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: The week started off with a few stories. You might have heard them. Maybe not. They range from sad and tragic to apathetic and dumbfounding. It informs some of this week’s slate of games, a week that offers its fair share of tests for more than a handful of undefeated teams. So come, gather ’round, have yerself a “Col’ Beer.”
GAME 1: THE MOST FUN PAC-12 GAME THUS FAR
This Thursday night showdown will probably be the most fun the Pac-12 has this year. Both Stanford and UCLA boast wonderful offenses that, when humming, can be the most dangerous pyrotechnics show you’ve ever seen. They both have competent defenses but neither can drastically slow down the other. It’s guaranteed to be a lot more fun than anything reigning conference ruler Utah has actually put on the field. (Well, the special teams stuff was pretty cool against Oregon)
Kickoff starts on tonight at 10:30 PM from the Rose Bowl on ESPN.
GAME 2: CAN MOUNTAINEERS REALLY TAKE ON THE BAYLOR HATEBEAST KNOWN AS BRUISER
Baylor is riding high from its highest ranking in school history. As the second-best team in the country, they have looked every bit the part. However, they have done so against SMU, Lamar, Rice, Texas Tech, and Kansas. I thought the Red Raiders were going to give the Bears a good run, which they did in the first half, but Baylor did what good teams usually do and pulled away. West Virginia offers a steeper challenge, with the 14th-best defense in the nation, according to the recent S&P+ ratings. The Bears, while boasting the second-best offense in those same ratings, also have a defense that ranks 100th. A trip-up by the Bears could whittle the Big 12 race to Oklahoma State and TCU.
FOX begins its broadcast from Waco, TX at 12:00 PM.
GAME 3: WATCH IOWA-NORTHWESTERN/DON’T WATCH IOWA-NORTHWESTERN
Iowa is undefeated. What a time to be alive. This is a moment to tell your children. Your grandchildren! Tell your neighbor who has a garden full of peppers that are “fixin’ to be ripe for salsa time!” Iowa is 6-0! These are the kind of prairie dreams come reality that only Kevin Costner can attest to. You want some more smirking, Midwestern stoicism? Look here for the finest fruits that our amber waves of grain can offer. (If you watch this game, you will own a combine and be really into high school wrestling. Iowa, man.)
This Prairie Home Companion episode starts at 12:00 PM on ABC.
GAME 4: SCOUTING JUSTIN FUENTE, (POSSIBLY) YOUR NEW HEAD COACH
With recent coaching vacancies at Maryland, USC and, um, USC, names for successors are starting to riddle speculation pieces. One of those names is Memphis head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente coached as an offensive coordinator under Gary Patterson during TCU’s nascent years as a nationally relevant team. He lifted the Tigers out from a pretty terrible cellar in the American Athletic Conference and into a 10-3 mountaintop in 2014; the Tigers were also co-champions. Fuente takes on Ole Miss in Memphis, which is a game that saw the Tigers stick around waaaaaaaay longer than anyone expected last year. There will be plenty of athletic directors looking toward this game to see if Fuente, whose team is currently at 5-0, can topple a Power 5 team in the AP Top 25, or at least keep it pretty close.
Ole Miss enters Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis at 12:00 PM on ESPN2.
GAME 5: A GAME OF HISTORIC SURRENDER COBRA PROPORTIONS
Alabama – Texas A&M has given the viewing public plenty of wonderful moments over the years. The Johnny Manziel bobble throw in Bryant-Denny in 2012, the shootout at Kyle Field in 2013, and the Alabama 59-0 romp in Tuscaloosa. This year, with the Tide looking vulnerable at the quarterback position with Jacob Coker, Texas A&M has Myles Garrett and a nasty defensive line that could be all the difference. The fact that its a home game for the Aggies is also a nice advantage A&M hoists over Alabama. The Tide does have their own brute defense and it can be enough to swallow Aggie QB Kyle Allen whole. Whatever the case, this game will offer plenty of theater.
Verne and Gary get the call at 3:30 PM from College Station.
