Horse racing isn’t really my sport. Neither is NASCAR, or speed-skating, or the 100m dash, for that matter. But I suppose you could guess that, since this is an article about college football, not the Triple Crown.
But there is something elemental, grounded, real about a race. Speed against speed. The variables change, but the test stays the same: Are you fast enough?
Well, we’ve hit the home stretch of the college football season. And as the regular season finish line comes into view, it’s time for the contenders to accelerate, leave the pretenders behind, and claim glory.
I maintain that the only way to do this is by beating the teams on your schedule. (The Playoff Committee does not share my views, obviously, but none of their rankings matter except the final one, so who cares.) This week there’s serious potential for separation among the upper crust of this year’s group of teams. They’ll be tested, made to race.
Are they fast enough? How can you tell?
By watching them run.
That’s what I’m here for. Below is a rundown of the most consequential, entertaining games this weekend.
And for more college football chatter, follow me on Twitter. Every Sunday you’ll see a new edition of my data-driven Playoff Eliminator, breaking through the hype to tell you which teams are really still in the title hunt. Then on Tuesday, my Tier Rankings arrive. They’ll give you a clear picture of the best and worst teams in every Power 5 conference.
Our two usual rules apply: If your team’s on they go on the Big Screen. And all times are God’s Time Zone (CST).
Big Screen: Indiana vs. Penn State (11a, ABC) is undeniably intriguing. The Nits got spanked by Minnesota last week, and Indiana’s ranked for the first time in forever. Will the Hoosiers’ good luck continue, or does Penn State come out of the gates in a punchy mood?
Second Screen: Navy vs. Notre Dame (1:30p, NBC) will be ugly, terrible, grindy football that Irish fans will lap up while the rest of us quietly root for the triple-option terror that is Navy. Are you even a true American if you don’t support the troops?
Watch the Score: Michigan State vs. Michigan (11a, FOX), Florida vs. Mizzou (11a, CBS), TCU vs. Texas Tech (11a, ESPN2)
Big Screen: Georgia vs. Auburn (2:30p, CBS) is another one of those eyebrow-raising games that characterize this week. A rivalry game where one team’s had a moderate degree of success helmed by a freshman QB who’s still figuring things out, and the other’s been talked about all week for reasons that have nothing to do with their play on the field. Does Georgia justify the Playoff Committee’s second inexplicable decision about their #4 team in as many weeks? We’ll see.
Second Screen: Texas vs. Iowa State (2:30p, FS1) has been weird in the past. Like, really weird. Especially in the barren corn-fed wasteland of Ames. The Horns stroll into the Cyclones’ house this week, and if they’re not careful they will get blown away. It’s happened before.
Watch the Score: Minnesota vs. Iowa (3p, FOX), Wake Forest vs. Clemson (2:30p, ABC)
Big Screen: The biggest Big 12 tilt of the year (don’t you dare talk back, Texas fans)! Oklahoma vs. Baylor (6:30p, ABC) promises (finally) a national showcase for the undefeated (and disrespected) Bears, who wield a surprisingly efficient defense and a sputtering offense against, well, basically the reverse for the Sooners. The punditry and Vegas have written Baylor off. Do they step up here against Heisman contender Jalen Hurts? Or does Oklahoma wrench back control of its Playoff destiny?
Second Screen: UCLA vs. Utah (7p, FOX) could really go sideways for the Utes, who’ve been sneaking along under the radar. The Bruins have shown signs of life after a horrific September, fueled (in my opinion) by momentum from their heroic comeback against Washington State. If UCLA can knock off Utah, this year has to be reckoned a success for Chip Kelly’s rebuilding efforts.
Big Screen: Arizona vs. Oregon (9:30p, ESPN) is largely a chance for you to watch the Ducks dunk on the fast-declining Kevin-Sumlin-helmed Wildcats. It’s honestly bewildering how far Arizona’s slid. But hey, Oregon’s good. So this is a passable way to end your day.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me at @WatchingCFB on Twitter, and happy watching!