Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will also pick those five games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
We’ll just get this out of the way: With only two ranked vs. ranked matchups, Week 10 looks a little underwhelming. But maybe it won’t be! This is college football, after all. A top-10 team has been upset by an unranked opponent in three weeks straight. You’ve got to expect the unexpected in this sport.
Last week it was No. 5 Oklahoma that followed in the footsteps of losses by Wisconsin (to Illinois) and Georgia (to South Carolina) by falling to Kansas State in Manhattan. Oklahoma’s loss shook up the rankings and boosted the College Football Playoff hopes for quite a few teams — including two in the Pac-12.
Speaking of the College Football Playoff, the selection committee’s first rankings will be released on Tuesday night. While many of the nation’s top teams (like No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Penn State) have a bye this weekend, others will be jockeying for positioning in the rankings.
Can you believe the calendar is about to flip to November?
(Note: All times ET, point spreads from FanDuel Sportsbook)
5. Virginia at North Carolina
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ACCN | Line: North Carolina -2.5
Usually when there aren’t a bunch of obvious top-tier games, the games we choose for this space will be spread throughout the day in order to occupy all of Saturday’s time slots. Week 10 made that difficult, especially in the noon shift with games like Boston College vs. Syracuse, Michigan vs. Maryland, NC State vs. Wake Forest and Nebraska vs. Purdue. Yuck.
Instead, let’s take a moment to recognize the ridiculousness that is the ACC Coastal. On Saturday night in Chapel Hill, first place in the division will be on the line when 4-4 North Carolina hosts 5-3 Virginia. The Tar Heels and Cavaliers — both 3-2 in ACC play — are the only two teams in the Coastal with conference records better than .500. Virginia isn’t much of a surprise, but North Carolina — just by being consistently competitive in Year 1 under Mack Brown — has already exceeded expectations. Now Brown’s group gets to compete for the right to get demolished by Clemson in the ACC title game. What a time to be alive.
Picks: Sam Cooper: North Carolina -2.5, Nick Bromberg: Virginia +2.5
4. No. 9 Utah at Washington
Time: 4 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: Utah -3.5
Don’t forget about Utah.
The Utes have been cruising under the radar since their Week 4 loss to USC — a game that currently gives USC a tiebreaker in the Pac-12 South. Since then, Utah has won four straight games in convincing fashion, including last week’s 35-0 blowout of Cal. Now 7-1 and 4-1 in Pac-12 play, Utah shouldn’t be completely discounted from the College Football Playoff race, though it has an uphill climb to realistically work its way into the mix. Having teams like Oklahoma and Notre Dame lose last week was helpful as Utah and Oregon could be on a crash course toward a highly competitive Pac-12 title game that could have CFP implications.
Of course, Utah can’t afford any slipups, and this weekend’s trip to Seattle won’t be easy. Utah has traditionally scuffled against Washington, losing all but one of the 13 matchups between the two schools. Since joining the Pac-12, Utah is 1-6 against the Huskies with the one win coming in Seattle in 2015. Utah lost twice to UW last fall — 21-7 in Salt Lake City and then 10-3 in the Pac-12 title game. At 5-3 (2-3 Pac-12), Washington has disappointed so far but it still has one of the most talented rosters in the conference. The Huskies are coming off a bye having last played Oregon on Oct. 19 — a 35-31 loss. They have the chance to play the role of spoiler on Saturday.
Picks: Sam: Utah -3.5, Nick: Washington +3.5
3. No. 7 Oregon at USC
Time: 8 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: Oregon -4.5
Like Utah, Oregon has a CFP path, but the Ducks have been cutting it close in recent weeks. They overcame a 10-point deficit and stormed back to beat Washington two weeks ago. Last weekend, the Ducks — after Mario Cristobal inexplicably punted on fourth-and-6 from the Washington State 33 — needed a last-second field goal to get past WSU and stay undefeated in Pac-12 play. It marked the seventh straight win for Oregon after opening the season with a last-second loss to Auburn. Oregon’s defense had a five-game span in which it allowed a total of 25 points, but that unit has been a little more susceptible in recent weeks. It is in for another challenge against USC, a team that boasts one of the better wide receiver groups in the country and is unbeaten at home.
USC (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12), for all of the talk of Clay Helton’s job status, sits atop the Pac-12 South because of its win over Utah. The Trojans have split their four games since, losing two while freshman QB Kedon Slovis was sidelined with a concussion and winning the two that followed his return to the lineup. Last week, USC — still full of injuries even after Slovis’ return — avoided a potential bad loss to Colorado with two fourth quarter touchdowns. The winning score was a 37-yard connection between Slovis and stud wideout Michael Pittman Jr. with 2:15 to play.
