With Ohio State not kicking off until this evening, here are a host of other college football matchups from around the country we have our eyes on this Saturday.
#12 Notre Dame vs. #18 Wisconsin, 12 p.m. on FOX
Unlike last week's smorgasbord of noon games, there is really only one contest worth watching at the top of the Saturday slate this week. That would be the meeting between the Fighting Irish and Badgers, which doubles as a revenge game for ND quarterback Jack Coan he after previously served as Wisconsin's starter in 2019.
Notre Dame's season remains on undefeated grounds, but the journey there has been uncomfortable at best. They needed overtime to knock off a winless Florida State that lost to an FCS team the following week, then survived a scare against Toledo before beating Purdue by just under two touchdowns last weekend. There is optimism the Fighting Irish offense is beginning to take shape, but they will have arguably their toughest test to date against a formidable Wisconsin defense.
Conversely, the Badgers had a bye to prepare for this game, and they looked more their normally sound selves against Eastern Michigan following an opening loss to Penn State. They offer their steadily effective run game opposite a below-average Notre Dame rushing defense that gave up almost 400 combined yards on the ground in its first two games this season.
The Fighting Irish have limped through September, and Wisconsin wants to establish itself as a threat to Iowa's Big Ten West aspirations. This game represents an opportunity for either school to correct its trajectory this season after early hiccups.
Wyoming vs. UConn, 3:30 p.m. on CBSSN
W I L D C A R D of the W E E K
There is a reasonable chance than the 2021 UConn Huskies will go down as the worst college football team in the last century plus. That is not at all an exaggeration.
The 5 worst SP+ percentile ratings ever:— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) September 19, 2021
14,378. 1912 Samford (0.15%)
14,379. 1937 Wofford (0.14%)
14,380. 1925 Erskine (0.14%)
14,381. 1926 Erskine (0.06%)
14,382. 2021 UConn at this exact moment (0.04%)
GET YOUR WEEK 4 SP+ RANKINGS HERE.https://t.co/q6X3h7HlIT
The Huskies got shut out 45-0 in their Week 0 game against Fresno State that featured an on-field temperature in excess of 120 degrees after the start of the second quarter. They followed that up with a ten point loss to FCS Holy Cross and then promptly got dumped by Purdue 49-0 the next weekend.
It was not until UConn was already down 42-0 to Army with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter that the Huskies scored for the first time against an FBS opponent in 2021. To put that another way, UConn surrendered 136 unanswered points before registering any of their own in DI-A competition this season.
The unthinkable has happened.— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) September 18, 2021
UConn football has scored a touchdown against a FBS team.
As Buckeye fans bide their time anxiously awaiting a date with the Zips this evening, take a moment to witness an historic low in the chronicles of college football. Remember last weekend when some fans that did not feel priced out still excused themselves from Ohio Stadium because they assumed the overall game experience would be bad?
There were 35,000+ vacant seats that did not witness the third-best rushing performance ever by a Buckeye, many of which were empty because the afternoon was “too hot.” It's as if some of the folks complaining have never lived in Ohio without air conditioning in September — better known by alumni as the glorious North Campus freshman dorm experience. Missing out on any game merely because of the assumption that it will be bad puts one at risk of missing history.
Wyoming will inevitably stomp UConn. The Cowboys are 3-0 and have put up 95 points on MAC teams the last two weekends. But Saturday afternoon presents a perfect opportunity for Ohio State fans to witness what may be the worst college football team ever — sans Cumberland College — in the lead-up to the Buckeyes' game later on.
#7 Texas A&M vs. #16 Arkansas, 3:30 p.m. on CBS
The Razorbacks are playing like a bunch of pissed-off hogs right now. Through three weeks of the season, Arkansas ranks in the top 10 for points per game, and their defense is only surrendering 3.2 yards per carry while allowing the 11th-lowest pass completion rate in college football (50%).
