By Brad Carroll
College football may have turned into a primetime showcase of the best teams and best games every Saturday night, but the heart and soul still resides in the afternoon, and this week proves it. Among the seven biggest games, three will feature ranked teams playing each other, two more will feature teams in the College Football Playoff hunt and another two with teams trying to work their way back into the title picture.
It makes for what should be a tremendous afternoon of college football. And, of course, we have you covered with game analysis and our college football experts pick each game against the spread below. We didn't forget about the best night games either, and you can view those previews and picks here.
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West Virginia at No. 2 Baylor, 12 p.m., FOX
The Spread: West Virginia +22.5; Baylor -22.5
Analysis: At the end of the year, if Baylor continues to play the way it has so far, nobody could keep it out of the College Football Playoff. The Bears moved up to No. 2 in the AP poll this week after beating Kansas 66-7 last week. Baylor has scored at least 63 points in each of its last four games, all blowout victories. With Ohio State struggling as it has so far, the case easily can be made for Baylor being the No. 1 team in the nation. All that matters, however, is if Baylor is in the final four when the final Playoff rankings are determined at the end of the regular season. Quarterback Seth Russell and wide receiver Corey Coleman have become one of the best hookups in the country, and running back Shock Linwood is a star as well, with 719 rushing yards and seven scores. In addition to being the better team, Baylor also has revenge as a factor Saturday, as a loss to West Virginia last year cost it a shot at making the final four. West Virginia started great, with three big wins over sub-par competition, then got a rude awakening in the Big 12 part of the schedule, losing by 20 to Oklahoma and then by seven as a home favorite against Oklahoma State. Quarterback Skyler Howard has thrown five interceptions on the year, so Baylor's defense could have the chance to create turnovers. With or without a turnover, Baylor will beat West Virginia at home. The dilemma is, which team will cover the gigantic point spread.
Brad's Score: Baylor 56, West Virginia 28
Craig's Score: Baylor 63, West Virginia 30
Glenn's Score: Baylor 56, West Virginia 42
Matt's Score: Baylor 70, West Virginia 35
No. 17 Iowa at No. 20 Northwestern, 12 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Iowa -2.5; Northwestern +2.5
Analysis: Don't look now, but another Big Ten team is working its way up the rankings and making a play to be considered among the best teams in the country. Iowa might be the least known undefeated team in the nation, winning all six of its games, including a victory at then-No. 19 Wisconsin two weeks ago. In keeping with that trend, running back Jordan Canzeri is a star you may not know about yet. He's rushed for 697 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Of course, defense is everything for the Hawkeyes, allowing 16.2 points and 310.3 yards per game. That running game and defensive prowess could get Iowa to the College Football Playoff, as this game against Northwestern is the only regular season game remaining against a ranked team. So, the Hawkeyes should be favored to finish undefeated. Northwestern stands in their way. The Wildcats were having a dream season of their own coming into last week's game, holding a 5-0 record and an impressive victory over Stanford in the season opener. But they were beaten badly on the road at Michigan, losing 38-0. That loss knocked Northwestern out of the Playoff picture in all likelihood. Northwestern still relies on its defense, which allows an average of 12.2 points and 269.5 yards per game, even after the big loss to the Wolverines. Northwestern doesn't have much of an offense, which gives the edge to Iowa, which will find a way to escape with a victory.
Brad's Score: Iowa 24, Northwestern 21
Craig's Score: Iowa 24, Northwestern 10
Glenn's Score: Iowa 24, Northwestern 21
Matt's Score: Iowa 20, Northwestern 3
No. 13 Ole Miss at Memphis, 12 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Ole Miss -10.5; Memphis +10.5
Analysis: Ole Miss had the SEC and College Football Playoff in its hands after beating Alabama on the road a month ago. The Running Rebels controlled their own destiny of playing for a national championship. But that came crumbling down after the team crashed and burned at Florida two weeks ago, losing 38-10. They weren't just beaten, they were crushed, and their Playoff hopes took a major hit. But all is not lost for Ole Miss. If the Rebels run the table, which includes games at home against Texas A&M and LSU, along with a rivalry game at unranked Mississippi State, they will find themselves in the SEC title game, one win away from making the final four. Memphis is no slouch on the Rebels' schedule, holding a perfect 5-0 record, with marquee wins over Cincinnati and South Florida the last two games. Memphis had a bye week to prepare for its biggest challenge by far this season. The Tigers have actually won 13 straight games overall. Paxton Lynch has thrown for over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, giving the Tigers an impressive aerial attack. But Memphis does allow 26.8 points per game, which means Ole Miss should have a fun day putting points on the scoreboard.
Brad's Score: Ole Miss 38, Memphis 20
Craig's Score: Ole Miss 27, Memphis 10
Glenn's Score: Ole Miss 65, Memphis 17
Matt's Score: Ole Miss 34, Memphis 17
Louisville at No. 11 Florida State, 12 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Louisville +7; Florida State -7
Analysis: Florida State keeps chugging along, winning every regular season game in front of it for the third straight year, but still hasn't garnered much respect around the nation. That is most likely because the Seminoles haven't impressed at all in any of their five wins to open the year. In their last three games, Florida State has beaten Boston College (14-0), Wake Forest (24-16) and Miami (29-24). None of those scores will get the Seminoles noticed by those picking the College Football Playoff's final four. But if the wins keep coming, the higher the Seminoles will rise, no matter what the final scores may read. Florida State hosts a Louisville team Saturday in a game that was supposed to be good for its resume, but hasn't turned out as such. The Cardinals are 2-3 on the year, with three losses coming in a row, to Auburn, Houston and Clemson. Louisville did beat NC State two weeks ago, 20-13. For Florida State, it's all about the running game and Dalvin Cook, who has carried the Seminoles this season. Quarterback Everett Golson, the transfer from Notre Dame, has not lived up to expectations under center. Louisville now has a clear starting quarterback in Lamar Jackson. He's easily the team's biggest playmaker, with eight total touchdowns and 435 rushing yards to lead the team. But he's passed for just 598 yards with three scores and four interceptions. It won't always be pretty, but FSU wins by 10.
