By Brad Carroll
Saturday night might as well be dubbed Elimination Night, as there are two gigantic matchups where the winner will move into great position for the College Football Playoff tournament while the other will likely fall out of the tourney picture altogether. Those two mega-showdowns, No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami and No. 6 TCU at No. 5 Oklahoma, are joined by No. 2 Alabama playing at No. 16 Mississippi State in another game with Playoff implications
So, yes, this is going to be a huge night of college football.
Our college football experts preview and picks against the point spread those three games, plus Purdue at No. 25 Northwestern, below. Click here for our Friday night preview and picks. Click here for our early Saturday afternoon previews and picks. Click here for our Saturday late afternoon previews and picks.
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No. 2 Alabama at No. 16 Mississippi State, 7, ESPN
Spread: Alabama -14.5
Brad’s Breakdown: Alabama didn’t come out with any extra motivation last week despite being ranked No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, ending up failing to cover during a 14-point win over LSU. This game is a similar situation, with Alabama giving up over two touchdowns to a ranked Mississippi State team that destroyed LSU earlier in the year. Mississippi State is 7-2 and has won four straight since a 49-10 loss to Auburn. Alabama is going to win the game, but the question always becomes will the Tide actually run up the score enough to cover or not. Typically, they don’t. They won’t again Saturday night.
Brad’s Final: Alabama 38, Mississippi State 24 (Mississippi State)
Craig’s Final: Alabama 41, Mississippi State 17 (Alabama)
Glenn’s Final: Alabama 35, Mississippi State 17 (Alabama)
Matt’s Final: Alabama 49, Mississippi State 20 (Alabama)
Purdue at No. 25 Northwestern, 7, ESPN2
Spread: Northwestern -4.5
Brad’s Breakdown: Northwestern is red-hot, coming into this game ranked and winners of four straight games. The Wildcats defeated Maryland, Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska during this impressive stretch to improve to 6-3 overall. Purdue is in the opposite boat, losing three of its last four games, to come in with a 4-5 record. The Boilermakers lost to Wisconsin, Rutgers and Nebraska before beating Illinois last week. Defense should rule the day, as both have solid units, along with offenses that won’t make you think Big 12 any time soon. But the Wildcats should be plenty pumped about staying in the top 25, and the only way to continue that is to win.
Brad’s Final: Northwestern 27, Purdue 20 (Northwestern)
Craig’s Final: Northwestern 29, Purdue 21 (Northwestern)
Glenn’s Final: Northwestern 28, Purdue 20 (Northwestern)
Matt’s Final: Northwestern 28, Purdue 13 (Northwestern)
No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami, 8, ABC
Spread: Notre Dame -3.5
Brad’s Breakdown: Both Notre Dame and Miami would qualify as college football’s most surprising teams this season. Nobody thought either team would be as good as they’ve turned into, with one currently in position for the College Football Playoff tourney while the other is hoping a win Saturday night will put them right there as well (all the while kicking the other out). It’s only fitting one of the biggest Playoff elimination games in the CFP era would be between two old rivals with the most famous nickname in sports: Catholics vs. Convicts. This year’s version doesn’t have that same animosity, or national standing, but it’s nonetheless a gigantic game that will have a great majority of college football fans’ attention. Notre Dame is 8-1 on the season, with the one blemish to now-top-ranked Georgia. Miami is a perfect 8-0 but didn’t really start to make believers in its CFP qualifications until its 28-10 win over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech last week. This should be a classic, a classic won by the home team.
Brad’s Final: Miami 31, Notre Dame 30 (Miami)
Craig’s Final: Miami 27, Notre Dame 24 (Miami)
Glenn’s Final: Notre Dame 21, Miami 20 (Miami)
Matt’s Final: Notre Dame 31, Miami 24 (Notre Dame)
No. 6 TCU at No. 5 Oklahoma, 8, FOX
Spread: Oklahoma -6.5
Brad’s Breakdown: Not to be outdone, this Big 12 showdown has huge Playoff implications as well, and if it wasn’t for the history of Notre Dame-Miami, TCU and Oklahoma would be the talk of the college football world this weekend. Even though it’s not getting the same hype, this game has every bit the chance to be an instant classic. The winner of this game could easily move into the top four in the Playoff, while the loser for sure will be eliminated from contention. TCU is 8-1 this season with its lone blemish coming two weeks ago against Iowa State. The Horned Frogs bounced back to beat Texas last week, 24-7. Oklahoma is 8-1 with its lone loss coming to that same Iowa State team, a loss that looks better now than it did then, which was then a stunning upset. Oklahoma did get a huge victory last week against Oklahoma State, 62-52, to get within one spot of the Playoff. The story will be if Oklahoma’s offense (averaging 45 points and over 600 yards per game) can get the best of TCU’s defense (allowing under 14 points and 280 yards per game). In a game this close, home field advantage really means everything, as the crowd will push the Sooners over the Frogs and, temporarily at least, into the College Football Playoff tournament.
Brad’s Final: Oklahoma 33, TCU 24 (Oklahoma)
Craig’s Final: TCU 45, Oklahoma 40 (TCU)
Glenn’s Final: Oklahoma 45, TCU 38 (Oklahoma)
Matt’s Final: TCU 35, Oklahoma 34 (TCU)