After a relatively quiet slate last week, the schedule is much more interesting for fans and bettors alike this Saturday. Michigan and Ohio State begin their conference schedules against Maryland and Wisconsin, respectively.
Neither team can take too much away from their relatively easy non-conference schedules -- especially now that Notre Dame, whom the Buckeyes defeated in their opener, appears much weaker than what was originally thought prior to the season. This could be the beginning of a collision course toward the Big Ten East title, or cracks might start to show against more difficult opponents.
Alabama and Georgia have owned their divisions in the SEC for the last several years, but challengers may arise this weekend. Tennessee hosts Florida, and the Volunteers might be the most likely team to upend the Bulldogs for the SEC East crown even though Kentucky already has a victory over the Gators.
Arkansas travels to Dallas to meet Texas A&M, and should the Razorbacks win, they’ll have a chance to take over Alabama’s spot as frontrunner in the SEC West when they host the Tide the following weekend. The Aggies aren’t out of the race either, despite an embarrassing loss to Appalachian State; if they can find stability at the quarterback position, they might be able to regroup and make a run to the SEC Championship.
There are many storylines to keep an eye on this week, particularly in the Big Ten and SEC, but this week’s best bet comes from the ACC.
Note: All college football odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook. Lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. All ratings are out of five stars. Please check numberFire's model to make sure you're seeing the most updated information.
Wake Forest +7.5 (-120): 4 Stars
Wake Forest is one of the teams standing in their way; the Deacons are currently ranked 21st in the AP Poll despite a narrow victory over Liberty last week and have a dynamic offense led by quarterback Sam Hartman. He’s had a slower start to the season coming off an injury, but Hartman was 12th in ESPN’s QBR metric and has the ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs.
Clemson’s offense hasn’t been as efficient. D.J. Uiagalelei has played more like the glimpse of him we saw in 2020 when Trevor Lawrence was injured, but he hasn’t always inspired confidence. Wake Forest has a solid defense, ranking 37th in Football Outsiders’ FEI rating, whereas Clemson’s offense ranks 50th by the same metric. The Tigers really need Uiagalelei to elevate his game for them to win comfortably on the road against a ranked team.
Ultimately, Clemson’s staunch defensive line probably will come through in the key moments to lead the Tigers to a victory. Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee will likely be high first-round picks come next April per a variety of big boards, so Wake Forest’s offensive line will have its hands full.
However, Wake Forest has the more experienced and consistent quarterback, so the Deacons could hang around in this game. Our model has Wake Forest covering the spread with a 71.4% probability.
Tennessee -10.5 (-110): 3 Stars
This spread seems large for a matchup of two ranked teams, but the Volunteers are the real deal. Quarterback Hendon Hooker has led Tennessee to a top-10 ranking in both SP+ (4th) and FEI (6th) on offense behind a QBR of 86.3, which ranks 12th in the country.
In last week’s rout of Akron, Hooker only needed 18 passing attempts to rack up 298 yards. Florida’s quarterback Anthony Richardson has had his moments this season as well but hasn’t had the same high-level consistency as Hooker.
Florida has the better defense per SP+ and FEI, but Tennessee’s advantage on offense separates the Volunteers in this matchup. Tennessee has been quite efficient in moving the ball, averaging 7.3 yards per play, while Florida has allowed opponents to convert on nearly half (48.8%) of third downs. The Gators had a nice opening win against Utah, but shaky performances from Richardson against Kentucky and South Florida have shown that this team may not be ready to compete for the division just yet.
Our model gives Tennessee a projected 62.9% likelihood to cover the large spread against Florida. Amongst SEC quarterbacks, Hooker is third in lowest Heisman odds behind Bryce Young and Stetson Bennett IV. Tennessee should roll behind their explosive offense and show they’re finally ready to challenge Alabama and Georgia for SEC supremacy.