Clemson’s got four remaining hurdles to get to the College Football Playoff, and the Tigers are likely to clear all of them. S&P+ gives them a 75 percent chance of winning their final three regular season games (they’re at least an 18-point favorite in each) and would deem them a 29-point favorite against Pitt in the ACC title game, a 27-point favorite against Virginia Tech, or a 25-point favorite against Virginia.
The next few games feel like they’re as much about staying healthy as conquering challenges, but if one game still has even slight uncertainty, it’s this battle with Boston College.
Clemson will probably win. But BC has proved a tricky out this season. The Eagles are 7-2 with a top-30 defense and an offense that alternates between constant explosions and steady implosions. They can make big plays from any situation but might not make any; they’re horrible on third-and-long but don’t face any. Opponents avoid their run defense, passing constantly, but they defend the pass better than the run.
With the way Clemson’s been playing of late, though, it might not matter. Since the Tigers narrowly survived Syracuse with their freshman backup quarterback (as opposed to their freshman starting quarterback), they’ve been as dominant as ever.
They beat Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State, and Louisville by an average of 60-9 (!!). On offense they’re in the top 10 in both Rushing S&P+ and Passing Downs S&P+, and their defense is dominant in all but a select few categories. They have for the last month dominated at an Alabama level, and they are only a little bit behind the Tide in overall S&P+. This is a machine, and if the Tigers survive strangeness in Chestnut Hill, they’re just about to the finish line.
See the bottom of the post for more detail about these.
The spread (listed in parentheses) is shown next to S&P+’s pick for each game. The team in bold is projected to beat the spread. (At most books, there is no listed spread for FCS games.) When S&P+ predicts a tie or a push (a tie with Vegas, basically), I list the pick on the side S&P+ would pick if teams could score in decimals.
No. 14 NC State 38, Wake Forest (+17.5) 24 (Nov. 08, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN)
No. 23 Fresno State (-3) 33, Boise State 24 (Nov. 09, 10:15 PM ET, ESPN2)
Buffalo (-20.5) 41, Kent State 17 — Buffalo won by 34 (W)
Northern Illinois 27, Toledo (+3) 27 — NIU won by 23 (L)
Ohio 33, Miami (Ohio) (+3.5) 32 — Miami won by 2 (W)
After drubbing Louisville appropriately, Syracuse gets a shot at Notre Dame next week in a strangely big game, one that could determine the Irish’s spot in the Playoff or the Orange’s spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.
No. 1 Alabama 37, No. 16 Mississippi State (+24) 19 (Nov. 10, 3:30 PM ET, CBS)
No. 2 Clemson 35, No. 17 Boston College (+20.5) 17 (Nov. 10, 8:00 PM ET, ABC)
No. 10 Ohio State (-3.5) 30, No. 18 Michigan State 25 (Nov. 10, 12:00 PM ET, Fox)
I’m curious how long Mississippi State can make Alabama uncomfortable on Saturday. Going by S&P+, MSU is the best team the Crimson Tide have faced this season. They defend about as well as LSU, and they can run the ball as well as LSU wishes it could.
The Bulldogs could make things interesting if quarterback Nick Fitzgerald can hit a couple of deep shots, but, well, it is putting it kindly to say that Fitzgerald has struggled to hit the deep shots — the MSU offense is third in Rushing S&P+ but 87th in Passing S&P+. Maybe he’s been saving up all his good passes for this moment?
No. 3 Notre Dame (-18) 36, Florida State 13 (Nov. 10, 7:30 PM ET, NBC)
No. 22 Iowa State 36, Baylor (+14.5) 23 (Nov. 10, 3:30 PM ET, FS1)
Florida State’s still got a decent defense (it’s been downgraded from “good” after a couple of bad weeks) and certainly has the athletes to scare Notre Dame, but any thoughts you have about an upset disappear when you think about Jerry Tillery, Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, and the disruptive Notre Dame front taking on the sieve that is the FSU offensive line. That could be ugly.
Arizona State 37, UCLA (+13.5) 24 (Nov. 10, 2:00 PM ET, Pac-12)
Duke (-10) 36, North Carolina 20 (Nov. 10, 12:20 PM ET, ACCN)
Kansas State (-10.5) 33, Kansas 22 (Nov. 10, 12:00 PM ET, FSN)
Virginia (+3) Tech 31, Pittsburgh 31 (Nov. 10, 3:30 PM ET, ESPNU) (Actual projected score: VT 31.3, Pitt 31.0)
Pitt vs. Virginia Tech in a tossup game for potential control of the ACC Coastal division. That sounds exciting, at least until you think about the teams’ combined 9-8 record.
Meanwhile, I can’t believe these words are leaving my keyboard, but you should try to watch some of the Nebraska-Illinois game. It will be much more fun than you expect. Nebraska has scored at least 31 points for four straight games and is up to 44th in Off. S&P+ after a tough start. Meanwhile, Illinois — Illinois! — has one of the most enjoyable run games in the country. The Illini are sixth in Rushing S&P+ and rushed for more than 400 yards against Minnesota last week. Granted, they fall apart as soon as they have to rely on anything other than the ground game, but it’s something!
At 4-5, the Illini still have, per S&P+, a 10 percent chance of reaching bowl eligibility. Those odds would improve to at least 35 percent with a win in Lincoln.
Air Force 33, New Mexico (+13.5) 25 (Nov. 10, 3:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
Appalachian State (-21) 34, Texas State 13 (Nov. 10, 4:00 PM ET, ESPN3) (Actual projected score: App State 34.3, TXST 12.9)
Arkansas State (-6.5) 38, Coastal Carolina 28 (Nov. 10, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN+)
Tulane 31, East Carolina (+14) 19 (Nov. 10, 4:00 PM ET, ESPNN)
UAB 28, Southern Miss (+12) 16 (Nov. 10, 7:30 PM ET, beIN) (actual projected score: UAB 28.0, USM 16.1)
UL-Lafayette 42, Georgia State (+14) 30 (Nov. 10, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN+)
UL-Monroe 34, South Alabama (+6.5) 30 (Nov. 10, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN+)
Utah State (-31) 46, San Jose State 10 (Nov. 10, 4:00 PM ET, Facebook)
Virginia 41, Liberty (+23.5) 21 (Nov. 10, 3:00 PM ET, ACCN)
SMU has lost four games by at least 25 points this season and is still projected to cover a nearly three-touchdown spread. That’s how impossibly bad UConn has been this season.
Army 30, Lafayette 1 (Nov. 10, 12:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
I would pay a lot of money to see a team win by a 30-1 score.
Each year, I post weekly S&P+ picks as a way of affirming the ratings’ validity. I use my S&P+ system as a complement to most of my analysis, and the picks are a way of showing it generally knows what it’s talking about.
S&P+ tends to hit between 50 (meh) and 54 percent (great) against the spread from year to year. It isn’t always the single best performer, but it holds its own.
Beyond picks, though, it goes deeper than any other set of college football analytics on the market. You can go into granular detail regarding team strengths and weaknesses in a way that no other set of ratings allows. (See the annual team statistical profiles as proof.)