Week 6 college football predictions for the 10 biggest games. The Red River Rivalry and FSU-Miami highlight the weekend alongside a premier cross-divisional SEC battle.
Last week featured a trio of must-see matchups involving top 10 programs. This weekend? Just one. Still, Week 6 could go down as Streak-Busting Saturday, since Miami, Washington and Arkansas get their shot to snap long and painful losing skids to a league rival.
Below are the breakdowns and predictions for the 10 most consequential and entertaining games of Week 6.
10. Clemson (5-0) at Boston College (3-2)
Clemson narrowly escaped Louisville last week to take control of its ACC and playoff destiny. But how can the Tigers possibly be expected to get back up again for a Friday nighter at BC?
This is the kind of spot where the Eagles have been feisty in recent years. The upset of USC two years ago comes to mind. The Alumni Stadium crowd will be charged up to host the nation’s No. 3 team, particularly on an evening that 9/11 hero—and former BC lacrosse player—Welles Crowther is being honored. Clemson will need to be real careful, because it hasn’t exactly torched FBS opponents this season.
Boston College is dangerous. Fortunately for Clemson, the Eagles lack the offensive execution to move the ball with much success. And sure, it could be a rocky night for Deshaun Watson, who’ll see plenty of defensive end Harold Landry, free safety John Johnson and linebackers Matt Milano and Connor Strachan. Alas, without the requisite punches into the end zone, the Eagles will settle for no more than a moral victory.
Prediction: Clemson 28, Boston College 13
Line: Clemson -17
9. UCLA (3-2) at Arizona State (4-1)
Everyone is in the Pac-12 South race, save for possibly Arizona. So, these kinds of matchups could help decide who’s still in the hunt next month and who’s hunting for a Motel 6 Cactus Bowl invite.
Both teams are coming off three-touchdown blowouts, the Bruins taming Arizona and the Devils bowing to USC. It’ll be strength vs. strength in Tempe, with a talented UCLA defense facing the high-scoring ASU offense that’ll be without starting quarterback Manny Wilkins. In his first career start, redshirt freshman Brady White will have to dodge defensive end Takkarist McKinley and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and outwit the veteran Bruin defensive backs. White will actually have more luck testing the Bruin run defense by handing the ball to Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.
The Sun Devils have another glaring issue, a rotten defense allowing more than 500 yards a game. Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen will build on last week’s outing, outplaying White to guide his squad to an important conference road win.
Prediction: UCLA 37, Arizona State 28
Line: UCLA -10
8. Colorado (4-1) at USC (2-3)
The Buffs are ranked. The Trojans are below .500. It’s a classic flip the script matchup at the Coliseum.
Colorado has been one of the stories of the first half of 2016, escaping a decade of futility to become a legitimate player in the Pac-12 South race. The offense has rocked, even after freshman quarterback Steven Montez replaced injured Sefo Liufau, and coordinator Jim Leavitt is doing a bang-up job with the defense. But USC is feeling optimistic, too, torching Arizona State last Saturday behind its own emerging rookie quarterback, Sam Darnold. And the Trojans understand that a loss Saturday essentially ends any hope of winning the division … or possibly returning Clay Helton in 2017.
Fascinating game, rife with all kinds of changing-of-the-guard possibilities. The Buffaloes are for real. On this day, though, they’ll succumb to their one relative weakness, stopping the run. The Trojans won’t bother challenging the Colorado defensive backs, pounding Justin Davis and Ronald Jones behind a physical offensive line.
Prediction: USC 30, Colorado 28
Line: USC -5
7. Virginia Tech (3-1) at North Carolina (4-1)
The nation is about to get a lot of clarity, both about the state of the ACC Coastal race and the potential of Justin Fuente’s first team in Blacksburg.
Carolina is a known entity, surging after four straight wins, including back-to-back last-second thrillers over Pitt and Florida State. The offense is dynamite, led by Heisman newcomer Mitch Trubisky, but defense remains a liability. Enter Virginia Tech, which has quietly ransacked its last two opponents, Boston College and East Carolina, behind the passing of Jerod Evans and a deep ground game. Plus, the Hokies have better defensive personnel than the Heels, giving up 17 points over the last eight quarters.
By Sunday morning, Evans will join Trubisky as a fringe Heisman threat, and Fuente will be nearly as hot as Tom Herman. While Carolina is emotionally drained, Tech has had two weeks to prepare. The Hokies are poised to make a national statement, outlasting the Heels in an instant classic shootout that won’t be decided until the final drive.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 41, North Carolina 38
Line: North Carolina -2.5
6. LSU (3-2) at Florida (4-1)
Coach O takes his one-man interim act on the road for the first time, looking to build on last week’s momentum.
LSU played like a different team versus Mizzou, setting school records for offense in Ed Orgeron’s first game since taking over for Les Miles. The Tigers rolled on the ground behind Leonard Fournette’s backups, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, but Florida presents an entirely different challenge. The second-half collapse to Tennessee aside, the Gators have been airtight on defense behind standouts like linebacker Jarrad Davis and corners Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. On offense, though, Florida is in disarray, even as quarterback Luke Del Rio returns from injury.
