Spoiler season is here in college football, the time of year when being a party pooper is a worthy and honorable goal.
After most of last week’s monster matchups turned out to be lopsided affairs, the next couple of weeks should be about setting up Titanic clashes on Thanksgiving weekend and championship Saturday that will help set the College Football Playoff on Dec. 2.
To get there from here, a few significant hurdles need to be cleared.
No. 8 Ohio State goes to No. 24 Michigan State on Saturday in need of two more victories to keep pace with No. 4 Michigan in the Big Ten East. The Wolverines should coast into the Big Game on Nov. 24 undefeated in the conference after playing Rutgers and Indiana. The Buckeyes get Maryland at home next week, so the only major obstacle in between yet another high-stakes Michigan-Ohio State game is the pesky Spartans, who take great pleasure in being the disruptive third-wheel in the Big Ten’s most volatile relationship.
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 West Virginia is a Big 12 matchup so nice it might get played twice. The Sooners and Mountaineers are tied for first atop the conference, moving toward a Nov. 23 showdown with playoff implications in Morgantown, West Virginia. That could set up a rematch the next week in the Big 12 title game at Arlington, Texas. As tempting as it is to look ahead, the Sooners face Oklahoma State this weekend in the Bedlam rivalry, which Oklahoma usually wins but infrequently with ease. Oklahoma State then gets West Virginia next week in Stillwater.
In the Southeastern Conference, a national championship game rematch between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia already is set for the league title game on Dec. 1. That could turn out to be a de facto CFP quarterfinal. Auburn will have something to say about that. The Tigers visit the Bulldogs this week and, of course, finish with ‘Bama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 24.
Wake Forest (plus 17) at No. 22 North Carolina State
Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley and his talented receivers should find Wake’s pass defense (20 TD passes allowed and only three interceptions) accommodating … N.C. STATE 42-20.
Louisville (plus 21) at No. 13 Syracuse
Two seasons ago, Lamar Jackson announced himself to the college football world with a spectacular Friday night performance at Syracuse. Now Louisville is the worst team in the ACC … SYRACUSE 45-21.
No. 16 Fresno State (minus 3) at Boise State
Bulldogs have never won on the Broncos’ blue turf, going 0-9 … FRESNO STATE 24-17.
No. 18 Mississippi State (plus 24½) at No. 1 Alabama
Crimson Tide have won 10 straight meetings and only twice have the Bulldogs scored more than 10 points … ALABAMA 35-7.
No. 2 Clemson (minus 20) at No. 17 Boston College
Eagles have a solid defense (25th nationally in yards per play at 4.83), led by DE Zach Allen, but the better offenses it has faced have had success … CLEMSON 35-17.
Florida State (plus 17½) at No. 3 Notre Dame
It was 25 years ago when the second-ranked Fighting Irish beat No. 1 FSU in the Game of the Century … NOTRE DAME 34-14.
No. 4 Michigan (minus 39) at Rutgers
Graphic content: View discretion advised … MICHIGAN 56-7.
Auburn (plus 14) at No. 5 Georgia
Still searching for a pass rush, the Bulldogs rank last in the SEC with 14 sacks … GEORGIA 27-14.
Oklahoma State (plus 18½) at No. 6 Oklahoma
Week to week the Cowboys’ performance has been all over the place … OKLAHOMA 45-24.
TCU (plus 13) at No. 7 West Virginia
Horned Frogs are a shell of the team that looked like a Big 12 contender earlier this season … WEST VIRGINIA 35-17.
No. 8 Ohio State (minus 3½) at No. 24 Michigan State
Sure, the Buckeyes’ defense has been a mess, but have you seen the Spartans’ dysfunctional offense? … OHIO STATE 27-21.
No. 9 LSU (minus 13½) at Arkansas
How do the Tigers bounce back from ‘Bama? … LSU 31-16.
No. 10 Washington State (minus 6½) at Colorado
Buffaloes could finally get star WR Laviska Shenault Jr. back this week — and boy could they use him to break a four-game losing streak … COLORADO 31-28.
Navy (plus 25½) at No. 11 UCF
Midshipmen are on the way to the program’s worst season since going 2-10 in 2002 … UCF 49-17.
No. 12 Kentucky (minus 6) at Tennessee
SEC’s worst passing offense (Kentucky) against its worst rushing offense (Tennessee) … TENNESSEE, 20-16, UPSET SPECIAL.
San Jose State (plus 31) at No. 14 Utah State
Aggies have five games of at least 50 points, only Alabama has more (six) … UTAH STATE 52-17.
No. 15 Texas (minus 1½) at Texas Tech
Longhorns looking at sliding from Big 12 contention to a 7-5 regular season in a big hurry … TEXAS 28-27.
South Carolina (plus 6½) at No. 19 Florida
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Gators are searching for answers at quarterback … FLORIDA 24-21.
Wisconsin (plus 8) at No. 21 Penn State
Badgers could be without QB Alex Hornibrook in a game between teams trying to position themselves for warm-weather bowls … PENN STATE 28-21.
Baylor (plus 14½) at No. 23 Iowa State
Cyclones looking for their first five-game winning streak since 2002 … IOWA STATE 38-21.
South Florida (plus 12) at No. 25 Cincinnati
Bearcats have put together a feisty defense (fourth in the country in yards per play at 4.28), led by DT Cortez Broughton and S James Wiggins … CINCINNATI 24-17.
California (plus 5½) at Southern California — @dcjames5
Trojans have won 14 straight in the series … USC 28-20.
Northwestern (plus 10) at Iowa — @OC8653
Wildcats can lose this and still win the Big Ten West by finishing with victories against Minnesota and Illinois … IOWA 28-14.
Troy (pick’em) at Georgia Southern — @MDWDFW
First-place in the Sun Belt East on the line … GEORGIA SOUTHERN 27-24.
Virginia Tech (plus 3) at Pittsburgh — @cpugliesi
Panthers do one thing really well, rushing for 231 yards per game … PITT 30-24.
Mississippi (plus 11½) at Texas A&M — @DarrylKerr
Chance for Aggies RB Trayveon Williams (103.4 yards per game) to make a run at the SEC rushing lead against the worst run defense in the conference … TEXAS A&M 35-28.
Last week: 16-8 straight; 12-12-1 against the spread.
Season: 159-61 straight; 114-104-1 against the spread.
Upset specials: 5-5 (straight up).
Best bets: 3-6 (against the spread).
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://www.podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast
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