Last Saturday was a bit of a bore for bettors who enjoy close contests, as eight of the Associated Press (AP) Top-10 ranked teams heading into the week defeated unranked and overmatched opponents.
The only exceptions were ninth-ranked Wisconsin (3-0), which enjoyed a bye week, and then sixth-ranked Oklahoma State (3-1), losers of a 44-31 shootout against then 16th-ranked TCU (4-0).
This time around, the schedule makers were slightly more generous, sending two Top-10 ranked teams to face fellow members of the AP’s Top-25. Throw in a meeting between the 13th– and 24th-ranked teams in the nation – along with several conference rivalry games – and football fans are likely to sweat the dramatic results that last week lacked.
First things first though, as top-ranked Alabama (4-0) still takes top billing by bullying its way to the head of the pack. Alabama just shrugged off Vanderbilt (3-1) in a 59-0 annihilation and with SEC also-ran Ole Miss (2-1) coming to Tuscaloosa, the Tide are expected to roll once again.
Per the latest lines posted by online sportsbook Bovada, Alabama enjoys a 28-point edge as home favorites.
Things get a little more interesting for the nation’s second-ranked squad, as Clemson (4-0) visits an ACC rival in 12th-ranked Virginia Tech (4-0).
As defending national champions, the Tigers haven’t seemed to miss star quarterback Deshaun Watson all that much, piling up 37.8 points per game thus far. But upon closer inspection, Clemson’s defense may be the driving force behind a possible repeat. The Tigers are allowing just 9.3 points per game on the year, holding three of four opponents to a touchdown or less in the process.
The Hokies appear to be a mirror image in both regards, posting an even 40.0 points per game with the ball, while holding opponents to only 10.3 points per game. Virginia Tech’s defense has notched two shutouts in four games, so this one may be a classic case of unstoppable forces colliding with immovable objects.
Despite nearly identical numbers and performances, and home field advantage, the Hokies are being touted as 7.5-point underdogs in this potentially season-defining slugfest.
Third-ranked Oklahoma has a bye this week, while fourth-ranked Penn State (4-0) hosts Indiana (2-1) as big 18-point home favorites.
As for fifth-ranked USC (4-0), the Trojans travel northward to take on a Pac-12 upstart in 16th-ranked Washington State (4-0).
Both teams boast spotless records, but USC has a signature win against then 14th-ranked Stanford (2-2), while Washington State has feasted on the dregs of the Big Sky and Mountain West conferences.
The Cougars have a chance at that signature victory against the Trojans though, and as slight 4-point underdogs, the books are giving them every shot to earn it this week.
Continuing the weekly theme of conference rivalries, sixth-ranked Washington (4-0) visits Oregon State (1-3), while seventh-ranked Georgia (4-0) travels to Tennessee (3-1).
The Huskies have been installed as 27-point road favorites over the Beavers, and the Bulldogs are 8-point road favorites over the Volunteers.
Eighth-ranked Michigan (4-0) and ninth-ranked TCU (4-0) both have bye weeks.
The bye was last week for 10th-ranked Wisconsin (3-0), which should be fresh when Northwestern (2-1) arrives as 14.5-point road underdogs.
The only other meeting between AP Top-25 ranked teams pits 13th-ranked Auburn (3-1) against 24th-ranked Mississippi State (3-1).
This clash of the SEC’s second tier involves two teams that have stumbled only once each, and to ranked teams at that. But while Auburn acquitted itself well in a close 14-6 loss to Clemson in Week 2, Mississippi State was rolled 31-3 by Georgia last week.
Given that gap, and the benefit of home turf, Auburn has been listed as a 9-point favorite.