Week 6 is upon us. Now that I’m posting weekly rankings, I don’t need to spend any time here on discussing teams or players. Let’s get to the meat of it. Here’s what to watch this weekend.
The Ten Closest Matchups of Week 6
- NC State at Virginia Tech – NC State started 4-0 but find themselves 0-1 in ACC play after a close (as predicted in this space last week) home loss to Louisville. VT, at 2-3 (0-1), has had a season to forget so far. It’s a big game for both teams, for two reasons – first, it’s winnable for both, and second, the loser’s ACC hopes are likely done.
- Texas St at UL-Lafayette – The Bobcats have given up at least 56 points to every FBS opponent this year, and ULL has given up at least 35. One of these teams is picking up their first FBS win of the year, and as it’s the first Sun Belt game for either, their season will be salvageable. Both were considered conference contenders in the preseason.
- Central Michigan at Western Michigan – CMU wasn’t supposed to be any good, but after playing Oklahoma State halfway competitively, they played Syracuse close in the Carrier Dome, didn’t let Michigan State run away with it, and beat Northern Illinois, the bully of the MAC for years, by two scores. WMU was supposed to be pretty good, but they’re 0-3 against FBS competition. Granted, that competition is strong – Michigan State, Georgia Southern, and Ohio State – but WMU isn’t exactly where they want to be.
- Connecticut at UCF – UCF is favored, presumably because they’re at home. Neither of these seem particularly watchable.
- San Jose State at UNLV – San Jose State would’ve been an easy pick in preseason, but UNLV upset Nevada last week, and beating Nevada is a bit of a dividing line in the Mountain West among teams that matter and those that don’t. UNLV played NIU close, got beat soundly by UCLA and Michigan, and then dropped 80 points on an FCS school. Maybe the Rebels are actually Runnin’ again?
- New Mexico at Nevada – Speaking of teams that like to run, this game might be over in about 80 minutes or so.Nick Chubb (Photo: Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports)
- Georgia at Tennessee – Finally, a marquee game to watch. Really not sure what to think about this one. Georgia will probably bounce back, but Tennessee also has to put together a 4th quarter at some point or another, right? It’s a must-win for the Vols. With a loss, they’ll be 0-3 and all but eliminated in the SEC East race.
- Wisconsin at Nebraska – Wisconsin has been the better team so far, but Nebraska is favored at home. The Badgers have never won in Lincoln, but they played the Huskers close there in 2012, and these Huskers aren’t really a group to fear. One of these schools will wake up Sunday 0-2 in conference play.
- Ball State at Northern Illinois – Everybody has a shot at NIU this year, even Ball State.
- Oklahoma State at West Virginia – It’s undefeated OSU’s second straight week in this section, as they escaped a home game against Kansas State with a 36-34 victory (I had the game as a Pk last week). This is a tough follow-up game to play after a back and forth, emotional win like the Cowboys had last week. Meanwhile, WVU is coming off a tough loss against a really good Oklahoma squad, so the Mountaineers are poised to bounce back.
Hour by Hour Viewing Guide
Helping you, your TV, and your remote’s recall button plan your weekend.
8:00 – SMU at Houston on ESPN 2. You’ll probably see some touchdowns, and it’s a chance to watch two of the better offensively minded head coaches in FBS, guys who may one day be coaching bigger name programs.
9:00 – Washington at USC, ESPN. Make this the primary game, but don’t hold your breath for anything too wild. USC is much better than the Huskies. However, USC tends to play down to competition a couple times a year, and with this game on Thursday, with the subplot of Steve Sarkisian facing his former team, maybe it happens. It’s not like there’s anything else to watch.
7:00 – Southern Miss at Marshall, CBS SN. Nothing special here, but it’s on.
8:00 – NC State at Virginia Tech, ESPN. As you saw above, this should be a good game. Definitely worth watching.
