Welcome to TV Party, a weekly segment where we preview ten of the week’s most exciting match-ups in college football so you know when to grab some beer and ignore the outside world.
This week: our football Saturday will be marked by chicken salad finger sandwiches, white wine, and pumpkin spiced anything and everything, as well as some soft rock*. No, not “that” tape of soft rock. CVS Bangers is strictly reserved for weekends unlike this one. We just want to entertain in a polite manner (and cry immensely while trying to pretend this is what we want to do).
GAME 1: “I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS” BY FOREIGNER
California and Oregon are theoretically competing for the Pac 12 North title. In reality, there is a wide gulf between the two in terms of talent and conference wins. Sonny Dykes does have a squad that is markedly improved from last year that almost ended any hope UCLA had of competing in the screwy South division. Cal QB Jared Goff is putting up numbers that reflect the high flying “Bear Raid” offense constructed by Dykes. A lack of a stellar defense hurts the Golden Bears with Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota in the backfield. Though, if Oregon is off schedule in scoring, Goff and company may engage in another Pac 12 foe in a shootout.
Oregon kicks off at California’s Kabam Field at 10:00 PM Friday on ESPN.
GAME 2: “WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE?” BY PAULA COLE
Every Texas moral victory against a ranked opponent in 2014 looked like a dramatic sign of progress. With the Longhorns’ last ditch effort to escape Ames, there isn’t a clear indication of the Texas that takes the bus to Manhattan. Will it be the thrilling team that almost upset Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl? Or, will we have another route in the same vain as Baylor? According to Football Outsiders, Kansas State is ranked statistically higher in every category than Texas. So, I am essentially telling you to watch this game as another case study in entitlement.
Texas and No. 11 Kansas State kick off at 12 on ESPN.
GAME 3: “HOLDING BACK THE YEARS” BY SIMPLY RED
Michigan used to call Michigan State “little brother.” That was during the years when people could call John L. Smith a head coach without rolling into fits of laughter. The past four years have flipped the script with the Spartans acquiring a Big Ten championship, a Rose Bowl victory and beating Michigan in three out of four tries. There are people festooned in Maize and Blue who still label Michigan State with the moniker but these people are more desperate than Brian Kelly on Sunday mornings. Michigan State, on the F+/- rankings, is the 18th best team in the nation. Their defense in those same ratings ranks as the 13th best. Michigan? Currently rubbing elbows with Air Force and Oregon State at No. 55. Like I mentioned with Texas, case study in entitlement.
Michigan State hosts Michigan at 3:00 on ESPN.
GAME 4: “WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES” BY THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
A lot of people thought a game at Kentucky would be a look ahead spot for the Bulldogs. That was before LSU ripped any legitimacy to that threat off of the Wildcats with a 41-3 victory. Now, this looks like easy pickings for Mississippi State who is enjoying all of the trappings of their newfound success. Still, there are some believers in Big Blue Nation out there who are deathly certain Kentucky can pull out one of the most stunning wins in school history.
GAME 5: “EYE IN THE SKY” BY THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT
The Big 12 Deity that has placed Kansas State as puppetmaster has also made West Virginia a contender. It seems strange because Dana Holgorsen was staring at a year where his coaching might have come into question. Now, the Mountaineers are 5-2 and second in the conference, and have achieved a ranking for the first time since 2012. West Virginia is taking a jet ride down to Stillwater to play a floundering Oklahoma State team who is outside of the elite bubble within the conference. Can Clint Trickett and the receiving corps of Kevin White, Mario Alford make the Mountaineers bowl eligible after a year long drought? Vegas says maybe not this week.
No. 22 West Virginia plays Oklahoma State at 3:30 on ESPN.
GAME 6: “BABY, WHAT A BIG SURPRISE” BY CHICAGO
Clemson just lost their RB Adam Choice to injury. That leaves them without QB Deshaun Watson and their go-to backfield threat. Without Choice (and with him), the Tigers have been not so great at running the ball. Now, with Choice out, replacement Cole Stoudt has to shoulder a huge load that would have otherwise been manageable. The Syracuse Orangemen are in line with the ACC’s Theory of Inconsistency and it could be that they actually show up in Death Valley. They could also flat on their face. A Clemson win is a Clemson win and a Clemson loss is just a loss. No Clemsonings here. No surprises.
No. 21 Clemson hosts Syracuse at 7:00 on ESPNU.
GAME 7: “HUNGRY EYES” BY ERIC CARMEN
You may think that Ole Miss’ biggest rival happens to be Mississippi State. That’s actually not the case in a lot of circles. LSU stands as the Rebels’ most hated where each team bangs giant drums at each other while the crowd roars “go to hell.” The Rebels arrive with a defense that held Tennessee to zero rushing yards and has, so far, held all opponents to only three points in the first quarter. They are the number one defense in the country in the defensive S&P rankings. However, a visit to Baton Rouge against a confused offense is still not a given. LSU has the power of history and magic on their side in night games as well as having the distinction of beating Ole Miss five out of six times while at home. Both teams are hungry for a win to keep postseason ambitions high.
The battle in Baton Rouge kicks off at 7:15 on ESPN.
GAME 8: “SAILING” BY CHRISTOPHER CROSS
Another lesser known rivalry is the Third Saturday in October, or Alabama-Tennessee. This is one that has only within the past few years become extremely lopsided due to the tenures of Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley in Knoxville. This year, the game is subjected to the sailgating Vol Navy and crowd noise from a fan base that has seen their team lose heart breakers to Georgia and Florida. Butch Jones is the leader of a Tennessee defense who is ranked 12th in the S&P ranking which measues success rate of opponents’ drives as well as the opponents’ drive efficiency. Their task is to stop a Lane Kiffin-coached offense that put 42 points on a very talented Florida defense. Should be smooth sailing, right?
Tennessee and No. 4 Alabama kick off at 7:30 on ESPN2.
GAME 9: “STEAL AWAY” BY ROBBIE DUPREE
Ohio State, according to CBS Sports, is ranked as the 9th best offensive team in the nation. Penn State by CBS’ standards is the sixth best defense. Of course, there has been some serious consternation about the legitimacy of those rankings. The Buckeyes travel to Beaver Stadium to take on a Nittany Lions team that is 1-2 in the Big Ten. On paper, this win looks automatic. Yet, freshman QB JT Barrett has yet to play in a truly hostile environment in the Big Ten and this will be his biggest test against a “statistically” proven defense. It could prove to be harder than it seems and with five-star Christian Hackenburg taking snaps under center for Penn State, it could be their chance at sneaking away with a win and burying Ohio State’s dark horse playoff chances.
Penn State hosts Ohio State on ABC at 8:00.
GAME 10: “HIGHER LOVE” BY STEVE WINWOOD
Utah and USC are currently battling for supremacy within a Pac 12 South that is about as unpredictable as the Florida Gators’ coaching search. Utah survived a double overtime match against the Oregon State Beavers to pull towards 5-1 and 4th within the division. The Trojans have beaten a ranked Stanford team in Palo Alto, followed by a fall in Chestnut Hill to Boston College and then a loss on a undefended Hail Mary against Arizona State. The defense for Utah has been examined as the most dominant, most consistent unit that will take the field on Saturday and even then, I wouldn’t bet on it.
This Pac 12 South showdown starts when the East Coast stops paying attention at 10:00 on ESPN.
*Soft rock deserves to be the soundtrack for a rather mediocre weekend.