I noticed today that the sun went down sooner.
Almost every year, despite the pumpkins on every porch and the blow-up ghosts on every lawn, I forget fall is rounding into winter. That’s mostly because where I live, the weather decides to skip fall for the most part, snap-freezing into winter with alacrity. The climate must think that the colder and darker it makes things, the faster Christmas will come.
Yeah, the darkness. Like I said, the sunset comes with urgency these days. I feel like it’s dark about two seconds after I get home from work.
It’s a bittersweet reminder that my favorite season, college football season, is about half done. But like a sunset, it’s wild and colorful and glorious while it lasts. And good gravy is it fun to watch.
With many games still to be played, let me be your guide as the world’s season’s change and college football’s continues. Below I’ve outlined the best games this weekend. Come along, why don’t you?
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
I struggled with this one, so I’ll give you two options. If you’re really into watching the best team in the nation in a rivalry spot when nothing much else is on, pick the early window. But objectively speaking, the morning does have two pretty great and one maybe great matchup, so if you’re not married to watching Georgia likely continue their dominant march to the SEC title game, make the mid-afternoon your Window. It all depends on your individual interests, but you’ll want to be on the couch this evening, so CHOOSE WISELY. (And once you do, come tell me what you chose on Twitter.)
Michigan @ Michigan State (12p/11a, FOX) is a big-time beefy Big Ten battle, right? Just large brawling lines, three yards and a cloud of dust? Eh, kinda. Both of these undefeated teams score over 34 points every time they hit the gridiron, and while their running attacks are both huge parts of that success, Sparty’s found success throwing too on the arm of Payton Thorne. On paper, the Wolverines are still better on both sides of the ball. But it’s a rivalry game, so it means more to everyone involved.
Texas @ Baylor (12p/11a, ABC) is a fun one. Baylor finds itself on a path to the Big 12 championship game in what many thought would be a rebuilding season. But with gashing, balanced offense and stingy defense, Baylor doesn’t have a clear weakness – just room to improve. Then there’s Texas, who’ve struggled to throwagainst inferior defenses and finish games, but who boast bruising Bijan Robinson in the backfield. Both squads just had a bye week to think things over. I can’t predict what will happen, which almost guarantees exciting football.
Watch the Score:
Iowa @ Wisconsin (12p/11a, ESPN)
Miami @ Pitt (12p/11a, ACCN)
Georgia @ Florida (3:30p/2:30p, CBS), the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, anchors your midday. Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field will be echoing not with chants of DUUUUUUUUUUUUVAL, but with the loud chaos of a southern, day-drinking collection of rabble-rousers. The Dawgs have a calling card: the best defensive unit in the game. They’ll need it to be stout to bottle up a wounded, dangerous Gator team that just suffered a devastating loss to LSU two weeks ago. Coming off a bye, the Gators should be itching to show the nation they’re still to be feared.
Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (3:30p/2:30p, ABC)? Sure, why not. It might not seem like it, but I’d like to remind you that the Sooners are undefeated. But Caleb Williams and the Sooners needed magic and trickeration on their side last week to put away *checks notes* wait, Kansas? Really, guys? Suffice it to say OU needs a big ol’ neck crack, and playing a Red Raider squad distracted by off-the-field issues like their head coach getting canned might be just what the doctor ordered. Or Tech’s usual brand of zoomy, offense-first football could cause headaches for OU’s very vulnerable defense. Let’s find out.
Watch the Score:
Washington State @ Arizona State (3p/2p, FS1)
Ole Miss @ Auburn (7p/6p, ESPN) delights me based on the stats sheet alone. There’s the Rebel offense, a well-oiled machine commanded by Matt Corral that enjoys making whoever’s across from them hurt. But when the Tigers get the ball, well, Bo Nix gets to scramble and improv and play backyard football. Neither team holds the ball for long, so you’d expect a lot of scoring, right? Not if Auburn’s fine defense gets its way. If they can make Corral see ghosts, this could get really fun really fast.
Penn State @ Ohio State (7:30p/6:30p, ABC) gets this spot by the slightest of noses because I can probably tell you what will happen. The Nittany Lions have failed to impress me on every occasion, limping along on offense while staying in games by limiting opponents with brick-wall-esque defensive play (the lone bright spot). But with two straight losses, one a gut punch to Iowa, and the next a simply disgusting nine-OT affair to Illinois, it’s entirely possible Penn State is out of juice. Ohio State must be licking their chops. C.J. Stroud’s cannon arm is loaded, and this may be over fast. If it gets too ugly, flip to ESPN2 (see below).
Watch the Score:
SMU @ Houston (7p/6p, ESPN2)
Kentucky @ Mississippi State (7p/6p, SECN)
North Carolina @ Notre Dame (7:30p/6:30p, NBC)
Louisville @ NC State (7:30p/6:30p, ACCN)
Fresno State @ San Diego State (10:30p/9:30p, CBSSN) is an unheralded, unexpected gift this late in the day. Believe it or not, this is a rivalry game! The winner gets an old oil can! I am not joking! The Bulldogs’ Jake Haener is one of the best QBs you’ve never heard about, and he’ll get his biggest challenge all year against a really good Aztec defensive unit that’s 4th in the nation at bottling up the run. Fresno will need to decide just how one-dimensional they can afford to be, and SDSU’s attack faces a defensive front that likes to hold teams down. There’s so many angles here.
Virginia @ BYU (10:15p/9:15p, ESPN2) gets my nod because the Cougars are hanging onto a top-25 ranking by their claws. Think Mufasa in The Lion King. Can the Cavs play the role of Scar and toss them into the chasm below? It seems possible. Brennan Armstrong racks up yards like few pigskin-slingers, and BYU’s had issues in the secondary. But UVA’s clear weakness is its defensive unit, so this is also a prime chance for the Cougs to recover some respectability on offense.
Watch the Score:
UCLA @ Utah (10p/9p, ESPN)
That’s that! Check me out on Twitter if you want more news, game commentary, and hot takes. And as always, happy watching.