Picks: Sam: USC +4.5, Nick: Oregon -4.5
2. No. 15 SMU at No. 24 Memphis
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Memphis -6
Who could have envisioned SMU (8-0, 4-0 AAC) being the top-ranked Group of Five team entering Week 10? The Mustangs went 5-7 in Sonny Dykes’ first season running the program, and he decided to bolster his roster with graduate transfers ahead of Year 2. The approach has paid off as the Mustangs, led by Texas transfer Shane Buechele at quarterback, are 8-0 heading into Saturday night’s game against Memphis. The Mustangs are 10th nationally in total offense, but have won four games by just one possession. Is this the week the winning streaks ends?
On the Memphis side, this is a huge game with ESPN’s College GameDay making the trip to Beale Street for the first time. The Tigers are one of three AAC teams ranked in the Top 25, but they would have tumbled out of the rankings had a game-winning 29-yard field goal try by Tulsa not sailed wide last weekend. Instead, Memphis managed to pull out the 42-41 win to set up a huge AAC West matchup at the Liberty Bowl. SMU has the obvious leg up in the division, but Navy (6-1, 4-1 AAC) and Memphis (7-1, 3-1) are close behind.
Picks: Sam: Memphis -6, Nick: SMU +6
1. No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 6 Florida
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Georgia -6.5
First place in the SEC East is on the line when No. 8 Georgia and No. 6 Florida meet on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Both teams enter the contest with one conference loss — Florida is 4-1 in SEC play, Georgia is 3-1 — so the winner will grab hold of the top spot of the division entering the home stretch of the season. The game also essentially serves as a College Football Playoff elimination game.
Georgia, a team with extremely high expectations in Year 4 under Kirby Smart, cruised through the month of September but the momentum came to a screeching halt with a double-overtime loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12. That loss was followed up by a second concerning offensive effort in a win over Kentucky, leaving fans feeling uneasy heading into last week’s bye. One positive for UGA: injured wideout Lawrence Cager is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. But Florida, also coming off a bye week, has reinforcements on the way as well. The defense’s top two pass rushers — Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga — are expected to be back on the field, as is speedy receiver Kadarius Toney, who hasn’t played since Week 2.
Picks: Sam: Florida +6.5, Nick: Georgia -6.5
Records ATS to date: Sam: 24-24, Nick: 21-27
Week 10’s best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 0-3, Overall: 11-16)
Mississippi State at Arkansas (+7.5): Mississippi State has been struggling lately. It’s not been a good run for Joe Moorhead. But Arkansas has been struggling more. The Razorbacks were outscored by Auburn and Alabama 99-17 in the last two weeks. I’m going with the Bulldogs here. Pick: Mississippi State -7.5
Florida Atlantic at Western Kentucky (-1.5): With a ton of teams off in Week 10 it’s hard to find games to like. I was also terrible last week so maybe that’s more of a problem that has to do with me than it does the schedule. But both FAU and WKU are 5-3 overall and have one loss in Conference USA. They look pretty even on paper. And because of that, I’m going with the home team. Pick: WKU -1.5
Army at Air Force (-16): The Black Knights are not replicating that awesome 2018 season. Army has lost four straight games to a group of teams that isn’t exactly murderer’s row: Tulane, Western Kentucky, Georgia State and San Jose State. And Air Force is playing some good football. The Falcons have won their last three games, including a 31-7 win over Utah State in Week 9. Because both teams like to control the ball and run clock, I’m taking Army. Air Force wins and may win very easily, but the speed of the game may prevent it from getting way out of hand. Pick: Army +16
Sam Cooper (Last week: 0-3, Overall: 12-14-1)
Northern Illinois at Central Michigan (+1.5): I’ve had a few bad weeks making picks, so let’s dig deep here. NIU had lost five of its last six before beating Akron last week. Akron might be the worst team in the country. Now, all of a sudden, NIU is a road favorite? That doesn’t make much sense. And the last time CMU was a home underdog it won by 26 points. Give me the mighty Chippewas! Pick: Central Michigan +1.5
Boston College at Syracuse (-3.5): I know Boston College is playing with a backup QB and just got trounced by Clemson, but I think the A.J. Dillon and the Eagles will be able to have a lot of success on the ground in this one just like they did a few weeks ago against NC State. Pick: Boston College +3.5
Tulsa at Tulane (-10.5): Tulsa has played better than its 2-6 record, including near upsets of SMU and Memphis. Both were brutal losses, especially last week at home vs. Memphis, when a game-winning 29-yard field goal sailed wide as time expired. I think it’ll be hard to get up off the deck after that and go on the road to play a good Tulane team that is 4-0 at home this year. Pick: Tulane -10.5
For Week 10 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pete Thamel and Pat Forde, subscribe to the Yahoo Sports College Podcast.
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