By Brad Carroll
There might not be a battle of ranked teams during Saturday's slate of college football games, but there are still a number of interesting matchups that could shape the playoff landscape come year's end. No. 1 Florida State, No. 7 Baylor and No. 8 Notre Dame are all playing games away from home, while No. 6 Texas A&M plays a very capable Arkansas squad at home.
If any one of those highly-ranked teams lose on this day, there will be little chance of them getting back into the College Football Playoff conversation, making for a host of must-win games as we creep closer to October.
We preview those games, plus five others, and our college football experts pick each against the spread below. As always, follow us on Twitter for the latest news, analysis and picks on college football and much more here.
Wyoming at No. 9 Michigan State, 12 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Wyoming +28; Michigan State -28
Brad's Breakdown: Just about the only thing these two teams have in common is they've both lost to Oregon this season in Eugene. Other than that, these two programs are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Michigan State is one of the best teams in the country, despite losing 46-27 in Week 2 to the Ducks. Michigan State led the game 27-18 late in the third quarter before Oregon's offense exploded late. Michigan State beat Eastern Michigan last week 73-14, which is really only important because the Eagles have an offense similiar to Wyoming, and that's they both really don't have an offense at all. Wyoming averages just 17 points per game, 121st in the nation. The Cowboys allow on average six points more points than they score. Michigan State should have another easy day at home.
Brad's Score: Michigan State 49, Wyoming 14
Craig's Score: Michigan State 42, Wyoming 10
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 48, Wyoming 10
Matt's Score: Michigan State 42, Wyoming 10
Tennessee at No. 12 Georgia, 12 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Tennessee +16.5; Georgia -16.5
Brad's Breakdown: Both teams are 2-1 with losses to ranked teams. Georgia jumped into the national championship picture with a big victory over Clemson in Week 1, but came crashing back to Earth after losing to South Carolina two weeks ago as favorites. Tennessee lost 34-10 to fourth-ranked Oklahoma, a better team than Georgia. The Vols were actually closer than the final score indicates, as Oklahoma had a 100-yard interception return in the fourth quarter to seal the game. Tennessee could be without two of its best wide receivers in this game, making an upset unlikely. But there is little confidence Georgia can run away from the Vols by more than two touchdowns.
Brad's Score: Georgia 35, Tennessee 24
Craig's Score: Georgia 28, Tennessee 13
Glenn's Score: Georgia 42, Tennessee 17
Matt's Score: Georgia 35, Tennessee 20
No. 1 Florida State at North Carolina State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Florida State -18.5; North Carolina State +18.5
Brad's Breakdown: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston should return as the team's starter Saturday afternoon, barring any more dumb decisions between now and then, meaning the Seminoles will be back to their championship-favorite selves. Without Winston last week, Florida State had to survive a scare from Clemson in a game the Seminoles easily should have lost. But in that situation it was all about surviving and advancing. North Carolina State has already eclipsed its win total from last year, winning its opening four games. But only one of those wins would be considered impressive, at South Florida. Last year, Florida State scored 35 first-quarter points on its way to a 49-17 win over NC State. But the Wolfpack have had great success at home over the Seminoles, winning five of the last seven games when FSU is ranked. In 2012, NC State beat then-No. 2 Florida State 17-16. But with Winston getting a cold taste of what it's like to stand on the sideline, it should be more than enough for the Seminoles to win this game in a rout as he gets back on the field.
Brad's Score: Florida State 45, North Carolina State 21
Craig's Score: Florida State 44, North Carolina State 20
Glenn's Score: Florida State 56, North Carolina State 21
Matt's Score: Florida State 41, North Carolina State 21
Arkansas at No. 6 Texas A&M, AT&T Stadium, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Arkansas +10; Texas A&M -10
Brad's Breakdown: Texas A&M is 4-0 for the first time since 2006 and has scored more points in those four games than any other team in program history. Again, Johnny Football who? Kenny Hill has this Aggies offense humming like never before, but this test against Arkansas will be the first true battle since an opening week victory at South Carolina. The best part about this Texas A&M team could be the fact the defense is on par with the offense, which hasn't always been the case in recent years. Arkansas is 3-1 this season, including two big wins over Texas Tech and Northern Illinois over its last two games. The Razorbacks lost to Auburn in the season opener. Arkansas has lost 13 straight SEC games. If Texas A&M is for real this season, it has to beat Arkansas by at least two touchdowns.
Brad's Score: Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 28
Craig's Score: Texas A&M 49, Arkansas 35
Glenn's Score: Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 31
Matt's Score: Texas A&M 41, Arkansas 24
No. 16 Stanford at Washington, 4:15 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Stanford -7.5; Washington +7.5
Brad's Breakdown: Stanford has the top-ranked defense in points allowed per game (4.3) and yards allowed per game (204.3). Stanford shut out UC Davis and Army in its two victories this season, and allowed just 13 points in its loss to USC. That loss broke the nation's longest home win streak at 17. Washington is 4-0 but struggled to put away Hawaii and Eastern Washington in its first two games under new coach Chris Petersen, the former Boise State head man. While Stanford excels on defense, Washington hasn't, allowing 25.3 points per game against some less than stellar competition. Stanford has won five of the last six meetings between the two schools, but the one Huskies win came in 2012 at home, 17-13. The Huskies were a better team back then, though. Stanford wins.
