Like last week, I’ll rank the televised games in each time slot. For the big picture viewing guide, stick to the bolded games. Italicized bolded games should be backup options.
Now, on to the Week 9 viewing guide!
- North Carolina at Pittsburgh, ESPN – In the preseason, I don’t think anyone would have circled this game, but it’s one of three that will likely decide the ACC Coastal division. UNC and Pitt are both one-loss teams, and their quality of play has been as identical as their records. Both have been pretty good, fringy top 25 teams, and it’s our treat that they face off on Thursday. If Pitt wins, that means something for Iowa as well, who will remain the only team to top the Panthers.
- West Virginia at TCU, Fox Sports 1 – West Virginia right now is USC-lite, in that they’re sitting at 3-3 but with a much better actual football team than the record suggests. TCU is much better, so while I’m not expecting a major upset, it’s a Thursday night game for your recall button that features some pretty good football teams, which separates it from the rest of the 7:30 group.
- Texas State at Georgia Southern, ESPN U – Last Thursday I was in a bar where some Georgia Southern students watched GSU lose its biggest game of the year, vs Appalachian State in what may turn out to be the de facto Sun Belt championship game. GSU wasn’t as competitive as I expected, which is now several times this year I’ve typed that. They should beat TSU, but the Bobcats are in the upper half of the Sun Belt, and GSU seems volatile this year, so you never know.
- Buffalo at Miami OH, ESPN 3 – The mildest of interest here, only to make sure Buffalo notches their 4th win of the year. To reach a bowl game in Lance Leipold’s first season would be a successful year.
- Western Michigan at Eastern Michigan, CBS SN – WMU should blow out their Eastern counterparts, so ignore this.
- Oregon at Arizona State, ESPN – This looks like a pretty even matchup of Pac-12 teams disappointed in their seasons. Perfect late night game to fall asleep to.
- Louisville at Wake Forest, ESPN 2 – Bunched together at #45, #46, and #47 in the F/+ rankings this week are three teams with losing records that aren’t bad teams – Louisville, Arkansas, and Georgia Tech. Wake is similar in record but not quality, and the Cardinals should continue to reestablish some respectability with a win here.
- East Carolina at Connecticut, ESPN U – ECU is better, but it’s a weekday game and they’re on the road, so… this game still isn’t very interesting, but there are only 2 games on at this point, ok?
- Louisiana Tech at Rice, Fox Sports 1 – This can replace ECU/UConn as your backup game, but Friday is pretty bad. Rice is probably the worst team in the FBS with a winning record right now.
- Wyoming at Utah State, ESPN 2 – I’m recommending you switch to each new game on Friday, if only so your boredom doesn’t also include monotony.
- Ole Miss at Auburn, ESPN – The last time Ole Miss won as a road favorite was the opening week of the 2013 season, in a memorable 39-35 shootout with Vandy in which they barely covered their 3 point spread. Since, they’ve lost 30-22 to Auburn (+3) in 2013, lost 17-10 to Mississippi State (+4) in 2013, lost 10-7 to LSU (+3) last year, lost 30-0 to Arkansas (+3) last year, lost 38-10 to Florida (+7.5) this year, and lost 37-24 to Memphis (+10.5) this year. That’s 6 straight upsets. More remarkable is that as the road underdog in the same timeframe, Ole Miss is 3-1, with Alabama in 2013 being the only correct Vegas-predicted winner. I’m not really trying to suggest that Auburn will win here, but Auburn is loaded with talent and surely will have some game where they put it all together, right? Ole Miss is reeling from injuries, and this game stirs up some bad memories of last year. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
- Illlinois at Penn State, ESPN 2 – A couple of Big Ten teams with winning records, both of which are better suited for spoiler roles at this point in the year. Penn State has an outside shot at winning the East this year, so it’s important for them, but you’d still prefer to see these two teams playing someone other than each other. The metrics rank them almost identically, so it should be a close game.
- South Florida at Navy, CBS SN – The AAC has been all kinds of fun this year. Navy stands as the biggest challenger to the triumvirate of undefeated teams, but South Florida has finally, maybe, started to put things together a bit under Willie Taggart. This isn’t a big game, but it might be a pretty decent one.
- Syracuse at Florida State, ABC – Seriously, ABC?