GAME 6: THE SOONERS TRAVEL TO A TIME WARP IN MANHATTAN, KS
After about a week of anointing Oklahoma as a Big 12 darling, the Sooners fell flat on their face against the one team that everyone pegged as dead-to-rights. Now, Oklahoma heads to Kansas State after the Wildcats scared the bejebus of TCU.
Bill Snyder’s tactic against fast-paced, high flying offenses is to put them in slow motion. The Sooners’ air raid has been impressive against lesser fare but their inability to run the ball efficiently with one of the best running backs in the conference in Samaje Perine has rendered them somewhat one dimensional. All of the more beneficial to Snyder’s sleep-walking JUCO monster of a team.
Watch Oklahoma try to avoid getting knocked out of national contention at 3:30 on ABC.
GAME 7: THE MOVIE STEP BROTHERS BUT STARRING GARY BUSEY AND TOMMY LEE JONES
Ever since Rich Rodriguez’s debut at Michigan in 2008, the Spartans have completely outpaced the Wolverines in football, with a 6-1 head-to-head record. It looks worse when you compare postseason appearances. Michigan State has a 3-3 record in the years since Rich Rod’s hire with losses to Georgia in 2008, an upstart Texas Tech 2009, and Alabama in 2010. Yet, they’ve been paired with wins over TCU in 2011, Baylor in 2014, and a huge Rose Bowl victory over Stanford in 2013. Michigan failed to make a bowl game in two of those six years, however, and have only a single victory against Virginia Tech in the 2012 Sugar Bowl to boot.
The way that Jim Harbaugh’s team looks so far, though, indicates that the next few years are going to be lean times for Michigan State, as Michigan ranks as the third-best team in the S&P+ ratings. Sparty has looked completely flat against competition like Central Michigan, Purdue and Rutgers. If Michigan wants to reclaim its state superiority, a soul-crushing shutout of a lackluster Michigan State would definitely erase seven seasons of mediocrity.
Tradition, history and perceived inferiority are all on display at 3:30 PM on ESPN.
GAME 8: LEONARD FOURNETTE TRAINED FOR THIS GAME BY RUNNING THROUGH A BED OF ALLIGATORS (LES MILES’ IDEA)
The news broke on Monday that Florida QB Will Grier tested positive for PEDs on Monday. A piece of information that have placed the Gators’ chances at a national title bid in the long shot bin. While the Gator defense has been the sturdy rock that people have pointed to, it’s the Florida offense that’s been getting a lot of kudos. Now, with Grier’s PED-related suspension, it seems like the fun of watching the Gators try and match the surging force of Leonard Fournette has now been popped. There’s always a silver lining though and that is watching Fournette brutalize Florida’s top ten defense.
Les Miles open-palmed clapping begins at 7:00 PM on ESPN.
GAME 9: IT MIGHT GET…BETTER AT…USC?
Things are at an all-time low for USC. After suffering a crippling loss to Washington, the Trojans learned on Monday that they are without head coach Steve Sarkisian due to his crippling, tragic battle with alcoholism. USC, as a program, is now in a tailspin, with rumors concerning Athletic Director Pat Haden’s ability to lead and choose a coach not in the Carroll tree of coaches for the job.
USC’s interim head coach, Clay Helton, has been calling the plays since Sarkisian’s incident at the Salute to Troy booster event this past August. A golden opportunity to right the cardinal and gold Titanic would be with a win against Notre Dame. The Trojans have the offense to do it, but it might be a task going up against an Irish defense which has been pretty solid.
NBC regales you with tales of all of the riches of this rivalry at 7:30 PM.
GAME 10: UTAH’S FIRST DIVISION GAME
Utah is the current standard bearer for the Pac-12 as the conference’s only undefeated. It’s a strange thing to type and my hands really don’t want know whether or not they should… keep . . .. typing.
The Utes are off to a rousing start after a highlighted match-up over Cal. This week, they start Pac-12 South division play against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are a team that plays however it wants to play at the flip of a coin. It’s a home game for the Utes, so I am going to assume they ride out of their Pleasantville horror stadium with another win.
Pac-12 After Dark begins, once again, from Rice-Eccles Stadium at 10:00 PM on ESPN.