After last week’s (admittedly poorly thought out) preview of canceled games, we return to real, actual, football games you can watch this weekend. What defines this week, compared to so many others, is the upset potential dynamic at work here. Three of the games featured here involve very interesting teams which will probably lose. Whether the result of a dynamic new head coach, a slow, steady climb up the division ranks, or by being Iowa, these teams have carved out a unique spot in the college football landscape for themselves in this season. Though each team is individually likely to lose, the chance that one of them pulls off a dramatic upset is relatively high. These are games worth looking forward to.
Michigan at Purdue, 4 p.m. Saturday, FOX
One of the highlights in Big Team football this weekend will be watching what happens as the 3-0 Michigan Wolverines head down to Ross-Ade Stadium to take on the 2-1 Purdue Boilermakers. The last time Michigan and Purdue met in 2012, the Wolverines dominated with a 44-13 victory. Heading into the season, one would have been reasonable in predicting a similar outcome again this year. The Wolverines’ current undefeated season comes on the heels of two successful seasons at 10-3 each under Coach Jim Harbaugh, culminating in the narrowest of losses last year at the Orange Bowl. The Boilermakers have not fared as well in recent years, having gone 9-40 over the last three seasons. However, under the direction of a new coach, Jeff Brohm, the Boilermakers have come onto the field with a burst of creativity and reinvigoration, that’s not only been fun to watch, but highly successful. The Boilermakers achieved surprise blowout wins over both Missouri and Ohio. The predicted sellout game this weekend will be a chance to see if the Boilermakers have enough tricks left up their sleeves to topple yet another Big Ten opponent.
– Mark Satta, 2L
TCU at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
The battle for second place in the Big 12 may be decided here. With Oklahoma the presumptive champion (though either one of these teams could topple the Sooners with enough luck), this matchup will probably define bowl prestige for these two teams. Oklahoma State is the favorite in this game, with dynamic quarterback Mason Rudolph, but TCU bounced back from last season’s disappointment with a strong win over Arkansas. TCU has what it takes to pull off an upset. The only question is: will they?
Penn State at Iowa, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC
In a battle of undefeated Big Ten teams, the fourth ranked reigning league champions Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Iowa City to face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Penn State is led by two Heisman hopefuls on offense, quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. Both teams might be undefeated, but Vegas does not expect this to be a close game. The visiting Lions are favored by 13.5 points. One should never count out the Hawkeyes at home though, last year an unranked Iowa team stunned then #2 Michigan at historic Kinnick Stadium. In addition, Iowa has a strong history of playing up to competition at home. Since 2006, Iowa is 3-0 against top five teams at Kinnick. That includes last year’s victory against Michigan and a win against #3 Penn State in 2008. All streaks must end though – Penn State has too much firepower on offense and Iowa is still breaking in a new quarterback and offensive coordinator. A closer than expected contest ends with the Lions pulling away in the fourth.
– Eric Herst, 2L
Alabama at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS
This game features the nation’s top defense as measured by both yards (198.3) and points (4.3) allowed. But it’s not who you think: that defense belongs to Vanderbilt. On the other side, Alabama’s defense has been on a downward trend since a dominating opening performance against Florida State. After giving up 391 yards and 23 points to Colorado State last week, defensive leader Shaun Dion Hamilton called a “come-to-Jesus” meeting. We’ll get to see the strength of that conversion this weekend as the Crimson Tide face the SEC’s top-rated passer in Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur. So will Vanderbilt beat Alabama for the first time since Reagan’s first term? Not likely. Expect two strong defensive performances with Alabama winning in a comfortable, but not dominating, fashion.
– Matthew Burton, 3L