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Is this weekend Notre Dame’s toughest remaining game until the postseason?

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The Irish travel to Virginia Tech, and elsewhere for Playoff contenders in Week 6, Oklahoma needs this Texas win.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, Week 6 of the 2018 college football season does not look perilous for the major title contenders.

Alabama is favored by 35 points on the road at Arkansas. Ohio State is a 25-point favorite hosting Indiana. Georgia is a 26-point favorite hosting Vanderbilt. And Clemson is a 17.5-point favorite at Wake Forest.

But this is a very important weekend for some of the secondary contenders for the College Football Playoff, including Notre Dame and Oklahoma.

The Irish travel to Blacksburg, which really might be their toughest remaining game.

Fresh off a dominant win over Stanford, Notre Dame must travel to face Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech has had a wildly up and down year, springing road upsets at FSU and Duke, yet losing to Old Dominion as a 28.5-point favorite.

The last upset was pulled without QB Josh Jackson, who fractured his leg against Old Dominion. But backup QB Ryan Willis played well.

No matter which way you look at it, Willis was terrific in his first start for the Hokies. His overall numbers were good, as he completed 17 of 27 passes for 332 yards and three scores. He also didn’t turn the ball over, which was impressive going against a tough Duke defense on the road.

Granted, Notre Dame is playing excellent football of its own after a QB change, with Ian Book replacing Brandon Wimbush. While Book is not the runner Wimbush is, he is athletic enough to keep some of the running elements in the playbook while opening up the passing game.

Virginia Tech has not faced an offense the caliber of Notre Dame’s yet. Not even close, really. According to Bill Connelly’s S&P+ ratings, Old Dominion’s offense rates 87th, Duke’s is 62nd, and Florida State’s is 109th. Notre Dame’s is 37th, and that is with Wimbush at the helm for three of five games.

Both teams feature strong defenses. Notre Dame’s ranks fifth, while the Hokies are 57th, thanks in large part to the implosion at Old Dominion (VT held FSU to three points and Duke to 14).

An interesting factor will be whether either defense can figure out a previously unexposed weakness of the new QB. With more film comes a greater chance for a defense to exploit a struggle point.

If the Irish win, expect them to be be double-digit favorites for a long time after that.

Notre Dame’s next five games after this are Pitt, Navy, at Northwestern, Florida State, and Syracuse.

The final game of the year, at USC, might be tougher than the game at Virginia Tech. But that will depend heavily on how much USC’s true freshman QB J.T. Daniels improves over the final two months.

S&P+ gives Notre Dame a 21 percent chance of finishing undefeated, which is likely what the Irish would need to make the CFP. But if the Irish can pull off the win this weekend, those chances increase to 31 percent, based on current numbers.

Meanwhile, the other serious contender with a legitimate test this weekend is Oklahoma.

The classic Red River Rivalry matches up an Oklahoma with a special offense and a defense that doesn’t look improved from previous years against a Texas with an offense that rates 80th in S&P+ and the No. 10 defense.

This is a true contrast of styles.

And it is a game Oklahoma probably needs to have, if it is to make the CFP.

ESPN’s Playoff predictor gives the Sooners a 33 percent shot of making it. The most obvious path is to go undefeated. But while OU could make it if it were to lose to Texas and run the table, that doesn’t seem very likely if OU is not good enough to beat this Texas team, since the Sooners have four additional games (at TCU, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and at West Virginia) in which they would be single-digit favorites, perhaps even an outright underdog at some point.

I’ll be interested to see how Oklahoma’s defense decides to play the Texas offense. The Longhorns have been better at sustaining drives (48th in success rate) than they have been in creating explosive plays (108th in IsoPPP).

Will Oklahoma come after Texas to get the Longhorns off schedule, betting that the lack of big plays will continue?

Next week Washington, Georgia, and LSU will be on the clock.

The Huskies must travel to Oregon for what will be a back-to-back road trip, while Oregon is off a bye. And Georgia travels to LSU to face the Tigers, who themselves have a tough trip to Gainesville this weekend.