Out with the neutral sites, in with the home-and-homes and conference schedules. Last week went largely according to expectations – for all of the excitement about Florida State against Alabama, it turned out to be a grind to an Alabama victory. Other games, however, were far more exciting, particularly Texas A&M losing to UCLA after giving up a 34 point lead, and Tennessee beating Georgia Tech in triple overtime.
Most notable when looking at this Saturday is the upset potential. Last week saw only a handful of upsets among major programs, with the most significant perhaps being Maryland beating Texas (Cal over North Carolina, and South Carolina over NC State being the other two among power conferences). However, the games this week are between teams much more highly ranked, and much more closely ranked. One bad turnover, or one blocked kick, could be all it takes for any of the favorites to fall.
Oklahoma at Ohio State, 7:30 PM on ABC
In the second and final installment of a home-and-home, the seventh-ranked Oklahoma Sooners visit Columbus to face the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, a matchup the Buckeyes won convincingly in Norman last season. The Buckeyes, however, were humbled the last time they were on a national stage, failing to score at all in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff against the eventual champions, the Clemson Tigers. The Buckeyes also started slowly last week, before pulling away from the Indiana Hoosiers in the fourth quarter behind a breakout performance from true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins and the arm of fifth-year senior J.T. Barrett. The Sooners also boast a fifth-year senior star at quarterback in Baker Mayfield, a Heisman frontrunner and accurate passer, completing 19 out of his 20 attempts in a romp over UTEP last week.
– Joey Longley, 2L
Auburn at Clemson, 7 PM on ESPN
Last year’s champion faces off against one of this year’s hopefuls in what is probably the second biggest game of the week. Though many of their players left for the draft since last season, Clemson appears to have replenished their team very well. Auburn, on the other hand, has a stellar defense. Both teams have the potential to win it all, though Auburn has to go through the SEC West to do it. A bad loss here could make a big difference in the quality of bowl game each team receives.
Iowa at Iowa State, 12 PM on ESPN2
The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy (presented by Iowa corn) is this Saturday as the University of Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Ames to face the Iowa State Cyclones, a rivalry that started in 1884. Iowa State is looking to get revenge for last year’s 42-3 loss in Iowa City. Both teams enter the contest 1-0 and are looking to build momentum before conference play begins in two weeks. Iowa is led by preseason all-American candidate at linebacker, Josey Jewell. Jewell was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1 after recording 14 tackles and 2 sacks in the win against Wyoming. Rivalry games are notoriously difficult to predict, but Iowa has too much talent on defense, and Iowa’s young offense will take advantage of good field position to get a rhythm going. Expect a similar result as last year.
– Eric Herst, 2L
Fresno State at Alabama, 3:30 PM on ESPN2
Every year since the creation of the new playoff system, we ask, “will a G5 team make the playoffs?” After watching Boise State get consistently kept out of BCS title games, the four-team playoff does not seem much better for underdogs. Unfortunately, because they play in weaker conferences, their strength of schedule leaves much to be desired. If any team can do it this year, however, it is Fresno State. Playing two of last year’s playoff teams on the road, Alabama this week, followed by Washington next week, an undefeated Fresno State has a not insignificant shot at going all of the way this year. Will it happen? Almost certainly not; Alabama crushed Florida State, a significantly better team than Fresno State, just one week ago, and to call their Washington game an uphill battle will be an understatement. But it’s fun to gaze through the window, however narrow it may be, before it closes for the year.
Stanford at USC, 8:30 PM on Fox
No game seems more likely to result an upset than this one. On paper, USC is the better team, having had much more success to finish out their last season than Stanford. However, USC struggled in their victory over Western Michigan, widely considered an inferior team. Stanford comes off a bye week and into one of their biggest games of the season. This game has the potential to define the balance of power in the Pac-12.