Butch Dill/Associated Press
No. 5 Alabama (5-1) at Mississippi State (3-2), 7 p.m. ET
It’s hard to think of anything less desirable than being the first team Alabama faces after a loss.
Mississippi State was in this same spot two years ago and got smoked 38-7. After losing the Iron Bowl in 2017, the Crimson Tide held Clemson to just six points in the Sugar Bowl. The time before that was in 2015 when they held Louisiana-Monroe to 92 total yards. And the last time they lost to Texas A&M (2012), they came back seven days later with a 49-0 win over Western Carolina. Basically, the defense takes those losses personally and ensures it won’t turn into a losing streak.
It’s not like the stars were aligning for Mississippi State prior to Alabama’s loss to A&M. In Mike Leach’s first game against the Crimson Tide, the air raid offense was held to 200 total yards and zero points.
The loss to the Aggies was shocking. A subsequent loss to the Bulldogs would be mind-blowing.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Mississippi State 10
No. 4 Oklahoma (6-0) vs. TCU (3-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
This one could approach the 103 points scored in the Red River Rivalry last week.
No one knows whether Spencer Rattler or Caleb Williams will get the start for Oklahoma, but the offense can score in bunches either way, particularly against a TCU defense that has allowed more than 400 yards and more than 30 points in all four games against FBS opponents.
The Horned Frogs have some offense too, led by star running back Zach Evans. But Oklahoma’s defense—aside from a 50-yard scamper on which Bijan Robinson stiff-armed the soul out of a would-be tackler—did a great job against Texas’ rushing attack and is allowing just 91.0 rushing yards per game.
To beat the Sooners, TCU will need a career day from Max Duggan. He has only once thrown for more than 276 games in a game, which happened nearly two years ago against Texas Tech. Unless he accounts for 300 yards and at least three scores, this might be the rare case where Oklahoma wins comfortably.
Prediction: Oklahoma 45, TCU 31
No. 3 Cincinnati (5-0) vs. UCF (3-2), Noon ET
Three weeks ago, this game might have scared me. But since losing quarterback Dillon Gabriel to a broken collarbone (as well as several other key players to injury), UCF has been a shell of its former self.
The Knights had gained at least 380 yards of total offense in 50 of their previous 52 games before Gabriel’s injury, but they were held to 326 in a loss to Navy and 359 in a 20-16 win over East Carolina over the past two weeks.
If you can’t move the ball against Navy and East Carolina, you won’t have much luck against Cincinnati’s defense.
Prediction: Cincinnati 42, UCF 17
No. 2 Iowa (6-0) vs. Purdue (3-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
It’s almost the third anniversary of Purdue’s shocking 49-20 win over No. 2 Ohio State on Oct. 20, 2018.
Could the Boilermakers knock off the alleged second-best team in the country again?
Considering they have scored 13 points in three straight games—with a negative-six turnover margin, no less—that seems highly unlikely.
An elite offense with a mediocre defense can probably beat Iowa (*cough* Ohio State in the Big Ten championship *cough*), but this Hawkeyes team was seemingly built in a lab to chew up and spit out mediocre offenses. They have forced 20 turnovers through six games and have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 20 points.
Purdue has been surprisingly effective on defense, but it’ll only be a matter of time before the Boilermakers offense either sets up Iowa with short fields or hands the Hawkeyes points in the form of pick-sixes.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Purdue 13
No. 1 Georgia (6-0) vs. No. 11 Kentucky (6-0), 3:30 p.m. ET
A Kentucky road win over Georgia would be the most *chef’s kiss* thing possible seven weeks into a season that has been complete chaos.
If the Wildcats win, they become the heavy favorite to win the SEC East. They have conference games remaining against Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt after this one. Unless Tennessee can somehow go 4-0 against Ole Miss, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia to win a potential tiebreaker, Kentucky would only need to win two of those three games to clinch the division.
But I digress, because a win over Georgia isn’t happening.
With all due respect to the Wildcats, this Georgia defense is operating on a different level. The Bulldogs have held their six opponents to 179 carries for 399 yards and one touchdown on the ground, and they might be even better against the pass, as they have more pick-sixes (two) than touchdowns allowed (one).
Kentucky has a great ground attack, but Will Levis has averaged 128.3 passing yards through four SEC games. Georgia will dare him to throw the ball, and it won’t end well. (The ‘Cats might cover the 24-point spread, though.)
Prediction: Georgia 31, Kentucky 10