The middle of October is a regrettable lull for the college football schedule. Indeed, there's a sad trend this weekend in which there are no games between ranked programs. It's so barren on the FBS side of things that the ESPN College GameDay crew is heading to Harrisonburg, VA to talk up the James Madison Dukes as they prepare to host Villanova.
Friday night could steal the show as two top ten teams hit the road for big conference clashes. Clemson, still uncertain about its starting quarterback's angle, will be in the Carrier Dome to play a competitive Syracuse team. Washington State, darlings of college football after its upset of the Trojans, will be in Berkeley against a 3-3 Cal team that otherwise has wins at UNC and against Ole Miss on its record.
Let's dive into the schedule.
Texas State at Louisiana (ESPNU, 7:30 p.m.). Texas State, coached by former Ohio State defensive coordinator Everett Withers, enters Cajun Field with a 1-5 record and 14-point underdogs.
Clemson at Syracuse (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.). Friday night two weeks ago was arguably the best Friday night of college football ever. This week, Friday night might be the most intriguing day of college football. It starts with Clemson going to the Carrier Dome to play a tricky Syracuse squad. Clemson is favored big (-22.5), but it also was a huge favorite in 2015 and left the Carrier Dome with just a 37-27 win.
The major source of intrigue on Friday night concerns Clemson's starting quarterback. Bryan tweaked his ankle against Wake Forest and it's uncertain whether he plays on Friday night.
Washington State at California (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.). No. 8 Washington State, fresh off mauling Oregon in Eugene, hits the road again to play a California team whose fortunes are fading fast. The Golden Bears started 3-0 but have lost its three games since.
TCU at Kansas State (FS1, 12 p.m.). The No. 6 Horned Frogs outlasted West Virginia in Fort Worth last week. They'll be five-point favorites in the Little Apple on Saturday afternoon.
Michigan at Indiana (ABC, 12 p.m.). Michigan will need to find answers on the road in Bloomington after suffering its first loss last week against Sparty. The Wolverines are a full touchdown favorite on the road but nothing is easy against Indiana. The Hoosiers have played the Wolverines close in the last two games.
NC State at Pittsburgh (ACC Network, 12 p.m.). NC State is ranked after beating up Louisville last week. It'll be a comfortable favorite (-11) on the road against a hapless Pittsburgh team.
Florida State at Duke (ESPN2, 12 p.m.). Florida State's season ended before it started when Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending injury against Alabama. Subsequent losses to NC State and, last week, Miami have just added salt to the wound.
Rutgers at Illinois (BTN, 12 p.m.). The worst team in the B1G West hosts the worst team in the B1G East on BTN's noon time slot.
BYU at Mississippi State (SEC Network, 12 p.m.). Mississippi State has a fun non-conference tilt against BYU in mid-October. BYU won last year's game in Provo, 28-21 in overtime.
South Carolina at Tennessee (ESPN, 12 p.m.). Tennessee is still searching for its first conference win in the middle of October. It'll get an opportunity on Saturday afternoon for which it might be urgent to capitalize. A road trip to Tuscaloosa comes next for Butch Jones' beleaguered Volunteers.
Connecticut at Temple (ESPN News, 12 p.m.). It's here if you want it.
Purdue at Wisconsin (BTN, 3:30 p.m.). Purdue is 3-2 and Jeff Brohm's immediate turnaround of a moribund, near lifeless football program in West Lafayette makes him the certain coach of the year in the Big Ten. He could secure it for good, and even catapult the Boilermakers to the top of the B1G West with a win in Madison.
Auburn at LSU (CBS, 3:30 p.m.). CBS' game of the week is this Tigers-on-Tigers tilt that looks a lot different than what pundits may have anticipated in the preseason. Auburn is the rising star in the conference while LSU's star is falling fast. LSU managed to follow its inexplicable home loss to Troy with a road win over Florida, but that says more about Florida's missed opportunites than LSU's quality.
Meanwhile, Auburn is chugging along at 5-1 working toward an Iron Bowl clash with three-time-defending SEC champion Alabama. It'll be a touchdown favorite in Baton Rouge.
Georgia Tech at Miami (ABC, 3:30 p.m.). This was originally supposed to be Thursday night. It was later moved to Saturday afternoon to accommodate postponements as a result of Hurricane Irma.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (ESPN, 3:30 p.m.). It's time for the Red River Rivalry. This will be a unique encounter featuring two first-year coaches, and certainly two coaches with big futures ahead of them.
Oklahoma (-7.5) is favored but this game has unmistakably taken on a different complexion since Oklahoma's inexplicable home loss to Iowa State last week.
Baylor at Oklahoma State (FS1, 3:30 p.m.). The Big XII had higher hopes for this game when it first scheduled it for mid-October. No. 14 Oklahoma State has done its part with just the home loss to TCU on its record. Baylor, however, is looking for its first win this season.
