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Amway Coaches Poll: Notre Dame rises to No. 2, Clemson falls to No. 4
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll, which saw Notre Dame jump to No. 2 behind new No. 1 Alabama.
Once upon a time, Notre Dame won a huge football game against the No.-1 team in the country with a trip to Boston College up next. The year was 1993, the first opponent was Florida State, and the Eagles dealt a stunning upset to the Irish just a week later. Will history repeat itself in the wake of Notre Dame’s triumph over Clemson?
That contest is the headliner on this weekend’s depleted slate, as several other College Football Playoff contenders either had their games postponed or have a scheduled open date.
This week’s list of five impact games also includes another Atlantic Coast Conference affair, one relevant game in the SEC that didn’t get postponed, and key division matchups in the Big Ten and Pac-12. Here’s the breakdown.
No. 2 Notre Dame at Boston College
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The Irish must recharge their batteries quickly after working double overtime to get past the Tigers. But BC’s last two outings were quite taxing as well, including the Eagles’ own encounter with Clemson two weeks ago.
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Notre Dame QB Ian Book’s improved ball distribution over the last three weeks is a good sign. The main beneficiaries have been WRs Javon McKinley and Avery Davis along with TE Michael Mayer. LB Max Richardson is the centerpiece of the BC defense who will have a busy day. The Eagles, whose own near upset of Clemson was followed by a sluggish but ultimately successful date with Syracuse, have been inconsistent in the ground game. That isn’t likely to change against LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and the stout Fighting Irish front, so BC will need a huge outing from QB Phil Jurkovec.
Arkansas at No. 5 Florida
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Gators control their own destiny in the SEC East after last week’s huge victory against archrival Georgia. The Razorbacks, however, are not the easy out they were a year ago and could prove troublesome, though new head coach Sam Pittman will not be with the team due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Arkansas’s vastly improved defense, featuring LB Grant Morgan and Bumper Pool, has been a big part of the team’s 2020 turnaround. The Gators will be hard to subdue for a full 60 minutes, however, as QB Kyle Trask has thrown for at least four TDs in each of Florida’s first five games – even the one in which the Gators were outscored by Texas A&M. Razorbacks QB Feleipe Franks will be eager to make an impression on his former Florida teammates but must avoid getting too amped up. Gators DB Shawn Davis will be ready to pounce on any errant throws.
No. 9 Miami at Virginia Tech
Saturday, Noon ET, ESPN2
Back in the ACC, the Hurricanes still have a shot at reaching the conference championship game but will need help in the form of a second loss by Clemson. That of course means they must avoid a second loss of their own, and the Hokies, though reeling, still have enough talent to provide one.
As expected, QB D’Eriq King has proven to be a good fit in the Hurricanes’ new-look offense, accounting for nearly 320 yards of total offense per game. The Hokies have struggled to find consistency on defense thanks to COVID protocols and other personnel issues but now at least have DB Divine Deablo back to stabilize the secondary. Tech will need major production from QB Hendon Hooker, especially if RB Khalil Herbert is still unavailable after being injured on an early kickoff return in the Liberty loss. The Hurricanes will give up yards as well, but DB Bubba Bolden is often around to limit the damage.
No. 12 Oregon at Washington State
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox
The abbreviated Pac-12 schedule is already off to a rocky start against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the two North Division teams that did manage to play and win will square off for the early lead. .
The Ducks are still the conference favorites, but the Cougars showed some punch in their first outing. Though the Ducks are usually known for flying high, it was the ground game that impressed the most against Stanford. QB Tyler Shough was a big part of that along with RBs C.J. Verdell and Travis Dye. They could prove difficult to handle for the Cougars’ 3-3-5 defense, but DE/LB Brennan Jackson is a good ball finder who could have another big night. WSU got a solid debut in the win against Oregon State from freshman QB Jayden de Laura, with plenty of help from WR Travell Harris. Somewhat surprisingly the Ducks did not record a sack in their opener, but DE Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely change that before long.
No. 23 Northwestern at Purdue
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, BTN
The Big Ten has provided more than a few unexpected results in just three weeks, with the Wildcats’ 3-0 start high on that list. The Boilermakers still hope to be in the West Division mix themselves despite not getting their chance against favorite Wisconsin.
The Wildcats, as has been the case in the Pat Fitzgerald era, aren’t particularly flashy but rely on a punishing ground attack. The RB duo of Drake Anderson and Isaiah Bowser do the bulk of the work. They’ll be opposed by Purdue LBs DaMarcus Mitchell and Jaylan Alexander. Boilermakers QB Aidan O’Connell has thrown for a solid 653 yards over his first two outings, despite the absence of standout WR Rondale Moore. David Bell and Milton Wright are also excellent targets, but they must beware of DB Brandon Joseph, who has three of the Wildcats’ eight interceptions.