Alabama Clemson on upset alert Bold predictions for college football
As the season heads toward the final weeks, there's bound to be surprises and head-scratching outcomes as the pressure of the College Football Playoff race and other factors cause teams to raise their level of play – or stumble close to the finish line.
That's why we're here to make sense of things. The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with bold predictions for Week 10 of the college football season:
Auburn has bumpy start to post-Bryan Harsin era
There are only two outcomes for teams whose coaches get fired during the season. Either they check out, consider it a lost season and make plans for the transfer portal or they rally around each other and assemble some kind of fight in an otherwise lost campaign. What happens at Auburn, whose unrealistic expectations are part of the reason why they are in this mess, will be interesting moving forward. Days after sending Bryan Harsin to the unemployment line, the Tigers go on the road to Mississippi State, which still throws it nearly 50 times a game and will add to Auburn’s turbulent season. -- Scooby Axson
Texas is favored to win on the road this weekend at No. 14 Kansas State and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Sure, there’s some uncertainty with the Wildcats at the QB position. But they showed last week, in a 48-0 demolition of Oklahoma State – a team Texas lost to the prior week – that they are a formidable team no matter who is under center. K-State has not beaten Texas since 2016. I think that streak ends Saturday. -- Jace Evans
Georgia tops Tennessee, but Vols still fine
Georgia is able to establish a running game, limiting the number of possessions for Hendon Hooker and the powerful Tennessee offense, and barely survives a close one against the Volunteers to become the no-doubt No. 1 in every poll. But here’s the bold part: Tennessee plays the defending national champs so tight that it’s able to stay among the top six in the playoff rankings and remain a very legitimate contender for the final top four at 11-1. -- Paul Myerberg
Notre Dame upsets playoff race with win vs. Clemson
Trying to make sense out the Fighting Irish is a losing proposition. They gave Ohio State a tough game on the road then lost at home to Marshall. They beat North Carolina and Syracuse on the road but have also lost at home to Stanford. So what does this all mean with Clemson coming to town, needing to avoid a loss to stay in control of its College Football Playoff destiny? Expect Notre Dame to be up for the game and this one to go the full four quarters. The Tigers haven't been overwhelming away from home and if the pressure of the moment gets to DJ Uiagalelei then switching to true freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik might not go so well on the road. Look for the Irish to be the ones celebrating Saturday night in the first signature win of the Marcus Freeman era. -- Erick Smith
Air Force flies away with Commander-In-Chief's Trophy
The noon ET broadcast window is largely bereft of compelling matchups in the major conferences this week. We therefore recommend you focus your attention early in the day on Air Force taking on Army in Arlington, Texas (11:30 a.m. ET, CBS), in part II of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series.
The Falcons already own a win against Navy and will be looking to complete the service academy sweep to claim the hardware. But the Black Knights have won the last two encounters with Air Force, including last year’s 21-14 overtime triumph also at Globe Life Field. It’s a clash of the top two rushing offenses in the Bowl Subdivision. They’ll throw it on occasion just for a change of pace, but the average number of pass attempts per game is in single digits for each team and isn’t likely to exceed that. Of course both teams know how to defend the option as well, so there probably won’t be many surprises.
So who wins this round? We’ll go with the Falcons, who are doing what they do just a wee bit better this year and generating more takeaways on defense. Stick around, though, as these academy showdowns are often in doubt until the final snap. - Eddie Timanus
LSU knocks Alabama out of playoff race
Alabama is still not a team that can be trusted to go on the road and play well, and that is going to catch up to the Crimson Tide on Saturday at LSU. Though the Tide's 30-6 win last week over Mississippi State may tempt some people into thinking that everything is fine, it was a strange game in that Alabama only had 290 yards of offense. Though they cleaned up the penalty issue that has been hounding them all season (just three for 20 yards against the Bulldogs), something about that performance felt a bit wanting. The big concerns here are that Bryce Young is probably still banged up, and Alabama just doesn't run the ball as well as you want it to. LSU looked capable of playing very well at home in a 45-20 win over Ole Miss, and it looks like Jayden Daniels finally has some comfort in the offense. So I'll go with LSU to knock Alabama out of the playoff race and shake up the playoff picture.