Special to Outkick The Coverage from OddsShark.com
Three of the top four teams in the country cannot afford to suffer their first loss at any point of the season without risking another taking their place in the College Football Playoff field. The exception of course is the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, who might have to lose twice not to make it back to the CFP for the third year in a row. So how will the teams ranked second through fourth fare this week in conference play?
Pittsburgh at Clemson (-20.5) (Sat, 3:30 p.m. ET) â€“ Matchup Report
The Tigers bring a 15-game ACC winning streak into this matchup with the Panthers, and they are also 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games overall. But Pittsburgh has covered eight of 11 on the road and gone 7-0 ATS in its last seven games away from home versus teams with winning records. Look for Clemson to stay perfect but fail to beat the number in a game that will be closer than expected.
The Huskies powered on with a 66-27 rout of Cal on the road last week after narrowly beating Utah on the road the previous week. The Trojans are comparable to the Utes and have gone 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings with Washington. A double-digit victory for the Huskies over the Trojans would impress the pollsters, and that should happen here to keep them in the top four.
Michigan (-21.5) at Iowa (Sat, 8 p.m. ET) â€“ Matchup Report
The Wolverines have dropped four of the past five meetings with the Hawkeyes but have covered five of seven in the series. The tide has turned in this matchup though, with Michigan huge road chalk at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have not been very good lately, going 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall. But Michigan is 2-8 straight up in its last 10 on the road versus teams with winning records and 4-13 ATS in its previous 17 when winning its most recent game away from home. Again, watch for the underdog to come through and stay within three touchdowns.
Over in the NFL, of the 14 games scheduled for this week 10 of them have point spreads of a field goal or less, making it one of the most competitive slates of the season according to oddsmakers. Find out if three home favorites in that scenario will be able to come through and cover the spread.
Broncos at Saints (-2.5) (Sun, 1 p.m. ET) â€“ Matchup Report
Denver (6-3) is not the same team that opened the season at 4-0 while the same can be said about New Orleans (4-4) following an 0-3 start. Even though these teams are heading in opposite directions, the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos have a much better defense and should be able to hold Saints quarterback Drew Brees in check. Look for Denver to beat New Orleans for the fifth straight time and improve to 4-1 against the spread in those games.
Chiefs at Panthers (-3) (Sun, 1 p.m. ET) â€“ Matchup Report
Kansas City (6-2) is the real deal and might be the best pick to win the AFC West at this point of the season despite the hot play of the Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs are 7-3 straight up and against the spread in their last 10 road games, and the favored team is 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. While Carolina has won two in a row and has home-field advantage in this one, that streak will end here with another disappointing loss.
Cowboys at Steelers (-2.5) (Sun, at 4:25 p.m. ET) â€“ Matchup Report
Dallas (7-1) is all the rage right now in the NFC as the only team in the conference with one loss. That will not be the case after the Cowboys visit a motivated Pittsburgh team that desperately needs a victory following three consecutive losses. This might be the first time in 2016 that Dallas does not have better players at any of the skill positions, which will end up being the difference in this difficult road matchup. Plus, the Steelers are 7-2 SU in their previous nine games after losing as favorites and will improve to 8-2 by covering as small favorites.