12:00 – There’s nothing I love here, but I’ll probably gravitate to one of two Big Ten games: Illinois at Iowa on ESPN U and Indiana at Penn State on ESPN 2. ABC will carry the Red River Shootout, but I don’t think Texas can make that one interesting. Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky could be a fun option, but it’s not televised. Baylor and Ohio State have matches against vastly inferior teams Kansas and Maryland, respectively. Iowa is coming off the Wisconsin win and could be ripe for an upset. Indiana/Penn State will be worth watching when the Hoosiers have the ball, as they’ll face a strong defense. When Penn State has the ball, you may wonder if any of the players on screen for either team are on scholarship.
3:30 – Good options aplenty here. CBS has Georgia at Tennessee, which should probably be the primary game to watch. As the backup, and a contender for primary, is Georgia Tech at Clemson. Those are the two big games, but there’s more to keep an eye on: LSU at South Carolina at LSU is an odd one (TV TBA), the aforementioned Wisconsin/Nebraska game (on the other end of the ABC/ESPN 2 split with Tech/Clemson), a very good Navy team visits Notre Dame on NBC, and for some stupid reason, Northwestern’s trip to Michigan is banished to the Big Ten Network.
7:00 – I like Oklahoma State at West Virginia as the main 7:00 game, on ESPN 2. As the backup, Arkansas/Alabama on ESPN shouldn’t be very compelling, but it has two good teams, something no other matchup has.
7:30 – Three interesting games come on at 7:30, but I’m not sure I’d pick any over OSU/WVU. Keep an eye on them and work them into the rotation if you can, though. TCU at Kansas State on FOX, Florida at Missouri on SEC Network, and to a much lesser extent, East Carolina at BYU on ESPN U. I’m not too worried about TCU and Florida on the road, but like I said, keep an eye on it.
8:00 – Another game to work into the mix is Miami at Florida State on ABC. It’s hard to really find a favorite out of all these evening options. They’re all pretty good without being really great. At this point, just watch whatever’s closest.
10:00 – California at Utah, ESPN. If there’s still a great 7:00-7:30-8:00 game on, finish that up, but when you’re done, watch this one. Undefeated surprise Pac-12 teams facing off in October… Fun!
The Full Slate
A quick explanation of a couple of columns. I’ve dropped S&P+, which is already factored into F/+, and I’ve added ESPN’s FPI:
F/+: F/+ is Football Outsiders’ method of ranking team strength. It’s presented as a percentage and all set against an average FBS team. So, if Team X has a F/+ rating of 12.3%, that means that, by this metric, they’re 12.3% better than the average FBS squad. It encompasses many things that make teams successful, like drive success, explosiveness, and efficiency, all weighted for quality of opponent, but it isn’t an end-all, be-all metric. There’s no such thing. It’s just a far more helpful metric than the collected votes of a bunch of middle-aged beat writers. For the first 4 weeks of the season, they mesh 2015 results with the preseason projections.
FPI: Provided by ESPN, FPI bases everything around Expected Points Added, which measures how much each play contributes to scoring points. A touchdown isn’t just the product of the scoring play, but rather all the plays that led to it. By awarding expected points based on what the average team does at the same field position and down/distance, a point value can be placed on each individual play based on the changes from the old ball spot to the new. FPI is opponent-adjusted, and focuses on predicting outcomes, which it did better than Vegas handicappers last year.
