Widely a one-point favorite this weekend at Virginia Tech (7:30 ET; ACCN), No. 14 Notre Dame (4-1) should be favored in every remaining game this season, though that can obviously change week-to-week.
Looking ahead via various power rankings, the Irish may end up a slight underdog to North Carolina, but given that primetime Halloween Eve tilt is in South Bend, Notre Dame Will Likely be favored. An absolute faceplant this weekend in Lane Stadium, combined with USC laying absolute waste to Utah, and perhaps Oct. 23 would feature the Trojans as a favorite, but that would be a bit of a surprise.
This is not to say the Irish should absolutely finish the year 11-1. When a one-point favorite on the road, that already throws such a season-long projection into doubt, but it is to say Notre Dame has a calendar of winnable games ahead of it, despite the flaws shown against Cincinnati last weekend.
And all that is without even mentioning the assured wins against Georgia Tech and Navy.
Florida State (1-4): A win, a win, a Seminoles win. Florida State nearly gave this one away to Syracuse, but pulled out a 33-30 victory thanks to a last-second 34-yard field goal from Ryan Fitzgerald. If nothing else, the Seminoles keep things entertaining.
That entertainment value may lessen this weekend with North Carolina (3:30 ET; ESPN) favored by 17.5 against Florida State, per PointsBet early Thursday afternoon. The combined point total Over/Under of 64.5 suggests a 41-24 result, which may be giving too much credit to the Tar Heels defense, despite the Seminoles rampant offensive line issues.
Toledo (3-2): The Rockets did what teams do at UMass, rolling to an easy 45-7 win against one of history’s worst defenses. Northern Illinois (12 ET; CBSSN) will present more of a challenge, even if Toledo is favored by 12.5. The Rockets entered the season with MAC title intentions, and cruising past the Huskies is simply another step toward those.
Purdue (3-2): A 20-13 loss to Minnesota was the type of football game no one wants to watch. Two turnovers doomed the Boilermakers, who outgained the Gophers by 154 yards. Still with a struggling running game, Purdue will now take a week off to try to find some health before inevitably getting deconstructed at Iowa in two weeks.
Wisconsin (1-3): Michigan finally turned the tables on the Badgers. After years of Wisconsin running roughshod over the Wolverines — the Badgers won 35-14 in 2019 and 49-11 in 2020 — Michigan had no trouble in a 38-17 win.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz took a rough hit to his ribs that necessitated a trip to the hospital, but he is expected to start at Illinois (3:30 ET; BTN), which may explain why the Badgers are favored by only 11 points.
No. 5 Cincinnati (4-0): The Bearcats will need to avoid a letdown against Temple (Friday 7 ET; ESPN). Favored by 29 points, this may be a true “a win is a win is a win” moment for Cincinnati.
The broadcast team for No. 14 #NotreDame's Saturday night (7:30 ET) matchup with Va Tech on the ACC Network: Dave O’Brien (play-by-play), Tim Hasselback (analyst), Kelsey Riggs (sideline).
— Eric Hansen (@EHansenNDI) October 4, 2021
Virginia Tech (3-1): The Hokies are 0-4 coming off their last four idle weeks, while Notre Dame is 10-1 since 2017 against teams who had the week off before facing the Irish, though the one loss came just a week ago. PointsBet has actually moved this tilt to pick’em status with an Over/Under of 47. A 24-23 Saturday evening would be fun, right? Right?!
USC (3-2): Whoever next understands the 2021 Trojans will be the first. Their yo-yo season continued with a 37-14 win at Colorado, led by Kedon Slovis’ three touchdowns and 276 yards on 19-of-29 passing. Freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart is unlikely to challenge Slovis again this season, both because of Slovis’ success and Dart’s health.
USC QB Jaxson Dart was back at practice today for the first time since meniscus surgery. But he was very limited, not participating in more than the reciever line and doing some throwing off to the side. By end of practice he was icing up the knee
— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) October 6, 2021
Slovis & Co. are favored by a field goal against Utah (8 ET; FOX). The winner will be in position behind Arizona State to win the Pac 12 South.
North Carolina (3-2): Much like Toledo at UMass, the Tar Heels did as should be expected against Duke, relishing a 38-7 win led by Sam Howell’s three touchdowns and 321 yards on 18-of-32 passing.
Howell may have more such fun against Florida State.
Navy (1-3): A win, a win, a Midshipmen win. Despite being a 17-point underdog, Navy upset Central Florida, 34-30, thanks to its previously stagnant running game finding 348 yards on 4.6 yards per rush.
The Midshipmen now face SMU (3:30 ET; CBSSN) and the Mustangs suitably average rush defense as 13.5-point underdogs. Handicapping this necessitates handicapping Navy’s success last weekend, and given the Knights rush defense is about exactly as average as SMU’s, that two-touchdown edge may be ambitious.
Virginia (3-2): The Cavaliers tried to give Miami a win last Thursday, taking a 16-7 lead into halftime that felt larger and then a 19-7 lead early in the third quarter before needing the Hurricanes to doink a field goal as time expired to hold on 30-28.
Virginia’s inconsistency next heads to Louisville (3 ET; ACCN) as a 2.5-point underdog. The Over/Under of 69 should at least be an enjoyable afternoon filler.
Georgia Tech (2-3): The Yellow Jackets had a chance to usurp their ACC standing and completely change any remaining negative narrative around head coach Geoff Collins’ progression. Instead, they let Pittsburgh romp to a 52-21 win.
This may be the same old Georgia Tech, but it is still better than Duke (12:30 ET; Watch ESPN), hence being favored by four even on the road.
Stanford (3-2): The one wildcard in suggesting Notre Dame will be favored the rest of the season is the Cardinal. Current rankings would favor the Irish by about a touchdown at The Farm, but if Stanford continues surprising this season, then that margin should only narrow.
Quarterback Tanner McKee threw for three touchdowns and 230 yards on 20-of-36 passing to lead an overtime upset of No. 3 Oregon, his second touchdown coming on an untimed down with no time left to force overtime and his third winning the game. The 31-24 win put the Cardinal just behind Oregon State in the Pac 12 North standings, an unexpected development on a few levels.
In the Pac 12, though, division standings are determined by conference wins, not just division wins, and Stanford now heads to Arizona State (Friday 10:30 ET; ESPN) as a 13-point underdog. If McKee can engineer this upset, hype will very much soon follow.
7 ET — Cincinnati vs. Temple, ESPN.
10:30 ET — Stanford at Arizona State, ESPN.
12 ET — Toledo vs. Northern Illinois, CBSSN.
12:30 ET — Georgia Tech at Duke, Watch ESPN
3 ET — Virginia at Louisville, ACCN.
3:30 ET — Florida State at North Carolina, ESPN; Wisconsin at Illinois, BTN; Navy vs. SMU, CBSSN.
7:30 ET — Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame, ACCN.
8 ET — USC vs. Utah, FOX.
Favored: Toledo (-12.5), Wisconsin (-11), Cincinnati (-29), USC (-3), North Carolina (-17.5), Georgia Tech (-4).
Underdogs: Florida State (+17.5), Virginia Tech (+1 or pk), Navy (+13.5), Virginia (+2.5), Stanford (+13).
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