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#Nuggets: If Chip Kelly is to return to prominence, he'll have to beat Oregon to do so

In a week devoid of Top 25 matchups, unusual suspects take center stage.

At first blush, this is a weak week. We're not going to lie to you here at #Nuggets, and so it is our duty to say this is the worst weekly schedule of the year -- at least if you're judging by top-line intrigue.

Ranked v. Ranked matchups (at kickoff)

Week 1: 5

Week 5: 4

Week 2: 2

Week 6: 4

Week 3: 3

Week 7: 2

Week 4: 2

Week 8: 0

Next weekend brings us the B1Gest Big Ten double-header in years (No. 6 Michigan at No. 9 Michigan State at noon, No. 7 Penn State at No. 5 Penn State at night, plus No. 12 Ole Miss at No. 19 Auburn), but that's next week. As for this weekend, if we get fireworks, they'll shoot at us from an unexpected place. 

Chip vs. Oregon is the headliner. There's been so much news lately of coaches suing their former employers, it's refreshing to see a coach look to take down his former school the old-fashioned way.

This isn't even the first time Chip has coached against Oregon -- the Ducks beat the Bruins in 2018 and 2020, both in Eugene -- but this is the best chance Kelly has had to defeat his former school. For one, he's got the best team he's fielded yet in Westwood, which isn't saying a whole lot given he entered this season 10-21, but UCLA is 5-2 this year and has a hand on the steering wheel in the Pac-12 South. 

UCLA hasn't won the Pac-12 since 1998, and a win over Oregon officially puts the Bruins the closest they've been to a conference championship since Jim Mora's first season way back in 2012. 

Given the lack of competition elsewhere (see above) this is a rare spotlight game for UCLA and the Pac-12. It's GameDay's first trip to LA for a UCLA home game since 1998 and its first visit to a Pac-12 campus since Oct. 20, 2018. It's also a rare kickoff on a national network (ABC) where toe will meet leather with the sun still up on the East Coast (3:30 p.m. ET). 

If you're No. 10 Oregon, it's a chance to show you're the team that beat Ohio State, not the one that lost to Stanford.

If you're Chip, it's an opportunity to show you've still got it.

Steve Spurrier vs. Florida: 5-5
Nick Saban vs. LSU: 11-4
Chip Kelly vs. Oregon: 0-2

As the Los Angeles Times writes:

This is Chip Kelly’s chance to blur his way to a new path against his old team.

Want to be known for more than what you did at Oregon? Beat Oregon.

Want to erase the rancid taste of those NFL failures? Beat Oregon.

Want to make fans stop pointing to that historically horrid start at UCLA? Beat Oregon.

This is game is a reckoning of sorts for Chip. Not in the sense that he'll be on the hot seat with a loss, but in that a win means, for the first time in 10 seasons, he's built a team to be reckoned with in college football.

“We have a responsibility to the young kids of the world to show them what a great game this is,” Kelly said, “and that’s our responsibility to put on a good show against a really good Oregon team.”

A chance at ACC supremacy for.... Pitt? Quick, how many outright conference championships does Pitt own in its storied football history? The correct answer is zero.

It's somewhat of a trick question given this program, one that claims a whopping nine national titles, played an independent schedule through 1990. But, still. That's 30 years in the Big East and ACC, and all they've got to show for it are co-Big East titles in 2004 and 2010 and a 2018 ACC Coastal championship. Since joining the Big East in 1991, the Panthers have completed all of three seasons ranked in the AP Top 25.

And so here they strut into a game, ranked No. 23 in the AP poll, as the favorite against unranked and 6-time defending ACC champion Clemson. 

That distinction is earned, of course. 

Pitt QB Kenny Pickett is perhaps the most improved player in the country. In his fifth college season, the Oakhurst, N.J., native has figured it out, rocketing from 67th nationally in passing efficiency to third thus far this season. He hits nearly 70 percent of his passes for 9.4 a pop with 21 touchdowns against just one pick. Of the 22 quarterbacks with one or zero interceptions, none have thrown more passes (205) or touchdowns (21) than Pickett. 

