With Ohio State off this week, let's take a look at a host of other college football matchups from around the country we’ll have our eyes on this Saturday.
#12 Oklahoma State vs. #25 Texas, 12 p.m. on FOX
This was not where the Longhorns were supposed to be this weekend. After putting up 28 first quarter points on Oklahoma and taking an 18-point lead into halftime a Saturday ago, the Sooners outscored Texas 35-10 during the final 30 minutes of play in the wake of Spencer Rattler's benching. Steve Sarkisian lost his best opportunity this season to earn a statement win in his new job, and the Longhorns let slip what would have been the program's biggest victory since they upset Kyler Murray's Oklahoma team in 2018.
Now, Texas teeters on the outset of the top 25 and will search for a bounce-back performance against yet another standout team from the state of Oklahoma. Buckeye fans searching for an OSU stand-in this weekend should look no further than the Cowboys of Oklahoma State.
Despite a slow start that included three wins by a total of 13 points, Oklahoma State currently enjoys an undefeated record and will not have to face off with its in-state rival until the end of the regular season. A win today would likely vault the Cowboys into the top 10 as they prepare to face down the second half of their Big 12 schedule.
The key matchup in this game will no doubt be Texas' dynamic and electric running back Bijan Robinson working against the Oklahoma State run defense that currently ranks among the best in college football. Last week, Robinson found little room to operate in the second half of the Longhorns' loss, but he did also have one of the best touchdown runs college football fans will see all season.
In addition to the second half last week, Robinson also didn’t get much going in Texas' other loss to Arkansas – a team that features a similarly stingy rushing defense to that of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have only allowed 2.8 yards per carry, fewer than 90 rushing yards and only five rushing first downs per game this season to rank in the top 10 for FBS teams in all of those categories.
The Longhorns are the home team and the betting favorite at the moment. However, their shortcomings in the Red River Shootout last week demonstrated that even with Casey Thompson's improved quarterback play relative to Hudson Card, the Texas offense still needs Robinson's production to function properly.
If the Cowboys can keep the best running back they will face this season in check, they just might surprise Vegas and keep rising in the polls.
#11 Kentucky vs. #1 Georgia, 3:30 p.m. on CBS
Though both teams must still face Tennessee and Kirby Smart has a cocktail party date with Dan Mullen next weekend, today's meeting between Georgia and Kentucky may end up effectively functioning as the SEC East championship game.
Georgia has effectively flattened every opponent they have faced following their opener against Clemson, while Kentucky enters this game on a wave of momentum following home takedowns of Florida and LSU. The Bulldogs briefly fell behind in their game last week with Auburn when the Tigers opened the contest with a 17-play drive that led to a field goal. However, Georgia went on to score the next 24 points and ultimately won by the same margin.
LONG DISTANCE DELIVERY FROM THE MAILMAN pic.twitter.com/LPbXo28NdJ— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 9, 2021
Yes, apparently Stetson Bennett – the quarterback of this week's new number one team in college football – already has a nickname. He wore a mailman hat to an Elite 11 camp circuit in high school because his dad's mayor buddy gave it to him.
Justin Fields had about 70 more touchdowns as a Buckeye than he had nicknames and touchdowns combined at Georgia.
Even though JT Daniels has battled an injury, Georgia is firing on all cylinders and well-deserving of the top overall ranking in college football. Bennett's mobility and comfort with play action has served as an excellent complement to Georgia's volume-based rushing attack. Kirby Smart is not afraid to give double-digit carries to as many as four running backs over the course of a game as evidenced in the Bulldogs' shutout of Arkansas.
Ultimately, Georgia's defense will likely continue to perform at too elite of a level for Kentucky’s offense to match. The Bulldogs currently have the only defense in college football that ranks in the top five for both rushing and passing yards allowed per game.
The final nail in Kentucky's coffin will be the advantage Georgia has along the line of scrimmage. The Bulldogs' offensive line ranks in the top 30 for four of the six rushing stats tracked by Football Outsiders and has yet to surrender a sack on any passing down this season. Playing at home with that kind of ball-control ability, it may take even more than a perfect game from Kentucky for this one to end in an upset.