The Tigers and the Gators are essentially mirror images of one another. The difference? LSU is running the ball much better, which will take a lot of heat off quarterback Danny Etling. The kickers will take center stage, crushing hits and great corner play will be prevalent and Coach O will notch his second win as the new guy in charge.
Prediction: LSU 23, Florida 19
Line: LSU -3
5. Washington (5-0) at Oregon (2-3)
Last week, the Huskies kneecapped Stanford to rise to the head of the Pac-12 class. This week, they look to exorcise lingering demons with one of their biggest rivals.
U-Dub has lost 12 straight to Oregon, a harrowing stretch that’s haunted fans of the program. But the schools are traveling in opposite directions these days. The Huskies are unbeaten and knocking on the playoff door after climbing to No. 5 in the AP poll. The Ducks have dropped three straight, putting skipper Mark Helfrich’s future in Eugene in jeopardy. The entire Oregon staff needs this game, but it’ll be too tall of an ask in the face of a Washington team that’s clicking in all phases and focused on exacting revenge.
The Huskies might be even more motivated this week than they were last Friday. Jake Browning will surgically dissect an overmatched Oregon defense, while the U-Dub D wins the line of scrimmage to disrupt running back Royce Freeman’s running lanes.
Prediction: Washington 44, Oregon 24
Line: Washington -8
4. Alabama (5-0) at Arkansas (4-1)
The country forgot about the Hogs after they faded down the stretch to Texas A&M two weeks ago in Arlington. Well, Arkansas, which last beat Bama in 2006, gets its shot for a reintroduction this week when the nation’s top-ranked team visits Fayetteville.
Can the Razorbacks marshal the resources to navigate the Bama defense and neutralize receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart, assuming he’s back from a Week 3 knee injury? Arkansas must first create space for RB Rawleigh Williams to have a shot, but the Tide has been like Kevlar against the run, led by a stacked front seven that includes linemen Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne and linebackers Reuben Foster, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson.
How will Arkansas generate points? Running lanes will be slim, and quarterback Austin Allen won’t be the answer against the elite Bama secondary. Meanwhile, the Razorback defense is generic versus the run, which means sizable holes for athletic quarterback Jalen Hurts and backs Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs, who’s beginning to emerge into a rookie role player for Nick Saban.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Arkansas 17
Line: Alabama -14
3. Texas (2-2) vs. Oklahoma (2-2)
This is an extremely compelling game, considering both teams are straddling the .500 mark. But there’s a lot of history in this series, and a lot at stake for both of the coaching staffs.
The Longhorns and Sooners have disappointed so far. And when programs of this caliber miss the mark, head coaches bear the brunt of the ire. Texas has lost two straight, its defense crumbling, putting Charlie Strong on his thinnest ice since coming aboard in 2014. Oklahoma won’t be returning to the playoffs in 2016, leaving school boosters frustrated with Bob Stoops. The winner gets a week of relief, while the loser must deal with an entirely new level of scrutiny, especially if that coach happens to be Strong.
Oklahoma sports the veteran quarterback, Baker Mayfield, and the healthier backfield duo, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. In other words, the Sooners are in a better position to reach the end zone in a game involving underperforming defensive units.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Texas 33
Line: Oklahoma -10.5
2. Florida State (3-2) at Miami (4-0)
The tables have been turned on one of the game’s foremost rivalries. The Canes are the it team for a change, but there’s still the business of snapping the six-game losing streak to the Seminoles.
Mark Richt has Miami in the top 10, fresh off a win at Georgia Tech. Florida State, conversely, has been a dud, losing its first two ACC games to Louisville and North Carolina in last Saturday’s heartbreaker in the final seconds. Both teams will run the ball, FSU with Dalvin Cook and Miami with Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby. And the Canes have an edge at quarterback, Brad Kaaya over Deondre Francois. It’s the defenses, though, that face the biggest questions. Are the Noles really as bad as their numbers, ranking 125th nationally in yards per play allowed? Are the Canes as stingy as their stats, or are they the product of a soft early schedule?
If not now, when? Miami has confidence, momentum and the benefit of playing at home. Florida State, meanwhile, has skidded out of the ACC race. It won’t be easy, particularly with Cook attempting to put the team on his shoulders. However, Kaaya will deliver against a defense that ran in place in all but the Charleston Southern game.
Prediction: Miami 35, Florida State 31
Line: Miami -3
1. Tennessee (5-0) at Texas A&M (5-0)
So, who is Alabama’s biggest roadblock to winning a third straight SEC championship? The Vols and the Aggies are set to make their cases on Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field.
On some level, Tennessee and Texas A&M have both been surprises through five weeks. The Aggies weren’t expected to be unbeaten and No. 8 in the country at this stage, while Tennessee has yet to find a seemingly insurmountable lead it can’t erase. Still, this will be the Vols’ biggest challenge, primarily at the line of scrimmage. The Aggies are liable to torment Joshua Dobbs, especially if Myles Garrett is given medical clearance. And the A&M O-line has been dominant all season at blowing open holes for running back Trayveon Williams and protecting Trevor Knight.
Texas A&M isn’t healthy, but then again neither is Tennessee. The Aggies will be superior in the trenches and particularly on defense, becoming the first team this season to slam the door on a second-half Volunteer comeback charge.
Prediction: Texas A&M 33, Tennessee 24
Line: Texas A&M -7