You’ll also see a new column on the far right: Unadjusted Spread. This is my calculation of the point spread without an adjustment for home field advantage. Just listing it so we can have a look back at it later.
|Visitor||ESPN FPI||F/+||Home||ESPN FPI||F/+||Favorite||Time||TV||Unadj. Spread|
|SMU||-11.1 (111th)||-33.6% (114th)||Houston||5.1 (57th)||9.9% (49th)||Houston (-26.0)||Thursday - 8:00||ESPN 2||Houston (-19.0)|
|Washington||6.7 (50th)||5.4% (55th)||USC||25.6 (2nd)||46.5% (6th)||USC (-17.0)||Thursday - 9:00||ESPN||USC (-19.5)|
|Southern Miss||-3.0 (83rd)||-25.3% (104th)||Marshall||-1.2 (75th)||0.8% (61st)||Marshall (-5.0)||Friday - 7:00||CBS SN||Marsh (-7.5)|
|NC State||11.2 (32nd)||4.1% (56th)||Virginia Tech||10.2 (36th)||8.3% (52nd)||VT (-2.0)||Friday - 8:00||ESPN||VT (-0.5)|
|Duke||7.8 (44th)||32.8% (14th)||Army||-10.8 (109th)||-17.0% (90th)||Duke (-12.0)||Saturday - 12:00||CBS SN||Duke (-21.5)|
|New Mexico State||-16.8 (119th)||-28.6% (108th)||Ole Miss||22.6 (5th)||34.2% (12th)||Ole Miss (-43.5)||Saturday - 12:00||SEC Network||Ole Miss (-35.5)|
|UTEP||-19.3 (127th)||-56.7% (128th)||FIU||-6.8 (92nd)||-27.6% (107th)||FIU (-15.0)||Saturday - 12:00||FIU (-13.5)|
|Middle Tennessee||4.3 (59th)||-1.5% (71st)||WKU||8.5 (41st)||20.5% (34th)||WKU (-8.5)||Saturday - 12:00||WKU (-7.5)|
|Illinois||5.6 (54th)||10.8% (48th)||Iowa||9.9 (38th)||26.5% (24th)||Iowa (-11.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN U||Iowa (-6.0)|
|Baylor||27.0 (1st)||30.5% (18th)||Kansas||-14.9 (115th)||-50.8% (126th)||Baylor (-44.0)||Saturday - 12:00||FOXS1||Baylor (-41.5)|
|Oklahoma||22.1 (6th)||46.6% (5th)||Texas (Neutral Site)||4.4 (58th)||-8.8% (78th)||OU (-17.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ABC||OU (-22.5)|
|Maryland||-5.6 (91st)||-21.0% (96th)||Ohio State||21.2 (8th)||34.1% (13th)||OSU (-33.0)||Saturday - 12:00||Big Ten Network||OSU (-27.0)|
|Indiana||1.7 (66th)||2.8% (58th)||Penn State||6.1 (52nd)||15.8% (42nd)||PSU (-6.5)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN 2||PSU (-5.5)|
|Tulane||-10.4 (108th)||-27.1% (106th)||Temple||6.7 (49th)||15.4% (43rd)||Temple (-16.0)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN News||Temple (-19.0)|
|Central Michigan||-4.8 (90th)||-5.9% (73rd)||Western Michigan||-2.0 (79th)||-14.6% (87th)||WMU (-7.5)||Saturday - 12:00||ESPN 3||CMU (-1.0)|
|Virginia||-1.7 (77th)||-10.5% (82nd)||Pittsburgh||8.1 (42nd)||16.5% (38th)||Pitt (-10.0)||Saturday - 12:30||ESPN 3||Pitt (-11.5)|
|Miami OH||-18.0 (121st)||-39.7% (120th)||Ohio||-1.2 (74th)||0.3% (64th)||Ohio (-16.0)||Saturday - 2:00||ESPN 3||Ohio (-18.5)|