#19 BYU vs. Baylor, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
BYU were the early season late-night darlings of the Eleven Warriors Viewing Guide, scoring three straight wins over Pac-12 opponents to open their season on their way to an appearance in the AP Top 10 for the first time in over a decade. The Cougars failed to come back against Boise State at home last weekend after giving up 23 straight points. Now, the lads from Provo will seek to rebound versus a Baylor team that had its own run in the polls disrupted by Oklahoma State just two weeks ago.
Though Baylor's current backbone remains its rushing attack, its passing game finally picked up some slack last week against West Virginia when quarterback Gerry Bohanon threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. The development of a dynamic identity will be crucial as the Bears prepare to host both Texas and Oklahoma within the next month.
Jaren Hall returned from injury last week to play for the first time since BYU’s win over Arizona State, but it is fair to wonder if the Cougars' field general was truly healthy. Hall only attempted to carry the ball once – not including a sack he took – after previously rushing for over 165 yards on 20 total carries in his previous three games.
Both teams enter this game with 5-1 records. That makes this meeting a crossroads game of sorts for both teams with respect to remaining among the relevant forces of college football as the season reaches its midpoint.
#22 N.C. State vs. Boston College, 7:30 p.m. on ACCN
The Wolfpack's upset of Clemson that rocked the balance of the ACC Atlantic only three weeks ago still dances freshly in the memories of N.C. State and Ohio State fans alike. Boston College very nearly granted Dabo Swinney sadness enthusiasts an encore performance the following weekend when the Eagles traveled to South Carolina and nearly took down the Tigers in the final minute of play.
Boston College has had a week to recover from the heartbreaking loss and continue to work on replacing injured starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Conversely, NC State may have inherited a bit of an inflated self-image from their Textile Bowl upset, as the Wolfpack had to hold off a fourth-quarter comeback attempt from Louisiana Tech in their most recent game.
The Wolfpack gave up over three times as many passing yards to their C-USA opponent last weekend as they did to Clemson the Saturday prior. They also needed an interception in the end zone on the final play of the game to hold off any chance of overtime or a loss on a two-point conversion.
Coming out of a bye week off of a motivating defeat, Jeff Hafley will have Boston College ripe for a bounce-back opportunity. The Eagles' offense figures to look much sharper now that Dennis Grosel has had more time to acclimate to his role as Jurkovec's replacement. NC State is the slight favorite at the moment, but the Wolfpack will need to retain the same levels of determination and motivation they brought to Clemson if they want to walk out of the Commonwealth with a win.
Saturday Night Fever
Air Force vs. Boise State, 9:00 p.m. on FS1
W I L D C A R D of the W E E K
Air Force shows out for a second straight Wildcard of the Week appearance after taking down undefeated Wyoming last weekend. Poetically, the Falcons will face off against a Boise State team making its Viewing Guide debut this season fresh off its road upset of a top-10 BYU team.
Boise State -- after trailing 10-0 -- upsets No. 10 BYU 26-17 in Provo! pic.twitter.com/0U6m9I3eor— The Comeback (@thecomeback) October 9, 2021
The Broncos enter this contest as the slight favorites according to Vegas, which is interesting given how Boise State matches up with the Air Force offensive attack. To their credit, the blue turf kings do have much more impressive overall performances so far this year between the upset of BYU and a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. Additionally, the Broncos beat Utah State by a resounding score of 27-3 last month merely a week after the Aggies took down the Falcons in a 49-45 scoring frenzy.
Even so, Boise State's run defense ranks roughly in the bottom third of college football with respect to total yards surrendered per game. That could be an issue facing off with an Air Force ground operation that leads the nation with more than 340 rushing yards per contest.
The commitment to triple option chaos give the Falcons the most productive running game in the nation, but their success is not merely limited to their offense. At the moment, Air Force also fittingly controls the skies by allowing the third-lowest completion percentage (48.61%) and 12th-fewest passing yards per game (176.0) in college football.
Won with pic.twitter.com/OBM8ws3WBC— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 10, 2021
To the Ohioans that stay up for this one, may the Force be with you.
On the Radar for Next Week
- Noon: #16 Wake Forest vs. Army, 12 p.m. on CBSSN
- Afternoon: #9 Oregon vs. UCLA, 3:30 p.m. on ABC/ESPN
- Buckeyes: #6 Ohio State vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m. on ABC