What a week 4 in college football! Of the 6 games I previewed last week, all but 1 came down to the end. Clemson lost in overtime, and after 6 straight playoff trips, they’re likely going to miss the playoff for the 3rd year in a row. The Ohio State-Notre Dame game came down to the final play, and my Buckeyes prevailed in the end, thanks to Notre Dame only having 10 men on the field for the last 2 plays. Maybe next time, Marcus Freeman will take the penalty and get 11 men on the field. What was he going to do? Spot Ohio State 9 inches? With that, the college football playoff chase has started to clear up. So without further ado, here are the critical games by conference for the playoff chase:
ACC: A light schedule this week, as Florida State, Miami, and North Carolina are all off. The biggest game in the ACC this week, and possibly the game of the week, is Duke vs. Notre Dame. We’re used to seeing Duke and North Carolina ranked on the hardwood, but not on the gridiron. This is the first time ever College Gameday is coming to Duke for football. Duke has been one of the early surprises so far this season. However, Notre Dame will rebound from their loss and win this one. Notre Dame has to win out to have any shot at the playoff, and Marcus Freeman will have them focused on righting things after their last second loss to Ohio State.
Big 12: Texas and Oklahoma are separating themselves from the rest of the Big 12 in their last year before going to the SEC. After years of mocking Texas for saying they’re back and then they’re a flop by mid-season, they are for real this year. Quinn Ewers has proven himself to be the real deal after a mediocre freshman year following his departure at Ohio State after 1 semester. His performance against Alabama was Heisman worthy. I pick Texas and Oklahoma to win their games vs. Kansas and Iowa State respectively, to set up a likely top-10 showdown the following week at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the 119th Red River Showdown, and for them to meet in the Big 12 Championship Game.
SEC: Alabama kept their playoff hopes alive, setting up Alabama-LSU as the game that will decide the SEC West. Ole Miss-LSU is the game of the week in the SEC, as this is the other potential game that could decide the SEC West. Look for LSU to win here. In the SEC East, until Georgia loses, it’s their division to win. Look for them to defeat Auburn.
Pac-12: What a dud Oregon-Colorado was. Instead of Colorado winning, they got blown out 42-6. The loss of Travis Hunter to a lacerated liver affected them more than I thought. Speaking of that, give credit to Deion Sanders for putting his health over winning games. He told Deion he wanted to come back, and Deion said no to him, that his health is more important, as there’s more to life than football. Look for USC and Heisman front-runner Caleb Williams to win. Expect Utah to defeat Oregon State, Oregon to defeat Stanford, and Washington to beat Arizona. Such a shame that in the most competitive year maybe ever in the Pac-12, that the conference will be disbanding after this year.
Big 10: No surprises here as the traditional bigwigs are ranked in the AP Top 10. Don’t expect anything to be settled until they play each other. Michigan and Penn State should win easily over Nebraska and Northwestern respectively, while Ohio State is off this week. In other Big 10 news, Iowa Hawkeyes offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of head coach Kirk Ferentz, is on the hot seat. Due to a nepotism clause in his contract, in order for him to keep his job, the Hawkeyes must win at least 7 games this season, and score at least 325 points in 13 games, for an average of 25 points per game. Points from the defense and special teams count towards the total as well. So far, the Hawkeyes have won 3 games and score 85 points through 4 games, putting him 15 points behind the pace.