High-profile showdowns on tap Saturday

I’m going to talk about the two marquee games on Saturday in college football.

The first one is the SEC East showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. Florida had its season disrupted by COVID-19 positive tests among several players and the Gators went three weeks between games prior to their dominant 41-17 win against Missouri.

Florida looked very sharp on both sides of the football. The offense has been strong all season, but the defense, in spite of some absences, brought their best performance of the season in shutting down the Tigers while registering a season-best in terms of points allowed.

That should be good news for Florida as it takes 0on a Georgia offense that isn’t anything special. The Bulldogs are a run-heavy team while QB Stetson Bennett is not yet someone I trust to make big plays down the field in the passing game. Georgia’s defense is an elite unit but I can’t help but think back to when they faced Alabama and they gave up some big plays and lost the game, both SU and ATS, by a score of 41-24.

Florida might have the second-best offense in the SEC behind Alabama with QB Kyle Trask playing at an exceptionally high level completing 68% of his passes with an 18-2 TD-INT ratio. This isn’t one of my best bets but I have a small wager on Florida +3.5 in this game.

The other showdown in college football on Saturday is the top-5 clash between Clemson and Notre Dame. The major news is that Trevor Lawrence won’t play in this game due to his recent positive COVID-19 test. However, the cupboard hasn’t been left bare at the position as his backup D.J. Uiagalelei was very good in his first ever start last weekend rallying the Tigers to a comeback 34-28 win against Boston College. He completed 30-of-41 passes for 71% completions and a pair of TDs without an interception.

He has plenty of talent and ability, so the drop off for Clemson may not be what many bettors might think. Notre Dame has faced one of the easiest and softest schedules in the country to this point as the Fighting Irish's wins have been against Georgia Tech, Pitt, Louisville, Florida State, South Florida and Duke who are a combined 12-28 SU this season. Clemson’s toughest opponent this season so far was Miami and they routed the Hurricanes 41-23 and outgained Miami by 340 total yards.

The Notre Dame offense led by QB Ian Book is capable, but this will be their best defense they’ve played this season and let’s not forget that Notre Dame got shut down by a weak Louisville defense just a couple weeks ago. The Notre Dame defense is formidable but they’ve yet to face an explosive and balanced offensive attack the likes of which Clemson possesses. It would be Clemson or pass for me in this game.

Wednesday

Ball State +2 at Miami Ohio: Ball State is undervalued entering the start of the MAC season. They were only 5-7 last year but lost several close games and the Cardinals bring back 17 seniors, including three on offense — QB Drew Plitt, RB Caleb Huntley and WR Justin Hall in the fifth season at Ball State for head coach Mike Neu.

Miami are the defending MAC champions but they were only 8-5 and took advantage of a conference that was mediocre to say the least. The Redhawks bring back Brett Gabbert at QB but there are several key pieces on that side of the ball missing for this game and the Cardinals defense should be strong with seven returning starters. I expect Ball State to improve and Miami to decline this season. BALL STATE

Saturday

North Carolina -10.5 at Duke, Total 64: North Carolina’s season is crumbling after losing two of its last three games against Florida State and Virginia. The Tar Heels' defense has been horrific, especially against the run as they allowed 451 rushing yards in the two losses combined.

That could spell trouble against Duke, which has to be able to run the ball to have success and they should be able to do so here. The Duke defense has been better in the last couple games but I still expect the Tar Heels' potent offense led by QB Sam Howell to be able to move the ball well against them in this game. The Blue Devils are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 tries as home underdogs. DUKE & OVER

Stanford +10 at Oregon: Oregon no longer has Justin Herbert at QB and head coach Mario Cristobal hasn’t announced who his starter is yet. The offensive line has some question marks and the Cardinal defense should be improved following a disappointing season last year.

The Oregon defense is loaded with future NFL talent but Stanford brings back QB Davis Mills who should be more comfortable and experienced. The Ducks' secondary was hit hard from a personnel standpoint by players opting out. I think this game is competitive and Stanford has covered in its last two visits to Eugene. STANFORD

UTSA at Rice -4.5: The Owls bounced back strong from a tough season-opening loss against Middle Tennessee State by dominating Southern Miss last week. Rice’s defense appears to be strong and one of the better stop units in Conference USA.

The Owls should be able to neutralize a very stagnant and struggling UTSA offense which got shut down by Florida Atlantic last week. The Rice offense is a very solid and balanced attack with a good ground game and TCU transfer QB Mike Collins playing well.

Each of UTSA’s four losses have been by at least a TD. The price is cheap here with the home favorite. RICE

Last Week: 0-4

Season: 12-16-1