Northwestern at Maryland (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.). Ohio State beat the brakes off Maryland last week. The Terrapins will be happy to host a Northwestern team that is still in search of its first conference win this season.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss (SEC Network, 3:30 p.m.). If you want an illustration of how most of the SEC is irrelevant, you may not appreciate that this a protected inter-division contest. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt play each other every year, but few people are likely to know and almost no one is assured to care.
This will be the first SEC win this year for someone. Both are a combined 0-5 in conference play.
Akron at Western Michigan (CBS Sports, 3:30 p.m.). Western Michigan just won a seven-overtime contest last week. Expect some fatigue on Saturday afternoon.
Navy at Memphis (ESPNU, 3:45 p.m.). Navy is ranked for the first time this season and will put that ranking on the line on the road against a Memphis team that has that UCLA win on its record. It also hung 70 points on Connecticut last week.
Houston at Tulsa (ESPN News, 4 p.m.). Houston scored an important win over a surging SMU team last week. It should fare well against a 1-5 Tulsa squad. Memphis comes next for Houston, though. These two weeks will sort out the American West standings in anticipation of that conference championship game.
Colorado at Oregon State (Pac-12 Network, 4 p.m.). Both teams are bad this year but Oregon State is "gently force your head coach to resign bad." The Cory Hall interim era begins in Corvallis on Saturday afternoon.
East Carolina at UCF (CBS Sports, 7 p.m.). Do yourself a favor and watch this for the 30 minutes before Ohio State kicks off. UCF is really good and might be my pick right now for the Group of Five invite to the New Year's Six.
Texas A&M at Florida (ESPN2, 7 p.m.). Both teams are bad. Texas A&M punched above its weight and played Alabama tough. Florida punched down against LSU, as it's done against every team it's played this season, and lost on a special teams miscue.
But, don't worry. Florida will be wearing... this... this monstrosity on Saturday night against the Aggies to make their fans feel better.
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) October 10, 2017
Arkansas at Alabama (ESPN, 7:15 p.m.). Is Bert in trouble in Fayetteville? I would think so but I don't know Arkansas' threshold for self-harm. South Carolina routed the Razorbacks in Columbia last week and Alabama promises to do similarly vile things to the Hogs on Saturday night.
That would drop the Razorbacks to 2-4 in 2017 with games still to play against Auburn (next week), at LSU, and against Mississippi State. That's bad, actually. It'd be one thing if this were an aberration but we're in the fifth year of the Bert experiment in Arkansas and it's not clear to me if the Razorbacks are any better now than when he first trotted onto campus.
When you're left asking yourself "do I remember Arkansas having an important win in the past five years or no?" you should be asking questions about the head coach's tenure.
Missouri at Georgia (SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.). Alabama is the SEC but Georgia has been playing phenomenal football. The Bulldogs won't have a problem against Missouri. It'll get a bye next week to rest some players who have injuries and prepare for the Gators in Jacksonville at the end of the month.
Ohio State at Nebraska (FS1, 7:30 p.m.). Ohio State hits the road as a big favorite against a Cornhuskers team taking on water. Stay tuned to Eleven Warriors for comprehensive coverage of this contest.
Cincinnati at South Florida (ESPNU, 7:30 p.m.). Cincinnati is riding a three-game skid. UCF just beat it by four touchdowns last week. This week, No. 18 South Florida promises to do similar damage.
Utah at USC (ABC, 8 p.m.). USC is a 12-point favorite at home. Whereas its only loss this season is against a Pac-12 North foe, the Trojans still control their own destiny.
This is true for Utah too. The Utes lost last week against Stanford from the Pac-12 North, its only loss on the season. If Utah wins, USC, a preseason playoff favorite with a Heisman favorite quarterback, is effectively barred from the playoff and the Pac-12 Championship Game in one fell swoop.
Michigan State at Minnesota (BTN, 8 p.m.). Michigan State has a swagger in its step after securing the Paul Bunyan Trophy last week. Confidence will be high against a Minnesota squad that's struggling to find its way in P.J. Fleck's first year.
UCLA at Arizona (Pac-12 Network, 9 p.m.). Like high-scoring games? Keep your eye on this one. The over/under is 79.5. UCLA is a one-point favorite.
Nevada at Colorado State (ESPN2, 10:15 p.m.). You have some late-night viewing options. None of them are terribly exciting. 4-2 Colorado State hosts 1-5 Nevada as 24.5-point favorites.
Boise State at San Diego State (CBS Sports, 10:30 p.m.). This would otherwise be a game of the year in the Mountain West and a potential preview of the Mountain West Championship Game. However, Boise State's two losses this season, prominently a home demolition by Virginia, reduces interest in what the Broncs are capable of doing this year.
Again, watch this game if for Rashaad Penny. Penny is in a race with Stanford's Bryce Love to lead the country in rushing.
Washington at Arizona State (ESPN, 10:45 p.m.). Todd Graham may have the quietest hot seat in the country as Arizona State's athletic department mulls a switch after the season. The 2-3 Sun Devils are 17-point underdogs against Washington.