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MC&J: Tennessee and TCU look to stay undefeated as October comes to a close

The Volunteers host Kentucky before next week’s showdown with Georgia, while the Horned Frogs travel to West Virginia.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 UT Martin at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week ATS: 5-7 (2-3 B1G, 3-4 National)

Season ATS: 57-67-3 (28-34-1 B1G, 29-32-2 National)

Did I think that at this point of the season I’d be 10 games under .500? Not at all. Thankfully there is still more than a month left before the regular season ends and bowl matchups are announced. As bad as the record is right now, one big week could get us close to even. It has happened before, so hopefully this week is more treat than trick.

National games:

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

No. 7 TCU (-7.5) v. West Virginia - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN

I understand why TCU is only a 7.5-point favorite in this game. The Horned Frogs are coming off a stretch where their last four games have come against teams that were ranked at the time. The last two weeks have seen TCU fall behind their opponents by double-digits in the first half, only to stage comebacks in the second half to stay undefeated.

Taking a ranked team hitting the road to take on an unranked foe is always a cause for concern. Luckily for TCU it seems like West Virginia is a team in crisis. The Mountaineers are coming off a 48-10 loss at Texas Tech, and it feels like head coach Neal Brown is on the hot seat. It also is concerning for West Virginia that leading rusher Tony Mathis Jr. won’t play in this game.

Maybe West Virginia quarterback J.T. Daniels, who is at his 23rd college, can put up a huge effort to lead the Mountaineers to an upset. I’m not counting on it, though. This TCU team looks like it is going to be a player in the College Football Playoff race. If the Horned Frogs lose, I feel like it’ll be when they have to go to Texas or Baylor. West Virginia is just too much of a mess right now for me to trust.

TCU 45, West Virginia 28

Notre Dame v. No. 16 Syracuse (-2.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ABC

Notre Dame started the season with losses to Ohio State and Marshall. Marcus Freeman’s team has at least pointed things in the right direction with four wins in their last five games. After Tyler Buchner was ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury following the loss to Marshall, Drew Pyne has thrown for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Syracuse had Clemson on the ropes last week, but the Orange couldn’t pull off the upset of the Tigers. The result might have been different if running back Sean Tucker saw more than five carries in the game. There’s absolutely no reason quarterback Garrett Shrader should finish the game with 21 carries and one of the best running backs in the country only carries the football five times.

Syracuse might have a bit of a hangover this week after expending so much energy trying to pull the upset of Clemson. I’m also not sure of where the team’s head is at after Tucker was used sparingly in that game. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has recovered after a tough start to the season. The Fighting Irish show why their defense was considered one of the best in the country heading into the season.

Notre Dame 24, Syracuse 17

No. 9 Oklahoma State v. No. 22 Kansas State (-1.5) - 3:30 p.m. - FOX

Some stretches in the Big 12 are brutal. Oklahoma State has taken on TCU and Texas the last two weeks, losing in double overtime to the Horned Frogs before beating Texas in Stillwater last week. Spencer Sanders put forth a huge effort last week, throwing for 391 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Longhorns.

Much like the Cowboys two weeks ago, Kansas State looked like they were going to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Horned Frogs made adjustments in the second half and rebounded to earn the victory. Kansas State comes into this game with some injury concerns, as quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Deuce Vaughn are banged up.

There have been a number of occasions where I have underestimated Kansas State in the past and the Wildcats have made me pay for it. I’m sure this will end up being another of those times, but I just can’t trust K-State right now with the number of key players that are injured coming into this game. Oklahoma State doesn’t have a sound defense, I’m just not convinced the Wildcats have the healthy weapons to take advantage of a defense giving up 450 yards per game.

Oklahoma State 41, Kansas State 31

No. 10 Wake Forest (-3.5) v. Louisville - 3:30 p.m. - ACC Network

Unlike earlier in this article where I went against a ranked team hitting the road to take on an unranked opponent, I do really like Louisville here. The Cardinals have been up-and-down this year, but they look like they are getting their act together, winning three of their last four games. Following a season where he accounted for 39 touchdowns, Malik Cunningham has had a bit of a slow start to the season, with just 14 touchdowns in the six games he has appeared in.