|Massachusetts||-9.2 (101st)||-12.8% (84th)||Bowling Green||-1.1 (73rd)||-0.6% (69th)||BGSU (-13.5)||Saturday - 2:00||ESPN 3||BGSU (-7.0)|
|Rice||-9.8 (103rd)||-47.6% (125th)||Florida Atlantic||-10.2 (107th)||-15.6% (88th)||FAU (-3.5)||Saturday - 2:30||FAU (-8.0)|
|Wake Forest||-3.9 (87th)||-7.9% (77th)||Boston College||2.3 (65th)||11.9% (46th)||BC (-7.5)||Saturday - 3:00||ESPN 3||BC (-8.0)|
|Akron||-8.7 (98th)||-14.0% (85th)||Eastern Michigan||-15.4 (118th)||-30.2% (110th)||Akron (-7.5)||Saturday - 3:00||ESPN 3||Akron (-7.5)|
|Kent State||-12.8 (113th)||-23.1% (101st)||Toledo||7.5 (46th)||22.6% (27th)||Toledo (-15.0)||Saturday - 3:00||ESPN 3||Toledo (-21.5)|
|Appalachian State||2.9 (63rd)||0.2% (65th)||Georgia State||-18.0 (122nd)||-40.7% (121st)||App St (-15.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN 3||App St (-20.5)|
|Ball State||-4.4 (89th)||-11.5% (83rd)||Northern Illinois||-2.5 (81st)||0.7% (63rd)||NIU (-10.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN 3||NIU (-4)|
|Georgia Tech||15.3 (22nd)||26.6% (23rd)||Clemson||18.3 (13th)||52.4% (2nd)||Clemson (-7.0)||Saturday - 3:30||ABC / ESPN 2||Clemson (-8.0)|
|LSU||20.7 (9th)||47.0% (4th)||South Carolina||5.2 (56th)||3.9% (57th)||LSU (-18.5)||Saturday - 3:30||LSU (-18.5)|
|Georgia||19.6 (12th)||31.8% (15th)||Tennessee||17.6 (15th)||22.0% (28th)||UGA (-3.0)||Saturday - 3:30||CBS||UGA (-3.5)|
|Syracuse||1.1 (68th)||-0.2% (66th)||USF||-7.2 (95th)||-15.9% (89th)||USF (-2.5)||Saturday - 3:30||CBS SN||Syracuse (-8.0)|
|Navy||3.2 (62nd)||21.9% (29th)||Notre Dame||20.6 (10th)||39.7% (9th)||ND (-14.5)||Saturday - 3:30||NBC||ND (-13.0)|
|Northwestern||10.5 (34th)||31.3% (17th)||Michigan||15.9 (20th)||41.1% (7th)||Michigan (-7.5)||Saturday - 3:30||Big Ten Network||Mich (-5.0)|
|Wisconsin||11.8 (30th)||23.9% (26th)||Nebraska||8.0 (43rd)||17.8% (37th)||Neb (-1.5)||Saturday - 3:30||ABC / ESPN 2||Wisc (-3.5)|
|Minnesota||1.1 (69th)||11.8% (47th)||Purdue||-1.3 (76th)||-9.2% (80th)||Minn (-3.0)||Saturday - 3:30||ESPN||Minn (-6.5)|
|Iowa State||1.4 (67th)||-2.3% (72nd)||Texas Tech||12.1 (29th)||16.4% (39th)||TT (-12.0)||Saturday - 3:30||TT (-10)|
|Connecticut||-9.3 (102nd)||-19.7% (92nd)||UCF||-9.1 (99th)||-25.1% (103rd)||UCF (-2.5)||Saturday - 3:45||ESPN U||Uconn (-1.5)|
|Oregon State||-3.3 (84th)||-9.2% (79th)||Arizona||6.3 (51st)||-7.6% (75th)||Ariz (-9.5)||Saturday - 4:00||FOXS1||Arizona (-5.0)|
|Troy||-15.0 (117th)||-35.7% (116th)||Mississippi State||14.3 (24th)||19.9% (35th)||Miss St (-30.5)||Saturday - 4:00||SEC Network||Miss St (-28.5)|
