By Brad Carroll
The Big Ten takes centerstage among college football's Saturday afternoon highlight games, led by No. 9 Michigan State taking on No. 3 Ohio State in a game with major College Football Playoff implications. The game could be the Buckeyes' biggest hurdle to getting a shot to defend their national championship, while the Spartans can work themselves back into Playoff contention with a victory.
In addition to that blockbuster, No. 1 Clemson and No. 5 Iowa will be in action, seeking to remain in the Playoff hunt. Michigan takes on Penn State, LSU plays Ole Miss, USC heads to Oregon and red-hot North Carolina is on the road at Virginia Tech to round out a tremendous afternoon of college football.
We have you covered with analysis, previews and our college football experts pick each game against the point spread below. Check out our primetime game previews and picks here. As always, follow us on Twitter here.
No. 17 North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 12 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: North Carolina -7; Virginia Tech +7
Analysis: Everyone has already punched Clemson's ticket to the College Football Playoff, but the Tigers are going to have one heck of a challenge left before they get to play for a national championship. North Carolina is that challenge, one of the hottest teams in the nation, winners of nine straight, all in impressive fashion. The Tar Heels' lone loss came in the season opener against South Carolina, 17-13, which North Carolina players would love to have to play over again. Quarterback Marquise Williams is on an amazing tear and running back Elijah Hood gives the Heels a tremendous option on the ground. North Carolina won't get into the College Football Playoff, but could be in the conversation if it ends up winning the ACC championship game. Virginia Tech is having another sub-par season, with a 5-5 record. The Hokies have won two straight, against Boston College and Georgia Tech, so they come into this home game with some momentum. Even so, there's no stopping the roll UNC's on, at least not yet.
Brad's Score: North Carolina 42, Virginia Tech 28
Craig's Score: North Carolina 31, Virginia Tech 21
Glenn's Score: Virginia Tech 24, North Carolina 17 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: North Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 20
Purdue at No. 5 Iowa, 12 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Purdue +22; Iowa -22
Analysis: Iowa has moved into the fifth spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, which puts it in position to play for a national championship if it can run the table, including a victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. The winner of that conference title game will make the Playoff's final four guaranteed. Purdue shouldn't pose much of a roadblock to that quest for the Hawkeyes, as the Boilermakers are 2-8 and have lost seven of their last eight games. The lone win came against Nebraska. Purdue did play No. 18 Northwestern tough last week, falling 21-14. Iowa hasn't been blowing teams out this season, winning by five against Minnesota and eight against Indiana the last two games. The Hawkeyes have beaten a true opponent this season by more than 22 points just once, 40-10 against Northwestern. Iowa should roll, but there's no reason to believe it will be by more than three touchdowns.
Brad's Score: Iowa 35, Purdue 17
Craig's Score: Iowa 38, Purdue 10
Glenn's Score: Iowa 35, Purdue 17
Matt's Score: Iowa 35, Purdue 10
No. 12 Michigan at Penn State, 12 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Michigan -4; Penn State +4
Analysis: Michigan has won three straight games since its devastating loss to Michigan State, which knocked it out of the College Football Playoff conversation. If the Wolverines had simply punted the ball cleanly against the Spartans, they would be three wins away from playing for a national championship. But Michigan now is hoping to run the table and possibly make a marquee bowl game at year's end. Penn State is quietly 7-3 on the season, winning seven of its last nine games. But the Nittany Lions have lost two of their last four, against Ohio State and Northwestern. They also had a one-point win over a bad Maryland team in that stretch as well. This game could be a battle of quarterbacks, with Michigan's Jake Rudock going against Penn State's Christian Hackenberg, who could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. If Rudock doesn't turn the ball over, Michigan wins. If he plays like he did against Utah in the season opener, Penn State pulls the upset. Either way, it's going to be a low-scoring game.
