There is no preseason in college football, but September effectively functioned as such. The first five weeks of the season saw only nine games pitting ranked teams against each other, and six of those were over and done with by Sept. 6. That’s… not good.
Thankfully, it changes Saturday.
The number will double on Saturday alone, as half the top 25 will be locked into ranked vs. ranked death matches:
- No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississipi State (noon ET, ESPN)
- No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
- No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
- No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
- No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
- No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Three of those games pit undefeated teams against each other, and the only three teams that have suffered defeats (Stanford, LSU, Michigan State) lost to other ranked opponents.
Check out that 3:30 p.m. ET time slot. Ranked vs. ranked teams going on CBS, FOX and NBC, plus Wake Forest at No. 1 Florida State or No. 7 Baylor at Texas on ABC, depending on which side of the country you live. I’m not sure how often all four major broadcast networks have had games going simultaneously, but I am sure of this: 1) It hasn’t happened often, and 2) No other sport can offer that kind of broadcast domination.
The games above offer what has to be the most-action packed day the SEC West has ever offered, including the biggest day of college football in the state of Mississippi since Archie Manning was in Oxford, plus Stanford’s impenetrable defense vs. Everett Golson, plus Gary Patterson matching wits with Bob Stoops and TCU’s new offense against Oklahoma’s improved defense, plus Pat Narduzzi and Mark Dantonio taking aim at Ameer Abdullah.
That’s one heck of an all-day buffet, but here’s a nice snack menu to sprinkle in around meal time.
– Arizona at No. 2 Oregon (10:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN): The lone undefeated vs. undefeated game that does not fall in the Top 25 umbrella. I don’t know if Arizona has the horses on defense to keep up with the Ducks, but Anu Solomon and the Wildcats’ wide receivers should make things interesting.
– No. 20 Ohio State at Maryland (noon ET, ABC): It may be the biggest home game in Maryland history, including the Terps’ first sellout since 2008. Meanwhile, it’s just another Big Ten game for Ohio State.
– SMU at No. 22 East Carolina (noon ET, ESPNU): SMU has been outscored 202-12, and hasn’t had to hop on an airplane yet this season. East Carolina dropped 70 on North Carolina. Yeah.
– Florida at Tennessee (noon ET, SEC Network): The downside, this is a hard fall from the de facto SEC East title game Florida-Tennessee essentially was for so many years. The upside, while CBS and ESPN had no interest, the folks at the SEC Network are certainly thrilled to get Gators-Vols. Oh, and it should be a fascinating game.
– Purdue at Illinois (noon ET, ESPN2): This is certainly a college football game that is happening Saturday.
– Virginia Tech at North Carolina (12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network): Two clubs that appeared in the Top 25 and quickly evaporated from the rankings desperately hoping the yank the wheel back in the middle of the road.
– Massachusetts at Miami (Ohio) (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Interesting only because both clubs are 0-5 and the team on the opposite sideline may represent their best shot at victory this season.
– N.C. State at Clemson (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Interesting consolation game for two teams that allowed their fans a taste of what it may feel like to knock off Florida State, but didn’t.
– Northwestern at No. 17 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Northwestern held Penn State to 50 rushing yards on 25 carries a week ago. Melvin Gordon averages 50 yards every seven carries. Let’s see which number holds up.
– Oregon State at Colorado (4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network): Colorado ranks 18th nationally in passing, but only 61st in passing efficiency. Oregon State is ninth in pass efficiency defense.
– Kansas at West Virginia (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net): Dana Holgorsen said last month that the tape of last year’s loss to Kansas “makes me want to puke.” I’d expect a good effort from WVU. I’m also interested to see what type of effort the Jayhawks offer in Game 1 of the Post-Weis era, and Game 1 of Clint Bowen’s audition for a job he would very much like to keep.
– Texas Tech at No. 23 Kansas State (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Kansas State has the Big 12’s most proven run defense, and Texas Tech has a terrible habit of being outrushed badly by Big 12 opponents. The end result didn’t look pretty, but the Red Raiders made progress in their loss to Oklahoma State. I’ll be interested to see if that continues.
– Michigan at Rutgers (7 p.m. ET, BTN): The Wolverines are underdogs in Piscataway. If buzzards could rate college football games, this would be the Week 6 game circled on their calendar.
– Memphis at Cincinnati (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): Perhaps the American’s best offense against perhaps the American’s best defense in a game that could have New Year’s Day bowl implications.
– Arizona State at No. 16 USC (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX): This is an elimination game for the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 South race, while a win could put USC in the driver’s seat considering Arizona and UCLA have to deal with Oregon in the next two weeks.
– Miami at Georgia Tech (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2): This is a crucial game for both coaches in the sense that a loss will sting more than a win will boost them.
– Pittsburgh at Virginia (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): See above.
– South Carolina at Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network): I think Kentucky has a real chance to win this game, and wrote as such yesterday.
– Utah at No. 8 UCLA (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Last week’s collapse from a 21-0 lead into a 28-27 loss at home versus Washington State was a haunting blow for a Utah program looking to take a step forward. How will they respond against a monumentally better opponent?
– Boise State at Nevada (10:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): I have no idea how to peg the Mountain West race, but it feels like this could be a Mountain West Championship preview. But then again, Boise State – BOISE STATE! – will be 1-2 in MW play with a loss.
– California at Washington State (10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network): It’s too bad no one will be able to see this game, because I couldn’t think of a more perfect nightcap. One thousand passing yards and 120 combined points are a real possibility.
Fifty-seven games dot the schedule from Thursday night to early Sunday morning, and we managed to fit in 29 of them here.
If there was ever a Saturday to ignore your family in service to college football, this is it.