With Ohio State kicking off in primetime, 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.
#5 Clemson vs. #21 Wake Forest, 12 p.m. on ABC
Nearly a month into the 2022 college football season, at long last the noon window blesses its viewers with a ranked matchup. This meeting between Clemson and Wake Forest figures to play a key role in determining the eventual winner of the ACC Atlantic, but the Demon Deacons will have plenty of work cut out for them at home if they have an upset in mind.
In his time at Clemson, Dabo Swinney has not only never lost to Wake Forest, but his teams have also never scored fewer than 30 points when visiting Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Tigers' offense is still finding its footing early in the season, but the production has been a far cry from a year ago when Clemson failed to score 20 points in regulation against any FBS team prior to the final week of October.
This is a beautiful throw from D.J. Uiagalelei after coming back in to lead a scoring drive. Great catch by Antonio Williams as well. pic.twitter.com/ZEAiP25Kpi— Clemson Sports (@ClemsonSports) September 18, 2022
The Demon Deacons have only had star quarterback Sam Hartman available for two games, but Wake Forest has hardly had any tough tests on paper through the first quarter of their schedule. Yet, it took a 17-point final quarter for the Demon Deacons to overcome Liberty last week despite entering the game favored by two touchdowns.
Hartman will have to throw constantly for Wake Forest to have a chance in this game, as his offense currently ranks just outside the bottom fourth of all FBS teams in rushing production, while the Tigers have allowed the eighth-fewest yards on the ground per game to this point. Even if the Demon Deacons fail to pull off the upset on their own field, this contest should feature plenty of scoring on its way to jump-starting the excitement among college football fans heading into the later portions of Saturday.
Maryland vs. #4 Michigan, 12 p.m. on FOX
☣ H A Z A R D ☣ W A R N I N G ☣
The Wolverines have outscored their first three opponents 166-17, which sounds impressive until considering Michigan's strength of schedule to this point ranks dead last among FBS teams according to the résumé section of ESPN's FPI. While Maryland alone hardly figures to boost that rating to a respectable level after this week, the Terrapins do enter this matchup undefeated following their first winning season last year since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
Though Jim Harbaugh did comically play seven different quarterbacks a week ago in the Wolverines' 59-0 romp over UConn, the controversy Michigan had at the position early on in the season figures to be in the past now that the team appears committed to J.J. McCarthy. Meanwhile, Harbaugh remains resolute in building a team that has its identity cemented in a run-first approach complemented by sharp overall defense.
As such, the Wolverines currently find themselves averaging the 17th most rushing yards per game behind Blake Corum and CJ Stokes. On the other side of the ball, Michigan's defense stands as one of only three among FBS teams to surrender less than 100 passing yards per game while also ranking 40th in defending the run.
Maryland figures to stretch the Wolverines' untested pass prevention at least a bit, as Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins currently tie for college football's 20th-highest average in passing yards this season at 310 per game.
However, even if this meeting does feature Michigan's first acceptable opponent on the schedule, it would be unwise for Buckeye fans to subject themselves to watching any more of That Team Up North than necessary. There will be plenty of other opportunities for the Wolverines to lose this season, and Maryland has yet to defeat a ranked Big Ten opponent since becoming a member of the conference nearly a decade ago.
Three Key Conference Games & the Irish Fighting for Their Lives
The afternoon boasts a variety of football to choose from as the lead-in to Ohio State's evening showdown with Wisconsin. Among the games worth watching includes the day's second ranked showdown, a cross-divisional meeting between Big Ten teams, Notre Dame's fight for a .500 record, and a battle for Pac-12 supremacy featuring the only team to beat the Badgers so far this season.
#20 Florida vs. #11 Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. on CBS
Anthony Richardson's Heisman campaign has come to a crashing halt over the last two weeks, as Florida's sophomore phenom at quarterback has been less than phenomenal throwing the ball. Richardson has four interceptions in the Gators' last two games, zero passing touchdowns through a quarter of the schedule and no points of his own since rushing for three scores in Florida's opening win over Utah.
Tennessee survived an overtime thriller on the road against Pittsburgh just two weeks ago, but the Volunteers have otherwise gone untested on their way to outscoring two MAC opponents 122-16. Hendon Hooker has Tennessee's passing offense throwing for the fifth most yards per game in college football at the moment, so Richardson will need to step up his game if the Gators want to avoid conceding any ground in the race for the SEC East.
Minnesota vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. on BTN
W I L D C A R D of the W E E K
Maryland is not the only Big Ten team to go quietly undefeated through the start of the season, as Minnesota has also compiled a 3-0 record after outscoring its opening trifecta of opponents 149-17. It bears mentioning that the Golden Gophers have heavily benefitted from a strength of schedule so far ranking better than only Michigan's, but after Mohamed Ibrahim missed most of 2021 following an injury in last season's opener against Ohio State, it's nice to see Minnesota's star running back have some success early on.
