Like we’ve done in years past, every week throughout the season we’ll be highlighting the best games of the coming weekend. We’ll be doing it a little differently this year, however. We’ll rank the top five games we’re most intrigued by while also providing some insight on other games that will be worth your time.
We complained about there only being two ranked matchups last weekend. Well this week there isn’t a single one. Yep, zero. But just because the schedule is ugly on paper doesn’t automatically mean we’re in for a boring weekend. I mean, No. 3 Oklahoma lost to Iowa State as a 31-point favorite while the Cyclones started a backup quarterback.
It’s college football. We’ve all learned to expect the unexpected.
Starting with the five best games, we broke down this week’s slate for you:
5. Utah (4-1, 1-1) at No. 13 USC (5-1, 3-1) — 8 p.m., ABC: Utah’s offense has been up-and-down, but the Utes have an opportunistic defense (14 forced turnovers) that could capitalize on Sam Darnold’s propensity to throw the ball to the other team. Utah is especially strong on the defensive line, boasting the 20th-best rush defense. But so is USC. The Trojans D has 15 turnovers and will make life tough for whoever plays QB for Utah: Tyler Huntley or Troy Williams. Williams was last year’s starter and has played the last two weeks after an injury to Huntley.
This game has early implications in the Pac-12 South, too. These teams have been in the hunt for the division crown the past three seasons and would like to pick up a key win over a South foe early in the conference slate.
4. No. 6 TCU (5-0, 2-0) at Kansas State (3-2, 1-1) — Noon, FS1: Kansas State can’t throw the ball and TCU has a really good run defense, but the injury to Jesse Ertz and insertion of Alex Delton at QB for the Wildcats is a bit of a wild card for this game. Delton played in the second half and OT of Kansas State’s loss to Texas and threw just five passes, completing two for 30 yards. But Delton, who brings more speed to the table than Ertz, rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. He could present a few new looks for the offense.
TCU is the surprise frontrunner in the Big 12 coming off wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia, but going into Manhattan for an early kick is never easy. TCU QB Kenny Hill was plagued by turnovers early in his career, but only three interceptions thus far in 2017. If TCU relies on its ground attack and keeps the ball off the turf, it should be able to stay undefeated.
3. No. 24 Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) at West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) — Noon, ESPNU: Based on entertainment value alone, this could be the most fun game of the weekend. Texas Tech being ranked at the midpoint mark of the season is pretty shocking, but the Red Raiders have been able to string together a competent defense while continuing to score a whole lot of points. The TTU defense is going to be challenged big time heading to Morgantown to go against Will Grier and David Sills, one of the better QB-WR duos in the Big 12. It’s an early kick, too.
WVU, coming off a close loss to TCU, has been one of the worst teams in the country defending the run so far this year (No. 109). TTU is more known as a throwing team, but it has put together a solid rushing attack with a three-man rotation led by Justin Stockton. The run game could open things up down field for QB Nic Shimonek.
2. No. 10 Auburn (5-1, 3-0) at LSU (4-2, 1-1) — 3:30 p.m., CBS: Auburn’s offense has come alive the past three weeks, especially on the ground. With Kerryon Johnson leading the way, Auburn has averaged 277.6 rushing yards in SEC play. With the ground attack flourishing, QB Jarrett Stidham has looked more and more comfortable, but he’s never walked into an atmosphere quite like Tiger Stadium.
LSU bounced back from a disastrous loss to Troy with a road win over a then-ranked Florida team. LSU played with the physicality coach Ed Orgeron is looking for, but is going to need better play out of QB Danny Etling to upset Auburn. Matt Canada should have some unseen wrinkles, but he’ll need to throw the ball downfield at some point.
1. No. 12 Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1) vs. Texas (3-2, 2-0) — 3:30 p.m., ESPN: Tom Herman-coached teams have typically been really dangerous as underdogs. That’s not what Oklahoma fans want to hear coming off a brutal home loss to Iowa State. Baker Mayfield and the offense have been able to put up points, but the defense has been really disappointing. Mike Stoops’ unit will need to play much better in order to keep OU’s Big 12 and College Football Playoff hopes alive. There’s no margin for error.