- South Carolina at Texas A&M, SEC Network – Is Steve Spurrier one of our greatest philanthropists? He built a non-profit instead of a defense. They get nothing out of it, and it seems to exist only to help others get back on their feet, like A&M is sure to do after a 3 point output last weekend.
- Rutgers at Wisconsin, Big Ten Network – Rutgers isn’t very good, and Wisconsin is just waiting on Iowa to lose twice. Not much appeal here.
- UCF at Cincinnati, ESPN News – UCF finally forced George O’Leary to retire, which is good. The football team he left behind is still there, which is bad.
- Nebraska at Purdue, ESPNU – It’s like UCF/Cincy, but maybe sadder.
- Virginia Tech at Boston College, ESPN 3 – If they just showed interviews talking about the 2007 and 2008 ACC Championship games, two of the least interesting conference championship games ever held, it would likely be more interesting than watching the 2015 iterations actually play football.
- Massachusetts at Ball State, ESPN 3 – An actual broadcast team is going to have to attend this.
- Central Michigan at Akron, ESPN 3 – Not awful, but not really compelling.
- USC at California, FOX – Man, the Pac-12 is wide open right now. Both have 2 conference losses, so this serves as something of an elimination game, most likely. Cal’s not quite as good as their record, and USC is much better than theirs.
- Georgia Tech at Virginia, ESPN 3 – The Jackets should make it 2 in a row, but maybe should just lose for the FSU lulz.
- Colorado at UCLA, Pac 12 Network – There are 1o teams in the Pac-12 capable of giving one another pretty good games, so for the sake of entertainment, can Colorado and Oregon State just exclusively play one another, so others don’t have to deal with these glorified byes?
- Georgia vs Florida, CBS – The defining characteristic of this Georgia team seems to be that it doesn’t yet have one, which is pretty unusual in late October. They don’t seem to do anything all that well, yet they’re 5-2 and are a top 40 team. UGA seem to just be an accumulation of talent, and beyond that, well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It’s a team with talent but no discernible identity, which isn’t unusual for a Mark Richt team. Georgia always seems to win in different ways (the QB can throw for 400 and 5 TD one week, and the RBs carry the team the next), and they certainly find maddeningly different ways to lose. Florida is a team with an identity – they are built on defense, and the offense strives for efficiency. Georgia fans are writing this one off as a loss already, but the sample of Florida being great is really only 4 games, and college teams, especially those finding success for the first time under a first year coach, see volatility in performance levels. Florida is due for a comedown game, and Georgia is talented to take advantage if that happens. I think it will take both a slightly off-game for the Gators and an on-point game from Georgia for there to be an upset (UF is favored by 3), but this bears watching even before you consider the rivalry and SEC East ramifications.
- Clemson at NC State, ABC/ESPN 2 – Clemson is coming off a 58-0 beatdown of Miami, the worst in Miami history, a game so bad it got Al Golden fired. Next week is Florida State, the game that will likely decide the Atlantic division, and a major rival. You hate to say it, because it’s a bit of a worn out trope, but this could be a trap game. For all the jokes about Clemsoning, we really haven’t seen it much in recent years. The last time a highly ranked Clemson lost to an unranked team was 2011. That was a #7 ranked Clemson, who lost 37-13 on the road… to unranked NC State. That Wolfpack team became bowl eligible by beating Clemson, and this year’s NC State can do the same. Players in 2015 probably don’t know or care about what happened in 2011, so history isn’t destined to repeat itself, but NC State is a capable opponent, with home field advantage, in between two of the biggest games on Clemson’s schedule. That’s a nice recipe for an upset.
- Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, ESPN – Nice of Oklahoma State to finally dip their toes into the water a bit, seeing that it’s Halloween and all. Texas Tech is only half a team (it’s the offensive half), but it’s better than no team at all, which is pretty much what the Cowboys have faced most weeks.
- Maryland at Iowa, ABC/ESPN 2 – Maryland is bad and Iowa is really good, so it shouldn’t be close, right? But then you think about it more, and you think MAYBE the Terps have a shot. They damn near beat Penn State a week ago, which they had no business doing, so maybe there’s a fire lit under the team since the dismissal of Randy Edsall. And there’s Iowa, who shouldn’t be this good, so maybe something will happen. I’m not worried, mostly because the Hawkeyes are at home, but keep an eye on the ticker.
