The biggest Michigan-Michigan State game ever. Michigan and Michigan State first played in 1898, and on an annual basis since 1910. Saturday (noon ET, Fox) marks the first time ever both will be 7-0 or better at kickoff.
Fox's Big Noon Kickoff and ESPN's College GameDay will be outside Spartan Stadium; the latter for the first time since 2015, and the first time for a Michigan game since 1999.
Both teams are in the top 20 nationally in yards per play defense. Michigan has the nation's No. 5 rushing offense, at 253.3 yards per game on 5.46 a carry; Michigan State has the nation's leading individual rusher in Kenneth Walker III and his 142.4 yards per game on 6.56 a pop. The first team to 20 will almost certainly win this game. The temperature at kickoff should be around 50 degrees and cloudy with winds blowing around 10 miles per hour.
Simply put, it's hard to imagine a late October game getting more B1G than No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State.
Before we go further, the elephant in the room must be addressed. This is not the end of the journey for either of these teams. In reality, it's just the beginning. The team down south that wears red still beckons, and they'll be favored against both of these teams.
But Saturday isn't about that. It's not about the Big Ten title, the College Football Playoff, or anything beyond making sure your side leaves happy and -- equally if not more important -- making sure the other guys are devastated.
This game arrives at an interesting fork in this road. Either side can credibly claim the upper hand with a victory on Saturday.
If Michigan wins: Three out of four, four out of six, 11 of 20, nearly a 2-to-1 ratio all-time.
If Sparty wins: Two in a row, three out of five, six of nine, 10 of 14, and who cares about what happened in the 1930s?
On a personal level, Harbaugh is 3-3 in the Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. A Michigan win gives him the upper-hand, allowing Wolverine fans to say order has been restored after Mark Dantonio ran up the score against Rich Rod and Brady Hoke; a Michigan State victory means two consecutive Spartan coaches will have the upper hand against Michigan's Favorite Son.
Following a season without fans, this season has already given us The Biggest Home Game Ever (Or At Least a Few Decades) in Ames, Fayetteville and Iowa City, and now the party moves to East Lansing. I bet the Spartans will be good hosts.
Georgia chasing a prize it hasn't won in 40 years, but in the meantime it can do something it's done twice in that span. If you're like me and came of age after 1990, you entered a college football landscape in which Florida was always better than Georgia, and that's the way it was. From 1990 to 2010, two full decades, Georgia won the Cocktail Party three times -- and they didn't even win the SEC in those three years.
Imagine Michigan ever surpassing Ohio State or Texas gaining the upper hand on Oklahoma, and that's what the dynamic in the Florida-Georgia series in those times. Florida won three national titles, eight SEC championships, finished in the AP Top 10 13 times, and, oh yeah, beat Georgia 18 times in 21 tries. Georgia didn't win a national title, snared two SEC titles, seven AP Top 10 finishes, and that 3-18 record in the biggest game of its season.
And now here both these programs head to Jacksonville, with the dynamic totally flipped.
Georgia is the unanimous No. 1 team in the country, Florida is below .500 in SEC play. A victory puts the Bulldogs one win away from clinching the SEC East for the fourth time in five seasons, and four games ahead of Florida in the standings for the third time since 1980. Georgia is on a collision course with the national championship trophy, Florida would fall to 2-7 in its last nine games against Power 5 games -- with one of those wins being Vanderbilt.
Kirby Smart isn't looking to just create a gap between his program and Dan Mullen's, but to add another length or three in the gap that already exists. Georgia hasn't finished lower than No. 4 in the 247Sports composite recruiting rankings since 2017, Florida hasn't finished higher than No. 9. Georgia's 2022 class leads the nation, Florida's is 22nd.
The Bulldogs will be 2-touchdown favorites on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). A win would be their fourth in five years, a run they haven't felt in Athens since ripping off six straight from 1978-83. It would also be another step on the grander journey to Indianapolis, while also deepening their biggest rival's ongoing existential crisis. How will Florida ever catch up to Georgia?
My how times have changed.
The biggest game of Sonny Dykes's career. You may have heard, but Sonny's alma mater, the place where the most beloved coach in program history happens to be his dad, fired their coach this week.
"Look, we're focused on getting ready for Houston... our guys are excited to play, we're focused to play, we know how big of a game this is for our program, and no one's worried about anything other than playing well on Saturday night," Dykes said this week.
It's a careful sidestepping of the question, but it's also the truth.
No. 19 SMU is 7-0 for the second time in three seasons, but also in a precarious position. They trek to Houston on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2) to play a Dana Holgorsen-led team that hasn't lost since Week 1. Should Houston win Saturday, the Cougars wouldn't be guaranteed to play for the American championship, but they'd be pretty darn close. At 5-0 in league play, they'd need to win two of three against South Florida, Temple and Memphis... and those teams are 3-7 combined in AAC play.