Texas has shown improved defensive play. The offense, though, has been up and down. Herman won’t reveal the starting QB despite freshman Sam Ehlinger’s strong play with Shane Buechele banged up. Still, it’d be a surprise if it wasn’t Ehlinger after he threw for 380 yards and two TDs while adding 107 yards on the ground in last week’s win over Kansas State. OU has struggled in the secondary, so whoever plays QB for UT will have chances down the field.
With very different degrees of success in recent years, you’d expect Oklahoma to have dominated recent games in this rivalry. Not so fast. The teams have split the last four contests.
Keep an eye on…
Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0) at No. 11 Miami (4-0, 2-0) — 3:30 p.m., ABC: Miami finally snapped its losing streak to rival Florida State to stay undefeated and now has to deal with Georgia Tech’s option offense. That’s never easy and the Canes will be without two starters on defense. This could go down to the wire.
Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1) at Florida (3-2, 3-1) — 7 p.m., ESPN2: This will be a battle of two of the fun, young quarterbacks in the SEC: A&M’s Kellen Mond and UF’s Feleipe Franks. Mond has much more help around him than Franks, but this is A&M’s first true road game since the debacle at UCLA. Oh, and Florida is wearing these horrifying uniforms:
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 10, 2017
No. 21 Michigan State (4-1, 2-0) at Minnesota (3-2, 0-2) — 8 p.m., BTN: Coming off an emotional win over rival Michigan, will Michigan State bring the same level of intensity to Minneapolis? Minnesota has lost two straight after a 3-0 start. Expect a better effort from P.J. Fleck’s bunch in the biggest game of his tenure thus far.
Boise State (3-2, 1-0) at No. 19 San Diego State (6-0, 2-0) — 10:30 p.m., CBSSN: A blowout home loss to Virginia showed this isn’t your usual Boise State team. Still, the Broncos are contenders in the Mountain West’s Mountain division. SDSU, with star RB Rashaad Penny, is the conference’s best team. Boise is No. 19 nationally in rush defense, so the Aztecs may need to throw a little more than they usually do.
No. 17 Michigan at Indiana (+7) — Noon, ABC: Overmatched Indiana (3-2, 0-2) teams have given Michigan (4-1, 1-1) trouble the last two seasons, losing by a combined 17 points. With Michigan’s offense taking a step back this season, the Hoosiers could keep this one even closer — or win outright – in Bloomington.
Northwestern at Maryland (+3) — 12:30 p.m., ESPN2: Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) has been really, really disappointing so far this season while Maryland (3-2, 1-1) was demolished at Ohio State last week. Expect the Terps to use their speed to bounce back at home in a low-scoring game.
No. 25 Navy (+3) at Memphis — 3:45 p.m., ESPNU: Navy is a road underdog despite being ranked and starting the year 5-0 for the first time since 2004. Zach Abey is running the option masterfully but will have to keep up with Memphis’ (4-1, 1-1) high-powered unit. This should be a shootout.
No. 5 Washington at Arizona State (+17.5): Arizona State (2-3, 1-1) whose three losses are all to ranked teams by 10 points or less, has covered the spread (including a win over Oregon) the last two weeks. Washington’s (6-0, 3-0) schedule has been a cakewalk so far. The Huskies will win this game, but ASU can keep things close at home.
Channel surf through…
No. 8 Washington State (6-0, 3-0) at Cal (3-3, 0-3) — Friday 10:30 p.m., ESPN: Wazzu has always been able to score, but now it has the defense to accompany the explosive offense. This game looked like it would be tough after Cal started 3-0, but the Golden Bears have since dropped three straight.
South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) at Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) — Noon, ESPN: Butch Jones is looking for anything to go positively, so he made a QB switch from Quinten Dormady to Jarrett Guarantano coming off a bye. Will it make a difference for the lackluster Vols offense against the Gamecocks?
Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) at No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0) — 7:15 p.m., ESPN: Alabama has won 71 straight over unranked opponents and there’s no reason to believe this one will be close. However, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, a former Tide WR, will appear at a halftime ceremony celebrating UA’s 1992 national title. Will he wear Clemson gear?
Oregon (4-2, 1-2) at No. 23 Stanford (4-2, 3-1) — 11 p.m., FS1: This would have been one of this weekend’s marquee games if Oregon QB Justin Herbert didn’t break his collarbone. Now the Ducks are starting a true freshman QB while attempting to deal with Stanford’s Bryce Love, the nation’s leading rusher, defensively on the road. Good luck.
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