I don’t know about you, but whenever I start a new job, I always feel like I’m drowning. It doesn’t really matter if I’ve done something like it before. There’s always a new wrinkle, new responsibilities, new bosses, new procedures, new coworkers that make me feel out of sorts. Confronted with this, I know I have two choices. I can flail about and sink down lower, wallowing in the despair that I can’t do anything exactly right yet, feeling inferiority drag me to the bottom like an anchor.
Or I can remember that I know how to swim.
See, even though the first few days or weeks (or months) of any novel thing might throw me for a loop, all it takes is focusing on the similarities rather than the differences to help me slowly feel more comfortable.
And I’d recommend you do the same this Saturday.
(Yes, if you’re new, this was an extended analogy about watching college football. I do these for every intro. It’s kind of my thing.)
We now have a good solid pattern of data. Three to four games have gone by for each team. Trajectories are becoming clearer, though out-of-nowhere surprises are still to come. Focus on what you know, and I promise you’ll have more fun than if you worry about what you don’t.
And speaking of knowledge, it’s time to drop some about this weekend’s best games!
Leading things off, this Friday evening I’d flip on the tube and see if Virginia at Syracuse (7:00p/6:00p, ESPN) is any good at all. I’m kind of with CBS Sports’ Bud Elliott: Virginia might be secretly awful. Brennan Armstrong looks nothing like his gunslinging 2021 self. The Hoos struggled to conquer Old Dominion last week. The Orange, at home in the (sigh) JMA Wireless Dome, where teams go TO DIE, might be salivating and ready to pounce. They’ve got a strong front seven that tends to hold offenses down.
The Big Screen headliner might worth your time here, but nothing else really meets that benchmark. Depending where you are in this wide world, temps are probably dropping and leaves are likely changing. Go out and experience that glorious moment when nature hangs on a knife’s edge between the tapestry of fall and the tumult of summer. Or take a drive somewhere new and see it all from your car window.
Clemson at Wake Forest
This year, everything’s gone according to plan for Clemson. The Tigers have beaten who they needed to, and their offense combines a brutal Will Shipley rushing attack with a more accurate passing game (though as Ty pointed out on last week’s recap episode, the receivers need to get open more). Wake has likewise coasted through its first few games, scoring well thanks to quarterback Sam Hartman’s arm while putting together respectable defensive performances, especially in the secondary. Now, these squads meet. This one’s going to impact the ACC championship race.
Duke at Kansas
Don’t laugh. Both of these former weaklings are 3-0, but it’s not like they’ve been dining on cupcakes. The Jayhawks beat West Virginia and Houston, while Duke chalked up a hard-fought victory over Northwestern. Heck, Kansas has the seventh-best rushing attack in the nation, thanks in part to wunderkind QB Jalon Daniels, who actually led the team in rushing in those two aforementioned wins. Frankly, Daniels could afford to pass a little more. Both of these teams play fast on offense, but while Kansas typically racks up points, Duke hasn’t been quite so lucky. The Blue Devils do boast the better defense, however. It’s two Cinderellas fighting with broken glass slippers to keep their runs going. Should be fun.
Watch the Score
Baylor at Iowa State (12pm/11am, ESPN2)
Maryland at Michigan (12pm/11am, FOX)
TCU at SMU (12pm/11am, ESPNU)
Florida at Tennessee
The “Anthony Richardson for Heisman” train the media hopped aboard after Week 1 has ground to a halt after two exceptionally blah performances in a row. The Gators need something to wash their mouth out after an ugly, turnover-filled mess of a win against USF last week, but they won’t get it in Knoxville. No, the Vols should be ready. While Richardson has flatlined, Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker has flown, marshaling the Vols to a solid set of wins. The rushing attack could improve and they could defend the pass better, but the Vols will be buoyed by a nasty crowd at home. Still, can Florida find the gumption to key on Tennessee’s vulnerabilities and bounce back?
Texas at Texas Tech
Yeah, I know the North Carolina State defense made gunslinger QB Donovan Smith look mortal last week, picking him off twice and generally holding Tech well in check. But Smith still leads a lethal pass-first, ask-questions-later assault, and the defense has handled the run really well. Tech faces a wounded, angry Texas team that cannot allow another loss if it wants to reach the Big 12-leading heights it desperately craves. The ‘Horns relied on running back Bijan Robinson to obliterate UTSA last week with QB Hudson Card ineffective, and their defense hasn’t really impressed. Texas Tech, in its home digs, might be able to take advantage of Austin’s finest.
Watch the Score
Minnesota at Michigan State (3:30pm/2:30pm, BTN)
Notre Dame at UNC (3:30pm/2:30pm, ABC)
Oregon at Washington State (4pm/3pm, FOX)
Arkansas at Texas A&M
This one’s played at Jerry World, and it’s an eyebrow-raiser. Texas A&M benched QB Haynes King for new pigskin-chucker Max Johnson against Miami last week, and it didn’t help that much. Don’t get me wrong, the Aggies won, but mostly because their defense didn’t allow a touchdown. They have prevented passes from connecting super well, but coach Jimbo Fisher’s blah offense continues to sputter. I’d advise Johnson to pass more this game: Arkansas does not defend the pass well (giving up 352 yards per game) but boast the seventh-ranked run defense in the nation. On the other side of the ball, RB Raheim Sanders tears defensive fronts to shreds with reliable 100-yard performances.
Ohio State at Wisconsin
Are you ready for a rock fight? I know I am. It’s a tradition as old as time in the Big Ten. Both the Badgers and the Buckeyes have potent offenses, though Wisconsin’s, helmed by QB Graham Mertz with RB Braelon Allen getting most carries, came up short in its only real challenge thus far against Washington State. Ohio State has obliterated who it needed to (most notably Toledo last week), though it struggled to pull away from Notre Dame in Week 1. The Buckeyes didn’t really miss RB and human wrecking ball TreVeyon Henderson, and they should have him back this week. This one should be two balanced, brutal, physical, dangerous squads grinding it out for 60 minutes.
Watch the Score
Kansas State at Oklahoma (8pm/7pm, FOX)
Late Night Games
USC at Oregon State
Two undefeated teams meeting in Corvallis. The Trojans have looked much improved, which makes sense, blessed as they are with a new coach and an absolute ton of transfers. Quarterback Caleb Williams looks improved from last season’s days at Oklahoma. USC’s offense is potent, but it lacks much in the way of defense, especially up front. Should the Beavers get up the gumption, expect to see a lot of carries for RB Deshaun Fenwick. This one may be about which squad can rack up the most points quickest. And these guys already have a common opponent, by the way: both teams defeated Fresno State, but USC did so by a much healthier margin.
Stanford at Washington
Do I think the Cardinal has a chance here? No, not really. They’re playing on the road and they’re outclassed on both sides of the ball. But I could be reading the tea leaves wrong. It could be that we don’t know what Stanford can do, as its one loss came to USC and its one win was over noted Patriot League stalwart Colgate. The likelier scenario is that Washington will continue its march through the early schedule, led by resurgent QB Michael Penix Jr. and a stellar pass attack.