The college football offseason is long and arduous, but its end is almost in sight. We’re going to take a look at five games you have to look forward to for every weekend of the season. (This is also a handy guide to decide how to RSVP for any autumn weddings.)
All times are Eastern and all games are played on Saturday unless otherwise noted. This is a really fun week.
These games are played the weekend of October 12th.
Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas (TBD) – The Red River Rivalry/Shootout has been just a little lopsided the last two years, with the Sooners winning by a staggering combined score of 118-38. The last time the Longhorns won this game was in 2009, using that momentum to help surge to a BCS title game appearance. On paper, this looks to be a mismatch in favor of Mack Brown: the Horns are returning 19 starters to Oklahoma’s 11, they’ve got a semi-established quarterback in David Ash while Bob Stoops can only hope Blake Bell is the answer and they’ll have an extra few days rest after playing on Thursday the prior week, while the Sooners will be coming off back-to-back games with Notre Dame and TCU. This sets up almost perfectly for the Longhorns, but considering the way Stoops has owned this series (9 of the last 13, often by large margins), it would be unwise to count out the Sooners.
Florida at LSU (TBD): Over the last decade, this game has been one you circle on your calendar, with SEC and occasionally national title stakes on the line. Last year’s edition was a rock fight, as the Gators prevailed 14-6 in a game where LSU linebacker Kevin Minter had 20 tackles, most of them against Florida tailback Mike Gillislee, who toted the ball 34 times for 146 yards. Both teams lost plenty of defensive playmakers to the NFL, so this year’s edition will come down to quarterback play (it was not great last season, as young Jeff Driskell and young Zach Mettenberger went a combined 19-for-37 for 219 yards, no touchdowns and a pick) and/or who can establish new defensive stars first.
Texas A&M at Ole Miss (TBD) – Before Johnny Manziel really became Johnny Football last year, he barely scraped by on an early October trip to Oxford. The Rebels led 27-17 until Manziel ripped off two touchdowns (a 20-yard run and a pass to Ryan Swope, his only scoring toss of the game) in the final seven minutes to steal a 30-27 win. Does Manziel win the Heisman if a loss to Ole Miss is on the resume? Probably not. In a scheduling quirk, the Aggies are on the road against Hugh Freeze again. You know quarterback Bo Wallace, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and company are going to spring an upset on somebody this season, but is this the one? Kevin Sumlin has a bye week before the trip to make sure it’s not.
Bowling Green at Mississippi State (TBD) – We’ve been woefully under-appreciating MACTion so far in this series, so we’ll make up for it here and put an SEC team on upset alert during their homecoming game. Bowling Green could be pretty good this year, you guys. They return at least 18 starters (with 1000-yard rusher Anthon Samuel’s status still unknown) from 2012’s 8-5 team, gave Florida a heckuva game in Gainesville last year (although, to be fair, so did Mizzou and UL-Lafayette) and perhaps most importantly feature all-name first teamer BooBoo Gates at safety. Mississippi State will have the cowbells and senior quarterback Tyler Russell on their side, but they need to replace their entire receiving corps and some key players on defense. It will be an important fortnight in Starkville with LSU coming in the prior weekend.
Oregon at Washington (TBD): One of the more underrated rivalries in the country, as these two teams have played since 1900. A loss to Oregon kept Washington out of the title game in 2000, and there is also perhaps my favorite moment in any rivalry, as Oregon’s Fred Hill was tackled by Washington fans while attempting to make a game-winning catch in 1962. Oregon has won nine straight in the series, all by double digits, and this will likely be the Ducks’ first real test of the season.
Other games considered:
Arizona at USC (10:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1, Thursday) – Oh, hello random Fox Sports 1 Thursday night game, it’s great to meet you. Last year the Wildcats upset the 6-1 Trojans in Tucson, driving a stake into what remained of USC’s championship dreams and giving Rich Rodriguez a marquee victory in his first season as head coach.
Northwestern at Wisconsin (3:30 p.m.)- Regardless of how their game with Ohio State goes the week prior, this is a big game for the Wildcats. If they win, can they avoid a letdown as potentially the new Big Ten favorite, and if they lose, can they avoid one tough loss becoming a losing streak?
Michigan at Penn State (5:00 p.m.)- These teams don’t play every year, but they’ve produced some memorable moments including the Mario Manningham catch in 2005, Alan Branch murdering Anthony Morelli in 2006 and a fun little shootout in 2010.
Baylor at Kansas State (TBD) – Baylor cost Kansas State a trip to the BCS title game last year, and possibly denied Collin Klein the Heisman in the same 52-24 death stroke. The Wildcats have a lot of pieces to replace, but perhaps at this point in the season Bill Snyder will have some counters prepared for Art Briles’ offense.
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