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MC&J: The Tennessee-Georgia showdown takes center stage on this week’s national slate

Two teams ranked in the CFP top-three will square off in Athens on Saturday afternoon.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Florida vs Georgia Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

Season ATS: 64-72-3 (31-36-1 B1G, 33-35-2 National)

It was great to pull a couple games back last week. There were a few that left a sour taste in my mouth, though. Michigan won by 22 when they were a 23-point favorite, and Texas A&M lost by three when they were a 2.5-point underdog. Ohio State was also covering before a Penn State touchdown left the Buckeyes a couple points shy. A 7-5 week is nice, don’t get me wrong. I just really wanted that 9-3 or 10-2 week that was within reach.

National games:

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

Texas Tech v. No. 7 TCU (-9.5) - 12:00 p.m. - FOX

TCU has done everything asked of them this year, and they are still ranked No. 7 in the first CFP rankings of the year. The Horned Frogs have blown the doors off Oklahoma, rebounded from deficits against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, and last week went on the road and won in a tough environment at West Virginia. Max Duggan has 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions this year, while running back Kendre Miller has rushed for 851 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Texas Tech is a really tough team to get a read on. The Red Raiders beat Texas in overtime, lost to Kansas State and Oklahoma State, destroyed West Virginia, and then got blasted against Baylor. Which Texas Tech shows up on Saturday? Behren Morton got the start at quarterback against the Bears, throwing three interceptions and completing just 11 of 34 pass attempts in the blowout. Red Raider quarterbacks have been pretty careless with the football this year, throwing 15 interceptions through eight games.

I’m not as worried about TCU in this game as I am the next two weeks, when they travel to Texas and Baylor. Maybe the Red Raiders rebound this week after the ugly loss to Baylor, I’m just not seeing it happening. Morton and backup quarterback Donovan Smith make too many mistakes for me to have any faith in Texas Tech pulling the upset or cover here. TCU is the type of team that feasts off turnovers. Duggan and company win their third straight game by at least 10 points.

TCU 48, Texas Tech 31

No. 19 Tulane (-7.5) v. Tulsa - 12:00 p.m. - ESPNU

After wins at Kansas State and Houston earlier in the year, Tulane has their sights set on the a New Year’s Six spot as the Group of Five team. Had it not been for a 27-24 loss to Southern Miss at the end of September, right now the Green Wave would be undefeated. Tulane doesn’t do anything that is going to blow you away, they just play solid defense and can move the football through the air and on the ground.

It feels like Tulsa tries really hard, they just aren’t very good. The three wins by the Golden Hurricanes this year have come against Northern Illinois, Jacksonville State, and Temple. Not exactly any victories that are going to blow you away. Honestly, the biggest win by Tulsa this year was a 35-27 loss to Ole Miss. While Davis Brin and the offense can move the football, their defense provides little resistance for opponents.

Following Saturday’s game, Tulane has a tough finish to the season with home games against UCF and SMU before closing out the regular season at Cincinnati. Willie Fritz knows how important it is to win at Tulsa to head into those three games with just the one loss. The Green Wave are a more talented and disciplined team, which will become obvious once the game starts on Saturday.

Tulane 34, Tulsa 20

No. 1 Tennessee v. No. 3 Georgia (-8) - 3:30 p.m. - CBS

Right now Tennessee is the flashy sports car, while Georgia is that reliable car that isn’t as fast and a few years old, but it gets you where you need to go. Following a win over Alabama a few weeks ago and a blowout of Kentucky last week, the Volunteers sit atop the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season. It’s safe to say that whatever team wins this game will be ranked first next week.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is having an incredible season, having thrown for 2,338 yards and 21 touchdowns through eight games. The scary thing is Hooker might be even better than we saw against Alabama since top wide receiver Cedric Tillman is back from injury. While Tillman was out, Jalin Hyatt picked up the slack and is currently leading the country with 14 touchdown receptions.

Despite having their best season of football in years, I’m just not sure Tennessee is able to get two marquee wins in the same season. Georgia might not have an offense that can match what the Volunteers do, but the Bulldogs certainly have a defense that can slow Hooker and company down. Even though Georgia took a hit when Nolan Smith was lost for the season to injury, I like their defense to frustrate Hooker and hold Tennessee in check between the hedges.

Georgia 38, Tennessee 24

No. 6 Alabama (-13.5) v. No. 10 LSU - 7:00 p.m - ESPN

How incredible is Alabama? This marks the first time since 2010 that they have entered the LSU game not ranked in the top-five. Following a loss to Tennessee three weeks ago, the Crimson Tide dominated Mississippi State 30-6 in Tuscaloosa before having a week off last week. Even though Alabama was able to win easily, there wasn’t much that stood out about the game with the Bulldogs. Bryce Young was 21 of 35 for 249 yards and two scores, but the running game wasn’t able to get going. Alabama rushed for just 29 yards on 27 carries in the win.