Woo Pig Sooie's biggest win this season was an impressive 40-21 eclipsing of Texas that saw Arkansas lead by 26 at one point. The Razorbacks allowed neither Longhorn quarterback that played to throw for more than 65 yards while also limiting star running back Bijan Robinson to just 73 total yards on 20 touches.
On offense, Arkansas' running back room currently features five guys with more than 10 touches averaging 5.5+ yards per carry this season, including true freshman Raheim Sanders.
Just the first from Rocket pic.twitter.com/5CiNHggTEO— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) September 12, 2021
Texas A&M is 3-0 to start the year, but its lone game against a Power 5 opponent this season was a 10-7 win over Colorado in which the Aggies did not score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. If Arkansas can pull off the underdog win, it will likely vault into the top 10 next week ahead of its meeting with #2 Georgia.
#9 Clemson vs. NC State, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
Last season was the first time in over 50 years that the Textile Bowl did not take place between the Tigers and Wolfpack. This rivalry dates back to 1899 and has featured 88 meetings in its 120+ years of play.
Clemson is currently enjoying the largest winning streak in the rivalry's history at eight games, and also posted the largest margin of victory in the history of the Textile Bowl at its last meeting in 2019. There is a lot of pride on the line here for an NC State program that cherishes every opportunity to ruin the athletic seasons of its Carolina-adjacent nemeses.
Clemson has had a somewhat parallel season to Ohio State so far. Both teams dropped an out-of-conference game to a currently top-five opponent, but the Tigers' own early struggles have largely fallen on the offensive side of the ball as opposed to the Buckeyes' defensive woes.
DJ Uiagalelei — a preseason Heisman candidate by many folks' estimation — has thrown for one touchdown against two interceptions across three weeks and has yet to exceed 200 passing yards in any game this season. Tigers offensive coordinator Tony Elliott is openly lamenting to the media that their quarterback needs to commit to improving his fundamentals. For all the grieving that has taken place in Columbus this September, Clemson at this moment seems to be missing Trevor Lawrence more than Ohio State misses Justin Fields.
NC State's defense through three weeks ranks as a top 25 unit in total yards surrendered per game. That stretch includes a 45-0 win over South Florida and a game against Mississippi State in which the Wolfpack only gave up 22 rushing yards. If Uiagalelei continues to struggle passing the ball, we may see Dabo Swinney do his best Forrest Gump impersonation to get out of Raleigh.
West Virginia vs. #4 Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m. on ABC
In the event that Kyle McCord goes Kenny Guiton-mode and throws for six touchdowns in the first half against Akron, the matchup between the Mountaineers and Sooners this evening presents a viable viewing option for those seeking an alternative to Buckeye garbage time.
West Virginia entered its game last week against Virginia Tech as the betting favorites despite the Hokies boasting a Top 15 ranking nationally. The Mountaineers delivered on the upset with a goal line stand reminiscent of the defense that won them the Black Diamond Trophy in the same game nearly 20 years ago.
Oklahoma woke up late against Nebraska last weekend, but still looked frighteningly bad for most of the game as preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler continues to search for his stride in the Sooners' system. Currently ranked as the fourth-best team in college football according to the AP poll, OU has only outscored its FBS competition 63-51 so far this season – a list that includes the Cornhuskers and Tulane.
One viral highlight does not make an entire defense. The Sooners are as vulnerable as any team in college football right now, are playing a team with fresh experience as victorious underdogs and will play wild football with the Mountaineers when the latter keeps it competitive. It was only three years ago that these two schools competed in a 59-56 classic that featured roughly 1000 yards of combined total offense just between the teams' two quarterbacks.
Ohio State fans should accordingly set their remotes to flip back and forth between ABC and Big Ten Network.
On the Radar for Next Week
- Noon: #16 Arkansas vs. #2 Georgia, 12 p.m. on ESPN
- Afternoon: #4 Oklahoma vs. #25 Kansas State, 3:30 p.m. on FOX
- Buckeyes: #10 Ohio State vs. Rutgers, 3:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network