Nobody should be rooting harder for Notre Dame the rest of the season than Cincinnati.
The fifth-ranked Bearcats passed their big test last weekend by beating the Fighting Irish and open American Athletic Conference play Friday night at home against Temple.
Cincinnati should be a comfortable favorite in most of its remaining games, with only No. 24 SMU currently ranked. Cincinnati's victory against Indiana already looks as if it won't be much to brag about as regression has its way with the Hoosiers in 2021.
If the Bearcats are to make the case to the College Football Playoff selection committee that they can beat the top teams in the country, No. 14 Notre Dame needs to remain one of those.
The Irish bring their struggling offensive line and uncertain quarterback situation to Virginia Tech on Saturday to face a Hokies team that is similarly challenged offensively. The Irish are 101st in the country in yards per play at 5.10. Virginia Tech is 105th at 5.02.
Notre Dame's schedule going forward is best described as tricky — no ranked teams but few pushovers. Given the state of the Irish through five games, anything from 8-4 to 10-2 seems like a reasonable prediction for Notre Dame.
The low end of that curve would hurt Cincinnati as much as it would the Irish.
The picks, with lines provide by FanDuel Sportsbook:
No. 15 Coastal Carolina (minus 19 1/2) at Arkansas State
What happens when the second-best offense in the country (Coastal Carolina) faces the worst defense in the country (Arkansas State)? ... COASTAL CAROLINA 56-28, BEST BET.
Temple (plus 29 1/2) at No. 5 Cincinnati
Can the Bearcats avoid a Notre Dame letdown on a short week? Probably ... CINCINNATI 35-14.
Stanford (plus 12 1/2) at No. 22 Arizona State
Third straight game against a ranked Pac-12 rival for the Cardinal, who lost to UCLA and beat Oregon ... ARIZONA STATE 31-17.
No. 1 Alabama (minus 17 1/2) at Texas A&M
The Aggies are quickly becoming the most disappointing team in the country; Tide has won eight straight meetings since being Manziel'ed in 2012 ... ALABAMA 34-13.
No. 2 Georgia (minus 15 1/2) at No. 18 Auburn.
Bulldogs have shut out two straight SEC opponents; last time they had three straight was 1971 ... GEORGIA 24-13.
No. 4 Penn State (plus 2 1/2) at No. 3 Iowa
Hawkeyes have scored 75 points off 16 takeaways, 45% of their total points ... PENN STATE 20-19.
No. 6 Oklahoma (minus 3 1/2) vs. No. 21 Texas in Dallas
It is possible that we are now underrating the Sooners, who have won four games by one score? ... OKLAHOMA 31-27.
Maryland (plus 20 1/2) at No. 7 Ohio State
Terps imploded last week against Iowa, but QB Taulia Tagovailoa should provide a good test for Ohio State's shaky defense ... OHIO STATE 42-24.
No. 9 Michigan (minus 3 1/2) at Nebraska
Cornhuskers might be sneaky good, though they have lost 14 straight against ranked teams dating to 2016 ... NEBRASKA 24-21, UPSET SPECIAL.
Boise State (plus 5 1/2) at No. 10 BYU
Broncos (2-3) are off to their worst start since 2001 ... BYU 24-20.
No. 11 Michigan State (minus 4) at Rutgers
Scarlet Knights beat the Spartans to spoil coach Mel Tucker's debut in 2020 ... MICHIGAN STATE 28-21.
No. 13 Arkansas (plus 5 1/2) at No. 17 Mississippi
Razorbacks and Rebels have played only once (2016) in the last 40 years when both teams were ranked; Ole Miss won ... OLE MISS 35-31.
No. 14 Notre Dame (plus 1/2) at Virginia Tech
Hokies are 14th in the country in sacks (3.25 per game); Irish are 126th in sacks allowed (4.4) ... VIRGINIA TECH 20-17.
LSU (plus 3 1/2) at No. 16 Kentucky
Tigers have only played three times in Lexington since 2002, going 2-1 in games decided by a total of 13 points ... LSU 24-21.
No. 19 Wake Forest (minus 5 1/2) at Syracuse
Demon Deacons are trying to go 6-0 for the first time since 1944 ... SYRACUSE 27-24.
Vanderbilt (plus 38 1/2) at No. 20 Florida
Gators have lost once to Vandy since the late 1980s ... FLORIDA 49-14.
No. 24 SMU (minus 13 1/2) at Navy
Mustangs have not won at Navy since both joined the AAC in 2015; SMU's last victory at Annapolis was 1998 ... SMU 35-24.
New Mexico (plus 18 1/2) at No. 25 San Diego State
Aztecs have won seven straight in the Rocky Long Bowl; the former head coach at New Mexico and San Diego State is back with the Lobos as defensive coordinator ... SAN DIEGO STATE 28-7.
TCU (minus 1 1/2) at Texas Tech — @tbaum1
Horned Frogs have lost two straight and could be in for a long year if they can't take care of business in Lubbock ... TCU 31-27.
Utah (plus 3 1/2) at Southern California — @ilikewatchincfb
Utes have never won at USC ... USC 26-24.
East Carolina (plus 10 1/2) at UCF — @billbryan1953
Knights trying to avoid first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2016 season; ECU is trying to win four straight for the first time since 2014 ... UCF 35-23.
Virginia (plus 2 1/2) at Louisville — @Keith_Wynn
Two worst defenses in the ACC ... LOUISVILLE 42-38.
UConn (minus 3 1/2) at UMass — @brookviewshades
Combined 0-11 for New England's FBS Independents ... UCONN 34-24.
Last week: 16-10 straight; 16-10 against the spread.
Season: 80-38 straight; 65-53 against the spread.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
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