|Portland State||n/a||n/a||North Texas||-21.4 (128th)||-55.1% (127th)||Saturday - 5:00|
|Washington State||-2.1 (80th)||-19.9% (94th)||Oregon||11.6 (31st)||13.2% (44th)||Ore (-17.0)||Saturday - 6:00||Pac 12 Network||Ore (-15)|
|ULM||-10.1 (106th)||-29.6% (109th)||Tulsa||-3.6 (86th)||1.7% (59th)||Tulsa (-9.5)||Saturday - 6:00||ESPN 3||Tulsa (-11)|
|Boise State||15.4 (21st)||16.4% (40th)||Colorado State||-7.0 (94th)||-14.1% (86th)||BSU (-16.0)||Saturday - 7:00||CBS SN||BSU (-19.0)|
|Texas State||-11.0 (110th)||-30.4% (111th)||UL-Lafayette||-9.8 (105th)||-31.2% (112th)||ULL (-3.5)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN 3||ULL (-0.5)|
|New Mexico||-9.8 (104th)||-32.7% (113th)||Nevada||-9.1 (100th)||-22.8% (99th)||Nevada (-5.0)||Saturday - 7:00||Nevada (-3.0)|
|Arkansas||14.4 (23rd)||21.9% (30th)||Alabama||23.9 (4th)||66.7% (1st)||Bama (-16.5)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN||Bama (-16.0)|
|Louisiana Tech||7.5 (45th)||16.1% (41st)||UTSA||-15.0 (116th)||-21.5% (98th)||LT (-11.5)||Saturday - 7:00||LT (-20.5)|
|Oklahoma State||13.7 (26th)||18.2% (36th)||West Virginia||16.9 (16th)||28.4% (21st)||WVU (-7.0)||Saturday - 7:00||ESPN 2||WVU (-4)|
|TCU||24.0 (3rd)||29.5% (20th)||Kansas State||11.1 (33rd)||21.6% (31st)||TCU (-9.0)||Saturday - 7:30||FOX||TCU (-8.5)|
|Florida||18.2 (14th)||31.4% (16th)||Missouri||7.5 (47th)||-0.8% (70th)||Florida (-5.0)||Saturday - 7:30||SEC Network||UF (-13.5)|
|East Carolina||0.3 (70th)||0.7% (62nd)||BYU||6.9 (48th)||20.8% (33rd)||BYU (-8.0)||Saturday - 7:30||ESPN U||BYU (-8.5)|
|Miami||9.7 (40th)||9.1% (50th)||Florida State||16.2 (18th)||40.1% (8th)||FSU (-9.0)||Saturday - 8:00||ABC||FSU (-11)|
|Michigan State||13.9 (25th)||30.3% (19th)||Rutgers||-3.3 (85th)||-26.5% (105th)||MSU (-14.0)||Saturday - 8:00||Big Ten Network||MSU (-23)|
|San Jose State||-4.4 (88th)||-23.0% (100th)||UNLV||-8.5 (96th)||-21.4% (97th)||SJSU (-2.5)||Saturday - 9:00||SJSU (-1.5)|
|Colorado||-0.7 (72nd)||-24.2% (102nd)||Arizona State||9.8 (39th)||21.5% (32nd)||ASU (-15.0)||Saturday - 10:00||Pac 12 Network||ASU (-16.5)|
|California||12.7 (28th)||8.7% (51st)||Utah||16.1 (19th)||35.2% (11th)||Utah (-7.5)||Saturday - 10:00||ESPN||Utah (-8.5)|
|Wyoming||-19.0 (126th)||-43.4% (123rd)||Air Force||-1.8 (78th)||-0.2% (68th)||AFA (-24.0)||Saturday - 10:15||ESPN 2||AFA (-19.5)|
|Utah State||-0.5 (71st)||-6.2% (74th)||Fresno State||-14.9 (114th)||-36.4% (117th)||USU (-12.0)||Saturday - 10:30||CBS SN||USU (-14.5)|
|San Diego State||-7.0 (93rd)||-20.1% (95th)||Hawaii||-12.6 (112th)||-34.7% (115th||Hawaii (-2.5)||Saturday - 11:59||SDSU (-6.5)|