Noah Saag is getting his master’s in sports management at Northwestern University. Find his regular writing here.
Unlike last weekend, this Saturday has a really good slate of college football games. We have three matchups that feature top-25 teams (could be four but Arkansas…just ouch), and several other games that are shaping up to be good ones.
It’s certainly nice to have some quality matchups this weekend after a week of cupcake opponents for the country’s best. We’re still a few weeks away from the most meaningful games’ actually beginning, though, which is agonizing. Some teams have already — or will this weekend — delve into conference play, but it almost feels like the season doesn’t really begin until early October with the exception of a few marquee matchups each weekend in September.
Here are five games to watch this weekend:
#2 USC at #21 Stanford: (7:30 ET; FOX)
Stanford has a lot to prove in this one. I’m sure everyone in that locker room wants to show the country that they are more than just Andrew Luck. Junior quarterback Josh Nunes looked much crisper last week against Duke (not exactly a real test) and with USC’s defense getting slightly exposed against Syracuse, this could get interesting for USC. I still think USC will hang on with Matt Barkley and company being the Juggernaut they are, but it will be closer than the Trojans would like.
#20 Notre Dame at #10 Michigan St. (8:00 ET; ABC)
Michigan St. has looked VERY good so far as workhorse running back Le’Veon Bell is making a strong push to contend for the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame has looked far better than the last few years. However, it’s concerning that Brian Kelley doesn’t have enough faith in starting quarterback Everett Golston to stick with him in the two minute drill; instead he has gone to backup Tommy Rees there. It just seems a bit odd to not trust the guy you selected to lead your team for the most important two minutes of a game. I think this one will be close but Michigan St. at home will be too much.
#18 Florida at #23 Tennessee (6:00 ET; ESPN)
Florida looked pretty “meh” against Texas A&M last weekend. Their defense had a pretty horrible first half and just squeaked it out. Tennessee has looked pretty impressive thus far, led by Tyler Bray’s exceptional quarterback play. This game sort of seems more important to the coaches of each team than anything else. Florida’s Will Muschamp always seems a little in over his head, while Tennessee’s Derek Dooley is trying to prove to the fans in Knoxville that he has turned things around after a MUCH-maligned start to his tenure. I like Tennessee to pull this one out at home in a very tight game.
#1 Alabama at Arkansas (3:30 ET; CBS)
So, umm, Arkansas lost…to Louisiana Monroe? Yes, that happened, and now just a week later they welcome the nations top team to the same field. This was supposed to be a top-10 matchup. However, after Arkansas took a historic drop from #8 to unranked, it has lost some luster. Arkansas signed John L. Smith to a 10-month contract after the Bobby Petrino fiasco, and I think a lot of Razorback fans are quite ready for that time to be up already. Alabama is too good and I think Arkansas will get buried. I imagine they are still demoralized after last week and expect it to show.
North Carolina at #19 Louisville (3:30 ET; ABC/ESPN2)
It feels really good as a Louisville fan to have a meaningful game again. It has been a long time, but Louisville has looked good in its first two matchups so far this season. This is, however, the first real test they have. Last week against Missouri St., the outcome never felt in question, but it also had the feel that it should have been a 40-point blowout. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been absolutely incredible for the Cards and is starting to earn some national recognition. Through his first two games he’s 49-60 (a ridiculous 81.7 completion percentage) for two touchdowns and no interceptions. North Carolina is coming off a tough loss to Wake Forest and I think the crowd at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium, plus a tough Louisville team, will be too much. I like the Cards in this one.