Magic happens at college campuses across the country on Saturdays throughout the fall, but this one is set up to be extra special. There are six games on the schedule between top-25 teams this weekend. Compare that to the previous week when there were none.
There’s No. 19 Colorado vs. No. 10 Oregon, No. 22 UCLA against No. 11 Utah, No. 15 Ole Miss takes on No. 13 Alabama, No. 24 Iowa plays No. 7 Penn State, No. 6 Ohio State draws No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 14 Oregon State is up against No. 21 Washington State. No. 4 Florida State at Clemson just barely missed the cut — the Tigers came in at No. 26 in the latest poll.
Even with all of these powerhouses going head-to-head, there’s still some pretty big spreads: The Ducks are 20.5-point favorites over the visiting Buffaloes and the Crimson Tide, even after an uninspiring win versus USF, are 6.5-point favorites against the Rebels at home.
For our purposes this week, we’re keying in on the two ranked matchups with the tightest spreads: Ohio State-Notre Dame and Oregon State-Washington State.
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Notre Dame
Spread: Ohio State -3.5 (-105) | Notre Dame +3.5 (-120)
Moneyline: OSU (-167) | ND (+130)
Total: 55.5 – Over (-105) | Under (-120)
Game Info: Saturday, Sep. 23 | 7:30 p.m. ET | NBC
Location: Notre Dame Stadium | Notre Dame, IN
Saturday’s game between the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish has serious playoff implications. A loss in September won’t disqualify either team from the conversation but a win would be a strong point in their favor on a potential CFP resume. So far, only Texas and FSU have downed top-10 teams and they rank third and fourth in the poll, respectively.
Ohio State (3–0) began its run to the playoffs last year with a 21-10 win over Notre Dame in the opener. That was also a meeting between two top-10 teams and the Fighting Irish covered as 17-point underdogs.
With transfer quarterback Sam Hartman under center and the game in Indiana rather than Ohio, the spread is significantly tighter this season as it’s the Buckeyes with the more inexperienced quarterback in Kyle McCord. The junior officially earned the starting job last week and has played better with each passing game, leaning on All-American wideout Marvin Harrison Jr., but this is his first true test.
OSU beat Youngstown State, 63–10, on Saturday and has now outscored its opponents by 101 points through three games. The Buckeyes won their season opener on the road against Indiana, 23–3, but failed to cover as 30-point favorites. Their defense is one of six units that allows fewer than 10 points per game and it ranks top 10 nationally in passing yards allowed.
Notre Dame (4–0) has an even better point differential (+137) than Ohio State and has been especially dominant at home. The Fighting Irish just beat Central Michigan 41–17 as Sam Hartman threw for a season-best 330 yards, though they did not cover the 35-point spread. The toughest test to date for ND was a road game against N.C. State, which it won, 45–24, easily covering the seven-point spread.
The Fighting Irish defense allows the fourth-fewest total yards and passing yards per game and are a top-20 scoring defense nationally. They’re also set to get back two starters on defense this week: Linebacker JD Bertrand and safety DJ Brown. On offense, Hartman ranks fifth in the FBS in passing yards (1,061) while Audric Estime leads the nation in rushing yards (521).
The duo of Hartman and Estime will challenge Ohio State’s defense in a way it hasn’t been tried yet. The Buckeyes are stout against the pass and hold up well against the run, though it will be difficult to take both away from Notre Dame. McCord held up well on the road in Bloomington, but it’s a different game under the lights against a top-10 team. Take the Fighting Irish to keep it close.
BEST BET: Notre Dame +3.5 (-120)
No. 14 Oregon State vs. No. 21 Washington State
Spread: Oregon State -2.5 (-125) | Washington State +2.5 (+100)
Moneyline: OSU (-150) | WSU (+120)
Total: 56.5 – Over (-110) | Under (-110)
Game Info: Saturday, Sep. 23 | 7 p.m. ET | Fox
Location: Martin Stadium | Pullman, WA
The Beavers and Cougars were left behind by their Pac-12 brethren this offseason. No matter — they’re a combined 6–0 to start the year and are two of the 24 teams that average better than 40 points per game. Now the last two teams standings from the conference of champions get to play each other.
Oregon State (3–0) is riding a seven-game win streak that dates back to last November and the Beavers put an end to an eight-game losing streak to Washington State (3–0) a year ago. Transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled in a 26–9 win over San Diego State last week but the run game, led by Damien Martinez’s 102 yards, stepped up in a big way and the defense kept the Aztecs in check.
Uiagalelei’s best game for the Beavers was his first, a 42–17 road win over San Jose State in which he accounted for five total touchdowns and completed 80% of his passes. It hasn’t been as smooth in the two games since, but Martinez, who ranks eighth nationally in rushing yards, and Uiagalelei, who’s found the end zone in each game, spearhead a strong rushing attack. Only five defenses allow fewer rushing yards per game than Oregon State, which has played a fairly friendly schedule so far.
The Cougars’ success can largely be credited to quarterback Cameron Ward, who ranks sixth in the country in passing yards, and leads the team in rushing yards. Washington State’s dual-threat gunslinger threw for over 450 yards in a 50–24 road win over a Colorado State team that nearly knocked off No. 19 Colorado. Then he led a 32-21 upset effort versus then-No. 19 Wisconsin and shined last week in a 64–21 blowout against Northern Colorado.
Ward completed less than half of his passes and was sacked six times in last year’s 24–10 loss to Oregon State. Since that game, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 16-1 and he and Lincoln Victor have developed quite the rapport. The Cougars have gone up against a tougher schedule so far but their defense has allowed at least 20 points in each contest.
Both offenses have the infrastructure to hang 30-plus points on their opponent in the Pac-12 opener and the over has already hit in two out of three games for both Oregon State and Washington State. Count on plenty of points in Pullman.
BEST BET: Over 56.5 (-110)
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