1. How good is the Big 12 really? The Big 12 plays seven games against Power Five opponents on Saturday, a conference record according to David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest, and the number stretches to eight by next Saturday as Kansas State hosts Auburn next Thursday. A ninth school, Oklahoma State, does not count toward that number but still challenges itself with a UTSA team that proved to be a pit of rattlesnakes against Houston and Arizona. Only Baylor has taken what amounts to a working bye this week with a road trip to Buffalo on Friday night, a game that counts as its toughest non-conference game of the season. The Big 12 is a heavy favorite in one of those games, Tennessee at Oklahoma, a heavy underdog in two others, Kansas at Duke and Iowa State at Iowa, and the others are all toss up of varying degrees. The Big Ten has afforded the Big 12 an opportunity. Now what can it do with it?
2. Can Kyle Flood change the narrative? Flood won nine of his first 10 games as Rutgers’ head coach. He then lost 10 of his next 16. Not coincidentally, the schedule has gotten much more difficult since then. Heading into this season, Flood was 13-1 against non-bowl opponents, and 2-10 against bowl-bound opponents. His two wins this season – over Washington State and Howard – appear to belong to the first bucket. A new conference, a three-win drop from Year 1 to Year 2, and a gloomy prediction for Year 3, well, you do the math. But a win over Penn State, at home, in prime time, against a regional rival, in the first Big Ten game in school history, can turn that narrative around in a hurry.
3. Is Georgia our first bona-fide Playoff front-runner? This tweet pretty much says it all:
Georgia hasn’t scored 20 or more at Williams-Brice in 20 years. Spurrier: “Well, we didn’t think A&M was going to roll up 52 on us, either.”
— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) September 9, 2014
Williams Brice Stadium has been a house of horrors for Georgia recently, especially on offense. But South Carolina’s pass defense has been, as the Head Ball Coach would call it, embarrassing. The Gamecocks rank 126th out of 127 nationally in pass defense with 832 yards allowed, and 100th in yards per attempt allowed. Hutson Mason won’t light up the South Carolina back seven like human Roman candles like Kenny Hill and Shane Carden did, but he doesn’t need to. Just give Todd Gurley enough room to rumble and watch the carnage. The schedule opens up here for the Bulldogs, as much as any SEC schedule can, with only one ranked opponent between Sunday and No. 5 Auburn’s visit to Athens on Nov. 15.
4. Can Mike London keep his strong start going? It’s not a secret Mike London is probably coaching for his job after last season’s 2-10 campaign. To his credit, London coached that way against UCLA, limiting the Bruins’ esteemed offense to one touchdown and only three yards per carry. The Cavaliers took care of business against Richmond last week, but it’ll take another UCLA-like effort at home versus Louisville on Saturday. This week will teach us a lot about whether the Cavs-pushing-around-the-Bruins surprise spoke more about Virginia’s resurgence or UCLA’s regression.
5. Can Wake Forest fire whoever is in charge of its football scheduling? What are you doing? Going to Louisiana-Monroe AND Utah State in the same month? You’re in the ACC! They come to you! After this highly risky and unnecessary road trip, Wake Forest hosts Army, and then travels to Louisville and Florida State in back to back weeks. Yeesh.