ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD
Week 10 will be the first football of the season played in November. Essentially, the college football regular season is almost over as soon as it began. So, it seems.
Fans of Big Ten football will also remember that this is the part of the season when the wheat will be separated from the chaff in the Big Ten's Legends Division. I don't think fans expected Northwestern to face-plant as hard as it has since conference play started, but this is the part of the schedule when Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Northwestern all play each other. It starts this week when Michigan visits Michigan State, and Northwestern travels to Nebraska.
Elsewhere, there are three matchups featuring two ranked teams. One of them is the aforementioned game between Michigan and Michigan State. The other is a contest between Texas Tech and Oklahoma State that may not get much attention. The big game of the week is Miami's visit to Florida State in a battle of unbeatens. That game is getting ESPN's College GameDay.
Meanwhile, Ohio State plays Purdue. This week's TV Guide cover profiles George Peppard, whose acting credits are highlighted by reference to a co-starring role alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I think most people know him as a Hannibal from The A-Team. Both were fine roles. Peppard was a student at Purdue University before transferring to Carnegie Institute of Technology. He's about as good as it gets for a Purdue-centric TV Guide subject.
Here is your schedule for this weekend.
Midweek college football is Wednesday this week, as opposed to the customary Tuesday game. Cincinnati played at Memphis in what is apparently an American Athletics Conference game. I had to look it up. It feels like an old Conference-USA game from ten years ago, probably because it was.
Cincinnati won this game, though not necessarily in a convincing fashion. The Bearcats ultimately put away the Tigers, 34-21.
South Florida @ Houston (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.). If you look options on Thursday night, you'll have them tonight. You, the viewer, will have your choice of four college football games tonight, in addition to the Bengals-Dolphins game on the NFL Network. It starts with the game pitting South Florida at Houston. This is another American Athletics Conference game. I had to look it up.
Houston was one of the last unbeatens standing in the country until it fell two weeks ago in a nailbiter to Brigham Young. Fortunately for Houston, though, Brigham Young is independent. Houston still has a flawless 3-0 record in conference play, along with Central Florida. Houston plays at Central Florida next week.
Meanwhile, South Florida is still terrible. Expect Houston to win big tonight, setting up that 7 p.m. clash in Orlando next Saturday.
Your other options among the 7:30 p.m. kickoffs are Rice at North Texas (FOX Sports 1), and Louisiana-Monroe at Troy (ESPNU).
Arizona State @ Washington State (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.). Ohio State fans on the East Coast who are willing to stay awake past midnight on a weekday for college football may want to give this game a look. I'm sure, by now, every Ohio State fan is keenly aware how much the computer rankings that are part of the BCS hate Ohio State. They weirdly love Arizona State, though.
As for me, I just don't see it. I don't discount that Arizona State has some nice pieces on its squad, and is otherwise competitive. Still, I just don't see it. Arizona State seems to be the case in point for why the Pac-12 is apparently so good this year (and not just why Oregon and Stanford are good). However, that same team that serves as the Pac-12's case in point in the computers is one hosed call against Wisconsin removed from being 4-3 on the season.
USC @ Oregon State (ESPN 9 p.m.). USC and Oregon State play on a Friday night, in what is otherwise a six-day turnaround from their last games. Last Saturday, USC beat Utah and Oregon State lost to Stanford in Corvallis. Such a turnaround for Oregon State after a loss may be particularly rough.
If anyone cared about USC football anymore, mentioning that the Trojans are zero for their last three in Corvallis might be something interesting to discuss. In fact, USC's last win in Corvallis, in 2004's national championship* season, was just a 28-20 victory. I don't know what it is about Corvallis that gives USC football the heebie-jeebies.
Ohio State @ Purdue (Big Ten Network, 12 p.m.). Your personal game of the week is bright and early on noon. Make sure to stay tuned to Eleven Warriors for further coverage of this game in anticipation of kickoff in West Lafayette.
Wisconsin @ Iowa (ABC/ESPN2, 12 p.m.). I'm torn between rooting for Iowa or for Wisconsin in this game. Is it the case that we want Wisconsin to win out going forward? If so, that should help our BCS bona fides. I think we're ride-or-die with Wisconsin at this point. The Badgers are the only quality team we've beaten to this point in the season. Unless Michigan State wins the remainder of its games to secure a spot in Indianapolis, and thereafter loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin is basically our resume.