- Oklahoma at Kansas, Fox Sports 1 – Fox employees will have to come up with believable reasons Kansas can compete in this game. The tape will likely then be circulated around to Fox political correspondents to draw ideas from.
- Boise State at UNLV, ESPN U – It’s one of the worst recent Boise State teams, away from their blue field, facing a team that hired a HS coach last offseason! Who’s ready? Anybody? No?
- Troy at Appalachian State, ESPN 3 – App State is pretty good, and Troy used to be at the point where they thought they might one day be pretty good. That’s the sum of it.
- Tulsa at SMU, ESPN News – Given the O/U and the line, Vegas expects a 40-37 Tulsa win. Fun.
- UT-Martin at Arkansas, SEC Network – Even among SEC scrimmage games acting as glorified bye weeks, this one’s pretty uninteresting.
- UL-Monroe at UL-Lafayette, ESPN 3 – Loser really should have to drop the UL for a year.
- Vanderbilt at Houston, ESPN 2 – Houston is favored by 12 points, which seems really optimistic against a defense that has given up 20 points just twice this year, to teams with vastly higher levels of talent – UGA and Ole Miss. Western Kentucky is a comparable team to Houston in terms of mid-major offensive firepower, and they got out of Nashville with a 14-12 win. Middle Tennesse has twice scored 70 points this year and managed 17 against Vandy. Vanderbilt in 2015 is a grinding team, one that’s beatable thanks to the ineptitude of its offense, but the defense is good enough to make every game pretty uncomfortable for opponents. If Houston aces this test like they’ve aced others, it’ll be time to really respect the Houston offense.
- Miami at Duke, ESPN U – No idea what to expect from Miami, but Duke is undefeated in conference play and facing an opponent with more talent. Upset potential here, but it’d be higher if Golden were still on the sidelines, as strange as that is to type.
- Tulane at Memphis, CBS SN – Tulane’s not very good, but Memphis is undefeated, and you’d like for Memphis to put together a complete, dominating game here to help prepare them for the toughest mid-major gauntlet in recent memory that’s coming up.
- Michigan at Minnesota, ESPN – Like Miami, Minnesota just lots its coach, but Jerry Kill’s departure was due to health problems, and everyone in Minnesota seems to love the guy. It’s a bit different. Michigan’s really good, so really the only intrigue here is if they let the dropped punt get into their heads. Harbaugh’s a good enough coach where I wouldn’t worry about that happening.
- Texas at Iowa State, Fox Sports 1 – Texas seems to be putting some things together, and playing Iowa State can’t hurt.
- Georgia State at Arkansas State, ESPN 3 – Ark State seems to be the only remaining team that could challenge Appalachian State for the conference title. Georgia State plays football as well.
- Oregon State at Utah, Pac-12 – Oregon State makes a fine case for the NCAA to adopt relegation.
- Tennessee at Kentucky, SEC Network – This game probably decides 3rd place in the SEC East. I expect UT to handle this one without too many problems, but hey, Butch Jones, so you never know. A better backup option than the Duke game, but I’d still probably watch the oddly fascinating Houston/Vandy game for another half hour.
- Notre Dame at Temple, ABC – It’s not often ABC’s primetime game goes to Temple. It’s been a magical run for Temple, but I think it ends here. Notre Dame is good and way more talented. They hung with Clemson! Here’s hoping Temple can at least make this one fun, though. Make this the primary game to watch, and push Houston/Vandy to the recall button.
- Idaho at New Mexico State, ESPN 3 – YAWN
- Stanford at Washington State, ESPN – Washington State is the only remaining Pac-12 North team with a good chance of keeping Stanford out of the conference title game, and all of a sudden, the Cougars offense looks like Mike Leach offenses of old. Upset alert in Pullman? Maybe. For now, let it replace Houston/Vandy as the backup, and when Notre Dame/Temple ends, you can make this your primary game, as it should be about halfway into the second quarter at that point.
- Air Force at Hawaii, CBS SN – Should be a simple win for Air Force.
- Arizona at Washington, Fox Sports 1 – I like the Huskies at home, but it’s last night Pac-12 action, which means two things – anything can happen, and anything that does happen you can find out about on Sunday morning.
Enjoy your weekend!