Brad's Score: Florida State 33, Louisville 23
Craig's Score: Florida State 28, Louisville 17
Glenn's Score: Florida State 35, Louisville 30
Matt's Score: Florida State 48, Louisville 20
No. 10 Alabama at No. 9 Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Spread: Alabama -4.5; Texas A&M +4.5
Analysis: Not many could have predicted Texas A&M would be undefeated in this matchup and not Alabama, but that's where we stand heading into one of the biggest SEC games of the entire season. The Aggies have impressed in their five wins, beating ranked teams Arizona State and Mississippi State easily. Even the much suspect defense has stiffened up this year, allowing an average of 21 points per game. The last two weeks against Mississippi State and Arkansas, the Aggies have allowed an average of 19 points per game. Quarterback Kyle Allen is having a great year as well, with 11 touchdown passes to only two interceptions. The running game has been solid also, led by Tra Carson. Alabama, meanwhile, has rebounded nicely from a shocking loss at home to Ole Miss a month ago, winning three straight games, including a 38-10 win at then-No. 8 Georgia, a game the Crimson Tide were listed as an underdog. Quarterback Jake Coker is starting to play better, with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Running back Derrick Henry is a beast, with 665 yards and 10 touchdowns. The defense has been its typical sturdy self, allowing just 15.7 points on the season. I went against Alabama to lose once this season, against Georgia, and I was burned. (Although I did pick Ole Miss to cover the spread in that game). I'm not going to be burned again.
Brad's Score: Alabama 38, Texas A&M 31
Craig's Score: Texas A&M 33, Alabama 30 (upset pick)
Glenn's Score: Alabama 24, Texas A&M 21
Matt's Score: Alabama 30, Texas A&M 21
No. 19 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Oklahoma -4.5; Kansas State +4.5
Analysis: Just when I go out and write good things about Oklahoma last week, the Sooners come out and lay an egg against their biggest rival, losing its undefeated season in the process. (I will point out I did take Texas plus the points). Oklahoma not only lost to Texas last week, it was humiliated, dropping a 24-17 decision to a team bordering on complete dysfunction. The loss knocked the Sooners out of the College Football Playoff conversation for now, and I don't believe even wins over Baylor and TCU will get them back in the race. Oklahoma could still win the Big 12 title, however, which would be huge for a program that has become a mid-card team for several years now. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was having a fine season until the Texas meltdown, where the Sooners offense went MIA. Kansas State is a couple of plays away from being undefeated, as its 3-2 record could have been so much better if it didn't blow leads against Oklahoma State and TCU. Last week, Kansas State led the Horned Frogs 35-17 at the half and 42-31 in the fourth quarter before losing. The Wildcats did gain 228 yards on the ground and score six rushing touchdowns against TCU. Oklahoma could bounce back here with a big performance and dominate Kansas State. But coming off such a disheartening loss to Texas won't be so easy to come back from, and Kansas State will take advantage.
Brad's Score: Kansas State 35, Oklahoma 28 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: Oklahoma 38, Kansas State 24
Glenn's Score: Oklahoma 35, Kansas State 17
Matt's Score: Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 24
No. 7 Michigan State at No. 12 Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Michigan State +7.5; Michigan -7.5
Analysis: This rivalry might see the biggest game between the two in forever Saturday afternoon, as Michigan State tries to knock off Michigan at the Big House. Michigan State keeps slipping in the rankings despite the fact it keeps winning. It's the nature of those victories, however, that keeps the Spartans from moving up, instead of down. The last two weeks against Purdue and Rutgers, Michigan State won by a combined 10 points. Nobody is going to be excited about that. Plus, Michigan State's biggest win of the season, against then-No. 7 Oregon, looks pedestrian now, with the Ducks unranked. Quarterback Connor Cook has played well, with 12 touchdowns against two interceptions, but overall, the offense has been flat most of the time. Win in the Big House, however, and Michigan State will finally take a big step back into the College Football Playoff picture. Michigan started with a tough road loss to now-No. 4 Utah, a game it easily could have won. Since then, the Wolverines have won five straight, including pitching three shutouts in a row. The last time a team shut out four opponents in a row was Nebraska in 1972. And the competition this time around was good too, with Michigan victories coming against then-No. 22 BYU, a bad Maryland side, and last week against then-No. 13 Northwestern. The Northwestern game made believers out of most, as Michigan won 38-0, a dominating performance. Quarterback Jake Rudock is playing better, but still has just five touchdown passes to go with six interceptions. Michigan State has won six of the last seven games between the rivals. Michigan flips the script Saturday afternoon, but it's going to be a game until the end.
Brad's Score: Michigan 28, Michigan State 27
Craig's Score: Michigan 24, Michigan State 20
Glenn's Score: Michigan 17, Michigan State 13
Matt's Score: Michigan State 21, Michigan 17 (upset pick)