting Irish. Over the past three weekends, against ranked squads, Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t looked the best. The Fighting Irish haven’t recorded more than 400 yards nor scored more than three touchdowns since early September. Transfer quarterback Sam Hartman has come back down to earth, only tossing three touchdowns and three interceptions since the contest against Central Michigan.
The Trojans allow 421.3 yards and 27 points per game. Conversely, USC, behind potential number-one pick Caleb Williams, averages the most points in all of college football at 51.3 points per game. Williams is dominant against any opponent. He’s already scored 28 total touchdowns and looks like the Heisman favorite once again. Even with such a prolific passing attack, the Trojans can get it done on the ground. Transfer running back Marshawn Lloyd has provided a spark on the ground for USC. He’s already rushed for 519 yards and four scores.
The Notre Dame defense will be tasked with stopping a dominant Trojans offense. However, this Notre Dame team might just be up to the task. The Fighting Irish only allow 146.6 yards per game through the air. Williams will have his work cut out for him, but if anyone can crack a top-notch defense, it’s Williams. After almost losing to the Arizona Wildcats last week, USC is in for a big bounce-back win against the reeling Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
My pick: USC wins 38-30