College Football Week 10 Preview: Storylines, matchups and predictions for the biggest games

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (11) runs a route against the Kentucky Wildcats during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

• Previewing the biggest Week 10 games in college football: TennesseeGeorgia, AlabamaLSU, TexasKansas State, ClemsonNotre Dame and Wake ForestN.C. State

• The biggest game of the year: Top-ranked Tennessee takes on No. 3 Georgia in a battle for the SEC East.

• Can Alabama keep its playoff hopes alive?: No. 6 Alabama can’t afford another loss and has a tough road test at No. 10 LSU this weekend.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins

It just means more. 

The only games between top-10 teams in Week 10 are both SEC affairs in No. 1 Tennessee-No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 Alabama-No. 10 LSU. That game between the Volunteers and Bulldogs is the biggest contest of the regular season so far. 

Outside of the SEC, there are two ranked games and a massive showdown in South Bend. Here are the storylines to know, matchups to watch and predictions for the five biggest games in Week 10.

No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers at No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs

How to watch: 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

Storyline to know: The biggest game of the year

Tennessee sits atop the first College Football Playoff ranking, while Georgia is first in the latest AP poll. It’s the first time in the playoff era that the top-ranked teams in both the College Football Playoff and AP Poll face each other.

Not only is this game between two of the best teams in the country, but it also has massive ramifications in the SEC. The winner will most likely represent the SEC East in the championship game, putting them that much closer to securing a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Matchup to watch: Tennessee’s passing game vs. Georgia’s defense

Tennessee was able to upset Alabama because the Crimson Tide’s usually elite secondary was exposed by quarterback Hendon Hooker and wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, who combined for five touchdowns. Hooker is now the Heisman favorite (+100), according to BetMGM.

The Bulldogs will need to slow those two down to avoid a similar fate on Saturday. Fortunately for them, Georgia has allowed the fourth-lowest EPA per pass among Power Five teams this season. Christopher Smith has the highest coverage grade among SEC safeties, while Javon Bullard is fourth for cornerbacks.

Prediction: Georgia 37, Tennessee 28

In what should ultimately be a shootout, Georgia makes enough stops to end Tennessee’s Cinderella run. 

No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 10 LSU Tigers

How to watch: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Storyline to know: Alabama tries to keep its playoff hopes alive

After its loss to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, Alabama can’t afford to drop another game if it wants to make the College Football Playoff. In the playoff’s eight-year history, a two-loss team has never been invited.

The Crimson Tide will try to avoid their second loss in Death Valley this weekend against a top-10 opponent in LSU. In the Tigers’ last game, they destroyed No. 7 Ole Miss, 45-20.

Matchup to watch: LSU’s run game vs Alabama’s run defense

LSU has one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the country. Quarterback Jayden Daniels and running backs Josh Williams and Armoni Goodwin all have 80.0-plus rushing grades this season. Daniels has 38 rushing first downs or touchdowns this season, more than any other quarterback in the country.

Alabama’s 94.1 team run-defense grade is nearly two points higher than any other team in the country. The Crimson Tide’s negatively graded run-defense rate is the second-lowest among Power Five schools, behind LSU. The star of that defense is Will Anderson Jr., whose 10 tackles for loss or no gain are tied for the most among Power Five edge defenders.

Prediction: Alabama 34, LSU 21

LSU will struggle to contain Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and the Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes survive. 

No. 24 Texas Longhorns at No. 13 Kansas State Wildcats

How to watch: 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1

Storyline to know: Who’s the biggest threat to TCU in the Big 12?

After TCU, Kansas State and Texas are the two best teams in the Big 12, according to PFF’s power rankings.

How PFF’s Power Rankings view the Big 12
School Rating (Big 12 rank) Chance to win the conference (Big 12 rank)
TCU 18.4 (1st) 50% (1st)
Texas  18.2 (2nd) 16% (3rd)
Kansas State 13.4 (3rd) 21% (2nd)

If anyone is going to play spoiler to TCU’s undefeated season, it’ll likely be one of these two teams — either in the regular season or Big 12 championship game.

