Utah had the latest season debut in college football history, with their first game coming last Saturday (11/21). They looked a bit rusty offensively, and the issue worsened when starting quarterback Cam Rising was knocked out for the season after just six pass attempts. The offensive line and WR/TE groups were supposed to be the strengths, but the line struggled and it was tough to get the ball to playmakers. Brant Kuithe was used in several creative ways last year, and I named him a 4th Team Preseason All-American, however Utah struggled to get him the ball in the opener.
Meanwhile, Washington is quietly 2-0 and so far they appear to be in the clear top three of the league along with USC and Oregon. Don’t let last week’s 44-27 score fool you. After three quarters, Washington led Arizona 37-0, while keeping them under 100 total yards. The 27 points all came in the 4th quarter when it was the Arizona starters playing against UW reserves.
It has been smaller samples of these Pac-12 teams, compared to ACC and Big 12 teams that are 10 games in. But so far, UW has played elite football for 5 of their 8 quarters of action, while Utah came up short of expectations in the opener. Specifically, UW’s strength is the defense (#3 total defense in Power 5), while Utah’s offense only mustered up 10 points against USC who let the Arizona teams score 28 & 30.
PREDICTION: WASHINGTON 24, UTAH 13
PICK: WASHINGTON -6.5 @ -110
Given the drama last Saturday with the Clemson-FSU game cancelled a few hours prior to kickoff, this seems like one of those moments that Dabo Swinney effectively uses as motivation within his locker room. It’s been a month since we’ve seen him, but Trevor Lawrence is focused and ready to get back on the field. Despite the long absence, he is still #7 in touchdown passes in Power 5, and #6 in QB rating.
Pitt does lead the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. However, the Clemson offensive line held up well the other two times they faced Top 10 disruptive defensive lines, scoring 42 on Miami and 40 on Notre Dame.
Clemson is 60% ATS as a double-digit favorite since their dynasty began in 2015. They will not take Pitt lightly, considering their most recent home loss 1,477 days ago was to the very same Panthers. Look for Clemson to get back to their ACC blowout ways, get a few key defenders back in the lineup, and for Lawrence to re-assert himself into the Heisman discussion.
PREDICTION: CLEMSON 44, PITT 20
PICK: CLEMSON -23 @ -110
Notre Dame debuted at #2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, yet Ian Book doesn’t get enough credit nationally. He has been masterful in the pocket, careful with the ball (just one interception in eight games), and also an effective runner when he decides to the pull the ball down to scramble (6 rushing touchdowns).
Meanwhile, UNC’s Sam Howell is in the national Top 5 of QB rating, and is leading the #2 offense in all of Power 5. UNC averages 563 yards per game, 43 points per game, and is 6 points away from matching Notre Dame’s undefeated record.
In my annual season preview book, I ranked UNC higher than any other publication. Throughout the season here I’ve correctly hit their wins ATS. And now going for their first win EVER against a Top 2 opponent, my Game Grader formula has this one as a true Pick ‘Em. I am more confident that this will be a scoring shootout regardless.
PREDICTION: UNC 41, NOTRE DAME 40
PICK: TOTAL POINTS OVER 68.5 @ -110