SMU, meanwhile, wouldn't be kaput, but they would need to sweep their remaining schedule -- a remaining schedule that includes a visit to the No. 2 team in the country, plus 2-1 Tulsa the week after.
SMU's ongoing 29-season drought without an outright conference title is the longest in program history, and the best coach it's had since the death penalty may or may not be out the door. Needless to say, it's pretty important to win on Saturday.
A conference semifinal game out West. A similar dynamic to SMU-Houston will play out after dark in San Diego, where No. 21 San Diego State hosts Fresno State (10:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).
By virtue of their 34-32 escape over Nevada last week, Fresno State is in the driver's seat to win the MW West division... so long as they win on the road at 7-0 SDSU. Win here, and Kalen DeBoer's Bulldogs would need to beat Boise State and New Mexico at home and San Jose State on the road (combined MW record: 4-7), and they'd be in the conference title game for the first time in three seasons.
If San Diego State wins, the focus will turn to their Nov. 13 home game with Nevada. Fresno would need help, dropping to 3-2 in league play, while SDSU and Nevada would be 4-0 and 3-1.
As for the action on the field, San Diego State fields a top-5 defense -- No. 5 in total defense, No. 3 in yards per play, No. 7 in scoring, No. 6 in passing efficiency, No. 4 in rushing -- while Fresno QB Jake Haener is ninth in the nation in passing at 322.8 yards per game.
-- Troy at No. 24 Coastal Carolina (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN2): Coastal's loss to App State created a four-way tie atop the Sun Belt East. App, Coastal, Georgia State and Troy are all 2-1. Among those four, only Troy and App control their respective destinies.
-- No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin (noon ET, ESPN): If there's one under the radar thing I love in college football, it's 3-way rivalries. Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota all despise each other, and all would win the Big Ten West if they win out. The Hawkeyes won this game last year, and they haven't defeated Bucky in back-to-back years since 2008-09.
-- Texas at No. 16 Baylor (noon ET, ABC): Baylor has the top rushing offense in the Big 12, averaging 239.1 yards per game; Texas has the top running back in the league, Bijan Robinson at 132 yards per game on 6.33 a carry.
-- Miami at No. 17 Pitt (noon ET, ACC Network): Miami and Pitt began playing on a regular basis in 1984. Wins: Miami 21, Pitt 3. You'd better believe the Panthers are fired up about a chance to bury Miami in the ACC Coastal and move within two victories of clinching their second division title.
-- Florida State at Clemson (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): When was the last time this game was so... irrelevant? The answer here is probably 1976, when a 1-4-2 Clemson team beat FSU to drop them to 2-6. Neither of these teams are technically eliminated from ACC title contention (Clemson is 3-2 in league play, FSU 2-2), but neither is actively contending, either. It's overwhelmingly likely we'll get an ACC title game without the Tigers or the Seminoles for the first time since 2008.
-- Georgia State at Georgia Southern (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+): The Battle for the Real GSU arrives with State battling for the Sun Belt East title and Southern in a transition year. This rivalry, birthed in 2014, has seen State win four of the seven games, including in 2020.
-- UTEP at Florida Atlantic (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+): This game is a possible Conference USA Championship preview. It might also be a preview of every C-USA Championship after UAB, Rice, UNT, UTSA, Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion leave.
-- No. 10 Ole Miss at No. 18 Auburn (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): We all expect Alabama to represent the SEC West in Atlanta, but here stands Auburn. They get No. 10 Ole Miss at home Saturday, then visit No. 14 Texas A&M next week. Winnable games with Mississippi State and South Carolina follow, and then it's the Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare, where the Tigers own a 2-game winning streak and are 3-1 in their last four. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
-- No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC): This game lost a lot of luster when Penn State couldn't punch it in from the Illinois 3-yard line in something like 27 tries. A hobbling Nittany Lions offense has very little chance at keeping up with a Buckeyes offense averaging 0.87 points every time they snap the ball over their past four games.
Ohio State will wear scarlet pants for the first time in forever, and Penn State is looking for its first win the Horseshoe since 2011.
-- North Carolina at No. 11 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC): This game wasn't what it appeared to be when NBC put it in prime time, but it's still a major opportunity for Mack Brown's team. UNC is 1-19 all-time against the Golden Domers, their worst head-to-head mark (minimum 10 games) against any opponent. As one would expect, Notre Dame's 19-1 record against the Heels is its best among all teams it's played at least 20 times.
-- Virginia at No. 25 BYU (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Bronco Mendenhall makes his return to Provo, where he went 99-43 in 11 seasons. He hasn't really left, though: the Salt Lake Tribune reports three of Utah's top 25 recruits are committed to Virginia.