Wake Forest definitely has a potent passing attack with quarterback Sam Hartman and favorite target A.T. Perry. Other than that, what stands out about the Demon Deacons? I’m not coming up with anything. Louisville’s defense is just as good, and Cunningham is more dynamic with his ability to run the football. The Cardinals continue to recover from their slow start to the season with a win over a ranked opponent.

Louisville 34, Wake Forest 27

No. 20 Cincinnati (-1) v. UCF - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN

Cincinnati has been playing with fire lately, with their last three wins coming by 10 points or less. Last week the Bearcats almost blew a 29-14 lead in the fourth quarter, with SMU not being able to convert the two-point conversion to tie the game. Luke Fickell’s team is strong this year, they just aren’t nearly as invincible as last year, which is to be expected after losing so many starters to the NFL.

Heading into last week’s game, UCF looked like they were rolling, with four straight wins by at least 17 points. The winning streak came to an end after the Knights suffered a 34-13 loss to East Carolina. UCF wasn’t able to recover from the three interceptions that John Rhys Plumlee threw in the game. The Ole Miss transfer had been really good before last week, throwing for 11 touchdown passes, and adding another seven scores on the ground.

UCF is going to come into this game angry after getting whooped last week, while Cincinnati might not be as sharp with this being their second road game in a row. The Knights snap Cincinnati’s three-game winning streak in the series in a game that comes down to the wire.

UCF 38, Cincinnati 34

No. 19 Kentucky v. No. 3 Tennessee (-12.5) - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN

Earlier this month, Kentucky looked like a team that was in trouble after losing to Ole Miss and South Carolina. Before getting last weekend off, the Wildcats were able to stop the bleeding with a win over Mississippi State in Lexington. After sitting out the loss to the Gamecocks, Will Levis returned against the Bulldogs. The big star in the win two weeks ago was running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., who rushed for 197 yards and two scores. Rodriguez has now ran for 395 yards and three scores after missing the first four games of the season due to suspension.

After the emotional win over Alabama, the Volunteers took on college football powerhouse UT-Martin last week. Tennessee’s offense is rivaling Ohio State’s this year, averaging 50 points per game and averaging over 500 yards per game. Hendon Hooker is in the mix to win the Heisman Trophy, with the Tennessee quarterback looking like C.J. Stroud’s strongest competition for the award.

While Tennessee certainly isn’t looking past Kentucky in this game, I just wondering how much they are looking ahead to a showdown with Georgia next week. I don’t think the Volunteers lose this game, but Kentucky is going to put up a fight. Kentucky has a great running game, which could allow them to keep the football out of Tennessee’s hands. This game feels like it is going to be decided by 7-10 points.

Tennessee 31, Kentucky 24

No. 15 Ole Miss (-2.5) v. Texas A&M - 7:30 p.m. - SEC Network

Both these teams come into this game not playing their best football. Last week, Ole Miss was trucked by LSU in Baton Rouge 45-20, while Texas A&M has dropped three straight games. The latest of those losses for the Aggies came last week at South Carolina. Even though Texas A&M is the laughingstock of college football, there is a little reason for optimism since they return to College Station to play at Kyle Field for the first time in over a month.

Ole Miss can certainly run the football. Freshman running back Quinshon Judkins has been phenomenal this year, rushing for 831 yards and 12 scores so far. The Rebels have needed a lot from Judkins and the running game, since Jaxson Dart is an inconsistent quarterback. Things won’t get any easier for Dart through the air, since he is taking on a Texas A&M pass defense that is only allowing 175 yards per game.

Ole Miss is not only the better team, they are definitely better coached. Having said that, I still like Texas A&M in this game. The Aggies will probably go on and win the rest of their games and Jimbo Fisher will puff his chest out heading into next season, leading to Texas A&M being ranked way too high.

Texas A&M 31, Ole Miss 27

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.