Michigan State shockingly fell out of the AP Poll last week from #11 overall after losing to a Washington team on the road that went on to enter the rankings themselves the next day, but Mel Tucker remains determined to keep the Spartans on the right track. MSU enters as one of only 26 teams at the FBS level conceding less than 90 rushing yards per game, so today will be a solid test to see if the Golden Gophers' ground attack holds up against stiffer competition.
Notre Dame vs. North Carolina, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
The Fighting Irish are in a difficult position heading into early October. What should have been an easy victory at home over Cal last weekend turned into a screaming fit featuring Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and quarterback Drew Pyne. South Bend was a Hail Mary away from seeing its second straight loss at home this season and fourth under head coach Marcus Freeman.
It hardly gets any easier for the Buckeyes' opening opponent this week, as the Fighting Irish now travel to North Carolina to take on a Tar Heels unit averaging the 20th-most passing yards and fifth-most points per game in college football through three weeks. After a bye next week, Notre Dame will face off with #19 Brigham Young, which – if they lose today – could very well lead to a situation where the Golden Domers have a 1-4 record heading into mid-October.
#15 Oregon vs. Washington State, 4 p.m. on FOX
The rumors of Oregon's demise have been greatly exaggerated, as the Ducks are on quite a roll since their opening thrashing at the hands of Georgia in which they failed to reach the endzone. Dan Lanning coached Oregon into doubling up the previously top-15 BYU Cougars at home last week, and now the Ducks seem to have a clear trajectory towards a spot in the Pac-12 title game with no USC to worry about on their regular season schedule or ranked opponents to prepare for until the middle of November.
But Washington State wants to make some noise of its own on the West Coast, and the Cougars have already done so a bit nationally after scoring a shocking road upset over Wisconsin in Week 2 by a final score of 17-14. Wazzu has left much to be desired on offense, but they are allowing the 28th-fewest rushing yards per game to opponents at the moment, so an uncomfortable afternoon for an Oregon team away from home may not be entirely out of the question.
#10 Arkansas vs. #23 Texas A&M, 7 p.m. on ESPN
While the biggest headline stemming from an Arkansas football game lately revolved around the COO of Beyond Meat punching out a rear windshield and taking a bite out of another man's nose, the Razorbacks are eager to assert themselves as the biggest threat to Alabama in the SEC West. Tonight marks a significant step towards doing so, as the Woo Pig Sooie crew head to the Lone Star State to take on Jimbo Fisher and a Texas A&M squad that started the season ranked 13 spots ahead of them.
After some heavy turbulence following a Week 2 loss to Appalachian State, the Aggies had a bit of a bounce-back last week in scoring a 17-9 victory over the formerly top-15 Miami Hurricanes. Fisher opted to make a quarterback change in favor of junior Max Johnson, and while the shift did not quite yield lucrative results, A&M did much better with respect to time of possession and achieving first downs than the previous outing.
Meanwhile in Fayetteville, though Arkansas got off to a nice start this season with a win over Cincinnati, the Razorbacks needed a comeback effort last week to take down FCS Missouri State. The double-digit recovery included a go-ahead punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped make up for Arkansas losing the turnover battle by a 3-0 margin.
Just perfect pic.twitter.com/6AgzF7fJrJ— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) September 18, 2022
While KJ Jefferson's rushing volume at quarterback remains high, his production so far has not quite been on par with what he posted last year, as Arkansas' reigning leader in yards through the air and on the ground currently averages less than four yards per carry. He could have some success this evening against a wall of Aggies that ranks merely 83rd in rushing yards surrendered per game, though A&M boasts a top-10 unit in college football at the moment with respect to pass defense.
#7 USC vs. Oregon State, 9:30 p.m. on PAC12 Network
The Trojans continue to take care of business, and after racing out to a two-touchdown lead over Fresno State last week, Lincoln Riley and USC appear to have no intention of slowing down. Caleb Williams has all the makings of a serious threat in the Heisman Trophy race, and with only one ranked opponent remaining on the schedule, the Trojans have a smooth march ahead of them into the Pac-12 Championship Game.
However, this meeting with Oregon State could prove to be one of the more difficult obstacles USC will have to navigate on its way back to postseason relevancy. The Beavers enter this matchup 3-0 on the heels of a 68-28 win over Montana State, preceded by a thrilling road victory against the same Bulldogs team the Trojans took down last week. Quarterback Chance Nolan has done a much better job of taking care of the football relative to last season, and also averages roughly a first down per completion while having completed passes of at least 20 yards to eight different Beavers.
One of Oregon State's signature wins last season was a 45-27 stunner over USC on the road, so the incentive for revenge will be high in this matchup, even with the abundance of new faces in Los Angeles. If the Trojans have a weak point so far, it’s that Alex Grinch’s run defense currently ranks 103rd nationally in yards conceded on the ground per game. Provided the Beavers can capitalize, scoring chances could come fast and frequently from either direction given the projected over/under of more than 70 points.
On the Radar for Next Week
- Afternoon: #2 Alabama vs. #10 Arkansas, 2:30 p.m. on CBS
- Buckeyes: Rutgers vs. #3 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. on BTN
- Textile Bowl: #12 N.C. State vs. #5 Clemson, time and network TBD