Meanwhile, Clemson's passing game has fallen off a cliff. DJ Uiagaleilei doesn't rate among the nation's 100 most efficient passers, averaging just 5.6 yards per attempts with four touchdowns over 174 attempts. 

Pitt can all but end the Tigers' bid for seven straight conference crowns Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). A loss drops Dabo Swinney's team to 3-2 in conference play, needing three NC State losses to pass the Wolfpack in the loss column, while a win lifts Pat Narduzzi's team to 3-0 and essentially two games ahead in the ACC Coastal. 

It was just 11 months ago these same teams played to a 52-17 Clemson win. Of course, these aren't the same teams at all.

New eras, different circumstances. It's rare to see a head coach fired in mid-October, even more rare to see two.

LSU fired Ed Orgeron for performance, and on Saturday visits No. 12 Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) for the first game of the post-Orgeron era led by... Ed Orgeron.

The irony here is turned up to 11. Fired after a win, against the only other school to hire him as a full-time head coach, now led by one of his best friends in coaching. 

"Sometimes it's like that, best friends, sometimes it's coach to coach," Orgeron said. "It all depends. We do have the utmost respect for each other and we do know each other's strengths and weaknesses and we've kind of fed off of it when we coached together.

Washington State fired Nick Rolovich for something entirely unrelated to performance, and on Saturday hosts BYU (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1) led by defensive coordinator Jake Dickert. 

Rolovich won his final three games as Wazzu's head coach, and Dickert plans to let it all hang out. 

“From a coaching standpoint, an X’s and O’s standpoint, we’re going to give our guys an opportunity to do what they do best," he said. "I believe we’re one of the most explosive offenses out there, and they’re playing with great confidence. Defensively, I think our staple is playing hard, playing fast and playing together. Those would be the principles we’ll rely on come Saturday.”

A defensive battle in the Big 12. Remember a couple weeks ago, when it seemed like the race for the Big 12 title might be different? Texas was scoring on anyone and everyone and OU forgot how to move the ball. Now we know better.

It's the same as it ever was: Oklahoma leads the chase with an explosive offense, Texas is out of it, and a host of contenders strain to keep up.

Three teams below OU all control their own destiny to reach Arlington, and all three happen to field the top defenses in the conference.

CategoryIowa StateOklahoma StateBaylor

Total D (Big 12 rank)

250.3 (1st)

307.2 (2nd)

333.3 (3rd)

Yards Per Play

4.37 (1st)

4.70 (2nd)

5.02 (3rd)

Pass Efficiency D

122.28 (3rd)

111.96 (1st)

118.50 (2nd)

Scoring Defense

16.3 (1st)

19.5 (3rd)

18.7 (2nd)

3rd Down D

35.80% (3rd)

28.74% (1st)

31.00% (2nd)

No. 8 Oklahoma State's visit to Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox) kicks off the round-robin between the four remaining contenders for the Big 12 title (or, if we're going to be on the level, the three remaining contenders to lose to Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.)

I'm extremely nervous for every NC State fan right now. NC State hasn't won the ACC since 1979, which isn't the longest drought in the Power 5 but is probably the longest drought among programs that actually have a prayer of winning a Power 5 conference.

Eleven of the ACC's 14 teams have reached the conference's championship game, NC State is one of the other three. Among the other two, Louisville hasn't been in the league as long as NC State, and Syracuse at least has a Big East title, an Orange Bowl berth, and a basketball national title to cherish within the last 25 years. When you combine the litter of hardwood titles UNC and Duke have won.... yeah. NC State fans will tell you no one would have their magical run to a baseball title derailed by COVID-19 other than NC State.

I don't know if NC State's fan base most resembles the pre-2004 Red Sox in all of college sports, but they've got to be close.

When his Wolfpack blew the Clemson game, then came back and won, even Dave Doeren acknowledged the elephant in the room. "The curse is broken, NC State fans," he said following that 27-21 double OT win on Sept. 25. They've won both games since then.