Much like Alabama, LSU was also off last week. The Tigers did have an impressive win two weeks ago, running away from Ole Miss in the fourth quarter. Arizona State transfer quarterback Jayden Daniels is getting better as he is becoming more comfortable in the LSU offense. Over the last two games, Daniels has 11 total touchdowns, throwing for five scores, while adding six touchdowns on the ground.

I get that Alabama is Alabama, I just can’t figure out why they are favored by nearly two touchdowns. Honestly, I think LSU can win this football game straight up. I’m not putting a whole lot of stock into the Alabama win over Mississippi State since the Crimson Tide put the Bulldogs in a corner every year. I’m going to follow my gut and take LSU to win. Even if the Tigers don’t win, they shouldn’t lose by more than two touchdowns.

LSU 31, Alabama 27

No. 24 Texas (-2.5) v. No. 13 Kansas State - 7:00 p.m. - FS1

Anybody that says they thought Kansas State was going to beat up on Oklahoma State like that is a liar. Too bad we didn’t get a clip of Mike Gundy screaming “I’M A MAN! I GOT BEAT BY 48 BY K-STATE!”. Will Howard was outstanding at quarterback with Adrian Martinez not available for the game because of injury. Howard threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns, while Deuce Vaughn added 158 yards and a score on the ground.

Unlike Kansas State, Texas is coming into this game coming off a 41-34 loss to Oklahoma State. The Longhorns did at least have a week to lick their wounds since they were on a bye last week. Quinn Ewers had some good moments in the loss to the Cowboys, but he also missed on 30 of his passes and was picked off three times. Bijan Robinson has been solid at running back, topping 100 yards rushing in each of the last six games. There hasn’t been a game that Robinson has taken over yet, though.

The week off has to have done wonders for the Longhorns, giving them time to refocus ahead of this week’s game, as well as next week’s showdown with TCU. The status of Martinez is still up in the air for this game, so we may see Will Howard again at quarterback. I think the win over Oklahoma State was a bit of a mirage for the Wildcats, especially since the Cowboys were coming off a stretch where they played TCU and Texas before last week’s game. Texas will be a lot fresher for this game than Oklahoma State was last week.

Texas 41, Kansas State 31

No. 4 Clemson (-3.5) v. Notre Dame -7:30 p.m. - NBC

Notre Dame looks like they are starting to find their rhythm. The season got off to a nightmare start for new head coach Marcus Freeman. Not only did the Fighting Irish lose their first two games of the season, they also lost starting quarterback Tyler Buchner for the year to injury. Drew Pyne has steadied the ship in South Bend because he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Even though his numbers aren’t flashy, he puts the Fighting Irish in positions to win.

Clemson comes into this game fourth in the CFP rankings, but there’s not many people who think they are the fourth-best team in the country. In their last game two weeks ago, D.J. Uiagalelei was benched with the Tigers trailing Syracuse. While Cade Klubnik didn’t do much on the field, the move sparked Clemson enough to avoid the upset from the Orange. If it wasn’t for Will Shipley and his 172 yards rushing and two scores, Clemson wouldn’t be undefeated right now.

Is Clemson really better than Notre Dame? Both teams have really good defenses that make up for questions at quarterback. I almost trust Drew Pyne more than Uiagalelei since Pyne has the luxury of throwing to standout tight end Michael Mayer. Notre Dame beat Uiagalelei, who was filling in for Trevor Lawrence, back in 2020, and while the score this year won’t be as high, I think the Fighting Irish hand Clemson their first loss of the season.

Notre Dame 28, Clemson 24

No. 12 UCLA (-10.5) v. Arizona State - 9:30 p.m. - FS1

I try my best to talk myself out of taking ranked teams on the road against unranked underdogs. Having said that, I still can’t find a reason not to take UCLA here. Arizona State has been a mess this year, entering this game at 3-5. Last week the Sun Devils beat Colorado 42-34, but I don’t put much stock in that win since the Buffaloes are one of the worst teams in the country.

At least UCLA didn’t dwell on the loss to Oregon for too long. After the 45-30 loss in Eugene, the Bruins came out last week and handled their business against Stanford 38-13. Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet needs just 36 yards to reach 1,000 yards rushing on the season after racking up nearly 200 yards on the ground against the Cardinal.

UCLA is the better team. The Bruins have more weapons on offense, a hungrier defense, and they don’t have a coaching staff that has been shuffled like Arizona State, who fired Herm Edwards earlier this year. Even though UCLA lost a few weeks ago, they still have a ton left to play for, as they are in the mix for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game next month. It’s hard to not see the Bruins winning this game by at least two touchdowns.

UCLA 42, Arizona State 21

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