The first College Football Playoff rankings are released on Halloween, but we don’t need the selection committee to tell us that Saturday’s game between No. 11 USC and No. 13 Notre Dame in South Bend is a playoff eliminator. The Irish are 3.5-point favorites on the Week 8 college football odds. They have won and covered their past three in this storied series as favorites.
Both USC and Notre Dame have a loss already, with the Trojans falling 30-27 at Washington State on Sept. 29 and the Irish losing at home by one to an excellent Georgia team on Sept. 9. No two-loss team has made the playoff. Frankly, the worst possible scenario for the Pac-12 would be for USC to lose this game and then go on and win the conference title game over a one-loss Washington or Washington State.
Meanwhile, the Irish almost surely will be in the playoff for the first time if they win out thanks to a rugged schedule that still includes No. 16 NC State, No. 8 Miami, formerly ranked Navy and No. 22 Stanford. Notre Dame’s 2016 season ended with a 45-27 loss at Southern Cal, which placed Coach Brian Kelly squarely on the hot seat entering this year. He’s off it now.
The other matchup featuring ranked teams has No. 19 Michigan visiting No. 2 Penn State – unfortunately for those of us who don’t have multiple TVs in one room, both that game and USC-Notre Dame kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET. PSU opened as a high as a 12.5-point favorite but that number is down to 9.5 at most sportsbooks.
The Wolverines’ playoff and Big Ten title hopes are surely gone with a second loss. They haven’t looked the same since losing starting quarterback Wilton Speight in a 28-10 win at Purdue on Oct. 7. Backup John O’Korn has struggled mightily the past two weeks in a loss vs. Michigan State and an overtime win at Indiana.
Penn State is one of eight unbeatens left and has had just one close call – a 2-point win at Iowa. Saquon Barkley remains the favorite on the Heisman Trophy odds but faces a Michigan defense that is No. 1 in the country in yards allowed. The favorite has covered five of the past seven in this series.
Will embattled Butch Jones be Tennessee’s head coach after Saturday if the Vols are destroyed at No. 1 Alabama? Perhaps not. The Tide are whopping 34.5-point favorites, easily the biggest number in that long-time rivalry’s history (started in 1903). Alabama hasn’t lost to Tennessee since 2006 and only two games since then have been decided by single digits.
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