College football Saturday falls into two categories this week. There’s LSU-Alabama at 8 PM ET on CBS. And there’s all the other games. This post will focus on the TV highlights for All The Others.
EARLY (Noon ET)
Michigan-Iowa (ESPN): This key game in the Big Ten Legends is easily the game to watch in the early time slot. Iowa is coming up the shocking upset loss to Minnesota, but the Hawkeyes can still move the ball on the ground with Marcus Coker, and Melvin McNutt offers a solid target on the outside for James Vanden Berg. For Michigan, Denard Robinson hasn’t been quite as electrifying as he was a year ago and is having issues with passing accuracy. But Fitzgerald Touissant may have finally given this offense a true conventional running attack. This one comes down to the wire and the points flow freely. I’ll take the Hawkeyes to survive on their home field.
The top game after this is Texas Tech-Texas on FX, as both teams joust for bowl position in the Big 12 middle. As explosive as the Red Raider offense is, they showed their inconsistency last week in a loss to Iowa State and playing at home has been good for the Texas defense. I like the Longhorns to get this one.
MIDAFTERNOON (3:30 ET)
Texas A&M-Oklahoma, Purdue-Wisconsin, Stanford-Oregon State (ABC Regional/ESPN2): The Aggies-Sooners battle is clearly the highlight of this time slot and there shouldn’t be any shortage of points scored. OU is still without running back Dominque Whaley though, gone for the season, and A&M has better offensive balance with Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray in the backfield. I think this one will be close, but homefield and A&M’s now fabled fourth-quarter failings deliver this one to Oklahoma. In the other games, I’m looking for Wisconsin to come out mad and desperate in a home date with Purdue. And I’m looking for Stanford to be flat after the triple-OT win over USC, but for it not to matter against the overmatched Beavers.
It’s a quiet time slot today because normally the top SEC game shown by CBS is here, but with LSU-Alabama moved to prime-time, Air Force-Army will instead be the game shown. The Cadets are missing quarterback Trent Steelman to run the triple option, while the Falcons get Tim Jefferson back to do the same for them. It’s Air Force in a walk (or run, as the case may be with these ground-oriented attacks).
South Carolina-Arkansas (7:15 ET, ESPN2): Normally this game would be a prime-time blockbuster, as it’s huge for both division races in the SEC. A South Carolina win clears the biggest hurdle for a return trip to Atlanta. An Arkansas win, combined with an LSU win, keeps the Hogs in the West race. And regardless good bowl spots are on the line. The matchup itself offers a contrast in styles, as South Carolina is defense first, with sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw trying to play it safe. Arkansas is attack, attack and attack some more, just like former basketball coach Nolan Richardson used to do here when he won a national title in 1994. Arkansas is the peaking team, they’re the home team and I look for quarterback Tyler Wilson to make a big statement for the national audience he has for at least 45 minutes before LSU-‘Bama kicks ff.
Arizona State-UCLA (7:30 ET, Versus): It’s the battle for the lead in the Pac-12 South. A Bruin win gives them the tie-breaker and an Arizona State win all but locks it up. This game is a mismatch, only carrying these stakes because of USC’s probation and Blake Osweiler should carve up the UCLA secondary, while Kevin Prince can’t keep up for the home team. The Bruin running game is their one saving grace, but its decline in effectiveness since the start of the season.
Kansas State-Oklahoma State, Notre Dame-Wake Forest (8 ET, ABC/ESPN2): The Big 12 battle is another huge game that won’t get the attention it deserves in this time slot, but it’s K-State’s last stand to stay in the Big 12 race. The Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein is a tough two-threat player, but there’s just enough weaponry here to beat really good teams and the Cowboys playing in Stillwater are decidedly that. Last week, K-State suffered a 58-17 beatdown at the hands of Oklahoma and I don’t see any reason why this should be any different. Joseph Randle establishes the run, and then Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon start hooking up for big plays. Notre Dame-Wake isn’t a bad matchup itself between two teams that can move the ball, have turnover problems and really need to win to set themselves up for a decent holiday trip. The Deacons are fading badly and even Tanner Price joined the struggles last week when he threw three interceptions, so I’m looking for ND to deliver a big win.
Check back tonight for some LSU-Alabama talk.