Only nine undefeated FBS teams are still standing. Five suffered their first blemishes last weekend, including now-No. 3 Alabama, now-No. 7 USC, now-No. 8 Oklahoma State and now-No. 10 Penn State. The Crimson Tide lost on a last-second field goal. The Trojans lost on a last-minute two-point conversion. The Cowboys lost in double-overtime.
Five more games between ranked teams will be played this weekend, including the first top-10 matchup between Pac-12 teams in nearly six years. But the only battle of unbeatens features Syracuse, as we all expected.
The No. 14 Orange, who will play at Clemson on Saturday, are 6-0 for the first time since 1987, but it is fairly easy to poke holes in their résumé. Both major polls have already done so, making Syracuse the only undefeated team to be ranked outside the top 10.
The Orange have played just one road game this season. They have played one top-60 offense. Before beating North Carolina State last week, their previous win came against Wagner, an FCS team that is 0-6. The win before that featured one Syracuse touchdown and a last-minute field goal, one of five by the Orange in the game, to beat Virginia (2-4).
The fun will end in Death Valley, where Clemson (7-0) hasn’t lost since 2016. The Tigers (-13.5) have defeated three ACC contenders in the past month (Wake Forest, N.C. State and Florida State) and will have little trouble disposing of the last potential threat, now that DJ Uiagalelei looks like a five-star quarterback again.
Virginia (+3) over GEORGIA TECH
TBS will showcase the Yankees and Astros on Thursday night. TNT will feature Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. Amazon will have the Cardinals and Saints. But I’m sure ESPN will draw big numbers with this must-see ACC matchup.
OHIO STATE (-29.5) over Iowa
The Buckeyes, the highest-scoring team in the country (48.8 points per game), will face an opponent with seven offensive touchdowns through six games. Yawn. Just five more weeks until Michigan comes to Columbus.
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BAYLOR (-8) over Kansas
The shoulder injury suffered by Kansas QB Jalon Daniels wrecked the sport’s best story this season. Now, unfortunately, the Jayhawks’ brutal stretch to end the season (vs. Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech, vs. Texas, at Kansas State) will erase the early-season memories from most minds.
Cincinnati (-3.5) over SMU
This has trap game written all over it, but the Bearcats haven’t lost outright as a favorite since 2018. Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell rarely fails us. The Mustangs — 1-5 against the spread this season — often do.
RUTGERS (-3) over Indiana
The Scarlet Knights are due to pick up their first conference win. I’m getting déjà vu.
Unlv (+25.5) over NOTRE DAME
The Fighting Irish haven’t scored more than 28 points in five of their six games this season. Stanford and Marshall — whose only FBS wins this season have come against Notre Dame — support Rebels moneyline (+1400) action.
OKLAHOMA STATE (+6.5) over Texas
One day, scientists will study how this spread came to be. Because the Longhorns sure are receiving a lot of reverence for a two-loss team without a win against a team over .500. And the Cowboys sure are getting a lot of disrespect for a team that has a top-10 offense, a win in this matchup last year, a 5-0 record against the spread as an underdog since last season and its lone loss in double-overtime against an undefeated team.
Mississippi (+2) over LSU
This is easy. I just needed to update the text from Tennessee’s visit to LSU two weeks back. LSU coach Brian Kelly is now 4-12 against top-10 teams. In the past two seasons, the Tigers are 4-5 in Death Valley during SEC play. Coach Lane Kiffin’s unusually stout defense and running game will keep the Rebels undefeated.
Ucla (+6) over OREGON
Bruins coach Chip Kelly is 0-3 against his former team, but the games the past two years — far bigger expected mismatches than this — have been decided by a field goal. The Bruins may not be ready to win their biggest game in years on the road, but QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson — ranked second in the nation with a 74.8 completion percentage — should have little trouble moving the chains against a defense ranked 124th in completion percentage allowed (68.9 percent).
WAKE FOREST (-20.5) over Boston College
The Eagles haven’t faced one top-40 passing offense this season. Quarterback Sam Hartman is certain to light up the untested secondary and coach Dave Clawson is certain to have the Demon Deacons ready after a week off.
Purdue (+2.5) over WISCONSIN
The Badgers have lost their only two home games against Power Five teams this season. The Boilermakers are two plays away from being undefeated. The stage is set for Purdue to end its 15-game losing streak in the series.
Mississippi State (+21) over ALABAMA
I wouldn’t count out the possibility of the Crimson Tide running the table and returning to the playoff. But I also wouldn’t lay three touchdowns with a team that just surrendered its most points in 115 years, set a school-record with 17 penalties and has been lucky to escape a pair of close battles (Texas, Texas A&M) against opponents comparable to the Bulldogs.
PENN STATE (-4) over Minnesota
I’d prefer to take neither. The low spread is justified by the Nittany Lions’ collapse last year, following a similarly deceptive 5-0 start. The Gophers, however, arrive at State College off back-to-back double-digit losses in their first two games against winning teams. Beaver Stadium will be the difference.
Kansas State (+3.5) over TCU
The Wildcats can pull off the upset behind Adrian Martinez, the only FBS quarterback without a turnover, the nation’s 14th-ranked ground game and the nation’s co-leader in sacks per game, Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
Best bets: Oklahoma State, Mississippi, Kansas State
This season: 49-53-3
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19