Matchup to watch: The issues at quarterback for both teams

Both Kansas State and Texas have dilemmas under center. 

For the Wildcats, it’s a question of who will be the starter. Adrian Martinez has missed the past two games with a knee injury but is getting closer to playing, according to head coach Chris Klieman. If Martinez is unable to go, Kansas State will turn to junior Will Howard. In the team's blowout 48-0 win over No. 8 Oklahoma State, Howard tossed four touchdowns, including a couple of big-time throws. 

The Longhorns are locked in at starting quarterback, but Quinn Ewers hasn’t quite lived up to the hype after being one of the highest-rated quarterback recruits in history. His 70.2 grade this season is tied for 82nd in the country among quarterbacks. His play has been very boom-or-bust, with the fourth-highest big-time throw rate and the sixth-highest turnover-worthy play rate in the Power Five.

Prediction: Texas 28, Kansas State 27

Ewers bounces back in a close win over the Wildcats and sets up a massive showdown against No. 7 TCU next week. 

No. 4 Clemson Tigers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

How to watch: 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Storyline to know: Clemson’s toughest test of the season

Notre Dame isn’t ranked, but it’s still the best team Clemson will face until most likely the College Football Playoff. 

Right now, the Fighting Irish are the eighth-best team in PFF’s power rankings. They’ve taken down two teams who are currently ranked in No. 20 Syracuse and No. 17 North Carolina, Clemson’s likely opponent in the ACC Championship game. Plus, a night game in a hostile environment like South Bend is never an easy obstacle to overcome.

Despite this game being between a top-five team and an unranked one, the Tigers are favored by only 3.5 points, showing that an upset is very possible.

Matchup to watch: What does Clemson do at quarterback?

DJ Uiagalelei has had a nice bounceback season after an abysmal performance last year. His 83.0 passing grade in 2022 is nearly 20 points higher than his 64.4 figure last season. However, in his last outing against No. 14 Syracuse, he was benched after throwing two interceptions and fumbling in three quarters. True freshman Cade Klubnik came in and led the Tigers to a comeback victory over the Orange. 

After the game, head coach Dabo Swinney reaffirmed to ESPN that Uiagalelei is Clemson’s starter. If Uiagalelei struggles again, though, Swinney could turn to the five-star freshman.

Prediction: Clemson 24, Notre Dame 21

Uiagalelei is good enough to pull out the close win in Clemson’s biggest game of the season. 

No. 21 Wake Forest Demon Deacons at No. 22 N.C. State Wolfpack

How to watch: 8 p.m. ET on ACC Network

Storyline to know: How do both teams respond to adversity?

Both Wake Forest and N.C. State are coming off disappointing performances on Saturday.

N.C. State still emerged victorious with a 23-22 win over Virginia Tech. However, the Wolfpack were favored by nearly two touchdowns against a Hokies squad that’s currently the 10th-worst Power Five team in PFF’s power rankings. N.C. State also needed to make an 18-point comeback in the second half to secure the victory.

Wake Forest wasn’t as successful, suffering a 48-21 defeat at the hands of Louisville despite the Demon Deacons being favored by three points. Wake Forest turned the ball over eight times in that loss, with six coming in the third quarter alone. 

Both teams will be looking to right the ship on Saturday.

Matchup to watch: How does MJ Morris look in his first career start?

During the Virginia Tech game, N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren decided that he needed a change under center. He benched struggling redshirt senior Jack Chambers in favor of true freshman MJ Morris. The former three-star recruit responded with an impressive 82.5 passing grade in the win, which led Doeren to name Morris as the starter for Saturday.

He’ll try to keep up with the Demon Deacons’ explosive passing game led by quarterback Sam Hartman, who’s the third-highest-graded ACC quarterback over the past two seasons.

Prediction: Wake Forest 28, NC State 24

Morris makes a couple of freshman mistakes and Hartman rebounds nicely in a close win for the Demon Deacons.

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