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Penn State vs. Maryland (Saturday, Noon ET)
The Nittany Lions always seem to be on this list, and they’ll stay on it as long as they keep pulling out narrow, ugly victories like they did last week — not to mention if Penn State lost to Maryland Saturday.
Sure, the Terrapins are 4-0, but their wins are against weak competition, and if the Nittany Lions lose at home to first-year head coach D.J. Durkin, it would be a clear sign things are headed in the wrong direction. Even worse, it would give Durkin a major leg up in Maryland for recruiting purposes, a place where James Franklin has had success since arriving in Happy Valley.
A loss would drop the Nittany Lions to 3-3 heading into a bye week, with Ohio State and another loss looming. A 3-4 record after seven games is not a good way for Franklin to get the divided Penn State fan base back on his side.
Auburn at Mississippi State (Saturday, Noon ET)
Yes, this is a road game in the SEC for Auburn, and no, winning on the road in the SEC is never easy. But the Tigers are playing a disappointing 2-2 Mississippi State team and are coming off two big wins in a row. There is no reason they should lose here.
If Auburn does win, it’s proof Gus Malzahn has things going in the right direction, but a loss would give Auburn fans more proof that he might not be the guy for the job. Even worse, Auburn could be looking at a 6-6 campaign overall, with games remaining against three top 20 teams (Arkansas, Ole Miss, Alabama). Going .500 is not a good way for Malzahn to convince his boosters to keep him around another season.
STEELERS (-7.5) over Jets (Over/under: 48)
That over/under is a pretty lofty total, which means the people who make a living at this expect a lot of points in Pittsburgh. On that note, the Steelers looked fantastic with Le’Veon Bell back last week; in a high-scoring game, would you rather count on Ben Roethlisberger & Co. clicking on offense — or Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Jets? (That’s a rhetorical question. Don’t waste too much time thinking about it.)
RAVENS (-4) over Washington (Over/under: 45)
Elvis Dumervil said he felt rusty in his return to the field last week, and Baltimore’s typically stingy defense couldn’t quite hold against the Raiders’ high-octane offense. The prediction here is that Dumervil gets back on track this week while the Ravens work out some frustration at home against Washington. Get ready for Kirk Cousins to have to answer for a costly turnover or two after the game