That said, giving ourselves a margin of error in the Leaders Division is also appealing. Indiana still worries me a bit, as weird as it is to say that. Indiana is an idiotic, error-prone team that could otherwise hang 28 points on our defense. If we screw that up, and then lose at Michigan, that vaults Wisconsin to Indianapolis over us. Right now, Wisconsin needs to win out and for us to lose two conference games.
Wisconsin steps out of conference play next week to host Brigham Young. If it loses that game, I'm going to be really furious at Wisconsin.
Virginia Tech @ Boston College (ABC/ESPN2, 12 p.m.). Poor Virginia Tech. Losing to Duke, and all.
That said, the Hokies are still in a good position to make it to the ACC Championship Game, wherever that game is this year. I think it's in a weed-infested field next to a BI-LO's in Greensboro, or something. Don't quote me on that. However, Virginia Tech can't drop this game. It plays at Miami next week, which will effectively be the Coastal Division Championship Game.
I had to look up what division in which both Miami and Virginia Tech play.
Illinois @ Penn State (ESPN, 12 p.m.). The past few weeks have not been kind to either program.
At least Penn State has that four-overtime win against Michigan, though it promptly followed that with a beatdown at the hands of Ohio State. That said, Penn State may be regressing toward the mean, even if we attribute much of the problem to the scholarship crunch momentarily imposed on the program by the NCAA. Penn State is 4-3 on the season, and just 1-2 in conference play.
Meanwhile, things were going relatively well for Illinois after a 3-1 non-conference schedule in which it routed a projected 10-win Cincinnati team, and was also competitive in a loss to decent-to-good Washington team. Then, September became October and the wheels have fallen off the Beckman wagon again. Tim Beckman is still searching for his first Big Ten win in what will be his 12th try.
For those that may remember, Illinois' last trip to Penn State was in 2011. This was the same weekend as Ohio State's thrilling win over Wisconsin on a Braxton Miller hail mary. It was also Joe Paterno's last game in what was supposed to be a record-breaking 409th win. Then, all hell broke loose. And, well...
Army @ Air Force (ESPNU, 12 p.m.). You won't be watching this game, but, briefly, Air Force has dropped every game this season after its Week 1 win against Colgate. Most haven't been close either. Expect Army to win this, setting up a clash between Army and Navy in December for the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.
Clemson @ Virginia (ESPN, 3:30 p.m.). Clemson is still the no. 8 team in the country, and still is contractually obligated to play football. However, its season is still effectively over. The Tigers' schedule was designed to have two great teams to begin and end the season (Georgia, South Carolina), with one great game in the middle (Florida State), and total crap everywhere else on the schedule. It bombed the midterm in spectacular fashion. What's left is to play fun teams like Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Citadel before traveling to Columbia to end the season.
Michigan @ Michigan State (ABC, 3:30 p.m.). Did anyone think Michigan State would be the favorite in this contest when we looked at this game in the preseason? I thought it was possible, but didn't think the trajectories of both teams would go this way.
Alas, that's where Michigan is this season. Even at 6-1 on the season, something feels wrong about this squad. Its limp victories over Akron and at Connecticut, and the acid trip against Indiana, make the Wolverines look surprisingly feeble. It's to the point where Drew Sharp asked, out loud, if Michigan can match Michigan State's "toughness". Did not see that one coming.
While scratching my head at this year's Michigan squad may have been something I should have anticipated, it's hard to have anticipated Michigan State looking so competent by November. Those uninspiring wins against Western Michigan and South Florida are in the rearview mirror.
Minus a tough go against Notre Dame, when the refs on call for the game almost legislated out Michigan State's ability to play defense, the Spartans are just killing teams. It has won its last three contests by a combined score of 98-31. Questions about Michigan State's offense haven't been completely answered yet, but Michigan State's defense is the best in the league, and it's not even close.