Brad's Score: Stanford 28, Washington 14
Craig's Score: Stanford 27, Washington 17
Glenn's Score: Stanford 28, Washington 14
Matt's Score: Stanford 28, Washington 24
Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Missouri +5; South Carolina -5
Brad's Breakdown: Both Missouri and South Carolina come into this game off embarrassing performances the week prior. After winning its first three games easily, Missouri laid a giant egg last week against Indiana, losing 31-27 at home. Indiana is the same team that lost to Bowling Green. You remember Bowling Green, the team that lost to Wisconsin 68-17 last week. It was a terrible loss by the Tigers. South Carolina was lucky to come out of Vanderbilt last week with a win. The Commodores were within three points in the fourth quarter before the Gamecocks pulled away. Steve Spurrier called it one of the worst wins of his career. South Carolina has won both SEC meetings against Missouri, winning by 21 in 2012 and beating the Tigers last year in double overtime. If it wasn't for that Missouri loss to Indiana, I would have this game going in a different direction. But that loss can't be ignored, so South Carolina by a touchdown.
Brad's Score: South Carolina 27, Missouri 20
Craig's Score: South Carolina 38, Missouri 31
Glenn's Score: South Carolina 28, Missouri 21
Matt's Score: South Carolina 31, Missouri 28
No. 7 Baylor at Iowa State, 8 p.m., FOX
The Spread: Baylor -21.5; Iowa State +21.5
Brad's Breakdown: Baylor has outscored its opponents 178-27 this season, but Iowa State will pose the biggest challenge to the Bears Saturday night at home. Baylor has beaten SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, not exactly a who's who of college football. But there's no denying how great the Bears offense is, led by Heisman hopeful Bryce Petty at quarterback. A bye week also allows the Bears to get healthy, which has been a problem for them so far. Iowa State followed a terrible loss to North Dakota State in the opener with a close defeat to Kansas State and a victory at Iowa last week. Iowa State's defense is solid, but its offense is one of the worst in the Big 12, and won't be able to keep up with the Bears on the scoreboard.
Brad's Score: Baylor 42, Iowa State 17
Craig's Score: Baylor 63, Iowa State 20
Glenn's Score: Baylor 65, Iowa State 10
Matt's Score: Baylor 49, Iowa State 17
No. 8 Notre Dame vs. Syracuse, MetLife Stadium, 8 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Notre Dame -10; Syracuse +10
Brad's Breakdown: In theory, this would be a home game for Syracuse, but the guess here is the home of the Jets and Giants will be filled with a majority of Notre Dame fans. Possibly a big majority. Even commercials pumping tickets for the game in New York play Notre Dame's fight song in the background to appeal to the Irish fans in the area. It also doesn't hurt that Notre Dame is playing its best football in a long time, even better than the team that played for a national championship a couple years ago. Quarterback Everett Golson has worked his way into Heisman trophy consideration by throwing for 780 yards with seven touchdowns, and another four rushing scores, in three games. Best yet, he hasn't turned the ball over. Syracuse got off to a 2-0 start, but suffered a bad loss to Maryland at home last week, 34-20. The Orange haven't done well at MetLife in the past, losing to Southern Cal two years ago and Penn State last year. Notre Dame will make it 0-for-3 for Syracuse in New Jersey.
Brad's Score: Notre Dame 35, Syracuse 21
Craig's Score: Notre Dame 35, Syracuse 21
Glenn's Score: Notre Dame 35, Syracuse 13
Matt's Score: Notre Dame 35, Syracuse 13
Oregon State at No. 18 USC, 10:30 pm., ESPN
The Spread: Oregon State +9.5; USC -9.5
Brad's Breakdown: Oregon State and Southern Cal have split the last six meetings between each other, but the Beavers haven't beat the Trojans in Los Angeles since 1960. Southern Cal hasn't played since a terrible loss to Boston College two weeks ago, when the Eagles gashed the Trojans defense for 452 yards on the ground. That loss ruined what was a great win the previous week against Stanford, as USC broke the Cardinal's 17-game home win streak. Oregon State is led on offense by Sean Mannion, who trails only Matt Barkley and Carson Palmer for most career passing yards in the Pac-12. Mannion, however, won't have his biggest weapon Saturday night, as Victor Bolden will miss the game with a dislocated finger. Oregon State also lost Brandin Cooks to the NFL this season. USC should have more than enough to bounce back and beat Oregon State by double-digits to close out Week 5.
Brad's Score: USC 30, Oregon State 20
Craig's Score: USC 38, Oregon State 24
Glenn's Score: USC 24, Oregon State 17
Matt's Score: USC 31, Oregon State 14
Brad Last Week: 6-4 (spread), 9-1 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Brad Season: 28-21 (spread), 38-11 (straight-up), 2-1 (upsets)
Craig Last Week: 7-3 (spread), 9-1 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Craig Season: 26-23 (spread), 36-13 (straight-up), 3-4 (upsets)
Glenn Last Week: 7-3 (spread), 8-2 (straight-up), 0-1 (upset picks)
Glenn Season: 32-17 (spread), 39-10 (straight-up), 3-1 (upsets)
Matt Last Week: 6-4 (spread), 9-1 (straight-up), 0-0 (upset picks)
Matt Season: 27-22 (spread), 37-12 (straight-up), 3-3 (upsets)