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Three Games to Watch: Week 8

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we focused exclusively on the Pac-12. This week, we take a look around the country with one of our games, and we feature a Pac-12 non-conference game. Will we see the same amount of chaos we have seen in the last two weeks? There are only two games between ranked teams this week, and there are plenty of ranked teams on the road against unranked foes, which could cause some upsets.

This week we focus on two games that have big College Football Playoff. Right now, the Pac-12 is on the outside looking in on the College Football Playoff. Yes, Utah’s College Football Playoff hopes have been completely dashed in the last two weeks, but it would still be beneficial for Utah if a Pac-12 team made the College Football Playoff because it could mean better bowl games for every other team in the conference and more money for each team.

No. 19 Michigan Wolverines at No. 2 Penn State Nittany Lions 5:30 p.m. MT ABC

ESPN College GameDay is in Happy Valley for this game. Penn State is one of two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten (along with Wisconsin), and they will look to avenge their 49-10 loss to Michigan last season. The Wolverines lost to the rival Michigan State Spartans earlier this season, causing Michigan to fall out of the top 10. This is a big matchup in the Big Ten East and is likely one of the games that will decide that division.

Who to root for and who will win?

An upset by Michigan would be great for the Pac-12. Right now, the Pac-12 is likely on the outside looking in on the College Football Playoff. If Penn State lost, the Big Ten East would no longer have any undefeated teams, and Wisconsin, in the Big Ten West, would be the only undefeated team left in the conference. The Big Ten East is by far the better division in the conference. Wisconsin only has one ranked team on their schedule, Michigan on Nov. 18, so having Penn State go down would be huge for the Pac-12 Playoff hopes. However, I just do not think Michigan has enough offense to keep up with Penn State with quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, the current Heisman Trophy frontrunner.

No. 11 USC Trojans at No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 5:30 p.m. MT NBC

USC will wrap up non-conference play at rival Notre Dame. The Trojans are coming off their 28-27 win over the Utah Utes, a game in which the Trojan offense turned over the football three times. This is the marquee Pac-12 non-conference game and is a must-win for USC and the conference.

Who to root for and who will win?

The Fighting Irish have a legitimate shot to make the College Football Playoff if they win out. Their schedule down the stretch features four ranked teams. Their lone loss was 20-19 at home against Georgia. I could imagine a scenario if Notre Dame, Alabama, and Georgia all win out in the regular season then Alabama and Georgia play a one-score SEC Championship game that those three teams all get into the College Football Playoff, meaning there would only be one spot left for the other four Power Five conferences. A USC win would put the Trojans squarely back in the College Football Playoff conversation, so root for USC because it would help the Pac-12. I think this is the game where we see USC and quarterback Sam Darnold start to play well from start to finish and not make so many mistakes, and they get the win in South Bend.

Arizona Wildcats at California Golden Bears 6:00 p.m. MT Pac-12 Network

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has torched the Colorado Buffaloes’ and UCLA Bruins’ defenses in the last two weeks. Neither defense has been able to stop the run this year. Cal’s defense has been better this year under first-year head coach Justin Wilcox. The Golden Bears scored a huge home upset win last week over the Washington State Cougars. Can Tate run all over a Cal defense that grounded the Washington State’s Air Raid offense last week?

Who to root for and who will win?

Arizona is currently tied for second in the Pac-12 South (along with Utah’s opponent the Arizona State Sun Devils). If Arizona loses and Utah wins, because of their head-to-head win, Utah would move into second in the Pac-12 South. Root for the home team Golden Bears to get the win. However, I just do not think they have enough offensive firepower to score with Arizona and will lose in a game that could get pretty high scoring. I do not think that Tate will average over 10 yards per carry for the third-straight game.