All this winning does is up the emotional ante. NC State is in the thick of the most wide-open ACC title hunt since, well, maybe ever. Maybe this is the year the Pack break through, or maybe fate is devising new and unusual ways to crush the Pack's soul. 

NC State has the opportunity to beat Miami (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for the first time since 2008, in what could be a series of firsts for the Wolfpack. 

Rapid Fire: 

-- No. 14 Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, ESPN2): The only team to ever win the SBC title game (App State) takes on the top team in the conference. The winner of the SBC East will likely be the winner of this game. 

-- Florida Atlantic at Charlotte (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, CBS Sports Network): The winner will be in first in the C-USA East, but win or lose both ADs and presidents will high five at midfield after the game whilst shouting "The American!!! Can you believe it?!?!?!" until the stadium grounds grew folks switch the lights off.  

-- Colorado State at Utah State (9:30 p.m. ET Friday, CBS Sports Network): The winner remains on pace to win the MW Mountain, the loser will need help. 

-- Northwestern at No. 6 Michigan (noon ET, Fox): The only thing standing between us and possibly the biggest Michigan-Michigan State game ever is the 3-3 Northwestern Wildcats... who would play for the Big Ten championship if they win out.

-- No. 3 Oklahoma at Kansas (noon ET, ESPN): The last time Oklahoma lost to Kansas: 2000. The last time Oklahoma scored less than 41 points against Kansas: 2013. 

-- No. 16 Wake Forest at Army (noon ET, CBS Sports Network): Wake is 6-0 and equals the best start in school history (7-0, 1944) with a W here. 

-- Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Arkansas (noon ET, SEC Network): Not only is this Arkanasas' first game against UAPB, it's the Hogs' first time sharing the field with any Arkansas school since facing Arkansas-Monticello in 1944. 

-- Northern Illinois at Central Michigan (noon ET, ESPNU): The winner will sit in first place in the MAC West. 

-- UMass at Florida State (noon ET, ACC Network): Walt Bell takes on his old team, looking to give the Minutemen their first 2-game winning streak since 2018. UMass has never beaten a Power 5 team before, and this is quite a scheduling coincidence because Florida State happens to be the Power 5 team that can least afford a loss to UMass. 

-- Syracuse at Virginia Tech (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): The Cuse have played four straight games decided by exactly three points, winning the first before losing the last three. Anyone care to make it five? 

-- Texas State at Georgia State (2 p.m. ET, ESPN+): The winner remains in the Sun Belt title race. The loser will be 2-5. 

-- Miami (Ohio) at Ball State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+): A fight to remain in the MAC title race for both teams. 

-- East Carolina at Houston (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU): This is the game before the biggest game of the Holgo era. Undefeated SMU comes to H-Town next week for what can be a battle for a share of first place in the AAC, so long as the Cougars beat the Pirates.

-- Tennessee at No. 4 Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Josh Heupel will be the sixth Tennessee head coach to try to earn the program's first win against Nick Saban on the Third Saturday in October. Saban went 2-0 against Phillip Fulmer, 1-0 against Lane Kiffin, 3-0 against Derek Dooley, 5-0 against Butch Jones and 3-0 against Jeremy Pruitt. The number of those 14 games played within 14 points? Two.

-- No. 22 San Diego State at Air Force (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): Air Force needs to win to keep pace in the MW Mountain, and SDSU needs to win to keep pace in the MW West. We can't quite say this is a MW Championship preview, but it might be.

-- Nevada at Fresno State (7 p.m. ET, FS2): Nevada puts its 2-0 start in MW play on the line against 2-1 Fresno State. 

-- No. 5 Ohio State at Indiana (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC): Indiana is better than its 2-4 record, and a week from now we'll likely be saying IU is better than its 2-5 record. The Hoosiers scored back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes in 1987-88... and those happen to be their only wins over the Buckeyes since 1952. 

-- USC at No. 13 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC): Remember when USC dominated this rivalry, taking eight straight from 2002-09? Brian Kelly is 7-3 against the Trojans, and a win would give him four straight, ND's longest streak since ripping off 11 in a row from 1983-93.