Brad's Score: Michigan 24, Penn State 17
Craig' Score: Michigan 28, Penn State 14
Glenn's Score: Michigan 20, Penn State 17
Matt's Score: Michigan 28, Penn State 13
No. 15 LSU at No. 22 Ole Miss, 3:30 p.m., CBS
The Spread: LSU +3.5; Ole Miss -3.5
Analysis: At the beginning of the season, this game was pegged as one that could determine the SEC's representative in the College Football Playoff. Those thoughts were cemented once Ole Miss upset Alabama and LSU was winning its first seven games of the year. But Ole Miss has since lost three times, to Florida, Memphis and Arkansas, and LSU has lost its last two games, against Alabama and Arkansas. In a strange twist, both of these teams lost the last games they played to the same Razorbacks team. Both teams will be coming into this game against each other trying to forget the lost hopes of playing for a national championship and finish out a season strong. The one difference in the game is LSU has running back Leonard Fournette and Ole Miss does not.
Brad's Score: LSU 27, Ole Miss 24 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: LSU 20, Ole Miss 17 (upset pick)
Glenn's Score: LSU 38, Ole Miss 27 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Ole Miss 31, LSU 17
Wake Forest at No. 1 Clemson, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Wake Forest +30; Clemson -30
Analysis: If Clemson wins out, including the ACC championship game, not only will the Tigers make the College Football Playoff, they likely will be the No. 1 seed, which is important as it could mean the difference between possibly playing Alabama or Ohio State in the first round rather than a one-loss Notre Dame team. Remember, Clemson already owns a victory over Notre Dame this season. The fourth spot could also go to an Oklahoma State team. Either way, on paper, those two matchups would be easier to traverse than Alabama or Ohio State. Clemson is 10-0 with its biggest win of the season coming two weeks ago against Florida State. The Tigers slipped past Syracuse last week by 10. Wake Forest is 3-7 with six losses coming in its last seven games. The only win over that stretch was a 3-0 victory over Boston College. The Demon Deacons lost to Notre Dame 28-7 in its last outing. Clemson rolls, but this could be a game where health is more important than margin of victory.
Brad's Score: Clemson 35, Wake Forest 7
Craig's Score: Clemson 45, Wake Forest 0
Glenn's Score: Clemson 56, Wake Forest 13
Matt's Score: Clemson 56, Wake Forest 17
No. 24 USC at No. 23 Oregon, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: USC +4.5; Oregon -4.5
Analysis: This matchups features two programs who have gone through some hardships this season, with USC firing its coach and Oregon being nowhere near championship contention for the first time in years. Both, however, have rebounded nicely and each own 7-3 records and are at the edge of the Playoff rankings. USC has won four games in a row, including a marquee win over then-No. 3 Utah. Oregon has also won four games in a row, with its biggest win coming last week against then-No. 7 Stanford, 38-36, likely eliminating the entire Pac-12 from Playoff contention in the process. Oregon could still play in the Pac-12 championship game, but would need to win this game and have Stanford lose to California later Saturday. The Ducks are on the upswing, and the Trojans won't be able to slow down that momentum.
Brad's Score: Oregon 49, USC 42
Craig's Score: Oregon 31, USC 24
Glenn's Score: USC 28, Oregon 21 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: USC 42, Oregon 41 (upset pick)
No. 9 Michigan State at No. 3 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Michigan State +13.5; Ohio State -13.5
Analysis: For Ohio State, it's simple, win the remaining games on the schedule and the Big Ten championship game and it will play for a national championship. The Buckeyes will even likely get a rematch against Alabama in the semifinals, a team they beat last year on the way to a title. For Michigan State, if it runs the table, including a victory over Ohio State and then Iowa in the Big Ten title game, two undefeated teams, the Spartans could slip into the College Football Playoff. Even though they are ranked ninth now, that would certainly change with a win at Ohio State, and could result in a huge jump toward the final four. The stakes couldn't be bigger or more important. For Michigan State, victory will come from the play of quarterback Connor Cook. He left last week's game with a shoulder injury, but says he's ready to go this week. He has to play well for the Spartans to have a shot. For Ohio State, running back Ezekiel Elliott is easily the team's best player and will do damage against Michigan State, but the play of quarterback J.T. Barrett and how he leads the offense will be key to victory. The Buckeyes haven't found their footing on offense yet, so now would be the time or the title defense will end in November.
Brad's Score: Ohio State 31, Michigan State 28
Craig's Score: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 24
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 21, Ohio State 17 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Ohio State 21, Michigan State 20