Why these three games are significant to The College Football Playoff
Saturday features three blockbuster games that will have the attention of college football fanatics across the nation.
Stanford at Notre Dame, Syracuse at Clemson and Ohio State at Penn State will pack passion, tradition and hard-hitting. Most importantly, these games will play a significant role with how the post season shapes up. Having five Saturdays this month gives us all a glimpse of what these teams are made of. This is what autumn Saturdays are all about in college football and every game matters. Even with one loss by the end of regular season, all six of these teams will still be in the mix of the College Football Playoff Rankings. Every team has made headlines in different ways. Ohio State welcomed back Urban Meyer in game four and he led his team to a blowout win. Clemson decided this week on true freshman signal-caller Trevor Lawrence to take the helms of the offense and incumbent senior-starter Kelly Bryant transferred. Notre Dame benched starter Brandon Wimbush in game four and inserted sophomore quarterback Ian Book. Stanford has learned how to win without relying on a heavy workload from senior running back Bryce Love. After the scare in their season-opener, the Nittany Lions have looked better every week and Syracuse is the biggest surprises of the early season with an undefeated record. The winner of these three games will likely solidify themselves as a top-10 team heading into October.
Syracuse (4-0) at No. 3 Clemson (4-0):
Clemson suffered their only loss of the regular season at the Carrier Dome in 2017. The game went down to the wire and was an instant classic. The Orange has a very potent offense that’s been lighting up scoreboards and leads the ACC in scoring and total yards per game. Syracuse senior signal-caller Eric Dungey has thrown nine touchdowns, with only one interception and has the fourth highest quarterback rating in the conference. However, the Tiger’s defensive front seven is a tenacious bunch and will be the best unit Dungey sees all year. Clemson fell victim to Syracuse’s lightning-fast pace on offense and was fatigued by the fourth quarter last season. The Tigers are out to prove it was all a fluke and will bring a ferocious pass rush. Clemson is No. 2 in the league in scoring and total defense and first in sacks. The fact that Syracuse is one of the few undefeated Power 5 teams that aren’t ranked makes this game the most significant of Head Coach Dino Barber’s three-year tenure. A win in Death Valley will take Syracuse to heights the program hasn’t seen in a long time. After four games into the 2018 season Syracuse has already exceeded expectations. The Orange have everything to gain from this game and nothing really to lose. Clemson is one of two Power 5 teams that has been in the College Football Playoff every year, which means the Tigers have a lot of influence on the committee. With both teams in the same division, the winner will be in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic. This will be the first of the three big games on Saturday and should be a fun one to watch.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at No. 9 Penn State (4-0):
Penn State is bringing out the infamous “White Out” for Ohio State. This game is going to be electric and the atmosphere in Happy Valley is second to none. The winner of this game has gone on to win the Big 10 title the past two years. The Nittany Lions still feels snubbed after winning this game two years ago and watching the Buckeyes pass them over for a slot in the College Football Playoff. James Franklin will have his boys ready for this one and senior quarterback Trace McSorley can increase his Heisman chances with a win Saturday night. This will be the first true road game this season for sophomore Buckeye signal-caller Dwayne Haskins. He did lead Ohio State to a come-from behind victory at the Big House last season, but Beaver Stadium is louder and the crowd is more rowdy and intimidating. This will be a good measuring-stick for Meyer’s young squad and a chance to solidify themselves as one of the best teams in the nation. Last year’s game between these two programs was an offensive shootout and when the smoke cleared 77 points was on the scoreboard. Expect another nail-biter between these blue bloods with the winner potentially catapulting into the top-four.
No. 7 Stanford (4-0) at No. 8 Notre Dame (4-0):
These two teams always bring the heat when they play each other and the games have been decided by a single score or less in five of the past six seasons. A great Notre Dame team is good for college football and it would be nice to finally see if the Irish can throw a wrench into the College Football Playoffs this season. Notre Dame’s defense is hard-nosed and allowing just 19.25 points per game. Stanford ‘s defense is only surrendering 13.5 points per game. This game has a recipe for a defensive slug-fest. The Pac-12 missed out on the Playoffs last season and needs Stanford to win this game to have any chance of getting a team in this year. Stanford has lost three of its last five trips to South Bend, but won the last two games in this series. It will be interesting to see if Notre Dame’s defense can slow down Stanford’s Love and cover junior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Both teams know a win Saturday will solidify themselves as a top-10 team and will have a lot of pull with the Playoff Committee down the line.