Navy @ Notre Dame (NBC, 3:30 p.m.). Notre Dame had its chance to keep afloat in the BCS picture, but two losses on the season (at Michigan, vs. Oklahoma) has Notre Dame solidly on the fringe of the top-25 BCS teams. So, you don't have to care about the Irish this year. That's a relief.
Georgia vs. Florida (CBS, 3:30 p.m.). Speaking of not having to care about a team, how uninteresting did this game get in a hurry? In what was supposed to be a possible de facto SEC East Championship game, or possible coronation for Georgia, has devolved into a game between two 4-3 teams with rosters largely lost to injury.
Minnesota @ Indiana, or Northwestern @ Nebraska (Big Ten Network, 3:30 p.m.). Thanks to Nebraska's loss in the Twin Cities last week, none of these games have much intrigue. Nebraska is still in the Legends Division race with just the one conference loss on the season, but that's as much as anyone can say about all four teams in the Big Ten Network's 3:30 p.m. slot. Everyone else is at least two games removed from the top of the division. Whoever loses the Indiana-Minnesota contest is effectively eliminated from their respective division's race.
Auburn @ Arkansas (ESPN2, 6 p.m.). I'm trying to conjure some reasons why you should care about this game. I always felt this was the least interesting series in the SEC West.
For one, Auburn's no joke this year and it's turnaround from last year has been immeasurably grand. At 315 rushing yards a contest, Auburn's clearly the best rushing team in the best conference in college football. The manner by which it beat Texas A&M two weeks ago speaks well of the Tigers this season. That season-ending clash against Alabama could decide who goes to Atlanta, if the game were played today.
Also, our old friend Bert is not making friends in the SEC. The latest target of his antipathy is Auburn's Gus Malzahn, who he has accused of doctoring game tape. After Auburn wins by 28 points, wait for the post-game handshake to see what that looks like.
A (likely) loss for Arkansas drops the Razorbacks to 3-6 in Bert's first year in Fayetteville. It still has to play at Ole Miss, and at Louisiana State.
Tennessee @ Missouri (ESPN, 7 p.m.). I know I keep mentioning this, but the Big Ten needs to allow November night games to compete with games like this. You can't convince me Nebraska-Northwestern, or Michigan-Michigan State couldn't bump one or both of these SEC games on ESPN/ESPN2 from its slot.
If not for the proverbial iron unkind, this game is almost a coronation ceremony for Missouri. It would have eliminated South Carolina, and whoever loses the Florida-Georgia contest earlier in the day. A (likely) victory next week at lowly Kentucky eliminates the rest and sends Missouri to the SEC Championship Game in only its second year in the league.
Alas, it won't be that easy going forward. Whoever loses the Florida-Georgia game is still eliminated. However, Missouri's final two games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M look a little more interesting right now than they did early in the fourth quarter of the game last week against South Carolina.
Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech (FOX, 7 p.m.). Both of these teams are ranked, and it's only the second of three games to feature two ranked teams. However, is anyone watching the Big XII at this point? I didn't think the Big XII would be the conference to almost eliminate itself from the BCS picture first. Yeah, Baylor is still undefeated, but I'm waiting for that shoe to drop shortly.
Pittsburgh @ Georgia Tech (ESPNU, 7 p.m.). I'm struggling to think of an alternate universe that may exist where a game between these two programs is interesting.
Miami @ Florida State (ABC, 8 p.m.). This is your national game of the week.
To be honest, I'm expecting a game that closely resembles what Florida State did to Clemson in Clemson's own house. I feel Miami is the same paper tiger that Clemson was, and that was still apparent to me after watching Clemson beat Georgia. The manner by which Miami has recently defeated North Carolina and Wake Forest does not lend confidence in its ability to do the same against Florida State in Tallahassee.
ESPN's College GameDay, which is on site at Florida State, will do its best to hype the contest, and Brent Musburger will assure us we are looking LIVE at Doak Campbell Stadium. Still, there's only so much enthusiasm one can muster for a game that ends something like 48-13 in favor of the home team.
But, if Florida State wants to do some "Florida State-ing" (HT: Rece Davis) for us, that's fine too.
UTEP @ Texas A&M (ESPN2, 9 p.m.). Yeah, okay.